Royal Navy support ship RFA Fort Victoria has been proving her ability to re-supply HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker is part of the current nine-ship Carrier Strike Group carrying out training in the North Sea.
She has conducted her first manoeuvres with aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth as part of a series of trials.
The link-up is the latest replenishment-at-sea drill for the strike group, which has seen RFA Fort Victoria provide both fuel and dry stores to American Arleigh-Burke destroyer USS The Sullivans.
Fort Vic has a crucial role to play in sustaining the endurance and fighting power of Britain’s two new aircraft carriers, and their accompanying frigates and destroyers.
As well as carrying fuel, the 33,000-tonne vessel can carry enough ‘dry stores’ – food, spare parts, replacement engines and other items – to fill 128 Transit vans and enough ammunition (including laser-guided bombs carried by F-35B stealth fighters) to fill well over 100 shipping containers.
Captain Chris Clarke, commanding officer of RFA Fort Victoria, said: “2020 marks my 39th year at sea working for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. And yet, after all this time, it still felt like a real privilege to come alongside HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time.
“In fact, I think it was a privilege for us all, as we start to understand and intimately interact with the scale, complexity and fire-power of this strategic asset, knowing that we are as much a key player to enabling this capability as her escorts or fighter jets alike.”
“The men and women of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary really are the quiet heroes of task group operations – they give us our global reach and endurance,” said Commander Jenny Curwood, Group Logistics Commander for the UK Carrier Strike Group.
First commissioned in 1994, RFA Fort Victoria underwent an extensive modernisation in Birkenhead between 2018 and 2019 to enable her to support the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers at sea.
The next couple of months will see the ship conduct further trials, culminating in the transfer of fuel and stores with HMS Queen Elizabeth, after which she will be ready to accompany the Carrier Strike Group on its first global deployment in 2021.
Commander Jenny Curwood, Group Logistics Commander for the UK Carrier Strike Group, said: “The arrival of RFA Fort Victoria in the Carrier Strike Group is a big milestone on the path to our first operational deployment.
“The men and women of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary really are the quiet heroes of task group operations – they give us our global reach and endurance.
“With both RFA Fort Victoria and a Tide-class tanker by our side, HMS Queen Elizabeth and her F-35Bs will be able to strike from the sea at a time and place of our choosing, and remain on task for as long as the mission requires – true task group self-sustainability.”