In a speech lauding the Ukrainian Navy at Admiralty House in London on 12 December 2023, the UK Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, extended British support for the service with an additional donation of 20 Viking BvS10 amphibious, all-terrain vehicles and 23 offshore raiding craft (ORC).

This continued support comes just off the heels of the establishment of the Anglo-Norwegian-led Maritime Capability Coalition, formed on 11 December, to strengthen Ukraine’s Navy and make it more interoperable with other Nato fleets.

Alongside this, Shapps also gifted two British Sandown-class mine-hunting vessels from Britain’s five-strong fleet, which were originally acquired between 1998 and 2001.

Balancing British inventory, a 65% loss of ORCs

Britain’s transfer of 20 Viking BvS10 vehicles to Ukraine comes after the UK Royal Navy replenished its inventory of amphibious support vehicles under the Collaborative All-Terrain Vehicles programme (CATV). This joint procurement plan saw Sweden, Germany and the UK jointly acquire 436 BvS10 units from the original equipment manufacturer, BAE Systems in December 2022. The three buyers are due to receive 236, 140 and 60 vehicles respectively, according to the Royal Navy.

The uprated Vikings – which will be in service until 2058 – can operate in harsh climes such as the Arctic or desert where the Royal Marines regularly operate as the UK’s experts in warfare in the most extreme environments. 

The Viking vehicle consists of two linked tracked units, which are articulated vertically and horizontally for steering and for manoeuvring over rough terrain. All four tracks drive continuously, providing maximum tractive effort in all conditions.

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Furthermore, Britain’s Royal Marine Commandos also operate a total of 35 ORCs – 27 troop-carrying and eight fire-support boats. In contrast to offsetting the Viking vehicles, the Navy will have a deficit of ORCs by 12 boats, or 65% of its ORC fleet.

The Royal Marines use ORCs for troop insertion and extraction on the front line, patrols as well as fire cover in combat. These boats are fast and versatile craft capable of transporting 12 Royal Marines Commandos at a time. The craft are launched by a trailer under-slung from a helicopter and secured to the deck of a ship or aircraft hold.