RFA Argus visit

Monday 15 August 2005

A unique ship created in Belfast by Harland and Wolff is set to visit the city next week for the first time since she left the port to start a new working life in 1988.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship ARGUS started life as the container Contender Bezant and saw service in the Falklands campaign in 1982 when she was taken up from trade by the Ministry of Defence in a logistics support role. In 1987 the Ministry of Defence bought the ship and the following year she was converted by Harland and Wolff for a new role in support of the Royal Navy. She is one of the largest ships in MoD service.
Her primary role is to provide operational flying training for Royal Navy aircrews. More than two-thirds of her length is given over to a five-spot flight deck, enabling her to operate all types of helicopters. The ship is effectively a small aircraft carrier, with a flying control position, and her two lifts built into the flight deck serve four hangar spaces below, where embarked aircraft are serviced and maintained. If necessary, she can also function as an operational helicopter carrier, particularly in the amphibious warfare role, and as a logistic ship, able to transport cargo and vehicles in the hangars and on the deck.
ARGUS also has an important wartime role – that of a primary casualty reception facility. She is equipped with a hospital complex comprising four operating theatres and 100 beds. She can accept casualties flown straight out to the ship by helicopter and in this role she has most recently provided support to British forces operating in Iraq.
This year is the Centenary of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and ARGUS is visiting Belfast as part of a programme of port visits around the United Kingdom. Whilst in Belfast at Richardson Wharf between 17 and 22 August, the ship will hold a number of functions in support of local companies such as Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Ltd and RFD Beaufort Ltd, the Dunmurry-based survival equipment manufacturers. RFD Beaufort supplied the Marin-Ark marine evacuation system to the vessel and will be carrying out a deployment of the equipment on the 19th August. The Northern Ireland Sea Cadet Corps will also host a reception onboard the ship and 24 Cadets will sail onboard the ship to its next port of call.
Members of the public are also invited to take part in the visit and the ship will be open to all visitors on Saturday 20 August between 12.00pm and 5pm at Richardson Wharf.