Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Great article as always.
I wonder what a new build vessel like Argus would cost? Assuming she would actually be replaced after reaching 50…

Oh also in the 2nd to last paragraph “Assuming at least 250 troops need to be live on board”, should probably read as “need to be housed on board”?


Troops are quartered aren’t they?

captain p wash

lol……..It’s really the same thing……….. God I love these sites !


“Messed” on board…

Andrew Deacon

Conversion for Falklands was at Devonport – saw her from the bus on the way to school!


Enhanced C3I, increased armament, improved accommodation etc.

Expect absolutely none of that. This is a way of saying we’ve got LSS done without spending anything.


Seems absolutely correct. If one actually wanted a “Littoral Strike Ship”, one had one in HMS Ocean. Whatever her flaws, she was sold off and now all one has is this.


It really is pathetic the way UK repeatedly sells off equipment only to find we need it a few years later. The RFA Largs Bay, HMS Ocean, the Harriers now the Hercules transports. This has to stop. The Treasury aided and abetted by the MoD are not fit for purpose in this regard. The Defence Committee in the HoC needs some statutory power to intervene as a bastion of last resort.

With real estate, in the last few decades the Foreign office nearly achieved the impossible and tried to gave away the Falklands and Gibraltar against the peoples wishes. They did manage to give back Hong Kong to China with only weak guarantees for the people there. We have some totally rubbish people about in positions of power. Look at Scotland and Wales; what is wrong with us?


I’m afraid you’re probably correct. Also, I think if you have just one LSS the whole concept kind of falls apart. Better to do a minimum conversion of 2/3 Bays into a kind of LSS-lite and, hopefully, replace Argus with something purpose built.


Why didn’t we use the Forts we just refitted for Egypt?

William Pellas

I don’t begin to understand how spending leventy-bazillion pounds on converting and maintaining this elderly ship to serve in such an important role makes more sense than converting 2 or more modern RO-RO cargo ships.


Find a RO-RO ship of about the right size with all or most of its superstructure at the bow. You won’t find it an easy task.

William Pellas

The proposal that was making the rounds at MOD was for a ship that did not have a forward superstructure, so maybe I’m misquoting the “RO-RO” part—though I thought I read that in an article about the proposed LSS. In any event, surely converting a couple of newer civilian ships to LSS configuration would be far more cost effective than trying to get by with a one of a kind vessel that’s already around 40 years old.


Why would you need to have the superstructure at the bow? IMO the MV Ocean Trader and LSS Requirements match up perfectly.. Theres a lot of very similar ships to the Ocean Trader that could be converted to fill the LSS requirement.

stephen ball

HMS Victory getting a upgrade?

The oldest ship in the Royal Naval Service to become the new Littoral Strike Ship

captain p wash

She’s still in dry dock, having new generators installed last I heard………………..

Gavin Gordon

Forefront of technology – her generators are wind powered. We’d lead the world again.


Operating costs are great, tar, pine,oak, rope, gun powered, salted pork and hard tack.


Yes agree, but the rats and weevils are free!!!!


I’m not sure the ratings accommodation would be up to modern standards, such a snowflake generation.

captain p wash

Well without saying ” I told you so”…… I told you so when HMS Ocean was sold but i guess converting this really old ship at vast expence to do what she could do is all par for the coarse……Do we need Nimrods ? pfft.

Supportive Bloke

“ In light of recent discussions about increasing firepower, it is also interesting to note that in April 1994, while operating in the Ionian Sea, Argus fired Royal Artillery 105mm field guns secured to the flight deck, demonstrating she could be used for close-in fire-support. A modern equivalent utilising vehicle-mounted GMLRS could perhaps provide better reach and accuracy.”

Let’s think about this a bit.

105mm first – naval guns are effectively gyro stabilised either hydraulically by an effector weight or in more modern guns by the electric servos taking account of the ships motion. Also the ships motion can, in heavier sea states, be predicted such that firing timing is adjusted for the optimal moment.

A land 105 gun will have none of this so will be totally useless except on a mill pond or at point blank range.

Secondly GMLRS could, in sheltered water and if GPS guided, offer quite a bit. The issue is that in heavier sea states is the ship heaves or rolls while the projectile is half ejected it can potentially be trapped and damaged by the ships motion.

Before anyone starts prattling on about ‘how does VLS work then” there are mitigations in place. That include the CMS firing timing to ships motion as well as stabilisation during exit.


It’s an interesting concept if it can be perfected. The usmc tried it out a few years back and seem to have been pleased with the results.

Supportive Bloke

Again it was flat water and GPS guided.

There is a reason that naval munitions, are well, navalised?


Again it was flat water and GPS guided.”

