Trials Start on Cutting-Edge Demonstrator for UK’s New Ships

Trials Start on Cutting-Edge Demonstrator for UK's New Ships

Trials have started on a new facility at HMS Raleigh which will be used to prove equipment for the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers and future Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels. The Heavy Replenishment-at-Sea (HRAS) demonstrator is being used to simulate the transfers of bulk stores and munitions to the new Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) Carrier from a RFA ship while underway at sea.

The trials will allow the MOD to validate data from ship motion computer modelling and enable Rolls-Royce, the company who won the contract to deliver the demonstrator, to prove their HRAS system design.

They will also be used to develop safe operating procedures for the new equipment, which will be fitted to the next generation of much larger RFA supply ships.

Commodore David Preston (RFA), Head of Commercially Supported Shipping at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation, said:

 “The new system increases the amount of stores that can be transferred in a single load from two tonnes to five.

“This increase is significant and vital to meet the demanding requirements of the new Aircraft Carriers.

“A complex hydraulic motion simulator system on the demonstrator replicates the effect imparted by the roll of the ships at sea.

“This allows us to prove that the heavier loads can be transferred quickly and safely in challenging sea conditions.

“With operations that could last up to five hours and with a load transfer rate of up to 25 loads per hour this places a significant demand on the new equipment and ship operators to ensure this capability is delivered.”

During RAS operations ships operate as close as 55 metres of each other while underway at sea.

Transfers can take place in all weather conditions, day or night, with the ships linked together between heavily tensioned wires which are used to transfer the loads on a digitally controlled load traveller.

To replicate this, the HRAS facility consists of a delivery platform, including a 25 metre steel mast, and a steel ship structure, which mimics the receiving points for stores on the QEC carrier.

On completion of the HRAS trials Rolls-Royce will convert the demonstrator to a training facility which includes replicas of a Type 23 and Type 45 reception points.

This will be used to train Royal Navy personnel and RFA staff. A working Type 23 ship’s bow structure is also included to teach wider seamanship skills.

 Nigel Andrews, HRAS Project Manager for the DE&S, said:

 “We have been working towards this project for years to meet the Royal Navy’s requirement to develop new faster heavier transfer of liquid and solid payloads onto the future new Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.

“The project is in two parts, the demonstrator which enables us to perfect the system ahead of the ship being built and the eventual trainer for the crews.

“Doing this on shore enables us to deliver a safe system which does not endanger the crews in proving it and means that we don’t have to use up the valuable time ships spend at sea.’’

The facility is due to be handed over to HMS Raleigh in 2014 and will then provide training for the next 25 years.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Raleigh, Captain Bob Fancy, said:

 “The facility will be one of the most up-to-date training systems for replenishment operations in the world; it is world class.

“RAS is an important capability meaning that ships can stay on operations rather than return to port for supplies, but it is also one of the most dangerous seamanship tasks the Royal Navy and RFA engages in.

“It is vital that sailors and RFA personnel can learn to undertake this task in a safe and controlled environment, so that they are properly prepared for the challenges they will face at sea.”

Warrant Officer Dave Deakin, Seamanship Training Officer at HMS Raleigh said:

 “We are leading the way in training sailors in the basic skills of working with a ship at sea.

“This new way of delivering heavier payloads, from two tonne to five tonnes, will again show the way forward. The basics of replenishment at sea are already taught here.

“The next stage is to increase the rate and the pay load across a wider distance between moving ships at sea.”

The trials are being sponsored by the DE&S organisation supported by Rolls Royce Power Engineering PLC, the company who were awarded the contract to design and build the facility.

The contract to build the demonstrator, conduct the trials and deliver the trainer was signed on 18 January 2011.

Press Release, May 31, 2013; Image: Royal Navy