Marine Engineering

HMS Fearless Marine Engineering Department provides a vast range of services to enable the ship to operate effectively. Main propulsion, electricity generation, fresh water, sewerage, air conditioning, refrigeration, heating and lighting, as well as the constant preservation and repair of the ship's structure and a whole host of other functions are carried out routinely by the members of the department. The following paragraphs are a guide to these jobs and the people who carry them out.

170 people work within the ME Department, ranging from the Marine Engineering Officer, known as Commander E, down through the sections to Junior Rating Marine Engineering Mechanics. There is a broad wealth of experience and expertise throughout to enable the more junior members of the department to progress up through the advancement structure, and a common training organisation exists to ensure that the correct standards are achieved and maintained at all levels.
Each section as shown above is headed by an Officer, who is directly responsible to the Senior Engineer for the efficient management of the machinery and personnel within that section. The Officers are assisted by highly experienced Senior Rates at either the Charge Chief Marine Engineering Artificer, or Chief Marine Engineering Mechanic level. Depending on the size of the section, there are then further Senior Rates who head certain sub sections, and look after specific equipment. Junior Rates work as required in order to achieve the best possible availability of the machinery that they maintain under the guidance of the Section Senior Rates. In order to maximise the experience gained by the younger members of the department, the Junior Rates move between sections approximately every six months. Everyone within the Department has an immediate superior and this is reflected in the divisional system that is used to provide a pastoral function. All personnel have a Divisional Officer who is responsible for the welfare and development of the individual.


Main machinery section

This section is responsible for the main propulsion machinery and associated systems. There are two main machinery spaces on board HMS FEARLESS, each one containing the following equipment:

Y124A Boiler
Y100 Main engine
Main Gearbox
Turbine Alternator
Boiler Auxiliary Equipment
Engine Auxiliary equipment
Machinery Auto control system


In total, 33 people work for the Main Machinery Engineering Officer, and the work can be hard. Temperatures in the machinery spaces are constantly hot with high level of humidity. The necessity to fit numerous steam pipework systems in the limited space means that mobility around some of the areas is tight. The machinery is operated from one compartment separate to the machinery rooms, by means of an air operated control system.

At all times when the ship is under way, a team or watch is closed up. This consists of the following personnel split between the two main machinery spaces.

1 x Engineering Officer of the Watch
2 x Chief of the Watch
2 x Boiler Petty Officers
2 x Throttle Petty Officers
2 x Leading Hands
4 x Junior Rates

There are also personnel closed up on watch to re-supply fuel service tanks and to monitor the output of the generators. Machinery breakdown drills are practised at least twice weekly to ensure that the watchkeepers know what to do in the event of a machinery failure, and to maintain the maximum possible level of propulsion to the Officer of the Watch on the Bridge.

Outside Machinery Section

The OMEO is responsible for much of the rest of the machinery on board. There are sub-sections that maintain refrigeration, air conditioning, hydraulic and domestic equipment as well as a team of electricians, who repair and maintain the vast numbers of electrical circuits, or "wiggly amps" as they are known in the Navy. There are 38 people who make up the workforce for the Outside Machinery Section. One of the biggest systems that Outside Machinery encompasses is the Hydraulics. This enables Capstans (fore and aft), Davits, Winches and most importantly, the Stern Gate to be operated. The Refrigeration machinery keeps 5 large store rooms at the correct temperature in order that the ship's provisions are fit for consumption. The Air conditioning plant is essential not only to keep the internal environment comfortable, but also to provide cooling water to the ship's many communications and Radar systems.


