Carrier operations in the Adriatic

Yokel

LE
When the Cold War fell, marked ultimately by the dissolution of the USSR itself, there was much talk of a New World Order, at least there was once Saddam Hussein was ejected from Kuwait in 1991. Sadly the violent disintegration of Yugoslavia started, with violent civil wars marked by ethnic bloodletting. One of the ways the World responded was with a significant of forces at sea, in the air, and on land. At this time we had pretty much the forces we had built up for Cold War purposes - this included our ASW carriers. Much has been written about carriers and their value to NATO - such as on these threads:

CVF and Carrier Strike - ARRSE

Future Carrier - PPRuNe

Late 1970s US Congress Report - The US Sea Control Mission (carriers needed in the Atlantic for Air Defence and ASW - both then and today) - ARRSE

A common question is what had the (RN) carriers done since the Falklands. Obviously they had been involved in Cold War activities, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR did not mean they were no longer busy. In early 1993 HMS Ark Royal was deployed to the Adriatic at fairly short notice, and the carrier commitment was maintained for a number of years. They were also busy in the Arabian Gulf throughout this decade. I have found this old clip with Mark Urban - possibly from Newsnight:



At the time she had carrying Sea Harrier FRS1 (I think that the FA2 upgrade had been delayed), Sea King HAS6, Sea King AEW2, and a few Sea King HC4s. Because the Sea Harrier FRS1 had a radar with limited capability and no Beyond Visual Range weapons it was not seen as one of NATO's primary fighters, yet it did fly air to air sorties as part of the NATO Operation Deny Flight, something Nick Richardson talks about in his book No Escape Zone. How much of a difference would it have made it it had already relieved the FA2 upgrade, and had the much more capable Blue Vixen radar which came along in 1995 I think.

How much more effective would Blue Vixen have made the Sea Harrier and its Cold War anti Bear role? @jrwlynch perhaps.

There is a second video - although I find it annoying the way the narrator says 'it' and 'it's' and not 'she' and 'her'.



There is talk of Ark Royal backing up the warships enforcing the arms embargo, but what does that mean? Contributing to the surface picture, providing logistic support with helicopters, or being able to intercept a hostile aircraft? I remember the 1995 series HMS Brilliant about the frigate of the same name as she conducted maritime operations, including ones which took her near to the coast and at higher threat. There were air defence exercises (some involving Sea Harriers), one of which involved someone in the Operation Room repeatedly giving radio warnings to an unknown aircraft. I know that a few times the Serbs/Yugoslavs flew uncomfortably close to NATO warships.

This third video is from the post upgrade days - 1995?

 
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I will have to watch those videos. See if I can spot myself as I was on those deployments.

We can back from Christmas leave in Jan 93 and were told to sort everything out as we were to deploy in very short notice.
 
At a slight tangent, there was a very close call with the French carrier Foch during the Kosovo campaign. The Frogs, being Frogs, refused to declare her to NATO but operated her as a national asset conducting air strikes. Therefore, her position was not regularly updated on the recognised maritime picture...

We similarly retained HMS Splendid, with her brand spanking new TLAM capability, as a national asset. All got a bit squeaky when Splendid salvoed herself into history, and her first six Tomahawks passed VERY close by Foch several miles down range as she was launching Super Etendards. Five pence, fifty pence time.

After an initial bit of mutual recrimination and finger pointing, both sides decided it might be simplest and best if they both grew up a bit and became a bit more sharing on positions...
 
At a slight tangent, there was a very close call with the French carrier Foch during the Kosovo campaign. The Frogs, being Frogs, refused to declare her to NATO but operated her as a national asset conducting air strikes. Therefore, her position was not regularly updated on the recognised maritime picture...

We similarly retained HMS Splendid, with her brand spanking new TLAM capability, as a national asset. All got a bit squeaky when Splendid salvoed herself into history, and her first six Tomahawks passed VERY close by Foch several miles down range as she was launching Super Etendards. Five pence, fifty pence time.

After an initial bit of mutual recrimination and finger pointing, both sides decided it might be simplest and best if they both grew up a bit and became a bit more sharing on positions...
you mean to say the RN scared the Shoite Out of the frogs just to prove a point….
 
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Yokel

LE
I will have to watch those videos. See if I can spot myself as I was on those deployments.

We can back from Christmas leave in Jan 93 and were told to sort everything out as we were to deploy in very short notice.

The RN kept up back to back CVS deployments to the Adriatic until sometime in 1996 - all three of the Invincible class deployed at times, along with something like twenty frigates and destroyers either as part of the carrier group or enforcing sanctions as part of the NATO force - we also committed SSNs and RFAs.

When the carrier commitment to the Adriatic finished, it was time to deploy to Arabian Gulf.
 
The other thing the Adriatic and Gulf had in common is the amount of UK air ordnance on their seabeds after the CVS extended holidays there... landing back on with a full war load was often not an option.
 

Yokel

LE
The other thing the Adriatic and Gulf had in common is the amount of UK air ordnance on their seabeds after the CVS extended holidays there... landing back on with a full war load was often not an option.

I thought that was also the case with American or French aircraft landing back on their carriers and having to jettison stores?

We will never know how much of a difference that would have been made by the more powerful engine, had the Sea Harrier not got the axe. However a former Sea Harrier driver pointed out that you only launch fully tooled up with bombs if you expect to drop them. As far as I know valuable air to air missiles were never ditched. It was the requirement to bring back ordnance on a hot day that led the the development of Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing for the F-35B Lightning the Queen Elizabeth class.

