Monday, July 11, 2011

The Royal Logistics Corps and Port logistics

Building on my article on the general strategy direction for the UK, available here, i'll now progress towards drawing a matching Force Structure, and to do so i will take a look at the less known parts of the Army, starting from the RLC, its regiments, its numbers and its equipment, as it is essential to take into consideration all components of the Army and all "enablers" for deployments abroad before talking about cuts, changes and expansions.

The Royal Logistic Corps

The Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) provides logistic support functions to the British Army. It is the youngest and largest Corps in the Army, comprising around 17% of its strength and the highest number of regiments. The Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) was formed on Monday 5 April 1993, by the union of the following British Army corps:

The RLC comprises both Regular and Territorial Army units. The RLC has very broad responsibilities throughout the Army that includes the movement of personnel throughout the world, the Army's air dispatch service, maritime and rail transport, operational re-supply, and explosive ordnance disposal which includes the hazardous bomb disposal duties in Iraq, Afghanistan and the mainland UK, the operation of numerous very large vehicle and stores depots both in the UK and overseas, the training and provision of cooks to virtually all units in the Army, the provision of pioneer labour and the Army's postal and courier service.
The corps is nicknamed "The Loggies", or the "Really Large Corps", another term of endearment is "REME luggage carriers".

The RLC cap badge is an amalgamation cap badges of the forming corps:

The inscription on the garter band "Honi soit qui mal y pense" can be translated as "Evil to him who evil thinks". It is often seen on the insignia of Regiments and Corps with 'Royal' in their title.

RLC Badge
RLC's Tactical Recognition Flash

There are 17 Regular RLC Regiments (plus two training regiments) and 16 TA Regiments including the Catering Support Regiment RLC (V).

The principal field elements of the RLC are the Close Support and the General Support Regiments whose primary role is to supply the fighting units with ammunition, fuel and rations (Combat Supplies).

A division has an integral Logistic Support Regiment which is responsible for manning and operating the supply chain to Brigades and Divisional units. Support Regiments have large sections holding stores both on wheels and on the ground. A Division will typically require about 1,000 tons of Combat Supplies a day but demand can easily exceed that amount in high intensity operations.

Divisional Support Regiment

A Divisional Level regiment has one Brigade-support regiment for each Brigade of the division/formation being supported.

Depending on the composition of the formation being supported, some of these regiments may have an Artillery Support Squadron and/or a Postal and Courier Squadron. In addition for some operations a Tank Transporter Squadron may be required. The Artillery Support Squadron delivers artillery ammunition using DROPS vehicles. Tank Transporter Squadrons provide tank transporters that move armoured vehicles more rapidly and economically than moving them on their own tracks.

The likely structure of a Divisional RLC Regiment attached to 1(UK) Division, with two or three Brigade Support Squadrons depending on the number of deployed brigades. 

RLC Regiments have large sections holding stores, both on wheels and on the ground. A division on operations will typically require about 1,000 tons of Combat Supplies a day, but demand can easily exceed that amount in high intensity operations.

Battlegroups in contact with the enemy can carry a limited amount of C Sups, particularly ammunition. As ammunition is expended, it is replenished from RLC vehicles located immediately to the rear of battlegroups in an Immediate Replenishment Group (IRG) area.
As the IRG vehicles are emptied they return to the RLC Squadron location and fully loaded replacements are automatically sent forward so that a constant supply is always available to the battlegroup. Ammunition and spares are generally carried on NATO standard pallets, which are loaded to meet the anticipated requirements of particular units and if required, bulk consignments are broken down at the IRG location.

Artillery ammunition constitutes by far the largest single element in the logistic pipeline and the bulk of it is delivered directly to the Royal Artillery guns, rocket and missile launchers, by RLC Demountable Rack Off-Loading and Pick up System (DROPS) vehicles from the General Support Regiment, which are capable of meeting the requirement of even the highest intensity consumption.

A Brigade Support RLC formation.

Other tasks
Apart from the RLC units that provide direct support to the operational formations, the RLC is either directly responsible for, or co-located with other agencies at the following:

·         Ordnance Depots
·         Ammunition Depots
·         Army School of Ammunition
·         Army Petroleum Centre
·         Defence School of Mechanical Transport
·         Army School of Catering (Aldershot)
·         Royal Logistic Corps Training Centre (Deepcut)

The Central Army Post Office (APO) is located in London and there are individual British Forces Post Offices (BFPO) wherever British Forces are stationed, plus Postal and Courier Squadrons with 29 Regiment (UK) and 24 Regiment (Germany).

101 and 102 Logistic Brigades
These brigades exists mainly to support 1st UK Division (101) and 3rd UK Division (102) of the Army in deployment and fighting, but are of course available to support any kind of deployed force. The role of the Logistic Brigades in war is to receive both troops and equipment into the theatre of operations, organise their forward movement to the battle area along a line of communication of up to 750 km, then logistically sustain the fighting formations and finally redeploy the force back to the UK base or on to subsequent operations. The Brigades would also be responsible for the setting up of field hospitals and evacuation of casualties from theatre. This description understates the role, which involves complex logistic processes and requires a detailed plan for ammunition fuel, transport, prisoners of war, humanitarian assistance, rear area security and medical operations.
HQ 101 and HQ 102 Logistic Brigades are both subordinated to HQ Theatre Troops in Netheravon, from which they receive direction for the operations and training of the formation. 

Now that the SDSR 2010 has reduced to one the number of deployable Divisions, it is possible that one of the two Logistic Brigades will be downsized/closed/amalgamated into the other, but we’ll have to wait and see.

101 Logistic Brigade

  • 101 Logistic Brigade Headquarters & Signal Troop (661) in Aldershot
  • 9 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Hullavington, near Chippenham.
  • 10 Queen's Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment in Aldershot
  • 27 Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Aldershot
  • 254 Medical Regiment in Cambridge
  • 104 Force Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Bordon/Tidworth
  • 4 Regiment Royal Military Police in Aldershot
  • 4 General Support Medical Regiment Royal Army Medical Corps

102 Logistic Brigade

  • 102 Logistic Brigade Headquarters and Signal Troop (662) Royal Signals in Gütersloh, Germany
  • 6 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Gütersloh and Dulmen, Germany
  • 7 Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Bielefeld and Fallingbostel, Germany.
  • 8 Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps in Münster and Gütersloh, Germany
  • 101 Force Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Wrexham and Prestatyn, Wales, Fallingbostel and Bielefeld, Germany and Coventry and Manchester, England.
  • 5th Regiment Royal Military Police in Gütersloh, Germany
  • 5 General Support Medical Regiment Royal Army Medical Corps in Preston, England

1° Military Dog Regiment

  • 101 Military Working Dog Support Unit
  • 102 Military Working Dog Support Unit
  • 103 Military Working Dog Support Unit
  • 104 Military Working Dog Support Unit
  • 105 Military Working Dog Support Unit

These five units used to be part of 101 and 102 Logistic Brigades, but in 2010 the Military Working Dog Regiment was created, using all five units as squadrons to respect the “Rule of the Five” and be able to deploy a whole squadron at all time. The 1° Military Working Dog Regiment now falls under the command of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps. I report it here since it is a recent change in the force organization, and one of interest.

