Work will begin on the Navy’s next-generation tankers in a year’s time after design teams in the UK completed their plans for the four vessels. RFA Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce will provide the Fleet – including the giant future carriers – with fuel, water, spare parts and other supplies for a quarter of a century once they enter service from 2015.
As a Merlin hovers over its flight deck carrying a slung load, tanker RFA Tidespring pumps fuel into aviation training and casualty treatment ship RFA Argus.
This is the latest artist’s impression of the Navy’s next-generation tankers as the design for the quartet of new ships reaches its final stages.
In around 12 months’ time the first steel will be cut on Tidespring, the first of the new 37,000-tonne vessels which will provide fuel, water, stories and supplies to sustain the Fleet – and especially its new carriers – around the world.
Hundreds of design drawings and plans have been drawn up by BMT Defence Services, working with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Scale models have been built and tested in the gigantic water tank at Haslar in Gosport, where Tidespring ‘refuelled’ HMS Queen Elizabeth in various sea conditions.
With the designs for the £450m quartet – RFA Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce – now complete, it’s down to Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to draw up the detailed plans so they can begin construction next year.
The ships will carry 19,000 cubic metres – more than seven times the capacity of an Olympic-sized swimming pool – of fuel for a ship’s engines and aircraft.
A new replenishment at sea rig has been built at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint to practise using both the new tankers and the ‘reception areas’ on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.
As well as both the tankers and the carriers being much bigger than their predecessors, the tankers should also be able to deliver their supplies up to two and a half times faster than the vessels which have gone before them.
“A Range Rover’s fuel tank connected to all four 7in hoses on the starboard size of a Tide tanker would be full in 0.12 seconds,”
said naval architect Mark Lewis from the future tanker project.
“Unfortunately, the fuel would be passing through a standard petrol station’s nozzle at around Mach 2 – and completely destroy your vehicle.”
The Tides will be much more than mere floating filling stations. There’s space for eight ISO containers on the forecastle, holding anything from humanitarian aid to large stores or kit for special missions.
Typically the ships will have a crew of 63, including 17 officers and 12 senior ratings. But there is accommodation on board for another 45 souls, such as RFA sailors undergoing training, Royal Marines and the ship’s helicopter; the flight deck can take a Merlin if required.
All four ships will be built at Daewoo’s yard at Okpo-dong in south-east South Korea which produces 70 commercial and specialist ships – such as the South Korean Navy’s destroyers – every year.
From the first steel being cut to launch will take each ship around ten months. After undergoing sea trials off the Korean peninsula, the ships will be brought to Britain where they’ll undergo ‘customisation’ – fitting classified and UK-only systems on board to support their mission alongside the RN.
Tidespring is due to be handed over to the MOD in October 2015, with the final vessel, Tideforce, completed in April 2017. All are expected to serve at least a quarter of a century.