Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Overview
 
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence. The RFA enables ships of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 to maintain operations around the world. Its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment at sea (RAS). It also transports Army and Royal Marine personnel, as well as supporting training exercises.

The RFA counts a forward repair ship and landing vessels amongst its assets.
Encyclopedia
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the British Ministry of Defence. The RFA enables ships of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 to maintain operations around the world. Its primary role is to supply the Royal Navy with fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally by replenishment at sea (RAS). It also transports Army and Royal Marine personnel, as well as supporting training exercises.

The RFA counts a forward repair ship and landing vessels amongst its assets. RFA personnel are members of the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 civil service who wear Merchant Navy-style rank insignia with naval uniforms and are under naval discipline when the vessel is engaged on warlike operations. RFA vessels are commanded and crewed by these civilians, augmented with regular and reserve Royal Navy personnel to perform specialised military functions such as operating and maintaining helicopters or providing hospital facilities. The RFA is funded out of the UK defence budget and the Commodore commanding the RFA is directly responsible to the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 Commander-in-Chief Fleet
Commander-in-Chief Fleet
Commander-in-Chief Fleet is the admiral responsible for the operation, resourcing and training of the ships, submarines and aircraft, and personnel, of the British Royal Navy...

 (CINCFLEET).

History

The RFA was first established in 1905 to provide coaling ships for the Navy in an era when the change from sail to coal-fired steam engines as the main means of propulsion meant that a network of bases around the world with coaling facilities or a fleet of ships able to supply coal were necessary for a fleet to operate away from its home country. Since the Royal Navy of that era possessed the largest network of bases around the world of any fleet, the RFA at first took a relatively minor role.

The RFA firstly became heavily relied on by the Royal Navy during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, when the British fleet was often far from available bases, either due to the enemy capturing such bases, or, in the Pacific, because of the sheer distances involved. WWII also saw naval ships staying at sea for much longer periods than had been the case since the days of sail. Techniques of Replenishment At Sea (RAS), were developed. The auxiliary fleet was a polyglot collection with not only RFA ships, but commissioned warships and merchantmen as well. However, the need for the fleet to be maintained was unambiguously demonstrated by WWII.

After 1945, the RFA assumed centre stage in supporting the operations of the Royal Navy in the many conflicts that the Navy was involved in. The RFA performed important service to the Far East Fleet off Korea from 1950 until 1953, when sustained carrier operations were again mounted in Pacific waters. During the extended operations of the Konfrontasi in the 1960s, the RFA was also heavily involved. As the network of British bases overseas shrank during the end of the Empire, the Navy increasingly relied on the RFA to supply its ships during routine deployments.
The RFA played an important role in the largest naval war since 1945, the Falklands War
Falklands War
The Falklands War , also called the Falklands Conflict or Falklands Crisis, was fought in 1982 between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands...

 in 1982 (where one vessel
RFA Sir Galahad (1966)
RFA Sir Galahad was a Round Table class landing ship logistics vessel belonging to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She was first managed for the British Army by the British-India Steam Navigation Company, before being transferred in 1970 to the RFA, part of the British fleet, .-Design and...

 was lost and another
RFA Sir Tristram (L3505)
RFA Sir Tristram is a Landing Ship Logistics of the Round Table class. She was launched in 1966, and accepted into British Army service in 1967. As with others of her class, she was transferred to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 1970...

 badly damaged), and also the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, Kosovo War
Kosovo War
The term Kosovo War or Kosovo conflict was two sequential, and at times parallel, armed conflicts in Kosovo province, then part of FR Yugoslav Republic of Serbia; from early 1998 to 1999, there was an armed conflict initiated by the ethnic Albanian "Kosovo Liberation Army" , who sought independence...

, Afghanistan Campaign
War in Afghanistan (2001–present)
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afghan United Front launched Operation Enduring Freedom...

 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

.

In July, 2008, the RFA was presented with a Queen's Colour
Colours, standards and guidons
In military organizations, the practice of carrying colours, standards or Guidons, both to act as a rallying point for troops and to mark the location of the commander, is thought to have originated in Ancient Egypt some 5,000 years ago...

, an honour unique to a civilian organisation.

