Second Tide class tanker RFA Tiderace begins journey home to UK

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The second of the four military tankers built in South Korea, RFA Tiderace, is finally on her way home.

The video shows her sailing the Kanmon Strait to Yokosuka, Japan. She is 2nd Tide-class tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

The Tide class are a 37,000 tonne derivative of BMT Defence Services AEGIR-26 design, whose origins lie in a civilian tanker from Skipskonsulent of Norway.

They are double-hulled to reduce or prevent oil being lost by damage to the outer hull, in line with the MARPOL regulations for civilian tankers (from which military tankers are partially exempt). The flight deck is large and strong enough for a Chinook helicopter to land on.

The Tide class tanker is a class of four fast fleet tankers that will enter service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The 37,000 tonne ships will provide fuel, food, fresh water, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world.

First steel was cut on the 24th of June 2014 for RFA Tidespring, she was expected to arrive in Falmouth in Spring 2016 to allow A&P Group to fit military equipment such as communications gear. Her three sister ships were to follow at six-month intervals. However she arrived later than planned.

Defence procurement minister Harriett Baldwin earlier blamed “delays in finalising elements of electrical design and the installation of Multi-Cable Transit insulation in accordance with new legislative regulations” which have now been resolved.

The UK still expects to have all four tankers delivered by 2018.

49 COMMENTS

  1. Have not been following the Tide class tankers. Seems like the Koreans are churning them out very fast now. Still on target for all 4 of class being in service by 2019? Seems so….

  2. Very Very good

    I have seen many of the UK ships and it is interesting that you can always see the plates on a uk build ship (i.e. where each piece has been welded together) but on the Tides (and other non uk) it seems like a nice smooth surface.

    Very well designed and built ship – well done to everyone involved.

  3. While the Royal Navy generously supports Korean shipyards and steel mills and the British Army builds APC’s in Spain with Swedish steel and light transports from the US, again, workers in British ship yards are laid off or build the few new vessels with Swedish and French steel and the ability of the British manufacturing base is destroyed and unable to provide the huge number of vechiles ordered by the Army.

    • No British yards competed for the tanker contract and 80% of the ajax fleet is being built in the UK, supporting 1300 jobs.

    • If British industry can’t, or in the case of BAE, won’t compete due to their eye-watering prices and poor performance record, why would you deem it sensible to still mindlessly support building here?

    • If they had been built in the UK they would cost hundreds of millions more than they have.
      I’m sick of the defence budget supporting BAES rather than the armed forces. Sometimes purchases like this are cost effective and I hope there are many more off the shelf purchases before HM forces are completely gutted by constantly buying at home.

    • British manufacturing was destroyed when it became inefficient and uncompetitive through its focus on short term profits and unions focusing on job protection over innovation.
      BAE never would have delivered this contract within the time frame or budget delivered in S.Korea.

  4. They look like a really good design, perhaps a couple more might be a good idea….

    Had they been built in the the UK I would imagine they would be somewhat more expensive.

    High time to have a comprehensive National Shipbuilding Strategy published and ship designs put out to tender.

    • Why a couple more? I’m all for more resources in certain areas, e.g. frigates, subs, F-35, P-8A, etc, etc but on the tankers the Tides take the RFA from 2 x dedicated 31,500 tankers plus one multi-role 33,675 tonnes tanker/sss to 4 x 37,000 tonnes dedicated tankers. If we count the current multi-role tanker/sss as having half her tonnage for tanker work (the rest for SSS) then that’s going from just under 80,000 tonnes of tanker tonnage to 148,000 tonnes and from 2.5 hulls to 4. For once the government seems to be delivering a very major uplift in at least one part of the RN/RFA capability. Also, to put that into context, the French currently have (at least according to Wikipedia) a total of 3 x 17,900 ton tankers for a total of just under 54,000 tonnes of tankers. The numbers actually look so good for the UK that, being so used to seeing under-resourcing, I still can’t shake the nagging doubt that I must be missing something here. If anyone can enlighten me then that would be great (well, not great because I’d prefer to be right, but I’m sure people know what I mean).

