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Royal Navy picks Team Resolute to build Fleet Solid Support ships

Fleet Solid Support Ship design
Photo: Royal Navy

The UK defense ministry has selected a team composed of BMT, Harland & Wolff and Navantia UK to build the Royal Navy’s new Fleet Solid Support ships.

Dubbed Team Resolute, the consortium will be responsible for delivering three new ships that will support Royal Navy carrier operations alongside the Tide-class tankers.

The consortium will be awarded a £1.6 billion contract to manufacture the vessels, subject to HM Treasury and Ministerial approval. The defense ministry said the contract would create 1,200 UK shipyard jobs and a further 800 jobs across the UK supply chain.

The defense ministry announced the decision after cancelling the initial attempt to identify a preferred builder in November 2019. It relaunched the competition in May 2021 and downselected four entities for a final showdown in September 2021.

Other contenders included Larsen & Toubro, Serco/Damen, and Team UK, which comprised Babcock and BAE Systems.

“The Fleet Solid Support contract is a significant step towards the delivery of these ships that are a key part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s continued growth and evolution,” head of the RFA, Commodore David Eagles, said.

At present, the RFA operates a solitary solid support ship, RFA Fort Victoria. She was an integral member of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s task group last year, but she’s also almost 30 years old.

Her replacements will be designed and built to meet the needs of a fifth-generation aircraft carrier and its fifth generation F-35 stealth fighters.

Each vessel will be 216 meters long – making them the second longest ships in the Fleet – and 34.5 meters wide. They will be capable of reaching speeds of up to 19 knots, while offering cargo space for 9,000 square meters of supplies and stores.

The ships’ flight decks will be able to host all the helicopters flown by the UK’s armed forces and the hangar will accommodate two Royal Navy Merlins, with additional space for drones/crewless systems.

The ships will require a crew of just 101, with accommodation available for an extra 80 personnel to support operations or embarked helicopters.

“Significant investment in emerging shipyards across the UK will also strengthen and diversify our industrial base. Alongside our investment in the Type 26 and Type 31 frigate programs, this breadth will be vital to grow and support a highly capable and modern navy,” Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, DE&S Director General Ships, said.

The entire final assembly will be completed at Harland & Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast. Blocks and modules for the ships’ will be constructed in the same yard, plus Appledore in Devon.

The work will be undertaken in collaboration with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, which will also build portions of the ships at its shipyard in Cadiz in Spain.