I’m going to assume the usmc took those things into consideration when going through those test. Time will tell whether the idea turns into any useful.


Right, I think one of the tech advantages our ships had at Trafalgar. We could time when our cannons fired better than the French. Ours had flintlock firing mechanisms; they had a lit fuse.


I was on one of the two T22s doing that trip. The troops on Argus hated it. Poor accom and the heads where constantly backing up and overflowing. Literally a s**t show. The T22s where rotating troops on and off for down time.

Supportive Bloke

You paint such an alluring picture…..

The two radar controlled stabilised 4.5” on the B3 T22’s would have been far, far more useful IRL.

BTW just how ineffective were the 105mm’s?

Just Me

Shes Already an ancient old tub.

Christopher Paris

I very well agree, the best factor is the flight deck, however she is an old girl born abroad and therefore it will be difficult to source parts for replacement to keep her active. MOD should consider two vessels owned by the RFA, which have a displacement of 32,000 t and are 196m LOA and are currently laid up. These are the Wave Ruler and Wave Knight. They can easily be converted to assume the LSS role with a flight deck approx 65m long. The main conversion would be the removal of one of the three rays rigs.

Christopher Paris

The vessels have an excellent hangar facility for Merlin’s, however with the introduction of a flight deck forward of the bridge the ship would resemble more their American navy counterpart. Below the flight deck could accommodate additional accommodation for 250marines and their equipment. Lcvp’s or assault boats could be provided under davits. It is worth exploring the feasibility of converting two relatively more modern ships which have been built in UK with British parts for future servicing. The ships can still be used for refueling ships, this task was undertaken when the Wave Ruler assumed the role of Caribbean patrol and emergency ship.


“Easily”. Do tell. FFS.

Supportive Bloke

I think he means creating HMS Max Hastings…..god help all who sail in her….


That the MoD didn’t select the Waves perhaps should tell you something about how easy it would be to convert them. They were probably not even considered.


Ships of this size don’t have “parts” available, Ernesto Breda company don’t even exists anymore.
You build and rebuild it. It is not really difficult.

Wave Ruler and Wave Knight.should have alot of compartimentalization that limits their space flexibility.
RFA Argus being born as a container ship have the insides well opened and the strength is mostly in the hull proper.

If you want to replace it, buy another container ship.


Interesting, she was build in Venice – Marghera in 1980 already 42 years ago.

There are ships that can get long lives usually for practical reasons, the plus for this ship is how flexible it is might be and how economical to operate.

Phil Chadwick

Great article as usual!

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Chadwick

I am not convinced by this LSS idea for all manner of reasons.

We need 3 Cdo back to full strength and fast large LPD’s to work with the carriers.


Totally agree with perhaps a 4th Commando added. Given the renewed relevance of NATO’s northern flank it is a no brainer.
Most recent defence reviews have been bad but 2010 will go down as the worst.


Absolutely agree. With current events the Littoral Strike Role is now irrelavent to a Full deployment of 3 Cdo Bde on the Northern Flank. Littoral Strike and Future Commando appears to be best placed for 3rd world hit and run rather than Power Projection and NATO duties.


Good luck. One can only hope.

Matthew Smith

Those are LCVPs on deck – you’d need a bigger boat (and crane!) if they were LCUs


Fundamentally, we don’t need a MEU(SOC), which is what a LSG is in effect. Even the US, which has global a presence requirement, never really used them. We *do* need an amphibious capability, and if it’s forced by lack of cash to be less perfect than we would like (fewer helicopters, no dedicated LPH), that’s fine. What counts is having a genuine amphibious capability, which 2 LPD’s and 3 Bays gets us. Stop pushing the “special forces” rubbish and get back to the basics


If you think in the 2030’s an over the beach landing with limited helicopter support counts as a “genuine amphibious capability” I think you need to sit down and have a long hard think.


It all depends surely what is meant by ‘amphibious capability’ is it not? Amphibious warfare involves moving troops by sea, but not every instance of the latter is amphibious warfare just transportation. The latter has taken place many, many more times than the former. I think wf3 is saying we need the capability to put men and stores ashore quite literally across a beach, an austere landing, and perhaps not amphibious warfare as such.

Only the US and China have enough helicopters. A single LCU can move as much as a whole squadron plus in one movement. Even light forces consume huge amounts of stores.


The question is in the future how often will it be possible to get sufficiently close in shore for even an unposed beach landing but not be able to use basis port facilities. I think that number will get vanishingly small.


Yes. But we live in an era of less than war situations where a force may be able to cross a beach ‘unopposed’ but not have access to a port.

