Rear Admiral Chris Gardner, assistant chief of naval staff, said that the Royal Navy is “keen” to keep the ships.

Speaking to The News here, Rear Adm Gardner said:

“At the moment no decision has been taken about what their future could be. I’m keeping the ships in a state of operational readiness which means that as the future becomes a bit clearer post-Brexit, and as our requirements are more broadly understood, we will be able to make decisions about whether or not we will seek to retain and operate them as additional units in the Royal Navy or find some other solution.”

Recently, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence, Guto Bebb has revealed that £12.7M had been allocated from the EU Exit Preparedness Fund to preserve the three Batch 1 River class ships, should they be needed to control and enforce UK waters and fisheries following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury asked:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the Written Statement of 13 March 2018, Spring Statement, HCWS 540, if he will publish a list of where the £12.7 million allocated to his Department to realise the opportunities from EU exit will be spent.”

Guto Bebb, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, responded:

“The Ministry of Defence has now been allocated £12.7 million in 2018-19 for essential EU exit preparations. This will fund preserving three Off-Shore Patrol Vessels, should they be needed to control and enforce UK waters and fisheries. It also includes some EU Exit preparedness funding for UK defence bases in Europe. As with all HMT Reserve funding, finalised allocations will be confirmed at Supplementary Estimates 2018-19 in early 2019.”

Earlier in the year, Bebb revealed the running cost of the Batch 1 vessels in response to a written question:

“The cost of operating a River Class Offshore Patrol Batch 2 Vessel will be determined by the specific operational programmes of the ships when they enter service. We have used the cost of the current in service Batch 1 Offshore Patrol Vessels as the basis of our planning which is £6.5 million per year.”

96 COMMENTS

  1. These ships are much needed to assist in maintaining a naval presence around the British coastline. With mounting threats from Russia, illegal immigration and terrorism, it would be a folly to allow these vessels to be sold or scrapped. Type 26 and 31’s would benefit from these patrol craft doing the more menial tasks, and freeing them up to tackle the global duties.

    • Since you mentioned illegal immigration, we need to do something about legal immigration also. Non White British made up nearly 20% of our country back in 2011 from the census, they have been letting more in non stop since then, they already make up over 20% of our country and they are still letting more in. A few and no one would have been bothered but it has went too far. What are we going to do, just keep letting more in until we are outnumbered in our own country? Can anyone imagine China, Korea, India, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan, etc. being over 20% a foreign race, and still letting more in? We cannot go along with this anymore either, this is not how we want our country run, everyone start saying so openly.

        • Whilst I can understand that there is some issue in some parts of society which think that current migration policies, with the EU are fundamentally altering British society, this is a respectable site and I cannot accept that when someone has expressed a view, in polite terms, what some may feel is racist, there is no excuse for resorting to vulgar, poisonous language like that.

          Feel free to disagree, but please can we try to keep the language used out of the gutter.

        • I don’t believe that is a racist view, but a cultural one. It seems to me there is nothing wrong with wanting to preserve the cultural identity of one’s nation. Certainly if an Asian or African nation had such a desire, it would not be termed a racist one.

      • “Non White British”

        Bet you’re not complaint when a black player scores a winning goal for England or wins us a gold medal in the olympics.

        I’m all for immigration controls but come on mate, non white british? There is a sizeable population of black British now and they are just as British as white British.

        • My comment in regards to illegal immigration was in no way meant to be racist. We need to control our borders, just as many countries do, so legal entry is not harmed and numbers can be managed more successfully. I feel Stephen’s comment was neither relevant to the subject nor constructive. Retention of the three River Class vessels; would assist in monitoring remote coastline areas, for fisheries amongst other duties, and thereby give our border force added clout.

  2. There is no other way to increase hull numbers in the short term.

    The OPVs get a lot of flack but I like them for the intended roles.

    Fishery protection
    Homeland defence
    Global counter terrorism
    Counter narcotics
    BOT Reassurance

    Well, perfect as they for these roles, there are only 5 B2s, so that’s one for each. One will permanently based in the Falklands, so that’s the BOT reassurance stuffed for all the others then.

    Anyway, numbers. Like the B2s, would keep the B1s, would have another four B2s and that would just about be a credible minimum fleet for the tasks set.

    Oh, no mention of humanitarian work in the Med on the task list. For which they are ideally suited. See, that would be a great use of the Aid budget, a couple of OPVs in the Med stopping the traffickers. But that would be joined up thinking…

  3. Coastal patrol and fisheries work.
    Free up the b2’s, I would like to see one or two with containerised asw submersibles to help meet the threat from Russian subs in the North Sea. One in the med based from Gibraltar, one Faulklands, one for humanitarian and flag waving.