      Maybe there is danger lurking somewhere in the numbers and with the QE carriers an even bigger uplift in tanker capacity should have been put in place but at first glance it would seem OK and I would far rather see money spent on boosting MARS SSS numbers when those start to get built because with clever design they are the vessels that could and should do far more than just SSS, e.g. hospital, large helicopter hangar (maybe the ability to make it very large by mission-specific reconfiguration of adjacent storage space) and amphibious assault via configurable extra berthing (and/or hospital space) and the ability to carry maybe twice as many landing craft as a Bay class (on the basis that MARS SSS will probably be similar size to the Tides so close to 40,000 tonnes vs about 16,000 tonnes for a Bay.)

      I definitely agree on the National Shipbuilding Strategy. With both the T31 (unless that turns out to be political smoke and mirrors to hide cuts and never happens) and MARS SSS projects desperately in need of getting to the build stage we really do need NSS as soon as possible because it has at least those two big projects that it could really help and that could act as test cases.

      • HI Julian

        The RFA had to get rid of all its single skinned tankers due to international law and the Tides sole purpose is to support the Carriers (which themselves are a capability regeneration).

        only a few years ago there were 6 dedicated tankers and 2 combined making 8 in total, plus 2 solid stores, not sure about tonnage though

        I do agree that the Mars SSS are needed in volume (8) and if designed right could be a game changer.

  5. First good news for the navy in a long time. Next up the solid storage vessels.

    It seems once someone has signed the contract to proceed, we get some decent vessels, but everything else is currently up in the air, lots of smoke and mirrors but no real orders.

    Time to stop talking about gear that we can not afford and sign some deals on gear that we can, even if that means capability cuts, just grin and bear it, the money for the top end stuff is not suddenly going to appear in the next few years, if its not there now.

  6. When if ever does a Korean Yard ever deliver a vessel late? They usually know to the specific hour when a vessel is going to be ready. The South Koreans got badly stung on this contract.
    The electrical cable work specified by the MOD was not done to spec and major rework was required to correct it, all at the Yard cost. Hence the delay.

  7. In response to some of the comments here, the single-source supplier model of building ships on an ad-hoc basis is unsustainable.

    Ships are delayed, ships numbers are decreasing and costs are escalating.

    A National Shipbuilding Stratgey would have factored in the build and timeline of the QE Carriers, Tide Class Tankers, River Class Batch 2’s and Type 26’s. The work could have been distributed across the country to an agreed schedule. Shipyards would not need to close and thousands of extra jobs would be created.

    If we had such a National Shipbuilding Stratgey in place, the Tide Class tankers could have been built in the UK.

  8. A. Smith

    Couldn’t agree more and I have worked out a 25 year schedule for this that will cost £3bn p.a. and build 3 major ships p.a. on average and 18 small vessels (Arcims, SafeboatMk6, Cb90’s, RHIB’s etc).

    The USN has a 30 year ship building plan but our nuclear reactors have a 25 year lifespan and our carriers a 50 year lifespan – so a 25 year build lifecycle is more appropriate for the UK.

    We need cross party support politically for this and a proper plan.

    Roughly speaking

    0.6 subs each year (10 SSN – 4 SSBN) – 14 Total
    1 Multi Mission ship (T31) per year – 25 Total
    0.5 Global Combat ship per year – 13 Total
    0.8 Aegir Support ships per year – 20 Total
    0.1 Specialist per year – 3 Total

    6 CB90’s p.a. (150 Total)
    2 Safeboats Mk6 p.a. (50 Total)
    4 RHIB’s p.a. (100 Total)
    4 Arcims MCM p.a.(100 Total)
    1 Ship to Shore connector p.a. (25 Total)
    1 Landing Craft p.a. (25 Total)

    This should cost circa.£3bn p.a (asset cost only – exc. support costs) if sequenced correctly and for me provides a renewed capability and a balanced naval force that can provide mass and an asymmetrical threat through its smaller systems.

    Please note: no MHVC as this will be done by Arcims from one of the core platforms (T31/Safeboats Mk6).

    Drumbeat and sustainability are provided for with this (fantasy fleet) plan – but is it really difficult to do something similar?

    • Another benefit of constant building is that we do not spend massive amounts of money that should go to building new assets on expensive life extension programmes and our troops get a constant supply of new kit that they can be proud of instead of making do and mending.

    • Hi Pacman, such a schedule would not be so difficult at all and it still makes me wonder about the motives of politicians to continue with the mess that we’re in.

