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RFA Wave Knight: Come In - Your Time Is Up

RFA Wave Knight
RFA Wave Knight

After a busy twenty months as Arabian Gulf Ready Tanker (AGRT) Wave Knight is now preparing for her final voyage home to Blighty. She has been supporting Coalition and European forces in the Middle East theatre, from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and around the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC) to as far a-field as the Seychelles and Maldives. Her role included providing fuel (pumping over more than 100,000 cubes of fuel whilst underway) and afloat support to ships of sixteen countries from across the globe.

Following months of a hectic Replenishment At Sea (RAS) program over the summer of 2009, Wave Knight found herself in Bahrain with a change of crew and a slight change in tasking. Embarking a party of Royal Marines and their gear for transfer to HMS Cumberland was just the beginning of a busy period in Bahrain.  This included disembarking the AGRT stores for RFA Bayleaf to pick up on her taking the reins in November, and loading stores and equipment for 814’s Merlin ‘Sabretooth’ which was to join us upon sailing. This left just enough time for some well deserved R&R – well, an afternoon at least!

After what seemed like an eternity of painstakingly chipping and painting each lashing point on the flight deck and undertaking sometimes seemingly extreme lengths to secure any possible FOD hazard (remember – either pick it up or lash it down!) Wave Knight was ready to fly on the remainder of 814 squadron and her Merlin.

The Royal Marines wasted no time in taking the opportunity to practice their boarding techniques on a low freeboard tanker. After several days of training, HMS Cumberland joined the show and, with their assistance and that of her own Lynx (Judge – Dealing out Justice!) proceeded to put on an impressive display of naval force projection in a full-on counter-piracy boarding exercise – leaping up ladders from boats, with helicopters airborne and much to the amusement of many, taking no chances with ‘securing and detaining’ a certain Cadet!

Due to the area in which she would be operating, Wave Knight’s crew also undertook thorough gunnery training, and not just on stationary targets. The crash boat was used in both day and night serials to simulate an attacking skiff whilst defence tactics such as ship manoeuvring, flashing lights, firing flares, and VHF procedures were practised and refined with feedback on their effectiveness being reported back by Coxswain Andy Fordy:

“We found it extremely difficult to see the ship’s profile when all the lights were extinguished” he said, describing the boat crew’s night ‘attack’. “And when the ship started to turn at high speed you would start on one side and finish on the other, which meant if you had marked a place on the ship where you were going to board, it would go right out the window. When the aldis lamp hit us we were instantly blinded and disorientated; the only option was to turn away”.

Now fully worked up and having completed her rigorous training schedule, the combined forces on Wave Knight proceeded to continue her busy RAS schedule whilst providing support for other forces in the area making good use of ‘Sabretooth’ to deter any piracy activity in the area.

After a productive month of hard graft (and a few very late nights for everyone on board) it was time to say farewell to Sabretooth and her supporting cast and return them to land in Salalah. This was the last stop for Wave Knight in her AGRT role leaving only a few RAS’s en-route to the Red Sea and a pump-over with RFA Bayleaf to prepare for. Wave Knight has had an incredibly successful and productive 20 months on station as attested to by the combined forces of all nationalities and commands that she leaves behind. So while she will miss her RAS custom, good coalition humour, life as the AGRT is just beginning for RFA Bayleaf…

By Cadet(X) Joe Davies