On 10 April 2021, the Royal Australian Navy officially commissioned into service HMAS Supply, the first of two new Supply class auxiliary oiler replenishment (AOR) ships.
HMAS Supply is expected to be joined by her sister-ship NUSHIP Stalwart when it is officially commissioned later this year.
Both ships are part of the largest regeneration of the Royal Australian Navy since World War II.
Their primary role is to provide logistics replenishment to naval combat units while underway at sea and to aid humanitarian and disaster relief when called upon.
The newly commissioned HMAS Supply will now begin the next phase of first-of-class sea trials and integration into the fleet.
The ship was built in Spain by Navantia and was baed on the BAC ‘Cantabria” (A15) replenishment oilder design of the Spanish Navy.
In a 2019 interview with the then recently retired chief of navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, we discussed this new class of ship as well.
The Navy was being recapitalized in terms of hulls, but the larger picture was how those hulls would work together with the larger ADF and beyond that with core allies and partners.
Here the former Chief of the Navy provided further details on the core point he made at a Williams Seminar in 2016:
“We are not building an interoperable navy; we are building an integrated force for the Australian Defence Force.”
The kill web approach was clearly what he is working from when he discusses force modernization for the Navy.
Barret provided a particularly compelling example of the approach and what it means in terms of acquisition. He described a recent visit to Spain where his wife was privileged to launch a new tanker to support the maritime force.
That tanker has on it a combat system which allows it to operate in a joint manner with the wider maritime force and to be integrated into the wider ADF.
This was a good illustration of what we have argued for, namely “no planform fights alone” if linked with platforms and assets in a broader kill web.
Barrett argued that a key consideration for naval procurement was the nature of the combat systems being placed on the hulls as well as their potential for continuous modernization which is part of what he meant when he argued for a continuous shipbuilding strategy.