HMS Forth, the first of the Royal Navy’s next-generation of Offshore Patrol ships has been formally commissioned into the Fleet.

The Royal Navy say that the commissioning ceremony lasted for just over an hour and guests included the Lady Sponsor Rachel Johnstone-Burt, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Ben Key and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff Ships Rear Admiral Chris Gardner.

Commanding Officer, Commander Bob Laverty, said:

“It’s a privilege to be the Commanding Officer of HMS Forth, the first in class of the new Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels.

The body of work being put in by my ship’s company will be reflected in not just one, but all five brand new platforms being delivered to the RN and these fantastic ships will be a fine addition to the fleet.

They are a highly capable and versatile warship and I am immensely proud of the effort and sacrifices all have made that have allowed us to be here today.”

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”.

Classified as Batch 2 River-class OPVs HMS Forth and her sisters – HMS Trent, Medway, Tamar and Spey – are a significant upgrade on HMS Tyne, Severn, Mersey and Clyde, which were designed and built 15 years ago. With HMS Forth entering service this year the remaining four ships are all expected to arrive in Portsmouth by 2020.

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.

Paddy Clayton, deputy head of the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) OPV Project Team, said:

“The team at DE&S is extremely proud to see HMS Forth’s commissioning. We will continue to work closely with our delivery partners throughout UK industry and our customer as the remaining four ships in the new fleet are delivered into Royal Navy service.”

76 COMMENTS

  1. This looks like an awful lot of ship for very little firepower. A missed opportunity to create something akin to the old Peacock class or dare i say even a corvette

    • i expect that in the event of a conflict they could be up armed relatively easily – but so politicians dont start calling them frigate replacements the navy kept the weapons off them

    • Another example of an under armed RN ship. Every ship in the fleet should be prepared to and be ready to fight in many different scenarios. This ship is not. I know its fit for many purposes but its still under armed.

      • Even if you add weapons you won’t be adding any crew protection. These ships are not built to full warship standards.
        Would you send a crew into a high risk area in a ship you New was not built to resist damage?
        These are patrol / constabulary ships.

        • Mmmm. Worth reading the article link in Jack’s post. The River 2’s are built with a fair number of firefighting and redundancy features to survive combat damage. Also I think the magazine is armoured. Their armament is another discussion. But with a 57mm and a Wildcat I would say you’ve got yourself a warship.

    • The Peacock had a 76 oto .
      That was it.
      It could do surface engagements only as we removed any AA capability so as to not pish off the people over the border.

    • Agree completely, pointless. A class of unwanted/needed ships in order to fill a gap due to massive MoD/Government incompetence….did not have the wit to build the RNO corvette version….even unarmed. Let’s face it the price for R2 is frankly disgusting…please don’t post it secures ship building jobs blah blah blah! It’s a joke, its wrong, recognise the obvious.

  2. Waste of money on so many different levels, but I suspect it will be a very successful platform.

    It needs a 76mm super rapids on it or even 2 x 40mm CTA’s that we are looking to put on Ajax to give it some teeth.

    Apologies everyone, I am just not a fan of these ships, they should have been the first batch of T31.

    • Badly spent money yes, but not useless ships. I would spend £10m ish more on the following:

      Ditch the crane behind the funnel and add a hangar for a Schniedal camcopter for general duties and to carry active dipping pingers. At just 200kg MTW it can fly for up to 10 hours whilst the ship steams slowly using passive ASW sonar. Add two deck mounted torpedo launchers and you have practically doubled the UK waters ASW fleet. The hangar could also accommodate MCM kit.

      Replace the 30mm with a 40mm CTA Sea Guardian and Martlet LMM launcher, and put a second 40mm on top of the hangar. These guns have CIWS capability so along with the torpedo’s, the Rivers can now escort and damage Russian warships near the UK plus defend themselves without us risking a Frigate. Obviously they should be supported by QRA Typhoons carrying a decent ASM.