104 Logistic Brigade
104 Brigade RLC is the key to the Army’s ability to deploy abroad, and thus is certainly one of the most important – and unfortunately less known and celebrated – units of the whole service. The Brigade wholly commands Land Force's logistic enabling capabilities: Postal and Courier Services, Movement Control, Air Despatch, Port and Maritime (which includes a Vehicle Specialist and Railway capability) and many Pioneer effects. 
The force elements that provide these capabilities are Joint enablers as they enable and support all deployed components.

With these capabilities, the Brigade activates strategic and operational Lines of Communications; mounting and deploying forces that provide specialist logistic support effects in support of joint expeditionary and enduring operations.

The Brigade Headquarters provides operational command to 5 Regular and 4 Territorial Army (TA) units; of which 8 are Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) and 1 is Royal Army Veterinary Corps (RAVC). 
The TA units are grouped under 2 Logistic Support Group RLC(V), which is commanded by an RLC TA Colonel.  Training and force preparation is collaborative between the Regular and TA; to deliver maximum effect.

Over and above deploying forces to enable and support world-wide operations and overseas training exercises, the Brigade operates both the Sea Mounting Centre (SMC) at the military port of Marchwood and the Joint Air Mounting Centre (JAMC) at South Cerney; ensuring that the UK end of deployments are fully enabled and effective at all times.
The headquarters itself is deployable in the Force Support command and control role.

104 Logistic Support Brigade

  • 11 RLC EOD Regiment
  • 17 Port & Maritime Regiment, Marchwood 
  • 23 Pioneer Regiment
  • 24 Postal, Courier & Movements Regiment
  • 29 Regiment, Air Despatch and Movement
  • 162 Movement Control Regiment (Volunteers)
  • 166 Support Regiment (Volunteers)
  • 168 Pioneer Regiment (Volunteers)

Regiments of the Royal Logistics Corps  

A Logistic Support Regiment is structured around an HQ Squadron, 2 Close Support Squadrons, 1 General Support Squadron and a REME Light Aid Detachment. The HQ Squadron includes the Quartermasters (QM) department, the Catering departments and the Communications department. The Squadron is solely responsible to provide catering, communications and within the QM's role all material support to the Regiment and the Squadrons to allow them to work effectively.

A Supply Regiment is structured into five Squadrons and a REME Light Aid Detachment (LAD). Headquarters Squadron, one Combat Supplies Squadron, one Material Squadron, one Consignment Tracking Squadron and one Logistic Brigade Support Squadron.

A Transport Regiment has a Tank Transporter Squadron, a General Transport Squadron, a Fuel Squadron, and HQ Squadron.

1 Logistic Support Regiment – 1 UK Division’s support regiment. Consists of 2 Close Support Squadron, 12 Close Support Squadron, 23 General Support Squadron, 74 (HQ) Squadron and LAD.
2 Logistic Support Regiment – 22 and 25 Close Support Squadron, 76 General Support Squadron and 27 HQ Squadron. Main role is direct support of 7 Armored Brigade.
3 Logistic Support Regiment – Supports 1st Mechanized Brigade, 3rd UK Division.
4 Logistic Support Regiment – Supports the 12 Mechanized Brigade, 3rd UK Division.
5 (T) Logistic Support Regiment – Training. The Regiment has two training squadrons, and delivers training to TA personnel thanks to a force of Regular military and civilians instructors.
6 Supply Regiment – Part of 102 Logistic Brigade. TA unit is 159(V).
7 Transport Regiment – TA unit is the Scottish Transport Regiment. It is an Heavy Duty transport squadron, with 617 Headquarters Squadron, 9 Fuel support Squadron, 16 Tank Transporter Squadron, and 17 Transport Squadron, along with a REME Light Aid Detachment. The Heavy Equipment Transporter trucks are their main distinguishing characteristic.
8 Transport Regiment – Another Heavy Lifter unit, this Regiment is equipped with HETs to move 28 tanks at once, plus up to 20 smaller armored vehicles, and up to 1440 NATO Pallets on DROPS/ELPS transports. It carries and delivers some 616.000 liters of fuel at a time with its tankers.
9 Supply Regiment – 800 strong, this regiment is the centre of Logistic Specialist (Supply) excellence within 101 Logistic Brigade and soldier training is continual and progressive. Its role is to oversee the supply chain on operations.  This is achieved by controlling stocks from the UK all the way forward to the fighting Brigades.
10 Queen’s Own Gurkha’s Logistic Regiment
11 EOD Regiment – 500 strong, it is the center of excellence for the delicate EOD work.
12 Logistic Support Regiment – supports the 4th Mechanized Brigade. TA unit is 150(V) Regiment.
13 Air Assault Support Regiment – 16 Air Assault Brigade’s own Logistic formation. A part of this regiment – 15 Air Assault Close Support Squadron - is parachute capable and kept at high readiness along with the fighting element of the brigade.
Commando Logistic Regiment – Army personnel is part of the Commando Logistic Regiment’s 620 strength. The regiment includes HQ Squadron, Equipment Support Squadron, Logistic Support Squadron, Medical Squadron, Landing Force Support Party. From this regiment is taken a Logistic Task Group sized to support the High Readiness Small Scale battlegroup mandated by the SDSR. A Logistic Task Group is currently part of exercise Cougar 2011’s Royal Marines battlegroup. The 383(V) Commando Petroleum Troop provide reserve personnel for brigade fuel resupply tasks.     
17 Port and Maritime Regiment - based at Marchwood, near Southampton, the unit provides the UK Armed Forces' only specialist port, maritime and rail capability and deploys regularly in support of operations and exercises around the world. The Regiment has three Port Squadrons, a Port Enabling Squadron, a REME Workshop and a Headquarters Squadron. It operates a wide variety of vehicles, plant, railway equipment and vessels, including Ramp Craft Logistic (RCL) (6, two based in Cyprus), Workboats, Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP MK4 and MK5), MEXEFLOTE rafts and Rigid Raider Craft. It also has the only military Dive Team in the RLC; they are responsible for a range of tasks including port clearance and vessel maintenance. Due to its unique nature, the Regiment also works closely with the Royal Marines of the Amphibious Task Group (ATG) and often deploys in support of their exercises and deployments around the world. Supported by 165(V) TA Regiment.
23 Pioneer Regiment - The Regiment comprises of four Task Squadrons (187 (Tancred), 206, 518 and 522) and one Headquarters Squadron (144) totaling around 600 personnel. The Pioneers are supported by RLC Drivers, Chefs and a REME Workshop. The Regiment is the only regular Pioneer force and it provides a plethora of capabilities with its multi-skilled soldiers. Key roles include Operational Hygiene, Defence Skills (akin to Infantry tasks), Artisan (Bricklaying/Concreting and Carpentry), Logistic Enabling, Assault Pioneer and Mortuary Affairs.
24 Postal, Courier & Movements Regiment – Part of 104 Logistic Brigade, the Regiment is based in Bielefeld, Germany, with one Sqn in Gutersloh and detachments throughout Germany. Its mission is to provide Movement Control and Postal & Courier capability at Readiness for operations and theatre support to United Kingdom Support Command in order to contribute to UK Defence and Land Command military capability.
24 Regt is commanded from RHQ and 49 HQ Sqn whilst 30 PC Sqn provide Postal Courier support to British Forces Germany through the British Forces Post Offices. The United Kingdom Movements Liaison Staff (UKMLS) provide Movements Control liaison and authority for 1(UK) Armd Div, UKSC and all British Forces within NWE. 40 MC Sqn and 69 MC Sqn provide Movements Control support to deployed Operations via the Force Movements Control Centres and Air Transport Liaison Offices by coordinating the Tactical Air Transport and Surface Movement of personnel and equipment. Similarly 98 PC Sqn and 99 PC Sqn provide deployed PCS support to Operations through the field BFPOs to ensure the mail gets to and from the troops on the ground. The Regiment has been involved in nearly all major deployments of British Forces overseas, including frequent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
25 (Training) Regiment - The Regt is established for 140 military permanent staff (not including RLC Band and MPGS) and 71 civilian staff. The average Standing Student Population at Phase 2 is 250 with a further 200 at Phase 3. The all up Regt strength is, therefore, typically in the region of 700. The regiment delivers training courses for the various roles within RLC.
27 Transport Regiment – Part of 101 Logistic Brigade. It is an Heavy Duty transport regiment, with Tank transports, fuel squadron and transport squadron.
29 Transport and Movement Regiment – Includes the Air Despatch and Movement Control squadrons.

