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RFA Argus

RFA Argus

The principal role of RFA Argus is to serve as a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship (PCRS). She has a fully equipped 100-bed hospital onboard offering full services. This includes a four-bay Operating Theatre coupled with a 10-bed Critical Care Unit, a 20-bed High Dependency Unit and a CT scanner.

RFA Argus

RFA Argus does not comply with the Geneva Convention’s definition of a ‘hospital ship’ as she is fitted with self-defence guns and decoys and may have operational units embarked. Thus RFA Argus is not classified as a hospital ship and does not display the International Red Cross symbol.

Her secondary role is to provide specialist aviation training facilities.

RFA Argus has a flexible design which enables her to fulfil additional roles. As a logistic ship she can be adapted to transport large amounts of equipment quickly.

Below is a message from the Commanding Officer, Captain David Buck (RFA):

"Having recently assumed command of RFA Argus, I would like to welcome all browsers to the ship’s web page.

"I very much hope that the information provided here about the ship, her role and, most importantly, her people will be both informative and enjoyable.

"From my own role as a father and also in chatting to my ships company, I am constantly reminded that the support of families and friends at home is an essential part of the fabric that makes up a contented seafarer.

"Equally the opportunity for loved ones at home to keep up to date with ships activities provides great assurance and this web page will undoubtedly assist that two way process.

"Having recently emerged from upkeep and transition back into Fleet through the Operational Sea Training process, RFA Argus is currently validating her Primary Casualty Reception Facility role with a large medical staff embarked.

"Proving her well established versatility, the ship is concurrently supporting an enduring programme of Operational Flying Training, which will continue throughout the bulk of 2014. In providing such a capable asset to UK Defence, we remain ever alert to the possibility of deployment to support contingency operations in any part of the world.

"There are several instances in recent times when such tasking has occurred, maintaining the need for constant upkeep of capability.

"It is very much my intention to keep this web page fresh and current. Any feedback on how our input may be enhanced would be welcomed and I hope you will be able to follow our progress with interest."


David Buck

1975 (RFA) 7/11/13 (RFA Argus)
Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Numerous RFA Ships, most recent RFA Mounts Bay
Military experience

With effect from 7 Nov 2013, Captain David Buck has been appointed as Commanding Officer, RFA Argus.

Born in 1957, he was educated at Alleynes Grammar School in Staffordshire before joining the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service as a Deck Cadet in September 1975.Following a four year cadetship, he served as an Officer of the Watch in most classes of RFA, including active service in Brambleleaf during the Falklands conflict of 1982. He attained his Master Mariners Certificate at Plymouth University in 1988, prior to three further appointments as Navigating/Operations Officer, including RFA Fort Grange during Op Granby in the Gulf 1991.

In 1993 David Buck successfully completed the inaugural Specialist Navigating Officers course at HMS Dryad and was appointed to his first shore posting as Staff RFA Officer (Navigation) to Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) initially at Portland and completing in 1996 at Devonport. Promotion to Chief Officer followed, with appointments as Executive Officer in Landing Ship Logistics, Rover and Leaf Class Tankers, RFA Diligence and Fort class ships.

He was appointed to Fleet HQ, Portsmouth in 2003 as a Staff Officer where he served for 20 months with Capability Management responsibilities for the RFA Flotilla. This role involved significant effort into establishing the RFA’s position within the framework of a significant RN budgetary merger and also the risk mitigation process associated with the ongoing employment of ageing single-hulled tankers. Following promotion to Captain in 2004 he completed Commanding Officers Designate Course 06/02 at HMS Collingwood.

As Commanding Officer, he initially completed a three year “ownership” appointment in command of RFA Black Rover, spent largely in the role of FOST support tanker. He proudly served as the final Commanding Officer of RFA Sir Bedivere, the “last knight”, in 2007/8 during a high profile deployment in the Northern Gulf, supporting the transitional and training effort being provided to the Iraqi Navy. His next appointment in command of RFA Diligence provided further experience in high tempo Gulf operations, in addition to providing the UK sole contribution to the “Partnership for Peace” sponsored Ex Sea Breeze 08 in Odessa, Ukraine. Subsequent successive appointments in command of RFA Cardigan Bay saw continuation of the ships high profile and enduring operational role in the Northern Gulf, again in support of the coalition managed Iraqi Transitional and Advisory Mission.

