HMS Forth, the first of the Royal Navy’s new Offshore Patrol ships, has arrived in Portsmouth.
The Offshore Patrol Vessels had been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction. Critics, the UK Defence Journal included, have raised concerns that they’re severely overpriced and lack important features, such as a helicopter hangar that other, cheaper vessels of the same type have.
The order and construction of the new OPV’s helped sustain hundreds of skilled jobs on the Clyde until the Type 26 build begins, ensuring that the yards remain viable. The vessels however were described at a Defence Select Committee meeting as vessels “the Royal Navy does not want or need”.
Commanding Officer, Commander Bob Laverty, said:
“It’s huge a privilege to be the first commanding officer of HMS Forth and I am delighted to be the first bringing to bring her into Portsmouth.
These ships are vastly more capable and can provide the Royal Navy with a range of flexibility from fishery protection to deploying overseas on counter-smuggling operations and protecting British Overseas Territories.”
According to the Royal Navy, the vessels are designed for a total crew of around 58, but requiring only 34 to go to sea, she can spend up to 320 days a year on operations. The larger crew allows a rotation of personnel to ensure they get to spend time at home or on training.
“The new OPVs are four knots faster than their predecessors at 24 knots, have an increased range of 5,500 nautical miles, have a 30mm automatic cannon as their main armament instead of a 20mm gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and are equipped with two Pacific 24 sea boats.
Each ship has an extended flight deck to operate up to Merlin size helicopters and accommodation for up to 50 embarked Royal Marines for boarding and supporting operations ashore if required.
The new OPVs will be supported at Portsmouth Naval Base by BAE Systems under the terms of the Maritime Services Delivery Framework (MSDF) contract. It was awarded to the company in 2014 to manage Portsmouth Naval base and to support the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth-based surface fleet on UK and global operations.”
The next major milestone for HMS Forth will be her first deployment, which will take place later this year.