UK MoD press release
These crucial Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will provide munitions, food, stores and provisions to support carrier and amphibious based Task Groups at sea.
Building on the commitment made in the recent Defence Command Paper to create a shipbuilding renaissance, the competition will help revitalise 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 modernise 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.
“As Shipbuilding Tsar, I am delighted to launch the competition for these crucial Fleet Solid Support ships. These vessels embody our commitment to a truly global presence by supporting the Royal Navy’s operations around the world. The competition reaffirms our dedication to invest in shipbuilding and support jobs across the UK maritime industry.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
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.
The launch of the Fleet Solid Support competition presents a really exciting opportunity for the shipbuilding industry to support the design and build of a new class of ship that will primarily resupply our Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. It is also another step in implementing the National Shipbuilding Strategy and increasing our domestic maritime construction capacity and capability alongside the Type 26 and Type 31 programmes already underway. The FSS ships will join the QEC Task Group, carrying out replenishment at sea to supply stores and ammunition to sustain operations, which is essential to meeting the UK’s defence commitments. To do this the ships will be able to transfer loads of more than two tonnes at a time while at high speed.
DE&S’ Director General Ships, Vice Admiral Chris Gardner
Interested companies are now invited to register their interest to receive a pre-qualification questionnaire. Successful respondents will be invited to tender for Competitive Procurement Contracts.
These contracts will allow potential suppliers to develop designs and delivery plans, with a particular focus on providing UK social value through, for example, supply chain development, the creation of new jobs and skills, and contributions to carbon emission reduction targets, as outlined in the new Defence and Security Industrial Strategy.
The manufacture contract award is expected to be made within two years, following approvals.
Naval News comments:
The future three (two with an option for a third one as previously outlined in the initial RFP) Fleet Solid Support Ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will replace the ageing RFA Fort Austin and RFA Fort Rosalie. These vessels will supply dry stores such as ammunition, explosives and food to Royal Navy ships at sea.
According to an RFP noticed issued in May 2018, FSS vessels are required to have a total cargo capacity of up to 7,000 m3 (250,000 cu ft), be able to sail at a sustained speed of 18 knots without resupply and must be capable of delivering non-bulk logistic material whilst underway and making 12 knots through the water and transferring single loads of up to 5 tonnes.
On 30 November 2018, the list of bidders for the contract was unveiled and selected. Three teals were set to compete for the contract award:
- Babcock, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce
- Navantia ,
- Japan Marine United Corporation
- Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME)
However in May 2019, Fincantieri and DSME withdrew from the FSS competition. On 5 November 2019, the Daily Telegraph reported that the Defence Secretary will halt the order for the FSS “because bidders were ‘not compliant’ with commercial terms and not delivering on value for money expectations.”
In May 2020, Spanish shipbuilder Navantia and Northern Irish shipyard Harland and Wolff (H&W) announced they entered an exclusive teaming agreement to jointly bid for the FSS Program.