HMS Severn, a River class offshore patrol vessel, will be be decommissioned by the end of this year, being replaced by HMS Forth.
In a written answer to a question raised by Sir Nicholas Soames, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence Harriet Baldwin stated HMS Severn would be decommissioned in 2017, with Mersey and Clyde following in 2019. As of April 2017, no date has been given Tyne’s decommissioning.
Five Batch 2 Vessels will replace the earlier four Batch 1 vessels and HMS Clyde, a heavily modified Batch 1 vessel currently patrolling the waters around the Falkland Islands.
The Batch 2 vessels are more capable however have been criticised in Parliament for lacking a helicopter hangar, something that will limit utility of the helicopter deck by preventing embarkation of a helicopter for anything other than very short periods; lacking a medium calibre gun and poor value for money.
The vessels were earlier described at a Defence Select Committee meeting as ships “the Royal Navy does not want or need”. It is understood that the Ministry of Defence paid an extra £100 million for new Offshore Patrol vessels in order to satisfy a requirement to pay BAE a minimum of £230 million per year and despite this, the vessels will be much less capable than vessels of similar price.
A house of Commons Briefing Paper explains the agreement:
“In 2009 the Government signed a 15 year Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA) with BAE Systems and Babcock. The TOBA guaranteed BAE Systems a minimum level of surface ship build and support activity of £230 million a year.
This was judged as the minimum level of work possible to sustain a credible warship-building industry in the UK and thus avoid the delays encountered during the Astute class submarine build caused in part by the loss of skilled staff following the gap between Astute and the Vanguard class submarine build. If cancelled the MoD would be liable for industry closure costs and compensation to BAE Systems.”
The government say that the work to build HMS Forth and her sister ships is sustaining around 800 Scottish jobs.
The five new Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction. The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy this year.
Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin, said regarding work starting on the final of the five vessels:
“The start of work on HMS Spey, the fifth Offshore Patrol Vessel, is another milestone in a significant programme of work which is sustaining hundreds of jobs in Scotland and the vital shipbuilding skills needed to build the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Frigates.”
DE&S CEO Tony Douglas said:
“The team at Defence Equipment and Support has driven the successful delivery of the OPV programme; today’s steel cut is a proud moment not only for us, but for the Royal Navy and our industry partners too.
I am looking forward to continuing this long-standing and close relationship when we begin manufacturing for the Type 26 fleet later in the summer.”
The Batch 2 ships for the Royal Navy include some 29 modifications and enhancements over the Amazonas class corvette built by BAE Systems for the Brazilian Navy. The Royal Navy ships are built to more stringent naval standards, with features such as magazine protection, improved hull integrity and fire safety modifications, as well as greater redundancy.
HMS Forth was christened at a ceremony at the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow in March this year and will be handed over later this year.