RFA Fort Victoria (A387)
RFA Fort Victoria (A387)
|Name:||RFA Fort Victoria|
|Namesake:||Fort Victoria (Isle of Wight)|
|Ordered:||23 April 1986|
|Builder:||Harland & Wolff, Belfast, United Kingdom|
|Laid down:||15 September 1988|
|Launched:||4 May 1990|
|Commissioned:||24 June 1994|
|Status:||Ship in active service|
|Class and type:||Fort Victoria-class replenishment oiler|
|Displacement:||31,565 t (31,066 long tons) full load|
|Length:||203.5 m (667 ft 8 in)|
|Beam:||30.4 m (99 ft 9 in)|
|Draught:||9.7 m (31 ft 10 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 × Crossley-Pielstick V16 medium speed diesels, 2 shafts, 25,083 bhp (18,704 kW)|
|Speed:||20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)|
RFA Fort Victoria is a Fort-class combined fleet stores ship and tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary of the United Kingdom tasked with providing ammunition, fuel, food and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. She is the only surviving member of her class.
On 6 September 1990, while Fort Victoria was at dock and less than three months after being christened, a Provisional IRA (IRA) unit planted two explosive devices on board. After a telephone warning from the IRA, one of the bombs exploded, causing extensive damage inside the engine room, which was holed and subsequently flooded. The ship listed 45 degrees, and the chances of sinking were high. The ship was saved after hours of work by emergency teams, who pumped the water out of the engine room. Sir John Parker, Chairman and CEO of Harland & Wolff, praised the courage of the engineers for saving the ship. It was not learned that a second device had failed to explode until a second IRA phone call 24 hours later. It took two weeks to find and disable the second bomb, which stalled the works further.
This incident and other problems with the construction of the vessel meant it was not delivered until 1993, two years after originally planned.
Fort Victoria was adopted by the Metropolitan Borough of Barnsley and has been affiliated with the borough for over ten years. A battle ensign was presented to the borough in 2003 following the vessel's participation in military operations in the Persian Gulf. The ensign can be seen in the foyer of Barnsley Town Hall.
With her ability to supply anything from humanitarian supplies to fuel and ammunition, Fort Victoria has uses in peacetime and war. An example of this was the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, where she played a key role in supplying the Royal Navy and giving air support with a flight of Merlin MK1 helicopters from 814 squadron.
From November 2008 until May 2009 she underwent a refit on the Mersey by Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders, being towed up from the Solent by tugs Red Dolphin and Englishman. She returned to operational status on November 2009, and was set to rejoin the RFA fleet by the early months of 2010. The ship has undergone another refit from March 2014 to December 2014, The refit included the main engines receiving an overhaul, other machinery, pumps and pipework, new fire-detecting and fire-fighting systems were installed, living quarters refurbished, the weapons and sensors were also completely overhauled, This £50 million refit will allow the ship to serve for at least another 15 years.
Indian Ocean deployments
In September 2010, Fort Victoria was posted to the Indian Ocean as part of Operation Ocean Shield, the NATO mission to combat piracy. She has subsequently been involved in several operations against pirates off the coast of Somalia. In June 2011 Fort Victoria was deployed off the coast of Yemen with an embarked force of 80 Royal Marines to assist with the possible evacuation of British nationals from that country due to the recent political unrest there. Britain's foreign secretary, William Hague, had advised British nationals to leave the country immediately saying that it was "extremely unlikely" that the UK government would be able to stage an evacuation operation.
On 11 October 2011 Fort Victoria, along with USS De Wert, was involved in the release of the Italian ship Montecristo after it was hijacked by Somali pirates. The pirates surrendered without resistance. Fort Victoria continued her deployment in the western Indian Ocean into early 2012. On 12 January she foiled an attempt by pirates to attack cargo ships in the Indian Ocean by forcing a previously hijacked tanker, Liquid Velvet, now being used as a pirate mothership, to return to Somalia. On 13 January 2012, Royal Marines operating from Fort Victoria captured 13 Somali pirates in the Western Indian Ocean after they refused to stop despite warning shots fired from a Royal Navy helicopter. The commanding officer of Fort Victoria, Captain Shaun Jones RFA, said:
To manoeuvre such a large ship at speed in close vicinity of a nimble dhow takes extreme concentration and skill; my team were never found wanting. The 13 Somalis certainly found Friday 13th unlucky for them.— Captain Jones, BBC Interview
On 14 May 2012, during its 2012 deployment, U.S. helicopter squadron HSM-77 Detachment Five completed its temporary operational rotation on board Fort Victoria which was serving as the flagship for Combined Task Force 151. This was the first time that a MH-60R helicopter had ever operated from a Royal Navy ship. The detachment's helicopters primarily concentrated on anti-piracy surveillance missions during this two-week period.
