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DSEI 2023: BMT reveals refined design for UK Fleet Solid Support Ship

14th September 2023 - 12:00 GMT | by Alix Valenti in London


The FSS will be 260m long, with a 34.5m beam and 39,000t displacement due to the large volume left to accommodate future changes. (Image: BMT)

Team Resolute member BMT has revealed full details of the Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ship design, with a focus on sustainability, multi-mission adaptability and future-proofing.

On the first day of DSEI 2023, Team Resolute unveiled the design of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s (RFA) future Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ship. The design was created with adaptability and sustainability in mind.

On 18 January, the UK MoD awarded Navantia UK, the leader of the Team Resolute consortium including BMT and Harland & Wolf, a contract for delivery of three FSS ships to the RFA. DSEI was the perfect opportunity to showcase the final design.

'For the design of the FSS we drew a lot of experience from our previous designs, such as the Norwegian Logistics Support Vessel, the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, the Type 31,' Simon jones, BMT’s chief engineer for FSS, told the press after the unveiling. 

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'Since contract award we’ve been engaging as much as possible with the customer, bringing as much operator experience as we can and focusing on adaptability features and sustainability.

In designing the future FSS, Team Resolute aimed to create a 'pathfinder' for the UK MoD in terms of making the navy as green as it can be, in line with the goal of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. As such, there was significant focus on incorporating sustainability across the design of the ship. 'This was particularly challenging for an auxiliary ship, and some features were more difficult than others to incorporate,' Jones added.

In this context there was a strong focus on the hull form design, with Team Resolute working closely with SSPA Sweden, a maritime centre focused on sustainability. 'SSPA did a lot of work on LNG [liquid natural gas] carriers and, in fact, the hull form of the FSS is very close to LNG carriers,' Jones said.

In terms of propulsion, based on the ships’ operational profile the team determined that hybrid propulsion was going to be more efficient than diesel electric or other alternatives. 'This will allow the ship to drive in pure electric mode at speeds up to around 8kts, thus saving fuel and emissions,' Jones explained.

Finally, as shipping and shipbuilding continue to move toward a greener future, the FSS has been designed to accommodate new technologies. 'We built in space, weight and power provisions to allow new systems such as power plants for future fuels and/or space for energy storage systems, among other things,' Jones said. The engines can also be converted to dual fuel.

In terms of adaptability, the ship has been designed to be future proof and flexible. It can be adapted to support special operations, allowing for different types of RHIBs to be installed on the ship. 'There is also room for extra RHIBs if necessary, and accommodation for additional crew,' Jones commented.

The upper deck of the ships can carry up to 25 containers, which can be for used humanitarian assistance/disaster relief missions, as well as logistics and mine countermeasures support. Finally, the design allows provision for SIGINT equipment to be fitted.

The FSS are 216m long, with a 34.5m beam and 39,000t displacement due to the large volume left to accommodate future changes. The hangar can fit two Merlin helicopters as well as uncrewed systems and the flight deck can also accommodate a pair of medium helicopters.

'Last July the team reached the "design chill" stage,' Jones said, 'which means that the overall general arrangement is now fixed and the team will now be stricter about the types of changes that can be made.' 

The aim is to make sure that the ships will be delivered on time. The next major milestones include classification plan approval from Lloyd's register, approval from the Naval Authority Group and approval from the Maritime and Coastguard agency.

'We are regularly engaging with all these authorities, even as we are transitioning toward the preliminary design review, which is scheduled for completion by the first half of 2024,' Jones concluded.

Shephard's DSEI 2023 coverage is sponsored by:

Alix Valenti


Alix Valenti

Dr Alix Valenti is an international freelance defence journalist. Her main focus is on naval …

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