Egypt buys two ex-UK support ships


Egypt has bought two retired Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships, Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie, in the first sale of United Kingdom naval vessels to the North African nation in decades.

The UK Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA) on 29 October said both ships were released from service earlier this year. They were officially withdrawn in March after more than 40 years supporting the Royal Navy.

“Their new lease of life could also support UK jobs, with negotiations under way for refurbishment work on the vessels before they are exported,” DESA said.

Janes reports that Egypt has entered into negotiations with the Cammell Laird group for the regeneration and refit of the two ships, which are both laid up in Bidston docks, Birkenhead, under Cammell Laird’s care.

The sister ships have two flight decks, which means as well as traditional replenishment at sea they are also able to use helicopters to offload supplies – a twin hangar can accommodate three medium sized helicopters.

The 185 metre long ships are designed to deliver bulk ammunition, dry stores, and food to maritime task groups. They displace 23 400 tonnes, and have a capacity for up to 3 500 tons of ammunition, stores, and victuals across four holds. Six replenishment at sea stations are fitted for the transfer of cargo while under way.

It should be noted that the ships are only able to carry dry stores and not fuel.

“Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie have both served the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy and many of our allies with distinction, across the globe both at peacetime and during conflict,” said Vice Admiral Chris Gardner, Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Director General Ships.

“Their sale to the Egyptian Navy – the first sale of UK military vessels to this partner in more than 30 years – represents both an investment in a UK partner nation and an opportunity to continue supporting our industry partners who will prepare these vessels to hand over, which is central to the successful National Shipbuilding Strategy.”

The ships will be replaced by Fleet Solid Support ships, which will form part of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group.

Egypt’s purchase of the vessels is a significant move as they will allow the Egyptian Navy to carry out long range operations, and will be able to support its largest vessels, including the two Mistral class landing helicopter docks (LHDs). The Fort Rosalie class vessels have a range of 19 000 km.

In Egyptian Navy service, they will join the ex-German Westerwald class replenishment ship ENS Halayib, half a dozen Toplivo II class tankers and the ex-German Luneburg class replenishment vessel ENS Shalatein.

Clive Walker, the Head of DESA, which is part of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), said: “DESA is exceptionally happy to be working with the Egyptian Navy on the regeneration of two former Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships.

“This represents a tangible demonstration of the strengthening relationship between the two navies and the importance of the strategic relationship between the UK and Egypt.”