The MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) department has issued the first expression of interest for the procurement of two new fast patrol launches for the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron.
The vessels will replace the existing vessels of the Scimitar class HM Ships Scimitar and Sabre and will take on their role protecting British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters and representing British interests in the wider western Mediterranean.
The design is required to meet speeds in excess of 35 knots, be capable of day/night operations and all weather operations up to Sea State 6-7. This represents a significant capability increase on the current vessels which have a stated top speed of 32 knots.
The Scimitar class vessels currently have the honour of being the smallest commissioned warships in the Royal Navy. Until last year they had been second to the survey launch HMS Gleaner but are now smaller than its replacement HMS Magpie.
The vessels have been in Gibraltar since 2003, having previously been used by the Royal Marines in Northern Ireland, and replaced vessels of the P2000 Archer class which were re-deployed to Cyprus.
Though it is a mainstay claim of social media commentators that the Royal Navy should deploy a larger vessel, such as a Batch 2 River class patrol boat, to deter Spanish incursions they are unsuited to the roll. In the confined space of Gibraltarian waters effectives incident response requires a vessel that can put to sea and be on scene in a matter of minutes.
DE&S has stated that it plans to prequalify between three and six shipyards during the tendering process. Bidders have been given until the end of July to complete and submit a pre-qualification questionnaire to assess their suitability before the next stage of the process.
Safehaven Marine, who designed and built the soon to be commissioned HMS Magpie are likely to be a contender with a variant of their Barracuda design. The design series comes in a variety of variants, will hull forms ranging from 13m to 19m, and could easily be adapted to meet the Royal Navy’s criteria.