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RFA Argus (A135)
RFA Argus
RFA Argus at HMNB Devonport Navy Days 1999
Career (UK) British-Royal-Fleet-Auxiliary-Ensign.svg
Name: RFA Argus
Namesake: HMS Argus
Launched: 1981
Acquired: February 1982 by the MOD
Commissioned: 1 June 1988
Identification: Pennant number = A135
Motto: Occuli Omnium (Eyes Of All)
Nickname: "PCRS", "BUPA Baghdad"
Honours and
Groix 1795[citation needed]
Ashantee 1873-74[citation needed]
Arctic 1941[citation needed]
Atlantic 1941-42[citation needed]
Malta Convoys 1942[citation needed]
North Africa 1942[citation needed]
She also holds Contender Bezant’s Battle Honour: Falkland Islands 1982.
Status: in active service, as of 2020
Badge: 100px
General characteristics
Type: Aviation training / Casualty receiving ship
Displacement: 28,081 tonnes
Length: 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-thruster
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h)
Complement: 80 RFA
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 launchers
Aircraft carried: Three spots for Westland Sea Kings, CH47 Chinooks, Westland Merlins, WAH-64 Apache or Westland Lynx
Aviation facilities: 1 Aircraft lift from Flight Deck to 4-Deck number 2 hangar, 4x hangars

RFA Argus is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, part of the Royal Navy. 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.[1]

Note that since the ship is armed, the Geneva Convention prevents it from being officially classified as a hospital ship.[2][3]

Design and facilitiesEdit

RFA Argus A135

RFA Argus at U.S. Naval Station Mayport, Florida, 2006

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.[4]

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.

Argus was fitted with a fully functional hospital for the 1991 Gulf crisis, which has since been modified and extensively added to with specialist equipment, providing 100 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.[5]

Service historyEdit


RFA Argus (A135) underway in the Persian Gulf 1991

RFA Argus during the Gulf War (1991)

Argus entered service with the RFA in 1988, replacing RFA Engadine in the aviation training role. The ship deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 for service in the Gulf War (Operation Granby),[6] and also saw service in the Adriatic in 1993 and 1999 supporting British operations in Bosnia and over Kosovo respectively. During this period, Argus operated in part as an LPH. Her unsuitability for this role was a major factor in the commissioning of HMS Ocean.


RFA Argus and Odyssey Explorer in Falmouth Docks on 2009-08-14

RFA Argus at her home port in Falmouth together with the RV Odyssey Explorer (2009)

During times of war RFA Argus acts as a floating hospital with two full wards and mortuary. The hospital was utilised in this way was off the coast of Freetown in 2000-01, in support of British operations against the rebel West Side Boys.

A program to replace Argus called the Joint Casualty Treatment Ship (JCTS) was put on hold in December 2001 after passing initial approval. The Integrated Project Team (IPT) managing the project was subsequently disbanded in 2005. The ship was most recently stationed at her home port of Falmouth in Cornwall, England, though being an RFA ship means that she also uses the former naval dockyard on Portland in Dorset, England.

In 2003 Argus was deployed again to the Gulf as part of a 33 ship fleet to support a British amphibious assault of the Al-Faw Peninsula. Argus operated in its PCRS role.

In 2008 she deployed to the Middle East to act as a platform for Sea King ASaCs7 helicopters.

Argus operated as the Primary Casualty reception ship with British task group during Operation Telic.

In June 2011, Argus was operating in the Middle East around Yemen.[7]

In August 2011 Argus was at Falmouth and was a filming location for the 2013 film World War Z.[8][9] Originally she was to portray the fictional "USS Madison (LHD-19)" but in the final cut of the film, appeared as "U.N. Command Ship USS Argus."


In mid-May 2012 the vessel, with embarked forces from the Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm, including an embarked Super Lynx helicopter and the newly formed Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Team, set sail for North America to support potential humanitarian operations during the Hurricane season. Their primary mission will be supporting the British Overseas Territories as well as other Commonwealth Realms should they require assistance, they will also be maintaining the constant Royal Navy presence within the wider region. Before commencing her disaster relief mission the ship will engage in multinational exercises and celebrations commemorating the War of 1812 with units from the US Navy[10] as part of OpSail 2012.


The ship has been used to train the next-generation Lynx Wildcat.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. "Casualty Ship (RFA Argus)". 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  2. World Wide Hospital Ships
  4. D. K. Brown and George Moore (2003). Rebuilding the Royal Navy : Warship Design Since 1945. Chatham Publishing. p. 146. 
  5. "Refit of navy ship RFA Argus ends". BBC News. London: British Broadcasting. 12 May 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  6. "11 July 2007" House of Commons 
  7. "Marines on standby to evacuate Britons in Yemen". The Guardian. London: GMG. 7 June 2011. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 14 July 2013. "Argus" 
  8. Bentley, David (2 September 2011). "Navy crew tell of working with Brad Pitt for World War Z". Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  9. "The Zombies are coming". 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 
  10. "RFA Argus will be a MASF help". 25 February 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2013. 

External linksEdit

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