Another vessel from the amphibious task group as part of Operation Achillean visited Valletta between the 23rd and 25th November, this time it was a maiden call to the Grand Harbour. RFA Argus visited Valletta after 40 years or service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service. We were welcomed onboard by the ship’s Commanding Officer Captain Richard Davies.
We visited the ship on the day it arrived, berthed at Boiler Wharf Senglea the vessel had two Merlin Hc.4 helicopters on deck, which was also the first time seeing the Mk.4 Merlins in Malta. In fact, RFA Argus deployed on this operation with an air group of Merlin and Wildcat helicopters from Commando Helicopter Force’s 847 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons. The latter were seen later in the visit.
Argus’s principal task is that of a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship. She owns a 100-bed hospital with all the necessary amenities, such as a 4-bay operating room with a 10-bed critical care unit, a 20-bed high dependency unit, and a CT scanner. We were very lucky to witness ourselves a simulation during our visit and hence the following images witness the state-of-the-art Hospital on board of Argus.
After visiting the Ship’s hospital, we walked down to Deck 4 where the helicopter hangars are situated. We found three Wildcat helicopters from 847 NAS and another Merlin Hc.4 from 845 NAS. Some maintenance works were ongoing on the Merlin. The aircraft can be lifted up to the flight deck which lowers down in the middle of the hangars so that helicopters can be moved on either side. The ship has these aviation facilities as its secondary role is that of an aviation training vessel.
It was time to walk up the steep stairs to visits the ship’s bridge, a large bridge indeed and it stands up high on the front of the vessel. Then it was time again for a short visit on the deck and the visit was shortly over.
The ship has a total displacement of over 28,000 tonnes, a length of 175 meters and a top speed of over 18 knots. The ship can have a complement of 80 RFA crew, 50 Royal Navy Maritime Aviation Support Force, 137 Royal naval air squadron personnel when an air group is embarked and 200 nursing and medical staff when the hospital is activated.