Royal Navy: Maintaining the fleet

The UK’s Royal Navy is patiently awaiting the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth-class (QEC) carrier at its new home in Portsmouth in the coming weeks.

On Monday I visited Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth to find out more about some of the other class of ships based there, the Type 23 and 45, but I also got a glimpse at some of the impressive infrastructure at the base which will support QEC.

Navigation aids have been installed to guide the 280m vessel into the port. There is also an onshore power generation source which will keep the vessel running while it is docked and an airport-style arrivals hall to support the 500-plus contractors which will be coming and going from the carrier each day when in Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, on 1 August, it was announced that £3 million was to be saved on the QEC as part of a new deal to supply the RN with more than 10,000 different types of consumable items – covering everything from fittings and fixtures to pistons and pumps.

It ought to be noted that maintenance of such a vessel is no mean feat, Babcock currently has a contract to do so.

While I was at HMNB I spoke with BAE Systems about some of its experiences maintaining the RN’s Type 45 and Type 23 fleets.

The Type 45 has notably been making headlines with various issues with its propulsion systems and at one time all six were seen to be alongside or in dock at one time.

BAE Systems has said that one of the lessons learned from its support of the Type 45 programme is the need to have spares readily available.

Additionally, there was supposed to be one serious mid-life upgrade but a continuous engineering philosophy was adopted with a lot of the maintenance to be done during fleet time under the original BAE Systems contract. That was the concept as it evolved over a decade ago, according to BAE Systems.

The reality has been that the ships staff have been required to do much more than operate and maintain only – something the enterprise should have thought about beforehand, BAE admitted.

A single mid-life upgrade just did not work and capability insertion has been a continuous feature for the Type 45s.

An ongoing effort, Project Napier, is also being carried out to enhance the vessel’s power and propulsion systems

The Type 45s are now moving to a common support model which will see DE&S take over more of the maintenance, supported by BAE Systems. Design, maintenance and equipment management will return to DE&S and the QEC will follow this model from the outset.

The company is already working with teams to implement this support model on the future Type 26s and it has been implemented on the Type 23s.

With new vessels coming into service it is imperative that the RN looks closely at both the successes and failings of previous projects.

More on this, lessons learned and future plans for maintenance can be found on the Shephard Media website.

 

 

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