It has emerged that RFA Argus, a ‘Primary Casualty Receiving Ship’ of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, could be converted into a ‘Littoral Strike Ship’.

The information came to light during a recent evidence-gathering session held by the Defence Committee.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“Your question about why Argus is absolutely correct, because, right now, there is a debate within the Navy about what ships should provide the littoral strike group north and south support until we get to the end of the decade when we will be replacing Albion and Bulwark. That is a live, unresolved debate by the Navy. Two years ago, it was of the view that it would convert a Bay class to give it a better capability to store helicopters. That has currently changed and I am expecting a proposal, although it has not been signed off, that RFA Argus may fulfil that function.”

Littoral Strike Ship?

Originally, a Bay class vessel was to be converted to deliver greater littoral strike capabilities at a cost of £40 million. The Defence Command Paper released last year, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age‘, stated:

“The Royal Navy will invest £40m more over the next four years to develop our Future Commando Force as part of the transformation of our amphibious forces, as well as more than £50m in converting a Bay class support ship to deliver a more agile and lethal littoral strike capability.

Is Argus feasible in this role?

For more on the history of this project, I recommend following the link below from the excellent as always NavyLookout.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Mark Franks
Mark Franks
30 days ago

What? More flannel. A decision should have been made by now and orders on the books. Argus is old and will have difficulty meeting modern marine safety standards. The Bays are in such high demand the Navy can ill afford to lose one. Albion and Bulwark are slated to be replaced by 2030. It’s time to stop dithering.

Last edited 30 days ago by Mark Franks
John Clark
John Clark
30 days ago
Reply to  Mark Franks

To be fair Mark, it’s a good interim option, if it isn’t of course not just more fiddling while Rome burns and no action.

Argus might be old, but shes a lot like Triggers broom!

Nicholas
Nicholas
30 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

I like the Trigger’s broom analogy.

It seems a pity that a good idea, or move forward, the LSG, is being watered down with the use of aged vessels, bodges and refits.

Marked
Marked
30 days ago

Not sure of the wisdom of re-roling and refitting an elderly ship. Its remaining life span will be limited despite the expense.

To me it would seem better spending the money on a new ship offering several decades of service.

Paul.P
Paul.P
30 days ago

So what would happen to casualty evacuation, HMS Echo?

Marked
Marked
29 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

What casualties? By the time all the cuts have finished there won’t be anybody left to become a casualty.

Paul.P
Paul.P
29 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Ha, ha! You never know, the new conservative PM might boost numbers …we live in hope.

James
James
29 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

As they have all decided (except Rishi) that tax cuts are the way to keep the conservatives in power with the general public id be shocked if the MOD gets anymore money than budgeted anytime in the near future.

Paul.P
Paul.P
29 days ago
Reply to  James

In fairness to Rishi I think he is probably the most candid and competent candidate. His charisma and mastery of current economic systems could be enough to convince people to vote Tory at the next election. The problem is that the current economic systems themselves are the cause of the problem. They have had a good run for their money for the last 70 years but in a world that’s overheating and running out of energy, food and water ( and soon probably lithium and copper) newer economic models are needed: I’m about to research Mariana Mazzucato and Kate Raworth.… Read more »

Joe16
Joe16
28 days ago
Reply to  James

That tax cuts thing just looked like blatant electoneering to me; there’s no feasible way to cut taxes and pay for what we need at the moment- not while the economy is still in recovery. Rishi was the only one who was realistic in what he was promising, which was refreshing. Yes, I know there’s an argument for cutting taxes to boost investment and all that, but we don’t have all of the bits in place for that to really work yet; no international firms are going to be looking to establish serious footprint here, regardless of tax rate, until… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Fingers crossed Ben Wallace as next PM

Paul.P
Paul.P
28 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

BW has already pulled out. He is much too genuine a guy for that level of politics and I think he knows it. The grass roots members’ favourite is Penny Mordaunt. That would work.

Tommo
Tommo
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Such a shame Paul ,as Ben would have ensured the military covenant would be enshrined and lilly liberals like the BBC would not create programmes like Tuesday nights Panorama

Paul.P
Paul.P
27 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Fingers crossed, PM4PM 🙂
I don’t do Panorama so can’t comment. To be honest I am considering cancelling my TV licence.

Tommo
Tommo
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Let the SAS clean sweep the BBC if they’ve gone native whilst out in Afghanistan as we’ve been lead too believe by Panorama, then they the right people too dot the Is and cross the Ts when it comes too cleaning up the Beeb and we then would not have to pay some Irish nationals or ex footballers over the top wages for for drivel

Paul.P
Paul.P
27 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

I tend not to take everything in the media at face value these days. If anything did happen I trust the army to deal with it properly.

