The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Wave Knight returns to the UK into Portland, Dorset, on Friday (16th March) after an 11-month operational deployment to east of Suez.
The deployment, in support of the Royal Navy and coalition allies, focused on logistic supply to warships and maritime security patrols to protect vital energy resources flowing in and out of the Arabian Gulf.
The ship was regularly involved in counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics and people trafficking operations as part of a coalition effort from navies and aircraft worldwide.
This work has been vital in reassuring the maritime community and deterring potential pirates and smugglers. The ship was prepared for any eventuality and trained to conduct evacuation operations, disaster relief and operations following any ‘political strategic shock’.
Whilst deployed, RFA Wave Knight successfully coordinated and rescued ten sailors from a stricken pleasure craft – the Princess Melissa. The vessel had issued a mayday distress and was capsizing off the coast of Oman.
The ship’s commanding officer Captain Chris Clarke said: ‘Whilst it is always a pleasure to return home, we shall miss the work and daily uncertainty that is ever-present when operating East of Suez. You never know what each day will bring – other than the unexpected. It is likely to occur and you have got to be ready for it.
“The work we do for the maritime community and the support we provide to our Government and our allies is always appreciated – whether that is providing logistic support, reassuring ships on the high seas, deterring and preventing illegal activities such as piracy or simply being ready and poised to react to geopolitical events.’’
The ship briefly accompanied the P&O cruise ships Oriana and Arcadia with hundreds of passengers excitedly waving flags. A small permanent Royal Navy presence was maintained onboard as protection day and night in the troubled pirate waters. Wave Knight also had a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter embarked from 815 Sqn RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.
RFA Wave Knight steamed 57, 460 miles and replenished 56 warships and five tankers issuing over 21,000 cubic metres of diesel fuel and 2,000 cubic metres of aviation fuel. RFA Wave Knight has a crew of around 71 RFA officers and ratings and Royal Navy personnel onboard.
Capt Carke said: “As ever, none of what we have achieved would have been possible without the dedication and professionalism of the ship’s company or without the support of so many family, friends and working colleagues at home. We dedicate this homecoming to them.”
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFA) is a civilian manned fleet, owned by the MOD. Its main task is to supply warships of the Royal Navy at sea with fuel, food; stores and ammunition in order to sustain operational effectiveness worldwide. The ship also provides aviation support for the Royal Navy, amphibious support and sea transport for Army units and their equipment.
The RFA was constituted in 1905 and has served in every naval theatre of operations (from the Arctic to the Pacific) in the WW2 with the Maltese, Russian and other convoys. Since then it has supported the Royal Navy and the Army in Korea, Suez, Cyprus, Beira, Kuwait, Borneo, Belize, and Aden and in the Icelandic Wars. During the Falklands Conflict in 1982, the RFA spearheaded logistic support for the Task Force, losing RFA Sir Galahad to heavy air attack at Fitzroy.
RFA officers and men have distinguished themselves, many being decorated for their gallantry and fortitude. More recently, the RFA played a fundamental role in the Gulf War supporting the British task Force and in the Adriatic supporting the UN Task Force.
The RFA employs over 2,000 civilian officers and ratings. Personnel follow the traditional training paths of their Merchant Navy counterparts to obtain professional qualifications, but with a substantial overlay of Navy training to develop the skills needed in an operational environment. Many RFA ships carry naval or military parties for tasks such as the operation and maintenance of helicopters.
There are 13 ships in the RFA fleet; four Fleet and Support tankers, two dry cargo fleet replenishment ships, two combined fuel and stores replenishment ship, three landing ship’s dock, one forward repair ship and RFA Argus a principal casualty reception ship and an aviation training ship.