Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships link-up during sea trials

There was a lot of RASzle-dazzle in the waters off the south coast of the UK as nearly 140,000 tonnes of Royal Fleet Auxiliary might combined for replenishment at sea (RAS) training.

The rare sight was part of RFA Tideforce’s sea trials and saw the hulking tanker work closely – very closely, in fact – alongside her fellow RFA ships, Tidesurge, Fort Victoria and Argus. 

Tideforce – the fourth and final of the Royal Navy’s super-tankers designed to support Britain’s two new aircraft carriers – was the first of the Tide class to refuel one of her sister ships while underway.

It was an impressive sight as Tideforce manoeuvred close to Tidesurge, running her rig to her sister ship to complete the first ‘Tide to Tide’ RAS, while Fort Victoria tracked closely behind.

Tideforce also received Fort Vic stern rig over her bow, another Tide-class milestone.

Earlier, casualty/aviation support ship, Argus, which has recently completed her Basic Operational Sea Training (BOST), also joined Tideforce to complete her RAS hat-trick.

Captain Sam Shattock, Tideforce’s Commanding Officer, said: “Replenishment At Sea (RAS) is the core function of an RFA tanker and it has been highly rewarding to demonstrate that function in RFA Tideforce through her RAS trials. 

"With the help of the equipment manufacturers, we conducted extensive training in preparation which resulted in us successfully transferring fuel and fresh water from all three beam replenishment rigs. 

We conducted extensive training in preparation which resulted in us successfully transferring fuel and fresh water from all three beam replenishment rigs.

Captain Sam Shattock

"The intense replenishment at sea trial period included a number of firsts. The first solid stores RAS reception by a Tide class tanker and the first Tide to Tide RAS using two seven inch hoses at the same time.

"This is key to proving long term sustainment at reach when supporting the maritime task groups of the future.

"Tideforce is making good progress towards acceptance into service and will support the fleet for years to come.”

As part of Tideforce’s progression into full operation, she is required to prove her primary capability, which is to replenish carrier task groups. 

After an extensive refit, Fort Victoria was also required to test their new carrier support stores rig, as she too prepares to keep the UK’s new carriers supplied.

Tideforce now continues her steps towards full operational status before Operational Sea Training.

Meanwhile, Tidesurge is supporting Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) and will be embarking Naval Squadron to carry out deck landing exercises.