Replenishment ship

SEA 1654 Phase 3:

Spanish progress with RAN’s future AORs

As the $89+ billion naval shipbuilding plan for submarines, future frigates, and offshore patrol vessels gathers momentum, public debate about the then Government’s May 2016 decision to contract Navantia S.A. for the acquisition and initial five-year sustainment of the two replacement replenishment ships seems to have become much more muted.

Struggling with the political fallout, because the supply ship program was not included in the government’s Naval Shipbuilding Plan, the Minister for Defence explained that ‘this exclusion was due to Australian shipyards not having the capacity to complete the replenishment vessels in the required time and a local build would risk jobs and capability by delaying the OPVs, Future Frigates and Future Submarines.’ That didn’t go down well with shipyard workers in Adelaide.

Trying to retain control of the situation at the time, the Department of Defence reported that European steel was to be used for the first ship of the Cantabria class and that Bluescope Steel, an Australian company, will supply four and a half thousand tonnes of Australian steel in raw form for the second replenishment ship.

They also explained that of the $640 million shipbuilding cost, more than $130 million was directed towards Australian industry for Combat and Communication Systems integration, Integrated Logistics Support, and elements of the on-board cranes.

The AOR’s Integrated Platform Management System will be built in Australia by NSAG, Navantia’s joint venture with Adelaide based SAGE Automation. Hobart’s Taylor Bros is supplying a range of services including hospital, laundry and gallery fitouts. Saab Australia will supply the combat management systems and Raytheon Australia, the communications systems. EM Solutions will provide its Cobra X/KA tri-band Maritime Terminals and associated network infrastructure. APC Technology, based in Adelaide, will provide radio operator consoles to Raytheon for the SEA 1654 program. The SME will be responsible for the manufacture of a range of computing solutions as well as the planning, sourcing and layout of the consoles.

In June 2017, Navantia cut steel on the two vessels. The keel of the first Australian AOR was laid in the Ferrol shipyard in November 2017 in a ceremony attended by then Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, RAN, chair of Navantia S.A. José Esteban Garcia Vilasanchez ( who was replaced in July 2018 by Ms Susana Sarria) and chair of Navantia Australia Warren King.

In November 2017, the then Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, announced the replacement replenishment ships would be named HMAS Supply and HMAS Stalwart.

The handover of the first ship, NUSHIP Supply, is planned for August 2019 and the second, NUSHIP Stalwart, in May 2020.

During 2018-19 Navantia will continue the build of the replacement replenishment ships and is expected to achieve a number of key milestones including the launch of Supply, keel laying of Stalwart, other construction progress milestones, and undertaking a number of mandated system reviews.

Rear Admiral Tony Dalton, General Manager Ships told APDR

 “The build schedule for the two ships remains on track.  Navy will receive two very capable AORs from Navantia to replace HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius.”

By 2020, as will be explained in this article, there will be two new replenishment ships in service with the RAN and one new enhanced tanker in service across the Ditch with the RNZN.


In March this year a Parliamentary Joint Committee heard representations from Defence on the rationale for replaced the two existing supply ships with two new vessels. The analysis presented to the Committee by Defence stated: 

‘The current ship HMAS Sirius [on the west coast] really can only resupply marine diesel fuel and aviation fuel. It carries very limited foodstuffs; very limited spare parts and it can carry no explosive ordnance. And that is a consequence of the fact that Sirius is a converted merchant tanker; it was never built as a dedicated replenishment ship. But she is designated as an auxiliary oiler rather than these new ships which are auxiliary oiler replenishment.

‘HMAS Success on the east coast was a purpose-built dedicated replenishment ship but she’s ageing. She was the last ship built at Cockatoo Island, Sydney back in the early eighties and she is just reaching the end of her operational life and will be replaced by the new ship. …’

As is now known, in 2016 the Australian Government entered contracts to purchase two new supply ships to replace Success and Sirius, known as Maritime Operational Support Capability (MOSC) vessels. The new MOSC ships are both the same class of Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel and share the same systems. They will both have the same capability of being able to carry fuel, water, stores and explosive ordnances. Unlike Sirius and Success, the new MOSC ships will each have a combat management system. This is a computer system that connects vessels with onshore centres and potentially other craft such as other ships and helicopters. Combat management systems enable the near real-time sharing of data to improve the interoperability of the support fleet and wider Navy.

Again, in Defence’s submissions:

‘…the current ships, HMAS Success and HMAS Supply only have very basic communications systems and rudimentary bridge navigation systems, very similar to a commercial ship. Their ability to actually maintain a situational understanding of the environment and any unfolding operational scenario is quite limited. The [new] ships will have a Saab-designed combat management system, which will allow them to really understand the tactical picture that has also been shared by the warships they are there to support. It helps them to be in the right place, and to do the right thing, at the right time—that’s the essence of it—more than being a fighting system.’

Referring to the need for training capability, Defence explained to the Committee that the new MOSC vessels share a common designer (Navantia) with the existing fleets of air warfare destroyer and amphibious ships, making the extension of the existing Navy Training Systems Centre at Randwick in Sydney the best option. They explained:

‘…there is a high degree of commonality in terms of systems between those ship classes, which allows us to build upon the existing facilities to extend the training capacity rather than building a standalone facility, which would have inefficiencies to it and cost overheads. We’re actually able to reuse some of the facilities that are already in place supporting those other ship classes.’


The two new AORs being built by Navantia are based on the Spanish Navy’s SPS Cantabria auxiliary-oiler replenishment ship, which served in Australian waters with the RAN fleet from February to November 2013 while HMAS Success underwent maintenance. Cantabria performed 63 replenishments, including 10,500 cubic metres of fuel, and trained over 300 RAN personnel in systems they would use on the two LHDs built by Navantia and now in commissioned service. However, Australia did initiate AOR design changes to meet the RAN’s requirements.

