With the initial force ashore, sustaining that force falls mainly within the purview of the British Army and Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) – LSD(A)
Based on the Dutch/Spanish Enforcer class, the four Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) replaced the five Knights class logistics ships. There were a number of issues bringing them into service the four entered service between 2006 and 2007; Cardigan Bay (2006), Mounts Bay (2006), Lyme Bay (2007) and Largs Bay (2006).
All vessels are operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, not the Royal Navy.
They are large vessels (16,160 tonnes displacement), much larger than the Knights class they replaced but have a relatively small crew of less than 60.
The well dock is smaller than the Albion/Bulwark LPD’s but can still accommodate a single LCU Mk 10 or Mexeflote.
Smaller landing craft or work boats can be carried on deck and lifted to the surface by the 30 tonne capacity deck cranes.
Mexeflote’s are side loaded, one on either side of the hull.
Capacity includes 1,150 lane meters for vehicles and containers (20x 20ft ISO), 2,000 tonne cargo capacity and accommodation for between 350 and 700 personnel depending on overload conditions. Like the Albion/Bulwark class they have limited aviation facilities apart from a large helicopter deck but stores and vehicle capacity is greater, although landing craft capacity is much lower.
In addition to their amphibious role they are used to support the mine countermeasures flotilla in the Gulf, acting in the command role where they have also been used to trial the Scan Eagle unmanned system.
Although they have a very large flight deck that can spot two Chinooks the aviation capabilities are relatively austere. To mitigate the lack of permanent hangar they can be fitted with a Rubb hangar.
Improvement in communications capability and other systems have gradually taken place.
The Bay class of vessels have proven to be flexible and relatively cheap to operate but given the semi-permanent Gulf MCM support tasking, only two would be available to an amphibious force, and that is assuming both were fully manned and not in refit.
Mexeflote and Workboats
In service with the Royal Logistic Corps are a number of powered pontoons and small workboats.
The Mexeflote came into service with the British Army in the early 60’s, a result of work carried out at the Military Engineering Experimental Establishment (of Bailey bridge fame). Technically, it is called the Harbour and Landing Ship Logistics Pontoon Causeway Equipment, the Mexeflote is elegant in its simplicity.
Comprising three types of hollow steel pontoon sections with internal bulkheads they can be pinned together to form lighterage rafts, jetties, piers and floating platforms in the manner of big boys Lego.
Built into the sides and ends of the pontoon section are recessed slots into which connectors are fitted, multiple pins for multiple sections. The bow sections are angled and articulated to facilitate loading and beaching. The manually operated, demountable articulator is mounted in a recess in the aft section and is connected to the forward section by an articulator ram.
The pontoon sections can be carried individually and assembled in-situ but the norm is for the assembled raft to be secured to the sides of the carrying vessel for transit and when required, simply lowered or free dropped into the water.
Initial work established that free dropping created significant deceleration forces in excess of 30G so the hook assembly was modified to disengage at 16 degrees resulting in much lower deceleration and the avoidance of ‘belly flopping’. Their main use when first introduced was not as a ferry but as a 250ft causeway to the beach for the LSL that could open their bow doors and discharge vehicles without beaching.
When in the water the propulsion units are craned over the side and secured in place and that is it, they are more or less ready to go.
Stores and vehicles can either be craned from larger ships or driven onto the raft when docked to a ship equipped with a well deck or ramp. Recovery is a reverse of this process.
Each Mexeflote is usually commanded by a junior NCO and crewed with 4 or 5 other ranks.
Total payload depends on the size of the assembled pontoon;
The Type A raft is 20.12 metres x 7.32 metres x 1.45metres. Capacity 60T
The Type B raft is 38.41 metres x 7.32 metres x 1.45 metres. Capacity 120 T
A Maxi Mexe configuration is also possible and this has a rating of 180 tonnes. .
Although it might not look particularly seaworthy can be used in 1.5m wave height conditions. In 1994 the Army ordered an additional 50 units and in 2000 upgraded most of them. The older Z Drives have now entirely been replaced with OD150N units from Thrustmaster.
The Mexeflote design pre-dates the widespread global containerisation and whilst they can fit inside ISO containers but are not sized to be completely compatible, two for example, are 50mm too long for a 20 foot ISO containers and when stacked two high, are again slightly too large for a Hi Cube container. The individual pontoon sections do not have corner castings for ISO twistlocks either.
