The Royal Navy’s newest vessel HMS Magpie (H130) has been in action already undergoing rough weather sea trials in the Irish Sea less than a month after being launched.
Magpie is the newest addition to the RN’s hydrographic squadron, replacing veteran survey launch HMSML Gleaner (H86) which paid off earlier this year in Plymouth after 35 years’ under the White Ensign in HM Naval Base Devonport.
Lieutenant Commander William Alexander, Magpie’s new commanding officer and Gleaner’s last, said, “Magpie will help lead the way in modernising the Royal Navy’s survey and underwater surveillance capabilities.
“Her primary role will be in maintaining the integrity of coastal waters, ensuring safety of navigation and resilience of key national infrastructure in UK ports. And with an enduring presence around the UK, she will also contribute to national security at sea.”
Cork shipbuilder Safehaven has delivered a replacement, an 18-metre catamaran based on the firm’s Wildcat 60 craft. Magpie is due to be formally handed over to the RN next month and be ceremonially commissioned into the Navy early in the summer. She will then join the rest of the hydrographic squadron in Devonport.
Magpie – named after the Duke of Edinburgh’s only command – is bigger than Gleaner, can stay at sea much longer (she has two messes/accommodation compartments for up to 12 crew and a galley which can meet the sailors’ needs for up to seven days), and is much more resilient in rough seas.
The Royal Navy expects Magpie to be able to maintain 20 knots in a Sea State Four with waves up to 2½ metres high.
She’s due to make the journey from Cork to Portland in Dorset for military/hydrographic equipment fitting out, equipment which is a marked improvement on what was installed on Gleaner, such as the latest high-resolution shallow-water multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonar. Magpie will also be able to launch remote-controlled underwater devices to search wide areas of seabed for obstructions or mines.
Otherwise, Magpie’s role is largely the same as Gleaners ensuring the approaches to the UK’s ports are safe by scanning the seabed, updating charts and generally acting as another pair of eyes and ears into events in home waters.