It has been suggested that the Royal Navy may station an additional Offshore Patrol Vessel in the Falklands.
The current patrol vessel, HMS Clyde, was constructed to replace the Castle class patrol vessels for duties around the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands.
Clyde incorporates an extended length hull, a 30 mm cannon, two miniguns and mountings for five general purpose machine guns. The elongated hull permits a flight deck able to accommodate a Merlin sized helicopter.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015 announced a further purchase of two new Batch 2 River class ships, in addition to the three already ordered.
The three Batch 1 ships without flight decks will be withdrawn in favour of the newer ships.
During a Defence Select Committee in July 2016, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Andrew Jones indicated that the option for a fleet of ‘up to six’ offshore patrol vessels had been reduced to five, with Clyde being replaced by one of the new Batch 2 ships.
The First Sea Lord also elaborated on the potential uses for the Batch 2 ships overseas, including the possibility of forward basing an extra ship at the Falklands Islands, or forward basing it elsewhere. Admiral Sir Philip Jones said:
“Well, you are absolutely right that they have proved enormously useful, flexible and reliable ships. There are four vessels that we have in service at the moment. Three are Tyne, Mersey and Severn, which operate largely in UK waters on fishery protection and offshore tapestry protection, and of course they are increasingly working with the Border Force and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in support of protection of UK waters. Then we have a fourth one, which is permanently based in the South Atlantic.
We have had those ships in service for quite some time now. We are looking at replacing them with slightly larger and more capable ships in due course anyway, so that was already in the course of production to bring three of those in. The additional two will enable us to take a longer term view of how we replace HMS Clyde, which is a slightly larger helicopter-capable version of the OPV. We are looking at a number of ways in which we might use the fifth one.
So, the fourth one is clearly a Clyde replacement.
The fifth one can either be added into the mix for the three that operate in UK waters or it could be forward-deployed somewhere else in the world, or it could become a second vessel operating in the South Atlantic. All those options are available.”
The new ships are different in appearance and capabilities to the Batch 1. Notable differences include their longer hull, higher top speed, Merlin capable flight deck and greatly expanded capacity for accommodating troops.