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UK launches competition to build three new Fleet Solid Support FSS ships

According to information published by the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) on May 21, 2021, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has launched a competition to build three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships to provide vital support to the Royal British Navy operations across the world.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The RFA Fort Rosalie is one of the two Fort-class Solid Support Ships of the British Navy used to replenish the warships of the British Royal Navy and allied navies with food, stores, and ammunition. (Picture source British Navy)

These crucial Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will provide munitions, food, stores and provisions to support carrier and amphibious-based Task Groups at sea. 

The British Royal Navy Fleet Auxiliary currently operates three solid support ships of the Fort Rosalie and Fort Victoria classes including RFA Fort Austin (A386), RFA Fort Rosalie (A385), and RFA Fort Victoria (A387). The first Fort Rosalie class was commissioned in December 1978, while the Fort Victoria was commissioned in June 1994.

The Fort Rosalie or Fort class is a fleet replenishment vessel of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The ship is designed to replenish Royal Navy task groups with various armaments and victualling stores while underway. The Fort Victoria or Fort II class is a class of replenishment oiler of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a role that combines the missions of a tanker and stores supply ship.

Building on the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to create a shipbuilding renaissance, the competition will help revitalize British shipbuilding by requiring a significant proportion of the build and assembly work to be carried out in the UK.

With a £24 billion multi-year settlement to modernize our Armed Forces, the competition is an exciting moment for UK industry to design and deliver a world-leading capability, securing highly-skilled jobs and boosting homegrown skills.

Designed to challenge the shipbuilding industry, Defence Equipment and Support have issued the contract notice inviting companies to register an interest in participating in the tender for the design and build of the ships, which will incorporate next-generation technology.

The successful bidder can work in partnership with international companies but would be required to integrate the ships in a UK shipyard. The Government has already pledged to double the investment over the life of this Parliament to more than £1.7 billion a year, providing a pipeline of work to sustain jobs and skills around the UK.

This will be further supported by a refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, to be published this summer setting out the Government’s commitment to the UK shipbuilding enterprise and its supply chain.