      Finally, replace both 7m RHIBs with 11m patrol boats like the SB90E and use 12.7mm secondary guns instead of 7.62 to make our policing and anti-piracy activities safer.

      • Technically you don’t need to ditch the crane and build a hangar to embark a Schiebel S-100. I am a big fan of that Camcopter and have pointed out in a few other comments that River B2 can embark a standard 20’ ISO container aft of the RIBS either side of the crane without encroaching on the flight deck. Given how small the S-100 is there should easily be enough space in a 20’ container to maintain it at sea.

        Because of the above I was going to object to your idea of converting the crane space into a hangar until I got to your 40mm comments and saw your idea to use the hangar roof to get fore and aft CIWS stations. I’m also a fan of the Sigma mount so your idea of adding Martlet at the front presumably using Sigma or something similar all comes together for quite a nice package.

        I don’t agree with people who seem to want to put a 5” gun, Sea Ceptor, Mk41 and Sampson on it (I’m exaggerating for effect obviously but some pretty extreme up-arming has been suggested in the past). Your suggestions seems proportionate and not overreaching or inappropriately expensive. It could also be done in steps…

        1 – Test S-100s from an ISO container “hangar” embarked port or starboard of the existing crane before going for any integrated hangar mods.

        2 – Trial 40mm Sigma mount on the forward station only before looking at a 360 degree CIWS pair.

        I wonder what the cost of all that would be? We are already buying quite a few 40mm for Ajax so some economies of scale I would have thought. Do you have some research leading to your £10m per vessel estimate?

        It would also be interesting to know how Sea Guardian compares with Phalanx.

        • • In 2015 we signed a deal for £150m for 515 Ajax 40mm guns:
          https://www.gov.uk/government/news/150m-cannon-cannon-contract-signed-for-uk-armoured-fighting-vehicles
          So £0.3m each. I expect the auto turret Sea Guardian mount to be more. Perhaps £1m each if we buy 10 or more of them. I don’t think anyone has bought them yet or the land based RapidFire, so BAE should be keen to get that first sale. The 35mm Millennium uses AHEAD ammo and that is better than the dumb 20mm Phalanx round, so the 40mm one should be better as well.
          • S-100 is £2m for two aircraft and one ground station.
          • A single tube torpedo launcher won’t be much and we already have some torpedos.
          • LMM Sigma and 12.7mm RWS not much.
          • CB90 is £1m each. SB90 perhaps 2/3 of that, if we buy 10 or more. Why not make the whole fleet carry 11m boats instead of 7m RHIBs?
          • Some costs on installation and integration.
          Some guess work, but maybe £10m ish per ship.

          • Thanks from the comprehensive reply. In the grand scheme of things it really does seem such a modest sum.

            Personally I’d take the S-100s out of the costings for your R2 proposal although I do realise why you include it but in my view drones really should be costed as a broader RN initiative. As well as the River B2s drones would also have the potential to give a massive boost to the Bay’s capability and to HMS Clyde were we to retain her. They would also be useful on T23/T45/T26 etc although there more for cost optimisation vs using manned assets for certain tasks as opposed to enabling those vessels to do things they couldn’t do before.

            Any drones purchased could be cross-decked as applicable with the River B2 fleet probably only making call on 2 or 3 S-100 at any given point in time depending on the availability ratio of the B2s which is another reason why I think this sort of drone should be costed as an RN-wide resource rather than a specific River B2 enhancement.

            I think this is an area where U.K. industry should look to get a stake. S-100 looks impressive but it is on the cusp of being able to do even more. Right now it has the payload capacity to carry a quite sophisticated sensor package such as the Thales i-Master (https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/worldwide/defence/i-master) whilst retaining good endurance. It has also demonstrated the ability to carry a couple of Martlet (which would fit well with your overall idea since you envisage adding that anyway). Unfortunately the payload capacity isn’t quite enough to do both at the same time which would give the potential for an over-the-horizon strike. It really isn’t that far off though and with the UK’s expertise in materials science (e.g. our F1 industry), our leading position in the micro-satellite industry, and all our other relevant areas of expertise I really do think we should be in a world-beating position to develop a sort of super S-100 that could have fantastic export potential.