      Factor in refits and weapons to the schedule and you have plenty of work to go around, ship yards can remain open, thousands of new jobs can be created, ship numbers will increase, no more capability gaps (E.g. Harpoon) and millions will be saved.

    • E.g. We could have ordered NSM (in advance) for the Type 45’s and Type 23’s (installed during their refit) and then move the Artisan, Sea Ceptor and NSM from the Type 23’s to the Type 31’s.

      The Type 23’s could then be scrapped or sold off. The steel could be recycled and used for the Type 31’s. Steel yards would have advance notice of what steel type would be required for future ships.

      Ship commissioning, refits, weapons upgrades and ship scrapping could all be factored into a schedule without leaving gaps in ship building and capabilities.

      If we were to start such a schedule today, we would need to start planning for the Type 45 replacement immediately, which as we we’ve discussed, could very well be a Type 26 AAW variant.

      • @A.smith

        I couldn’t agree more – we are very wasteful in a lot of respects not just the RN but all services. We clearly have a logical reason for having a 25 year lifespan for our ships (50 or 2x lifecycle for the carriers) and this gives us the option of creating classes of 13 vessels and ensure that the mid life refit occurs in Year 13 of every ship.

        We do need to start scheduling replacements for the entire fleet and for me a 50 year plan is needed that will obviously be reviewed every 5 years but budget committed.

        I think we also need to accept that for some items (tanks etc) we can buy stuff relatively quickly but ships cannot and as such we do need to be more strategic in our planning and execution.

        • Yes, absolutely. I think where they got it right was with the creation of CAMM which can be used across the services.

          I would like the UK to create a similarly common long range stealth cruise missile (700/ 1000 miles in range) which can be launched from land, ship, air and submarine to attack land and naval targets.

  9. @Julian

    A bit more digging on the RFA fleet has shown the following 8 vessels have gone out of service in the last 10 years.

    4 Leaf Class
    3 Rover Class
    1 Fort Class (George)

    interestingly some of the Rovers are showing as active on the RN page but wikipedia are showing them as decommissioned.

    That is 8 vessels in the last 10 years alone, being replaced by 4.

    • @Pacman27 – LOL. I fell for the oldest trick in the book – not spotting a big running down of resources in the past and then thinking that a big increase about to come was genuine and not just making good a previously created capability gap. Thanks for the history lesson and doing that digging Pacman27.

      Given how cheap the first Tides were (about £452m for all 4 according to Wikipedia) another couple would have been absurdly cheap especially if ordered as part of the original order but there is still the huge personnel problem which I’ve heard is if anything worse in the RFA than in the RN. If it’s an either-or, which in these cash strapped times everything is, I think I’d still rather see any extra £250m or so go towards another MARS SSS than 2 extra tankers (as John suggests). The current plan to build 3 SSS really seems even more inadequate than our tanker provision.

      It is pretty amazing though that, with an F-35B LRIP-10 unit cost of about £92m ($122.8m) you could get a whole Tide Class tanker for pretty close to the price of a single F-35B and the higher priced F-35Bs that we’re buying from the earlier LRIPs probably each cost more than a Tide!

      • HI Julian

        We have all done it – they are very clever at this unfortunately.

        I did the same on the Tornado/Harrier fleets recently in support of more F35b’s and the situation is the same.

        Sadly people are becoming conditioned and I am of the same opinion as you – we spend a lot of money, where is it going? And why is it being spent on x instead of y?

        I am afraid this will continue

  10. I would build a total of 6 to ensure 4 were available. The active Carrier and her escorts are going to be a very resource hungry when deployed on operations and will probably take 2 as part of a major task group.

    The thing most of us agree on is the pressing need for a National Ship building Strategy. Break the dominance of BAE Systems and Governmental geo political meddling and place shipbuilding on a planned sustainable footing for the future.

    Post BREXIT, we will need to think truly Globally again, regular RN flag waving deployments to the Far East will have to become a reality, as we forge and secure new trade relationships. These modern support ships and the forthcoming MARS ships will be absolutely vital strategic assets in the decades to come and need to be available in the required numbers.