Territorial Army Regiments:

·         Scottish Transport Regiment
·         Welsh Transport Regiment
·         150 Transport Regiment
·         151 Transport Regiment
·         152 Transport Regiment
·         155 Transport Regiment
·         156 Transport Regiment
·         158 Transport Regiment
·         159 Supply Regiment
·         168 Pioneer Regiment
·         383 Commando Petroleum Troop
·         395 Air Despatch Troop
·         88 Postal and Courier Regiment
·         160 Transport Regiment
·         162 Movement Control Regiment
·         165 Port and Maritime Regiment
·         166 Supply Regiment
·         Catering Support Regiment

Tri-Service Support Vehicle fleet – The tools of the job

It was announced in October 2004 that the UK Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) had selected the MAN ERF UK Ltd proposal for the UK armed forces' Support Vehicle requirement; a contract award followed in March 2005. MAN acquired UK truck-maker ERF from Western Star of Canada (now owned by Daimler) during 2000. The Support Vehicle contract is expected to be worth GBP1.3 billion, and at award it covered 5,165 vehicles (of which 4851 are cargo trucks, 478 of which self-loading ones with their own crane, and 314 were recovery platforms) and 69 recovery trailers, with first vehicles entering service in June 2007. Production is expected to continue to 2013 and the contract includes a major support package. The contract also included 1,089 applique protection kits.
The number of recovery trucks was later cut down to 288.

A MAN Wrecker recovery vehicle in Afghanistan Theatre Standard Entry protection level.
MAN disclosed at DVD 2006 that after considering a number of options including the possible refurbishment of current DAF 4-tonne trucks, the UK MoD had exercised its maximum possible option under the SV contract, ordering an additional 2,077 vehicles, for a total of 7242.

The SV contract calls for two model ranges to be delivered to the MoD: SX Improved Medium Mobility (IMM) and HX Medium Mobility (MM), with an over 90 per cent quantity bias towards HX models. The two (6 × 6) improved medium mobility vehicles required, cargo and tanker, are based on the SX44 high-mobility chassis; the (8 × 8) recovery vehicle is based on the SX45 high-mobility chassis. The HX is an High Mobility truck, while the SX family is an Extreme Mobility vehicle for special purposes, despite the MOD renaming them Medium and Improved Medium Mobility vehicles.

Unit Support Tanker
The British Army introduced:

4x4 6 Tonne (Medium Mobility)  - Replaces the 4 tonne
6x6 9 Tonne (Medium Mobility & Improved Medium Mobility) – replaces the 8 tonne
8x8 15 Tonne (Medium Mobility) – replaces the DROPS and 14 tons trucks
Unit Support Tanker (Medium Mobility & Improved Medium Mobility [around 80]) (311 total) – 25 tons weight loaded, 7000 liters of fuel capacity. 6 x 6 vehicle platform, replaces the
Unit Bulk Refuelling Equipment (UBRE)
Recovery Vehicle (314 ordered, then reduced to 288) – 32 tons full weight
Recovery trailers  (69)

The MoD will also receive an additional 107 HX60 4x4 6-tonne cargo trucks. These are being supplied by MAN under contract with BAE Systems as carrier vehicles for the Falcon Area Communications Systems, as the original platform choice (Supacat) proved unable to accommodate evolving requirements that included a cab armouring solution.

In 2008, as a UOR for Afghanistan, the MOD contracted the conversion of of 90 standard Support Vehicle 8x8 15-tonne cargo trucks (HX55 chassis) into load-handling system (LHS) equipped trucks. These trucks, up-armoured as part of Project Fortress, are known as Enhanced Palletised Load System (EPLS) and were to supplement/replace current Leyland and Foden DROPS vehicles on deployed operations, these unable to accept suitable levels of add-on crew protection.
Later on, the MoD has bought (at least, it is hard to keep track of all changes into this kind of contracts!) an additional 87 (56 + 31) EPLS trucks outside of the Support Vehicle contract, the 31 vehicles being a training fleet.

MAN ELPS in Afghanistan
The number of MAN trucks ordered, in total, is of over 7440, of which 6928 are the actual cargo trucks (90 have been converted into ELPS, 478 are equipped with crane for self-loading), 288 Wreckers recovery vehicles, 69 trailers, 107 Falcon communications transporters and 87 ELPS.