          • I have to say I love the CB90 and believe the RN should buy 200 -400 of these and have each marine platoon allocated 2.

            In this day and age asymetrical “swarm” attacks are the way to go and given our limited fleet if we were to conduct a major amphibious landing then it would be useful to have a distributed force that can deployed by a large number of these from every single platform we own.

            They are just great, as are the safeboats Mk6 craft. If we dont like these then we should develop our own versions but be quick about it.

      • I have to say I like your proposal and Julians for that matter.

        I am certainly not saying these are a disaster, I just think they should have been T31 and therefore its another missed opportunity.

        Like many people I realise these have utility and am actually a big fan of different layers of capability (high, medium, low) and do think a couple of 40mm CTA’s push and the rest of your proposal push this into quite an innovative niche, that I could support.

        If nothing else, at least my comment has raised this discussion again and I think Gavin Williamson is a reader of this forum, so you never know….

        • Thank you Julian and Pacman and hello to you Mr Williamson. I think it’s most important that ships can protect their crews and themselves above all else. Even in UK waters these Rivers operating alone could suddenly face a Russian sub or an incoming missile. A little more money well spent will result in the control of the sea where that asset is and prevent it from being just a one hit target.

  3. Overpriced being a key word.

    One of several reasons why with the 5th biggest budget our armed forces are tiny, our kit is regularly eye wateringly expensive. That’s fine if you get what you pay for!

    I’d happily see a dozen of these and a dozen T31, with UAV carrying out the myriad roles the RN face to save our specialised vessels but not if they are so lightly armed.

    • Captained by a Commander as well, hopefully this will be reduced back to Lt Cdr once 2-5 are delivered to the fleet.
      Under armed, over priced but capability the RN can use…

      • We paid to keep the Clyde ship yards waiting whilst we argued about the price of the T26. Without the Work BAe would have just broken up the design team, closed down the yards built flats on them.
        The U.K. would then have had to either pay another company to get into high end warships or bought from a foreign yard.
        Building for a 20 combat ship Navy is not a easy business.

  4. If we had got a structured build programme in place after 1998 then maybe these ships could/should have been what we are now expecting in the Type 31’s, ie 5 ships coming into service now with a decent capability with the Type 26’s in build too,think we would be in a better place security wise if that was the case.

    • I have seen the same question asked elsewhere, and the answer was that the RN doesn’t have anything between the 30mm cannon and the 4.5 inch gun on the frigates and destroyers. Fitting anything else would complicate ammunition logistics, if you can believe that.

      However, the Type 31 ships may be fitted with a 76mm gun, so there maybe a possibility (distant) of retrofitting onto the River class. The Thai navy has a River-class ship with a 76mm gun, for example.

      • Complicating logistics. I recall when I was serving the RN/RM had multiple sizes of ammunition, 6″, 4.5″, 4″, 3″, 40mm, 20mm, 7.62mm ect ect

  5. I am seemingly alone in liking these vessels. They are ideal for the role proposed & would be happy to see some more if that role is to be taken seriously.

    • Your not alone Ian. I think they”ll be real workhorses but as Pacman said in particular, give them a really good multi purpose gun eg the76mm OTO super rapid and a Wildcat capability and they would be transformed.

    • Fully agree.

      It’s just a shame about the price, and to a degree, the armament. That 30mm looks a little… lost, but is anything larger really needed for its role? Probably not.

    • Well, that’s three of us ☺️ RN have identified five roles for them.

      Counter piracy, Counter narcotics, fisheries protection, BOT reassurance and home defence.

      That’s one boat for each role! So much for global Britain *sighs*

      For these roles the armament is all that’s necesary.

