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Bonn voyage, HMS Sutherland, as German tanker helps British warship refuel
3 November 2015

The crew of HMS Sutherland tested their ability to take on fuel ‘on the go’ for the first time in a couple of years.

The frigate carried out a test RAS off the South Coast, taking on board a trickle of black gold from the German tanker FGS Bonn.

ON A bright, crisp autumn day off the Devon coast, HMS Sutherland takes fuel ‘on the go’ from the German Navy, courtesy of FGS Bonn.

It’s the first time in two years that the Plymouth-based frigate has carried out one of the trickiest – and most important – manoeuvres in seamanship: replenishment at sea.

The Fighting Clan is rapidly coming back to full fighting fitness after a massive revamp in her home base, which has seen her overhauled from bow to stern and mast top (now crowned with a new 3D radar system, Artisan) to keel.

The frigate is in the midst of two months of Operational Sea Training off the South Coast – the ‘pre-season’ training every Royal Navy warship must go through before it can deploy around the globe.

Key to sustaining such global missions are the RAS (pronounced ‘razz’), sailing parallel with a support vessel – one of the UK’s own Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, or a ship from an Allied nation – to take on all manner of supplies on the move, without having to return to port.

During the action, the Berlin-class vessel – built not just to provide fuel, but also supplies and ammunition (she also carries a 49-bed hospital facility) – and Sutherland sailed 35 metres (115ft) apart.

The Bonn pumped across three cubic metres (3,000 litres) of fuel, enough to top up the tanks of more than 50 family cars, but a mere ‘drop’ when it comes to filling the fuel reservoirs of a Type 23 frigate; the small amount delivered was just to test the Bonn’s and Sutherland’s systems and seamanship skills.

“This was the first time I’d seen a RAS,” said 25-year-old Logistician (Supply Chain) Mark Hesleden from Lincoln, who was holding the messenger line, used to pass across all the other lines.

“The RAS was a worthwhile evolution for the ship. It’s important that we build strong relationships with other countries and it’s good to see other Navies training alongside us because it gives reassurance that our allies operate to the same high standards as we do.”

Sutherland’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Stephen Anderson, said it was “an absolute delight to be able to complete a successful Replenishment At Sea – the first for the Ship after an absence of 24 months with the Bonn, which is working closely with us throughout our world-class training.”