On a fine autumn day, the third of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's new tankers heads to sea to begin military trials.
RFA Tidesurge – one of four Tide-class ships built to support the new carriers and their battle groups – has already proven her seakeeping abilities courtesy of a lengthy delivery voyage from the builder's yard in South Korea all the way round to Falmouth.
There, A&P turned a tanker into a military tanker courtesy of comms kit, computer systems, defensive weaponry and the like – as the Cornish yard has done with Tidespring and Tiderace, already in service, and as they're now doing to RFA Tideforce which completes the quartet of 39,000-tonne vessels.
After a brief visit to Loch Striven in Scotland to take on fuel, Tidesurge will returns south for rigorous testing of her systems in the Channel and the RN's South Coast Exercise Areas, including communications, flight deck, replenishment rigs, engines – all the while carrying out essential in-depth training for her crew.
Although principally designed to refill the fuel tanks of HMS Queen Elizabeth or Prince of Wales and their escorts, the Tides also carry fresh water and aviation fuel for use by the Fleet Air Arm.
Manned with a dedicated crew of just 63 RFA personnel (at least ten times smaller than the complement on the carriers), she is designed to support the Royal Navy and in particular the new QE class Aircraft Carrier as well as various NATO forces around the globe.
Her Commanding Officer, Captain Robert Allan RFA said, “This has been a successful team effort and we are all looking forward to the next few months.”