Echo was launched at Appledore Shipbuilders, Bideford on 4 March 2002 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 13 March 2003. Lead vessel in her class (HMS Enterprise is Echo’s sister ship), she was designed to carry out a wide range of survey work, including support to submarine and amphibious operations, through the collection of oceanographic and bathymetric (analysis of the ocean, its salinity and sound profile) data.
On 20 March, 2014, Echo was operating in the Persian Gulf, midway through an 18-month hydrographic surveying deployment, when she was tasked to assist the Royal Australian Navy search for missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in a sector of the Indian Ocean 2,400 km (1,295 nmi) southwest of Perth, Australia.
Echo’s Commanding Officer Commander Phillip Newell said his 60 men and women were giving the search their all. “My ship’s company are working 24/7 to find MH370. They are young, bright and enthusiastic and will step up to every challenge in the search for the missing aircraft. I am immensely proud of them.”
The Australian govt is overseeing search operations from its newly created Joint Agency Coordination Centre. Eight countries are involved in the search.