With the Royal Navy growing and Britain's flagship carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth having entered her new home in Portsmouth, UK Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin has announced a £48 million (US$62 million) contract for next-generation workboats to British ships.
The fleet of up to 38 workboats will assist Royal Navy ships from UK bases and on operations all over the world. Tasks to be carried out by the boats will include transferring personnel to and from both of the UK's carriers. Able to carry up to 36 passengers at one time, the workboats can be stowed inside the carriers and winched to and from the water using on-board lifting equipment, allowing them to support the enormous ships either in port or on operations.
The boats will be built at Atlas Elektronik UK near Dorchester in Dorset. Ranging in length from 11 to 18 metres, the boats will also perform other tasks including officer and diver training, Antarctic exploration and explosive ordnance disposal.
According to Defence, they are highly adaptable to operational demands thanks to their modular design elements. For example, if the Royal Navy wished to quickly redeploy a boat from hydrographic survey duties to support diving for explosive ordnance, the survey module can be quickly lifted out of the boat and replaced with the diving module containing the high pressure air required for that task.
The contract will enable the design and construction of up to 38 boats as well as in-service support for the fleet for a further two years after the final boat is accepted. The first boat will enter service next year.
The boats will all feature glass-reinforced plastic hulls and advanced twin waterjet propulsion. Despite their varying roles, they will all have the same steering and control system, reducing the need for training and making them simpler to operate.