Think Defence provides the following interesting list:  

  • 5213, Cargo Vehicle Light CV(L) - Medium Mobility – 6 tonne (4×4)
  • 376, Cargo Vehicle Medium CV(M) – Medium Mobility – 9 tonne (6×6)
  • 105, Cargo Vehicle Medium CV(M) – Improved Medium Mobility – 9 tonne (6×6)
  • 923, Cargo Vehicle Heavy CV(H) – Medium Mobility – 15 tonne (8×8) [of these, 87 have been then converted in ELPS]
  • 230, Unit Support Tanker (UST)  – Medium Mobility – 9 tonne (6×6)
  • 81, Unit Support Tanker (UST)  – Improved Medium Mobility – 9 tonne (6×6)
  • 288, Recovery Vehicle (RV) – Improved Medium Mobility (8×8)
  • 69, Recovery Trailers
  • 87 ELPS – Medium Mobility – 15 tonne (8×8)
  • 107 FALCON prime movers - Medium Mobility – 6 tonne (4×4)

MAN Chassis variants
There are 3 HX variants, the 2 axle HX60 which replaces the 4 tonner, and offers a load capacity of 6 tons; the 3 axle HX58 which replaces the 8 tonners and has a load capacity of 9 tons, and finally, the HX77 which replaces the 14 tonner with a new platform capable of 15 tons payload. There are 3 HX variants, the 2 axle SX60 which replaces the 4 tonner, the 3 axle HX58 which replaces the 8 tonners and finally, the HX77 which replaces the 14 tonner. 

HX Chassis

SX chassis
Measuring 7.44 metres in length, the HX60 is extremely mobile in all types of terrain. Capable of attaining a top speed of more than 90 km/h, it features 60% gradeability and a step climbing capability of half a metre. Furthermore, it can cross 1.20-wide ditches and has a 0.75 metre fording capability, which can be increased to 1.20 metres in accordance with customer requirements. While classed as "Medium Mobility", this compares actually quite favorably to even the mobility of armoured vehicles such as Warrior, and gives excellent reach to the cargo fleet. 

Its total authorized weight is 18 tons, with a military payload of six tons. As common with this kind of vehicles, they are identified by the military by their cargo capacity.

Measuring 8.68 metres in length, the HX58 attains top speeds in excess of 90 km/h. Its superb off-road manoeuvrability corresponds to the HX 60. The vehicle’s maximum permissible weight is 27.5 tons, with a military payload of nine tons. This makes the HX 58 a universal, highly mobile transport vehicle. Like all RMMV vehicles, the HX 58 is also available with a modular armour cabin (MAC) or integrated armour cabin (IAC) for maximum Class 3 ballistic protection and Class 3b anti-mine protection in accordance with NATO STANAG 4569.

The HX77 vehicle is10.27 metres long and has a maximum authorized weight of 40 tons, with a military payload of 15 tons. Thanks to its container handling unit (CHU) and/or hook lift system, the HX 77 is the perfect armoured transport vehicle for carrying ISO 20 ft. containers, which today form the backbone of military and civilian logistics. In terms of mobility, it exceeds all other vehicle classes, and is capable of crossing trenches up to 2.50 metres in width.

The SX comes in two variants, the 4 axle SX45 used for the Recovery Variant and 3 axle SX44 Unit Support Tanker and Cargo. The SX44 is the base chassis of the “9 Tonne Improved Medium Mobility” and the base of the Unit Support Tanker Improved Medium Mobility. 

The program is procuring a fleet of vehicles consisting of 42 variants but effectively based around the Light, Medium and Heavy Cargo Vehicles (6, 9 and 15 ton respectively), the 7,000 litre Unit Support Tanker, the Recovery Vehicle and the Recovery trailer. These vehicles will replace the in-service 4, 8 and 14 ton cargo vehicles and the 3 in-service recovery vehicle types.

The Support Heavy trucks (15 tons payload) come fitted with ELPS system, or with multi-harness, container-capable flatbed and part of the 15 tonnes have their own crane for self-loading. The harness points on the cargo bed are arranged so that all kinds of loads and pallets can be loaded and secured.  

At least 478 of the cargo trucks are fitted with cranes for self-loading.

The vehicles come “Fitted for, but not with” armor kit, and this is added prior to entry in war zone. 
In 2007, as a UOR named project Fortress, the first 280 trucks bound for Iraq with the 7th Armored Brigade were kitted with extensive protection. The MAN Support vehicle's forward control cabs are fitted with an applique armour package that provides Nato Stanag 4569 Level 2 ballistic and Level 1 + blast protection. The Modular Armoured Cabin kit developed for HX and SX series vehicles weighs approximately 1300 kg and can be fitted in 12 hours by just two men.
The front and sides of the cab are also fitted with bar armour to disrupt rocket-propelled grenades before they impact the main armour. To counter improvised explosive devices the vehicles are fitted with an unspecified electronic countermeasures and IED Jamming package. For self-defence a protected weapon station armed with a 7.62-mm General Purpose Machine Gun is mounted on the roof hatch. The Fortress package also includes run flat tires, infrared headlights, rear position lights and night vision devices for the drivers. 370 more vehicles have also been uparmoured subsequently. 

MAN has also made available a better protected Integrated Armor Cabin (IAC) with STANAG 4569 protection protection against assault rifle fire and shrapnel (level 3) and against AT blast mines (level 3b). To permit the crew to react appropriately to attacks the armoured cab can optionally be equipped with a weapons station for a heavy machine gun or automatic grenade launcher. The weapons station can be operated from inside the cab, keeping the crew out
of harms way. This option is offered by MAN in cooperation with leading manufacturers. 

The SV trucks have the option to use dedicated rollover protected seating from Roush. Roush’s ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System), presented in 2008 at DVD, is a multi-seat frame designed to offer an enhanced seating capability for troops to travel safely in the rear of UK Forces’ fleet of MAN 4x4 and 6x6 support vehicles. 

The Roush ROPS is built as a two-section modular assembly in a 6-seater and an 8-seater configuration – to provide optimum flexibility of use between support vehicles in current and future service. Each frame module accommodates a series of two-part vacuum formed ABS seats, plus a 4-point quick release harness. Clearances have been designed in to accommodate a soldier in body armour, a webbing kit and battle helmet. Stowage is provided for a standard Bergan and a clamping arrangement is fitted to secure a weapon.

The Load Beds for the trucks are produced by Marshall Vehicle Engineering (MVE), Cambridge. This same company delivered the Load Beds of the previous generation of utility vehicles, and also produces the cargo bed used by the Wolfhound vehicle.

SX45 Recovery truck
Powered by a 440Hp, 10.5litre, 6 cylinder turbo diesel engines, the new recovery vehicles are powerful replacement for the existing Foden fleet. They are fully compliant with the latest emissions legislation (Euro 4) without the need for fuel additives, and can also operate, without preparation, on aviation fuel. The vehicle has an 8x8 wheel drive and self levelling suspension to negotiate rough terrain. The vehicle can be fitted with appliqué armor packs to protect the crew from ballistic and blast threats, as has been done in Afghanistan. It also comes ready for a BOWMAN radio installation. The recovery mission equipment includes cranes and winches, designed by ECA based in Gerrads cross, London. It is manufactured and bolted to the main chassis by Atlas Terex, based in Motherwell, Scotland. The new recovery vehicle is capable of lifting 15 tons at a distance of 2.3 meters, and can tow a 44 ton vehicle.