Fleet

Ships in RFA service carry the prefix RFA, standing for Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and wear the Blue Ensign
Blue Ensign
The Blue Ensign is a flag, one of several British ensigns, used by certain organisations or territories associated with the United Kingdom. It is used either plain, or defaced with a badge or other emblem....

 defaced with an upright gold killick anchor. All Royal Fleet Auxiliaries are built and maintained to Lloyd's Register
Lloyd's Register
The Lloyd's Register Group is a maritime classification society and independent risk management organisation providing risk assessment and mitigation services and management systems certification. Historically, as Lloyd's Register of Shipping, it was a specifically maritime organisation...

 and Department for Transport
Department for Transport
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Transport is the government department responsible for the English transport network and a limited number of transport matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which are not devolved...

 standards. Most RFA ships are armed, typically with at least two 20 mm GAM-B01 anti-aircraft guns and a number of 7.62 mm L7 GPMGs.

The most important role provided by the RFA is replenishment at sea
Underway replenishment
Underway replenishment or replenishment at sea is a method of transferring fuel, munitions, and stores from one ship to another while under way.-History:...

 (RAS), therefore the mainstay of the current RFA fleet are the tankers and replenishment ships. There are three classes of tankers (oilers), one of combined oiler / replenisher and one class of replenisher in service. The new fast fleet tankers of the Wave class
Wave Knight class tanker
The Wave class tankers are Royal Fleet Auxiliary "Fast Fleet Tankers" tasked with providing fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. There are two ships in the class, RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler. The ships were ordered to replace the ageing Ol-class...

, the small fleet tankers of the Rover class
Rover class tanker
The Rover class is a ship class of "Small Fleet Tanker" of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom. They are tasked with the support of naval warships by the replenishment at sea with fuel oils and with limited supplies of other naval stores...

 and the support tankers of the Leaf class
Leaf class tanker
The Leaf class is a class of support tanker of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary . The class is somewhat unusual as it is an amalgam of various civilian tankers chartered for naval auxiliary use and as such there have been many different designs of ship in this particular class...

 provide under way refuelling facilities to the RN. The Leaf class are occasionally tasked with the bulk movement of oil between terminals and MoD facilities. The Rover and Leaf classes are nearing the end of their active lives and will soon be due for replacement. The Fort Victoria class are "one-stop" replenishment oilers, capable of supplying refuelling, rearming and victualling services while the older Fort Rosalie
Fort Rosalie class replenishment ship
The Fort Rosalie or Fort class is a class of fleet replenishment vessel of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary. These ships are designed to replenish Royal Navy ships with all kinds of armaments and victualling stores while under way....

 class provide only rearming and victualling of "dry" cargoes.

The Wave and both the Fort classes have generous aviation facilities, providing aviation support and training facilities and significant VERTREP (vertical replenishment) capabilities. The Fort class ships are capable of operating and supporting up to four helicopters such as the Royal Navy's Merlin
AgustaWestland EH101
The AgustaWestland AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter for military applications but also marketed for civil use. The helicopter was developed as a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the UK and Agusta in Italy...

 and Lynx
Westland Lynx
The Westland Lynx is a British multi-purpose military helicopter designed and built by Westland Helicopters at its factory in Yeovil. Originally intended as a utility craft for both civil and naval usage, military interest led to the development of both battlefield and naval variants...

. Modern naval helicopters are significant weapons platforms, the presence of aviation facilities on RFA ships allows for them to be used as 'force multipliers' for the task groups they support in line with Royal Navy doctrine.

The RFA is also tasked with a role supporting British amphibious operations and so contains the three Bay class
Bay class landing ship dock (auxiliary)
The Bay class is a ship class of four Dock landing ships built for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary during the 2000s. Based on the Dutch-Spanish Royal Schelde Enforcer design and intended as a replacement for the Round Table class logistics ships, two ships each were ordered from Swan Hunter and...

 Landing Ship Dock
Dock landing ship
A Dock landing ship or Landing ship is a form of amphibious warship designed to support amphibious operations. These amphibious assault ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel...

 (LSD).