Although it is not used often Mexeflote’s can be used as an intermediary linkspan or beach pontoon to enable landing craft to discharge without beaching. The landing craft can drop its ramp onto the Mexeflote and its vehicles driven off and on to the beach.
During the Falklands conflict, loads of up to 200 tonnes were carried and Mexeflote’s moved two thirds of all the supplies transferred from the various ships at San Carlos, they were instrumental in success Operation Corporate
Since then they have been in continuous use.
For shifting volume and weight, there really is no substitute.
Combat Support Boat
Although mostly used by the Royal Engineers in support of bridging and dive operations the Combat Support Boat is also used by the Royal Logistic Corps to support amphibious and port operations.
The Mk1 CSB, built by Fairey Allday Marine, was used by the Royal Engineers, US Army and Marine Corps, Greece, Turkey and South Korea, and built in a quantity in excess of 1,000 units. In 2,000 these were replaced by the RTK Marine Mk2, each Mk2 CSB is powered by twin Yanmar 6LP diesel marine engines that drive twin Hamilton HJ274 Waterjets via ZF Model HSW 630 gearboxes. Top speed is approximately 30 knots and they have a cargo capacity of approximately 2 tonnes or 12 personnel. C130 and Chinook transportable they are powerful for their size and versatile craft.
Unladen weight is 4.75 tonnes, length 8.8m, beam 2.77m and draught 0.65m. BAE now own the design and marketing rights to the CSB although the dedicated trailer is supplied by Oldbury
Army Work Boat
In addition to a number of Combat Support Boats, 51 (Port) Squadron RLC have four Army Work Boats made by Warbreck Engineering in Liverpool, subcontracted to VT Halmatic (now BAE).
The four are named WB41 Storm, WB42 Diablo, WB43 Mistral and WB44 Sirocco, yes, the Army owns a Mistral!
They are 14.75m x 4.3m, weigh 48 tonnes, have a top speed of 10 knots and are equipped with firefighting equipment.
When deployed they are usually carried as deck cargo on a specially designed cradle and craned to the surface as needed.
The UK’s system for supporting an ashore force with bulk fuel is called JOFS, the Joint Operational Fuel System.
In 2010 KBR were awarded a £22m contract to deliver the Joint Operational Fuel System (JOFS).
JOFS is a broad ranging system designed for both operational and exercise use and is defined as;
To quote QinetiQ (who were involved with the decision support, bid support modelling)
The project manager added;
The complete Joint Operational Fuel System, as can be seen from the images below is pretty comprehensive and includes ship to shore elements.
Joint Operational Fuel Systems Project (JOFS) pumps, 160 of them, come in three flavours, Light Forces Pump (LFP) with a capacity of 400 litres per minute at 4 bar, Medium Duty Pump (MDP) with a capacity of 680 Litres per minute at 6 bar and the Heavy Duty Pump (HDP) with a capacity of 2,000 litres per minute at 6 bar. These pumps can be remotely powered up to 15m away from the Vikoma power packs, this means they are outside of the hazardous area.
The system is compatible with current Air Portable Fuel Containers (APFC) and can be used with either Aviation or Diesel fuel, depending what assets require re-fuelling. The Small Container Convoy Refuelling System (SCCRS) is designed to provide a 7 point refuelling unit for refuelling multiple vehicles at once. JOFS Phase 2 enables the deployment of a Primary Bulk Fuels Installation (PBFI) which has a capacity of 600,000 Litres with support for aircraft fuelling, aircraft defueling and bulk road tanker filling.
It can simultaneously refuel and de-fuel either two tankers or up to six aircraft.
Most of the JOFS components are provided by the UK Company, DESMI, who also provide much of the pumping equipment for RN/RFA vessels and RAF fuel installations. DESMI produce some excellent fuel handling systems; the Aviation Fuelling System, Bulk Fuel Installation for Temporary Sites, Containerised Ground Fuel Stations, Air Landed Aircraft Refuelling Point (ALARP), Forward Air Refuelling Point (FARP), Helicopter/Light Aircraft Refuelling System and Air Delivered Bulk Fuel Installation
In 2013, Vikoma were awarded a £2.5 sub contract from KBR to deliver a number of ruggedised powerpacks for pumping equipment and tanker rollover spill containment systems. This new contract was to add to a previous one, the output from which have been successfully used in Afghanistan.
