British Royal Navy’s RFA Tidespring completes first helicopter deck landing

The British Royal Navy has successfully conducted the first helicopter deck landing on-board the first of its four new 39,000t Tide-class tankers, RFA Tidespring.

The new Tide-class tanker completed its air sea acceptance trial using a Merlin Mk2 helicopter supplied by QinetiQ.

RFA Tidespring commanding officer captain Simon Herbert said: “Achieving the aviation sea acceptance trials is a key milestone in the generation of RFA Tidespring into naval service.”

“Successful completion of these trials will certify the parameters necessary for all Tide-class ships to operate aircraft in support of a wide range of defence activities such as maritime security, task group operations, and humanitarian and disaster-relief operations.”

RFA Tidespring is currently undergoing a series of trials ahead of its acceptance into the navy’s fleet in November. It is now expected to progress to first-of-class flying trials and replenishment.

A team from the Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down have been made responsible for writing the manual for all future helicopter operations involving the Tide-class tankers.

Various data readings such as the flow of air over the tanker’s superstructure, the ship’s roll, pitch and yaw will be used to determine the conditions required for Merlin and Wildcat aircraft to safely land and take-off.

The Tide-Class tankers have enough capacity to carry up to 19,000m of fuel and 1,400m3 of fresh water.

Tidespring and its sister vessels Tiderace, Tidesurge and Tideforce are expected to provide key support to HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

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