Back to the Adriatic, would aircraft be held on deck alert to deal with hostile aircraft, perhaps threatening the warships enforcing sanctions? I believe that there were a few hairy moments when the Yugoslav/Serb jets got a bit close.
 
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I deployed with the '93 Ark Royal task group aboard RFA Argus. I was part of a contingency to fire a corridor back to Split if things got sporty for troops deployed inland as UN mandates ran out.
We went out on the hurry up...less than a week notice...then sailed around for three months.
After that time it was decided that the kit could stay on the ship but we could come back and stay on 72 hours notice to move.
A different experience for a pongo.
 

Yokel

LE
@LanceBombardEars you must have been with 29 Cdo RA. I did wonder why they sent Commanfi Gunners to the Adriatic but no Royal Marine units.

@Jimmy_Green and @Rab_C you were in the RN at the time, did you deploy to the Adriatic? If so do you remember either exercises with Sea Harriers simulating attacking aircraft or simulating intercepting hostile aircraft? Or working with the Sea Kings?
 
@LanceBombardEars you must have been with 29 Cdo RA. I did wonder why they sent Commanfi Gunners to the Adriatic but no Royal Marine units.

@Jimmy_Green and @Rab_C you were in the RN at the time, did you deploy to the Adriatic? If so do you remember either exercises with Sea Harriers simulating attacking aircraft or simulating intercepting hostile aircraft? Or working with the Sea Kings?
Not 29 Cdo RA.
It was the bulk of 94 Regt RA, which had been the AMF(L) Force Artillery.
We deployed a Battery of Light Gun, a Locating Battery, and an HQ element.
I went attached to HQ Bty.
My own Bty were still in NI, but I had come back for a course. When they wouldn't send me back across the water for the last few weeks of the tour, I convinced HQ Bty to add me to their orbat for the adriatic.
 

Fang_Farrier

LE
Kit Reviewer
Not 29 Cdo RA.
It was the bulk of 94 Regt RA, which had been the AMF(L) Force Artillery.
We deployed a Battery of Light Gun, a Locating Battery, and an HQ element.
I went attached to HQ Bty.
My own Bty were still in NI, but I had come back for a course. When they wouldn't send me back across the water for the last few weeks of the tour, I convinced HQ Bty to add me to their orbat for the adriatic.

Adriatic or Ulster?

A decision that takes a fraction of a millisecond to make! :)
 
@LanceBombardEars you must have been with 29 Cdo RA. I did wonder why they sent Commanfi Gunners to the Adriatic but no Royal Marine units.

@Jimmy_Green and @Rab_C you were in the RN at the time, did you deploy to the Adriatic? If so do you remember either exercises with Sea Harriers simulating attacking aircraft or simulating intercepting hostile aircraft? Or working with the Sea Kings?

I have deployed to the Adriatic. Was during the Balkans nastiness although I must admit to not paying any attention to what was going on in that neck of the woods at that time. We'd just completed a JMC off the north of Scotland and a few hours after endex were tasked to make haste to the Adriatic, via Guzz to pick up stores and bootnecks.

We spent a few weeks tootling close in along the coast off Albania & Montenegro, which must have been part of Op Joint Endeavour in '96.

It's not to say that we didn't but I don't recall us having any time to play silly buggers with the WAFUs as we there operationally and not part of any training exercises, we'd already been doing that for about a couple of months around the UK.
 

Yokel

LE
I have deployed to the Adriatic. Was during the Balkans nastiness although I must admit to not paying any attention to what was going on in that neck of the woods at that time. We'd just completed a JMC off the north of Scotland and a few hours after endex were tasked to make haste to the Adriatic, via Guzz to pick up stores and bootnecks.

We spent a few weeks tootling close in along the coast off Albania & Montenegro, which must have been part of Op Joint Endeavour in '96.

It's not to say that we didn't but I don't recall us having any time to play silly buggers with the WAFUs as we there operationally and not part of any training exercises, we'd already been doing that for about a couple of months around the UK.

I did not understand why HMS Brilliant was shown doing that sort of exercise when she was near the potentially hostile coast. Slightly out of order editing perhaps? A subsequent episode saw them operating in the same area again, when news came through that a Dutch warship was bring harassed by a Croatian gun/missile boat so they did the 'Action Lynx' thing and loading live Sea Skuas before heading off in the direction of the Dutch ship. I wonder if the same thing ever took place with jets launching from carriers in response to aircraft heading towards NATO ships?

The second of the video clips in my first post says that "she is there to back up Royal Navy and other vessels enforcing the arms embargo..." as well as being ready to support the forces ashore.
 
After an initial bit of mutual recrimination and finger pointing, both sides decided it might be simplest and best if they both grew up a bit and became a bit more sharing on positions...

IIRC the French end of the recrimination and finger pointing was quite funny - at least the version I heard later. Probably shouldn't say more than that - at this distance I can't remember what's public domain and what isn't.
 

Yokel

LE
Slightly random question follows: A number of times when the Sea Harriers in the Adriatic where in the news they were sporting probes for taking on fuel from tankers. At he start of NATO operations out there the US Navy had the A-6E Intruder aboard their carriers, which would have included KA-6D tankers. Did they ever act as tankers for the Sea Harrier? What about the S-3 Viking that later acted as an AAR tanker?

Do any photographs exist of RN Sea Harriers taking on fuel from US carrierborne tankers? During 1980s NATO exercises maybe?
 
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