RFA Stromness




Reproduced with permission of the MOD


RFA Stromness
RFA stromness RFA-Stromness-with-tugs


Subsequent name:                 USNS Saturn 

Official Number:                      309912                                        

Class:                                     NESS CLASS Stores Support Ships

Pennant No:                           A344 then – USNS T-AFS-10

Laid down:                              5 October 1965
Builder:                                   Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd., Wallsend
Launched:                              16 September 1966
Into Service:                           30 March 1967
Out of service:                        1 January 1983
Fate:                                       27 October 2010 sunk as a target


Items of historic interest involving this ship: –


Background Data:  The requirements for this Class, derived from an extensive feasibility study, placed in 1963, and undertaken in connection with the stowage, handling and issue of stores at sea, led to an order for three ships being placed in December the following year. They were MOD (Navy) designed to meet specific requirements and they were replacements for the War-built FORT CLASS. They were perhaps the most successful Class of RFA’s ever built and served as floating supermarkets. One was stored as an Air Stores Support Ship carrying some 10,000 items of naval and victualling stores but with over 80,000 items of aircraft and naval stores to meet the requirements of aircraft carriers and their escorts. The other two carried varying quantities of up to 40,000 different items of general naval stores including stocks of clothing, mess gear and medical supplies, together with dry and refrigerated food which enabled the Fleet to remain at sea for considerable periods. They also carried up to 350 tons of potable water. With the demise of the British aircraft carriers, which this Class was designed to support, their need decreased and ultimately all three were sold to the United States Military Sealift Command. The major change made then was the addition of a hangar complex on all three vessels. When built, the Class cost approx £10½m.


7 December 1964 ordered

12 September 1966 Mr J R Ramsay RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

16 September 1966 launched by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend as Yard Nr: 2017 named STROMNESS. Named after one of the two largest towns in the Orkney Islands.  The Lady Sponsor was Mrs H.C. Lyddon, the wife of Vice Admiral Lyddon CB, OBE  the Chief Naval Supply and Secretariat Officer



RFA Stromness’ launch
used with permission of RFA Nostalgia

1 March 1967 Captain Walter Gibb MBE RFA appointed as Master

21 March 1967 delivered three months ahead of schedule

30 March 1967 accepted into service but was remanded for the fitting of larger bilge keels to improve her stability. She replaced RFA FORT CHARLOTTE

7 April 1967 at Newcastle

15 September 1967 at Singapore

10 October 1967 to 25 January 1968 military withdrawal from that area codenamed Operation Magister along with nine other RFA‘s, and took part in the final Fleet Review along with five of the other RFA‘s involved

7 March 1968 sailed Jervis Bay, Australia together with RFA OLNA (3) and RN and RAN ships for Exercises

9 August 1968 her Ship’s Badge was officially presented to her

18 August 1968 Mr W E Young RFA appointed as Chief Engineer Officer

7 September 1968 Captain Barry H Rutterford RFA appointed as Master

18 September 1969 the Aberdeen Press & Journal reported –


18 9 1969 Aberdeen PressJournal Stromness


8 April 1969 at Singapore

7 October 1969 off Japan RASed with HMS FEARLESS


HMS Fearless L10



October 1969 along with RFA’s TIDEREACH and TIDESURGE, she visited New Zealand and Australia for the Cook Bicentenary celebrations

10 November 1969 off Jervis Bay, approx 100 nmiles south of Sydney, NSW engaged in a naval exercise together RFA TIDEREACH, HMS’s LONDON, GALATEA, ROTHESAY, YARTMOUTH, HMS/M ROQUAL and warships from Australia, Canada and New Zealand

19 November 1969 while on passage from Japan to Singapore RAS’ed with HMAS YARRA by heavy jackstay

18 May 1970 at Singapore

5 June 1970 arrived Singapore to load salvage equipment, a Wessex 5 helicopter complete with spares, drummed aviation fuel and dispersant equipment, a wreck marking buoy, a 36 ft workboat and other equipment to assist at Mahe, Seychelles after the sinking of  RFA ENNERDALE (2)

8 June 1970 sailed Singapore for Mahe, Seychelles

16 June 1970 arrived Mahe and relieved RFA TIDEFLOW which had been acting as Radio Guard and a base for the newly-created post of NLO (Mahe)

18 June 1970 message was received from MoD (N) stating that it had been decided that it was impractical to salvage the wreck and that her oil fuel tanks were to be ruptured so as to release her cargo whilst the SE Monsoon was favourable to carry the oil away from the islands