Supportive Bloke

And limited navalised FIRES

Adrian Wakeford

There is another problem with getting troops from ship to shore that seems to be unaddressed (apart from craning or modifying davits). Given the danger posed by modern shore defences, amphibious ships need to be over the horizon; probably 30 or 50 NM offshore. LCVPs and the big sister LCMs are simply too slow at 9 or 10kts. The PACSCAT project was abandoned some years ago after trials and solutions such as BMT’s Caimen fast landing craft have not gained favour or funding. One might speculate that the Argus conversion and the Future Commando Force are two Heath Robinson solutions to resource shortcomings without a realistic surface assault solution to tie them together. Nothing new then.


PACSCAT died when the UK FLC project met the cold financial reality of SDSR2010.

Andrew Deacon

Where does this leave Caribbean Hurricane Support? Many of us thought RFA Argus was heading back there with RFA Wave Knight laid up after just 1 trip. HMS Protector for 4 months and no helicopter for year after year? Is there another option perhaps a Bay again?


I suspect nothing will happen till there is a big hurricane and despite the best efforts of the people involved the response is seen as very poor. Then there’ll be a panic and something will get dropped to rush a Bay to the region.

Andrew Deacon

I recall HMS Prince of Wales is US bound this autumn so that provides a Plan B but she will not be on station for several weeks yet though.


The UK Government has assisted with purchasing new helicopters for some of the Caribbean BOTs, as well as standing up local “Regiments” (at the moment, mainly engineering focussed and company strength only) and converting local Police marine units (where Police careers go to die) into separate Coastguards, with their own career structures, equipment and budgets. They have also deployed small UK military teams each season for the last four or five years to assist with planning and co-ordination in the event of a natural disaster. Small steps so far, but the aim is to generate much-improved local resilience.


When you are sending a icebreaker to the Caribbean, you know something has gone horribly wrong with your planning, and there’s no way a 5,000t ship with no hangar and no well deck can stand-in for a 16,000t LPD. With the Waves laid up, probably permanently, the three remaining Bays barely able to cope with the various duties they currently perform, and Argus needing Lifex, taking on yet another role for one of the few remaining large auxilaries isn’t the best idea. I still think we could have gone for a new ship, rather than shuffle the deckchairs again.

Even the original Littoral Strike Ship option may have been better, and Prevail Partners had a pretty well fleshed out concept for converting a German FSG 4100 RoRo for lease. At least it would have added a ship to the RFA rather than take one out of service for a couple of years conversion.

I think we could do even better than that. HMG claim that they want to build MRSS starting in service around 2030/31. Okay, so they’ll need to stump up some cash starting about 2026/27. What if that money was brought forward? How could we get £350m worth of ship now? Borrow! And there’s £50m in the pot right now to pay for the borrowing. It breaks Treasury rules, but we’ve seen numerous schemes to move borrowing off book so the rules are only broken in spirit. Or for once we can actually be honest and say, let’s make an exception. This is money we plan to spend anyway, we’d just be spending it differently. There may be an opportunity to synch in with the Australian requirement too.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

The problem with build a new ship now is there is no way to get it done before the FSS starts. With no contract, detailed design or build plan we are 18/24 months from the start of construction of any new large ship. That puts its build in the way of FSS which has to be absolutely the top priority.
If HMG had been in the market for this sort of ship 2 or 3 years ago the timing would have been perfect but today it’s not.


I don’t really see the urgency for new ships, when the Bays and Albions have plenty of service life left. 10 years time is when MRSS are needed and funnily enough that’s when they are scheduled for.

FSS is clearly more important because Fort Vic is a SPOF and it’s getting on in years.

LSS was just a leftfield idea from consultants that thankfully got seen for the nonsense that it was before any serious funding got wasted on it. Extending Argus instead also solves the PCRS issue in the interim.

With all that in mind I don’t think this latest announcement is at all surprising or controversial.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ben Robins

Exactly. This is less of an urgent capability than an interim solution to beef up Albion/Bulwark’s capability. Using Albion and Bulwark at the same time to head the two Littoral Groups isn’t outlandish. The major issue is that it takes too many crew for the Navy to feel comfortable. People are expensive. Argus has fewer crew, so it’s cheaper to operate.


I agree, as I see it the LRG concept itself emerged essentially as an acknowledgement that existing amphib fleet is not sustainable within current financial and crewing constraints.

MRSS aims to address that issue by replacing the Albions with more RFAs; cheaper ships with much smaller crews therefore easier to sustain. So it’s not really worth introducing new vessels until the existing fleet is due to retire.

In the meantime we will have to make do with the existing fleet, with a few tweaks. No point wasting funds on a stop gap that doesn’t really solve anything.