Two unique support ships in the fleet are the repair vessel Diligence
RFA Diligence (A132)
RFA Diligence is a fleet repair ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She was built by Oesundsvarvet AB Landskrona in Sweden and launched in 1981 as a civilian oil rig support ship,. Diligence first served the RFA during the Falklands War as a civilian owned ship taken up from the trade . As MV Stena...

 and the aviation training ship Argus
RFA Argus (A135)
RFA Argus is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, part of the Royal Navy. Italian-built, Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA...

. Both of these ships are converted former merchantmen. Diligence is a former North Sea
North Sea
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover, the North Sea becomes the English Channel connecting to the Atlantic Ocean. In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea via the Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden respectively...

 oil industry support ship tasked with fleet repairs and maintenance. Argus, a converted roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) container ship, is tasked with peacetime aviation training and support. On active operations, she becomes the Primary Casualty Receiving Ship (PCRS); essentially a hospital ship. She cannot be described as such - and is not afforded such protection under the Geneva Convention - as she is armed. She can, however, venture into waters too dangerous for a normal hospital ship. Argus completed a refit in May 2007 intended to extend her operational life to 2020.

Recently, two fast sealift
Sealift
Sealift is a term used predominantly in military logistics and refers to the use of cargo ships for the deployment of military assets, such as weaponry, vehicles, military personnel, and supplies...

 ships were also in the fleet, Sea Crusader
RFA Sea Crusader (A96)
RFA Sea Crusader was a fast sealift ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. It is described by the RFA as a "Strategic Lift Ro-Ro". It was built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Japan and entered service in 1996. In 1998 the charter was extended to cover until its replacement could be brought into service....

 and Sea Centurion
RFA Sea Centurion (A98)
RFA Sea Centurion was a fast sealift ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary built for Stena Line by Societa Esercizio Cantieri. She was one of five 2700 lane metre capacity roll-on/roll-off sister ships which were to have been built for Stena Ro-Ro, and one of the last built by SEC at Viareggio...

. They were merchant Ro-Ro ships chartered as a stopgap measure to increase the strategic lift of the RFA, enabling faster deployment of British forces. Sea Centurion was returned to its owners in 2002 and Sea Crusader in 2003, after performing cargo hauling duties for the campaign in Iraq
Operation Telic
Operation TELIC was the codename under which all British military operations in Iraq were conducted between the start of the Invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003 and the withdrawal of the last remaining British forces on 22 May 2011...

. They have been replaced by newly built Point class
Point class sealift ship
The Point class is a class of six roll-on/roll-off sealift ships procured under a Private Finance Initiative and available for use as naval auxiliaries to the British armed forces. They were the result of the Strategic Defence Review and are designed for the strategic transport of military cargoes...

 vessels operated under a Private Finance Initiative
Private Finance Initiative
The private finance initiative is a way of creating "public–private partnerships" by funding public infrastructure projects with private capital...

; these vessels will be ordinary merchant ships leased to the Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom)
The Ministry of Defence is the United Kingdom government department responsible for implementation of government defence policy and is the headquarters of the British Armed Forces....

 as and when needed, and not in the RFA.

Active ships

  • Wave-class
    Wave Knight class tanker
    The Wave class tankers are Royal Fleet Auxiliary "Fast Fleet Tankers" tasked with providing fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. There are two ships in the class, RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler. The ships were ordered to replace the ageing Ol-class...

     fast fleet tankers
    • Wave Knight
      RFA Wave Knight (A389)
      RFA Wave Knight is a Wave-class fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom tasked with providing fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world....

    • Wave Ruler
      RFA Wave Ruler (A390)
      RFA Wave Ruler is a Wave-class fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom tasked with providing fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world....


  • Rover-class
    Rover class tanker
    The Rover class is a ship class of "Small Fleet Tanker" of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom. They are tasked with the support of naval warships by the replenishment at sea with fuel oils and with limited supplies of other naval stores...

     small fleet tankers
    • Gold Rover
      RFA Gold Rover (A271)
      RFA Gold Rover is a small fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.Gold Rover participated in the 1986 Jamaican flood relief operations...

    • Black Rover
      RFA Black Rover (A273)
      RFA Black Rover is a small fleet tanker of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She is designed to replenish ships underway at sea with fuel, fresh water, and stores in all weather conditions. She has a helicopter deck served by a stores lift and is capable of conducting helicopter replenishment...