    • I think these could fulfill a number of important roles. They are not ‘proper’ warships but the RN has a number of roles to which they are well suited. They could be as you say equipped for sublistening outposts, mine hunting and underwater ‘examination’; as well as mother ships for drones etc.
      The RN should never look a gift horse in the mouth. An upgrade in coastal protection must rate an upgrade in the face of numerous intrusions of our UK and Overseas territory waters as well as provide training to aspiring commanding officers. All in rugged seaworthy small ships.

  4. Agree with all of the above. They are relatively new assets and paid for-ideal to shore up the lower end and free up more capable ships for use elsewhere.

  5. Seems like a no brainer , they should definitely be retained.
    There really does seem to be a real requirement now to stop the rot and start rebuilding the RN, this seems to be a good first step.

  6. I the navy says they want them they should have them. The cost of retention would be tiny but provide three more hulls, allowing other types to move up the pecking order.

  7. It’s a question of resourcing crews too.

    3 T23 scrapped and 3 River retained? No thanks!

    RN needs all assets retained, including these Rivers as posters above have outlined, and an uplift in personnel.

    • Think you might have got it there Daniele. Rear Adm Gardner could be preparing us for the sale of the Type 23’s per the earlier rumours.

    • Morning Daniele
      Whilst I agreewith your sentiment above it is likely than the RN will lose, in the short term one of the 3 T23 (GD) platforms that are currently laid up alongside.
      Releasing just on of those crews frees up 170 personnel, trained and ready to go. These R1’s are funded from outside the RN core budget which further releases more cash to spend on the core. If we lose one or maybe two T23’s these will be sold off and there maintenance and upgrades paid for by the countries that are going to buy them. This keeps the yard busy until T26 and T31 start to come on stream. We may have 19 FF/DD bit I would suggest that only 16 are in the fleet rotation schedule. If releasing 2 23’s frees up manpower for the R1 and potentially enough to get the T45 training monolith back to sea, all for little or no cost then, in the short term it’s something we need to think about.

    • I fear that might be a very astute observation Daniele. When is HMG going to really wake up to this personnel crisis? It has three components…

      1 – Funded headcount too low
      2 – Difficulties in recruiting enough people to fill funded headcount
      3 – Retention issues putting even more strain on the recruitment process to find even more new recruits to meet funded headcount than it would otherwise need to.

      Issue 1 is pretty trivial in a technical problem-solving sense, it’s simply having the political will to allocate extra funds but it’s not really worth doing that unless HMG/MoD also seriously looks at what other extra funding and terms-and-conditions changes need to be put in place to address issues 2 and 3. There’s no point in boosting headcount if we can’t fill what is already funded.

      • it has woken up to it, that’s why now a week 1 day 1 recruit is classed as a fully trained soldier. it’s all about fiddling with those figures…

      • At present the RN is a largely blue water navy and IMHO that’s the way it should stay.
        However if you increase the size of the near homewaters fleet you also increase the chances your posting will be nearer home and may involve more port visits. This may appeal to some people and you cant say it is reasonable to expect everyone to look forward to lengthy blue water expeditionary voyages continuously.

    • Unless..and rumour has it…Chile are interested in three 23’s to add to their existing three. Worth the sale short term?

      • Very tempting if a) we do keep 3 of the River 1’s and b) don’t do it until we have the first 3 of River 2’s in service and c) the Type 31 contract is signed. Such a ‘swap’ would enable an increase in RN presence and influence. Justification? You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

        • Your right about the orders and I like the Wildcat idea (earlier). A sale might allow for better crewing of other ships. If only we could trust the same statement to be made two weeks running.

          • Hi Geoffrey
            Not just crewing but junior command time as well, with 3 extra Lt Cdr’s having had experience of command can only be good for the RN. One or he reasons they lose out on the top VCDS and CDS roles is lack of command experience, if you can get some under your belt early enough so much the better.

          • It wouldn’t just be 3 T23’s for 3 Rivers. It would be 3 T23’s for 3 Rivers, the marines and amphibious ships too

  8. ‘Guto Bebb has revealed that £12.7M had been allocated from the EU Exit Preparedness Fund to preserve the three Batch 1 River class ships’ – so what’s happening to the 4th Batch 1, HMS Clyde?

    • I believe it’s included as HMS Severn (batch 1) was decommissioned last year, leaving 3 including (HMS Tyne, Mersey and Clyde).

        • Clyde? I’d imagine the same as Tyne and Mersey, part of the £12.5mil fund to potentially be kept after Brexit?

