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UK's first underwater surveillance ship enters service

RFA Proteus , the UK's first ship dedicated to underwater surveillance, entered service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary on 10 October. (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The UK's first underwater surveillance ship, RFA Proteus , entered service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) during a ceremony held on the Thames in London on 10 October.

Proteus (ex-MV Topaz Tangaroa ) is the first of two planned Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) ships being acquired by the UK for underwater surveillance and seabed warfare, to be operated by the RFA.

The vessel was purchased secondhand by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) from P&O Maritime Logistics' subsidiary Topaz Energy and Marine in late 2022 and arrived at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead in January 2023 to undergo modifications for its new role. According to the Royal Navy (RN), conversion work was completed in September, after which the ship completed a brief period of trials and training off the coast of Portland ahead of its dedication ceremony.

Built by Norwegian shipbuilder Vard in 2019 as an offshore support vessel, Proteus was previously used for work in the offshore oil industry to support a mix of underwater operations, including work on oil rigs, construction, maintenance and inspection work, as well as autonomous submarine operations.

The ship displaces 6,000 tonnes, has an overall length of 98.1 m, a beam of 20 m, and will carry a core crew complement of 26 RFA personnel, augmented by 60 RN specialists responsible for undersea surveillance, survey, and warfare systems.

It is equipped with a flight deck and a large 1,000 m 2

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