Landing Craft section

This Section maintains the ship's landing craft, boats and standby diesel generators. There are four Landing Craft Utility (LCU), four Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel (LCVP), one Pacific rigid inflatable and one Cheverton motor boat. The LCUs are operated from the Dock at the stern of the ship, and each has a Leading Marine Engineering Mechanic to monitor and operate the Engines and associated systems. The LCVPs are smaller craft, which are launched and recovered from the davits on the side of HMS FEARLESS. The Pacific is used primarily as a recovery boat for helicopter ditching or man overboard which, thankfully, do not happen very often. The Cheverton is a small covered motor boat and is used as the Captain's water taxi, when making calls to shore or to other ships.


Hull Section

Arguably the largest section in the department in terms of materiel and real estate, the Hull section and employs 30 people. There are various sub sections to maintain the plumbing and sewage system, the ventilation system, the ballasting system and also the Chippies, who maintain the structural integrity of the hull and superstructure. The primary function of the Hull section is ballasting operations. Seawater is flooded into ballast tanks, to flood the dock and allow the LCUs to float. This operation is carried out using 4 x 1000 ton/hour steam driven ballast pumps. The same system is used to pump the water out of the ballast tanks, and allow the dock to dry out and the stern gate to be closed.

Double Bottom Section

This curiously titled section is actually quite self-explanatory. The bottom of the ship is twin skinned, with the void space in the middle occupied by a large number of tanks. Most of these are used for Ballast water, however, the rest are used as Fuel or Fresh Water tanks. The role of the Double Bottoms section is the management of these Fuel and Fresh water systems. The personnel who work for the DBEO are commonly known as Tankies, and number 13 in total. HMS FEARLESS uses three different types of Fuel, namely Dieso (Marine Gas Oil), Avcat (Aviation Fuel) and Civgas (Lead Replacement Petrol). Dieso is stored in the Double Bottom tanks , with further Service tanks being used to provide an assured quality of fuel to the Boilers and the standby generators. Avcat is stored is stored in two large tanks with a Service tank pumping directly to the Flight Deck. Civgas is stored in a special tank and is pumped up to a Petrol Station style dispensing meter to the Upper deck. Fresh Water is stored in dedicated tanks which are spread around the ship, and the distilled water from the evaporators is treated with the addition of Chlorine in order to kill off any marine bugs that may be present. The ship is capable of Replenishment at Sea of any of the above and can also re-supply Fresh water and a range of bulk lubrication oil.


Administration, Documentation and Electrical Section

The four Turbo Alternators in the Main Machinery spaces generate up to 4MW of electricity. This is distributed around the ship by means of 6 Switchboards and a number of conversion and distribution boards. The main system on the ship is 440V 60 Hz 3 phase, and powers large electric motors used in a number of applications, such as 8 x 120psi Fire pumps, 2 x Large crane motors and 4 x Fresh water pumps. The 440V electricity is also converted down to 240V, 115V and 24 V for domestic lighting, domestic power and for power to communications and radar systems. Switchboard Drills are regularly practised to allow the Switchboard operators to transfer electrical loads between generators. In the event of an Electrical or Generator failure it is essential that the Switchboard watchkeepers reactions are quick in order that Electrical supplies around the ship are maintained. The Electrical Officer is also responsible for the Administration and Documentation within the department and has a Petty Officer Writer to assist in the management of the Technical Office. In total 7 people work for this Section.

Personnel, Planning and Training Section

HMS FEARLESS is a large ship. The amount of maintenance that is undertaken is routinely within the ships staff capabilities. However, more complex operations require specialist shoreside support, and this has to be planned into the ship's programme. The Department specialist for this task is the PPTEO, who liaises with the Operations Officer and Senior Engineer in order to plan the upkeep work that will be carried out during the ships time alongside. PPTEO is also the departmental training officer and programmes lectures, exams, practical training periods and oral boards in order to meet the advancement needs of the Service. Assisted by the Regulating Chief Stoker and the Training Petty Officer, the PPTEO manages the job changes, watchkeeping and communal commitment of both Senior and Junior Ratings within the department.


