Mine hunting support ship RFA Stirling Castle welcomed into Navy family

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Auxiliary Fleet Storyline: Royal Fleet Auxiliary

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh today joined the Dedication Service of a new Naval ship which will help safeguard UK waters from underwater threats.

Resplendent in her unique blue and white livery, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Stirling Castle was formally dedicated during a high-profile ceremony.

The ship marks a move away from traditional minehunting, embracing cutting-edge technology as she acts as a ‘mother ship’ for an array of remotely-operated and autonomous systems which will scour home waters looking for mines.

With Stirling Castle due to begin operations later this year, a break from training offered the ideal opportunity to welcome the new ship into the RFA family in the presence of the Service’s Commodore-in-Chief, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

It’s the second high-profile Royal visit to the Royal Navy in Scotland in 24 hours; yesterday, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal paid her first visit to new Type 31 frigate HMS Venturer under construction in Rosyth.

Prince Edward joined Robert Aldridge, the Lord Lieutenant of Edinburgh, Commodore David Eagles, the Head of the RFA, and civic leaders from Stirling among others.

“Bringing a ship into service is a demanding endeavour which relies on a diverse, multi-skilled team, strong leadership, and unflinching determination,” said Commodore Eagles.

“RFA Stirling Castle is no different and I pay tribute to the men and women in the UK – military and civilian – who have contributed to this project and made today possible.

“In particular, I would wish to reflect the efforts of all our partners across the Royal Navy and Defence Equipment and Support, along with our industrial partners and of course the ship’s company.”

Procured and delivered by Defence Equipment & Support in less than a year, for the past few months RFA Stirling Castle has been on the Clyde working with the experts from the Royal Navy’s Mine Threat Exploitation Group (MTXG) at HM Naval Base Clyde.

The Group’s Zulu Squadron are at the forefront of advancing new minehunting technologies, helping the Royal Navy to keep pace with the evolving threat from naval mines.


Some of the new, high-tech, equipment includes Autonomous Surface Vessels and Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) capable of being operated remotely using a portable command centre.

And that is where RFA Stirling Castle comes in. Not only can the portable command centre be located onboard the new vessel, but it can also be used to store, prepare, and deploy boats and UUVs on mine warfare and hydrographic survey tasks.

RFA Stirling Castle is helping to extend the reach and effectiveness of Royal Navy mine hunting operations and to make it safer for those sailors whose job it is to locate and destroy mines.

Her Commanding Officer Captain Duncan Vernoum RFA, hailed his ship as “a highly-capable vessel with a highly-trained and motivated ship’s company. In concert with embarked Royal Navy Mission Teams and specialist personnel, the ship is at the forefront of the Royal Navy’s future minehunting capability.

“The Service of Dedication, held in the presence of His Royal The Duke of Edinburgh, Commodore in Chief of the RFA, is an opportunity for Stirling Castle to showcase her abilities, and the hard work that has been put in by the ship’s company both on and off-watch to get her to this stage.

“There is more work to be done to achieve full operational capability and this will take place in the next few months.”

His ship began life as oil rig support vessel MV Island Crown but was snapped up by the Navy last year and underwent extensive conversion at HM Naval Base Devonport to transform her into the first RFA vessel dedicated to supporting mine hunting.

The ship is operated by 27 RFA officers and crew, augmented by 15 Royal Navy minehunting specialists on operations – with room onboard for up to 100 more personnel depending on the mission.

There are plans to acquire up to three additional ships to perform the role of mine countermeasures command and support from the mid-2020s.

Bringing a ship into service is a demanding endeavour which relies on a diverse, multi-skilled team, strong leadership, and unflinching determination.

Commodore Eagles