VESSEL REVIEW | Supply – Royal Australian Navy’s newest fleet replenishment ship

Photo: Royal Australian Navy
Photo: Royal Australian Navy

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) recently welcomed a new fleet replenishment ship into service.

HMAS Supply is the lead ship of two auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) vessels built for the RAN by Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. The two RAN AORs are variants of Cantabria, an earlier replenishment vessel built by Navantia for the Spanish Navy.

Each Supply-class AOR is intended to carry fuel, dry cargo, water, food, ammunition, equipment, and spare parts to provide logistical support for deployed Australian naval or combat forces operating far from port on the high seas for longer periods, in effect combining the functions of a tanker and a stores supply vessel in one seagoing platform. In addition to replenishment, the new vessels can be used for environmental pollution response at sea as well as humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) operations following a natural disaster.

Supply and its sister vessel – the future HMAS Stalwart, which was recently completed in Spain and is currently sailing for Australian waters – each have a length of 173.9 metres, a beam of 23 metres, a draught of eight metres, a displacement of 19,500 tonnes, and accommodations for 170 crewmembers. Although assembly took place in Spain, Australian components have also been used in the ships' construction. Specifically, around 4,500 tonnes of Australian steel was used for the two hulls, while local suppliers were selected to provide the fitouts for the hospital, laundry, and galley spaces.

Two MAN 18V 32/40 main engines deliver a maximum speed of 20 knots and a range of 11,000 kilometres at a cruising speed of 13 knots. This makes Supply capable of accompanying deployed naval task groups on long-distance or long-endurance expeditionary missions.

<em>Photo: Royal Australian Navy</em>
Photo: Royal Australian Navy

Thanks to its size, the AOR boasts impressive carrying capacities. Its onboard tanks can hold up to 8,200 cubic metres of marine diesel fuel for use by RAN vessels, 1,400 cubic metres of fresh water, 270 tonnes of assorted ammunition, 470 tonnes of other provisions, and 1,450 cubic metres of JP5 jet fuel for use by ship-based helicopters and even the RAN's own gas turbine-powered surface combatants such as the Hobart-class air warfare destroyers and the Anzac-class frigates.

The ship also has a flight deck capable of accommodating one MRH90 utility helicopter.

Although not intended to engage in offensive combat operations due to its primary function as a logistical support ship, Supply is nonetheless capable of defending itself against lightly armed threats such as small boats and low-flying aircraft. Its defensive armament includes a 20-millimetre Phalanx close-in weapon system (CIWS), two 25-millimetre autocannons mounted on Typhoon remote weapon stations, and four 12.7-millimetre heavy machine guns.

A combat management system (CMS) supplied by Saab Australia provides the bridge crew with a comprehensive situational awareness (SA) picture of the battlespace around the ship by combining data gathered by various command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) sensors. Saab said this system will also enhance the AOR's capability to perform its secondary missions of pollution response and HADR support.

The ship is also equipped with an integrated platform management system (IPMS) developed by NSAG, a joint venture between Navantia and SAGE Automation. The IPMS, which is manufactured using commercial off the shelf components for ease of operation and maintenance, provides the bridge grew with a 3D model of the ship. Among other things, this is intended to easily identify areas of the ship that require immediate attention, such as in the event of a fire in one of the interior spaces.

Power for the CMS, the IPMS, the Raytheon Australia communications equipment, and the ship's various other onboard systems is supplied by a quartet of MAN 7L21/31 generator sets.

To ensure adequate logistical support for the RAN's seagoing forces, Supply is homeported at Fleet Base East in Sydney, whereas sister vessel Stalwart will be homeported at Fleet Base West at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia following its commissioning in 2022. Supply has since taken over the AOR role once performed by the now-decommissioned HMAS Success, which had operated for over 35 years out of Fleet Base East.

<em>Photo: Royal Australian Navy</em>
Photo: Royal Australian Navy
HMAS Supply
Type of vessel:Naval replenishment oiler
Owner:Royal Australian Navy
Operator:Royal Australian Navy
Designer:Navantia, Spain
Builder:Navantia, Spain
Hull construction material:Steel
Superstructure construction material:Steel
Deck construction material:Steel
Length overall:173.9 metres
Beam:23 metres
Draught:8.0 metres
Displacement:19,500 tonnes
Capacity:8,200 cubic metres of diesel; 1,400 cubic metres of fresh water; 270 tonnes of ammunition; 470 tonnes of other cargo; 1,450 cubic metres of JP5 jet fuel
Main engines:2 x MAN 18V 32/40
Generators:4 x MAN 7L21/31
Maximum speed:20 knots
Cruising speed:13 knots
Range:11,000 kilometres
Radios:Raytheon Australia
Other electronics:Saab Australia combat management system; NSAG integrated platform management system
Armaments:20mm Phalanx close-in weapon system; 2 x 25mm autocannons on Typhoon remote weapon stations; 4 x 12.7mm machine guns
Other equipment installed:Helicopter deck
Type of fuel:Diesel
Accommodation:Crew cabins; hospital; laundry rooms; galleys

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