Originally, the plan was to replace the Batch 1 River class  Offshore Patrol Vessels with the newer Batch 2 vessels. However, it has now been announced that all vessels will be retained.

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

Speaking to The News Portamouth last year, 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.”

Last year, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence, Guto Bebb 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, then 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.”

88 COMMENTS

    • It would be like using an articulated lorry to patrol a car park.

      There is a need for a more robust attitude towards the Spanish.

      The main problem isn’t Spanish CG or Armada vessels it is illegal fishing and Spanish government carrying out surveys etc. I would humbly suggest something like a Damen ASD TUG 2609 ICE CLASS would be better a choice.

      • It’s not about using it to patrol Gib.

        It’s about using Gib as a more regular asset, rather than just a port call for passing RN ships. As I have mentioned before, our survey ships are currently used for patrol in the Med, denying them of their primary roles -costal survey and MCM.

        I’d rather have a British ship based from a British (overseas) port, with British and Commonwealth crews paying taxes and buying goods in a British Overseas Territory (with the ship undergoing light maintenance from Gib Dock), as opposed to forward basing a survey ship from foreign ports.

        Either way, this is fantastic news, and a logical way of boosting fleet numbers in the short term.

        • The general thrust of the original post was that it would upset Spain. Nothing to do with patrolling the straits.

          The survey ships are there because of HMG’s stance on ‘migrants’. If that situation wasn’t happening Echo and Enterprise would be back doing what they should be doing. If our ships weren’t involved then there would be no chance of the rescuees becoming British…….

          • And what ship is best suited for rescuing half drowned migrants and visiting Baltic states, which Echo will be doing in the near future?

            Certainly not a survey vessel.

            These ships aren’t just on migrant patrol, they’re being used for standing NATO deployments and building relations with other nations. And that’s great. But again, they’re not being allowed to perform their fundamental roles; and if they do, it’s during a large military exercise, and not necessarily working directly working with other UK assets.

            Let us be clear, I too want to control migration into the UK. But where is the humanity in leaving individuals to die at sea? We are above that, and it would be a national disgrace if we didn’t do our part.

            To add to the OP, I say Stuff the Spanish. However, to build on it, I say we should forward base more ships from Gibraltar in the future. This mechanic works well for deployments in the Gulf, Caribbean, and down South, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t work in Gib.

    • To Gibraltar, to the Falklands, to the BIOT. All contested territories that could do with a more pronounced British presence

      • I agree with the sentiment, not sure a rivers is the right vessel for the falklands ( what would it do ?). A second brace of 50 foot patrol launches would be more use.

        • What you on about? A River Hms Clyde has been permanently based at the falklands for years… And one of the just built new OPVs will take over that duty of patrolling the waters and helping the locals. But I’m not sure if Hms Clyde was included to be kept, she is the only modified one! She just needs a good overhaul and she’ll be fine for another 10 years.

          • Clyde is still owned by the shipbuilders, which is probably why she’s earmarked to be disposed of.

            This decision will see the reactivation of Severn, and most probably the decommissioning of Clyde.

          • Codiene actually as I’m post op, which shows cus I was mean to type Gibraltar not the falklands, a second opv would be perfect for the Falklands, a 50 launch would be fuckall use in the south Atlantic.

        • What River Class will do in the Falklands is what Batch 1 has already been doing, patrolling the ~2,000,000 square kilometers of UK ECC of the Falklands and South Georgia. Its also not just about Argentina either. Chinese trawlers will happily vacuum up every living thing in the sea if not watched. Argentina sank a Chinese fishing vessel that was illegally fishing in their ECC in 2016 after it tried to collide with the Argentine vessel.

    • i was in portsmouth the other day, i’d never seen a river before and i was impressed by their size, these ships are easily reconfigurable to a corvette like the sigma 10514, almost the same size, the sigma has 20 more crew, is 6 knots faster, but comes with two triple torpedo launchers,exocet,two quadruple anti missile launchers and a 76mm oto melara main gun. if it were, that our rivers were fitted with the same teeth the r.n would quickly gain 9 new warships, whether designated ‘corvette’ or light frigate. plus,THEY ARE ALREADY BUILT.

  1. Fantastic news. If we have these for home waters, I wonder if they will look to up arm the B2’s slightly for foreign waters. Maybe just squeeze in 48 mk41 cells?
    But seriously, a 76mm gun might be useful and a box launched asm or two. At least then they can defend themselves and scarper.