  11. I think we need a National Ship BUYING Strategy – a BUILDING strategy will simply end up funneling (hah!) more money to BAE shareholders. From what I can determine part of the delay had to do with the MoD and HMG mucking around with the specs (as usual). We don’t need to be able to “build” ships – just repair them in wartime. The next war won’t last long enough to build a rowboat let alone a Frigate/Destroyer. On that basis we need numbers up front and ready. Let BAE sort out the T45 mess (at their expense) and maybe build us a couple more as a penalty, let them build the T26 to keep the SNP happy (or at least less bl**dy miserable), let Barrow build subs. Then outsource everything else – let Korea build us 8 x T31s, and if we’re going to muck about in the Baltic in future maybe some Diesel-Electric Subs (Germany builds quite good ones I gather). We’re already buying US Okosh, so forget piddly batch runs of stuff that isn’t inter-operable – licence build US tanks, APCs, SPGs – (like we’re doing with F35B & P8) – that way we’ll get adequate amounts of kit, on time, on budget, with plenty of spares and that we borrow/share with allies as needed.

  12. Nicely designed by BMT. This type should be appealing on the export market for countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and possibly others.

  13. It’s a beautiful ship, but basically it is a thing that carries stuff. IMHO we should be able to get one hull design of 40t tons for any type of stuff be it tanks of fuel, containers of solids, accomodation modules, vehicles, aircraft, portable hospitals, or anything else. Up top we can have a large flight deck like RFA Argus or a smaller deck plus bolt on RAS equipment or simply more storage like the Point Class. It can’t be that difficult to have a whole fleet of large ships of just one design and with all the ships able to do every job.

  14. Tim

    I think that is what we will end up with really – The BMT Aegir design is pretty solid and does allow for some customisation as required. I like many would like to see 8 tides and 8 SSS (Karel Doorman like Design).

    All doable and very useful

  15. @Tim @Pacman

    You could probably get away with using this hull for every other RFA ship replacement and just change and build the required configuration when needed. Also think of the time and money saved.

    You could even take this hull one step further and use it as part of the future Albion Class replacement.

    Albion-class:
    Length: 176 m (577 ft)
    Beam: 28.9 m (95 ft)
    Draught: 7.1 m (23 ft)

    Tide-class:
    Length: 200.9 m (659 ft 1 in)
    Beam: 28.6 m (93 ft 10 in)[2]
    Draft: 10 m (32 ft 10 in)

    • I would go a step further

      IF you take a look at my fantasy fleet above – there are 6 standard hulls for the whole fleet and a further 6/8 for the smaller vessels. For me T31, T26 and Aegir will account for the majority of the surface fleet hulls and 2 Sub class (potentially 3 with an SSK). We then get smart with smaller vessels and unmanned systems.

      We also cycle these vessels through their lifecycles smarter with older T31’s moved onto fisheries duties with a skeleton crew in its last 5 years of service with newer vessels put straight into the high end war fighting role. Its the simple things like this that extend life and get the most out of our assets.

  16. Hi A.Smith

    Exactly! The Karel Doorman is basically an Aegir type vessel configured differently and the Norwegians have purchased a smaller tide and put a hospital in it.

    The hulls, engines, mechanicals can all be the same and we would save a fortune on parts and maintenance. We can even replace Diligence and the deep sea hydrographic vessel with versions of this.

    Additionally, I would like to see us order 4 Aegirs out of the Foreign aid budget and set them up as 2 hospital ships and 2 humanitarian aid ships with 12 Merlins each. At least then if we actually did need these assets they are available and in the meantime they are providing aid where they are required. I have no issue with these being run by the Red Cross or MSF but crewed by RFA with the ability to recall.

    • Hi Pacman, we would certainly save money on parts and maintenance. Using the same hulls would also allow for savings, shorter build times and increased efficiencies.

      I only says this due to the failings of consecutive governments, lack of crew and money but what if we create a new vessel to replace HMS Ocean, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. The new amphibious helicopter carrier would be based on the Tide-class hull. It could have Artisan, Sea Ceptor, phalanx, usual guns and decoys.

      This new vessel would do the job functions of the two vessel types it replaces. It could also use the automation techniques employed on the QE carriers. We could build a second vessel if needed.

  17. Hi A.Smith

    I do diverge from the norm here and for me a Karel Doorman style joint support ship is what the RN/RFA desperately need, given its current limitations. We can replace the 3 bays, bulwark, Albion, Ocean and Argus with something that has form and function.