MAN Prime Mover
The concept has been developed as a private venture which has been supported by MAN through the provision and maintenance of the chassis.  It is based on the six tonne MAN HX60 Support Vehicle, which is entering service with British Forces, though the capability could equally apply to larger vehicles such as the nine and 15 tonne variants as well as other military medium or improved medium mobility vehicles.  In the GTV configuration, it carries a detachment of eight together with two 1.5 tonne NATO ammunition pallets giving either 34 ready to fire 155mm rounds or 72 105mm rounds and is fitted with a crane for loading/unloading.  The load bed over hang has been configured to accommodate the human factor requirements for a prime mover allowing rapid and easy hitching of guns, radars or similar.

The Prive Mover shown during trials, moving a M777 howitzer with ammo and full under-armor crew.

The vehicle cab, with space for up to three, is air conditioned, fitted for military radios and can be fitted with appliqué armour; vehicles with integral armoured cabs can also be configured as EPMs. The crew module is designed to offer the same level of blast, ballistic, environmental, CBRN protection and safety characteristics as the driver and commander enjoy.  The unit is EMC compatible with the host chassis.  It can also be EMI sealed if required for C4ISTAR applications.

I don’t know if the Prime Mover has been acquired by the British Army as part of the “42 variants” (probably no) of kit that equip the support trucks, but it sure is an interesting platform. The prototype, trialed on Salisbury Plain, towed a M777 howitzer while carrying its ammo and detachment.

As a final note, it is expected that the Rapier replacement, the FLAADS(L) [Future Local Area Air Defence (Land)] missile system, launching the Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM) will be mounted on the HX60 4x4 vehicle. The FLAADS(L) launcher is expected to be presented this September at the DSEI show.

An excellent document about the HX and SX truck family here.

Close Support Tanker
Oshkosh Truck Corporation announced in January 2003 that it had been selected as the preferred bidder by the UK's then Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) to supply the MoD's Wheeled Tanker fleet. The contract was valued at approximately GBP160 million (USD250 million) for initial vehicle acquisition and support over 15 years. The fleet includes 57 x 18.000 liters Close Support Tankers for water, 82 x 15.000 liters Tactical Aircraft Refuelers and 218 x 20.000 liters Close Support Tankers for fuel. 

The Wheeled Tanker is a highly mobile vehicle that is deployed in the Logistic Support Regiments and Transport Regiments and forms the backbone of the British Army’s bulk fuel and water transportation. It has deployed on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and can be fitted with enhanced blast-proof armour for driver and crew protection.

15 m (L) x 3.5 m (H) x 2.5 m (W)
11.9 litre Caterpillar C-12 producing 445 bhp
Load capacity
20,000 litres of fuel or 18,000 litres of water
Tractor unit can be fitted with a 7.62 mm machine gun

Heavy Equipment Transporter
Tank Transporters or Heavy Equipment Transporters are capable of pulling an immobilised tank on board, and can carry 70-tonne Main Battle Tanks.
The HET can move its load rapidly and cost-effectively, saving wear and tear on the tracks and the roads.

The HET is the most powerful tank transporter in production. It consists of an Oshkosh 1070F 8 x 8 tractor truck and a King Trailer GTS 100 seven axle semi-trailer. Its after-cooled Caterpillar C18 turbocharged diesel engine develops 700bhp.

2 + 10 troops
20 m (L) x 3.8 m (H) x 2.9 m (W)
Caterpillar C-18 - 700 bhp
Load capacity
72 tonnes (1 x Main Battle Tank or 2 x Light Armoured Vehicles)
Tractor unit can be fitted with 7.62 mm machine gun
300 miles

The HETs for the British Army are provided by Fastraxx, a PFI provider owned by Kellog Brown and Root. The PFI will run for 20 years and provides 92 HET’s, trailers and sponsored reserve drivers.  There are two trailers: the King (72 tons capable, used mainly for Challenger, Titan and Trojan and similar) and the Broshuis for Warrior sized and below loads (max 45 tonnes). In 2010 an additional 20 Broshuis Improved Mobility Trailers were obtained under a UOR for the Heavy Equipment Transporter.

The future move from CVR(T) vehicles that can be carried on the back of a Foden DROPS or MAN EPLS, to the ASCOD SV vehicle which can’t and is far closer to the Warrior’s mass than to that of a CVR(T), there is going to be a much greater need of HETs and related trailers, particularly in the 45 Tonnes class. The Private Financing Initiative is thus likely to be expanded to encompass more vehicles, trailers and drivers in the future.

Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS) vehicles form the logistic backbone of the British Army. There are two types of vehicle - the Leyland Medium Mobility Load Carrier (MMLC), and the Foden Improved Medium Mobility Load Carrier (IMMLC). DROPS has the ability to tow the long-wheelbase trailer which is a force multiplier as it means it can carry two loads using only one driver. Both trucks are 8 x 6 load carriers with a 15-tonne flatrack payload, allowing the rapid loading and unloading of flatracks or containers.

IMMLC is used primarily as an ammunition carrier in support of AS90 155mm self-propelled guns. MMLC operates solo, or towing a skeleton trailer. They are also used to carry reloads for the MLRS, (15 trucks for each 9-launchers battery), and a trailer capable to carry 8 rocket modules is available.
It is anticipated that the operational DROPS vehicles will be replaced by the Enhanced Pallet Load System (EPLS) which will is based on the 15 tonne SV variant, but this is not certain. The replacement is not expected before 2022 and will come via Non Articulated Vehicle Programme (NAVP), it itself essentially the former Heavy Load Distribution Capability (HLDC) requirement with a new name.

Enhanced Palletized Load System
The MAN HX77 8x8 Enhanced Pallet Loading System (EPLS), was procured in response to an immediate operational requirement. Unlike the previously deployed Leyland Demountable Rack Offload & Pickup System (DROPS), this protected vehicle can lift a 20-foot ISO container weighing up to 15 tons in just minutes thanks to its cargo handling unit. (The DROPS needs a flat frame to set the container down on first.)

The main differences from old DROPS to new DROPS
1. The driver/operator has to rely on a camera system to view the rack/ISO being loaded or lifted due to the design of SV, i.e. no cab rear window.
2. It has a DASLI system which tells the driver/operator the condition of the load exceeding GVW or load distribution.
3. To lift ISO/Flatracks each operation requires a changing of the lifting equipment configuration.
4. The lifting system, although similar to old DROPS, during the last or 1st stage of operation actually slides the load on or off the truck.

The British Army considers ELPS the ideal replacement for DROPS, so the story began with the UOR, but is most likely far from finished.

C fleet
While the MAN trucks are “military” and ready for use on the battlefield and fully army-owned, the MOD has chosen to go PFI with Italy’s Iveco (the supplier of the Panther CLV) to cover its engineering, construction and rough terrain mechanical handling capability requirement.
The Iveco trucks are acquired via a major 16 year private finance initiative (PFI) which was signed with ALC, an equal partnership created between Amey and VT Land, in 2006. Under the terms of the agreement, valued at some 500 millions, ALC is responsible for delivering the required capability to Army units when they need it, where they need it and for as long as they need it. The vehicles and items of plant are delivered serviceable and ready to use, backed up by a complete contractor logistic support package.

