RFA Argus Leaves Sierra Leone

What an absolutely fantastic display of the finest that the UK can offer to world, personally, I think we should all be proud.

RFA Argus is leaving the waters of Sierra Leone and returning to the UK after supporting the medical operation shore. She transported stores and vehicles, provided helicopter and landing craft lift, medical backup to the force ashore and other support services.

RFA Argus

New cases are down from 500 to 33 per week.

Lets not forget though, the bulk of the force remains in country and in removing RFA Argus we are also removing the aeromedical evacuation and 100 bed fully equipped medical facility for them.

 

11 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
PJS
PJS
March 29, 2015 12:33 pm

Reposting an effort that seems better shared on this tread

I wish to convey my deepest respect to the personnel involved in the deployment to Sierra Leone they have made this country proud…

That said when a politician digs out an honour last used in 1939 the cynic in me suggests that this is a precursor to an announcement in the SDSR that RFA Argus is to be withdrawn from service and, ‘we can make use of other assets to cover such deployments in future…’

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/rfa-argus-honoured-as-she-completes-sierra-leone-deployment

I have said before, will say again, get Dfid to fund the conversion of HMS Bulwark/Albion [rotating as they do now through their current role] to cover a programme of medical ‘diplomacy’, provide contingency for disaster relief and cover the hurricane season.

Meanwhile, order two Canberra/Mistral types {Fearless and Victorious, anyone?} for the Royal Navy as Commando Assault Ships…

TrT
TrT
March 29, 2015 1:24 pm

Between the 15th and the 22nd of march, there were 206 new cases and 132 deaths
384/203 the week before
348/184 the week before that.

I’m not seeing this as a “war” thats been won.

J
J
March 29, 2015 5:24 pm

Great post!

Argus and everyone involved in this operation deserve all the praise they may get for it.

In my opinion, these are the kind of scenarios where DFID money can be put to actual good use – compared to other projects which have justifiably come under much scrutiny. It’s also a good way for the UK to use its considerable soft power while backing it up with a hint of hard power.

It would be a disgrace if Argus were to be scrapped without a replacement. It would be good to continue to undertake these kinds of operations in the future and using some of DFID’s considerable resources to fund a similar, dedicated, casualty/humanitarian aid/disaster relief vessel – which could be used as a spare platform in an emergency – would be foolish not to do. Her replacement – and a purpose-built one at that – should be a priority for a country shying away from overt, military big stick operations.

This particular deployment also highlights the utility of the naval facilities in Gibraltar in its role as a forward operating base (see here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/a-fleet-of-pickup-trucks-joins-the-rfa-argus-in-gibraltar ). It would be wise to ensure we make good use of these facilities to preposition equipment and supplies to speed up the delivery process and get in some good PR. This would also be an area where the RAF could benefit from similar publicity – such as the recent events in the South Pacific.

With Africa & the Middle East remaining quite volatile hotspots – a scenario unlikely to change anytime soon – Gibraltar could be put to better use as a hub to respond to events in the region, with the new base at Bahrain also providing a similar function.

If we wanted to be ambitious and smart about it, forward-deploying an Argus-type ship, held at high-readiness in times of tension, to the Med or Gulf and already having the kit in place to be able to respond to crises even faster – in an age of instant news, social media etc, this is becoming more important – could only be a good thing to boost the general public’s view of the armed forces in a post-Iraq/Afghanistan world.

Operations Patwin and Gritrock are good examples this type of scenario. Using an Argus-type ship to evacuate British citizens or entitled persons from hotspots might be another good idea, and again, having Future-Argus near these hotspots would be helpful – I may be wrong but I think this type of ship would be better suited to this role than HMS Enterprise was in August 2014 in Libya for example.

Moreover, I think that we should be seeing more of these deployments to justify the 0.7% of GDP on international aid to the taxpayer – which is far more acceptable than other DFID projects

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
March 29, 2015 6:03 pm

Not to talk down the role RFA Argus has played, but the last paragraph makes it sound as though by removing Argus now we are putting the British personnel on the ground at risk, Argus was never intended to treat or evacuate anyone infected with Ebola, more to the point they categorically said no one suspected of being infected would be taken on board. So actually I think the big benefit that the ship brought in terms of deploying equipment and personnel has been accomplished and as the risk of the loss of control of the virus is now mostly past, having a safe offshore command centre is no longer needed either. So it is probably a lot easier to run the operation from on the ground,and so now is probably the right time to withdraw Argus.

monkey
monkey
March 30, 2015 10:38 am

I am with J on using the overseas aid budget to build and crew at least a couple of Argus replacements. What better way to project soft power than a 1000 bed hospital ship with full surgical facilities MRI/CAT scan the lot turning up in a third world countries ports and performing life changing if not life saving operations . The ships crew paid for out of DfiD and military and NHS professionals accommodated on board for say a two week stint ,paid, to perform the medical activities. Many already volunteer ,unpaid , for the Red Cross/Crescent or Medicines’ sans Frontiers etc. Local medical professionals could receive training in new procedures and be gifted the required equipment , paid for by DfiD of course. What better way to fly the flag than restoring someone’s grans eyesight by a cataract op or fitting a prosthetic limb to a landmine victim. Perhaps the same team who designed the Tides could rework their design ( to maximise plant commonality etc ) and get Daewoo to build them. Why stop at two , eight would be better. Two for Africa , two for Asia, two for the Caribbean and two for Central and South America. Fully loaded with HADR supply containers and locally based where that type of disaster normally hits. The bulk of the wards would be sealed up for use only in extreme need so the medical teams would not need to be that extensive but are there if the SHTF.

