Royal Navy HMS Defender, Mk 8 naval gun in action (Crown Copyright, 2014)

Defending Inherent Resolve

HMS Defender’s Role in Operation Shader

Commander Stephen Higham has been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his role as Commanding Officer of HMS Defender, a Type 45 destroyer, during her recent deployment to the Middle East as part of Operation Shader supporting international operations against Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, Daesh).

According to the Royal Navy:

During the nine months the ship was deployed, Defender broke records and set new standards as an air defence warship. Despite the stresses and strains that a nine-month deployment puts on any complex warship, not a single day of operational tasking was lost due to defects under Cdr Higham’s leadership. The result was that HMS Defender regularly supported US and French carrier groups launching strikes on Iraq and Syria to counter the threat from Daesh.


The Portsmouth-based ship was also responsible for tackling drug smuggling, at one point seizing over a tonne of hashish being trafficked across the Indian Ocean.

Type 45 Destroyer – the Daring Class

HMS Defender is one of the most advanced warships ever built for the Royal Navy. She is the Royal Navy’s fifth Type 45 Daring-class air-defence destroyer. HMS Defender was built by BAE Systems Naval Ships (now part of BAE Systems Surface Ships) at Govan on the River Clyde in July 2006. She was launched on 21 October 2009 by Lady Massey, wife of Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey.

The 500 ft ship can make a top speed of over 30 kn (56 km/h, 35 mph), with a range of 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km). As an air defence destroyer, she is armed with Sea Viper, Aster 15 and Aster 30 anti-air missiles as well as Harpoon anti-ship missiles, complemented by a 4.5 inch Mk 8 naval gun, 2 30 mm guns, miniguns and general purpose machine guns. The large flight deck can take a Lynx Wildcat or Westland Merlin helicopter for anti-submarine operations.

Defending USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group

HMS Defender provided vital defence support for the US Navy aircraft carrier, USS George H.W. Bush and her aircraft as they launch airstrikes as part of the international coalition against Islamic State.

Using her air defence radar and Sea Viper missile system, the ship provides an ‘umbrella’ of air defence to the Nimitz class aircraft carrier and her escort ships while they patrol the Gulf and launch airstrikes against the terrorist group ISIL.

Deployed to the Gulf in June 2014, HMS Defender’s primary role was to conduct maritime security operations as part of the United Kingdom’s enduring commitment to the region as well as working with the 30-nation Combined Maritime Forces organisation and Gulf Cooperation Council countries to bolster existing relationships.

HMS Defender operated alongsidethe US Navy’s Arleigh-Burke class destroyers USS Truxton and USS Roosevelt and the Ticonderoga class destroyer USS Phillipine Sea to provide support for the aircraft carrier.

Pushing HMS Defender to its Limits

Cdr Higham said:

I am hugely proud to receive this honour on behalf of the men and women who worked alongside me over the course of our deployment. The success of our time away was hard fought and hard won and it was a huge team effort. The average age of my ship’s company during the deployment was in the low 20s, and they proved themselves to be a resilient, professional group of people who worked tirelessly to get the job done. We pushed the boundaries of what a Type 45 destroyer can do, something which our sister ship HMS Daring is now continuing to do on their deployment in the Middle East today.

HMS Defender returned from her 9-month deployment to the Middle East in July 2016 and is now back alongside in Portsmouth Naval Base.

Sources: HMS Defender supports operations against ISIL in the middle east; Royal Navy announcement; HMS Defender, Royal Navy website

Photo: Royal Navy HMS Defender, 4.5″ Mk 8 naval gun in action (Crown Copyright, 2014).

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