The captain of HMS Clyde has described in depth the purpose the Royal Navy serves to the Falkland Islands, and warned that cutting the commitment to the region would be a “significant risk”. 

In an exclusive interview with the UK Defence Journal, Lt Cdr Hugh Harris also described how he could be tasked by the commander of British forces in the region to respond to an Argentine vessel approaching the Falkland Islands.

HMS Clyde is the designated Falkland Islands patrol vessel. Commissioned in 2007, she’s a Batch 1 River Class offshore patrol vessel (OPV). She operates as part of the overall UK commitment to the region, termed ‘British Forces South Atlantic Islands’ (BFSAI).

It costs the UK approximately £450 million each year to maintain this commitment. The Ministry of Defence is not reimbursed by the Falkland Islands Government for this cost. In a recent statement, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:

“The defence and security of the Falkland Islands remains a HMG priority, and as such we undertake regular assessments of potential military threats to ensure that we retain an appropriate level of defensive capability.”

HMS Clyde is “physically owned” by BAE Systems, and is leased to the Royal Navy. Originally, all four of the River Class vessels were leased, but the Royal Navy has since bought HMS Severn, Tyne, and Mersey.

Clyde’s lease is due to expire at the beginning of 2020. While Harris told me “there is the potential to extend”, there have been some reports that Clyde will be bought by Brazil. Harris was clear though that the future of Clyde is “down to the owners of the vessel – BAE Systems”.

Whatever her future, she will be replaced by HMS Forth “towards the end of this year”, after a handover period when both ships are in the region.

HMS Forth is a Batch 2 River Class. Describing the Batch 2, Harris said “they don’t really look anything like these ships [Batch 1]. The capability is significantly greater than what we have at the moment.

“They are blue water, ocean going vessels, 30mm automatic weapon system on the front, very capable air radar for surveillance, very capable electro-optic capabilities, which is a significant uplift on what we currently have on the Batch 1s.”

The Royal Navy will retain HMS Severn, Tyne, and Mersey, “predominantly on fishery protection duties” according to Harris. This will “release the Batch 2s to do other stuff”.

HMS Clyde has been in the South Atlantic for almost 12 years. Her only time off station during this period was in 2017, when she was dry docked in South Africa for maintenance.

The conflict of 1982 remains in everyone’s mind, but Harris insists that HMS Clyde is there for “reassurance”, not defence.

“A big part of my operational role down here is to provide that visual presence. We want to be seen. We want to go and meet people”. As a result, her crew will consciously train near to the shore so the locals can see that constant presence.

Most of the inhabited smaller islands only get a visit when tourists fly in. HMS Clyde however will regularly anchor near the most remote islands and put a team ashore. Harris is proud of this, saying that the locals are “always really pleased to see us”. Indeed one farmer told me “Clyde is really popular with the locals”.

HMS Clyde’s remit includes patrolling the Falkland Islands’ territorial waters. The legal basis of these waters is often challenged by Argentina, but Harris is clear: “As per any other coastal nation state, the Falkland Islands is completely legally entitled to claim territorial and economic water zones”.

HMS Clyde

If an Argentine vessel was approaching the waters surrounding the Falkland Islands, HMS Clyde “would be tasked by Commander British Forces. I would be at his disposal to act in any way that he or the Ministry of Defence saw fit to do so”.

Indeed Harris said that this has happened in the past. “It was reported last year that an Argentine survey vessel was heading south. Clyde was tasked to go and monitor her movements”.

Due to the vital role that Clyde serves, both in patrolling the region and reassuring the islanders, Harris was clear that the presence must continue to be maintained.

“This is a very remote part of the world. It is also an island, so to not have a maritime asset down here at such range from the UK, you’d be taking I think significant risk”.

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Steve Taylor

The only River I have never visited.

All Rivers should have been built with a flight deck.

And perhaps the only River that needed a proper gun.

Good stuff. BZ.


Yes…a 76mm would have fitted nicely!


Atleast HMS forth will have a 30mm cannon and two miniguns and some GPMGs, it’s a slight upgun from batch ones. And the 30mm can fire a range of different ammo and fire it a few miles distance.


Yes, but it should be noted that HMS Clyde currently has a 30mm, and the same small armament you have described.


