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.”