The Marine Engineering Department of HMS FEARLESS is organised in such a way as to provide a range of services to the Commanding Officer in order that he may take his ship to sea and be as operationally effective as possible. With such a large array of machinery and systems in HMS FEARLESS, there is a constant effort to repair defects and diagnose faults. To quote the Outside Machinery Engineer, "It does provide a real sense of achievement to fix a defect just in time to meet an operational deadline, having worked overnight in the bowels of the ship, when everyone else is safely tucked up in bed. There is never a dull moment when you are a member of this ME Department!"


Air Dept

Aviation contributes an important part to the amphibious capability of HMS FEARLESS in that the ability to move men and equipment by helicopter offers a fast, flexible and effective response to any crisis that may arise. The rapid build up of firepower ashore is one of the key elements to a successful amphibious operation and the use of air assets can make this easier to achieve. It is also possible to conduct raids deep into enemy territory with an airborne assault which gives the commander of the land forces a significant advantage if he can keep the enemy guessing as to where the next strike will take place.

The Air Department is a sub-department of the Warfare Department and although the ship does not have its own dedicated flight, up to 4 Sea King HC4 helicopters from the Tailored Air Group (TAG) can be operated from the two flying spots on the flight deck. The flight deck which measures 51 metres by 23 metres is also capable of taking any helicopter from the Gazelle right up to the twin rotored Chinook or the US Marine corps CH53E. It has even been used as a relief landing platform for the Sea Harrier.

The work horse of the TAG is the Sea King HC4, carrying 16 fully equipped troops or an under-slung a load of up to 5000lbs, typically the 105mm Light Gun as operated by the Royal Marines. Able to fly in almost any weather day or night, the Sea King has proved its utility in many areas of conflict from the Falklands War right up to present day in Sierra Leone and the Balkans. The TAG may include the Lynx Mk7 anti tank helicopter which can be armed with 8 TOW missiles. For aerial reconnaissance and observing the battlefield the Gazelle AH1 can also be embarked to offer a wide and very capable choice of air assets to the Land Force Commander.


Warfare Department

With over 100 people, the Warfare and Executive Departments are headed by the Executive Officer who is also Second in Command. It is divided into several sub-departments, covering all spheres of the ships operations: Navigation, Seamanship, Above Water Warfare, Radar, Communications, Damage Control and Executive functions.

FEARLESS is the last ship to employ ratings exclusively from the old Operations Branch specialisations. This has resulted in a higher average age than can be expected in most warships; the average age of the Able Seamen, for example, is 25. This experience is also borne out by the large number of Good Conduct badges and Long Service and Good Conduct medals to be seen onboard.

The Core of the Warfare Department consists of those personnel employed to operate the ship's weapons systems and sensors. The centre of the ship's fighting capability is the Operations Room. From here, the Radar sub-department ratings maintain the operational picture using a information and data from a variety of sources. Under the control of the Principal Warfare Officer, they track air and surface contacts using radar information from the 994 and 1007 surveillance radars. They also are able to receive data from other warships in order to extend detection range beyond that of the ship's own sensors. All of this information is collated using the NAUTIS Action Information System. The Radar ratings also operate a variety of computer systems designed to assist the combat information flow for both the ship's self defence and also as an information service for the embarked Staff.


The Operations room is also the hub from which the ship's weapons systems are operated. Although the ship's primary weapon system is the amphibious force, the ship must be able to defend herself in an action situation. To this end, she is fitted with two Phalanx Close in Weapons Systems, two 20mm GAMBO mountings and General Purpose Machine Guns. These weapons systems are operated by Missile sub-branch ratings who are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of their weapons and be capable of quick and accurate response to a variety of situations.