How about the radar, electro optical sensors and targetting. Are the same on batch 1 and 2? Just asking.


Upgraded from Batch 1, including Kelvin Hughes SharpEye radar, Terma Scanta 4100 2D radar, CMS-1, and shared infrastructure OS. The inclusion of CMS-1 would be crucial if they ever want to upgrade the armament of the Bath 2 vessels. Batch 2 vessels also have a 16-tonne crane, increased compliment (doubled troops carried plus almost double crew), increased speed, length, weight, the inclusion of a flight deck and increased endurance. HM Ships Tamar and Spey will also be the first to be fitted with catalytic converters. Arguably, they represent a completely different ship both visually and internally from their Batch 1… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Lusty.


You’re very welcome.

Incidentally, if you’re interested, I had the pleasure of visiting HMS Caroline in Belfast over Easter and discussing naval stiff with one of the guides. Highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in Belfast if you haven’t already been.

Daniele Mandelli

No, I have not. Thanks. The RNR unit has moved to Theipval barracks now I believe.

andy reeves

pointless ‘fanny’ boats, that could be upgraded and offer more than fishery protection, these are bigger ships than many realise just how big they are, these types should be upgraded to corvette, a 76mm gun asw torpedo, maybe even a sea ram. the R.N could gain 9 river/corvettes more quickly than waiting for a jock dockie to pull his finger out and get the t26’s built.

andy reeves

all the rivers should have been fitted with a 76mm gun, the thais have done it to their river, the krabi


I think the driving decision is what medium calibre gun is selected for Type 31. Any upgrade for the R2 might follow that new standard. If Type 31, for cost reasons sticks with the Mk8 4.5in I don’t see R2 changing from the 30mm. If T31 goes with the 57mm there is chance R2 might upgrade. I don’t know how the cost of the 76mm compares with the 57mm but my guess is that we will never see R2 in RN service with the 76mm.


Instead of decommissioning T23 GP frigates, one should be overhauled and stationed in the Falklands ALONG with the Batch 2 to lend real presence in the South Atlantic. If the Falklands government should strike it rich in the oil reserves found, then they should chip in to maintain those capabilities…


James Harrington

Thats a good if unrealistically expensive option that should be considered, paid for by foreign aid too. 1 x falklands, 1 x West indies, 1 x Cyprus, 1 x Gulf. 1 x Scotland? Also please consider the following I sent to the editors: Please give serious consideration to posting articles and news about the recent decision to begin prosecutions against ex service members. There was a significant article in todays Guardian newspaper. I think most of your readers will be as angered as I am about the persecution let along prosecution of ex serve members. There should be a groundswell… Read more »

andy reeves

£13.1 billion to nations that harbour terrorists and allow their soil to be used to train them to do harm to us, the same amount to the nation with a real booming economy and aspiration to join the naval big league big money to nations that we’ve been bombing the crap out of.

andy reeves

before the argies do.

Daniele Mandelli

This may be an unpopular opinion here, but why would we want a warship greater than what we have already in the Falklands area?

Our posture is reflected by the threat. And the threat is minimal.

If the threat increases then our posture likewise changes.

Gavin Gordon

Pretty much agree, Daniele. The Falkland’s are no longer what they were in 1982 – now well fortified overall.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree Gavin. MPA especially.


The type 2s are an upgrade so I think its adequate as the threat stands. The type 2s have space for a 2 x larger Marine or Military force, just a pity they don’t have a hanger which would be useful with the climate down there.

Patrick O'Neill

Agreed Daniele. The Argentine threat is currently minimal.


Totally agree on your threat assessment Danielle, thinking more along the lines of the “Global Britain” focus to maintain on call resources in every region and to keep an eye on resurgent Russian activity in the Southern Hemisphere along with increasing Chinese incursions. The vessel could be forward deployed like HMS Montrose and cover the Southern Region (both sides of South and Central America) as the on-call UK HMS. The Rivers are simply not up to the job.



Finally… So the U.S. can CONTINUE to have presence in the far southern region…

Daniele Mandelli

Agree on that front mate.

Need more people first and foremost.