          HMS Severn I’m not sure, i assume it’s still in Portsmouth?

          • Pretty sure Clyde is still leased to the Navy, whilst the original three were bought outright. So the £12.5m would cover Severn, Tyne, and Mersey.

            Clyde is one of a kind anyway, and to be honest, we should be moving away from one in class vessels.

  9. They are also handy for training the next generation of sailors and engineers for the t31 / t26 and carriers. We have a bit of a wait until decent numbers come on line, a big push is needed to get recruitment up now.

  10. The Batch 1s have to go because we don’t have the crew for them and their replacements. We already have a destroyer and a frigate out of action due to the shortage of manpower. The Batch 2s have almost double the crew requirements of the Batch 1s. Retaining them would only exacerbate the problem. Better to sell them or transfer them to another agency if possible. HMS Clyde is a special case and an argument for her retention is much more logical. I would retire the Batch 1s except Clyde and pay off Lancaster as we will not have the crew to put her back to sea. I would then pay off another type 23 next year when Medway and Trent join the fleet to ensure we can crew them and also reactivate HMS Dauntless.

    • I guess it depends on what manpower we’re short of. If it’s ratings then you could be right, unless there’s a shift in recruitment funds. If it’s specialists for Dauntless then transferring the crews from River 1’s won’t help at all.

  11. No brainer for me.
    Small cost to keeping the vessels, much cheaper than having to build new ships to replace them if they are sold off and then we realise we actually did need them.
    If retained it would be good to see the vessels uparmed with a CIWS, better radar/ C1 level combat system and canister packed Norwegian antiship missiles making them capable of escorting Russian Surface warship groups through the channel and/or sinking enemy vessels if the need arose.

  12. Better these more practical vessels than unaffordable white elephants which go flouncing around the world causing aggravation. I have consistently called for the navy to concentrate on coastal defence rather than unsustainable projects. The navy cannot have it all ways.

    • May as well disband all our expeditionary assets too then, including the RM? In fact, why not just cancel our F-35 order too and use the cash savings to re-nationalise the railway? Utter tripe.

      • That’s exactly what TH would like. Become little England tending our roses, taking no interest in global affairs, and leaving it to the grown ups to uphold international law when necessary because we’re too weak and feeble to contribute anything ourselves.

        Luckily we are not weak and feeble, we do act like a grown up country, and we do at least try to size and configure our military so that we can play our part in the wider world although it would be argued by many (including me) that we could do better on that “sizing” bit.

        With what is going on in the world at the moment Ron5 characterised TH’s position on foreign interventions very well in another comment – morally bankrupt.

    • You seem to have a downer on the UK, wanting it to be little more than a Maritania on steroids. Get real, ‘we ain’t done for yet’; but soon will be with the lack of vision like you espouse. Izvestia are looking for a defence correspondent.

  13. If this happens then, for surveillance and patrol operations, we would be adding another 1 and possibly 3 vessels that could see a step-change in surveillance reach if the RN got some funding for some serious drone projects after ScanEagle funding wasn’t renewed.

    Clyde is the vessel that could definitely benefit because it has the flight deck and should be able to embark a standard 20’ ISO container to create a temporary hangar that should be big enough to actually maintain a drone such as ScanEagle or S-100 at sea whilst still leaving enough flight deck space available for an S-100 to operate from. I know that the Batch 2s have storage facilities for aviation fuel but does Clyde as well? I assume so since it has a flight deck.

    The ability of the remaining 2 Rivers to actually host a drone (i.e. be able to maintain at sea for extended periods) I am less certain of. They only have that rear working deck so I can’t see as much scope for loading a 20’ ISO container and keeping a big enough area clear to act as a landing spot for something like an S-100. Maybe something like a ScanEagle has a compact enough catapult launch system and catch-wire recovery to make it possible to embark a container for maintenance space and spares whilst still leaving space for the catapult and arrestor wire or maybe ScanEagle is small enough and the R1 internal layout and passageways such that it could be carried inside for maintenance. I really wish funding could be given to the RN to explore these sort of issues.

    If RN did go operational with ScanEagle on the 2 non-flight-deck Rivers it would make a great headline – “Royal Navy installs cats and traps on two of its vessels” 🙂

  14. I don’t think the Scan Eagle is the right type of UAV for the batch 1 Rivers. A catapult and net are required which takes up a lot of deck space. In my opinion the Schiebel helicopter uav would be a much better option. It has been in lots of trials with both the German and French Navies. In fact Russia are going to license build these and fly them from their coast guard ships.
    It can be fitted with electro-optic turrets and can even be armed. Better to stop and land rather than aiming to crash into a net!

