Posted: Thu 19th Jan 2023

Britain’s new defence against underwater threats arrives in Birkenhead

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jan 19th, 2023

The first of the UK’s two new ships to protect key underwater infrastructure has arrived on Merseyside to begin preparing for front-line duties.

The distinctive blue-white Topaz Tangaroa, which has arrived at the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead, will become the UK’s first ship dedicated to safeguarding vital seabed telecommunications cables and oil and gas pipelines, beginning operations in just six months’ time.

The vessel, whose new military name is still to be announced, will be crewed by around two dozen RFA sailors, plus up to 60 Royal Navy specialists who will operate the undersea surveillance systems and other survey and warfare systems when embarked.



Announced by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in November 2022, the accelerated acquisition of this Multi-Role Oceanographic Survey (MROS) vessel will be vital to our national security.

“It is paramount at a time when we face Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, that we prioritise capabilities that will protect our critical national infrastructure,” Wallace stated.

The Royal Navy scoured the world for a vessel which would meet its requirements and selected the Topaz Tangaroa, built in Norway four years ago to support a mix of underwater operations such as work on oil/gas rigs, construction, maintenance and inspection work.

It is also used for survey and remotely-operated vehicle/autonomous submarine operations, making her ideal for underwater surveillance and seabed warfare.

The 6,000-tonne vessel is equipped with a helipad, crane, and expansive working deck – 1,000 square metres, or the size of five tennis courts – and has most recently been operating in the Pacific on underwater construction projects.



The ship also features a ‘moon pool’ – a large hole in the bottom of the hull through which robot submersibles can be launched.

Military equipment will be installed and the ship painted grey before the ship – the first of two planned MROS vessels – begins training with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ready for its first front-line operations this summer.

“This is an entirely new mission for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary – and one we relish,” said Commodore David Eagles RFA, the head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. “We have been entrusted with supporting a key operation to safeguard the UK’s infrastructure, security and prosperity and that fills all of us in the RFA with pride. These are really exciting times.”

 

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