In a half-hour ceremony, the head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Commodore Duncan Lamb welcomed RFA Tiderace to the naval service.

“Today’s Tiderace is a most welcome and fitting addition to the modern Royal Fleet Auxiliary,” Cdre Lamb said.

“Bringing a new ship into service is a demanding endeavour which relies on a diverse, multi-skilled team, strong leadership and unflinching determination. Tiderace bears testimony to this and I pay tribute to the men and women in the UK and around the globe, military and civilian who have contributed to this project and made today possible.”

Each of the four vessels in the 21st-Century generation of Tides can deliver more than 1,500 cubic metres of fuel every hour – nearly 400,000 gallons, or 1½ million litres… enough to fill the tanks of more than 27,000 family runarounds.

Four Tides have been built for the Royal Navy – Tidespring is already heavily engaged supporting operations and training around the UK; Tidesurge is being fitted out in Falmouth and Tideforce is on her delivery voyage from South Korea ready to receive British military communications kit and weaponry.

All four ships are designed to be at the heart of a carrier strike group, supporting HMS Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales, a Type 45 destroyer, Type 23 or 26 frigate and an Astute-class hunter-killer submarine.


  1. Still no CIWS – they should have 2 per ship…

    Come to think of it no CIWS on QE yet.

    Is MoD just not fitting them! They are no good in a shed somewere.


    • The Tides are supposed to get 2 x Phalanx and 2 x 30mm canon. I assume they will also carry a Wildcat with its Martlet missiles and Sea Venom (in a couple of years). I’m sure they will get them when on operations.

      I read the other day that during Gulf War 2 we took Phalanx off a lot of ships and installed them at Basra airport. They were used many times against incoming missiles and grenades. A bit off topic but just shows how they are used according to need.

      • Re Basra also quite reassuring from a weapons performance/testing point of view to know that they got what was presumably quite a lot of real life testing to validate and potentially understand the limits of their capabilities.

        As long as corners aren’t cut by choosing not to install Phalanx on vessels that really should have them for a particular deployment then I see no issues with this shuffling around of Phalanx. If a third of ships are going to be in maintenance at any point in time then why have 50% more Phalanx than needed when so many other uses could be found for that money e.g. putting it towards an interim replacement for Harpoon. (“Interim” on the assumption that Perseus will deliver a best-in-class weapon in the longer term, something that with MBDA’s track record is, I hope, a realistic expectation.)

        • I think the general operating procedure for RFA vessels is to routinely sail without their main weaponry (they’ll always be carrying miniguns and gpmgs however) and then just have them fitted for when they deploy on major ops or to high threat areas. For example I believe Lyme Bay is currently in refit having Phalanx and 30mm fitted before heading to the gulf for mine countermeasures work seeing as the gulf is quite a hot area these days.

          • Hang On a Minute, These Ships Ain’t Offensive, That’s why the UK Ordered them from SK. Sticking Guns and other Stuff on them would Upset all the UK Shipbuilders Who never even bothered to Bid. And don’t even mention the Ship Builders Union Reps Who’d have a Major Heart Attack knowing that they didn’t actually lose all that work but would have Us all believe how Wronged they were.

        • Hi,

          I think the point is that you never know when a major crisis may happen. You would not have time to fit all those CIWS in sheds on the dick!

          It is a dangerous mindset to have.

          Saving money by keeping everything in the store!


  2. Great!

    Lovely ships. About the right number (provided other RFA numbers hold steady). British design, British final fit – all we got to do next time is build them in Britain :o)

    Anyway, carrier strike coming together nicely.

  3. I’ve asked this before on a previous article but maybe everyone had moved on from the comments section by then…

    I know the basic weapons fit includes 2 x Phalanx plus 2 x 30mm and that the Phalanx are installed on the mounting points when considered necessary for a particular deployment (as is also done for the Bays). Does anyone know whether the 30mm cannon are also fit-when-needed or are they permanent fixtures?

    Actually, given that the Bays also have 2 x 30mm as part of their listed armament, does anyone also know whether the Bay 30mm are permanent fits or fit-as-needed? I’m guessing it’s going to be the same answer for both classes – if it is considered practical to be shuffling the 30mm between ships as they do for Phalanx then they will do it for both classes and if it isn’t considered practical then they will be permanent fit on both?

    Great looking ships by the way and glad to see this all seeming to go quite smoothly now after the initial wiring issues.

      • Wow. Good find. Thanks Don.

