The UK defense ministry has finalized the £1.6bn (US$1.97B) contract for the purchase of three Fleet Solid Support Ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
A consortium comprising BMT, Harland & Wolff and Navantia UK will begin construction work on the ships in two years, with delivery set for 2032.
Replacing the RFA Fort Victoria, the new ships will be responsible for the delivery of ammunition, spare parts, replacement jet engines, food and provisions to sustain large-scale naval operations hundreds or thousands of miles from the UK.
RFA Fort Victoria is over 30 years old and despite receiving a major overhaul once again, ultimately needs replacing.
Beyond a reinvigoration of the RFA, the as-yet unnamed ships/class remark a major investment in UK shipbuilding, with millions pumped into improving facilities at two yards and the creation of 1,200 jobs, three quarters of them in Belfast, plus an anticipated 800 further jobs across the UK supply chain.
As part of the contract signed with Team Resolute £77 million will be invested in infrastructure at the former’s Belfast and Appledore shipyards, and a further £21 million in skills and technology transfer from Navantia. It is worth noting that portions of the ships will be built at Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz in Spain.
The deal also brings naval shipbuilding back to Belfast after a break of nearly a quarter of a century.
“This contract is a significant boost to the UK’s historic shipbuilding industry, balancing shipbuilding across the Union,” said defense secretary Ben Wallace visiting the Harland and Wolff yard to announce the contract’s signing.
“Creating jobs and prosperity, Team Resolute is bringing shipbuilding back to Belfast, developing a modern, resilient and thriving shipbuilding industry that will support naval and commercial shipbuilding into the future.”
Built to a design by Bath-based BMT, with many common systems, equipment and features as the Tide-class tankers already in service, at 216 meters, the new support ships will be second only to the UK’s two aircraft carriers in length.