Another manufacturer, Barum and Dewar, provided the specialist storage cases.
The video below shows JOFS in action in a ship to shore role, making use of Army Work Boats, RE Divers and Mexeflote’s to bring aviation fuel ashore, the system is called the Towed Flexible Barge Discharge System (TFBDS), supplied by DESMI and Trelleborg, 5 are in service.
The barge or dracone has a capacity of 300,000 Litres, once it has been filled by connecting to an RFA (or civilian) tanker the barge is towed to within 200m of the shoreline and connected to a manifold raft.
This raft is then connected via flexible pipelines to the onshore installation that uses 136,000 Litre flexible pillow tanks.
Fuel management for 3 Commando Brigade is provided by 383 Petroleum Troop Royal Logistic Corps, based in Plymouth, it is the only British Army element of the Commando logistic Regiment.
The new Tide Class Fleet Tankers will also have a ship to shore capability, at the very least by having the ability to offload to a dracones for towing towards the shore.
Moving fuel beyond the bulk storage equipment is carried out with various types of wheeled tanker and air portable fuel containers although in many cases, tankers and containers will be the only methods used, where bulk systems are not needed.
Both the Oshkosh articulated high capacity tankers and lower capacity MAN SV based tankers are distinctive in appearance and beyond differences in capacity and mobility, carry out the same role.
The Unit Support tanker carries 7,000 Litres, the Close Support Tanker 20,000 Litres and the Tactical Aircraft Refueller 15,000 Litres. All have metering, pumping and filtering equipment and carry an assortment of ancillary items like pipeline and manifolds. The UST has also been supplied in a winterised and waterproof variant.
For operations in Afghanistan the MoD purchased 20 ISO tank container based Fuel Dispensing Racks from WEW in Germany. These are ground mounted and not used whilst mounted on the vehicle. These may also be used in an amphibious operation.
Storage and handling of fuels and lubricants is a complex and demanding business, especially the relationships between military and civilian regulations and who does what across the three services and within (RE and RLC), have a read of JSP 317 if you don’t believe me!
Strategic RORO Service
The 1998 SDSR recognised the need for a strategic RORO capability in light of increasing expeditionary requirements and likely trends in the commercial shipping sector. It was predicted that RORO vessel size would increase and evolve leading to a reduction in charter availability. The ships would replace the RFA Sea Crusader and RFA Sea Centurion. A contract was let in 2000 to the AWSR Shipping consortium comprising Andrew Weir, James Fisher, Bibby Line and Houlder Hadley Shipping after competing bids from Novomar, Maersk and Sealion failed. The £1.25 billion PFI specified that 4 of the 6 vessels would be used by the MoD exclusively and the remaining pair available for commercial charter but one on 30 days and the other on 30 days-notice to return to MoD service.
AWSR subsequently placed an order for 6 vessels to a German company, Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschaft or FSG. FSG were to build 4 and Harland and Wolff, the remaining two. Hurst Point, Beachy Head, Eddystone and Longstone were the FSG built ships and Anvil Point and Hartland Point built by Harland and Wolff. Crews are British when on MoD service and Sponsored Reserves, in a similar model to that used by the Heavy Equipment Transport PFI. AWS provide the ship management arrangements, Bibby, crew management, Houlder the finance and construction management and James Fisher a range of other support activities. 18 months ahead of schedule the ships were fully available for service in 2003 and the PFI agreement expires in 2024.
The design chosen was the RoRo 2700, an existing 23,235 tonne design.
All ships have the same characteristics except Beachy Head, Eddystone and Longstone that have more powerful 9 cylinder 8,100kw engines than the others, and therefore have a maximum speed of 21 knots; Hurst Point, Anvil Point and Hartland Point have a maximum speed of 18 knots.
All have bow thrusters and a crew of 22.
The ships are 193m long, 26 metres wide and have a draught of 6.6m
Their capacity is listed as 2,700 lane metres, trailer capacity is 35 on tank top with a maximum height of 5m, 62 on the main deck with a maximum height of 6.8m and 67 on the upper deck with a maximum height of 6.8m.
Container stowage capacity is 72 TEUs on the tank top, 272 TEUs (double stacked) on the main deck and the 324 TEUs (double stacked) on upper deck, all these on Mafi trailers. Direct stow container capacity is approximately 411 TEU with 60 10kw/32A reefer plugs available for refrigerated containers.
