Published 09 November 2023

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A specialist ship procured at pace by DE&S to host specialist autonomous systems that will protect the UK’s critical underwater infrastructure has been delivered to the Royal Navy.

Formerly a specialist offshore support vessels RFA Proteus has now undergone military conversion and will safeguard vital seabed telecommunications cables and oil and gas pipelines that are a target for hostile states.

The vessel, which had her service of dedication last month, will be based at HMNB Devonport and operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with trained Royal Navy personnel operating the state-of-the-art systems onboard.

RFA Proteus was purchased by Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK Ministry of Defence, which employed innovative strategies and ways of working to purchase and deliver the ship ahead of time.

Gareth Morris, Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance team leader at DE&S, said:

“Formally delivering RFA Proteus marks the culmination of a period of intensive and innovative work at DE&S. I am incredibly proud of the team who worked at extraordinary pace to deliver this highly capable ship into service whilst achieving fantastic value for money.”

RFA Proteus, delivered as part of the Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance (MROS) programme, is equipped with a flight deck, 1,000-square metre cargo deck, a crane for lifting and lowering operations and a ‘moon pool’ – a large access point in the bottom of the hull through which robot submersibles can be launched.

Rear Admiral Paul Carroll, Director Innovation and Future Capability at DE&S, said:

“Our delivery of this new capability at pace reflects the importance of protecting our critical national infrastructure and maintain the UK’s operational edge. I am incredibly proud of our team which has worked innovatively to deliver this ship for the armed forces, and at exceptional value to the taxpayer.”

At last month’s service of dedication for RFA Proteus, Commodore David Eagles, head of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, said:

“Bringing a ship into service is a demanding endeavour which relies on a diverse, multi-skilled team, strong leadership, and unflinching determination.”

Minister for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge said:

“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary is already delivering global logistics and operational support to our Royal Navy operations, and bolstering its capabilities will ensure we can continue to do so anywhere in the world.

“Through investing in our autonomous systems, we are building our capabilities, enabling us to better defend our critical national infrastructure and protect our seas.”