RFA Tidespring returns home as historic global deployment comes to an end

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Pictured: Cdre David Eagles RFA, Commodore Royal Fleet Auxiliary welcomes the ships company back after their successful deployment. Photographer: LPhot Kyle Heller - © UK Ministry of Defence CROWN COPYRIGHT, 2021

A Royal Navy tanker which kept HMS Queen Elizabeth and her escort warships fuelled and ready for operations on her historic maiden deployment has returned home.

RFA Tidespring is the first of the UK Carrier Strike Group ships to return to the UK, sailing into Portland after more than seven months on a global mission to the Indo-Pacific and back.

The tanker, along with her Royal Fleet Auxiliary sister RFA Fort Victoria, has kept the task group of nine ships, one submarine, 32 aircraft and more than 3700 personnel supplied with everything from fuel to ammunition and food during their 49,000 nautical-mile mission.

RFA Tidespring. Photographer: LPhot Kyle Heller © UK Ministry of Defence CROWN COPYRIGHT, 2021

Tidespring carried out an impressive 111 replenishment at sea tasks (one every two days while away), supplying fuel and stores to ships from Canada, Denmark, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States in addition to the UK.

Captain Karl Woodfield said:

“As Tidespring sights UK landfall for the first time in eight months the ship’s company are hugely proud of what they have achieved in supporting the first global deployment of the Carrier Strike group.


“Tidespring has provided fuel and stores support from the Northwest of Scotland to the Pacific Ocean during the deployment completing 111 replenishments of fuel and stores at sea.


“This has enabled the UK Carrier Strike Group to operate at a range and scale from the UK not seen in a generation.


“I am particularly proud of my ships company which includes RFA, Royal Marines and Royal Navy personnel who have worked tirelessly during a global pandemic to deliver operational success.


“We have been in the vanguard of ships which has made the inaugural Carrier Strike Group global deployment a success. A brilliant sustained effort by my ship’s company.”

Tidespring steamed 43,136 nautical miles during her mission, having departed from the UK in May.

She spent 176 days attached to the Carrier Strike Group, spending 136 days at sea and completing exercises with NATO and allied nations in UK waters, the Mediterranean, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, South China Sea, Philippine Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea.

Tidespring filled up ships with the equivalent of 23 Olympic-sized swimming pools of fuel (nearly 58 million litres in all) and fed more than 14 million litres of aviation fuel to keep the task group ticking. She also replenished ships with more than 169,000 litres of water – enough to fill 2,112 average household baths.

Tidespring also ticked off a number of milestones for her ship’s class. She became the first Tide-class to transit the Suez Canal, to deploy East of Suez and operationally to the Indo-Pacific, plus the first to sail in the Southern Hemisphere. 

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