Kelvin Hughes has been selected to supply its SharpEye radar system for the new Batch 2 River class offshore patrol vessels HMS Forth, HMS Medway, HMS Trent, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey.

The vessels were earlier described at a Defence Select Committee meeting as ships “the Royal Navy does not want or need”.

Barry Jones, Kelvin Hughes Regional Sales Manager, said:

“SharpEye™ is an ideal choice for these OPV projects. The system provides a 3-in-1 approach with a type approved navigation radar using advanced small target detection, a 2D surface surveillance capability and a helo detection mode to aid rotary aircraft recovery in bad weather; all in one compact radar package.

Its scalable architecture allows it to satisfy the requirements of the smaller patrol boat as a primary radar or as a navigation radar and secondary surveillance radar on a larger warship.”

The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017.

The Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction.

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.

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.”

Regarding the cost of the new Offshore Patrol vessels:

“The provisional cost of the new vessels was given as £348 million but because the TOBA required a £230 million a year spend with BAE, the Defence Secretary estimated the additional cost to the MoD of the ships, over and above the payments the MoD would have had to have made to BAE, is less than £100 million.”


  1. I hate these vessels and all they stand for. They are not even very good OPV’s and cost a fortune.

    Everyone knows they are neither wanted nor very useful craft and I would like to see us sell these on ASAP or transfer to the border force.

    The RN needs to get on top of its fleet management (no pun intended) and start building at a regular tempo that is never allowed to drop. We really are at the minimum level here of 2 ships per year and a sub every 2 years of thereabouts. Anything less and we should give up on shipbuilding.

    Unbelievable – it really is everything that is wrong with the UK in a single project. Incompetence leading to second rate and over priced rubbish.

  2. Well, I like them. Reasonable spec, good value at the proper price (I’d still be interested to know if the 5 OPVs and perhaps 3 T26 is a payoff for the 2009 TOBA). Range 5,000 nm? Good enough if Ocean Shield is brought back based at Bahrain perhaps with at-sea refuelling to extned patrol, or for similar operations in the MED or off Africa. That could relieve FFs for escort duties.

  3. agree with Howard, still handy vessels to have.. They can carry out anti piracy roles and operations in the North Atlantic / Caribbean area, takes the pressure off the Destroyer and Frigate fleet. The Royal Navy does not need to deploy it’s expensive Destroyers and Frigates to do light deployments when these smaller patrol vessels can do that job !

    • I agree with Pacman27, Howard and John. They are certainly overpriced, they do need to be up-armed and if this is done properly, they could be competent enough at lesser responsibilities enough to free up the escorts – that John quite rightly stated should not be deployed to menial taskings. As it always does, it comes back to money – or lack of it in the case of the RN. Unfortunately, the current state of play will continue for the foreseeable future….

  4. RN really needs to up its game on drones because that could add a lot of capability. Sadly the last big news I noticed was a step back with funding for extending ScanEagle trials pulled.

    River B2s have no hanger but do have a decent sized flight deck and ability to stow 2 containers without encroaching on the flight deck (1 either side of the crane, aft of the RIBs) which would give enough space to embark and effectively provide hangarbfacilities for a UAV. There’s also spare crew and command space plus a proper CMS infrastructure. If there’s any vessel in the RN where availability of an effective drone would result in a step-change in capabilities it’s the River B2s.

    Some development along the lines of the Schiebel S-100 (it would need folding blades to fit in a container, don’t know if S-100 has that) armed with LMM (S-100 can already carry two) could give the Rivers very interesting extra capabilities and make them a really worrying presence for smugglers, pirates etc if one was in their area. It could even gives the Rivers some modest level of inland strike capability especially if the UAV could carry 4 of the lighter glide versions of the LMM.

    There really are some interesting possibilities for getting more out of the Rivers.

  5. All arguments presented are valid and I accept they can have a role. The reason I dislike them so much is that they take away from what we actually need which is escorts.

    Understand the logic of having a hammer cracking a nut – but actually part of having a fleet is to have it built and in position, once there if it is piracy – so be it.

    These OPV’s really should be T31’s which in themselves are a downscaled version of what we would actually like and whilst they have certainly have some utility, for me they are taking away from the RN having the assets it needs for a worst case scenario.

    My view is if we are building them they should be “fighty” and add to the defence of the UK – if not the we are looking at fisheries protection and Gibralta station and that’s about it. Something the minehunter flee could do before retiring them.

    As part of a ships ifecycle it should start out cutting edge and on the front line and in its last 5 years of its service be in a less demanding roles. So going forward an old T31 with most of its missiles stripped out may be doing this work. Basic fleet management – but instead we build a specific vessel on a limited budget, its just madness from my point of view.

  6. I agree with writers in stating the RN does need these vessels. What the RN needs is hulls. These 5 vessels should free up frontline warships for higher end duties. Although lightly armed they are capable for fishery protection, securing our UK EEZ and providing a presence in lower-risk zones such as Caribbean, would also be adequate for immigration rescue and patrols. What I would love to see though is the 3 batch 1 vessels leaving RN duty to be handed over to the coastguard as they desperately want more vessels.
    Warships IFR did a really great article on our UK patrol forces vs rest of the developed world and the UK was evidently under equipped, without enough vessels to provide armed patrol, surveillance and light interception duties. Personally would love to see these vessels uparmed with some antiship missiles and sea ceptor (possibly containerised) and a 76mm oto melara supercompact gun.

    • I hear a lot of people saying that River batch 1 should go to coastguard (does that actually mean Border Force?) but, to play devil’s advocate, does that really make sense?

      The crew complement quoted for a River B1 is 30 vs the existing 42m Border Force cutters with 12. The cutters still have a quoted 14 day endurance and with civilian close-ish-to-home operations I suspect that is way more than what is probably the limiting factor which is how long staff are expected to be away from home without giving recruitment problems which is probably measured in days not weeks.

      Wikipedia quotes the cost of the cutters as £4.3m each brand new. That’s a decade-old figure I think so probably a fair bit more now but even so, when you add extra running costs of bigger Rivers, increased maintenance vs brand new vessels, and extra crew costs I’m not sure that it doesn’t make more sense to sell on the River B1s and use that money to buy twice as many brand new 42m cutters. You still end up with 72 crew vs 90 for the Rivers, 6 extra hulls instead of 3, and probably fuel & maintenance costs not far off those of running the 3 River B1s.

  7. If the RN or the Gov. had an ounce of commercial acumen it would have used the “extra” £100m it had to pay BAE because the business agreement said it had to maintain a minimum spend level to upgrade the armaments and capabilities of the vessels ordered instead of just handing it over for effectively nothing. Another wasted opportunity as if the vessels are to be up-armed in the future it will cost more than doing during the build stage. It makes my blood boil!

  8. Warships IFR ran a great article recently on this issue. The border force do require more Ocean going vessels to patrol the UK EEZ. The river class batch 1 vessels would offer an enhanced capability to do that rather like the us coastguard cutters. The could remain armed, like the US coastguard cutters. Why not?


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