New UK Special Forces support ships

Photo: MoD
Photo: MoD

Yesterday, UK Defence Minister Gavin Williamson revealed a raft of modernisation plans for the UK’s armed forces.

Included in the plans are a pair of vessels of a new type, which have been dubbed Future Littoral Strike Ships (FLSS). The prime role of the new ships will be the offshore support of combat operations by UK’s Special Forces (SF), namely the British Army’s Special Air Service, and the Special Boat Service of the Royal Marines.

The intention is to forward base one of the FLSS in the Mediterranean, and the other in the Indo-Pacific region. The ships themselves are not intended to go in harm’s way, and will probably not be fitted with fixed armament.

Ocean Trader: Photo: Jabarnes

The FLSS will feature more than one helicopter deck, hangars, a number of boat bays, substantial troop accommodation, and medical facilities. A recently released computer-generated image indicates a strong resemblance to the covert American SF mother ship Ocean Trader, which is a Danish-built Ro-Ro vessel, converted for SF use by BAE Systems in Mobile, Alabama.

Few details of the project have been released, although Williamson was subsequently quoted as confirming that the vessels will be conversions of existing merchant ships.

It is not yet clear whether they will be manned by UK Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, or contracted civilian crews.


Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.