HMS Sutherland, RFA Wave Ruler Conduct RAS in Indian Ocean

HMS Sutherland, RFA Wave Ruler Conduct RAS in Indian Ocean

Frigate HMS Sutherland joined up with British tanker RFA Wave Ruler in the Indian Ocean to take on much-needed supplies for her counter-terrorism mission. The two ships conducted a replenishment at sea – known throughout the Navy as a RAS – with the tanker providing fuel and stores for the Devonport-based warship.

The Flight Deck Officer of RFA Wave Ruler guides HMS Sutherland’s Merlin in to land on the flight deck to help the Devonport frigate continue her Indian Ocean mission.

The two British vessels linked up for a replenishment at sea (RAS) to allow the frigate to take on stores for her vital mission patrolling ‘Pirate Alley’ and the ‘Hashish Highway’.

Sutherland has just arrived in the region, relieving her sister Westminster on the wide-ranging maritime security task.

At any one time around half a dozen warships are assigned to the international mission directed by the Combined Maritime Forces based in Bahrain, working in two distinct task forces: CTF 150 (counter-terrorism/smuggling) and CTF 151 (counter-piracy).

It’s a mission spread across two and a half million square miles of ocean – more than eight times the size of the North Sea.

With warships typically cruising at 14kts, it takes five days to sail from the Strait of Hormuz to the Seychelles or Bab-al-Mandeb to Mumbai – the task has been likened to trying to cover an area the size of Western Europe with half a dozen police cars travelling at 30mph.

So as well as choreographing the movements of the warships, staff are constantly looking at the fuel and food supplies they carry and whether they’ll need to replenish in the coming days: no supplies = no patrolling.

In addition to providing fuel for the Coalition’s warships (and their helicopters), the 31,000-ton tanker also carries food and general supplies.

The latter can be transferred by wire as the ships sail parallel courses around 120ft apart – two tonnes at a time, equivalent to a pallet of around 20 rounds for a 4.5in main gun – or in a load slung beneath a helicopter (known as a VERTREP or vertical replenishment).

Naval Today Staff, August 16, 2012; Image: Royal Navy