The fourth and final Tide class tanker, RFA Tideforce, has arrived in the United Kingdom.

The 39,000 tonne vessel, which will deliver fuel and water to Royal Navy ships on operations all over the world, follows her sister ships Tidespring, Tiderace and Tidesurge into the A&P Falmouth yard, where work to customise the fleet ahead of operational service is sustaining 300 jobs.

With the homecoming voyage complete, all four of the tankers have now arrived safely in the UK, marking the end of a crucial phase of the fleet’s delivery programme.

Minister for Defence Procurement Stuart Andrew said:

“Tideforce’s arrival completes our new tanker fleet, ensuring our warships can continue their essential work across the globe. Hundreds of Cornwall workers will now install state-of-the-art systems before she joins her sister ships on operations next year.

Providing everything from a floating helipad, to a refuelling vessel for our brand-new aircraft carriers, we are delivering the equipment our Armed Forces need to combat illegal trade, safeguard our waters and promote peace throughout the world.”

According to the Royal Navy, each of the Tide class ships is as long as three jumbo jets and has a flight deck large enough for a Chinook helicopter to land on.

“Like the rest of the fleet, Tideforce is perfectly equipped to refuel Royal Navy warships, including the two new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, in hostile environments and challenging sea conditions.

Customisation work, including the installation of communications equipment and defensive systems, is sustaining hundreds of jobs in A&P Falmouth, while the wider Tide class programme is sustaining further jobs at 26 other companies throughout the UK.”

CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, the MOD’s procurement agency Sir Simon Bollom said:

“Defence Equipment and Support personnel will continue to work closely with industry to ensure Tideforce and her sister ships are fully supported once they come into service.

The delivery of the fleet within budget and to a challenging schedule has been a significant undertaking which has been expertly delivered by the dedicated team at DE&S.”

RFA Tidespring is already in service, with RFA Tiderace due to join her in September, while RFA Tidesurge has now completed her customisation programme and is about to embark on Capability Assessment Trials.

Head of Service for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Commodore Duncan Lamb RFA, said:

“The arrival of RFA Tideforce, the fourth ship of the class, into the UK is a significant and tangible milestone towards reaching full operating capability.

These four new versatile state-of-the-art Tide class ships will enable the RFA to continue to provide first class global support to a first class Royal Navy for the foreseeable future.”

David McGinley, Managing Director Atlantic and Peninsular Marine Services for A&P Group said:

“The arrival of RFA Tideforce into Falmouth is a significant milestone for the A&P team. RFA Tideforce is the final vessel of her class and this is the fourth time we have supported a Tide class vessel during their arrival voyage. We will now complete the customisation, fit-out and capability assessment trials to the same high standards, on time and to budget, as we have for the rest of the fleet.

A&P Group is delighted to have played such an integral role in bringing this new fleet of tankers into service to support Royal Navy vessels around the world and are especially proud of our team and supply chain for their hard work and dedication.”

Work to customise Tideforce is expected to take several months, with the ship then due to enter service in 2019.


  1. I’m not going into the how late these ships are debate, but say that South Korea and Japan are in some real subsidy dispute at the moment and unless it is fake news, workers at the Ulsan shipyard are feeling the same pain we went through in the 80s (from having over 120,000 in shipbuilding in the UK to seeing it rapidly decline). The South Koreans have come back to the UK (apparently the same room the arrived in to learn about shipbuilding in the 70s) to ask how to address it. They do not have a big domestic market, unlike Japan. We need to learn from this. I don’t think huge volume shipbuilding is desirable at the moment and we need to still concentrate on certain markets and get out teeth into the FSS asap!

    Now Japan is trying to do a deal with the UK for these ships.
    A Country with a higher hourly wage rate than the UK, but I’m sure they with all the others would have some sort of government support (the ones who pay for it) to the point that they almost pay the UK to build these ships. That’s not on.

  2. All I’m going to say is I think they are very nice and impressive looking ships and I am glad we have them. I just wish they had permanent CIWS fits … 🙂

  3. (Chris H) So the ship[yard that built these went bust, the SK Government stepped in and baled them out. If that isn’t State Subsidy what is? Bid low get the work and your freindly Government will see you right. It bloody stinks.
    That alone should disqualify any SK shipyard from bidding for the FSS ships. Not that we should have EVER put this contract out beyond the UK.

