The UK Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) has put its first underwater surveillance ship in service.
RFA Proteus had its launching ceremony on the Thames on October 10 as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance program.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the ship’s development last year as a mothership for protecting critical seabed infrastructure such as cables and gas pipelines.
The country’s push for subsea capability upgrades comes after the 2022 Nord Stream pipeline leaks, where an unknown perpetrator sabotaged two underwater gas pipelines. The pipes were built to transport natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
Stronger Underwater Protection
Previously named MV Topaz Tangaroa, the UK bought RFA Proteus from the Marshall Islands for 70 million pounds ($86 million).
The platform supply vessel was retrofitted with a 120-ton crane, a hangar, and workshops for the UK’s unmanned underwater vehicles.
The 6,000-ton vessel is crewed by 26 RFA sailors and officers, as well as 60 Royal Navy undersea surveillance specialists.
The ship’s dedication ceremony was led by RFA Commodore-in-chief David Eagles, who said that the ship and the surveillance program is a symbol of collaborative efforts between multiple government agencies.
The Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance program is part of a 2021 policy review by the British government focusing on stronger defense, development, and foreign policies.