Dern
Dern
30 days ago

This would be a spectacularly bad shout.
1) We’d loose the Role 3 aboard Argus, no way she can continue to operate with a permanent onboard medical facility and be a LSS, the refit wouldn’t acommodate both.
2) Lets face it Argus is bloody old.
3) Surely it would cost just as much to just convert a new merchantman?

The only advantage is her big flight deck… but I mean that can be achieved easily enough from other ships.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
30 days ago
Reply to  Dern

I read this with a high degree of disbelief and scratching my head as to wether I was imagining things. Argus was very solidly built but must be reaching the end game of various elements. Whilst, I am sure, she passes class rules and currently works well enough starting to cut her about is almost bound to end in tears a various issues will rear their heads. The other issue is taking a ship of that age out of commission and having all the systems down for that long is also bound to create a lot of recommissioning issues. Best… Read more »

Dern
Dern
29 days ago

She has been extended in service recently, and has just come out of a decent refit, but the disbelief for me would be the loss of the only R3 afloat in the UK. That’s not a capability we should divest ourselves from lightly (even if I obviously think an RAMC land R3 is better 😉 )

Ian
Ian
29 days ago
Reply to  Dern

👍

Nicholas
Nicholas
29 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Old and increasingly costly to keep at sea. Cumulative effects of the sea on the hull alone must be an issue by now. I’m not a maritime engineer so I might be talking rubbish.

Dern
Dern
29 days ago
Reply to  Nicholas

Neither am I, maybe if I was I’d be more upset about the hulls age than the loss of the role 3 capability?

Nicholas
Nicholas
29 days ago
Reply to  Dern

I do know that critical medical care very quickly after injury can be pivotal in terms of long term recovery. So perhaps you are right.

andy reeves
andy reeves
27 days ago
Reply to  Dern

it was mooted in engineering circles that the type 42’s went too early, despite the ages of the hulls means of retoring the entire hull was entirely feasable option. which wouldn’t neccissarily cost as much as yu’d imagine, but the admiralty, was still fixated on finding ways to fund the t45, the issue never reached anybody willing to look or consider it. t22’s were sold before they were run in. my son was on the trafalgar ssn when it was withdrawn from service. everyone from the captain down to the dock yard cat knew there was still a good five… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by andy reeves
Tommo
Tommo
26 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

Agree with you ,Andy was Drafted to Dolphin in 88 whilst the P and O boats were reaching the end of the Hull integratie lifespan and the Lads were all looking fwd too being on the new ssk Upholder class what a waste the MOD let’s all go ssn and ditch ssk so all those lads had too mostly retrain for Nukes the upholders didn’t even do 10yrs now Navies are again looking at diesel electrics

andy reeves
andy reeves
24 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

The story of the upholder were a total disaster with 4 boats making 4years In service the proposed 12 boats together would have been a close thing between them and 1astute is unbelievable. And to see that all4t went to Canada are still in service just emphasis the cross incompetence of all involved in the whole fiasco head’s should have rolled,but they weren’t the same amateurish thoughts still exist and can be still one of the reasons that the RN is so small.

Tommo
Tommo
24 days ago
Reply to  andy reeves

Cheers Andy it was upsetting for the diesel boys and too cap it all with the loss of the P and O boats and the demise of the Upholders the MOD saw no future use of HMS Dolphin renamed Fort Blockhouse not even the Harbour entrance Saluting Guns were spared top camp and SETT remain along with HMS Allience , and the final blow was RNH Haslar was deemed
surplus too requirements poor old Turk Town

Mark Franks
Mark Franks
29 days ago
Reply to  Dern

My point exactly, what are they thinking of, it makes no sense at all which is probably the intention. Argus has done a splendid job and if she is to stay in the fleet she should stay as a primary casualty relieving ship. Drawback for Argus is it will be very very expensive to keep her current to future maritime standards.
If the Navy has the budget earmarked for these replacement ships, Then all I can say is get on with it.

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
29 days ago

We would be better off taking a leaf out of the Iranian’s book and convert an oil tanker lets face it £40 mil spent on a relatively new vessel taken up from trade would go a long way but to take RFA Argus out of her present role/s and convert her you would not get too long out of her before you will be spending serious amounts of money just keeping her active also which vessel is going to be used as a casualty evacuation/fleet air support.

