BRITAIN took one step closer towards its goal of building a first-class carrier strike group with the dedication of a new support vessel.
RFA Tidespring was formally welcomed into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary at a service on Portsmouth Naval Base.
The giant 37,000-tonne tanker will soon provide the lifeblood to the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Able to pump out some 19,000 tonnes of fuel, she and her three other sister ships, will be key in refuelling the 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers.
And to mark the occasion, naval top brass, MPs and civic leaders gathered to witness the ship’s dedication.
Among the guests were the Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, who is the RFA’s Commodore-in-Chief.
Captain Simon Herbert is the man in charge of Tidespring. He said: ‘This is a great day for the RFA and the Royal Navy.’
The vessel is larger and more sophisticated than her ageing predecessors.
As well as providing replenishments at sea, she can also tackle counter narcotic patrols, disaster relief missions and piracy patrols.
Commodore Duncan Lamb, head of the RFA, said it was a proud moment for the service.
‘This is the first new ship we have brought into service in the RFA in over a decade,’ he said. ‘It’s a state-of-the-art vessel and meets all the most up-to-date legislation for tankers.
‘These new tankers will absolutely assure the global reach of the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.
‘They are fundamental to the future of the Royal Navy and RFA.’
The ship’s company includes a Portsmouth father-and-son duo Gary Medcalf, 61, and Will, 33.
Gary, who previously served in the senior service before joining the RFA, said: ‘It’s a big honour being down here today. Will and I have been at sea together now for a few years. This is like a big family tradition.
‘It’s strange serving on the same ship together. We’ve got our own cabins. I’m engineering and he’s deck. It’s great.’
The new tankers are capable of having Chinook helicopters landing on their decks.
Tidespring will begin sea training in January and is due to refuel HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time soon after.