  6. Can we all move on from the cost? We know the politics but its done. These are extra new hulls for the Navy to relieve scarce Frigate resources for them to be deployed where they are really needed. They will also add a resource where it will be needed and given most Patrol Vessels are used in coastal and fishery protection operations they hardly need a Merlin hangar and 16 inch guns do they?

    5 new ships that will work well for the Navy. Can we just say ‘GREAT!’ for a change?

  7. For such a wee ship, the UK Navy had a lot of very expensive top brass there. Probably cost more than the wee boat. But hey, that’s wee England for you! Their day has gone but they’re too dense to see it.

  8. These ships will be fine for peacetime constabulary roles in low-threat environments. In wartime, they would be vulnerable to any hostile force but that’s not really the point. Even in wartime, they could serve as excellent refueling platforms operating as satellites to frigates to expand the combat radius of helicopters operating from the more heavily-armed ships. In that scenario, container-launched CAMM missiles would considerably enhance their survivability.

  9. I am curious if anyone can find a reason why these ships exist outside paying off BAe.

    From my perceptive, in an era when we are struggling to crew the ships we have, why on earth are we adding ships that can not realistically contribute in a war situation.

    If anyone is thinking fishing protection, can you please first check the stats on how much fishing brings to the UK and why the quotas were reduced as a result of massive overfishing.

    • p.s. same reason no one seems to be able to explain why the QE class has 2 bridges, lots of vague details but nothing that makes sense other than it was to buy votes.

      • Because the QE is 70,000t and not nuclear powered. Its engines need funnels, and it was decided to spread them out and have two islands with a funnel each instead of putting the engines together or having one long island like the Invincibles that would take more deck space.

        I would have gone for a 40t ton nuclear powered CVA using Astute reactors and Tide class tanker hulls. Economies of scale lower the price. Nuclear power also means the ship can operate without a tanker and be able to carry fuel for its escorts. Did you know that all the fuel in a QE weighs as much a T23 Frigate?

    • So are saying we shouldn’t bother with fishiries protection or quotas and just allow anyone to take anything they want? The ships exist to provide us with low end constabulary hulls. Should we just remove that capability? Not only do the we need theses ships but if not for the manpower issue I would retain Clyde so we could then forward base 1 in the Caribbean and 1 at Gibraltar. Still send an LSD to the Caribbean during hurricane season to augment the OPV and you have covered FP, ATPN, and FIGS plus added to presence and capability in the Medeteranian and boosted the visible defence of Gibraltar post Brexit. The other 3 going in to reserve should be used to trial all the off board MCM equipment in development and in the future the OPVs may be able to contribute greatly in this area. There is also the option of containerised Sea Ceptor as mentioned previously and since they are built to warship standard survivability they can be risked and contribute to a Task Force if necessary. They don’t need up gunned at all as in those situations other heavy escorts would provide those and for all other constabulary duties the pop gun up front is all that is needed. We also need little ships to train captains for big ships.

  10. I am a proud Scot who is proudly British. It doesnt upset me about the SNP extremists TH or PEDER or Russian or both who appear on these pages but i would appeal to my fellow Brits not be goaded by theses muppets . Scotland voted for and continues to be part of the the most succseful union in history. One we should all be proud off.

    • Tosh, my mother was a Highlander and a true Scot, my Grandfather owned a still and an iron foundry, the foundations of modern Scotland. He was a scot through and through. But both were proud members of the Union. I was pleased to see your post, yes you can be both. Cheers.

    • Well said Tosh! People talk of “the Scots do this or say that” as though they all thought and acted alike. SNP extremists are a minority and many others seek to undermine the Union for their and their paymasters interests. The desire by some Scots for Independence is a legitimate democratic right to be respected. Some of my best friends are Nats(including Dadsarmy) 🙂 -we can agree to disagree!
      On subject read Jack’s link on the OPV’s. They are solid platforms with much potential for quick upgrades and in the interim are perfect for showing the Flag on sundry duties in the Falklands, Caribbean and Middle East etc..

    • Well said Tosh.

