The U.K. Ministry of Defense has announced the order of four 37,000-ton tankers to support the Royal Navy. The Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) tankers will preserve the Royal Navy’s ability to conduct replenishment of food, fuel, water and supplies for warships and task groups at sea. The ships will be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).
“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,” said Head of the RFA Commodore Bill Walworth.
Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) won the £452 million (about U.S. $717 million) contract to build the MARS fleet in South Korea. The ships were designed by U.K.-based BMT Defence Services.
“These ships are intended to replace the single-hulled Rover and Leaf class of tankers and will be manned by RFA personnel, Walworth said. “The MARS tankers will form one element of the future total afloat support capability and the RFA service will provide the manning for all of the ships within this program which is also planned to include the Fleet Solid Support Ships.”
According to Minister for Defense Equipment Support and Technology Peter Luff, a number of British companies took part in the competition, but none submitted a final bid for the construction.
The tankers are part of a major acquisition program for the Royal Navy, which includes Type 45 destroyers, Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, Astute class attack submarines, and the Type 26 frigate.
“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,” Luff said. “This project will inject up to £150 million into U.K. industry and support and maintenance will also be carried out in the U.K. The government remains committed to building complex warships in U.K. shipyards.”
“We, and our partners DSME, are delighted with this result against such strong international competition and are looking forward to reinforcing our partnership with this joint success,” said Muir Macdonald, managing director of BMT Defence Services. “I know we shall very much enjoy working closely with the MOD to now deliver these ships that are such an important addition to the RFA fleet.”
The 650 foot-long ships will have a crew of 63 and accommodations for an additional 46 embarked personnel. There is a flight deck and hangar for a medium helicopter.
The first two MARS ships will replace the single hull Fort Series I class of stores and armament ships, Fort Rosalie (due to decommission in 2013) and Fort Austin (2014). The two Fort Series II ships, Fort George and Fort Victoria, are scheduled to remain in service until 2019.