Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has recently completed her first ever operational refueling at sea.
After a dry run earlier in the year, HMS Queen Elizabeth now successfully took on fuel from RFA Tidespring, another brand new ship purposely built to support the two new aircraft carriers.
The 65,000-tonne warship practised the manoeuvre – known as replenishment at sea – in the North Atlantic to take on supplies on both her port (left) and starboard (right) sides.
The two ships were just 42 metres – 138ft – apart, sailing along at 12 knots (14mph/22kmh) as the lines were passed and the fuel hose transferred to hook up with the intake on the carrier.
If needed, the Tide-class ship could deliver 800 cubic meters of fuel in an hour. For the maiden transfer just 220 cubic meters of F76 marine fuel was sent across – the replenishment was more about testing the principle rather than the carrier’s tanks running low.
“This is one more significant step forward in our growing capability – knowing that we can be refuelled from a tanker means HMS Queen Elizabeth can roam even further from home,” said the carrier’s Navigating Officer Lt Cdr Sam Stephens.
“The fact that our first replenishment at sea was with RFA Tidespring – the first in her class of the tankers which were designed specifically to operate with us, made it doubly significant.”
“Our first replenishment – in challenging weather conditions –was a success and marks the start of a very close and enduring relationship between the two ships,” Capt Karl Woodfield RFA, Tidespring’s commanding officer said.
The tanker is one of four built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to support HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister HMS Prince of Wales around the world.
Tiderace is on the verge of entering service, Tidesurge is being fitted out in Falmouth and Tideforce will soon be delivered by her builders.
As for HMS Queen Elizabeth, she is due to return to Portsmouth shortly for a spot of maintenance, leave for her crew and preparations for her maiden voyage across the Atlantic in the early autumn, when she will conduct flying trials with F-35B Lightning stealth fighter/bombers for the first time.