19 June 1970 sailed Mahe in company with RFA DEWDALE (2) and escorted her clear of the Seychelles Bank

20 June 1970 rendezvoused with the frigate HMS HERMIONE who transferred a quantity of mortar bombs to her for use in the rupturing operation

21 June 1970 returned to Mahe

23 June 1970 the Far East Fleet Clearance Diving Officer (FCDT) arrived Mahe to commence laying demolition charges on the wreck

24 June 1970 sailed to a position approximately two miles to windward of the wreck to commence operations but weather conditions deteriorated and the attempt had to be abandoned and an alternative solution sought

25 June 1970 an airborne alternative was devised and detonated which resulted in the wreck’s No 2 starboard wing tank being blown wide open

2 July 1970 by this date all port wing tanks had been ruptured and internal bulkheads had fractured thus allowing more oil to escape

17 July 1970 it was assessed that all FFO had been released from the wreck, all starboard wing and bunker tanks had been ruptured and the supply of mortar bombs and demolition charges had all been used up

19 July 1970  HMS/m CACHALOT arrived with the original intention of firing ten torpedoes into the wreck to help disperse it more

21 July 1970 a decision was made not to fire the torpedoes and CACHALOT berthed on STROMNESS to transfer the torpedoes to her

22 July 1970 after delays caused by weather conditions, ten torpedoes had been transferred and the warheads were then separated and subsequently placed on or near the wreck by helicopter and six of them successfully detonated

23 July 1970 HMS/m CACHALOT sailed Mahe

30 July 1970 after laying a new wreck buoy, sailed Mahe to resume her normal duties


Stromness cap tally

19 November 1970  Humanitarian assistance – was in Operation Burlap the U.K. military relief operation to East Pakistan following extensive damage and flooding  caused by a cyclone, along with RFA’s SIR GALAHAD (1), RESOURCE and OLWEN (2)

21 November 1970 at Singapore

8 February 1971 during Exercise FEBEX between Singapore and Hong Kong RASed with HMAS YARRA

31 October 1971 acted as the Saluting Ship for the final steam past of  17 ships from the RN, RAN, RNZN and RFA in the Far East Fleet in the Singapore Straits after the closure of the naval base there which also included RFA’s FORT SANDUSKY, GOLD RANGER,  OLNA (3), RELIANT (2), RESOURCE, TIDEFLOW and TIDEPOOL. Immediately afterwards for three hectic days she  participated in Operation Curtaincall – a combined RN, RAN, RNZN and RFA Fleet Exercise off the NW coast of Malaysia

11 January 1972 at Mombassa

10 March 1972 at Mombassa

1 June 1972 berthed at Portsmouth

22 July 1972 at Portland

August 1972 visited Jamestown, St. Helena

November 1972 RASed with RFA PLUMLEAF (2)

5 December 1972 Commodore Henry O L’Estrange DSC RD RFA discharged dead at Singapore

12 December 1972 at Hong Kong

April 1973 Humanitarian aid – along with HMS HYDRA and RFA TIDESPRING, she provided support to the inhabitants of Rodrigues Island, 350 miles east of Mauritius, after the island was battered by 130 mph gales for 18 hours. Aid was airlifted in

11 June 1973 to 18 June 1973 Humanitarian assistance -acted as a helicopter base during Omani relief operations in Operation Simbaalong with RFA SIR LANCELOT

7 March 1974 at Portland

11 April 1974 at Plymouth

June 1974 deployed from Gibraltar and took part in Joint Maritime Course 742

17 September 1974 along with RFA’s OLNA (3) and GREEN ROVER, sailed Portsmouth as part of Task Group 317.2 led by the helicopter cruiser HMS BLAKE

10 August 1975 at Birkenhead

7 October 1975 at Plymouth

17 October 1975 at Plymouth with Captain J Logan RFA  in command

20 October 1975 sailed Plymouth

24 October 1975 berthed at Gibraltar

28 October 1975 sailed from Gibraltar

1 November 1975 berthed at Grand Harbour, Malta astern of HMS FEARLESS

5 November 1975 sailed from Malta and RASed with HMS NORFOLK returning to Grand Harbour, Malta

18 November 1975 sailed from Malta

21 November 1975 arrived at Gibraltar sailing later the same day

27 November 1975 arrived at Pirareus, Athens, Greece

2 December 1975 sailed from Pirareus, Athens, Greece

5 December 1975 berthed at Villefrance sur Mer, France berthing on a buoy

9 December 1975 sailed from Villefrance sur Mer, France

11 December 1975 berthed at Gibraltar

15 December 1975 sailed from Gibraltar

19 December 1975 berthed at Chatham

5 January 1976 sailed from Chatham

9 January 1976 berthed at Gibraltar

15 January 1976 sailed from Gibraltar

19 January 1976 arrived at Portsmouth

29 January 1976 sailed from Portsmouth

31 January 1976 berthed at Rosyth

4 February 1976 sailed from Rosyth

6 February 1976 berthed at arrived at Portland

9 February 1976 sailed from Portland

12 February 1976 berthed at Gibraltar

13 February 1976 sailed from Gibraltar and engaged in Exercise Springtrain 76 with a Pilotless Target Aircraft being launched from the flight deck

