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RFA Tide class
Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS)

The Maritime Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program will introduce a new series of modern vessels commencing with fleet replenishment tankers from 2016 and followed by complex specialist solid support vessels in mid 2020s. This will assure versatile and capable support to the UKs amphibious force and future carrier strike capability in high-end warfighting.

The 37,000 ton ships will come into service from 2016 to replace the RFAs single hulled tankers and will maintain the Royal Navys dedicated bulk fuel Replenishment At Sea capabilities. The first two MARS ships will replace the single hull Fort Series I class of stores and armament ships, Fort Rosalie (due to decommission in 2013) and Fort Austin (2014). The two Fort Series II ships, Fort George and Fort Victoria, are scheduled to remain in service until 2019.

The 200m long tankers will also be able to carry helicopters and will support the Royal Navy warships deployed around the world. Designed to comply with international maritime legislation, the MARS Tanker is a bespoke double hull design which utilises Commercial Off the Shelf technologies and provides low through life costs to meet the requirements of the UK Ministry of Defence. BMT's exceptional knowledge of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary needs, combined with DSME's first class quality shipbuilding reputation, allowed the provision of a cost-effective solution that can not only be tailored to the UK's specific requirements, but can also allow the UK to retain design capabilities in ship design and engineering.

The Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability program received formal approval to enter its Assessment Phase in July 2005 based on an Alliance strategy. Following a review of the Procurement Strategy in 2007, the Alliance Strategy was terminated. A new strategy, based on a Competitive and Adaptive approach, was approved and reflected the need to procure the Tanker element of the program separately in order to comply with International Maritime legislation. An open international competition was launched for the design and build of up to six Fleet Tankers. BVT Surface Fleet (teamed with BMT Defence Services and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering), Fincantieri, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Navantia in 2008 shortlisted for the construction of up to six new tankers to enter service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) from 2013. A contract award was planned for mid-2009. This was cancelled following the Department's examination of its equipment program in 2008.

A review of the requirements and procurement strategy was undertaken which concluded that a more open procurement strategy to consider a range of possible solutions and which take account of current market conditions is more likely to secure best value for money for the MOD. On this basis a new international competition for up to six Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability Tankers was launched in October 2009 which was conducted using the Competitive Dialogue process. The original requirement for six oilers was reduced to four at the time of the British governments 2010 strategic defense and security review.

Following assessment of initial Pre Qualification Questionnaires six companies were invited to proceed to the next stage of the competition. The competition was conducted over three stages Stage 1 - Invitation to Submit Outline Solutions took place over March to September 2010. Stage 2 - Invitation to Submit Detailed Solutions commenced in October 2010 and continued through to Invitation to Submit Final Bids in October 2011 which was issued to three companies; Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (Republic of Korea), Fincantieri (Italy), Hyundai Heavy Industries (Republic of Korea). Three companies withdrew earlier in the competition; Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (Germany); Knutsen OAS Ltd in June 2011 and A&P Group Ltd in August 2011.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) announced 22 February 2012 it was the preferred bidder for the Royal Navy's MARS (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) Tanker. DSME and partners will provide the specialised design and build of four new logistic support vessels, to be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA).

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, responding to calls that the MOD contracts for new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers should have been awarded to UK firms, stated: "No British firm put in a bid and the Italian company [Fincantieri] never indicated during the two-year bid process that they would build any of the tankers in the UK. When we are building complex warships or highly sophisticated weapons, of course we must protect Britains industrial base. But when it comes to non-military type equipment, I am clear that my responsibility is to get the best deal for the UK taxpayer and plough the savings back into the front line. In this case, the choice we were faced with was to buy South Korean and save hundreds of millions of pounds for the taxpayer, or let the work to an Italian shipyard. I believe we made the right choice."

BMT Defence Services Ltd, a subsidiary of BMT Group Ltd, announced 24 April 2012 that it had been confirmed as a sub-contractor for the Royal Navy's MARS (Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability) Tanker project, supported by sister companies, BMT Reliability Consultants Ltd and BMT Isis Ltd. Having developed the winning AEGIR vessel design under its own R&D funding, Bath based BMT Defence Services Ltd will lead and coordinate the BMT work, and make a central contribution that includes the delivery of the complete Basic Ship Design which will lead to Plan Approval. Through its extensive experience of working with the UK MoD, BMT Defence Services is uniquely positioned to provide a range of project management services to the prime contractor, DSME, which will include requirements analysis and acceptance planning, oversight of specific UK factory trials and technical documentation support.

With the RFA Flotilla providing ever greater support to Royal Navy operations as well as providing a visible UK military presence across the globe, the BMT-AEGIR platform design has been specially optimised for the requirements of the Royal Navy and RFA. It utilises a hull design that meets the latest marine pollution regulations and adopts design principles that are common with the latest Royal Navy platforms.

The four new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers bought as part of the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) program will be called the Tide class. Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce, which is a new name, will reflect the successful past and a confident future for the RFA service.

Commodore Bill Walworth RFA Head of the RFA Commodore Bill Walworth said 13 November 2012 : I am delighted that the MARS Fleet tankers will be called the Tide class. The original Tides were the first purpose-built fleet tankers to support aircraft carriers and were highly successful and popular ships. The new Tides promise to be better still. A large number of people have worked hard to get us to this point, with the ships on contract and the first to be delivered into service in 2016. Tidespring, Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce, which is a new name, will be superb ships that will reflect the successful past and a confident future for the RFA service.

UK companies will benefit from up to 150m of associated spending on key equipment, systems, design and support services, and on the customisation and trials package which will take place in the UK once the ships have been built.

The original TIDE class Fleet Tankers served in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) from 1954 until 1991, operating worldwide in support of numerous Operations and Exercises. Developed using the lessons of the Pacific Campaign in World War Two, these versatile ships were the first purpose-designed replenishment tankers for the RFA. Carrying bulk fuels, oil and fresh water they replenished Aircraft Carriers and Warships, British and Allied, enabling Task Groups to remain at sea for extended periods.

On 30 July 2019 RFA Tideforce joined her sister ships Tidespring, Tiderace and Tidesurge in providing fuel at sea to Royal Navy, NATO and allied warships, as well as other supplies and fresh water when required.

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Page last modified: 31-07-2019 18:43:34 ZULU