Royal Fleet Auxiliary
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service (RFA) is a civilian manned fleet, owned by the Ministry of Defence. Its main task is to supply warships of the Royal Navy at sea with fuel, food, stores and ammunition which they need to remain operational while away from base. It also provides aviation support for the Royal Navy, together with amphibious support and secure sea transport for Army units and their equipment.
The Commodore RFA
The RFA is managed by the Commodore RFA who is directly responsible to Commander in Chief Fleet, as a Fleet Type Commander, for the day to day administration and operation of the RFA Flotilla.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service was constituted in 1905. It began by carrying coal bunkers and other stores, acquiring a tanker fleet as British warships became oil burning during World War I. The RFA saw service in every naval theatre of operations (from the Arctic to the Pacific) in the Second World War, including the Maltese, Russian and other convoys. Since then it has supported the Royal Navy and the Army in Korea, Suez, Cyprus, Beira, Kuwait, Borneo, Belize, Aden and in the Icelandic Wars. During the Falklands Conflict in 1982, the RFA spearheaded logistic support for the Task Force, losing RFA Sir Galahad to heavy air attack at Fitzroy.
Throughout its history RFA officers and men have distinguished themselves, many being decorated for their gallantry and fortitude. More recently, the RFA played a fundamental role in the Gulf War supporting the British task Force, and in the Adriatic supporting the UN Task Force.
The RFA employs over 2000 civilian officers and ratings, and is one of the biggest employers in British Shipping. UK personnel serve under RFA conditions of service which contain clauses that take account of the Service centred around replenishment at sea, and also provide that the crew stay with the ship in the event of its being directed to an area where warlike hazards may arise. Personnel follow the traditional training paths of their Merchant Navy counterparts to obtain professional qualifications, but with a substantial overlay of Navy training to develop the skills needed in an operational environment. Many RFA ships carry naval or military parties for tasks such as the operation and maintenance of helicopters.
RFAs are distinguished by their grey colour and their flag, the blue ensign defaced by an upright gold anchor. There are 16 ships in the RFA fleet; 6 Fleet and Support tankers, 2 Dry Cargo Fleet Replenishment Ships, 2 combined fuel and stores replenishment ship, 4 Landing ship’s Dock, 1 Aviation Training Ship and 1 Forward Repair Ship. RFA Argus was converted to an Aviation Training Ship at Harland and Wolff and entered service in 1989.