British Government awards four consortia of companies for Fleet Solid Support ships competition

According to information released by the British Government on September 1, 2021, contracts have been awarded to four consortia of companies to develop their bids to build three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the British Royal Navy.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The idea of future Fleet Solid Support ships for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the British Royal Navy. (Picture source UK Defence Journal)

In May 2021, United Kingdom has officially launched a competition to acquire three new Fleet Solid Support ships that will keep the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers stocked with supplies while at sea.

The award of the Competitive Procurement Phase (CPP) design contracts, each initially worth around £5 million, means the Fleet Solid Support competition has successfully moved to the next stage.

The contracts, negotiated with industry by Defence Equipment and Support, the procurement organisation for the Ministry of Defence, deliver on the UK Government’s promise to progress the design and build of the FSS (Fleet Solid Support) ships to support the Royal Navy’s Carrier Task Groups. The final manufacture contract will be awarded to a UK company acting either solely or as part of a consortium.

The contracts will enable bidders to develop their design proposals and the next stage will seek details of how they would fulfil the wider delivery needs of the programme. Assessment of these proposals will lead to the selection of a preferred bidder and award of the manufacturing contract.

The FSS competition remains on track to deliver the ships the Royal Fleet Auxiliary need to support the Royal Navy, whilst maximising the social value contribution shipbuilding can make in the UK, including encouraging investment in domestic shipyards, whilst balancing the need to deliver value for money.

The commitment to this vital capability was outlined in the Defence Command Paper published earlier this year and is supported by the £24 billion uplift to the defence budget over the next four years. The FSS ships will increase the capability and development of the Carrier Strike Group to operate globally by replenishing its stores and ammunition.

The four consortia awarded CPP include Larsen & Toubro, which includes UK company Leidos Innovations, Serco /Damen, which includes UK company Serco, Team Resolute, which includes UK companies Harland & Wolff and BMT, and Team UK, which includes UK companies Babcock and BAE Systems.

The Fleet Solid Support Ship is a type of ship designed to supply military equipment and logistic, such as ammunition, explosives and food, to British Royal Navy ships at sea. The term can also refer to the programme to replace the RFA's existing solid support ships, the Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) Fleet Solid Support (FSS) program. 

The British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) delivers worldwide logistic and operational support to Royal Navy military operations. They are the uniformed civilian branch of the Naval Service, staffed by UK merchant sailors. Currently, the RFA has a fleet of 16 ships including seven replenishment tanker ships, three dock landing ships, one aviation support/casualty evacuation ship and five Ministry of Defence Sealift/Supply Vessels.