UKMOD to order four new RFA tankers

A new gen­er­a­tion of 37,000-tonne tankers is to be ordered for the Roy­al Fleet Aux­il­iary (RFA) to sup­port future Roy­al Navy oper­a­tions around the globe, the MOD has announced today.

A fuel probe comes across the lines from a Roy­al Fleet Aux­il­iary tanker ves­sel dur­ing a replen­ish­ment at sea [Pic­ture: Lead­ing Air­man (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Sim­mo Simp­son, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The new Mil­i­tary Afloat Reach and Sus­tain­abil­i­ty (MARS) tankers will main­tain the Roy­al Navy’s abil­i­ty to refu­el at sea and will pro­vide fuel to war­ships and task groups.

They will sup­port deployed amphibi­ous, land and air forces close to the shore, will be able to oper­ate heli­copters, and are planned to enter ser­vice from 2016, replac­ing exist­ing Roy­al Fleet Aux­il­iary sin­gle-hulled tankers.

At over 200 metres long, the four tankers will be approx­i­mate­ly the same length as 14 dou­ble-deck­er bus­es and be able to pump enough fuel to fill two olympic-sized swim­ming pools in an hour.

Min­is­ter for Defence Equip­ment, Sup­port and Tech­nol­o­gy, Peter Luff, announced that Dae­woo Ship­build­ing and Marine Engi­neer­ing (DSME) is the Government’s pre­ferred bid­der for the deal. This rep­re­sents the best val­ue for tax­pay­ers’ mon­ey, with £452m to be spent on the four new ves­sels to sup­port the Roy­al Navy on oper­a­tions around the world.

A num­ber of British com­pa­nies took part in the com­pe­ti­tion, but none sub­mit­ted a final bid for the build con­tract. In light of this, the best option for Defence, and val­ue for mon­ey for tax­pay­ers, is for the tankers to be con­struct­ed in South Korea by DSME.

UK com­pa­nies will how­ev­er ben­e­fit from £150m of asso­ci­at­ed con­tracts com­pris­ing:

  • £90m on UK con­tracts for the pro­vi­sion of key equip­ment, sys­tems, design and sup­port ser­vices. The win­ning design is being pro­vid­ed by UK com­pa­ny BMT Defence Ser­vices
  • £60m invest­ment in the UK from cus­tomi­sa­tion, tri­als and spe­cial­ist engi­neer­ing sup­port.

The tankers are part of a mul­ti-bil­lion pound invest­ment pro­gramme for the Roy­al Navy, which includes Type 45 destroy­ers, Queen Eliz­a­beth Class air­craft car­ri­ers and Astute Class attack sub­marines, employ­ing thou­sands of peo­ple in the UK.

Mr Luff said:

“Over the next decade, the Gov­ern­ment will be invest­ing bil­lions of pounds in our mar­itime capa­bil­i­ties to ensure that our Roy­al Navy remains a for­mi­da­ble fight­ing force. This project will inject up to £150m into UK indus­try, and sup­port and main­te­nance will also be car­ried out in the UK. The Gov­ern­ment remains com­mit­ted to build­ing com­plex war­ships in UK ship­yards.”

Com­modore Bill Wal­worth, Head of the RFA, said:

“We are delight­ed the RFA will be able to oper­ate these world class ves­sels. These fleet replen­ish­ment tankers will be flex­i­ble ships, able to oper­ate with the Roy­al Navy and Armed Forces in con­flict, and are designed to allow for upgrades and emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, mean­ing that they have been designed with the future in mind.”

The Chief of Defence Materiel, Bernard Gray, said:

“The com­pe­ti­tion for the con­tract sought to engage ship­builders from across the globe. I believe the win­ning bidder’s solu­tion will offer the UK the best val­ue for mon­ey.

“The MARS tanker is an excep­tion­al­ly ver­sa­tile plat­form; able to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly refu­el an air­craft car­ri­er and destroy­er whilst under­tak­ing heli­copter resup­ply of oth­er ves­sels. I am look­ing for­ward to the award of the con­tract and the work that will fol­low in the lead up to the deliv­ery of the ships.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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