Sea Platforms

UK loses operational maintenance and repair capability as Diligence is retired early

12 August 2016
RFA Diligence, pictured here in 2008. The forward support vessel is being withdrawn from service in 2016, rather than 2020. Source: IHS/Jon Rosamond

Key Points

  • Out-of-service date for RFA Diligence is brought forward to 2016 (from 2020)
  • Options for the delivery of future operational maintenance and repair capability remain under consideration

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) forward support vessel RFA Diligence is being retired from service four years ahead of its planned out of service date (OSD), leaving the UK Royal Navy (RN) without a deployable operational maintenance and repair (OMAR) platform.

The decision to bring forward the ship's OSD to late 2016 was made in June. However, this previously unannounced cut, and the consequent OMAR capability gap, was only revealed by the publication of Ministry of Defence (MoD) disposal documents for the ship in early August.

Diligence (ex- Stena Inspector ) is a former North Sea oil supply vessel purchased by the MoD in October 1983. The ship entered RFA service in March 1984, after being converted to serve as a forward repair ship. Specific modifications included the addition of workshops, cranes, extra accommodation, supply facilities, communication systems, and a flight deck atop the bridge; the modifications also saw the introduction of a limited self-defence fit.

Diligence has been used to provide forward support to ships and submarines operating at reach from the United Kingdom. For most of the past 15 years, the vessel has conducted long-term deployments 'east of Suez'.

In 2010, the decision was taken to extend the ship's service life out to 2020. Diligence completed a major life-extension refit in 2013; work included modifications to enable support to be provided for Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Owing to RFA manpower shortages, Diligence has been laid up at Cammell Laird's Birkenhead shipyard since completing a short refit in March 2015. However, as recently as December 2015 the MoD had publicly stated that 2020 remained the ship's planned OSD.

A naval spokesman told IHS Jane's that the decision to bring forward Diligence 's retirement by four years was a savings measure "identified and endorsed by the RN in June," adding, "RFA Diligence is an aged singleton ship with increasing obsolescence issues, and for that reason early retirement is the most sensible and cost-effective option.

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