    • It might be tough squeezing in mk41’s but they can definitely have a phalanx added if stationed in Bahrain a larger cannon and should have been fitted in the first place considering the price. I think the batch 2’s really should have been fitted with a hanger, the MOD must not intend to deploy them outside of our EEZ.

      • Well the UK’s EEZ is the fifth largest in the world so I don’t think that will constrain where they would be deployed too much. Of course it should be pointed out that ~30% of that is the Falklands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, with another ~33% split fairly evenly between Tristan da Cunha archipelago, British Indian Ocean Territory and Pitcairn Island, while Ascension and St Helena account for another 13%.

        Oh and Batch 2 1x 30mm cannon, 2x miniguns and 2x GPMG are just fine for constabulary and piracy patrols.

    • what the archers for?hooray henry’s at universities? most people forget we have them they were designed to carry a 20mm cannon. if they were to be fitted and boats drilles as squadrons then they could take over the gibraltar stations boats like sabre which is on its last legs

  2. If these three go into fishery protection and “border” patrols, would it make sense to up arm the Batch 2 class and order say another three giving the R N eight for general duties and then taking the T 26 order up to ten or twelve instead of the T 31., or am I just asking for trouble?

      • This changes nothing for the T31 programme. The R1s are being retained because they’re needed here in UK waters in addition to the R2s, and the T31s’ budget is still only £1.25bn.

        T31 doesn’t need an awful lot of capability. The 3 key points are:
        1) the range and speed for fleet operations
        2) decent radar, CIWS, and moderate volume of Sea Ceptor to allow it to function as an escort
        3) helicopter facilities and hull sonar for additional ASW capability
        That, plus small calibre guns, is it. Anti-ship and land attack options are expensive and unnecessary for the T31’s missions.

        • “… The R1s are being retained because they’re needed here in UK waters in addition to the R2s …”

          Sorry, early in the morning and I’ve not got my happy face on yet but the cynic in me might say that the R1s are being retained because it’s about the cheapest way to “add” vessels to the RN fleet giving more ammunition for government ministers to be able to shout “growing Navy” at every opportunity. So far that’s been a flat lie on hull numbers but probably(*) true on total tonnage.

          (*) I haven’t done the maths but the QECs are big so probably swing it.

  3. Good news, should be able to deploy them to Gibraltar or to reinforce the fishery protection squadron.

    Would like to see Batch 2 upgunned though, 76mm like the old peacock class would be good

  4. A Sensible Decision for once. Also a convenient way to claim that the Royal Navy Is actually Growing, unless there Is some sort of Cunning Plan to make cuts elsewhere.

    • Exactly, great news to keep the opvs, but it would be really bad if this resulted in even one type 23 being paid off early.

  5. I’ve got another Idea, Paint one White and Blue, stick some fancy Bedroom Furniture in, together with a Great big Table and Call her “Britannia “. Ideal for selling Great Britain to the World post Brexit. Is It such a daft Idea ?

  6. Thanks God for that.
    Has the defence budget got a spare £15 million in it to equip these ships with 56 or 76mm guns? Also a phalanx or SeaRAM launcher and cannister launched NSM. In short revamp them to give them some teeth. Then yes send them to Gibraltar. As a special thank you gift for making the BREXIT negotiations even harder then they needed to be. Friends and allies my arse they are simply trying to steal our fish, dominate our waters and Saint Teresa seems to think any deal is better than no deal. Just severe the ties with the dipshit EU and we will pick up the pieces later. This is the UK. Not some 3rd world power bring dictated too by the flipping Spanish. Nelson and Wellington are probably turning in their graves and shouting obscenities from their heavenly resting places.

  7. Yes, send one to Gibraltar, but also keep at least one to Patrol between Portsmouth & Norfolk. That bit of the Channel seems vulnerable to “go fasts” smuggling people, drugs & guns.
    Re up arming. The French are showing off a naval mount for the CT 40mm gun. It sits on a mount above deck, so it has no below deck, fitting issues.

  8. This is really good news but do they really need to up-gunned? The treasury will then see them as frigates and probably suggest we don’t need type 31s!
    I would prefer to release a type 23 from patrol and concentrate the batch 1 rivers in home waters shadowing the ever increasing number of Russian rust buckets and other general patrol duties . The Type 23 should be ensuring the safety of submarines in home waters and providing a serious presence abroad (I am unsure how many allies or enemies would react to a patro vessel showing the flag)The only problem is the only asm in the whole arsenal is the ageing harpoon which means really a frigate or destroyer should escort at the moment to seem like we actually mean business . A patrol vessel should suffice even unarmed if we could deploy a credible air asset a request of the patrol ship.