Access to the decks is via a side ramp and a 16.4m long by 17.0m wide stern ramp and internal ramps to all decks. The stern ramp has twelve 2.7m wide fingers to enable access to narrow link spans. Tests have also been conducted to prove the stern ramp can access a Mexeflote at sea for transfer to other ships or direct offloading to shore. None of the ramps are self-supporting but the stern ramp has a rated capacity of 85 tonnes and the side ramp, 75 tonnes. The deck crane has a capacity of 40 tonnes at 25m outreach and 36 tonnes at 28m outreach. Driver’s accommodation is in in 6 two berth cabins.
The contract has operated with little fuss and no problems but as part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review an evaluation of needs and costs came to the conclusion that the two non-permanent vessels could be released from the contract. Longstone and Beachy Head were subsequently sold to CLDN becoming the MV Finnmerchant and MV Williamsborg.
In March 2013 the management contract was extended with Andrew Weir Shipping to 2024 and a number of consolidations have seen Foreland Shipping, the owner and operator of the vessels, now fully owned by the Hadley Group. The UK offers the residual capacity of the 4 permanently available vessels to the NATO Sealift Consortium as part of the Sealift Capability Package (SCP). This also includes three RORO ships on assured access, residual capacity of 5 Danish/German ARK RORO ships and a single Norwegian vessel.
The recent Exercise TRACTABLE also saw once of the vessels being used with Mexeflote’s for direct offload to the shore.
Mobile plant, especially mechanical handling equipment is vital to the success of amphibious operations.
The Royal Logistics Corps and Royal Engineers, through the C Vehicle PFI, have a number of important pieces of MHE used on board ships and at ports and on the beach support area. Medium and Light Wheeled Tractors are used for a variety engineering roles; earth moving, excavating, mechanical handling trenching, dozing, grading and digging.
Supplementing the wheeled tractors are a couple of telehandler designs, also from JCB.
These are the most numerous of C Vehicle equipment and have a broad span of users replacing the Volvo 4440’s and JCB 410’s (both of which are not telehandlers but converted loaders).
The requirement for loading and unloading ISO containers dictated some of the size and mobility specifications and there are two models, the Telehandler 2,400Kg which is a JCB 524-50 and the higher capacity JCB 541-70 called the Telehandler 4,000Kg.
Each has a number of variants with the smaller version coming in standard (150), standard with sideshift (150), winterised (15) and winterised with sideshift (15).
The larger version has two variants, standard with sideshift (85) and winterised (6).
If the above are for loading and unloading containers, handling pallets and other logistics tasks the role of handling the containers themselves falls to the RLC’s Kalmar Rough Terrain Container Handlers (RTCH).
They are relatively manoeuvrable and the extendable boom, rotation and sideshift top handler allow precise placement of the container.
The designers have also built in an ingenious system for reducing its height, by moving the operator’s cab to one side, lowering it and then sinking the boom next to the cab the total height of the container handler is less than 3metres, thus enabling transport in a C-17 aircraft but at 53.5 tonnes it is a big lift, filling the C17 with its 3.65m width, 15m length and 2.98m height in shipping configuration. This preparation for air transport can be carried out in less than 30 minutes by one person with no external assistance, and without removing or dismantling any part of the machine.
The reduced height also greatly simplifies road moves, bloody clever.
Unlike most container handlers the RTCH uses a single tyre arrangement. Both axles are driven and steered; crab-steer is possible and all steering is computer controlled for precise tracking. The axles are unsprung and two-wheel drive and single-axle steer is possible for road travel.
About 20 RTCH were obtained under an Urgent Operational requirement for Operation Telic and the National Audit Office report noted that over 9,000 containers were used;
Although you can pick up containers with a crane that requires more personnel and is much slower, moving containers is a specialist function that needs specialist equipment. The RTCH is not specifically tasked with beach operations there is no reason why they couldn’t be used in an amphibious operation support role.
At Marchwood there is also a range of specialist MHE that although not used when deployed, is still a vital element of the supply chain. The MoD recently let an £87m contract to Briggs Equipment for the Defence Mechanical Handling Equipment requirement that includes just over 3,000 pieces of equipment ranging from forklift trucks to container handling equipment.