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.

23 COMMENTS

    • I like them. I think they are perfect for the constabulary role. As for the price well that has more to do with Gov dithering than anything else. Like most of the fleet it’s the lack of numbers. As a post Brexit Island nation we should have a dozen OPVs like this.

      • There has been some talk that HMS Clyde could be kept in service because she has a Merlin capable flight deck. Unlike the first three ships which will probably sold off. Although they may be transferred to the UK Border Force maritime command.

        • Have a vague memory of reading that we would keep HMS Severn to make a fleet of 6 OPVs. Clyde has a unique management system I think, bit of an orphan.

          • I am HIGHLY sceptical of that, it makes no sense keeping one Batch 1 River to make numbers up to six. The Royal navy is short handed enough already, they have operated four River 1 in two distinct sub classes to be replaced by five in a single unified class. Why keep one River 1 as an orphan variant? It will cost money that we don’t have to burn especially as we can make a good fire sale of the current River 1 and Clyde. I am also highly sceptical about them going to UK Border Force, do they even meet civilian habitability standards?

            There are foreign navies who will be keen to buy those River 1 and Clyde considering they are only half way through their service life.

          • What’s the ownership situation with Clyde? I know the River B1s were initially leased and the MoD bought the first 3 after their leases expired a few years ago so they are now actually owned by the RN but how about Clyde? Is she still leased with the lease expiration coming up soon or did the lease already expire and the MoD also purchased her outright?

            If Clyde is still on a lease contract then the whole discussion changes, it is no longer a case of should the MoD sell her off but a case of should the MoD spend money to actually buy her?

          • I 100% agree with your scepticism Fedaykin. For the first 3 Batch 1s some people want them to go to the Border Force but, for reasons such as crew requirements and running costs that you mention, if the BF were to benefit from the B1s I would think it much more cost efficient, especially over a 20 year timeframe to factor in running costs, to sell the B1s on and invest the proceeds in more 42m Baf cutters and possibly some cash allocated to some pilot projects on drone technology for the BF.

      • Chance to test the helo refuelling for the AW 189 search and rescue helicopters.
        Zoomimg in on the photo it looks like there is a 20ft container on board. And I seem to remember the River 2’s have medical facilities. All in all several useful improvements to casualty and rescue provision for the islands and surrounding seas.

  1. Most of our recent procurement’s (whilst offering significant enhancements over their predecessors), have resulted in an overall drop in numbers. Off the top of my head, four Tide’s to replace a large number of Rovers and Leafs, six T45 to replace twelve T42 (fourteen if you include the hulls lost in the Falklands), and two aircraft carriers replacing four flat-tops.

    RB2 replaces the B1/Modified vessels like for like, whilst adding an additional hull – that is something to be happy about. These vessels over a significant increase in capability, and will be fantastic assets for helping to patrol UK waters, and for deployment to our overseas territories.

      • Not going to deny that. But with more hulls, you be in more places at once – whether it be providing disaster relief, whilst at the same time, responding in force to a threat to national security, or simply engaging in military exercises around the globe. And if there’s some unforeseen eventuality, such as an accident (a vessel runs aground, or is damaged during refit), or is lost during a conflict, we could lose a big percentage of our surface fleet – and therefore the capability they offer.

  2. @Fedaykin. As I say a vague memory. The Alzheimers may be cutting in early. As I recall the post was on the warships discussion board by someone who had been chatting with someone who claimed to know. And it was a while back. Tend to agree selling on to foreign navy is much more likely than that the R1 go to the Border Force who typically use 42m, 250 ton cutters which are faster, and have a crew of 12 or so; much cheaper to run all round.

    • From a quick look at the technical brief I would say that you’re doing BMT a disservice, the Venari 85 looks way more ambitious than R2 (and I’m not an R2 hater). I wonder what sort of price BMT think they might be able to get V85 built for.

      One interesting thing BMT talks about is the signature reduction giving V85 the potential to deploy a towed sonar for sanitisation of local waters (or at least the detection part of the operation). That would be useful in relieving load on the T26s. I also like the fact that it has an integrated hangar for a UAV and even a rear-facing flight control station. It can also embark 6 ISO containers without encroaching on the flight deck vs 2 for the River B2 and that rear working deck has its own garage under the flight deck.

      The BMT literature is infuriatingly silent on a few key issues, e.g. range, speed, endurance, basic crew complement and displacement which makes me think this really is an early stage concept, BMT hasn’t done enough detailed design and calculation to know those things yet, and this might be not much more than a flight of CGI fantasy. If V85 could get turned into reality at an affordable price though it could be very interesting depending on those key missing “specs”.

      • R2 came in for a lot of criticism early on for not having a hangar, which means it compares poorly with many corvette and OPV competitive designs. I would argue it is actually, with its crane for deploying containerised unmanned sub surface mine hunting and sonar, the prototype MHPC the RN always intended.

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