RFA Argus is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary operated by the MoD under the Blue Ensign.
Italian-built, Argus was formerly the container ship MV Contender Bezant. The ship was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA Engadine. In 1991, during the Gulf War, she was fitted with an extensive and fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship. In 2009, the PCRS role became the ship's primary function.
As the ship is armed, the Geneva Convention prevents her from being officially classified as a hospital ship.Design and facilities
After a four-year conversion at Harland and Wolff in Belfast, the ship entered RFA service in 1988. Having been initially designed as a container ship, she would have been unstable when unloaded, making her motion at sea uncomfortable or even dangerous. Therefore, her superstructure is deliberately heavily built (weighing some 800 tons), and she has 1,800 tons of concrete ballast carried in former hatch covers, which have been inverted to form tray-like structures.
Being a former container ship, Argus does not have a traditional aircraft carrier layout - the ship's superstructure is located forward, with a long flight deck aft. The ship has a small secondary superstructure approximately 2/3 of the way down the flight deck, containing the ship's exhaust funnel. This is used by small helicopters to simulate landing on the flight deck of a destroyer or frigate.
For the 1991 Gulf crisis Argus was fitted with a fully functional hospital, which has since been modified and extensively augmented with specialist equipment, providing 70 beds. The ship is equipped with an intensive-care unit, and can provide medical x-ray and CT-scan services. Casualties can be quickly transferred from the deck directly into the assessment area. In recent years the ship's role as a Primary Casualty Receiving Ship has been considered her primary role rather than its aviation training duties.
In 2007 the ship was refitted with upgraded hospital facilities (replacing the forward aircraft lift with a ramp for emergency exit for hospital trollies and patients as well as two 50-man passenger lifts that lead to a new structure erected on the flight deck), generators and aviation systems (the ship is due to receive an upgrade to its night-vision capabilities enabling the use of WAH-64 Apache helicopters) to give an operational life until 2020.Name:
HMS Argus (World's first aircraft carrier)Launched:
1981 (as 'MV Contender Bezant', Italy)Acquired:
February 1982 by the MODCommissioned:
1 June 1988Pennant number :
A135Call Sign :
Occuli Omnium (Eyes Of All)Nickname:
"PCRS", "BUPA Baghdad"Honours and awards:
As the MV Contender Bezant: Falkland Islands 1982.Status:
in active service, as of 2015Type:
Aviation training / Casualty receiving shipDisplacement:
175.1 m (574 ft 6 in)Beam:
30.4 m (99 ft 9 in)Draught:
8.1 m (26 ft 7 in)Propulsion:
2 × Lindholmen Pielstick 18 PC2.5V diesels, twin propellers; bow-thrusterSpeed:
18 knots (33 km/h)Crew Complement:
50 RN (Part of the Maritime Aviation Support Force)
137 RN air squadron personnel (When embarked)
200 Nursing and Medical Staff (When the Hospital is activated)Armament:
2 × Oerlikon 20 mm/85 KAA on GAM-BO1 mountings
4 × 7.62mm GPMGs
Seagnat chaff launchersAircraft carried:
Three spots for Westland Sea Kings, CH47 Chinooks, Westland Merlins, WAH-64 Apache or Westland LynxAviation facilities:
1 Aircraft lift from Flight Deck to 4-Deck number 2 hangar, 4x hangars