Royal Navy loses its only repair vessel to ‘sensible & cost-effective’ budget cuts

© UK Royal Navy
The Royal Navy’s only vessel capable of repairing British warships on the sea is being offered up for sale by the UK’s Ministry of Defense due to cost-cutting measures, despite a recent retrofitting that extended the life of the RFA Diligence to 2020.

“We can confirm that the out-of-service date for RFA Diligence has been brought forward to the end of 2016,” a naval spokesperson told The Telegraph.

The RFA Diligence was first deployed in 1982 to serve in the Falkland War with Argentina. The ship is the only “Forward Repair Ship” in the UK’s fleet and it was deployed in both Gulf conflicts.

Its sophisticated design allows the RFA Diligence to conduct multitasking at sea, as it is fitted with a wide range of workshops equipped to carry out repairs on hulls and machinery. Its unique design also allows the vessel to generate electricity, water, fuel, air, steam, and supplies for other ships and submarines.

In order to find prospective buyers, the British Ministry of Defense has recently placed an ad in which the multipurpose vessel is listed as “MOD surplus equipment for sale.”

“RFA Diligence is in good overall condition and moored at Bidston Dock, Birkenhead,” the ad reads. “Viewings will take place, Mid/late October 2016.”

Interested parties are urged to provide a summary of “Further Use proposal” outlining how the 111-meter (367-foot) vessel will be used at its new location.

In 2013, the Diligence underwent a major refit to extend the ship’s service life to 2020. The work included modifications that enabled the ship to carry out repairs on Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. However, the vessel has been moored since last year due to manpower shortages, leaving the UK’s Royal Navy without a deployable operational maintenance and repair (OMAR) platform at sea.

Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, told the Telegraph that the decision to forgo the only OMAR at sea was an “error.”

“I had 22 ships with me, and she was invaluable. That sort of floating maintenance capacity is very, very useful. It’s yet again a diminution of our Naval capability, particularly of our area capability. With the carriers coming along, that’s really what the Navy needs,” he said.

However, a naval spokesman called the Diligence an “aged singleton ship with increasing obsolescence issues” and told IHS Jane’s that the decision to retire the Diligence early was the “the most sensible and cost-effective option.” 

Amid unprecedented cost-saving measures being taken by the MoD, the British Navy has announced that it will soon be deploying four more vessels.

“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary continues to have a strong future and looks forward to welcoming four new tankers into the flotilla. The RFA remains integral to the Royal Navy’s deployments and global presence and an important element of the wider Naval service,” the spokesperson said.

Britain’s Royal Navy is facing massive personnel shortages due to budget cuts and recruiting shortfalls that may soon leave the service unable to man its ships. Defense cuts were introduced in 2010 under the Strategic Defence and Security Review as part of the government’s plan to reduce regular units by 2020. According to the latest UK armed forces statistics report, there is a deficit of 1.6 percent in the Royal Navy/Royal Marines.