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Refueling on the sea by RFA Tidesurge Tide-class replenishment tanker of British Royal Navy


Refueling – aka a Replenishment At Sea or RAS – is among the most challenging maneuvers ships perform due to the dynamics of two vessels ploughing along at 12 knots (15mph) just 25 meters apart. This is the work of the new tanker RFA Tidesurge A138 Tide-class replenishment tanker of the British Royal Navy.


Refueling on the sea by RFA Tidesurge Tide class replenishment tanker of British Royal Navy 925 001 RFA Tidesurge A138 Tide-class replenishment tanker of the British Royal Navy in Cornwall on 27 March 2018. (Picture source Wikipedia)


To add to the challenge, this refueling was conducted silently – without the use of radio, as is done in wartime to avoid giving your location away – solely using visual signaling (flashing light and flags).

The RFA Tidesurge (A138) is a Tide-class replenishment tanker of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). Ordered from DSME in 2012, she was officially named on 29 August 2017. It was accepted into service in 20 February 2019.

The RFA Tidesurge is the third of class of the Military Afloat Reach & Sustainability (MARS) Tankers, which includes in-service sister ships RFA Tidespring and Tiderace. RFA Tideforce which will become operational later this year. The 39,000-tonne fleet replenishment tanker is the latest of four new RFA ships which are the biggest in service.

The Tide-class tankers are built to support the UK’s new aircraft carriers and their task groups, delivering fuel to power both the warships and the jets and helicopters. They are flexible, state-of-the-art, double-hulled vessels which will provide a key future underway replenishment at sea capability and support to the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

In addition to their supply duties in support of the Royal Navy, the vessels will also be able to undertake a wide range of maritime operations, such as constabulary patrols policing shipping lanes, humanitarian relief, as well as providing support to NATO and coalition allies.

Using all her rigs and probes at maximum capacity, Tidesurge could pump 2,400 tons of fuel into the waiting tanks of HMS Queen Elizabeth in just an hour – enough to fill the tanks of 43,000 family cars.