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Ukrainian Navy Minehunters arrive in Portsmouth for Multi-National Exercise.

| Naval News Navy 2024

On April 11, 2024, two Sandown Class minehunter ships recently transferred from the Royal Navy to the Ukrainian Navy docked in Portsmouth to participate in a series of multinational naval exercises. The ships, renamed Cherkasy and Chernihiv, left their previous base in Scotland, marking a key step in the UK's support for the modernization of the Ukrainian Navy.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Chernihiv alongside Cherkasy at No 2 Basin HMNB Portsmouth Two Ukrainian minehunter ships, recently transferred from the Royal Navy to Ukraine’s navy (Picture source: UK MoD)

The Sandown Class minehunters, used by the Royal Navy, are specialized vessels designed for the detection and neutralization of mines in marine environments. These ships are known for their fiberglass hulls, which significantly reduce their magnetic signature, thus minimizing the risk of triggering magnetic mines. Each vessel is about 52.5 meters long, displaces approximately 600 tonnes, and is highly maneuverable in confined waters, making them ideal for mine-clearing operations. They are equipped with the sophisticated Type 2093 Variable Depth Sonar, capable of detecting mines and other underwater objects by providing a clear view of the seabed.

Additionally, the Sandown Class features advanced mine disposal systems like the Seafox mine disposal system, a remotely operated underwater vehicle that can safely neutralize mines, keeping the ship and its crew at a safe distance. These minehunters also carry a 30mm DS30M Mark 2 Automated Small Calibre Gun and two 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns for self-defense. Powered by diesel engines, they can reach speeds up to 13 knots and have a range of about 2,500 nautical miles, accommodating a crew of approximately 34, balancing automation with human expertise crucial for mine warfare.

British Defense Secretary Grant Shapps emphasized the importance of this transfer: "The UK is at the forefront of assisting Ukraine in modernizing its navy. The transfer of these ships and the excellent training provided by the Royal Navy will have a lasting impact on Ukraine’s ability to defend its waters."

These ships will play a crucial role in defending Ukraine’s coastlines and protecting commercial routes, especially in detecting and neutralizing sea mines, critical for securing the Black Sea in the long term. The transfer was officially timed to coincide with the launch of the Maritime Capability Coalition, jointly led by the UK and Norway, aimed at enhancing security in the Black Sea region through training, equipment, and infrastructure.

Since the start of the conflict, Ukraine has managed to sink or disable about a third of Russia's Black Sea Fleet using precision-guided missile strikes and innovative maritime one-way attack drones. This strategic activity has enabled Ukraine to export a record amount of grain through its seaports in early 2024, despite ongoing Russian attacks.

The ships, formerly named Shoreham and Grimsby, began their transfer last year, participating in the Joint Warrior 23 and Sea Breeze 23 exercises in British waters. Their transfer was facilitated by a buyer credit facility guarantee provided by the UK government’s export credit agency, UK Export Finance.

Although the ships are currently unable to enter the Black Sea due to wartime restrictions under the Montreux Convention, they will be based in Portsmouth where they will prepare for Exercise Sea Breeze 24. This exercise, involving the Royal Navy, the US Navy, and the Ukrainian Navy, aims to improve Ukraine's interoperability with NATO nations and increase the agility of NATO navies.

The UK’s commitment to Ukraine has been unwavering since Russia's illegal full-scale invasion in 2022. As one of the largest military donors to Ukraine, the UK has demonstrated its commitment through substantial military aid, committing over £7 billion to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces to date.

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