Jon
Jon
29 days ago

If you are going to convert a tanker, there are a couple of Wave class sitting doing nothing. It would be expensive though. Possibly a new build might be cheaper.

If you want something old already kitted for helicopter support, I wonder if anyone’s put in a bid for Garibaldi yet?

Dern
Dern
29 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Oooof can you imagine the reaction from Mail readers if it turned out the RN was using a second hand Italian ship?

Adrian
Adrian
29 days ago
Reply to  Dern

We could just bid for the former HMS ocean…

Dern
Dern
29 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

XD Yes “We sold this ship to the Brazilians only to buy it back for much more” would go down really well too.

Tommo
Tommo
26 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Yeah and Lefthand drive too boot Dern

andy reeves
andy reeves
24 days ago
Reply to  Dern

It wouldn’t happen. The admiralty won’t be seen using other nations cast offs even if it does make sense

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
29 days ago
Reply to  Jon

There are a number of new tankers tied up due to the lack of investment in the oil industry, The Wave class are also getting on a bit and the RFA needs every vessel it can get as they are particularly thin on the ground. As for buying foriegn we had a good chance when the French were selling off the hulls they built for the Russians but we let them go the Algeria.

Grant
Grant
29 days ago
Reply to  Jon

I’ve always thought the Garibaldi was a very pretty looking ship. We should defo buy her!

Expat
Expat
29 days ago

Tankers are not a bad shout, most are double skinned, plenty of deck and storage. Purchase price of 10-15m USD for a similar size to Argus, more likely the higher end to get something newer. Other alternative is Offshore support vessels but these tend to be smaller but larger vessels are out there. Also need to be non Chinese built.

Tommo
Tommo
26 days ago
Reply to  Expat

The Dil was a Polish Ro Ro we got a few good years out of her

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall
29 days ago

It wouldn’t take much or long to convert Argos to a basic LSS able to embark a “strike company” of RM’s plus a few helos. The essentials are already there, it would be a case of adapting some of the compartments currently used by the medical facility; upgrading the aviation facilities to maintain Marlin’s and Wildcat’s, improve the C3I fit, adding DS30M light cannon or Phalanx CIWS mounts, and replacing the lifeboats with davits/cranes for LCVPs and raiding craft. Not ideal, but potentially a cheap, short-term, quick fix. The loss of the PCRS capability is bad news, but maybe there… Read more »

Steve M
Steve M
29 days ago

don’t forget to put a load of MLRS on as well 🙂

ralphrepo
ralphrepo
29 days ago

As a ‘medical’ vessel, she’s low priority on any adversary’s targeting list. However, once it becomes a strike loaded vessel, she’s going to move up exponentially on the first hit items. Unless she’s able to defend herself (detection suite, massed missile intercepts), all the strike capability would be for naught if she’s sitting at the bottom.

Andrew D
Andrew D
29 days ago

Think she’s a bit to old ,but there again can’t afford to lose her at the moment 🙏

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall
29 days ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Argus has arguably been the RN/RFA’s best value ship of the last 50 years, closely followed by the Bay’s – even though those cost a lot more than originally contracted. The later T23’s were also a bargain – a top of the range frigate for about £100m in 2000 money! It shows the advantage of a long production run.

Jonathan
Jonathan
29 days ago

Losing the role 3 maritime medical medical treatment facility would be a massive loss of capability that will be very costly to replace and one ship cannot be everything so I cannot see it being able to maintain its role 3 function as well as act as a key amphibious ship. There seems to be a lot of chopping and changing as only last week it was reported they would keep Argus going into the 2030s until they could replace its role 3 functions. if they are happy with a cut up and repurposed merchant hull, just pick up a… Read more »

RobW
RobW
29 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Ben Wallace told the Defence Select Committee that the RN needs to make up its mind on Argus (although he kept saying Argos), Bays or Albions for this conversion. It was very much directed at the officers sat either side of him. Nothing has been decided. I imagine they don’t really want to convert any of them and are perhaps waiting for a possible uplift following the Tory party leadership contest.