No way to get it done? Go abroad. Built in Australia, perhaps, in exchange for them purchasing something from us. Share the design costs and have a detailed design ready to roll for the next batch of five, which could follow on from the FSSS.

But I agree, the timing is now not optimal.


In the current climate there is no way the government would build this sort of ship overseas. Until the FSS is sorted out nothing else will get done.


“Prevail Partners had a pretty well fleshed out concept for converting a German FSG 4100 RoRo for lease.”

Never, ever mistake a bit of CGI for a well-fleshed out concept. I absolutely guarantee you that the important bits of early stage engineering for that (eg internal arrangement, escape routes, system design (electrical, HVAC, FW, sewage etc) had not even been thought about.

As for bringing MRSS forward, money is a solvable problem, but there’s that little problem of shipbuilding capacity – or more precisely, lack of it. As others note FSS is the absolute priority and most of that is going to have to be built overseas for precisely the same reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by N-a-B

Who would you trust to build the solid stores ship abroad?


The Japanese for a kick-off. They also had a Brit partner supplying their design for the original competition.

Navantia will do a decent job as well.


Politically I would prefer Japan. It was clever of the Spanish to ride out breaking EU rules to keep Navantia (IZAR) afloat. We wouldn’t have done the same.


Aren’t Navantia teamed up with H&W as one of the 4 prospective bids for the FSSS contract? Will be interesting to see how that eventually pans out if as suggested a lot of the work gets done abroad.


Yes they are. The Navantia team – and BMT – are the only things keeping Team Resolute afloat. The Puerto Real yard in Cadiz has actually built ships in living memory. Unlike certain pretend yards in Belfast….


I never understand the enthusiasm for H&W. Lots of people on hear think they could be a significant ship builder in 3 or 4 years. My guess is it would take 10+ years to build up all aspects of an appropriate workforce.
Plus it’s just not an attractive area for skilled people to move to. Would you take your family to the political/religious mess that is NI?


Lots of lovely places and people in NI. But uprooting family to go to a yard with an uncertain future is not a gamble I’d be taking.

I’d love to see H&W succeed, but I try to be realistic about it as well.


I believe the Netherlands (whose Marines are effectively part of 3 CDO already and have been operating with them for years) will also probably need some sort of amphibious vessel in a similar timescale


Is this a stop-gap plan in order to provide an LSS relativelty quickly whilst a newer solution is sort sometime in the future?


I’d say it’s more a box tick for a ‘requirement’ that never really existed outside some ‘blue sky thinking’ that has since been subjected to a reality check.

But in fairness it does seem to have spawned MRSS which seems a much more sensible concept.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ben Robins
captain p wash

If the concept ever becomes reality.


True, but I think the point is not to waste resources in the meantime on things that have no merit.

Phillip Johnson

This decision smacks of a fall back position. It is never a good idea to spend serious on very, very old steel.
‘We cannot do the LSS as planned so lets pretend Argus is one.. We will muddle though somehow’.
A joke if anybody is laughing.

Gavin Gordon

Not a bad compromise on the face of it. Interesting how many civilian based vessels make versatile platforms at reasonable cost. Not sure how best to phrase this, but being cheap means she would not be a huge loss financially in the Littoral, if ‘Moskva’d. However, that very situation raises questions over combining LSS with her casualty support role. Another take up from trade in wartime scenario may be a better option farther out to sea?
Remind me again why we get rid of Harriers and Flattops before everybody else because they’ve passed their useful date!


It was proven in 1991 that Argus was not suitable as an amphibious ship and was the whole reason they commissioned HMS Ocean.


I think this is the kind of thing which really makes you wonder whether people in the MOD have a braincell between them.
“Lets whittle down the marines, even though its a world class capability”
“Lets get rid of a perfectly good LPH and sell it for peanuts”
“Lets recreate a pound shop version of the marines and call them ‘Rangers’ so we can be like the Americans”
“Lets not replace any of our ships, but lets build a national flagship”
“Oh our Merlins are old hat, lets just life extend them (meanwhile the US keep upgrading and building Blackhawks”

A proper LPH is the answer (supported by more helicopters). Its perfectly affordable within the current budgets.


I agree about the RM. We have thrown them and ASW, MCM, and submarines under the bus to recreate a capability we hadn’t had in decades which our main ally has in abundance.

But Ocean was worn out. She was built down to a price. Brazil can afford to keep him due to them having a number of specialist manufacturers of ship equipment such as pumps. What she did prove during her time in the RN was that the UK needed two LPH built to full naval standards.


“We have thrown them and ASW, MCM, and submarines under the bus to recreate a capability we hadn’t had in decades which our main ally has in abundance.”