Rocket Banana
March 30, 2015 10:54 am

I think we should convert our Bays into hospital/aid ships. With a hangar for two Merlin, an LCU, a mexe and possible port enhancement capability they are ideal.

If the “hospital” is a series of modular sections that can be rolled into the vehicle deck they can still be used for assault support/logistics when necessary.

The Other Chris
March 30, 2015 11:22 am

If you want Hospital Ships, build a class of Hospital Ship and don’t put any weapons onboard so it can be considered such.

Good use of DfID funds IMHO.

Pacman27
Pacman27
March 30, 2015 4:21 pm

@Monkey

I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment – the Karel Doorman class of ship is perfect for this kind of work and Britain should have a fleet of these offering Global support and if the the worst should ever happen, we have an already built capability to support our forces (strictly secondary).

In my opinion this is precisely what our Foreign aid budget should be doing and I would go further and offer free university fees and medical training for a 2 year stint in the Humanitarian Corps followed by 3 in the NHS (5 in total – min 1 year in corps/ 4 in reserve with NHS contract).

This would enable us to have a clear career path that is funded 100% by the government (no huge university fees in exchange for some commitment to the UK forces).

All the time improving the UK’s standing abroad, whether it is helping the victims of a Tsunami, earthquake, outbreak of Ebola or even a hurricane, Britain can be at the forefront. We can even start a UN command like Nato and formalise it all if need be.

But in times of trouble – it all reverts to UK Military command.

J
J
March 30, 2015 9:24 pm

@Monkey

We’re pretty much on the same page… I think 8 ships, though ideal, is too far into fantasy land for the current state of affairs and the penny-pinchers that call the shots, but other than that you, Pacman27 and I are thinking along similar lines and I agree with what you’ve both said. I really like the personnel ideas you both describe and that’s something I hadn’t thought of.

The Caribbean is also something I had thought of, I think this type of vessel would be better suited for the disaster relief aims of the APT(N) operations than frigates… & certainly OPVs, and could free up the precious few escorts we have for other deployments, such as SNMG2, escorting the RFTG, and future carriers.

I think these vessels should also be grey and look military enough and as such could continue the “flying the flag” operations – however, there could still be good PR value in the fact that they’re not missile-armed frigates and would ensure the UK can continue to influence the region, without having to “waste” a high-end warship.

I’m not sure how useful they’d be with drug busting operations, but with embarked helicopters, they’d be a lot more useful than the current or future OPVs and their (disappointing) lack of hangar – the assumption being that an OPV will be carrying out APT(N) more often or exclusively in the future, at least outside of hurricane season.

Since we’re playing fantasy fleets here at the moment, I’d love for there to be an Argus/Karel Doorman-type ship either deployed in the Caribbean region, particularly during hurricane season or held at high readiness to deploy in case of an emergency as well as an OPV with a hangar, similar to the Spanish BAM, forward deployed like HMS Clyde.

@ Engineer Tom – very good point IMHO and perhaps the type of ship we’ve been discussing in our fantasy fleet scenario should be designed around that kind of role, rather than a full USNS Mercy/Comfort-type hospital ship.

As The Other Chris said, if we want hospital ships, go all the way and build a proper hospital ship with a secondary disaster relief role – completely funded by DFID and non-military – sailing around the world for most of the year, providing medical or humanitarian aid to places that need it, performing the roles Monkey and Pacman27 have mentioned.

Perhaps in our fantasy fleet, we could have one of these large hospital ships (though more practical than the Mercy-class) operated and fully funded by DFID and 2 more versatile support/emergency-response vessels with a secondary amphibious capability operated by the RFA.

@Simon – I still think Largs Bay should have been “bought” with all that shiny new money created for the foreign aid budget and used/tested in this role, while keeping the amphibious capability should we need it.

In all, it really is a shame that the UK does not seem to be taking advantage of these opportunities. Unfortunately, our front-line escort force is too small for the tasks the RN needs to do, and it is not politically, or strategically sensible to reduce these further. The commitment to foreign aid isn’t completely irrational, I just think it should be put to better use and what we’ve discussed here would pretty much tick all those boxes.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
April 5, 2015 12:09 pm

When I were a lad…:

We had the Hecla-class. Why can we not fund a similar capability?