Mark Franks
Mark Franks
29 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Manning is the issue. Albion and Bulwark are manpower intensive. So we go down the route of new hulls. Competition, cancel Competition, tender, slow build.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
29 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Argus might not be able to support the numbers of patients it can now, but it doesn’t mean it has to give up its Role 3 capability in a MRSS conversion. Arguably if you want that capability anywhere then you want it in multiples in your MRSS fleet in support of amphibious operations, not just one ship.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the plan isn’t to leverage the Army’s Role 3 modular approach philosophy for the MRSS. So any MRSS might then be capable of hosting a Role 3 facility.
https://marshall-landsystems.com/insights-news/uk-mod-purchases-deployable-hospital-system-from-marshall

Jonathan
Jonathan
29 days ago

Hi Glass there a a couple of what I consider insurmountable issues with mixing and matching role 3 with other core amphibious functions ( now my expertise is designing, managing and derisking emergency care pathways so I’m only able to really speak about one end of that balancing act). but: 1) I don’t see how you could ever fit an active role 3 and amphibious assault function on the same ship unless it’s the size of an Elizabeth. You are talking a lot of people 200-300 to staff a role 3 as well as 100 patients. By the nature of… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
28 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, thanks for detailed response. A few thoughts … Ref point 1. Is a Role 3 defined by headcount of staff and patients or by capabilities? It seems a number of the staff would scale with the number of beds supported, so it doesn’t have to be the size of of the Argus current capability? Also the term amphibious ops means different things to different folks. Some still imagine it to be storming up a beach in an opposed landing, D-Day type op, which is never going to happen, not even by the USMC; whereas the UK littoral strike… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
28 days ago

Hi glass, one thing that’s interesting is with role three most of the resources, space and staff requirements are not really related to the bed base. If you think bastion as a role three would have around ten consultant level surgeons + ED consultants all the diagnostics, ED and surgical teams and recovery ITU teams,these would stilll be the same if the bed base was just 10 ITU beds or added on an extra 90 general beds ( you would only need a nursing establishment to support those extra Basic hospital beds ( or bunks) at around 1 nurse +… Read more »

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
28 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Thanks for the explanation regarding Role 3 headcount.

Its interesting that it seems militaries are seeking more flexibility in how they put together combat medical facilities and capabilities for the ability to perform split or geographically dispersed operations. To your point perhaps the default for MRSS becomes Role 2 and then the RN are going to have to develop, perfect and practice an ability to scale that to Role 3. This US Army article seems to be discussing this – https://www.army.mil/article/210113/army_field_hospitals_and_expeditionary_hospitalization

Jonathan
Jonathan
28 days ago

Hi glass, yes role 2 is probably within easy reach of having it on each MRSS. Then you just need to be within 2 hours rotor transfer of a role 3.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
28 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Also a YT video on the Marshall Role 3 facility that you may find interesting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_M5I3NAE2Z0

Jonathan
Jonathan
28 days ago

Cheers really interesting, I was not aware the marshal system was a role 3. Having an Bio/Chem permissive role three is really a stunning capability. The fact they have added 4 extra ITU beds so they can stay sealed up for longer is pretty significant.

Steve M
Steve M
27 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

great concept but i tried counting the number of TEU i think over 200!! that would mean in total with vehicles to move that an entire Point class load? which means you must already have large secure landing area before you can deploy Role 3 hospital. Would rather have afloat capabilty for intial phase of Operation before then deploying land role 3, ship can then be used to repatriate injured.

Jonathan
Jonathan
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Hi Steve, yes the role 3 hospitals are essentially very large endeavours, your not put an army role three into anyplace other than permissive area after a lot of planning and preparing has taken place and your talking a long term deployment, your not up and moving it. But and this is the key question are we ever going to war somewhere 2 hours rotor trip from friendly soil in which we can set up a role three facility, the only conflict I can think of since WW2 in which an afloat role 3 type capability would have been the… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
29 days ago

Hi Glass as promised some interesting reading around military Emergency care pathways. First is a really interesting short article on the emergency care pathway at the U.K. lead Baston site. It looks at mortality, but the key take out is the level of preparation to develop this role three site as well as the complexity of pathways ( the team was multinational but developed as a team in the U.K. before deployment. “MILITARY MEDICINE, 179, 11:1258, 2014 Trauma Care at a Multinational United Kingdom-Led Role 3 Combat Hospital: Resuscitation Outcomes From a Multidisciplinary Approach” The second is an old but… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
29 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I’ve had a short sojurn in West Cumberland Infirmary. The A&E doctor spent 5 minutes after diagnosis and it came to light he’d served in LI and RAMC – I told him about the disaggregated PCR and his reply was….

“HTF do you do that?”

And I think he knows much more about these things, than do I.

