Second Tide-class tanker RFA Tiderace enters service

The Royal Navy has commissioned its second Tide-class tanker RFA Tiderace in a dedication ceremony in Portland.

In a half-hour ceremony, attended by the 39,000-tonne ship’s sponsor, Lady Anita Lister, the head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Commodore Duncan Lamb and crew, RFA Chaplain the Rev Mike Hills welcomed the new tanker to the naval service.

Commanding officer Captain Sam Shattock RFA said the efforts put in by the first ship’s company to get the tanker through her trials and training had laid solid foundations “for a long future in the RFA, supporting operations for the next 30 years.

“I am immensely proud to have command of this new ship and the responsibility for completing trials and bringing her into service.”

Cdre Lamb said the previous generation of Tide-class ships introduced into service 65 years ago had revolutionized the way the Royal Navy was supported around the world – and their namesakes would do likewise.

Each of the four vessels in the 21st-Century generation of Tides can deliver more than 1,500 cubic meters of fuel every hour – nearly 400,000 gallons, or 1½ million liters.

The lead ship in the class, RFA 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.

“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 endeavor 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.”

The dedication marks the end of a busy week for the tanker, which started off Plymouth with her maiden helicopter trials when a Merlin Mk2 from 814 Naval Air Squadron touched down on the flight deck for the first time.

Merlins – or the Fleet Air Arm’s smaller Wildcats – will be expected to ferry supplies to and from Tiderace (or one of her three sisters) in giant string sacks slung beneath the helicopters (known as VERTREP, or vertical replenishment).

And aside from being the mainstay of carrier operations, providing fuel for HMS Queen Elizabeth and the rest of her battle group, the Tides will also be expected to conduct operations in her own right, with Merlins or Wildcats and specialist boarding teams – RFA ships have been used to this end extensively in the Indian Ocean.

Photo: RFA Tiderace alongside Portland Harbour. Photo: Royal Navy