Our main ally does not have them in abundance – particularly given Pacific Pivot. The NATO partners have to take up some of the slack – and the French aside, who else could do it? More to the point – how else does one provide air cover to an ocean going navy?

As for the idea that ASW, MCM and submarines were sacrificed to fund QEC, a cursory look through the EP suggests that’s not the case. The MCM funding was snatched in 2007 or thereabouts to buttress T26 (GCS at the time) budgets. The submarine fleet has never had so much money, but new safety regimes, ageing boats and skill fade in Barrow and the supply chain all cost.


Come on. How much money goes to support those two decks? How many on ration both in terms of crew and training across the surface fleet and the FAA (and the RAF too.) If that money was being spent there it would have been spent maintaining those main competences. And tell me which is cheaper an Astute or a QE? Why is their ‘skill fade’ in Barrow because the drumbeat was interrupted. Why was it interrupted? NOT ENOUGH MONEY. I would suggest you look again at the EP. You are not drawing the right conclusions. The USN has 20 large aviation ships. What exactly do our two add apart from additional parking for USMC F35 Bravo’s?

Last edited 1 year ago by X

The drumbeat gap in Barrow dates from the mid 90s. CVF was not contracted until 2007/8. Nothing whatsoever to do with it.

The USN has ten carrier decks and some Phibs with other roles.


The USN has 20 large aviation ships. TWENTY. Tell me how an LHA with 20 Bravo’s is less of carrier than QE with a handful of Bravo’s?

If we had not spent money on QE there would have been additional funds for Astute’s and the drumbeat would have been restored. You know exactly what I mean.


Sorry. That’s just nonsense.


“Let’s whittle down the marines, even though it’s a world-class capability”.

It’s debatable whether – against likely threats – three rifle companies, an artillery battery and some engineers and landing craft squadrons actually represented a useful capability any more. Don’t get me wrong, skills n’drills top notch, but simply not enough of them with long enough reach to survive a landing against any significant threat. I’m afraid Johnny Gaucho is not a good enough case for retention. Hard choices had to be made – and while I’m not entirely comfortable with FCF – at least there’s a plan.

“Lets get rid of a perfectly good LPH and sell it for peanuts”

If a ship with significant logistic support and obsolescence issues is your definition of perfectly good, then fair enough. However, again – hard choices – do you want to crew an LPH (265 souls required) or do you want to use that manpower to have two QEC crews?

“Lets recreate a pound shop version of the marines and call them ‘Rangers’ so we can be like the Americans”

You do realise that the British Army “Ranger” units are modelled on the US army rangers?

“Lets not replace any of our ships, but lets build a national flagship”

I suspect that is about to solve itself. Possibly through the realisation that there’s nowhere to build it, which makes wibbling about replacing our ships somewhat moot.

“Oh our Merlins are old hat, lets just life extend them (meanwhile the US keep upgrading and building Blackhawks”

Our Merlins are far from old hat – and Blackhawks are a US army helicopter for lifting US army Squads. There’s nothing wrong with life extending the aircraft, provided that the known issues – gearbox, logistic support – are fixed during it. I would agree taht just patching them up is a poor option, but there’s a very limited range (essentially none) of proper ASW helicopters out there as alternatives.

“A proper LPH is the answer (supported by more helicopters). Its perfectly affordable within the current budgets.”

FCF and LSS are not about two-Coy lift anymore. Besides which, even if there was the odd spare billion lying about for a ship, where do you propose to build it?


If the capabilities of the Marines are irrelevant then so are the capabilities of the majority of the British army, which is predominantly poorly equipped light infantry, without the specialism, elite training etc. that the marines have. Reducing the marines by a 2,000 men is a drop in the ocean in our defence spending, especially if the cost is just transferred to the army to create a pointless duplicate capability.

265 additional sailors: a problem solvable with better pay, better retention, better housing etc. The efficacy of using a £3bn platform to do something a £300m platform could do again shows the lack of intelligence of people making the decision.

Where to build it? Set a budget of £500m and get it built abroad with British systems fitted here just like the Tides. I know that is controversial but we have no compunction buying chinooks, apaches or P-8s from abroad (especially if we don’t have the capacity).

As for the Merlins, we should order up 70 new ones and keep helicopter production going in the UK into the mid 2030s at least.


“British systems”? FFS.

You should probably refrain from spraying random numbers like £300m and £500m about without understanding where they come from.

Have you ever set foot on a naval vessel?


Mistrals cost 450m Euros each, Juan Carlos 462m, Ocean £139m, Dokdo $260m, Izumo £639m. In all of these navies their LPHs cost < half the price of advanced ASW or AAW destroyers or frigates. There are also a lot of mature designs out there, so a competition could result in a competitive cost for this capability.


