The Royal Fleet Auxiliary saw its numbers bolstered as RFA Tideforce – the last of four new-generation tankers – was welcomed into the Fleet.
A service of dedication was held in Dorset for the 39,000-tonne ship – second only in size to the UK’s two new aircraft carriers.
RFA Tideforce will now join her sister ships RFA Tidespring, RFA Tiderace and RFA Tidesurge in providing fuel at sea to Royal Navy, NATO and allied warships, as well as other supplies and fresh water when required.
The service at Portland was attended by the tanker’s sponsor Lady Sarah Messenger and her Royal Marine husband, former Vice Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Gordon Messenger.
Lady Messenger received flowers from Molly Richardson and Emily Noctor – the daughter and stepdaughter of naval diver Petty Officer Mark Richardson.
Other VIP guests included Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd and Lord Lieutenant of Dorset Angus Campbell.
After receiving military equipment – communications and IT systems, defensive weaponry – fitted in Falmouth to turn a tanker into a naval tanker and extensive trials, Tideforce recently arrived in Portland to be official accepted into operational service.
“It’s incredible to think it’s taken only 13 months since delivery to today.” Said Commodore Duncan Lamb, head of the RFA.
Fleet Commander Admiral Kyd – first commanding officer of carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth which the Tides were built to support – hailed the advent of the fourth and final ship in the class.
“This is the next chapter in the regeneration of our Fleet,” he stressed. “The Royal Fleet Auxiliary are a critical part of our Fleet and I look forward to a new era of carrier power projection.”
Each of the four Tides 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.
As well as their supply duties in support of the Royal Navy, the vessels can also undertake a wide range of independent operations, such as patrols policing shipping lanes and humanitarian relief.
Vice Admiral Chris Gardner, Defence Equipment and Support Chief of Materiel (Ships), said: “This event marks one of the final milestones of this major shipbuilding programme and affords a moment to reflect on the vital importance of the work DE&S does to provide our Armed Forces with the equipment and support they need.”