Jonathan
Jonathan
29 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

He’s right and that was exactly my response and would be the response of any emergency care provider.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
29 days ago

I nearly fell off my chair reading this. How about not taking out the only level 3 hospital ship the navy have that also can undertake aviation support. Get a newer ship from trade and modify that. Argus is a ship from trade after all. I’m not sure what they are trying to do with these littoral ships. Either you have a military spec ship with aviation facilities and a dock or you have a commercial ship modified with aviation facilities and what ever else you need. Using a bay or Argus is stupid. Bays are in demand. One in… Read more »

Richard Beedall
Richard Beedall
29 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

The RN doesn’t want to give up a Bay to the LSS role, whilst £40M is not enough to buy and convert a merchant ship. Assuming no more money can be found, it looks like the adaption of Argus has been deemed the least worst option. After all, since being converted to a PCRS in 2007, Argus has never been fully used in that role – although her medical facilities have proven useful on several occasions.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
28 days ago

Richard beedall? Is that the same that had a website that had great info about the navy some years back? Or is it coincidence with names?
It’s a silly situation as the conversation must of went:
We want to set up a marine north and south group to rapidly respond from a ship in these areas.
Reply: yes we can do that but we will need 2 new ships and some equipment to do these roles.
Response: how about no ships and I give £40m to chop up a current ship

Volgaboat
Volgaboat
29 days ago

Buy back Largs bay from the Aussies they don’t need it anymore with their LHD’s

Expat
Expat
29 days ago

Surely a RoRo or RoPax conversion make most sense you have the existing decks ready to handle equipment.

Tommo
Tommo
26 days ago
Reply to  Expat

The Dil was an ex Polish Ro Ro and that worked out VFM we got some years out of her Expat

Albion
Albion
29 days ago

With a new PM taking office soon, and the statement of the leading candidates to cut taxes and reduce Dept spending, I wouldn’t be holding my breath at this stage!

James
James
29 days ago
Reply to  Albion

Agreed completely.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
29 days ago
Reply to  Albion

The one thing they all agree on is raising defence spending so calm down

RobW
RobW
28 days ago

Does Sunak want to raise defence spending?

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
28 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Apologies – all the candidates with a chance of winning want to raise it. Or at least claim to

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
28 days ago
Reply to  RobW

Agreed. He is the last of that lot I would want as PM. He’s already been in the bad books for tax issues with his billionaire wife, and would be seen as just another Tory toff.

On defence, the uplifted budget he only wanted for 1 or 2 years, not the longer term settlement that BJ pressed him on. To me this says he knows sod all on defence as we know programmes take many years and need long term funding, not knee jerks on a whim.

Mordaunt or Hunt for me please, preferably M!

RobW
RobW
28 days ago

It seems as though Sunak has the most votes among Tory MPs but Mordaunt has the popular vote from members. Fingers crossed she gets to the last 2!

Grant
Grant
29 days ago

So the original OSDs for Bulwark and Albion was the early 2030s, but as they have been rotated in and out of extended storage, surely they will have done less mileage and could actually go on until 2040 if needed: which they might be as we have 3 FSSS, Argus replacement and then 3 Bay replacements which probably are needed first.

I’m not convinced that one ship design could replace both Auxilaries (Argus and Bays) and actual warships (Bulwark and Albion) as warships need to have damage control etc and significantly more people to operate them…

David Barry
David Barry
29 days ago

A primary cas. ship 2 LPDs 3 Bays Can one hull undertake all roles given the LPDs lacked hangars? And also what of the raiding role? Why are people emphasising the crush loads for troop carrying when the Cde are never going to deploy as a Bde again and possibly not as a Bn? Questions, questions? What number of casevacs could Bastion handle? What was the most handled? What number went through intensive care at a peak? Do we need a Bay capability? Estonia suggests, yes. But do we need the full potential of the LPDs and Argos? I’ve no… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
28 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Hi David, with role three medical facility you either have it or you don’t, it’s a massive investment as what most people don’t understand is role three is the definitive care setting for a lot of specialities needed for a casualty, that means they have more resources and teams to bring to a casualty that your average district general hospital and are equivalent to a major tertiary centre like the big London hospitals. Its not actually great numbers that need the full resources of a role 3 centre, but the casualties that do are in a mess and need massive… Read more »

David Barry
David Barry
28 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Heavens.

@George_Allison

Some people deserve promotion for their pure unstintinting devotion to duty.

Might I suggest we have someone amongst us who should be recognised for their duty.

I can second it as you have the details.

Anyone else out there on UKDJ who’ll write in support?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
28 days ago
Reply to  David Barry

Agree David. I would.

J posts some impressive, for me jaw dropping stuff, and I always listen to what he has to say.