The Trakker makes up the “C” fleet, which comprises all earth-moving plant, engineer construction plant (ECP) and field mechanical handling equipment (MHE) in use by the armed forces, but also include vehicles delivered with built-in armor protection for deployment in dangerous zones, as part of Army reconstruction efforts, or in support of engineers ops. These are known as Protected: in particular, a number of Self Loading Dump Trucks - Protected have been acquired to  replace the Volvo FL12 SLDT in use in Afghanistan.

Self Loading Dump Truck - Protected

In November 2008, 206 Trakker AD380T45W 6x6 chassis were acquired, and in 2009 followed the Specialized Trakkers modules. The first thirty-three vehicles supplied were truck mounted loader (TML) variants, featuring a Terex rear-mounted lifting arm and Mackworth flatbed body fitted with twist locks to accept 20ft ISO containers. These vehicles offer a wealth of stowage space for camouflage nets and poles, soldiers' personal equipment and lifting gear, together with other essential ancillaries required by the Army. Other task variants included in this order comprised two tipper models – the medium dump truck (MDT) and self loading dump truck (SLDT) – and bespoke well drill rigs and road/runway repair vehicles. All vehicles – with the exception of the MDT – share the same length wheelbase. This uniformity provides the Army with maximum flexibility within the fleet to re-body vehicles if necessary to meet operational needs. This also ensures the most cost-effective and efficient parts and logistics support.

Rough Terrain Forklifts and loaders – JCB Telescopic Handlers  
As part of the Fleet C procurement, following downselection by ALC to the preferred supplier, 329 model 524-50 telescopic handlers were supplied by JCB to replace the Army's Forklift 410M fleet. The 524-50 can lift a 2.4 tons load to 5.3 meters height and can be fitted with loader/digging shovel. 

JCB 524-50 Rough Terrain Telescopic Handler

As part of the same contract award JCB also supplied ALC with 91 model 541-70 telescopic handlers. The 541-70 has a forward reach of 3.7 metres, lift capacity 4.1 tonnes and lift height of 7 metres while a tight turn radius of 3.7 metres gives greater manoeuvrability. It is used for general palletised stores. 

The more powerful 541-70

Medium Wheeled Tractor  
Another part of the C Fleet is the JCB 436 eHT medium wheeled tractor loading shovels. A number of JCV 436 eHT will be used to deploy Medium Ground Mobility System (MGMS) trackways (the old Class 30, which has been renamed). These vehicles are a replacement for 8 waterproof and winterised Case 721 BXT wheeled loaders fitted with a specialized trackway dispenser and used in support of amphibious landings. 

The new JCB 436 deploying a MGMS trackway.
Think Defence wrote an excellent and wide trackway review, for the ones who want to investigate the subject further. The above image comes from TD's article.

Rough Terrain Container Handler
The top-class vehicle in this category is the Kalmar RT240 RTCH which, developed as it was in close co-operation with the US Army, is designed to handle containers in extreme conditions. Based on Kalmar’s reach stacker designs, the four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer machines can operate in mud, sand and up to 1.8 metres of salt water. The RTCH can pick up two 20-foot railroad shipping containers at a time, or one 40-foot container, as opposed to the inefficient “one by one” method. Containers may be stacked three units high with the RTCH and the total lifting capacity is just over 24 tonnes. It is also surf zone capable and travels from beach to barge; retrieving containers and stacking them on dry land. The design is also optimized for air mobility, enabling transport in a C-17 aircraft but at 53.5 tonnes it is a big lift, filling the C17 with its 3.65m width, 15m length and 2.98m height in shipping configuration. This preparation for air transport can be carried out in less than 30 minutes by one person with no external assistance, and without removing or dismantling any part of the machine. The reduced height also greatly simplifies road moves.

Unlike most container handlers the RTCH uses a single tyre arrangement. Both axles are driven and steered; crab-steer is possible and all steering is computer controlled for precise tracking. The axles are unsprung and two-wheel drive and single-axle steer is possible for road travel.

The British Army acquired at least 20 as UOR for Operation Telic in Iraq, but good part of the Army’s fleet is still made up by the Terex Rough Terrain Container Handlers.

Tactical Support Vehicles
In November 2008, a 350 millions contract for 400 new armored support vehicles was put in motion with the selection of the three TSV platforms: 

(97 in 2009 + 30 in 2010) Wolfhound TSV (Heavy) - Based on the Cougar (Mastiff) 6x6 flatbed made by Force Protection Industries Inc; supports and re-supplies the Mastiffs in the highest threat areas. These vehicles have the highest levels of mine blast protection. It carries a payload of 4.5 to 6 tons. 

(262 in 2009 + 89 in 2010) Husky TSV (Medium) - Based on the International MXT-MVA made by Navistar Defence ; carries out the support roles in areas where heavy vehicles, like Mastiff, cannot be used. HUSKY comes in three variants; utility, ambulance and command post. The utility variant can accommodate 4 people.
The UK MOD paid $629,213 for each Husky.

(70 in 2009) Coyote TSV (Light) - Based on a 6x6 derivative of the Jackal designed by Supacat Ltd, Devon ; supports the go-anywhere, high-mobility Jackals across the harsh terrain in Afghanistan. It is longer, weights over 10 tons full load and has 6 wheels (it is a 6x6 vehicle) and a payload of 1.5 tons, carrying the same weaponry and crew of a Jackal. The Jackal itself can be extended to 6 wheels (Jackal EXTENDA), but in this case only 4 of the wheels deliver traction, making it a 6x4.

The Coyote has the weapon load of a Jackal 2A, but carries supplies for a Jackal patrol, extending its range considerably.

Springer (75)
Springer has a crew of two and the ability to carry a combat load of one tonne. Its role is specifically focused on swiftly moving combat supplies from helicopter landing sites into the forward operating bases. It is designed specifically for rugged, desert conditions - which means it is well-matched to the operational environment in Afghanistan. It was ordered in 2009 for 10.3 millions, giving an unitary cost of 137000 pounds each, roughly.

The 4 x 2 vehicle can self-load a 1 ton pallet of supplies. Each vehicle is equipped with an 8,000lb self recovery winch and sand ladders, which act as loading ramps for cargo pellet. In addition to the rear cargo bed, all Springers are fitted with a load tray in front of the vehicle to carry an additional 100kg of equipment. A roof section is also available for the transportation of electronics countermeasures packages.

The vehicle can also be fitted with a general purpose machine gun (GPMG) mount. The vehicles have a maximum speed of 40mph, and excellent mobility on harsh terrain, and can be transported by helicopter.