His next command of RFA Largs Bay provided further experience of varied Landing Ship Dock operations in home waters, prior to complex involvement with the ships prolonged sales process with several nations’ high profile delegates in attendance prior to ultimate sale to the Royal Australian Navy. His four month appointment in RFA Gold Rover provided the opportunity to exercise operational command of a tanker in the environmentally challenging South Atlantic theatre, running concurrently alongside various Falkland Islands 30 commemorative events.

During an eight month shore secondment in 2011, he was selected as Fleet Afloat Support Project Officer, tasked with the formation of a Ministry of Defence Maritime Specialist Support Service, comprising marine specialists drawn from existing Queen’s Harbour Masters, Admiralty Pilotage, Marine Services and Salvage & Mooring personnel. He was instrumental in establishing Commodore RFA as “skills champion” within this organisation.

His most recent command in RFA Mounts Bay was highlighted by participation in the high profile Cougar 12 deployment. Apart from proving the platform’s extensive amphibious core capability, the deployment provided the opportunity to break new ground for the class by exercising tactical command of an in company Strategic RO-RO vessel, in addition to bearing an overload compliment of over 580 persons on occasions.

A member of the Royal Institute of Navigation, David is married to Sue, has two teen-aged daughters and lives in West Devon.




Military training exercise Joint Warrior draws to a close
14 April 2014

Royal Navy ships, submarines and aircraft together with NATO partners...

Medics practise life saving skills during high tempo exercise
07 April 2014

As a casualty with severe injuries arrives on board RFA...

Preparations begin for Exercise Joint Warrior
24 March 2014

HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy’s helicopter and commando carrier, and...

Culdrose Merlin trainees see life from the front
15 January 2014

Trainee Air Engineer Technicians (AET’s) currently on 824 Naval Air...


Operational Operational Flying Training


Flying training conducted on board RFA Argus

Exercise Medical Endeavour


Medical Endeavour is an annual exercise designed to test and train the casualty reception facilities (and personnel) on RFA Argus. There are over 140 additional personnel onboard for this exercise, including Doctors, Surgeons, Nurses and support personnel drawn from across the armed forces.

Exercise Joint Warrior 131


Joint Warrior (JW) Exercises are planned and conducted by the Joint Tactical Exercise Planning Staff (JTEPS) based at Headquarters Northwood. JTEPS which is a joint organisation parented by both HQ Air Command & Navy Command (NCHQ).

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Pennant Number




Number of Compartments



20,000Nautical Miles

Length of


Engine power output equivalent to

250 Ford Fiestas

Sausages eaten in a year

26,000 1.5 miles end-to-end






Image Gallery



  • Battle Honours

    Ashantee 1873

  • Battle Honours

    Arctic 1941

  • Battle Honours

    Atlantic 1941-1942

  • Battle Honours

    Malta Convoys 1942

  • Battle Honours

    North Africa 1942

  • Battle Honours

    Groix 1975

  • Ship Launching

    RFA Argus was originally launched in 1981 as the commercially owned and operated Contender Bezant, a combination freight, Roll on Roll off ferry (RORO) and container ship.

  • Battle Honours

    Contender Bezant's Battle Honour: Falkland Islands 1982

  • Falklands War

    RFA Argus was one of the ships taken up from trade (STUFT) by the MoD for use in the 1982 Falklands War. During this period she was utilised as an aircraft transport, ferrying helicopters and harriers on deck.

  • Conversion to Aviation Training Ship

    Following purchase by the MoD in 1985 she was converted to an aviation training ship at the shipyard of Harland & Wolff, Belfast, with the addition of extended accommodation, a flight deck, aircraft lifts and naval radar communications suites.

  • Ship History

    The PRCF became the ship’s primary role during the refit when a ramp for casualty transport replaced one of the aircraft hangars.

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