Long Range & Recovery Support Craft - SEAL Class

Initial estimates saw a requirement for ten of these vessels, capable of sustaining the Marine Branch's Long Range commitment for the forseeable future. The lead vessel was built by Brooke Marine at Lowestoft and launched on 11th May 1967 under a design and build contract. Her naming ceremony was carried out on 2nd August 1967 and she arrived at Mount Batten on 7th August 1967 bearing her name HMAFV SEAL.

Posted to 1105 MCU Portrush, she ably demonstrated her capabilities on the weapon ranges working with both the RAF and RN. Torpedo recovery required a new approach from that of running alongside and either parbuckling, or hoisting the weapons aboard using the winch and derrick. These steel craft used a 'Gemini' to tow the torpedo to the launch, the stern ramp would be lowered and the weapon recovered by means of rails and recovery winch. The weapons flat could hold a total of nine short and four long torpedoes. In 1986 SEAL undertook the longest ever passage by an RAF launch, a total of 12,500 miles steamed over a 101 day period, when she went to the AUTEC range in the Bahamas.

This success lead eventually to an order of a further two vessels, 5001 - SEAGULL and 5002 - SEA OTTER, being awarded to Fairmile Construction of Berwick on Tweed on the 8th April 1968. They were launched in June and December 1970. They were allotted to Mount Batten and Portrush until the latter unit closed in March 1971, when SEAL moved to Alness, where she operated out of Invergordon. Over the ensuing years they carried out a variety of tasks around the UK and further afield, including NATO exercises, SUBSUNK, training, Channel Surveillance, HM Customs work, and escort to the Royal Yacht. These were all in addition to their normal weapons recovery tasks, periodic slippings, for routine maintenance (and damage repair)

Although they proved to be both excellent sea boats and ideally suited for their work, no further vessels were ordered. With the forthcoming closure of the Marine Branch, HMAFV SEA OTTER was handed over to the RN and re-named HMS REDPOLE carrying the pennant of P.259. After modifications she operated as a patrol vessel in Northern Irish water until she was sold out of service on 28th February 1996.

In 1986 when the Branch closed, SEAL and SEAGULL were operated by the new civilian contractors James Fisher & Sonas AFVs (Air Force Vesselss) still bearing their RAF colour scheme. This was changed to the Black and Buff scheme in 1991 when control passed to DMS(N) after the DDMC was disbanded. Later again they reverted back to their original RAF colours minus the roundel, and had the designation of ASC (Air Support Craft). Their last coomercial operators were VT (Vosper Thornycroft) Marine and when they lost the contract to Smit Towing an early 2003, the two old girls were sold off and replaced by new purpose built civilian craft.