19 February 1976 berthed at Gibraltar

1 March 1976 sailed from Gibraltar – programmed to return to Hull, UK to act as a base for a recruitment drive but having cleared the Straits sailed south into the South Atlantic

13 March 1976 berthed at Rio De Janeiro

19 March 1976 sailed from Rio De Janeiro

21 March 1976 berthed at Santos, Brazil

26 March 1976 sailed from Santos 

12 April 1976 berthed at Gibraltar

24 April 1976 sailed from Gibraltar

9 May 1976 arrived at Sardinia and anchored

12 May 1976 sailed from Sardinia

14 May 1976 arrived at Sardinia and anchored embarking Royal Marine Camp Beds on the ‘Clearway Deck’ sailing overnight to Malta

15 May 1976 berthed at Malta

23 May 1976 sailed from Malta

26 May 1976 arrived at Izmir

5 June 1976 sailed from Izmir

8 June 1976 arrived at Malta

9 June 1976 sailed from Malta

12 June 1976 anchored at Haifa 

14 June 1976 sailed from Haifa

17 June 1976 to 22 June 1976 along with RFA GREY ROVER and the frigates HMS EXMOUTH and HMS MERMAID she stood by to evacuate British nationals from the Lebanon

24 June 1976 arrived at Iskenderun, Turkey

25 June 1976 sailed from Iskenderun, Turkey

28 June 1976 arrived at Malta

29 June 1976 sailed from Malta

2 July 1976 arrived at Gibraltar

5 July 1976 sailed from Gibraltar

8 July 1976 arrived at Portsmouth

12 July 1976 sailed from Portsmouth

14 July 1976 arrived at Rosyth and anchored – sailing later

17 July 1976 arrived at Kirkwall and anchored – sailing later

24 July 1976 arrived at Invergordon

26 July 1976 sailed from Invergordon for Stromness and anchored on arrival

30 July 1976 sailed from Stromness

2 August 1976 arrived at Portsmouth

4 August 1976 paid off at Portsmouth

25 September 1976 along with RFA OLNA (3) sailed Portsmouth as part of Task Group 317.4 led by the guided missile destroyer HMS ANTRIM

29 September 1976 arrived at Lisbon

22 December 1976 at Plymouth

25 January 1977 along with RFA’s GREEN ROVER and TIDEPOOL sailed Devonport as part of Task Group 317.5 led by the helicopter cruiser HMS TIGER

24 June 1977 to 29 June 1977 took part in the Silver Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead with eight other RFA’s and units of the Royal Navy and foreign navies. 

14 September 1977 conducted landing trials of the Harrier GR3 on her Flight Deck at Chatham

16 September 1977 sailed Chatham Dockyard into the River Medway

October 1977 humanitarian aid – rescued a man trying to cross the North Atlantic in a rubber boat

2 December 1977 berthed at Portsmouth

30 March 1978 berthed at Portsmouth

16 December 1978 at Devonport

18 January 1979 on the River Tyne

14 March 1979 arrived Grand Harbour, Malta to load

30 March 1979 sailed Grand Harbour, Malta the day before the UK withdrew from the Island


Stromness Football Team 1979

Ships Football team 1979


28 June 1979 at Portsmouth Dockyard

21 July 1979 at Portsmouth Dockyard

6 September 1979 at Portsmouth Dockyard

20 July 1980 RASed with RFA RESOURCE (2)

30 July 1980 RASed with RFA RESOURCE (2)

31 July 1980 RASed with RFA RESOURCE (2)

21 August 1980 RASed with RFA RESOURCE (2)

7 October 1980 along with RFA OLWEN (2) were the first RFA’s to be deployed on Operation Armillain the Persian Gulf

12 January 1981 Captain Barry H Rutterford RFA appointed as Master



Captain Barry H Rutterford RFA


26 May 1981 at Smiths Dock, River Tyne in refit

3 August 1981 at Devonport Navy Days

10 October 1981 at Baltimore

10 December 1981 at Norfolk Virginia


Fearless Tidespring Stromness Achilles WI Feb 82

© MOD acknowledged


21 December 1981 at Portsmouth

February 1982 commenced destoring prior to withdrawal from service as a Defence Economy Measure