        The purchase of 12 30mm systems is listed as being for Queen Elizabeth carrier and Tides 1 – 4 (no mention of PoW) so that’s 4 x 2 30mm for the Tides leaving 4 over for QEC. Wikipedia is a bit vague on the number of 30mm on each carrier but I’m pretty sure it’s either 3 or 4 each so it looks as if both the Tides and QEC are going to have permanent fits and not Phalanx-like swapovers. My guess is that the Phalanx on the carriers will be permanent fit as well, surely a carrier would never sail without them once active, i.e. not counting QEC which is I think currently still without them during her ongoing trials & workup activities.

  4. The most successful naval procurement project of the past 40 years.

    Lots of lessons to be learnt from this project, the important one is UK shipbuilding is not competitive regards quality or cost

      • Specifications were changed through the build requiring substantial rewiring work to be carried out.

        Delays had nothing to do with build of the ships as specified in the original contract.

  5. First class job all round apart from the lack of armament. This should have been installed before they set sail. Great looking ships by the way! Definitely worth considering giving this yard more work in the future, the deserve it.

  6. Bb85 interesting comments. Are you sure about those facts? If so that is terrible news. If a major conflict errupted and we need our ships out on the seas armed and ready, we would not have enough weapons to go around. The MOD should immediately order enough phalanxes and possible RAM to arm all its ships.
    Ditto with light guns and 20+30mm canons. We should not be scrimping on armaments that should be fitted as part of a vessels defence armaments suite

    • Presumably there will need to be a step up in numbers as we transition from T23 to T26/T31e since T23 isn’t making any demands on the Phalanx stockpile at the moment whereas T26 definitely will and T31? – who knows at this stage since the released spec guidelines were for CIWS or VLS but not necessarily both so I suppose a design with Sea Ceptor but not Phalanx might end up being what is chosen; we simply have no idea re T31 right now.

      • I think we had a lesson in the Falklands about only having one defensive system.

        It would be a shame to have to learn the lesson again in ships…


    • Mr Bell, If a Major Conflict broke out, We’d Need More than just a few more Phalanx and 30 mm Guns. We Know it but our Government Ignore It.

  7. CIWS or lack of covered many times. MOD rotate existing systems to deployed units.

    I’m personally against it and if we are to spend hundreds of millions on a vessel they should be Rmed properly, even if it’s a paltry extra 200 million.

    They just spend 3 three quarters of a billion pounds paving a runway and doing up Marham FFS.

  8. Couldn’t agree more

    The cost of these close in defensive weapons is neglible in the scale of things and we also need to consider the cost of moving these from ship to ship constantly.

    If we do things, we should do it properly each and every time.

    Sad state of affairs

  9. so if the balloon goes up and the RN has to make a major response do we
    – keep the unarmed ships in port while we go cap-in-hand to the US.
    – sail them anyway because they will be needed.
    21st Century Denmark Straits – POW fitted for 14” but not with because KG5 has the turrets and will swap them at refit time.

  10. Most rfa have the 30mm turrets fitted but barrels are stored away. They also all carry gpmg and mk44 miniguns

  11. Wasn’t one of the big lessons from the Falklands War the lack of close-in defences on ships? I understand the argument of only fitting systems on ships going to ‘hot zones’, but quite often you don’t know when a new conflict or attack may occur. Better to have on all ships and not need, rather than lose a vessel. Even a single OPV is now more than the $200 million quoted above by BB85 … !

    • During the Cold War the thinking was that ships deep in the Atlantic would only come up against the occasional ‘air target’ so air defence wasn’t seen in terms of saturation attack (a la Crete) which up threat would be the USN’s CBG’s problem. The occasional pop-up missile and MPA were deemed to be the RN’s main threats. The RN dumped the AA gun pretty rapidly compared to say the Italians or French, repeating the mistakes of the early days of WW2 by not investing in modern mounts. Guns are pretty cheap when you are talking about billion pound 8000 to 9500 tonne-ish destroyer/frigates. The Italian Horizons show the way. Phalanx’s 20mm round is a bit small these days; it’s only advantage is it is small and doesn’t require much to fit (beyond water for cooling and power there is no through deck penetration). Goalkeeper is a far superior system. Whether SeaRam would offer any advantage I don’t know. Some stabilised RWS wouldn’t go amiss.

      • To be honest if money were available I would remove the Mk8 Mod 1 from T45 and put a 76mm in its place. They will never go on to the gun line as they are far too valuable. Also now Mk8 is electric and reliable its true purpose, giving the WEM’s something to do has gone.

