7 November 2019






3 mins

RFA ARGUS A 135 is a ship of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary operated by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) under the Blue Ensign. Formerly the Italian built container ship CONTENDER BEZANT ( 28 November 1980 launched by Cantieri Navali Breda S.A, Marghera Yard, Venice as Yard Nr: 293 named CONTENDER BEZANT for Contender 2 Ltd (Sea Containers Ltd, Managers) Hamilton, Bermuda. The Lady Sponsor was Mrs Nigel J Tatham with 31 st July 1981 completed as a 1108 TEU capacity container ship she was requisitioned in May 1982 during Operation Corporate for service in the Falklands War and purchased outright in 1984 for use as an Aviation Training Ship, replacing RFA ENGADINE K 08. During the Gulf War, in 1991 she was fitted with an extensive and fully functional hospital to assume the additional role of Primary Casualty Receiving Ship (PCRS). In 2009, the PCRS role became the ship’s primary function –


Since the ship is armed and is not painted in the required white with red crosses, the Geneva Convention prevents her from being officially classified as a hospital ship –

After a 4 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 too stable when unloaded, making her motion at sea “very stiff” which resulted in a very short roll period which is not appropriate for operating helicopters. 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. Also being a former container ship, RFA 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 two-thirds 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.

During the Gulf War in 1991 she 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, rather than her aviation training duties, has been considered her primary role.

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.

During 2011 she took part in the movie WORLD WAR Z. Originally she was to portray the fictional USS MADISON LHD but in the final cut of the film, she appeared as United Nations Command Ship USS ARGUS.

Argus Scene 1

From Wednesday 30 th to Thursday 31st October 2019 she made a short visit to HMNB Portsmouth berthing at Portsmouth Naval Dockyard coming from Portland of which she sailed from on Monday 28th October.

Portsmouth Photos by our correspondent Ms. Amy Savage with the other 2 by Capt. Lawrence Dalli. Do not use these images without my permission. © All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos –

Published – Thursday 7th November 2019

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Watermarked Photos are by Capt. Lawrence Dalli otherwise stated. NO PHOTOS can be used or manipulated without our permission.
© All rights reserved. Malta Ship Photos & Action Photos –