    If any of the patrol boats are deployed in dangerous waters as a cheap solution why not look at adding surplus army starstreak SAM launchers and potentially add LMM? Just enough to defend themselves but not a credible warship weapon system mcm as well?

  9. Why not upgrade the new OPVs to Corvettes and upgun and add weapons systems. Ok i know they won’t! And The Royal Navy does need these boats for constabulary duties, one RN duty people tend to forget, we need the RN to police the oceans and you don’t need an expensive destroyer or frigate to do so. But it seems a waste of a brand new 2000t ship! I’m so glad they are keeping the batch 1s I’ve always said it’s a waste scrapping the relatively new Rivers. And this is a cheap way of increasing the size of the RN. You could add a bigger gun, some anti air phalanx Ram missiles, maybe a quad pack of harpoons or similar, and some decoy devices. Hell even a single torpedo tube and an ok ASW suite!….There are smaller corvettes with a half decent relatively cheap outfit.

  10. Certainly not bad news – would this then allow the (theoretically) more capable new ships to perhaps be forward deployed so as to provide a continuous presence; one in Gibraltar to operate in the Mediterranean, one in Bahrain, and perhaps one in the Caribbean, to do all of those tasks that it’s not the best use of a Type 45 or Type 23 for.

    Of course, the final question should be “what about Clyde”? Is there any reason she couldn’t be brought up to a standard almost equivalent to the Batch 2 ships, allowing a rotation of them through ops, maintenance, training and refit? 6 is after all better than 5.

    • Exactly what I thought, Bahrain, Caribbean, Gibraltar and one will be based in the Falklands also, that leaves one for other dutys. The 3 batch one saved Rivers should be based in the uk patrolling British waters. Like you said Britains coastline is far bigger than France, Spain and Italy’s and they have more OPVs. Britains coastline is actually bigger than Italys and frances combined……and by a thousand plus Kilometres bigger…

  11. Wow, great news & a rare outbreak of sanity. It must be xmas!
    Now we need to get the T31s building pdq, escort numbers up to 25-30, the FAA restored so the QEs F35s can focus on perfecting carier ops & recruiting & retaining enough sailors to man the fleet. An interim ASM to bridge the gap between Harpoon & Perseus would be sensible too.

    • An interim asm needs to happen, but we could just get them for our T45’s, T26 and a few to swap around on the T23’s going into higher risk areas to save money. Harpoons could then be reused on ships like the rivers and our Albion’s and amphibs. It might not be cutting edge anymore but could be very useful for our second tier vessels and add some well needed teeth to the fleet. Thoughts?

      • Let’s hope so. If we don’t face any serious conflict in the next 20 years then we’ll be fine as we are, though escorting at least one of the QEs demands a greater escort force. We are an Island nation with global interests where serious seapower is essential for our own defence. There are many nations with larger navies than ours is now. There are many serious threats out there, most of whom see us as a target. The rise of the Saudi armed forces to regional superpower may have made a few western shareholders very rich, but if they turned on us it would take all Natos resources to contain.

        While I’m very pleased the batch 1 Rivers are being retained, in the event of war, what could be done to make them defensible & what role could they perform? War often comes very inconveniently & we should think about giving them better basic protection & capabilities rather than giving an anamey easy soft targets.

        • Don’t be a retard!! It wouldn’t take NATO to “contain” Saudi Arabia’s millitary!… They are arabs! They are legendary at having shit no spirit army’s!…And Saudi Arabia couldn’t take on any nation apart from its geographical neighbours!.. Unlike the UK or France and USA… We are real global powers that can strike any nation Globaly…And land Huge Army’s anywere on earth they choose, Saudi Arabia can’t do that!!!. They spend billions on equipment but they don’t have the capabilitys of the WEST…

  12. Good news, that gives us 8 total, we could even do with building another 2-4 of them considering the length of our coastline and the fact that some will be in refit/repair. The French, Spanish and Italians all have more O.P.V.s than us with much smaller coastlines.

    • I don’t thinking does. The announcement stated that the B1s would be retained for 2 years (at least), I suspect this just covers the gap otherwise created by the delayed delivery of the B2s resulting from the poor building quality

    • F35 Is being ordered Very Very Slowly. Tornado’s will be gone pretty soon. Typhoons are all we’ll have for a long time, but even they are being Looked at by the Treasury. We’ll never see the entire Typhoon Fleet at full strength just like we never saw the entire Tornado force and the F35 will be just a fraction of both truth be known. Dare I even mention any comparison with the 1930’s here.

