Under operational control of Commander Submarine Group 7 (Guam), the USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) was previously forward deployed to Diego Garcia in support of Fifth Fleet operations. The move to Subic Bay and Seventh Fleet’s area of operations represents a refocus of US naval strength in the anticipated post-Afghanistan era.
The US Navy’s return to Subic Bay seems fully supported by the Philippines government. In addition to providing a home to visiting US Navy vessels, Subic Bay could prove to be an idea location for basing forward deployed the new littoral combat ships that are now entering the fleet.
Naval Station Rota (NAVSTA Rota) is a Spanish naval base opened in 1955, commanded by a Spanish Admiral, called Base Naval de Rota in Spanish, and yet fully-funded by the United States of America. Often described by the US Navy as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean,” Rota is headquarters for Commander US Naval Activities Spain (COMNAVACTSPAIN). Under the mutual defense agreement signed by the US and Spain during the Franco regime (Convenio de Defensa y Ayuda Económica Mutua), the US is responsible for maintaining the station’s infrastructure, including a 670-acre (2.7 km2) airfield, three active piers, 426 facilities and 806 family housing units.
Rota is home to the Spanish Navy’s Grupo de Acción Naval 2, comprising the aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias (R-11), the LPDs Galicia (L-51) and Castilla (L-52), and the LST Pizarro (L-42). On its transfer to a state of “restrictive standby” (or what the rest of the world calls “decommissioning”), the Príncipe de Asturias will be replaced by the LHD Juan Carlos I (L61).
Rota is also home to the 41ª Escuadrilla de Escoltas, comprising the Santa Maria-class frigates Santa Maria (F-81), Victoria (F-82), Numancia (F-83), Reina Sofía (F-84), Navarra (F-85) and Canarias (F-86). The Spanish vessels are based on the US Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates.
US tenant units based at Rota include Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company Europe (FAST Co. Europe), US Naval Hospital Rota, Naval Special Warfare Unit 10 and 725th Air Mobility Squadron.
The strategic location of the base allows it to provide excellent support to US Sixth Fleet units in the Mediterranean and to US Air Force Air Mobility Command units. It is the only base in the Mediterranean which supports amphibious readiness group (ARG) post-deployment wash-downs. The naval station also offers pier-side maintenance and backload facilities. The base complements the ARG unit transfers, and accommodates the sailors and marines of visiting ships.
During the Cold War, Rota was home port to Submarine Squadron 16 (SUBRON 16) and the depot ship USS Proteus (AS-19), later USS Holland (AS-32). Submarines assigned to the squadron included the USS Lafayette (SSBN-616) and USS Francis Scott Key (SSBN-657).
“The last charge of the Calcutta Light Horse…”
Department of Defense PIN 25126.
Note the heavily-laboured message to HM Government’s potential foes “East of Suez.” Vis, there will be Astute class submarines patrolling your neighbourhood for the foreseeable future.
Diligence due east of Suez as support ship begins mammoth mission
Support ship RFA Diligence slipped out of Portsmouth to begin a five to eight-year mission supporting the Royal Navy’s mission east of Suez.
The forward repair vessel acts as a floating garage/supply ship for warships, but especially submarines.
IF YOU didn’t catch RFA Diligence sailing out of Portsmouth Harbour on a glorious July morning yesterday, well, you’ve missed her for between five and eight years.
The ‘floating garage’ left the Solent to resume her mission east of Suez, supporting Royal Navy submarine operations in particular.
She’s spent most of her recent career in the Gulf region as a modern-day ‘depot ship’ for the Silent Service, acting as a floating workshop for hull and machinery repairs, as well as facilities for supplying electricity, water, fuel, air, cranes and stores.
Officially a Forward Repair Ship, Diligence can provide support to either the surface fleet or submarines – although it’s the latter she’s been mostly assisting in recent years.
She returned to the UK after a lengthy spell away late last year, since when she’s undergone some maintenance and refurbishment and carried out the first trials with one of the Navy’s new Astute-class submarines.
‘Dili’ practised ‘rafting up’ with HMS Ambush in Gareloch this spring – key to providing any front-line support to submarine operations.
In the longer term, the ship will also be working with other RN vessels east of Suez, notably the four minehunters the UK has permanently stationed in the region. Diligence can act as their mother ship – particularly when their current mother, amphibious support ship RFA Cardigan Bay, goes in for maintenance.
The ship was originally built for the merchant marine, acting as an oil rig support ship. She was taken up from trade during the 1982 Falklands War, subsequently bought by the UK, converted and renamed, being commissioned into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 1984.