Supacat ATMP
The ATMP is a permanent 6-wheel drive, diesel-powered troop carrier. It can carry 2 crew and up to 8 troops. The ATMP is steered by a handlebar device. The ATMP offers excellent off-road capability. A hollow aluminium-clad frame allows the ATMP to float on water.

Whilst the ATMP is primarily used by 16 Air Assault, press reports have stated that the Special Boat Service used a 'Supacat 6x6 all-terrain vehicle' for the reconnaissance phase of an operation against a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan.
It is amphibious and exerts low ground pressure enabling it to traverse rough terrain whilst carrying up to 8 troops (and 2 crew), a standard NATO pallet or other stores (ammunition etc.).
A GPMG may also be fitted to create an effective mobile fire support platform.

The vehicle can be configured for a number of roles:

  • Basic troop/cargo transport
  • FLPT (Fork Lift Pallet Trailer) to lift, handle and carry pallets up to 1.6 tonnes.
  • SLLPT (Self Loading Lightweight Pallet Trailer)
  • 'Fuel Cat' is able to carry and pump up to 1000 litres of aviation fuel. It also carries an engine start system for the aircraft. It is also able to tow an APFC (Air Portable Fuel Container).
  • Mounted crane
  • Aircraft crash recovery
  • Radio rebroadcast stations
  • Casualty evacuation.
They lack armor protection and survivability, so Springer was procured to be used in Afghanistan in their place. However, the ATMP is a very useful platform, and may have a bright future has it has been converted (notably by Lockheed Martin) in a drone capable to follow a patrol or navigate autonomously its way along a set route. Because traction is high the ATMP was also designed to tow the 105mm Light Gun and ammunition trailer. The total carried and towed payload is in excess of 3,500kg. The Chinook has been cleared to carry 2 ATMP’s internally without lowering the roll cage or 4 as a single under slung load. Multiple stacking options also exist for carriage in larger aircraft and on trucks.

Army Motorbikes
250 and then another 200 Yamaha Quad bikes and trailers have been acquired and put into service during ops in Afghanistan. The quad bikes can reach speeds of up to 75 km/ 46 miles per hour, can carry up to almost 160 kg/ 350 pounds with the trailer attached, and are used to deliver food, water and ammunition to troops on the front line. Upgrades include a left hand throttle which provides greater maneuverability, and dual-stretcher fit on the trailers. Both can operate through water up to half their wheel height.
The new bikes and trailers replaced the Honda 450 ATVs and LOGIC SMT120b Trailers.

The Harley Davidson MT350E and Honda R250 are used by Army dispatch riders and for a variety of liaison and traffic control tasks. The bikes are fitted with document panniers and a carrier for the SA80A2 Individual Weapon.

Ramped Landing Craft Logistics

The Ramped Landing Craft Logistic (RCL) is used for amphibious operations and is designed to deliver men and material onto beaches. The craft are crewed by the Royal Logistics Corps (RLC). Two RLCLs - Andalsnes and Akyab - are based in Cyprus. 

L113 Audemer photographed on the Solent in 2010.
The vessels are maintained via PFI by the Serco Denholm company, which also provides all tugs and support vessels to the Royal Navy.

Complement 6 (2 NCOs)
Length 33.3 m
Beam 8.3 m
Maximum draught 1.5 m (laden)
Displacement 290 tonnes (laden)
Carries around 100 tons of stores max, normally four TEU containers, troops, one Challenger or four Scimitars
Engine 2 x Dorman 8JTCWM diesel
Maximum speed 10 kts (laden)

Number   Name                      Year        Homeport            
L107        Andalsnes                 1984    Cyprus        
L109        Akyab                        1984    Cyprus
L110        Aachen                       1986    Marchwood
L111        Arezzo                        1986    Marchwood
L112        Arromanches             1987    Marchwood
L113        Audemer                    1987    Marchwood

What remains to do for modernizing the RLC

The MAN Support Vehicle fleet should be fully delivered and in-service by 2013, but there are at least two more major programmes in the truck world of the Armed Forces that have been struggling to get a share of funding. In the coming years, as pushing them to the rights further becomes less and less acceptable, these two efforts will grab the headlines at some point.

Combined Articulated Vehicle Programme (CAVP)
CAVP has been rumbling on for a number of years and is essentially the evolution of the programme to replace the current Seddon Atkinson-fronted Light Equipment Transporter (LET) fleet. The most recent developments here have included the January 2009 disclosure that FLET (F – Future) had been cancelled for reassessment, and following submissions by MAN (a Support Vehicle HX derivative) and Oshkosh (a Wheeled Tanker derivative). It is understood that the Oshkosh proposal was preferred by the MoD.
In September 2009, and in what is hardly the most efficient use of taxpayers’ money, the MoD announced that Frazer-Nash Consultancy had been appointed to oversee what had evolved to become the CAVP programme. CAVP is now expected to call for a common tractor unit in a requirement that in addition to FLET now includes a replacement for the 32,500-litre General Support Tanker (GST), plus a small number of specialist transporters for the RAF.

As an interim expedient, a small number of Oshkosh Wheeled Tanker tractors have been converted to the LET role for use on deployed operations.
Oshkosh is a bidder for the main programme as well, together with MAN, which provides its HX81 tank transporter unit to the German army. The HX80 6×6 tractor and the massive HX81 are good options for the CAVP, and they would be compatible and enjoy commonality with the massive SV fleet.

The HX 81 is powered by an MAN D2868 8-cylinder diesel engine with direct fuel injection. With cubic capacity of 16,160 cm³, the engine has a 500 kW (680 hp) output. Equipped with an Integrated Armour Cabin, the vehicle is designed to serve either as a semi-trailer or tank transporter; it has a maximum authorized gross train weight of 130 tons. This means that it can carry modern main battle tanks across rough terrain.

HX81 with trailer

Non Articulated Vehicle Programme (NAVP)
What is now the NAVP is essentially the former Heavy Load Distribution Capability (HLDC), the programme to replace the MoD's fleet of around 2,000 DROPS vehicles. As deployed operations place the defence budget under ever increasing strain, projects such HLDC/NAVP have all too easily been pushed to the right, and the most recent NAVP update sees the service life of the current DROPS fleet extended a further four years. The new capability is now due for delivery from 2022, by which time the bulk of the current fleet will be between 28 and 32 years old…

It is not clear if this requirement includes replacement for the Alvis Uniport used to transport the Tank Brigde elements, but if this was the case, MAN could easily provide a SV compatible solution in the form of the SX45 Bridgelayer vehicle. 

Naval Logistics and Support 

It is not connected directly to the RLC, other than by the fact that Serco manages the RLC landing crafts, but i thought this little-known aspect of Royal Navy port logistics could fit into this article.

A joint venture led by Serco Group plc ("Serco") was selected as preferred bidder for the Ministry of Defence's ("MoD") Future Provision of Marine Services ("FPMS") contract in February 2006.