The internet is not necessarily a source of good information. You’re not comparing like with like. For a kick-off, the tender price for Ocean (in 1993) ended up having another £70m added to it almost immediately after service entry to add all the things they found they needed. Which is about £500M in current money. A Mistral in current money would be EUR600M, which is about £510M. Do those prices include the design costs? Do they include the ILS provision (big thing for the RN/RFA)?

You can’t compare the Tide class being fitted with “British systems” to an LPH because essentially those were limited to comms and C3 and some survivability mods in a very limited area of the ship – and even that proved more expensive than budgetted for. A tanker is largely a big empty box forward of the machinery space bulkhead. An LPH has habitable compartments throughout the length and depth of the ship, some of which have very specific requirements.

“Mature” designs tend to need major and costly changes when asked to fit the needs of a different navy. See T26 for details. It’s also instructive that the only allegedly “mature” design pitched for FSS won’t be the one that gets built (assuming the competition doesn’t fall over again).

I would agree that buying some more HM2 Merlin (GB and ILS issues fixed) would be a good idea. I’m just struggling to understand where the budget comes from.


Do you really think that the purpose of today’s Royal Marines is to carry out opposed landings on beaches as in 1944. Their world has moved on, I suggest you do the same!


I don’t disagree with the national flagship…I just don’t see the need beyond vanity…if we want a national flag ship make it useful and something that does good ( hospital ship, aid ship etc). The erosion of the marines is a big mistake.

But to be fair the merlins are a lot younger that many Blackhawks. With a newer generation of airframe that the Blackhawk. Although in reality you cannot compare them as they are apples and pairs. The Blackhawk is a classic medium lift military rotor, the Merlin is a only a medium rotor in a very loose sense (it’s more a small heavy lift rotor TBH) and was a very focused maritime build ( due to budge the Blackhawk was uncompromisingly not in any way a maritime rotor ( a number of US servicemen lost their lives due to its stone like quality when having to ditch in the sea).

Lee H

Just think, we sold Ocean for £80m

Steven Alfred Rake

If we have got £50Mill to throw at this then I would of thought that we could get a pair of relatively new oil tankers converted and at sea relatively quickly with ample deck space and plenty of space below decks to put in what you need. RFA Argus is a good ship but she is a bit long in the tooth so even if we spend money on converting her she will need a lot of money spent on her regularly just to keep her at sea. Not only that but what will replace Argus as the only Primary Casualty Receiving and Aviation Training Ship.
With the down turn in the oil and gas industry there are a lot of top speck (nearly new) tankers and support vessels tied up at the moment. I am sure that we could gat a good deal some were.


£50m to buy and convert 2 oil tankers to carry helicopters and people. That’s possibly the most out of touch and ridiculous idea I’ve seen on here in months.

Steven Alfred Rake

I might be ridiculous and out of touch but if you look at what we can get for our money you will see that by converting nearly new hulls with a lot of space you not only get longevity out of your purchase there by saving a lot of money in the long run but you also get the space to put in what you like with out the problem of having to remove or redesign the interior.
There seems to be a lot of people on this site that refuse to take the blinkers off and clime out of that box they have been put into.


There’s this little war going on in Ukraine. It is having an extraordinary effect on the transport market for both crude and refined products. Tanker charter rates are shooting up, both for transport and use as storage as hedge against further oil price rise.

Good luck with finding a “top speck” tanker for sale.

Let alone trying to turn what is in essence an empty steel box with no life support or services beyond the superstructure into something else entirely. HVAC, lighting, FW, firefighting systems, electrical distribution all virtually non-existent forward of the mcy bulkhead. No internal decks, escape routes.

Huge amounts of work.

Not sure Brent crude at $100/bbl can remotely be described as a “downturn”.

Last edited 1 year ago by N-a-B
Steven Alfred Rake

If you look at the ship brokers you will see no end of nearly new oil tankers up for sale. The 1st one I checked out was Horizon Ship brokers and low and behold quit a number of vessels that are going relative cheaply and of similar dimensions to Argus with double hulls to boot.
Argus was herself taken up from trade and converted also HMS Ocean was based on a civilian design. It is sometimes better to have an open space then you can put in what you like. If you read the artical was not the sister to Argus to be converted into an LPH.
There are quit a few support vessels up for sale at the moment most built to very high standards and with the loss of RFA Diligence it might be worth getting in quick.
Oh I forgot the MoD is full of people like yourself who find it extremely hard to thing out side a box.


I don’t even know where to start with your chimpery.

Ocean being based on a civilian design might be a good start. Do tell, which one?

You do realise that offshore support vessels that service oil fields have very different configurations and charter patterns than tankers, don’t you?

Would you like a banana?