      I think Peder is actually a Russian troll posing as a Scot but it is immensely sad when people attack him as a perceived Scot and do so by attacking Scotland. We are both part of the U.K. so it’s like attacking your brother or your sister.

      We share this little island, and there Peder is right that when you compare our land mass with the USA, Russia, or even Germany or France we are a “wee little country” in terms of physical size but we more than make up for that with our innovation and scientific and creative skills. Scotland plays a massive role in what she contributes to many aspects of the U.K. including our intellectual capital, just take a look at the quality of her top universities and the number of high tech startups spinning out of them not to mention the string of great thinkers that have come out of Scotland. And then there are all those Scottish servicemen and women who have given their lives in defence of the U.K.

      The U.K. would be so much poorer in so many ways without Scotland as part of it.

    • Tosh, so pleased to hear people say this. As an Englishman, Scotland (like Wales) to me is family – kith and kinship. I am equally proud to be English & British and one doesn’t diminish the other.

  11. In the Defence Review circa 2008, public comment was called for. I submitted mine and said inter alia that millions had already been spent on the design phase for the QE class and that we shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of the 60’s when a swathe of new projects were cancelled by Harold Bloody Wilson. They included the prototype TSR2,the supersonic Harrier of which half a dozen airframes were in build, and the new carriers plus a new Transport aircraft. i also said they should build some upgraded OPV’s to relieve the Escort Fleet from having to perform simple tasks that could easily be undertaken by the latter-crazy to have a multi million pound Destroyer chasing down Pirate Dhows.
    Threy listened to me :):):)

  12. All our Tornadoes seem to have returned safely.

    God bless the RAF.

    A mere slap on the wrist but if we are now seen to have done something I hope that’s the end of it.

  13. Most other navies have the view that all warships should be able to fight if needed. Many have ships this size more heavily armed.
    Whilst we should not be wasting money on over arming a platform with limited survivability, every ship should have camm missiles, the new Exls launcher with 12 would be perfect, a 76mm rapid fire gun and even just a single quad anti ship missile launcher. This would provide at least some teeth and enable it to contribute above its usual constabulary role in times of war. This weapons fit should of been affordable within the price we paid in my opinion.
    In an ideal world, we should have gone straight to T31 and kept the batch 1’s as per fans comments.

    • Agree especially with your last para. A couple of extra Type 31’s would have been much better with the cost of the Batch 2’s spent towards this. The big problem as with multi layered Committees anywhere is that they take FOREVER to make a decision. The 31’s should have started manufacture in parallel with the 26’s but when they will start is anyones guess.

      • I think BAE would agree with you. I suspect their business strategy anticipated that the River 2s they are actually building alongside Type 26 were to be Type 31. But other forces like the national shipbuilding strategy, anti BAE sentiment, Babcock and BMT lobbying were at work so what we have ended up with is a compromise: BAE and the Clyde get 13 ships and English yards will get most of the Type 31 work. Provided we get a credible Type 31 the RN will be better off; Type 23 and R1 both renewed.
        What’s in a name? River 2 is really a different class of ship to River 1. Global, heavier, bigger, better armed, helo deck, damage control, some armour. Give it a 57mm and a telescopic hangar and you are within an ace of the Type 31 core spec….but not quite.

        IMO its all been very cleverly managed by the MOD, RN and probably BAE to navigate tricky SNP political waters and Treasury constraints. Just need to make sure now Type 31 happens.

  14. I’m sure in some ealy photos I saw a flight deck officer structure on the deck of the River 2s.
    Does anyone else have the same recollection? Anyone know where it went?

  15. It is interesting looking at pictures of the Australian version with its 76mm gun, even with this much bigger gun than the river2, the gun still seems tiny on the ship.

    • I believe the Thais are building a twin sister for HTMS Krabi. With the 3 Brazilian Amazonas vessels and the planned 5 River 2s for the RN that makes a total of 10 builds of this VT design. A quiet success.

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