    • I’m a big fan of S-100 and it would be my preference for the reasons you mentioned but I’m not sure there is sufficient space on a River 1 to embark a container to provide a sheltered housing to maintain the ScanEagle, which would seem to be necessary if it’s going to be on multi-day deployments, and also leave enough space clear for a landing site. Isn’t the rear working deck on an R1 just too small?

      I had the impression that a ScanEagle would need less space. The catapult can face over the stern or one of the sides and the footage I have seen of ScanEagle being recovered had the arrestor wire on a pole on the aft corner of a vessel so also taking up very little deck space. I’ve never seen any of this stuff in person though so I could be wrong.

      I think we both agree on the basic point though, the RN needs some proper funding for drone projects so that it can start exploring all these issues itself, ultimately leading to one or more drone types deployable on ships as small as at least the River Batch 2s and Clyde and ideally also on the remaining River B1s

      • Julian totally agree as it’s a no brainier. Helicopters are a massive force multiplier as they have multi use abilities. For the role the Rivers would be undertaking ie a policing role the ability to observe a target from a safe distance I believe the S100 would be ideal. Especially as it could be easily re-rolled into a more aggressive platform. A big plus for me is that a number of Navies have already purchased these, so most of the trial work has been completed. I’d also promote these for use on our frigates and destroyers. A couple of these plus the embedded Wildcat or Merlin would massively increase the surveillance capability of the ship. They are also quite cheap at $400K apiece.

      • SW-4 is in a whole different league to S-100 size-wise though. Given that we have the River Batch 2s now and they don’t have hangers then to embark any airborne asset on a long term basis I think it needs to be able to use an ISO container as its hangar and an SW-4 couldn’t do that. An S-100 is only about 3.1m long and stands about 1.1m tall so it really is very compact.

        Personally I’d love to see U.K. industry develop something with just a bit more payload capacity. The S-100 can carry about 35kg payload while maintaining over 6 hours endurance, that’s enough to carry either a sophisticated sensor suite such as the Thales i-Master or a couple of Martlet/LMM (both have been demonstrated) but not both at the same time. Both would be very useful for maritime policing and I would think would have great export potential. We are banging on about making T31 a good export opportunity but it seems to me that we really should also be looking to get into the drone market.

    • Equivalent to River 2?…..I wish. I think the USCG offshore patrol cutter is supplying the foundation design for the Babcock Type 31 frigate proposal!

      • Quite, some size for a cutter.

        I like the names though 😉

        Although 12 ships being replaced by 11 ships helions, is that a reduction I see, the old US starting to count the pennies like us 😂

        • I think the reasoning was the old Hamilton Class – which has done yeoman service for the nation – was far less reliable than the NSC’s (remains to be seen) – originally only 8 were planned but Congress funded 11 and possibly will fund a 12th after the USCG kicked and screamed enough about its badly run down state and highly overstretched mission – plus I’m sure the senior senator from Mississippi had something to do with it with H.I. Gulfport whispering in his ears. Of all the services, they deserve the most consideration for reconstitution of its ships and equipment IMO.

          Wish we WOULD do some carefully considered penny pinching because we’re spending like drunken sailors and it’s unsustainable. We’re in this situation because of the criminal state of not even being able to pass a budget in years past due to incredibly polarized politics…. Rome burns…

          Cheers

          • I see, thanks for the insight.

            I take it you get the defence one daily email, I saw on it the other week about the budget, 1.4 trillion over two years, nearly choked on my tea, trouble is I can’t see a current world climate where a US defence spending decrease would be viable, certainly not in the next 5-10 years.

            Exiting times for the US Navy though, I’m intrigued about the new frigate and also very intrigued about the new cruiser, someone shared a link on here recently and I believe it will have a Zumwalt hull, even the type 26 got a mention as a potential hull because of its size, but the Zumwalt is preferred because of its power generation.

          • I think we we’re discussing 2 different class – The OPC is programmed for a 25 hull buy, while the National Security Cutter was being discussed in my post above.

            Cheers!

          • Thank you Sole!

            I actually do not get Defense One’s mail but have several delivered everyday. Being retired U.S. Military I try to stay abreast of current developments.

            I believe you are very correct in your point about not being able to reduce U.S. Military budgets anytime in the foreseeable future. I do wish all our allies would all sign on board to do the same at agreed upon 2% of GDP per year.The world is getting to be an ever more dangerous place.

