The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has taken another step towards the procurement of a new fleet of naval tankers to support the Royal Navy.

Minister for Defence Equipment & Support Baroness Taylor has given Parliament details of the four companies who will work with the MoD to develop the new Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (Mars) Fleet Tankers and compete for the subsequent contract.

The companies are Fincantieri (Italy); Hyundai (Republic of Korea); Navantia (Spain) and BAE Systems with BMT DSL and DSME (Republic of Korea).

Following the competition, the MoD will make a final decision to select one of the companies to design and build the new ships.

MARS will provide future logistic support requirements for the Royal Navy and sea-based support to deployed forces and will replace a large number of existing Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.

The existing Royal Feet Auxiliary tankers play a vital role in global naval operations by replenishing Royal Navy warships with ship and aircraft fuel, and wider armed forces with fuel and supplies.

None of the four bidders have indicated to date that they would build Fleet Tankers in the UK.

MARS consists of three elements – Fleet Tanker, Fleet Solid Support and Joint Sea Based Logistic vessels – to be procured incrementally, beginning with the double-hulled Fleet Tankers, which are urgently required in order to comply with International Maritime environmental standards.

The MoD says the FSS and JSBL vessels are not being committed at this stage, in order to maintain flexibility within the programme.

Later elements of the MARS programme may provide opportunities for UK industry but no decisions have been made on how these later ships will be procured.

By staff writer