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RFA Wave Knight Fast Fleet Tankers

RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler are a class of two "double hulled" Fast Fleet Tankers, initially designated as Auxiliary Oilers (AO)", that have replaced OL Class. They are state of the art ships, and although large are manned by a small and highly skilled crew who ensure that they run smoothly. RFA Wave Knight was built by BAE Systems, being launched in 2000. She was accepted into service in 2003. RFA Wave Ruler (A390) was built by BAE Systems, being launched in 2001. She was accepted into service in 2003.

These ships are fast fleet tankers capable of replenishment at sea of warships, and with the ability to meet future fuel requirements plus provide a platform for future helicopters. They are electric ships - which means they are driven by an electric motor, powered by diesel generators - and take advantage of the latest propulsion control technology. A double-hulled design helps to prevent pollution should the outer hull sustain damage. Their cargo is mainly Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) and they replace the the highly successful O Class ships, Olna and Olwen, as the backbone of the Royal Navy's front line afloat tanker support.

The 1997 SDR reaffirmed the order for two new auxiliary oilers, RFAs Wave Knight and Wave Ruler. The order, placed on 12 March 1997, was won by VSEL in close competition with BAeSEMA, and the decision was based on what would provide the best value for money for the taxpayer. The new vessels will form part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, manned by civilian crews, whose role is to support the Royal Navy in its operations world-wide. Their primary role will be to replenish the fleet at sea with petroleum, oils and lubricants, with secondary roles including disaster relief and replenishment of solid stores.

The new ships were to be built largely to commercial standards, with some military features, including a flight deck and hanger for one helicopter. The vessels will be built to meet Lloyd's and Marine Safety Agency standards and will be double-hulled to meet the latest international regulations in respect of oil pollution. They will also meet, or be easily adapted to meet, all foreseeable environment regulations. The order will be worth more than 200 million to VSEL and its sub-contractors, and will help to sustain some 900 jobs. It has been warmly welcomed by the Royal Navy and the RFA, and is good news for the taxpayer, for Barrow, and the many sub-contractors who will be working on the project across the UK.

By March 1999 progress continued on the design, material procurement and construction of the two ships. Construction of the central section of the first ship, comprising four major blocks, was nearing completion. For the second ship, fabrication of units for the first major block had started. A small number of detailed design changes had been agreed, costing the MOD around 0.5 million, mostly related to "Spend to Save" programs to achieve reduction in through life operating costs. None of these changes affected the delivery schedule and the project remained within budget. The prime contractor was reviewing its overall work program, and some delay to the delivery of the ships was anticipated.

By 2004 the Leaf and Rover classes were due to reach their expected out of service dates by 2011. They were single-hulled and so would be non-compliant with revised Marpol (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) regulations on the introduction of double-hulled vessels. The newer Fort Victoria ships are also single-hulled but the Royal Navy was considering ways of maintaining compliance with international legislation beyond 2010.

While Marpol does not apply to vessels owned or operated by a state and used only on Government non-commercial service, as is the case with the RFA oilers, it remains MOD policy to comply with Shipping Acts and associated regulations where practicable. Consequently, MOD has a program to phase out all non-compliant RFA vessels with a target date of 2010 based on the earliest practicable point for compliance. The Department's program, known as the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program, seeks progressively to replace most of the current RFA fleet, including Leaf, Rover, and Fort Victoria class oiler vessels. As part of this, these ships will be replaced by more flexible and capable vessels fully compliant with Marpol. This will significantly enhance the RFA's ability to provide the Royal Navy with its afloat support requirements.

The vessels have been built to commercial standards with military requirements incorporated where necessary. The contract was placed with what was then Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (VSEL), now part of BAE Systems Marine Ltd, in March 1997. At the time the contact was let, in March 1997, the projected construction cost for Wave Knight and Wave Ruler was some 200 million. The contract cost for both vessels was expected to be between 210-215 million. The increase reflected an addition to the contract for the procurement of spares and minor configuration changes to the ships' design over the period of the contract.

The Royal Navy decommissioned two O-class RFA Fleet tankers during financial year 2000-01: HMS Olwen (commissioned in 1965) and HMS Olna (commissioned in 1966). Of their Wave-class Auxiliary Oilers (AO) vessel replacements, HMS Wave Knight was expected to enter service in February 2003 and HMS Wave Ruler in March 2003. The planned In Service Dates for Wave Knight and Wave Ruler when the contract was let were February 2001 and March 2002, respectively. Wave Knight was accepted into service in March 2003 and Wave Ruler in April 2003. The programme slippage arose as a result of shipyard loading and technical difficulties.

RFA Wave Knight has sustained minor damage in two separate incidents while in a flooded dry dock at Inchgreen, Greenock preparing for Contractor's Sea Trials. On the first occasion, on 19 January 2002, the ship listed to starboard, sustaining minor damage to her paint work in the area of the bilge keel. On the second occasion, in the gales of 28 January, the stern of the vessel made contact with the dock wall, causing scratches to the paint work and minor damage to fittings caused by movement of a gangway.

Wave Ruler had an extremely busy 2009 that saw her deploying to the Far East in support of TAURUS 09 during which the requirement for a Fast Fleet Tanker with full aviation facilities and a decent turn of speed was fully validated and used to best effect. On return to the UK in the late Summer, Wave Ruler was programmed to support CinCFLEET as the 320 Tanker for reactive operations as well as being the FOST Tanker in parallel. During this time, Wave Ruler once again proved her versatility and exceptional capabilities in numerous roles including support to SSN training in the Clyde areas. The year concluded with a very hectic and highly successful period of pre-deployment training at Plymouth during which the ship was assessed in core war fighting, navigation, seamanship, communications, logistics, disaster relief, engineering, damage control and fire fighting to ensure that she was ready to deploy to the South Atlantic throughout 2010. The 2010 deployment to the Falklands would be the first time that a WAVE Class has deployed South and, once again, Wave Ruler finds herself as the pioneer and trend setter.

After a busy twenty months as Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker (AGRT), in January 2010 Wave Knight prepared for her final voyage home to Blighty. She had been supporting Coalition and European forces in the Middle East theatre, from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and around the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) to as far a-field as the Seychelles and Maldives. Her role included providing fuel (pumping over more than 100,000 cubes of fuel whilst underway) and afloat support to ships of sixteen countries from across the globe. Following months of a hectic Replenishment At Sea (RAS) program over the summer of 2009, Wave Knight found herself in Bahrain with a change of crew and a slight change in tasking. Embarking a party of Royal Marines and their gear for transfer to HMS Cumberland was just the beginning of a busy period in Bahrain. This included disembarking the AGRT stores for RFA Bayleaf to pick up on her taking the reins in November, and loading stores and equipment for 814's Merlin 'Sabretooth' which was to join us upon sailing. Due to the area in which she would be operating, Wave Knight's crew also undertook thorough gunnery training, and not just on stationary targets. The crash boat was used in both day and night serials to simulate an attacking skiff whilst defence tactics such as ship maneuvering, flashing lights, firing flares, and VHF procedures were practised and refined.

Length 196.5 Metres
Breadth 28.25 Metres
Draught 9.97 Metres
Displacement 31,500 Tonnes
Speed 18 Knots
Flight Deck 1 spot for Merlin
Complement 80 RFA + 22 RN
Armament 2 x Phalanx CIWS, 2 x BMARC 30mm guns

RFA vesselYear of
construction
Planned
decommission
year
Wave Knight20002028
Wave Ruler20012028







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