MV Asterix is a commercial container ship, purchased by Federal Fleet Services as part of Project Resolve, that was converted into a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Introduce

Unlike most Navy vessels, there are multitudes of auxiliary ship designations with many different designs and primary functions. Auxiliary vessels are special ships, they are not primary combatants but play vitally important roles in both wartime and times of peace, providing defensive and services for troops and other ships. Without them, the primary fleet vessels cannot be effective.

Thus, nearly every navy maintains an extensive fleet of auxiliaries. For Canada, many navy’s supply ships were taken out of service years ago. MV Asterix is currently the latest refueling and supply vessel that is assigned to the Royal Canadian Navy.

Without supply ships, the Navy cannot sustain operations offshore. In 2014, the Royal Canadian Navy lost its last two supply ships, Preserver and Protecteur, after 45 years of service. Since then, Canada relied on Chile to support the Navy on the West Coast for 40 days in 2015, and Spain to support the Navy on the East Coast for 40 days in 2016. This is only when their vessels are available in peace time.

The Canadian government made a quick and decisive decision to provide the Navy’s at-sea oil replenishment capability until the Joint Support Ships, to be built by Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards, are operational.

On January 29, 2018, Davie Shipbuilding and Federal Fleet Services announced that following an intensive period of at-sea trials and testing, Asterix has been formally accepted by the Department of National Defence and has now entered full operational service with the Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force.

MV Asterix is a commercial container ship, purchased by Federal Fleet Services as part of Project Resolve, that was converted into a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. She is intended to act as an interim replacement between the out of service Protecteur-class replenishment oiler and the future Protecteur-class auxiliary vessel. The vessel is limited in her deployment to enter dangerous areas due to her lack of weapons systems and ability to survive combat damage.

Design

After conversion, Asterix retains the characteristics of the previous commercial container ship with double-hull design and a bulbous bow – a feature that the previous Protecteur class did not have and prevented them from operating outside of international waters. It is 182.5m long, a beam of 25.2m and a draught of 7m, while it has a full load displacement of 26,000t.

The supply ship accommodates 150 crew members and up to 350 humanitarian assistance and disaster relief personnel. Its accommodation section has space for briefing, and conference rooms for command and control functions.

For mission purposes the ship will have rooms for crew and medical facilities for humanitarian missions, along with humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities. There will be an area to treat and process evacuees and survivors; a large medical ward divided into two areas capable of treating up to 60.

Capacity

Asterix can operate up to eight smaller boats at the port and starboard sides, with quick launch and recovery capability to perform transportation and rescue missions at sea.

Asterix also has two hangars planned for two embarked CH-148 Cyclones, but big enough to hold CH-147F Chinooks, as well as a landing deck at the stern capable of handling the largest helicopters.

The tween-deck carries two landing craft, vehicle and personnel craft for humanitarian missions, as well as for transportation of personnel, vehicles, and stores. The ship will be crewed by 36 civilian personnel and up to 114 military personnel, with a 67-person detachment specifically aboard for replenishment duties.

Up to four Nato STREAM-type replenishment-at-sea masts are installed amidships to refuel and resupply two ships simultaneously at sea in difficult weather conditions.

The supply ship is capable of transporting 10,500 cubic meters of F76 marine diesel fuel, 1,300 cubic meters of F44 aviation fuel, 400 tons per day of fresh water and 300t of ammunition. The fuel will be stored in pre-fabricated tanks featuring triple-protection walls.

A vehicle bay located on tween-deck is intended for carriage of trucks, light armoured vehicles and jeeps. The bow section has a protected containerised storage area for storing 38 containers, including 20 refrigerated, ammunition and supplies. The containers can be loaded or unloaded using two 30t cargo cranes.

Propulsion

The ship is equipped with one MAN 7S60 engine plus retractable bow thruster, driving a fixed propeller. It can sail at a cruising speed of 20 knots and reach a range of 10,000 nautical miles. Due to the civilian nature of her design, Asterix is limited in her ability to survive damage sustained in combat.

The ship also lacks any installed self-defense weapons systems, although there are provisions should the need arise. These two issues prevent the ship from being deployed to hazardous combat areas.

Operations

Some of Asterix’s recent notable activities: In June and July 2018, Asterix, along with the Halifax-class frigates Vancouver and Ottawa, took part in RIMPAC 2018 around the Hawaiian Islands. The ship then joined HMCS Calgary in the Western Pacific, visiting Da Nang, Vietnam.

Asterix supported Calgary during the frigate’s assignment enforcing United Nations resolutions against North Korea. After a year at sea, Asterix and Calgary returned to Canada at CFB Esquimalt on 18 December.

On 6 February 2019, Regina and Asterix departed Esquimalt for Pacific operations with other nations’ navies. On 18 February, a CH-148 Cyclones helicopter from Regina was attempting to land on Asterix and was damaged in the operation.

Asterix and the damaged Cyclone were redirected to Guam to undergo inspection. No damage was reported to Asterix, and following air tests of the repaired Cyclone, both ships resumed their deployment. In March 2019, Regina and Asterix parted ways, with Regina deployed to the Middle East as part of Operation Artemis.

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