  • Leaf-class
    Leaf class tanker
    The Leaf class is a class of support tanker of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary . The class is somewhat unusual as it is an amalgam of various civilian tankers chartered for naval auxiliary use and as such there have been many different designs of ship in this particular class...

     support tanker
    • Orangeleaf
      RFA Orangeleaf (A110)
      RFA Orangeleaf is a Leaf-class fleet support tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.RFA Orangeleaf saw action in the Gulf War in 1991 and was one of the first units to hear the code "Walkman" which was to signify the start of the offensive against Saddam Hussein's forces in Kuwait.During early to...


  • Fort Rosalie or Fort (i) class
    Fort Rosalie class replenishment ship
    The Fort Rosalie or Fort class is a class of fleet replenishment vessel of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary. These ships are designed to replenish Royal Navy ships with all kinds of armaments and victualling stores while under way....

     replenishment ships
    • Fort Rosalie
      RFA Fort Rosalie (A385)
      RFA Fort Rosalie is a fleet stores ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Fort Rosalie was originally named RFA Fort Grange, but was renamed in May 2000 to avoid confusion with RFA Fort George, a change which was not universally popular.-History:Fort Rosalie was laid down in 1973, by Scott Lithgow on...

       (ex-Fort Grange)
    • Fort Austin
      RFA Fort Austin (A386)
      RFA Fort Austin is a fleet stores ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.Fort Austin was laid down at Scott Lithgow in 1975, launched in 1978 and commissioned in 1979. These ships were designed to carry a wide range of stores to support other ships; ammunition, food, explosives...

  • Fort Victoria or Fort (ii) class replenishment oilers
    • Fort Victoria
      RFA Fort Victoria (A387)
      RFA Fort Victoria is a Fort Class combined fleet stores ship and tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom tasked with providing ammunition, fuel, food and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world....


  • Aviation training / Primary Casualty Receiving Ship
    • Argus
      RFA Argus (A135)
      RFA Argus is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, part of the Royal Navy. Italian-built, Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA...


  • Forward repair ship
    • Diligence
      RFA Diligence (A132)
      RFA Diligence is a fleet repair ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She was built by Oesundsvarvet AB Landskrona in Sweden and launched in 1981 as a civilian oil rig support ship,. Diligence first served the RFA during the Falklands War as a civilian owned ship taken up from the trade . As MV Stena...


  • Bay-class
    Bay class landing ship dock (auxiliary)
    The Bay class is a ship class of four Dock landing ships built for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary during the 2000s. Based on the Dutch-Spanish Royal Schelde Enforcer design and intended as a replacement for the Round Table class logistics ships, two ships each were ordered from Swan Hunter and...

     Landing Ships Dock (Auxiliary)
    • Lyme Bay
      RFA Lyme Bay (L3007)
      RFA Lyme Bay is a Bay class auxiliary landing ship dock of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary . Ordered from Swan Hunter in 2000, the ship was launched in 2005. However, cost overruns and delays saw the shipbuilder removed from the project, and the incomplete ship was towed to Govan for finishing...

    • Mounts Bay
      RFA Mounts Bay (L3008)
      RFA Mounts Bay is a Bay class auxiliary landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. She is named after Mount's Bay in Cornwall.-Design and construction:...

    • Cardigan Bay
      RFA Cardigan Bay (L3009)
      RFA Cardigan Bay is a Bay-class landing ship dock of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary . Built by BAE Systems, the ship was dedicated into the RFA at the end of 2006. Cardigan Bay is active as of 2011.-Design and construction:...


  • Point class sealift
    Sealift
    Sealift is a term used predominantly in military logistics and refers to the use of cargo ships for the deployment of military assets, such as weaponry, vehicles, military personnel, and supplies...

     ships
    • MV Hurst Point
    • MV Eddystone
    • MV Longstone
    • MV Beachy Head
    • MV Hartland Point
    • MV Anvil Point

n.b. these ships are not owned by the RFA, but it is pertinent to include them here; they were the result of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and are designed for the strategic transport of military cargoes and vehicles in times of need; a contract between the MoD and their owners means they can be called upon at short notice for use by the RFA.

See also


External links


Unofficial RFA Sites
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