            However – let’s face it – welfare and entitlement programs are draining us dry and all real attempts at reducing them meet the stiffest of opposition, vile accusations of bias, and howls of outrage from the aptly if vulgarly named “Free S**T” crowd which so many of our pols rely upon for support and kowtow to in a very unbecoming way…

            I think the CGX will look a lot like the Zumwalt class but perhaps with a modified hull – I understand the Tumblehome design is having some problems in high sea states. It’s certainly got the generator capacity for future requirements though. I believe Huntington Ingalls has also put forth a proposal for using its San Antonio Class hull as a large surface combatant variant. It might be suitable for a BMD vessel but would be a non starter for an AW Command ship since it wouldn’t be able to keep up with the strike groups.

            We’ll see!

            Cheers.

  15. Ideally Severn would be retained in addition to the 3 still in service. But it really is hunting for scraps on a pretty bare table to increase the fleet size in the short term. Perhaps the RNR have a role to play, but priority should be given to increasing the desperately low head count, to fully crew the B1s, B2s & the Type 23 & 45 currently in limbo. The premature loss of up to 3 x T23s would play straight into the politician’s hands. Once you lose something, you nearly always never get it back. Would the commitment for 8 T26s & 5 T31s be maintained? You can imagine the conversation down the line ‘you’ve managed with 10 Frigates therefore you will only get 6 T26s & 4 T31s’. It will still be spun as a growing Navy because of the B1 retention & 5th B2.

    Any additional hulls should be welcomed in the current climate, however it does not hide the fact that the Royal Navy, is grossly under funded, under manned, under resourced, and under equipped, for the role the government is expecting it to play. Hopefully we have reached a tipping point, and it is clear that many Conservative MPs do not have the appetite for any further cuts. Perhaps the realisation has come that Defence may not be a great vote winner, but it can be a great vote loser, particularly amongst your core support.

  16. Hi Paul,
    I realize it’s a bigger ship equipped with a bigger suite of goodies but we really don’t have a close equivalent. The larger National Security Cutter design is also in the running for the USN’s FFGX but I’m really pulling for the T26 design to win. If the RCN and RAN (RNZN?) follow suit then we’ll have some real cost reduction there and a great deal of very welcome commonality. Believe both cutter classes are fitted for missiles and CIWS/SeaRam combat suites even though only the CIWS is installed on Heritage class. Putting an 8 cell Kongsberg NSM launcher (or two) would really add some punch to these classes as well.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offshore_Patrol_Cutter

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Cutter

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for the links. Clarifies things. I don’t see VLS on either design, which I guess is how you stop being a coastguard cutter and start being a navy frigate. Having taken a quick look at the FFGX requirement I would agree Type 26 would be a better fit, though an expensive hull because of the ASW silencing.

      • Both classes would be considered major warships in many navies -especially if kitted out with everything they’re fitted for. Even our new icebreakers might have ASCM box launchers fitted to them to counter Russia and China in the arctic. The Russian Navy is building icebreaker corvettes as I recall.

        Cheers!

    • It would need a significant restructure of the RNR, but why not? Having a sea going role would do wonders for recruitment and would be similar to the Canadian model. If the URNU make a success of going to sea and training with a core of permanent instructors, the RNR can too.

  17. Sell the Batch 1s and not spend the £12m.

    Instead buy 20 set of the S-100.

    By a set I mean including fuel system two air vehicles, the control station, payload, ground equipment, training, and logistics package.

    • Or (dare I use a phrase that will get me burned at the stake here?) do th3 first bit of your proposal but, if money really can’t be found elsewhere, then gap the capability (oops, I said it) for a few years and use the cash to get a U.K. development project going to deliver a U.K. designed “S-100 on steroids” – as close in size to S-100 as possible (must still be able to be operated and maintained from a standard 20’ ISO container) while delivering 50% to 100% more payload capacity with similar endurance. That could have great export potential and the UK skills in materials science, aerodynamics, high-performance/high-efficiency engines, software engineering, etc put us in a good position to deliver a world-beating product.

      • Unfortunately, the does not seem to be any such UK development project which could output any number of devices for anything but the long term. We need surveillance now! The S-100 is available now and would be of great use for anything from the OPVs to the carriers.

        • Yeah. Sadly you’re right but I wish we could do both. As a nation we really should have a bigger stake in the drone market.

  18. On serious thought I’m not sure I would like to see these retained by the RN, with the manning issue it would be difficult for these extra three hulls not to impact on the escort fleet readiness.

    But I could see them retained as assets by other agencies or shared assets, so manned by boarder of fisheries with a RN element retained, to allow retention of the light armament, support with ribs boarding ect, command slots could even be shared out between different agencies, this gives all the benefits but reduces the RN manning issues.

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