The Phalanx is a self contained Point Defence Weapon System designed primarily to detect, engage and destroy incoming missiles and aircraft which pose a threat to the ship. The system includes a 20mm Gatling type gun that is able to fire at a rate of several thousand rounds per minute. The 20mm GAMBOs are mounted forward of the bridge and are operated manually, they have a rate of fire approximately one thousand rounds per minute

In a ship as versatile as FEARLESS, external communications are essential. The Operations Room requires immediate tactical information relating to the ongoing battle. Radio communications are also an essential component of helicopter and landing craft operations as well as for information flow with forces ashore. On a wider scale, the ship is equipped with comprehensive satellite communications and an array of HF transmitters and receivers for longer haul communications with authorities in the UK. These facilities are maintained by a team of communications ratings who work around the clock to provide this essential service.

One of the Executive Department functions is to provide regulating staff. A ship with in excess of 500 Ship's Company, like any other small community depends upon the maintenance of law and discipline, to this effect the regulating branch provide service policemen. These regulating staff are also responsible for ship's routines and the processing of mail to and from the ship.

Although a 'Whole Ship' commitment, it is also an Executive function to ensure that all personnel are trained in damage control and firefighting and that all such equipment is maintained in good order. In the 'Whole Ship' ethos, all personnel are required to be conversant in the 'FEARLESS Five'; they must be able to: carry out first aid procedures, carry out initial firefighting procedures, wear and operate breathing apparatus and escape breathing apparatus, act as a member of a full firefighting team and operate fixed firefighting systems.

Last, but by no means least of the Warfare and Executive sub-departments are those involving Navigation and Seamanship. These critical areas of ship safety involve the Officers of the Watch who take charge of the ship on behalf of the Captain and the seaman specialists who co-ordinate all seamanship requirements from boat operations to Replenishment at sea. The bridge organisation is run under the supervision of the Navigating Officer; a specialist Navigator. The Officer of the Watch conducts the day to day navigation and collision avoidance from the bridge. The bridge itself is now unique in the fleet in that there is no wheel; the Officer of the Watch relays conning orders to the helmsman who is remotely positioned in a steering position seven decks lower down in the ship.

The forgoing paragraphs show that the Warfare and Executive branches are central to all of the ship's operations. Whether at sea or in harbour, the departmental officers and ratings are fully employed ensuring that the Ship is performing at the peak of its Operational Capability.

Weapons Engineering

The small but highly trained Weapons Engineering Department is responsible for the maintenance of all weapons, computers, radars, communications and navigation systems, which are all essential to successful landings and ship safety. The WE Department is run and controlled by the Weapons Engineering Officer who has a team of specialists in either Weapons Data and Ordinance or Action Data and Communications.

Weapons Data and Ordinance includes the Close Range Weapons System comprising of two 20mm mounted GAM-BO1 Guns, capable of firing 900 rounds per minute of armour piercing shells and two Vulcan Phalanx Gatling Guns. The Phalanx is a chain fed, 6 barrelled gun, which fires 20mm Armour Defeating rounds at a rate of 4500 per minute, equating to 75 rounds per second. The guns can rotate 360 degrees and have built in tracking radars to enable them to locate and lock-on to a target. The Phalanx's primary purpose is to provide self-defence against air attack by missiles or aircraft. FEARLESS also has a chaff system which can be used to decoy a missile by the deployment of millions of tiny strips of metal, which will look like a ship to the radar in a missile seeker head.

To provide the command with the information required to achieve the mission, the Action Data and Communications section look after the ship's sensors. Satellite Communications are an important part of this as they offer the ability to pass information reliably and are also hard for an enemy to detect. FEARLESS is equipped with many radio sets which operate on a broad spectrum of frequencies, providing short range communications to land forces and aircraft, and world wide coverage using HF sets. The ship has a number of radars which are used for surveillance or for navigation in poor weather. To enable personnel to talk to each other within the ship, the WE Department also maintain the telephone system and other specialist intercoms and broadcast networks. And finally, the department is also responsible for the gyroscopes which feed the ship's compass, the echo sounder which measures the depth of water, and the log system which records how far the ship travels through the water, more than a 700000 miles to date, and that is 20 times around the world!