The UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s (RFA) third Tide-class replenishment tanker RFA Tidesurge (A138) headed to sea to begin military trials.
RFA Tidesurge – one of four Tide-class ships built to support the new carriers and their battle groups – has already proven her seakeeping abilities courtesy of a lengthy delivery voyage from the builder’s yard in South Korea all the way round to Falmouth.
At Falmouth, the ship had undergone four-month programme of military customization, armament and upgrades to UK MOD standards. A&P turned the tanker into a military tanker courtesy of comms kit, computer systems, defensive weaponry and the like.
A&P Group was awarded the Ministry of Defence (MOD) contract in 2015 to customise and fit-out all four of the RFA’s new fleet Tide Class tankers and co-ordinate full military Capability Assessment Trials to prepare the ships for operational service.
After a brief visit to Loch Striven in Scotland to take on fuel, Tidesurge will return south for rigorous testing of her systems in the Englich Channel and the Royal Navy’s South Coast Exercise Areas, including communications, flight deck, replenishment rigs, engines – all the while carrying out essential in-depth training for her crew.
Although principally designed to refill the fuel tanks of HMS Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales and their escorts, the Tides also carry fresh water and aviation fuel for use by the Fleet Air Arm.
RFA Tidesurge and her three sister vessels (RFA Tidespring, RFA Tiderace and RFA Tideforce) are part of UK MoD’s Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) Tanker project and will maintain the Royal Navy’s ability to refuel at sea and support deployed amphibious, land and air forces close to the shore.
The 39,000-tonne tankers are capable of carrying up to 19,000 cubic metres of fuel and 1,400 cubic metres of fresh water which will be at the heart of task group operations, especially carrier groups. The vessels are 201 metres long and has beam width of 29 metres.
Manned with a dedicated crew of just 63 RFA personnel (at least ten times smaller than the complement on the carriers), the Tide-class tankers are designed to support the Royal Navy and in particular the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – as well as various NATO forces around the globe. They will also carry fresh water and aviation fuel for use by the Fleet Air Arm.