The British government has responded to the Ebola crisis in West Africa by sending the part-time hospital ship RFA Argus to support the UK Aid mission, which involves 750 defence personnel from all three services. Argus sailed from Falmouth in mid-October for a six-month deployment to Sierra Leone. En route, the ship called at Gibraltar to embark a fleet of 32 4×4 pick-up trucks onto her flight deck for delivery at Freetown. The vehicles will be used to transport medical teams and equipment to treatment centres throughout the country to help tackle the virus, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives in the region so far.
Although the ship is equipped with state-of-the-art medical facilities and a 100-bed hospital, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will not directly treat Ebola patients because of the high risk of transmission. The ship will remain offshore and act as a forward operating base for medical teams setting up field hospitals. Her three embarked RN Merlin helicopters will be used to ferry personnel and supplies to difficult-to- access areas, with a team of 70 Royal Marines providing security.