    • I have often asked myself would it be possible to convert the Tornado to Anti Radar/Radar strike platforms, basically a EW aircraft. Possibly only two squadrons but they should or could work well with Typhoons.

  13. What a nonscience decision. Fishery protection is better provided by a cheap clipper with a handful of police onboard not a naval ship. Under what situation are we ever going to fire on a fishing ship and if that situation ever arose, air assets could be deployed quickly.

    This just ties up sailors, which would be better suited to manning the frigates/destroyer that are currently on dock training duty.

    This is just a PR stunt to make the PM brexit decision look more positive.

    Also fishing brings so little to the UK economy and even the potential extra revenue is mainly offset by the loss of access to EU waters for our fishing ships.

    • Not just me then. I’ve always been perplexed by calls for the B1s to be retained for fisheries patrols when selling them off and investing the money in extra 42m cutters would probably get more hulls and with lower ongoing crewing and maintenance costs. Are there seakeeping issues at play? I would have thought that in heavy sea states illegal fishing vessels aren’t going to be doing much fishing anyway, or smugglers making much headway, so no need to be out in those conditions anyway.

  14. For the OPVs this is good news. With one being based in Cardiff a second in Liverpool the Irish sea is covered. The new Batch 2 vessels I hope will be in the Chanel and East Coast.
    As for upgrading the weapons fit, well on the Batch 1 vessels possibly a BAE 30 mm with two mini-guns and a four tube Starstreak. As for the Batch2 a BAE 57mm gun with two 20 mm guns and two mini-guns, a quad SSM and a eight launcher Starstreak. One more capability I would like is a containerised towed array sonar.
    The reason for the Tow is that they could protect the SSBN basin and the Bristol Chanel area from subs that are snooping.

  15. Construction has started in Adelaide on the on the first of 12 Arafura class offshore patrol vessels for the RAN to replace the in-service and overworked Armidale and Cape class patrol boats.

    They are based on the German shipbuilder Lursen’s design of the Darussalam-class with Royal Brunei Navy and are comparable in size, capability and armament to the Batch 1 River class.

    Like the River class they have a flight deck but no hanger and will be lightly armed in RAN service (40mm stabilised autocannon and 2 x 50 cal). However that can be uparmed with Brunei variants fitted with 4 cannister launched Exocet missiles amidships a 50 mm main gun and twin 20 mm guns.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darussalam-class_offshore_patrol_vessel

    In October this year the RAN stood up 822X Squadron which will operate operate the in-service Insitu ScanEagle and the Schiebel S-100 Camcopter.

    A containerised version of the Schiebel will operate off the flight deck of the OPVs greatly extending the area they can surveil on patrol. The S-100 can operate day and night, under adverse weather conditions, with a range out to 200 km.

      • There were some early conflicting reports at the time of the announcement (including on the RAN’s own website and image captions that have been since amended) that the OPVs procured under SEA 1180 Phase 1 would replace the Armidale patrol boats, the 6 Huon class minehunters and the RANs Hydrographic ships 2 Leeuwin-class and 4 Paluma-class– a total of 26 ships.

        However the Defence Capability plan retains a separate project SEA 2400 Phase 1 for a Hydrographic Data Collection Capability to ‘replace and expand’ the existing RAN Hydrographic Survey Capabilities. It is possible and it would make sense, for this to be delivered by an Arafura class platform given its adaptable multi-mission design and flex deck, but this would be through acquiring additional hulls which are budgeted for under SEA 2400.

        The RAN states the primary role of the OPVs will be to ‘undertake constabulary missions, maritime patrol and response duties’. However the RAN also notes ‘the OPV design will support specialist mission packages, such as a maritime tactical unmanned aerial system, and into the future, rapid environmental assessment and deployable mine counter measure capabilities.’

        While there may be some overlap and/or eventual replacement of the Huon class minesweepers it doesn’t appear likely in the short term, in part because the Huon’s have glass fibre reinforced hulls specifically designed for working in close proximity to some mine types compared to OPVs steel hulls. However as mine warfare is increasingly adopting remote UAS technologies that can work a greater distances from the mother ship a steel hull may no longer be a significant disadvantage.