Steven Alfred Rake

I do believe that Diligence started life as an off-shore support vessel but I could be wrong and oftern am, just like me trying to keep civil to a troll like your self who should be treated with the same contempt you treat every one else on this site.


What on earth does Diligence have to do with an LSS?

People are very well aware of what can and can’t be done with converted merchant vessels. There have been to my knowledge three attempts to replace Diligence through either lease or purchase of Offshore Support Vessels since 2005. That example is perfectly sensible because the majority of the required facilities (in particular accommodation and life support) are already in the ship. Every single time the pitch has been made (and I’ve sat in the room opposite the senior RN and DE&S people, making that pitch), it has foundered because the requirement for the capability has not been fully supported by the prime user in the RN. In the last decade, where the O&G exploration and production (as opposed to transport) market essentially collapsed, those ships would have been cheap as chips to buy. But you don’t get to buy things without an endorsed requirement. That’s nothing to do with MoD or civil servants or lack of thinking “outside the box”. It’s everything to do with a branch of the RN refusing to support the requirement.

The difference between something like that, where there is a relatively straightforward conversion path and the idea that one could easily convert a tanker to meet the LSS requirement is huge. Commercial tankers are generally limited to 14-16kts max speed, are powered by a single slow-speed diesel engine and can accommodate around 20-25 people. That also means that ship services (electrical, FW, HVAC, galley, sewage etc) are very limited. LSS needs to accommodate a couple of hundred people, feed them, keep them in comfortable conditions, get rid of their waste etc). That is incomparable to the existing provision and means an awful lot of new systems and capacity. Want to sail at fleet speeds – 18 kts or so? Want to be able to operate at lower speeds for extended periods, loitering? That’ll be a new propulsion system please.

That’s before you get to things like aviation fuel, aviation conditioned electrical power, magazines, fire suppression systems, lifesaving and escape equipment. The list goes on and on. Then you’re into certification against both MCA (assuming its going to be an RFA) and MoD safety standards – plus Class Society classification. I’m not even going to mention comms, C3 or defensive systems, because in terms of work content, they’re relatively trivial.

It’s very easy to say that there’s lots of unused space – unfortunately, in order to use it, one has to convert what tend to be very deep cargo tanks into usable spaces. Which will mean hacking out the longitudinal bulkheads and then installing several decks. Non-trivial, as the USN found out with Mercy and Comfort. One then has to find ways to shoehorn in all the required compartments, facilities and systems – in the right places – access and escape routes.

If I show contempt, it is frustration with people who glibly and with certainty suggest that it will be easy and quick to buy and convert a couple of tankers, when they have clearly no real idea of the activities involved. Yet they believe that only they have seen this and that the people who have to deal with these things for real are hidebound or don’t know what they’re doing.

Here’s a figure to make you think. The original purchase and conversion budget for Argus in 1984 was around £40M (£122M today) and she ended up costing £60M (~£180M today). She was a much more suitable ship.

Still think you can do it for £50M the pair? Feel free to tell us which commercial design Ocean was based on as well.

Steven Alfred Rake

Vickers who were the designers and builders of HMS Ocean described her as a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on.

The Atlantic Conveyer was converted in just over 2 week, yes it was in a war time setting but she was fitted out to carry and launch Sea Harriers which were deliver to the fleet at sea just before she was sunk.

You are right to mention the the speed and other minimum requirement of a ship taken up from trade, that is a relative easy fix you make a list of your requirements and then sent it to the Brokers who then will find a vessel or vessels that fits those requirements. Look at HMS Protector which replaced HMS Endurance she is not the ideal replacement but she can do the job.

I mentioned RFA Diligence as we now need a fleet repair ship as that is anouther capability we have lost and if we convert Argus then we will lose the casualty receiving capability.

Look out side the box and you will be surprised at what is out there.


“HMS Ocean was based on a civilian design” and “Vickers who were the designers and builders of HMS Ocean described her as a merchant ship with military hardware bolted on.”

Neither statement is correct. Ocean was a bespoke ship, designed from the keel up to be an LPH, with all the relevant military features, including flight deck, island, hangar, assault routes, troop accommodation etc. Her hullform (the hydrodynamic shape, not the structure) was based on CVS. The hull structure was a bespoke design to LR rules (a major change at the time). Her systems – from propulsion to sewage – were also bespoke designs, but to commercial standards and using commercial equipment, much of which was horrible cheap chinese knock-offs or at the end of development paths, which caused significant pain after about five years and throughout her life. Those who knew the horrors of the black water system – and in particular 7G – will understand. The shortcomings in Ocean led directly to the development of LR Naval Ship Rules. Ironically – had the MoD bought the competing offer to VSEL – they’d have got a proper warship, they wouldn’t have had to refit her to add C3 and other facilities shortly after service entry and they’d have been in a better place for shipbuilding capacity – all for about the same price. Anyway point being, in no way shape or form was she any sort of merchant/civilian design or conversion.

