Progressive approach to design provides a pathway for the introduction of new technology and energy-saving and emission-reducing technology.
Team Resolute, a consortium of Navantia UK, BMT and Harland & Wolff has unveiled an evolved design for the Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ship.
The FSS programme is delivering new solid support ships to replace RFA Fort Austin and RFA Fort Rosalie, which were sold to Egypt, and RFA Fort Victoria, which is currently due to retire in 2028. The new vessels will increase the capability of the UK Maritime Strike Group to operate globally by replenishing stores, ammunition and provisions while underway at sea, and as such represent the last major component of the Carrier-led Maritime Strike Group recapitalisation.
Team Resolute was confirmed as preferred bidder for the FSS contract in November 2022, with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) concluding a contract with Navantia UK – as prime contractor and consortium leader – in January 2023. The manufacture programme will involve more than 14 million hours of work spread across sites in Spain and the UK.
The original FSS design, developed by Bath-based BMT and sharing some commonality with the RFA’s four existing Tide-class fleet tankers, was 216m in length, 34.5m in beam and displaces around 39,000tonnes. It was configured with three heavy replenishment at sea (RAS) delivery rigs (one to starboard, two to port) with a centralised RAS control station sited amidships. Two large deck cranes are positioned forward. The flight deck aft is sized for a Chinook helicopter, while the hangar is designed to be able to accommodate and support two Merlin helicopters. The aviation facilities will also be able to support the operation of uncrewed air systems.
At the time that the contract was awarded, Team Resolute said the FSS propulsion system would comprise four main diesel engines driving twin shafts, plus two hybrid electrical motors/generators. Maximum speed would be in excess of 19knots. The ship’s complement will comprise 101 RFA personnel accommodated in single-berth en-suite cabins. There will be space for 57 augmentees, and capacity for an additional 21 persons.
Progress towards a mature design is a key part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s £1.6 billion (US$1.9 billion) ‘Manufacture Contract’ for three FSS ships for the RFA.
The design from BMT’s UK-based engineers and naval architects is described as a “a significant advancement in naval logistics capability,” offering enhanced operational efficiency and support to the Royal Navy. BMT is also providing safety and environmental management, integrated logistics support (ILS), training packages and support to obtaining the ships’ security accreditation. The company said the evolution of the ship design at this stage of the FSS programme “demonstrates the progress that has been made with the design.”
The progressive approach to the design provides a pathway for the introduction of new technology and the incorporation of energy-saving and emission-reducing technologies and future fuels that will contribute to carbon reduction. This collaborative effort will ensure the FSS ships’ reliability, ease of maintenance, operational readiness, and overall effectiveness.
The evolved design of the FSS ship draws on BMT’s experience with a number of naval programmes, including the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, Tide-class, Norway’s Logistics Support Vessel and Type 31 Frigate.
Navantia UK chairman Vice Admiral (Retd) Sir Alan Massey said: “This is an important milestone for this critical programme for the Royal Navy. It demonstrates how successfully Team Resolute is working together in boosting UK maritime capabilities, providing an evolved cutting-edge design, transferring knowledge and laying the foundation for the modernisation of Harland & Wolff’s shipyards.”
Harland & Wolff Group CEO John Wood said: “Team Resolute progress on FSS is already re-establishing a skills base for UK shipbuilding in Northern Ireland, thus strengthening UK sovereign capability. Transfer of knowledge from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia concerning programme management, procurement and cutting-edge shipyard technologies is well underway. With planning permission approved, works are due to start on recapitalisation of Belfast, creating the UK’s most technologically advanced shipyard, meaning FSS is providing a foundation on which to complete for decades to come. Having welcomed the second cohort of young apprentices to Belfast and Appledore, we are not only building the skills base to deliver FSS but creating a new highly skilled talent pool for the UK.”
Team Resolute will provide the RFA with three FSS ships to enhance UK maritime defence capability. The programme will contribute significant social and economic value, developing a solid local supply chain and a skills base for shipbuilding in Northern Ireland, strengthening the UK’s industrial base and economic prosperity.
ELLIDA design series update
BMT has also unveiled an update to its ELLIDA design series, including studies of future technologies and concepts to enhance naval littoral capabilities. Building on the original ELLIDA design introduced in 2019, BMT has expanded the ELLIDA family, a tailorable array of scalable ship designs, developed to explore the complex needs of modern littoral operations.
Designed to provide a scalable and customisable solution, the ELLIDA family, comprises 130m, 150m, 180m and 200m variants of a multi-role support and logistics ship. Leveraging the flexibility of a scalable hull with internal vehicle and logistics decks, organic aviation, weather deck stowage, mission bays and additional accommodation for embarked military forces, the ELLIDA family can adapt to a spectrum of missions ranging from humanitarian aid and disaster relief to warfare operations.
In addition to expanding the family to cover different ship capacities and sizes, BMT has introduced the ‘ELLIDA Future,’ a concept that fuses strategic horizon scanning with its naval consultancy expertise and decades of proven ship design experience.
ELLIDA Future leverages research into efficient hullform development and energy generation and efficiency technologies, highly autonomous warship technologies to support leaner crewing models and trends in the use of autonomous craft to enhance littoral operations. The concept allows BMT to explore these themes alongside the existing ELLIDA family and develop interesting future options for its customers.