Bay-class landing ship

The Bay class is a ship class of four dock landing ships built for the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) during the 2000s. They are based on the Dutch-Spanish Royal Schelde Enforcer design and intended as a replacement for the Round Table-class logistics ships. Two ships each were ordered from Swan Hunter and BAE Systems Naval Ships. Construction work started in 2002, but saw major delays and cost overruns, particularly at Swan Hunter's shipyard. In mid-2006, Swan Hunter was stripped of work, and the incomplete second ship was towed to BAE's shipyard for completion. All four ships, Largs Bay, Lyme Bay, Mounts Bay, and Cardigan Bay had entered service by 2007.

Since entering service, the Bay-class ships have been used for amphibious operations, training of the Iraqi Navy in the Persian Gulf, counter-drug deployments in the Caribbean, and relief operations following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. In 2010, Largs Bay was removed from service as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. She was sold to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in 2011, who operate her as HMAS Choules.

Bay-class landing ship
Class Ship
Type Transport
Manufacturer BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships
Production Period 2002 - 2006
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 2002
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Haiti 2010 2010 View
Iran (Persia) 2008 2010 View
South Africa 2006 View
Yemen 2011 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships 2002 2006 4 View
Swan Hunter 2002 2006 4 View

The Bay class was designed as a replacement for the five Round Table-class logistics ships operated by the RFA. Planning for the class began in the 1990s, after the original intent to modernise and extend the service life of three Round Tables ran into problems with extensive corrosion and problems implementing new safety standards. After the first Round Table returned to service two years late and after excessive cost, the Ministry of Defence began to investigate the acquisition of new ships.

In April 2000, the MoD released an Invitation to Tender for two ships under a budget of £150 million, with the option to acquire three more. Appledore Shipbuilders, BAE Systems Naval Ships and Swan Hunter submitted tenders, but only Swan Hunter's design met all the tender requirements, at a price of £148 million. A shortfall of work for BAE's Govan yard led to fears that it could not deliver the Type 45 destroyers and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers planned for later in the decade, so the Treasury agreed to fund an additional two LSDs to be built at Govan.

In 2006 Mounts Bay took part in Operation Vela, a major amphibious exercise off West Africa.

In mid-April 2007, Cardigan Bay sailed for "Operation Orion 07", a four-month deployment to the Mediterranean. From 2008 until the end of 2010, Cardigan Bay was used to accommodate and train personnel of the Iraqi Navy under the tutelage of Royal Navy and United States Navy personnel. During this time, the ship operated almost exclusively in the Persian Gulf.

In late November 2007, Largs Bay was deployed to the Caribbean for counter-drug operations. During the deployment, the ship made visited ports across the Caribbean islands and the United States mainland, and intercepted a 575-kilogram (1,268 lb) cocaine shipment. In late 2008, it was reported that Largs Bay was to replace the frigate Northumberland for duties in the Falkland Islands. Northumberland was to have left for the Islands in December 2008, but was instead sent for an anti-pirate patrol off Somalia.

On 3 February 2010, Largs Bay headed off to Haiti with aid supplies for relief efforts after the earthquake. On 18 February 2010, she arrived at Port-au-Prince and commenced unloading of the supplies. On 30 March 2010, she returned home.

In December 2010, it was announced that a Bay-class vessel, later identified as Largs Bay, would be decommissioned in April 2011 as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. On 17 March 2011, the Australian Department of Defence announced that the RAN would be bidding for Largs Bay; this was followed on 6 April by news that a £65 million (A$100 million) bid had been successful. She was commissioned into the RAN on 13 December 2011 as HMAS Choules, after receiving modifications for service in tropical conditions. A transformer in the propulsion system failed when she was en route to a training area on 14 June 2012, after earlier reports that the ship could not maintain top speed without transformers overheating. An insulation failure had short-circuited the failed transformer, while others aboard were showing signs of premature wear. With no spares available, the need to order from the manufacturer combined with the decision to replace all of the transformers aboard meant that Choules was kept out of service until April 2013.

In June 2011, Cardigan Bay headed to Yemen to aid with the potential evacuation of British citizens affected by the ongoing unrest in Yemen.

General characteristics
Type: Landing ship dock
Displacement: 16,160 tonnes (15,900 long tons; 17,810 short tons)
Length: 579.4 ft (176.6 m)
Beam: 86.6 ft (26.4 m)
Draught: 19 ft (5.8 m)
Propulsion: 2 × Wärtsilä 8L26 generators, 6,000 hp (4.5 MW)

2 × Wärtsilä 12V26 generators, 9,000 hp (6.7 MW)

2 × azimuthing thusters

1 × bow thruster
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 15 kn (28 km/h; 17 mph)
Boats & landing craft carried: 1 × LCU or 2 × LCVP in well deck

2 × Mexeflote powered rafts
Capacity: 1,150 linear metres (vehicles)
200 tons or 24 TEU (cargo)
Troops: 356 (standard), 700 (overload)
Crew: 70 (RFA, core only), 158 (RAN)
Armament: Fitted for:

2 × 30mm DS30B cannon

2 × Phalanx CIWS

4 × 7.62mm Mk44 Miniguns

6 × 7.62mm L7 GPMG

Individual outfit varies across class
Aviation facilities: Flight deck for helicopters up to Chinook-size

End notes