Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Fourth Tide Class Tanker, RFA Tideforce Arrives in Falmouth, UK

The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s (RFA) Tide-class replenishment tanker, RFA Tideforce (A139) arrived in Falmouth, Cornwall on Aug. 15 for customization.

The 39,000 tonne vessel, which will deliver fuel and water to Royal Navy ships on operations all over the world, follows her sister ships RFA Tidespring, RFA Tiderace and RFA Tidesurge into the A&P Falmouth yard, where work to customise the fleet ahead of operational service is performed.

With the homecoming voyage complete, all four of the tankers have now arrived safely in the UK, marking the end of a crucial phase of the fleet’s delivery programme.

Each of the Tide class ships is as long as three jumbo jets and has a flight deck large enough for a Chinook helicopter to land on. Like the rest of the fleet, RFA Tideforce is perfectly equipped to refuel Royal Navy warships, including the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, in hostile environments and challenging sea conditions.

“Defence Equipment and Support personnel will continue to work closely with industry to ensure Tideforce and her sister ships are fully supported once they come into service”, said Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defence Equipment and Support.

“The delivery of the fleet within budget and to a challenging schedule has been a significant undertaking which has been expertly delivered by the dedicated team at DE&S.”

Customisation work, including the installation of communications equipment and defensive systems, is sustaining hundreds of jobs in A&P Falmouth, while the wider Tide class programme is sustaining further jobs at 26 other companies throughout the UK.

“Tideforce’s arrival completes our new tanker fleet, ensuring our warships can continue their essential work across the globe. Hundreds of Cornwall workers will now install state-of-the-art systems before she joins her sister ships on operations next year”, said Stuart Andrew, Minister for Defence Procurement. “Providing everything from a floating helipad, to a refuelling vessel for our brand-new aircraft carriers, we are delivering the equipment our Armed Forces need to combat illegal trade, safeguard our waters and promote peace throughout the world.”

RFA Tidespring is already in service, with RFA Tiderace due to join her in September, while RFA Tidesurge has now completed her customisation programme and is about to embark on Capability Assessment Trials.

“The arrival of RFA Tideforce, the fourth ship of the class, into the UK is a significant and tangible milestone towards reaching full operating capability”, said Commodore Duncan Lamb RFA, Head of Service for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. “These four new versatile state-of-the-art Tide class ships will enable the RFA to continue to provide first class global support to a first class Royal Navy for the foreseeable future”.

Work to customise RFA Tideforce is expected to take several months, with the ship then due to enter service in 2019.

Tide-class tankers

Tide-class tanker (formerly the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) project) is a class of four fast fleet tankers that will enter service with the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) from 2017.

The tankers are based on the AEGIR design from Britain’s BMT Defence Services but are being built by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd (DSME) with final outfitting in the UK.

The 39,000-tonne tankers will provide fuel, food, fresh water, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. They are specifically designed to support Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister HMS Prince of Wales.

The tankes are capable of carrying up to 19,000 cubic metres of fuel and 1,400 cubic metres of fresh water. They can deliver more than 1,500 cubic metres of fuel every hour – nearly 400,000 gallons, or 1½ million litres… enough to fill the tanks of more than 27,000 family runarounds.

The Tide Class has a flight deck able to accommodate a Chinook heavy-lift helicopter and offers significant improvements over previous RFA tankers such as double hulls and greater environmental protection measures.

Britain ordered four ships in February 2012 at a cost of £452m, causing controversy for being built abroad.

The lead ship of the class, RFA Tidespring (A136) is already heavily engaged supporting operations and training around the UK. The second of the class, RFA Tiderace (A137), entered into operational service earlier this month while third tanker, the future RFA Tidesurge (A138), is being fitted out at A&P Group’s Falmouth yard.

All four ships are designed to be at the heart of a Royal Navy carrier strike group, supporting HMS Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales, a Type 45 destroyer, Type 23 or 26 frigate and an Astute-class hunter-killer submarine.

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