Throughout much of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first century, the Royal Navy practically ran a certified “pre-owned” warship program—as many of its former vessels were sold off to other nations to remain in operation. Former Royal Navy minehunters are now in service with Estonia, Greece, and Lithuania, while patrol ships have been sold to Bangladesh, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Philippines. Brazil, Argentina, India, and Pakistan are other nations that have had former Royal Navy vessels in their respective fleets.
Just last week, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that it would be selling military warships to Egypt for the first time in more than three decades.
The Defence Equipment Sales Authority (DESA), which is part of Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the MoD’s procurement arm, and is responsible for the disposal of the UK Armed Forces’ surplus military equipment and vehicles, has forged a deal to sell the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie to the government in Cairo. Both vessels were released from service earlier this year.
“DESA is exceptionally happy to be working with the Egyptian Navy on the regeneration of two former Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships,” Clint Walker, head of the DE&S, said in a statement. “This represents a tangible demonstration of the strengthening relationship between the two navies and the importance of the strategic relationship between the UK and Egypt.”
The deal is part of the £24 billion investment announced last year in efforts to develop defense exports and investments towards advancing the Global Britain agenda and in asserting UK defenses in the face of evolving threats.
The sale of the vessels could also be a boon for UK workers as there are negotiations underway for refurbishment work to be completed on each ship before they are finally exported to Egypt.
“Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie played an important role in sustaining our naval fleet for decades and I thank all involved in their essential work,” said Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin. “As we nod to the past service of these ships, we can also look forward to the exciting future of welcoming our new Fleet Solid Support ships.”
The two warships were able to ensure that Royal Navy personnel around the world would be supplied with the necessary food, ammunition, and other equipment to carry out their vital operations. The sister ships have two flight decks, which means, as well as providing traditional replenishment at sea, each would be able to use helicopters to offload supplies.
The two Fort-class fleet replenishment vessels were built by Scott Lithgow of Greenock, Scotland and entered service in the late 1970s. Each of the ships displaces 23,384 tons and is capable of speeds of twenty-one knots. Both saw service in the Falklands War and underwent major refits in 2010. Earlier this year, an MoD white paper announced that both ships of the class would be decommissioned and eventually replaced by new Fleet Solid Stores Support vessels.
“Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie have both served the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Royal Navy and many of our allies with distinction, across the globe both at peacetime and during conflict,” said Vice Admiral Chris Gardner, DE&S director general ships. “Their sale to the Egyptian Navy—the first sale of UK military vessels to this partner in more than 30 years—represents both an investment in a UK partner nation and an opportunity to continue supporting our industry partners who will prepare these vessels to hand over, which is central to the successful National Shipbuilding Strategy."
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.