  4. I would be very interested to know just how much was saved both in time and costs, by outsourcing these ship over a domestic contract? Has anyone been brave enough to carry out such a comparison? The British Government should always place MOD ships regardless of type, in UK yards, so who did the maths and what were the gains of going to South Korea?

    • 18 months lost (didn’t want to say) and lost tax with 40% tax claw back, is 300 million pounds, or rather with just 30% tax clawback, could have built them for 645 million pounds that are just the shipbuild? Cammell Laird is finishing a complex Polar ship for 150 million pounds (including tax clawback?). Not value for the UK taxpayer. Question is, how much could we have built them for? The Waves cost around 100 million pounds back in 1993 including the UK content (25%). So being generous, not 75 but 80-85 million pounds then minus the tax clawback…. look at the inflation… OK, the ships are a little smaller. Coupled with the loss of steel capacity, investment potential and continuous shipbuilding. How did those ships get given abroad? OK, not a tanker builder, but we did lose a shipyard too, Portsmouth and when owned by VT’s had visions of building non-warships, unlike BAE.

  5. No UK ship yards bid for the work. The last large conventional ships we produced where the Bay class and one ship yard went out of business failing to produce one. I would love to see Belfast return to ship building but we just lack the skills and facilities to do it now.

    • Yes, and the NAO concluded the actual price in the end by Swan Hunters was fair. It was unfair to Swan Hunters, but I suppose they did say they could build it for that.

      • The point here is: if Swans said the ycould build it for nothing, the short sight MoD and RN would say yes, and sod the UK shipbuilding for the long-term health of our Country? Even though, it affects them.

  6. on an aesthetics note…. personally, i think the tide class are definitely the prettiest of all the fleet tankers…. 😉

  7. They are fine looking ships.
    British designed by BMT in Bath.
    The design has led to the Norwegians building one for their navy. A Tide “lite” called the Maude. Fine looking ship but only 2/3 the size of the Tide class.
    We need to get the MARS ships planned built in the UK. Why not subsidise the build. The South Koreans do and have subsidised their shipyards.
    I agree about phalanx mounts, loads of posts in other naval articles about the Royal navy needing to put its hand in its pocket for 30-40 more phalanx mounts and 20+30mm guns. SeaRAAM system would also be useful on the larger auxiliaries as a cheap means to boost local air defence and point defence. These ships will likely sail close in company with a QE carrier. Often in high threat environments auxiliaries sail right alongside carriers to shield them from torpedo or anti ship missile strikes. SeaRAAM and phalanx to my mind should be a minimum fit. Along with a range of 20 and 30mm gun mounts, machine guns and mini guns

    • Spot on though out. Subsidising is a dirty word to market fundamentalists but so many nations do it whether it is via direct subsides or indirect methods such as high tariffs on imports. The US has heavily subsidised for years whilst simultaneously prosecuting other countries for unfair trade practices. Allowing contractors to overcharge on components and materials is a classic way to subsidise indirectly.
      Fitted for but not with should be a thing of the past. If something kicks off its hardly likely we’d get a given a few months of grace in which to recall our assets and fit the missing systems. Ensuring a basic weapon fit for all vessels adds a element of flexibility to the fleet.
      I am particularly grumpy today having been bitten 14 times by some creatures while tending the garden.

      • Only 14? Don’t wear shorts and don’t be out there at dusk! I’m always getting hammered by the things!

        • I’m hoping that with some picking and scratching they will turn nasty. I went to see the F1 at Monza a few years back, the wasps there made ours look like babies.

          • Lord, you should see the flying Jurassic Park battleships I have to deal with in my garden here in the U.S. Deep South… Makes every little bit of watering, harvesting, and weeding an episode of “I Was Prey”…


    • Why fit them permanently with CIWS? Its costs money in maintenance , spares and wear and tear to fit and pottering around the UK doing Thursday Wars you wont need it. If its going to do Fleet Ready Tanker off Plymouth for sea training it does not need Phalanx. It will be fitted with 30mm , force protection small arms as standard.
      If its deploying as a member of a task group it will in all likelihood get Phalanx a Helo, a Bootie team and Sonar 2170.
      As for acting as decoys for carriers…er bollocks…these are high value force multiplier units. They get as much protection from a task group as the other high value units such as the carrier. They stay well back away from the shooting…they are to valuable to the fleet to use as a decoy.
      RAS operations in a non permissive environment are normally conducted out of harms way. You need clear sea room and a long straight line to RAS. That straight line should not be in the direction that trouble lies so its either parallel or in the opposite direction.


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