The contract, valued at £1bn, started delivering in 2007 and will run to 2022. Serco Denholm Limited ("Serco Denholm"), a 90:10 joint venture between Serco Limited and J&J Denholm and delivers marine support at major UK Naval bases in Portsmouth, Devonport and The Clyde.
Services provided include:

  • provision of tugs and pilot boats to move ships in and out of port
  • passenger transfer to and from ships 
  • loading of stores and removal of waste from the ships 
  • protection of the environment in the event of oil or other spillages 
  • provision and maintenance of buoys and moorings 
  • support to deep water training services 
  • marine support to the Kyle of Lochalsh BUTEC ranges      

Serco Denholm had provided similar services to the Royal Navy since 1996, so the contract was more of an expansion than a whole new initiative. Serco Denholm manages, operates and maintains approximately 110 vessels used in in-port and deep water operations. Approximately 60 new vessels will be introduced into service through the lifetime of the contract, with at least 29 procured by 2010, mainly new, more powerful tugs.
Briggs Group provides buoys and mooring support with new jobs and investment created at Burntisland on the Firth of Forth.

Serco has a strong track record. Serco provides similar marine services to the Royal Australian Navy through a joint venture with P&O Marine Services and has a foothold in the US defence market too, following its acquisition of RCI earlier in 2005.

As a direct result of this contract, the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service which had previously provided this role was formally disbanded on 31 March 2008. All vessels formally prefixed RMAS assumed the SD prefix instead.

In 2010, the “Tugs for the future” contract was announced, for the procurement of 29 new tugs and support vessels, destined to make the fleet capable to better deal with new units such as the huge Type 45s and, of course, CVF. They were all handed to SD by the end of the year. 

In fact, Portsmouth got more than a fair share of the new vessels: six new tugs in total, plus two pilot boats, a small work boat and a 1,500-tonne fuel lighter (SD Teesdale coastal oil tanker). Two are 20-tonne Azimuth Tugs (SD Independent and SD Indulgent) and four are 40-tonne tugs (Reliable, Bountiful, Resourceful, Dependable) . 

SD Teesdale in action alongside a Type 42 destroyer
The 29-strong fleet also includes SD Victoria, the “Worldwide Support Vessel” which is the largest of the 29 new vessels ordered by Serco Marine Services from Damen. 

Built in Romania, the 83m training and support vessel replaced SD Newton as a platform for Special Forces operations, for which she is equipped with classrooms, briefing and operations rooms, workshops, extensive storage areas of various kinds, a helicopter winching deck, and provision to carry and operate Rigid Inflatable Boats. She has accommodation for 88, can do 15 knots and has 46 days endurance. The side-launching davit can deploy an 8 tons boat in Sea State 4 and the main deck crane is 25 tons rated and has an (harbor) reach of 17 meters, which goes down to 12 in operations at sea in SS4. 

The exact activity of the vessel is not known, but she’s most likely a cherished part of the Special Boat Service toolkit, as in this other photo she is carrying their ‘StealthBoat’, a 2007-procured vessel reportedly capable of 60 knots.   

This beautiful night image of SD Victoria is particularly interesting as the Stealth Boat of the SBS can be seen carried on the back.

The Stealth Boats, first seen on trials at Poole in 2007, should have replaced (or perhaps just supplemented) the previous Very Slender Vessel (a 16 meters, 3 meters wide VT Halmatic V16 boat used for chasing fast targets, insertion and extraction and as FAC, as it can be armed with machineguns up to .50) and High Speed Interceptor Craft, a modified Italian-engineered Fabio Buzzi MIL-50 fast boat. 

Another significant flotilla of tugs and support vessels is of course based in Devonport, and some on the Clyde and Marchwood.  

The Serco Fleet is quite ample, as this 2010-dated list shows.  

Marchwood Military Port - Sea Mounting Centre (SMC)

The port was built in 1943 with the intent that it should be used to aid the Normandy landings in 1944 by shipping men and equipment across to the beaches, the port was also used to support the occupying forces following the success of the landings. At this time the port was relatively small, with just one jetty. 

The port again found use during the Falklands War, when it was employed to transport men and equipment to the Falklands in a rather unnoticed fashion, as it had during the Normandy invasion. The port aided Operation Corporate as a launching point for the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries Round Table class landing ships, armoured vehicles were also transported from Marchwood to the Europic Ferry (nicknamed by the Marchwood personnel as "erotic fairy") via Mexeflote and then on to the Falklands. The port also became a massive rally area for cargo and armoured vehicles which were subsequently forwarded to Southampton for transportation to the Falklands as required. At the conclusion of the War the port was used to receive 80 war dead, who were kept in the cargo shed, before being processed and returned to their families for funerals. 
After the Falklands it became clear to the UK government that the base in Marchwood had been highly important in the war, and so the government spent 18 million pounds on upgrading and improving the base, which only had a single jetty at the time. The Quartermaster General, appointed after the war, commented on the previous makeshift style of the port, saying that when he was assigned the job he was told to "get the Army some decent boots and sort out Marchwood", to which Major Robin Barton replied "At Marchwood, General, we are not too fussed about the boots".

Nonetheless, the port was expanded considerably, with administration blocks being put in, as well as a Falklands deep water jetty, and training facilities. The water front is left clear for cargo and loading. The expansion of the port has become subject of a short documentary, meant for civil engineers.

The port now consists of three main jetties. The largest is 220m long and 33m wide and is capable of accepting vessels up to 16,000 tonnes. It has two sophisticated class 100 ro-ro link span ramps facility capable of handling vessels with various ramp configurations. The second jetty, built during World War II, is 190m long, has rail access and is capable of accepting vessels of up to 8k tonnes with limited Ro/Ro facilities. Finally there is a subsidiary jetty of 117m that is used to berth military landing craft and smaller vessels. The waters are dredged to 8m so the whole complex can accept the majority of ships likely to be used by MoD. A dolphin at the seaward end makes it easier for longer ships to use. 

The Directorate of Land Service Ammunition (DLSA) has granted the port a licence to handle ammunition/explosive on the main jetty. The port has a limited capacity to handle containerised cargo within the 289 acre estate.

In 2000 the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) was questioned as to whether or not they would support the implementation of a container port and access roads in Marchwood to improve security there, to which the MoD replied that they had no objections, and the expansion has since been implemented.

The port is now used largely by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, as a base for their ships, including their amphibious ships, but it is also still employed for military cargo and personnel movement. The site is named McMullen Barracks and the operating unit is 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps. Currently it employs around 750 people, 150 civilians and 600 military personnel, and handles about 100,000 tonnes of cargo a year.

In October 2010, it was reported that the port is to be sold to a private operator, but that no firm decision had been made regarding the future use of the port by the military. In November, it was subsequently announced that the Military Port would continue to be used by the MOD even after the selling to a private company.


  1. Brilliant stuff! British Army Rules 2014!

  2. Serco also look after PNTL Nuclear Cargo Ships

  3. Well awaiting for some great post in regards to assault course training.


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