Wave-class tanker

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Not to be confused with Wave class oiler.
RFA Wave Knight
RFA Wave Knight at anchor in Plymouth 2006
Class overview
Name: Wave class tanker
Builders: VSEL (later BAE Systems Marine)
Operators: RFA Ensign Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Preceded by: Ol-class tanker
Succeeded by: Tide-class tanker
In commission: Since 8 April 2003
Completed: 2
Active: 2: Wave Knight, Wave Ruler
General characteristics [1][2][3]
Class and type: Wave-class
Displacement: 31,500 tonnes approx
Length: 196.5 metres
Beam: 28.25 metres
Draft: 9.97 metres
Propulsion: Diesel-electric:
  • 4 × Wartsila 12V 32E/GECLM diesel generators 25,514 metric horsepower (18.76 MW)
  • 2 × GEC Alstom motors with Cegelec variable speed converters 19,040 metric horsepower (14 MW)
  • 1 × shaft
  • 18t thrust electric Kamewa bow thruster and 12t thrust electric stern thruster, both powered by Cegelec variable speed drives and motors
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h)
Range: 10,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 15 knots (28 km/h)
  • 16,000 m3 of liquids (of which 3,000 m3 aviation fuel & 380 m3 fresh water)
  • 125 tonnes of lubricating oil
  • 500 m3 of solids
  • 150 tonnes of fresh food in eight 20 ft refrigerated container units.
Complement: 80 Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel with provision for 22 Royal Navy personnel for helicopter and weapons systems operations
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Surface search: E/F band
  • Navigation: KH 1077, I-band
  • IFF: Type 1017
Aircraft carried: 1 × Merlin helicopter with full hangar facilities

The Wave-class tankers are as class of fast fleet tankers" in service with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The class is tasked with providing fuel, food, fresh water, ammunition and other supplies to Royal Navy vessels around the world. There are two ships in the class, RFA Wave Knight and RFA Wave Ruler. The ships were ordered to replace the ageing Ol-class tankers RFA Olna and RFA Olwen.[3] The two vessels have seen service in a number of locations, including anti-drug and hurricane relief operations in the Caribbean,[4][5][6] anti-piracy activities around the Horn of Africa[7][8] and deterrent patrols in the South Atlantic.[9][10]


A contract was placed for the vessels in 1997 with Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (Marconi Marine VSEL). Construction of Wave Knight began in 1998 at VSEL's Barrow-in-Furness yard and the ship was launched in 2000.[1] With the acquisition of Marconi Electronic Systems and its Marconi Marine subsidiary in 1999 British Aerospace became BAE Systems. BAE now owns VSEL in Barrow and the Yarrow and Govan shipyards on the Clyde. BAE transferred the construction of Wave Ruler to Govan in 2000 and the vessel was launched in 2001. Both vessels were commissioned in 2003.


The ships have the capability to supply fuel and other liquid cargo to vessels using replenishment rigs on port and starboard beams and through a Hudson reel-type stern rig. When providing support for amphibious operations, the ships are also able to deliver fuel to dracones positioned alongside. The equipment load includes cranes (for stores handling and abeam replenishment), steering and rudder gear, thyristor-controlled winch/windlasses and double drum mooring winches. Up to 16,000 m3 of liquids and 500 m3 of general solids can be carried. In addition, reverse-osmosis equipment is fitted enabling the production of 100 m3 of drinkable water per day.[3]

The vessels were designed with double hulls to prevent or reduce environmental pollution from oil spills if damage is sustained to the outer hull.[2]

The ships can operate a Merlin HM1 helicopter, or other helicopters of similar size, from a hangar and flight deck at the stern. On deployments to Atlantic Patrol Task (N) they have typically embarked a Royal Navy Lynx or a United States Coast Guard helicopter.

The vessels have a standard crew of 80 Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel with provision for a further 22 Royal Navy personnel to conduct helicopter and weapons systems operations.[3] They carry a full medical team and sick bay and are capable of distributing 2,000 emergency relief packages in times of crisis.[11]

Construction programme[edit]

Name Pennant Builder Ordered Laid down Launched Commissioned
Wave Knight A389 VSEL (later BAE Systems), Barrow-in-Furness[1] 12 March 1997[1] 22 October 1998[1] 29 September 2000[1] 8 April 2003[1]
Wave Ruler A390 BAE Systems, Govan[1] 12 March 1997[1] 10 February 2000[1] 9 February 2001[1] 27 April 2003[1]


External links[edit]