    • Along with the sailors needing to be moved from elsewhere to man them, you’re right, this isn’t free money, the running costs will have to come from somewhere, which means further mothballing or whatever the current term is that is used to hide the fact, something like long side training duty’

      • The 14 Armidale-class patrol boats were manned by 21 separate crews of 21 sailors (a pool of 440 odd). This allowed them to be continually manned, with two out of three crews actively deployed while the third undergoes leave or training, or prepares to transfer into a ship. A handover can be accomplished in less than six hours. Multi-crewing allows the ships to spend more time at sea.

        The Arafura class OPVs have a stated complement of 40, so 480 required for basic manning of 12 crews which could be met essentially from the existing pool. However, if the RAN determines for operational reasons to follow the Armidale multi-crew model they would require 18 crews or 720 sailors.

        It would be interesting to compare this level of readiness with the RN’s operation of the River class. In any case the first of the OPVs won’t enter service with the RAN until 2022 so there should be enough time to sort crewing requirements.

  16. What puzzles me is with Batch 2 Rivers slowly coming online how does the RN hope to crew the three Batch 1? Unless the MCMV fleet is getting a further squeeze?

    • Exactly what I was thinking… It’s all well and good having the retained hulls, but we have two escorts alongside almost permanently due to lack of crews. Unless they’re planning on augmenting the crews with police or somesuch for the vessels involved in UK waters ops?

      • I think augmented crews would be a good way to go – utilising RNR, Police, Border Force Officers, and perhaps individuals from the Environment Agency if required.

        One could argue for a greater role for Royal Marines on board too, with maybe only a skeleton crew of sailors if these vessels are destined to stay in UK waters.

        The 2015 SDSR stated that 3 minehunters would be cut, and so far 2 have gone. With QE requiring more crew than initially planned, it will be interesting to see how the retained vessels will be crewed.

  17. Hi folks, yes this is good news whatever the need is. It is possible to deploy one or two for Gib waters and keep a more active presence there, especially as matters of Brexit are hotting up. Spain apers to be getting rather excited over the rock. Just thought, wonder if their new Russian friends are looking for a base maybe Spain can offer Gibraltar to them? Perhaps that’s the long game.
    Cheers,
    George

  18. Deploy every OPV we have on border security. In just one week in just Kent 6 boats got through with 60+ illegals. Bring back the Frigate in the Caribbean bring back the Destroyer in the Black Sea bring back what’s stationed in the Near East. Pick a despot & send full carrier strike.

  19. Hi folks, this is good news. However, there is the issue of personnel for the ships unless of course there is a plan to increase recruitment for RN? Nonetheless a move in the right direction.
    Anyway back to this issue in hand. Good idea to send one or two vessels to Gib waters, will keep the Spanish on their toes, and help to reinforce safe waters when Spanish vessels decide to cross the paths of our ships or that of the US navy. We should also make Spain feel uncomfortable, especially when they want to engage in refuelling Russian warships returning back to the mother land. Maybe Spain has a long term game by offering Russia a base on Gib once they and EU remove us from the rock. Good luck with that then!
    All the best
    George

    • Requirements to join the British armed forces for Commonwealth nations have been relaxed, with the Navy and RAF taking up this new procedure immediately. Hopefully, it will aid recruitment.

  20. A good decision and one based on pragmatism I think. It would be nice for the RN to go and get some schneibel 100’s as they are perfect for this type of vessel (we should have 50 as a minimum)

    Lastly, I have to say a hearty thank you to Gavin Williamson, who actually seems to care about our armed forces and is willing to fight for them.

    Lets hope Johnny Mercer gets a job as a minister next year as well – another honourable person.

    tbh – I have no problem with the UK not wanting to spend money on its defence – what I do have a problem with is our politicians deploying our troops here there and everywhere without the right equipment to do the job.

  21. How will we crew them? We currently have 2 escorts sitting at home due to lack of crew and the new OPVs need twice the crew of the old ones. I think the RN needs a calculator more than 3 OPVs. Oh and adding ASMs or 57mm guns or anything else will require more crew again. When did we stop teaching math?

  22. I think one of the main points of the announcement has been missed, these ships are to be forward based around the country. HMS Tyne, in Newcastle, Merseyside Liverpool etc.

  23. Rivers? an older ex-RN watched Medway off Arran the other day and commented ” Stick 10m on the length and 5m on the width a tight hanger , much more useable ” to be truthful he says he sailed on the old D,s mind you he’s left 90 astern , would it work ? , he also said ” where are all these crews coming from ” I need info to argue with , seems to keep him on his toes , non naval experience since I have always been able to turn a blind eye to things …

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