My understanding is that Type 31 will be the forward deployed ship where ‘constabulary’ work requires what 1SL referred to as a ‘credible’ frigate, well enough armed to fend off a Chinese frigate, say. ‘Constabulary’ in the context of River 2 means anti piracy, anti drug running and humanitarian work and special forces anti terrorist insertions. In an emergency a Wildcat with Sea Venom would give a R2 a useful over the horizon offensive capability.
I live in hope that we get Type 31 right and build it in numbers.

Andy P

Do we not still have a skimmer and an RFA stooging about in the South Atlantic too ??? I know the South Atlantic is a big area right enough.

Daniele Mandelli

What is a “skimmer ?

The RFA was usually one of the Rovers I believe, all long gone.

Does APT ( S ) even exist now?

Harry Nelson

Skimmer “submariner speak” for a FF/DD

Alex T

And what is ‘FF/DD’? You speaks in widdles.

Harry Nelson


Alex T

Thank you.


Not riddles – hull classifications:
FF = generic code for Frigate
DD = generic code for Destroyer (although the most pedantic would argue that the Type 45 should be coded DDG – Guided Missile Destroyer)

One of which will be on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) with an RFA ship, so kicking round the Falklands / South Georgia / Ascension / Tristan da Cunha/ Saint Helena/ West Africa (basically everywhere south of the Caribbean (which is Atlantic Patrol Task (North).

It’s one of the standing deployments for surface ships (submarines don’t have published standing deployments, they’re just out there somewhere)

Alex T

Thanks Rufus, all clear now.

Andy P

^^^^ Wot he says.

Would guess that its not been reduced to just an RFA because of the whole Falklands thing but that’s just speculation on my part.

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Harry.


There hasnt been an SSN down there for at least 15 years.

John flinders

The threat in 1982_was minimal. As I recall it was around twenty five marines


With the Harpoon missiles being replaced in the near(ish) future, is it not worth looking into wether they could be stuck on our OPVs? They dont have to hunt down frigates and destroyers but something that could hit another vessel without getting as close as a 30mm range allows is surely a handy capability.


Probably a lot more effective and efficient to bolt on some Spear 3 to the batch 2.. Or will the Typhoons down there get some?

Andy P

Its not as simple as putting the older stuff onto other platforms, the whole system needs a support of stores and training, it all costs. Its one thing with a gun system (we kept the 40/60’s going for a long time) but with missile systems it can all get very costly. Then there’s getting guy (and girls) away from their ongoing jobs to put them on the courses etc….. more money.


C/O of HMS CLYDE better do some refit time and Have a 76mm Gun Fitted Argentina are soon to get Ulsan-class frigates from South Korea with a 76MM gun fitted

Daniele Mandelli


Assuming they have air to ground weaponry.


Shes not a batch 1.. Tyne, Severn and Mersey are batch 1. Clyde is a batch 1.5. She is bigger and heavier than the batch one’s.

Paul Bestwick

With the move away from singleton escort deployments in favour of a CSG approach, should we have significantly more Opvs than we currently have. I think we should so that all deployments away from the carriers become OP deployments by default. Obviously if you need other capabilities ie Covering the approaches to Faslane requires a dedicated ASW ship. But things like anti piracy patrols, the refugee patrols in the med and fisheries protection in British waters wherever in the world should be supported by our OPVs if not done by them.

andy reeves



Stop shouting Andy!


Among the RN, RFA, and Army contribution in the Falkland Island, I think that of RN now is the smallest, just a single OPV (because an escort (APT-S) and a RFA has been banned).

“Four Typhoons” is very expensive, and the land-force with LandCepter SAM system is also impressive. Among the “£450 million each year”, deploying a single OPV is how much? I guess £20-40 million per year, or ~10% or less.

Nonetheless, a single OPV forward deployed is, I think, quit effective clearly showing the “RN presence” there.

Andrew J Boulton

If I can refer to the “trip wire” NATO armies, that are stationed/committed to, the three Baltic States. It is acknowledged that they will react – bravely – if required to actually fight. But, that the primary reason for their presence is to act as a “trip wire”, with all the implications involved. That is to act as a “deterrence”. Not in/of themselves, but in/of the consequences if provoked. Such a role could be adequately fulfilled – and will be in the Falkland Islands – by the River-class Batch 2 OPV. However, it is suggested that for the (marginal) cost… Read more »