For her four-month-long 2013 deployment, Fort Victoria relieved Wave Ruler and operated with Task Force 53 in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf. In September 2013 she took over as flagship of Combined Task Force 151 tackling piracy off Somalia. In mid-2013, she sailed with the COUGAR 13 task group.
Refit and carrier support
In July 2017, Fort Victoria returned to the UK following an extended 26-month deployment, much of which was spent East of Suez in support of anti-piracy operations. This included three months in the Aegean Sea in April 2016, taking over from RFA Mounts Bay. Following her return, during 2017–2018, the ship underwent an extensive refit intended to allow her to support the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, and meet current tanker anti-pollution hull requirements upon her re-entry into service. Fort Victoria returned to service in November 2018. In October 2020, she joined a nine-ship UK carrier strike group and performed her first manoeuvres with HMS Queen Elizabeth.
- "The Fort is with us as RFA support ship returns from major refit". Royal Navy. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
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- "Explosion Rips British Navy Ship in Belfast". Los Angeles Times. Reuters. 7 September 1990. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- From an interview to shipbuilder Sir John Parker published by Sunday Times, 13 March 2006: :The contract for Fort Victoria was won, but the ship became a target for the IRA. "She was afloat in the dock when we got the call from the IRA. Later that day the bomb went off and blew a hole in the engine room of the ship. The ship heeled over to about 45 degrees and we thought we were going to lose her. Fortunately some very courageous engineers went on board and lowered pumps in to clear the engine room so we could save the ship." The next day there was a call about a second bomb. It took two weeks to find it and make it safe — valuable time lost. Such incidents moulded Sir John and taught him patience and resolve, the like of which is rare in many boardrooms.
- "IRA bombs British Navy ship". An Phoblacht. 13 September 1990. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "RFA Fort Victoria". Royal Naval Association. Retrieved 10 August 2012.
- "Operation Veritas - Royal Navy". Britain's Small Wars. Archived from the original on 1 December 2009. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "Operation Telic: British Forces Deployed". Britain's Small Wars. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "Evacuation from Lebanon". BBC News. 21 July 2006. Retrieved 16 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "RFA Fort Victoria Leaves Refit at Liverpool". Royal Navy. Retrieved 16 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Victoria is queen of the seas as £50m revamp of Fort-class ship is completed". Royal Navy. 19 December 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "British navy says it forced pirates to row home in shame". The Virginian-Pilot. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "British ship seizes pirate vessel in Indian Ocean". BBC News. 14 November 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "RFA Fort Victoria thwarts another pirate attack". Ministry of Defence. 1 December 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Marines on standby to evacuate Britons in Yemen". The Guardian. London. 7 June 2011.
- "UK and US forces 'rescue pirate-held Italian ship'". BBC News. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
- "UK Naval Taskforce Foils Pirate Mothership Attack". Royal Navy. 12 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Royal Navy captures 13 Somali pirates". BBC News. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- Arndt, Adam (8 June 2012). "HSM-77 Deploys First MH-60R on British Ship". NNS120608-17 (Press release). United States Navy. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
- "Different ship, different year as RFA Fort Victoria takes over support mission in the Middle East". Royal Navy. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Royal Navy takes charge of pirate-hunting force". Royal Navy. 10 September 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
- "RFA Fort Victoria (A387)". Royal Navy. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- "Flat out: The Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 2016". Save The Royal Navy. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Fort is with Us". Royal Navy. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "RFA Fort Victoria Supports Carrier Strike Group After Refit". Royal Navy. 7 October 2020. Retrieved 8 October 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)