Conveyor was not converted to carry significant numbers of additional personnel, let alone for any sort of extended period, which are the things that really have an impact. The nearest thing to that sort of conversion was MV Astronomer/RFA Reliant – and there’s a reason she only lasted three years. She also cost £30M to convert, which is nudging £100M in todays cash.

As for your brokers – your contention was that a tanker could easily be converted. Go and find a broker who can get you an 18+ knot tanker, one that can also loiter at low speeds for extended periods. You’ll have a long wait.

Clearly you didn’t understand the part that despite you thinking we need a fleet repair ship, the RN do not, despite people offering options based on cheap OSV acquisitions.

No comment on the conversion cost of Argus either and note the conversion cost of Reliant above. I repeat, still think we can get a couple of tankers converted for £50M?

There’s thinking outside the box and opining from a position of ignorance, wittingly or unwittingly.

Last edited 1 year ago by N-a-B
Steven Alfred Rake

I would agree that Ocean should have been a lot better than what she ended up as but that was a direct result of the bean counters having too much direct input. Vickers description of her you need to take that up with Vickers.
I mentioned the Atlantic Conveyer as an example of what can be done if we have a mind to do it.

The RFA needs a sizable uplift in investment just to keep the current capability with Argus over 40 years old, Fort Victoria 30 years old we have the 2 Wave’s 20 years old and tied up and looking like they will be up for sale soon so that just leaves the Point class RO-RO’s the Bay’s and the Tide’s

I would say that are only realistic option is to look at the civilian sector and convert nearly new hulls to the speck required. It may well be that we cannot get what is required at the price that has been banded about but it will be a dame site cheaper than a new build which we defiantly cannot afford at the moment.


Wasnt it the other way around. The 2 competing bids were from VSEL and Swan Hunter. VSEL won with its hull built under sub contract to Kavaerner at Govan, a civilian yard. Swan Hunter would have done it to military spec but VSEL bid was £71 million lower than Swan Hunter’s


Except almost as soon as she’d entered service, MoD had to spend £70m adding features the VSEL design had omitted.

Not sure what you mean by the other way around?


My misunderstanding

Christopher Paris

The 50 million budget is too low to purchase two tankers, however the RFA has to ships laid up which could fulfill the role with little modifications; Wave Class ships

Steven Alfred Rake

I would tend to agree with you if the Wave’s were a tad younger but they are getting on a bit as well so we would have a newly converted RFA but having to spend a lot of extra money just keeping on top of the day to day maintenance of an older hull.


For goodness sake, the Waves are tankers. They’re designed to carry fuel. They have a flight deck and a hangar but apart from that they’re completely unsuitable.


Yes. But a number of bulk carriers- wheat and oil- were converted to have a flight deck as well as continue with their cargo as MAC convoy escorts in WW2


What has anything done in WW2 (80 years ago) got to do with what can be done today?
Just as a couple for instances I bet the black water system on a MAC was just to dump it straight overboard not something you can do today. Crew accommodation was likely single sex hammocks. I bet there are a ton of similar things that have changed in 80y that complicate conversions.


You are quite right, thats why I said Yes. The requirements during the war was different, but even then the approach quickly changed to the custom built ‘austere ‘ carriers


The problem is your effectively compromising your ability to generate your role 3 as if you have 200-250 troops on board your not then able to accommodate your role 3 medical teams and your not going to be able to switch out the troops and role 3 teams quickly ( the role 3 teams will need time onboard to work up). It would turn into a s**t show if you decided you needed to activate the role three while the ship was acting as a littoral strike ship.


Clearly the MoD don’t think “role 3” is as important as aviation support for the LSS.


Right up until the point they need it and then all panic will occur when they realise their casualty care pathway has gone to s**t and avoidable deaths occur. Considering role three is a none negotiable and fundamental part of the “operational patient care pathway” someone will end up taking the fall if that fails.

Rob N

Will she get an upgraded defence package as she would be vulnerable otherwise.


RFA are Army not Royal Navy. 17 Port and Maritime REME, RCT etc. looked after them. I don’t know the current sit as demobbed 1994


Is it really a problem for a carrier to act as a long-range LPH if a LRG can provide a littoral “lillypad” close to shore? Hanger space is then much less of an issue for the Bay’s.

Richard Arthur Osguthorpe

Great information and a great ship with a very important role.


HMS Ocean should never have been sold. The Treasury should be sued for its incompetence.