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Different ship, different year as RFA Fort Victoria takes over support mission in the Middle East

Different ship, different year as RFA Fort Victoria takes over support mission in the Middle East

11/01/2013

The largest ship in the Naval Service has taken on the vital – and unsung – task of keeping international task forces running east of Suez. Fresh from a refit in Dubai, one-stop support ship RFA Fort Victoria has taken over from tanker Wave Ruler with a US-led support force which provides dozens of Allied vessels with fuel, food and spare parts.

The arrival in theatre of RFA Fort Victoria has been seamless and, within a very short time, she has provided outstanding support to all ships.
Lt Cdr David Noon

Business as usual somewheres east of Suez...

The largest ship in the Naval Service – RFA Fort Victoria (34,000 tons) – delivers pallets of supplies to the destroyer USS Jason Dunham to allow the American warship to continue her work safeguarding the most powerful surface ship afloat, carrier USS John C Stennis.

2013 opens as 2012 ended for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – except with a different ship providing the all-too-often-unsung logistic support to the international naval effort in the Indian Ocean and Gulf.

Fort Vic has just taken over from tanker RFA Wave Ruler (she arrived home in Portland on Tuesday) with Combined Task Force 53 – an American-led naval group dedicated solely to meeting the supply needs of the many warships from many nations involved in the massive counter-piracy/terrorism/smuggling/people-trafficking effort, described in short by military figures as ‘maritime security operations’.

The task force’s operating area is vast: from the sands of Egypt through the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean north of a line drawn roughly from the southern border of Somalia to Karachi in Pakistan, plus the entire Gulf.

Slotting neatly into this force – which includes US Combat Logistics Force ships, Strategic Sealift, Special Mission ships and logistics aircraft – Fort Vic is working hard to maintain the great reputation the Royal Fleet Auxiliary has earned over many years in the region.

The ship has just completed a multi-million-pound refit in Dubai which will help to carry her through to the end of a four-year deployment east of Suez.

Fort Vic carries a mix of ‘wet’ (fuel for ships and aircraft, water) and ‘dry’ (food, spare parts, ammunition) stores; she’s officially classed as a Fleet Replenishment Ship – we call her a ‘one-stop’ supply ship, a sort of floating supermarket meeting all the Navy’s needs.

There is always an RFA vessel assigned to CTF53, and during her four-month attachment to the force Fort Vic’s predecessor Wave Ruler was in constant demand.

The tanker clocked up more than 27,000 miles, as she sailed to meet up with coalition ships for 52 replenishments at sea (better known by every sailor simply as a ‘RAS’).

In doing so the tanker delivered 2.9 million gallons of marine fuel – enough to fill the tanks of nearly a quarter of million Ford Focuses… if they ran on marine fuel – an 119,000 gallons of aviation fuel (sufficient for a ‘mere’ 10,200 Ford Focuses…).

“The service provided by RFA Wave Ruler was first-class,” said Lt Cdr David Noon, the only non-American on the staff of CTF53; he sorts out the logistical requirements for all non-US ships.

“Whenever I received a request for a RAS from any non-US ship, the requesting unit always sought Wave Ruler.

"The arrival in theatre of RFA Fort Victoria has been seamless and, within a very short time, she has provided outstanding support to all ships."

Not that Fort Victoria is simply a ‘one-trick pony’ delivering supplies. Last year she was the flagship of a highly-successful Royal Navy/Royal Marines counter-piracy surge.

And in a couple of months she’ll be repeating that mission – to a degree. This time she’ll be home to a battle staff from the Singaporean Navy as they take the reins of CTF151, the dedicated pirate-busting force in the Indian Ocean and off the Horn of Africa.

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