        • Agree, the 5in is not the way to go for the Type 45. The choice gun replacement on the 45s argues for the 76mm as the selected gun for Type 31. For best price make that decision now at Type 31 main gate and buy enough to fit them to the 45s when they go in for their new diesels.

          • Yep. Well it would make sort of sense that the cheaper ‘general purpose’ hull gets the bigger gun.

    • When Sea Wolf was fitted to the Type 22 it was ghought no further CIWS would be requied. However the Sea Wolf system was new in the Falklandsconflict and failled times. The lesson was you need a back-up. Not fitting 2 systems is folly. It can only please those who wish to save money at the expense of lives.

      All new RN ships should have at least 2 systems perminently fitted – not in a shed.

      This is all about cost saving. I dare not ask the question of how many systems are actually in working order! I can imagine that a few parts from the shed stock have been taken to put on ships. So we do not have even 20 systems…

      This is just criminal….


  12. Surely we can find £200 million from a multi billion defence budget to buy enough 20mm phalanxes, 30mm canons and other close range cheap gun and point defence missile systems.
    I particularly worry our capital ships QE carriers, type 45s and the coming type 26 have no rapid reaction close range air defence system like SeaRAM. For small deck space RAM missile mounts provide a 21 missile load which is pretty useful in a saturation attack. All for the cost of £1 million per launcher. Surely, surely the £3.5 billion each QE carriers should have a couple of these and ditto type 45, Albion class, Bay class etc.

    • Sea ceptor rather than RAM on carriers. There is enough space near the phalanx mounts to put these and they don’t have as much debris on take off. Locally manufactured too and don’t need a separate radar. Could probably even cue them in from the phalanx radar if needed. And yes definitely need more or these in stock and fitted on any deployed ship wether in a hot zone or not.

      • Would carriers using missiles delay flight operations (creating additional vulnerability) and give incentive to underinvest in escorts? Not sure it’s worth it on balance.

      • The Sea Ceptor can run off the 997 the same as it does on the T23. You could even put a Land Ceptor unit on QE at a pinch. The carrier not being fitted with Sea Ceptor is just negligent. The new US CVN has Evolved Sea Sparrow, RAM missile and Phalanx.

        Ours currently has nothing that could stop a missile. Also we should be looking at new systems capable of killing the new hypersonic anti-ship missiles. I am not sure Phalanx is up to the job any more. After all that is why the US developed Sea RAM because Phalanx is too short range and not hard hitting enough to stop a Mach 5 missile from hitting the ship even if it does hit the missile.


  13. Logistics, self-defence with carrying out certain protection measures and duties in the front line is an important sovereign requirement. Were these ships built for the RFA to serve/backup the RN? “British military communications kit and weaponry”, sounds warlike to me.

    • The RFA is in the war business.

      They have to military communications kit because they are essentially part of the military. Even back when we had enough escorts for patrol work RFA’s used to do (and still do) lots of interesting stuff beyond moving stuff. For example they larger ones were good places to base helicopters. Ships being large self contained systems have inherent utility.

      As for weapons well ships need to defend themselves whether it is from a missile or plane, or Third World pirate. Some of the Fort class even had space for a planned SeaWolf VLS silo. RFA officers receive tactical training. In other navies the auxiliaries would be part of the navy proper. In the USN they would often give pilots destined for command of carriers a tour ‘driving’ a large auxiliary.

      ‘International law’ allows merchantmen weapons for self defence.

        • Well I think the term we use here in the UK ‘auxiliary’ covers things pretty well. They are specialist ‘cargo’ ship built to support our warships. 🙂

          • Which means are warship like and military and of sovereign importance as all logistics is. German gets around this to get around eu rules! We have to do the same thing. They are paid for by the UK taxpayer but where that money gets spent is down to this eu empire’s rules!

    • Where did the design originate from? I thought the basic design was BMT’s Aegir design that was first adapted for the Norwegian order and then adapted for the UK order. From BMT’s web site…

      “BMT’s original concept design, Aegir®, is the blueprint for a family of naval support vessels that can replenish ships at sea and, due to their advanced double-hulled design, are compliant with the latest IMO environmental regulations. The design has been adopted by the UK and Norwegian navies for their latest support vessels and is under serious consideration by several other naval forces around the world.”

      [ Source: ]

      BMT is based in Teddington which, last time I checked, is in the UK.

          • Around 20% more, or if we factor out the added UK content of 150 million pounds which for some reason is not included in these ships build, the cost is over 2000 pounds per ton more expensive for Norway.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here