    The KD JSS can hanger six merlins with storage for more and a flight deck for more (lets say 12 at surge), it has a steel beach and has two LCVP’s landing craft as standard.

    For maritime support the ship has two Replenishment-At-Sea masts, a holding capacity of circa.8000 m3 of fuel, 1000 m3 of helicopter fuel, 450 m3 of potable water and approx 400 tonnes of ammunition and other supplies. It has 2,000 lane metres and an elevator and crane for up to 40 tons, a roll on/roll off facility for vehicles.

    I assume that the lane metre’s can also be used for further storage through containerised solutions and I also assume that we could design a Dock into some of these if we wanted – although I have a personal preference to retain the steel beach and go with ship to shore connectors and retain the side drop landing craft for maximum flexibility. Having said that one of these loaded with Marines and CB90’s would be a game changer in my view, likewise if we created these for MCM motherships.

    • Are you suggesting we use a Tide-class hull to create our own version of the Karel Doorman and then build x-amount of them to use as templates to meet the needs of all the RFA, HMS Ocean and Albion class vessels? If we did that then we could potentially save millions.

      Some vessels could be single role and others multi role. They would be easier to maintain, train crew on and cheaper and quicker to build. One ship design to allow for multiple uses and roles.

      • Yes I am.

        I think the Karel Doorman with 2 Landing Craft, 4 CB90’s, 2 Ship to Shore connectors and 6 Merlins as standard is better than anything else we have at the moment including Ocean. Especially when we can build 8-10 of these at highly competitive costs.

        The Mistrals are great ships and I think the UK should have built 4 of them instead of the QEC, but we didn’t and in my opinion we need to replace the 7 vessels above – plus the SSS of the RFA with a solution that will be in constant use and not put alongside. The KD’s ability to act as a solid stores and fuel ship, hospital and Amphib / Helicopter carrier makes it a clear favourite of mine.

        I am also OK if two or more of these are funding by DFID and ran by the Red Cross as humanitarian aid motherships – out of the foreign aid budget as it is important the capability is available if required and that it is being used.

        We will get so much more value if we move all ships of this size to the Aegir hull and mechanicals and I think it is doable I really do

        • Hi Pacman, I think it’s an excellent idea and you can should seriously consider writing to the MoD to put forward this suggestion.

          • Hi A.Smith

            I did write to the MOD and actually shredded their response this morning!!

            Admittedly it was before SJP did his National Shipbuilding strategy, but I have costed a 75 ship Navy that can be built for 3bn p.a.

            The main problem with the equipment budget is that 60-80% is assigned to support and infrastructure costs and not actually building the kit – for me it needs to be closer to 50/50.

            All I have done is pick really good vessels that are already available at a reasonable cost point and modelled that. It isn’t rocket science and the UK MOD should be doing the same.

  18. We do not need load of specialist hulls – we need to get the most out of the hulls we design. An example is why don’t we use what we have learned from T45/T26 to create the T31 and build loads of them as multi mission ships (everything from survey to fisheries protection to ASW) and allow the T26 to become our Arleigh Burke major combatant (this means Sampson and some torpedo tubes for me.

    Likewise Safeboats Mk6 becomes our main patrol vessel and as discussed Aegir becomes the base for all supply/support vessels of a particular size.

    Standardise on engines and kit across the whole fleet wherever possible and lets get more for less money.

    • I agree, there are obvious ways in which hulls can be used for multiple ships and ships can also perform multiple functions. The cost savings are obvious but have clearly gone over the heads of the MoD!

      If you take a Tide-class tanker and move the stern to the bow you have a Karel Doorman. If we build a new amphibious helicopter carrier (like the Mistral) based upon the Tide-Class hull, using information gained from the QE carriers, using commercial off the shelf parts where possible, we could potentially replace HMS Ocean and the Albion-Class with one ship. The French sold their landing platform docks and built the Mistrals and this is where I think we also need to be.

      I am concerned by the lack of information about the Type 31 after the cuts in numbers of 45’s and 26’s. There has been a considerable amount of information about the Type 26 in the public domain over the years and almost nothing about the Type 31. I hope it will be worth the wait and we’re not given stretched OPVs with no war fighting capabilities.

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