1 April 1982 at Portsmouth – cold move to No 15 Dock 

7 April 1982 after rapidly restoring and loading 800 tons of bunkers sailed Portsmouth for service during Operation Corporate the Falklands Conflict – carrying stores, ammunition and also 429 Royal Marines

11 April 1982 along with RFA RESOURCE, she caught up with the Amphibious Landing Group at sea which consisted of RFA’s SIR GALAHAD (1), SIR PERCIVALE, SIR  GERAINT, SIR  LANCELOT and PEARLEAF (2) escorted by the LPD  HMS FEARLESS and the Type 21 frigates HMS ALACRITY and HMS ANTELOPE

20 April 1982 anchored off Clarence Bay, Ascension Island

27 April 1982 RASed food provisions with ss Canberra

12 May 1982 received 369 tons of bunkers

13 May 1982 entered the TEZ (Total Exclusion Zone ) around the Falkland Islands

19 May 1982 received 232 tons of bunkers

21 May 1982 and 22 May 1982 while carrying 45 Commando was involved in Operation Sutton – the landings in San Carlos Water at Ajax Bay and Port San Carlos – along with HMS’s FEARLESS and INTREPID and also with the liner Canberra and the ferry Norland

24 May 1982 at San Carlos Water being overflown by an Argentinean IAI Dagger of Grupo 6

Stromness Bomb Alley

13 June 1982 RASed with ss Canberra

14 June 1982 received 384 tons of bunkers

29 June 1982 sailed from the Falklands Islands for the U.K. Was awarded the Falkland Islands 1982 Battle Honour.

19 July 1982 berthed at North Corner Jetty, Portsmouth on completion of Operation Corporate duties

18 August 1982 moved to Gosport Oil Fuel Jetty (N)

1 September 1982 Captain D A Reynolds RFA took command

2 December 1982 sailed Devonport for refit at Gibraltar, on completion of which she was chartered by the U.S. Dept of Defence

April 1983 acquired on charter by the United States Military Sealift Command and was renamed  USNS SATURN (T-AFS- 10)



2008 USNS Saturn in Panama


1 October 1983 purchased by the USMSC for $10.5 m

13 December 1983 re-entered service after modifications which included the addition of a hangar complex to enable her to operate 2 x CH-46 helicopters

4 April 1990 berthed at Toulon, France

4 May 1992 Chief Engineer Officer Peter Schuffels MSC appointed

22 May 1998 deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch – RASed with USS Santa Barbara (AE 28)

27 May 1999 berthed at Genoa, Italy for a port visit

15 November 2000 transfered cargo during a vertical replenishment at sea (VERTREP) to USS George Washington (CVN 73) while underway in the Mediterranean Sea

9 February 2002 conducted a vertical replenishment with the US aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis (CVN 74). The ships are deployed and conducting missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom

2 April 2003 berthed at Augusta Bay, Sicily

2 February 2006 berthed at Norfolk, VA

10 April 2006 berthed at Norfolk, VA

19 May 2006 berthed at the NATO pier, Augusta Bay, Sicily

15 July 2006 berthed at Djibouti to take on fuel and supplies

29 August 2006 RASed with USS Iwo Jima (LPD7) while in the Gulf of Aden

2 October 2006 transitted the Suez Canal


Stroness in 2006

USNS Saturn (ex RFA Stromness) in December 2006


4 February 2007 berthed at Rota, Spain

13 February 2007 transitted the Suez Canal

14 February 2007 completed her last “blue water” turnover in the Red Sea with her sister USNS SPICA (ex RFA TARBATNESS) and due to decommission in the fiscal year 2009

23 May 2007 berthed at Norfolk VA

27 August 2007 at Bahia Malaga, Columbia RASed with USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

2 October 2007 berthed at Vasco Nunez Del Balboa

6 April 2009 struck from US Navy List and laid up at the US Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Philadelphia.

26 October 2010 towed by USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) to be released 250 miles off the North Carolina coast

27 October 2010 sunk as a target by the US Navy in the North Atlantic off North Carolina led by the carrier USS GEORGE H. W. BUSH. The first day’s attacks were aimed at her superstructure to prevent hull integrity breaches while the second day’s attacks achieved her sinking



Rounds from a Mk-15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon System from the USS Mitscher impact the ex-USNS Saturn during a sinking exercise

Copyright US Navy 2010




1. Was one of the 11 storeships employed in the Mozchan on Beira Patrol duties.


2. As a unit in the  USMSC, her complement was 49 Navy Crew and 115 Civilians.