A Brazilian Ocean?
The Marinha do Brasil has been continually in the flattop business since they bought the WWII vintage 19,980-ton light carrier HMS Vengeance (R71) from the British in 1956. Following a four-year reconstruction in Holland, that ship joined the Brazilian fleet as NAeL Minas Gerais and was the first aircraft carrier purchased by a Latin American nation. Gerais gave 40 years of hard service to the Brazilians flying A-4 Skyhawks and S-2 Trackers until she was replaced by the French Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier Foch, which was commissioned as NAeL São Paulo in 2000. However, the 32,000-ton French flattop, now some 54-years young, has been a maintenance nightmare and the Brazilians announced two months ago they were moving to condemn her.
Enter the British helicopter carrier HMS Ocean (L12), current Royal Navy fleet flagship. Commissioned 30 September 1998, since the paying off of the Invincible-class harrier carriers a few years ago, Ocean has been the largest warship and most important surface asset in the Royal Navy.
Capable of carrying an 830-man Royal Marine Commando battalion and 20~ assorted helicopters as well as assorted cargo and fleet staff, she has been very busy in recent years including operations in Sierra Leone, the Persian Gulf, plastering Libya while equipped with Army-owned AH-64 Apaches in 2011 and a myriad of non-combatant evacuations and humanitarian relief missions. Now, nearing 20 years on her hull and in need of a life extension to remain in service, she is expected to be decommissioned and placed in reserve next year when the new fleet carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth comes online.
However, it seems like the Brazilians want to pick her up for a song, offering a reported $100 million (£80.3 million pounds, 312 million of Brazilian Reais) for her.
Commander of the Brazilian Navy, Admiral Eduardo Leal Ferreira, claimed that the price of Ocean seemed “convenient”.
The Brazilians have met Ocean before and worked closely with her in recent years, so they know what they are getting. From a 2010 RN presser:
HMS Ocean, an amphibious helicopter carrier and the Royal Navy’s largest warship, departed Rio de Janeiro earlier this week after a very successful visit which included amphibious exercises with the Brazilian Navy and Marines, and support for UK Trade & Investment and Diplomatic missions culminating in the Minister for International Security and Strategy, Gerald Howarth, signing an important Defence Cooperation Agreement. This visit also served to reinforce the United Kingdom’s long-standing relationship with Brazil.
Over 100 Brazilian Marines from the 3rd Infantry Battalion, 1st Amphibious Division, joined forces with HMS Ocean’s embarked Royal Marines of 539 Assault Squadron to undertake joint amphibious training exercises sharing knowledge and experience gained from recent operations. The centrepiece was an amphibious landing demonstration using landing craft, hovercraft and helicopters supported by offshore raiding craft providing covering fire.
Royal Marines officer, Captain ‘Olly’ Gray of 539 ASRM had this to say about the joint exercise:
“This was an invaluable opportunity for the Royal Marines to demonstrate our core amphibious skills, and broaden our experience of working alongside Brazilian Marines.”
Perhaps, the Ocean will get a chance to work with Royal Marines again in the future if they ever make it to Brazil…