The vessels are intended to carry fuel, dry cargo, water, food, ammunition, equipment and spare parts to provide operational support for the deployed naval or combat forces operating far from the port on the high seas for longer periods. Other tasks where the AORs may be required include clearing up environmental pollution at sea and supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

Supply and Stalwart will have a maximum speeds of 20kt. The vessels will be able to conduct underway replenishment to a distance of up to 6,000nm when travelling at a speed of 13kt. The propulsion system of each vessel consists of two four-stroke, in-line MAN 18V 32/40 main engines and four MAN 7L21/31 IMO Tier II marine generating sets. Each engine develops an output power of 9,000kW at speed ranging between 720rpm and 750rpm. The power generating capacity of each generating set is 1,500kW at 1,000rpm

Each vessel will have an overall length of 173.9m, length between perpendiculars of 162m, displacement of approximately 19,500 tonnes, and full-load deadweight of 9,800 tonnes. Their design draught and beams will be 8m and 23m respectively. The vessels will be built with double hull design in compliance with the International Maritime Organisation’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) requirement.

The RAN plans to accommodate up to 122 personnel including crew. The operators are seated in an enclosed integrated bridge located in the forward portion of the ship. The ships have a flight deck at their stern to support the operation of a single helicopter (probably an MRH-90) – though it is large enough to land even heavy lift twin-rotor Chinooks.

Supply and Stalwart will have the ability to hold 1,450m³ of JP-5 jet fuel, 8,200m³ of marine diesel fuel, 140m³ of fresh water and 270t of ammunition, and can supply 470t of provisions. Up to four fuel stations will be fitted on port and starboard sides of the vessel to transfer fuel to other ships. A single station will be provided at the aft to refuel ships with marine diesel fuel. The ships will receive JP-5 fuel and fresh water through two stations each. Additionally, each ship will have four diesel fuel reception stations.

A defence spokesperson told APDR:

“The hull form and appearance of the AORs are very similar to that of Cantabria. Some of the installed equipment and systems have been designed for commonality with other Australian platforms.”

Compared with SPS Cantabria the RAN’s AORs are 3 metres longer overall, with the same beam, draught, and displacement.  They have the same range, sustained speed, ammunition and provisions capacity, but Cantabria can carry 9% more marine fuel, 9% more JP-5 aviation fuel, and 54% more fresh water. Additionally, Cantabria can carry and operate 2-3 helicopters, in contrast to the Australian AORs single helicopter.


A defence spokesperson told APDR:

 “Ship 1, Supply, is under construction on the slipway at Ferrol Shipyard, Spain.  Construction remains on schedule with a planned launch date of November 2018. Systems will be progressively tested from December 2018 with sea trials to commence in June 2019.

“The final Australian fit-out for AOR 1 includes smaller items of specialised equipment that cannot be installed overseas for security reasons. Handover to Navy will occur in Australia on completion of final equipment fit-out.

“First steel for AOR 2 was cut in April 2018, with steel supplied from Australia by BlueScope. Ship blocks are being preassembled in workshops in Fene and Ferrol. Keel laying is planned for November 2018. 

“The planned launch date is June 2019 with systems to be progressively tested from September 2019. Sea trials are scheduled to commence in March 2020.”


NUSHIP Aotearoa is a unique vessel being built by Hyundai in South Korea to replace the now decommissioned tanker HMNZS Endeavour to provide global sustainment to New Zealand and coalition maritime, land and air units.  It will be delivered to the RNZN in January 2020.

Sustainment is primarily provided through resupply of fuel and secondarily through resupply of dry goods, water, spare parts or ammunition. Possible missions include Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, support to United Nations security operations, support to a coalition Naval Task Group, or Antarctic resupply.

Aotearoa will be a world-first naval “Environship”, with Hyundai using the Rolls-Royce Environship concept design under licence. The design incorporates a new wave-piercing hull, which reduces resistance and lowers fuel use, while its combined diesel electric and diesel propulsion plant has lower fuel emissions than older vessels.  According to Rolls Royce:

“The Environship is a complete Rolls Royce drawing-board-to-shipyard design that unites some of the smartest marine technology available. The result gives craft of up to 5,000 tonnes the capacity to slash carbon emissions by 40 per cent compared with conventional vessels.”

Capabilities supporting these missions include the ability to carry 12 twenty-foot shipping containers, high capacity fresh water generation plants, self-defence systems, aviation and marine fuel cargo tanks, dual all-electric replenishment at sea rigs, one organic SH-2G(NZ) Seasprite or NH90 medium utility helicopter, integrated communications and bridge systems, an integrated platform management system and winterisation features such as upper deck heating and ice strengthened hull.

At 173.2 metres length overall, a similar size to the two new Australian AORs, Aotearoa will displace 26,000 tonnes, will have a range of 6,750 nautical miles, and will provide a 9,000 tonne liquid capacity, just slightly less than the new Australian ships. With 64 core crew, there will also be one VIP cabin plus bunks for 11 helicopter flight support personnel, an eight-person mission team, plus 14 trainees and a two-bed ward and treatment room in the Role 1 medical facility.

Former Chief of Navy, Rear Admiral Martin, said last year that Aotearoa offered more than just a replenishment role:

 “Aotearoa will have the ability to deploy anywhere in the world to support maritime operations and enhance our combat force. It has the ability to conduct embarked helicopter operations and will be capable of carrying a significant tonnage of operational supplies. And it will provide an important Antarctic support capability to assist with our Southern Ocean monitoring.”

Because Aotearoa will have extra ice protection, in summer it will be able to follow an icebreaker into McMurdo Sound to resupply the New Zealand and United States bases there.

SOURCEGeoff Slocombe
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