Britain's flagship of tomorrow can now strike out across the Seven Seas after refuelling ‘on the go’ for the first time.
After a dry run earlier in the year, HMS Queen Elizabeth successfully took on fuel in the North Atlantic, receiving ‘amber gold’ from RFA Tidespring, the tanker purpose built to support the new aircraft carrier on her global operations.
In fairly choppy conditions, the 65,000-tonne warship practised the manoeuvre – known as replenishment at sea – to take on supplies on both her port (left) and starboard (right) sides.
The two ships were just 42 metres – 138ft – apart, sailing along at 12 knots (14mph/22kmh) as the lines were passed and the fuel hose transferred to hook up with the intake on the carrier.
If needed, the Tide-class ship could deliver 800 cubic metres of fuel in an hour – that’s enough to fill up more than 14,500 Superminis… and less than one twentieth of the total amount of fuel the tanker carries.
For the maiden transfer just 220 ‘cubes’ of F76 marine fuel was sent across – the replenishment was more about testing the principle rather than the carrier’s tanks running low.
“This is one more significant step forward in our growing capability – knowing that we can be refuelled from a tanker means HMS Queen Elizabeth can roam even further from home,” said the carrier’s Navigating Officer Lt Cdr Sam Stephens.
“The fact that our first replenishment at sea was with RFA Tidespring – the first in her class of the tankers which were designed specifically to operate with us, made it doubly significant.”
Capt Karl Woodfield RFA, Tidespring’s Commanding Officer, said his men and women were filled with “pride and achievement” after the two successful hook-ups with the new carrier.
“The Tide-class have been built to provide worldwide fuel support to the two new UK carriers so this is a significant milestone in bringing both ships into operational service,” he added.
“Our first replenishment – in challenging weather conditions –was a success and marks the start of a very close and enduring relationship between the two ships.”
The tanker is one of four built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to support HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister HMS Prince of Wales around the world.
Tiderace is on the verge of entering service, Tidesurge is being fitted out in Falmouth and Tideforce will soon be delivered by her builders.
As for HMS Queen Elizabeth, she is due to return to Portsmouth shortly for a spot of maintenance, leave for her crew and preparations for her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in the early autumn, when she conducts flying trials with F-35B Lightning stealth fighter/bombers for the first time.