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The first steel has been cut on the fourth of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built on the Clyde.

After earlier reports that work on hull four was due to begin in November, we reached out to BAE who confirmed that “preparatory” work had started on the fourth River class vessel.

Now, media released by BAE shows steel being cut on the fourth vessel.

The two additional vessels, hulls four and five, were announced as part of the last Strategic Defence & Security Review.

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. Critics, the UK Defence Journal included, have raised concerns that they’re severely over priced and lack important features, such as a helicopter hangar.

The Strategic Defence & Security Review states:

“We will buy two further new Offshore Patrol Vessels, increasing the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad.”

The vessels will be used by the Royal Navy to undertake various tasks including border protection roles, including anti-smuggling, anti-piracy, fisheries patrols, and immigration law enforcement.

This comes as a report has found that the Scottish economy ‘cannot do without’ naval shipbuilding contracts.

An economic analysis of the Scottish defence sector by the Fraser of Allander Institute revealed that 5,943 jobs and £162.7 million in wages are supported by BAE’s yards on the Upper Clyde; and 3,870 jobs and £105.9 million in wages are supported by the Rosyth dockyard in Fife.

The report also presents a challenge for the Scottish Government to demonstrate how they would sustain these jobs and wages in the absence of MoD contracts in a future independent Scotland.

GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said:

“This report was commissioned following the delays to the type-26 programme and because of the long-term frustrations felt by our members across the sector after years of being used as a political football.

One job on the Upper Clyde alone supports an additional 1.18 jobs across Scotland so for the future of Scottish shipbuilding and our long-term economic prosperity it is imperative that the UK government makes good on the promised frigate programme.

Furthermore, and with a second independence referendum a real possibility, the Scottish government needs to demonstrate to our members how they would plan to sustain their jobs, wages, pensions, skills and local communities without MoD investment.

This report is a reality check and shows that the fragile Scottish economy cannot do without the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in wages supported by navy shipbuilding contracts.”

The order and construction of the new OPV’s will help sustain hundreds of skilled jobs on the Clyde until the Type 26 build begins, ensuring that the yards remain viable.

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

20 COMMENTS

    • Why would you fit cruise missiles to an offshore patrol vessel? Comparing to a backward navy such as Russia is hardly a fair comparison. They can’t even land their aircraft on their carrier and it emits more smoke than a coal fired power station.

        • I see your reasoning but surely you build a ship for a purpose; in this case offshore patrol. I guess it would be nice to fit it out with CIWS, Cruise missiles and anti air but as other people have said this will free up other more capable ships for the tasks that they were originally built. From my point of view, using a T45 for offshore patrol is £850 Million wasted!

        • Wow-unbelievable! I would love to see the Chief executive of Bae on BBC’s HardTalk answer questions as to why this is possible?? Unless the Russians are lying about the costs or there is some hidden subsidy in the manufacture-forced labour?

        • The other possible explanation-the Purchasing Power Parity phenomenon. For example here in South Africa you might pay R 200 for a meal that would cost you 5 times that amount in Australia-in other words the exchange rate does not reflect the price-income equation.

          • There are lots of reasons including inflation, cost of skilled labor, state control over key resources etc.

            What would be interesting to know is it the rivers could be upgrade if needed. We know during the Falklands rush upgrades were done to various ships. If they could be fitted with some better self defense weps, they could be useful for shore bombardment.

  1. though of course “the bigger the fleet the better” are the reports true that the steel for these new offshore patrol vessels actually comes from Sweden?

  2. We have 5 new hulls. Every ship used on minor duties releases a major combatant for other duties. Good, I would have thought.

  3. We have 5 new hulls. Every ship used on minor duties releases a major combatant for other duties. Good, I would have thought. Now we need 10 Type 31’s.

  4. I think the main point is that with some relatively minor tweaking including a proper gun and some air defence capability they could become much more valuable assets for the RN. Also-remember they will only represent a net increase of 1 hull as the Batch 1 and stretched Clyde hulls are to be disposed of when the new OPV’s enter service

    • Yes. They should at least have a 76mm gun, maybe a few Stingray torps and a cheap sonar for ASW patrol. At least they could do something useful. At 2000 tonnes they are heavier than most WW2 Destroyers!

  5. These ships have no war fighting capability, in peacetime they should be worked very hard whilst our our top end warships should only be used for the tasks they were designed for. Do we need a T45 to fight pirates in the Indian ocean? Counter drug runners or shadow Russian warships transiting through the English channel? Plus they can have a training role for seamanship for recruits and reserves. They can not however replace our destroyer/frigate fleet in a some political numbers game. So use the expensive warships less to prolong their service lives is my main point.
    .

  6. Lack of helicopter protection is s mute point however, is there a case here for the deployment of sophisticated drones, to act as ‘spy in the sky’ and limited supply duties? This would negate the need for a permanent helicopter shelter. A folding temporary hanger would be a better solution. Looking ahead, these vessels could be supplied with armed drones, which would give significant enhancement to combat capabilities.

  7. The Royal Navy does need these ships full stop.
    What we lack currently is hull numbers to do routine patrol work- having 5 of the River class batch 2 vessels enables the RN to free up its precious few surface warships for more important tasks. The River class batch 2 vessels should be able to undertake pirate patrols, securing UK offshore assets etc. It is a pity they have not been fitted out as true corvette type warships with a more substantial arnament but what they are is a useful means to assert some presence in low threat areas.
    The fact we have been able to build them rapidly is encouraging and I would advocate the RN uses the river 2 design as a basis for the proposed type 31 frigate- simply enlarge and extend the design. The Avenger design is good but is too small and not heavily enough armed- something like Cutlass design is suitable to RN requirements- yet we need 8 to 10 vessels now. It is craven folly to think anything other than a destroyer and frigate fleet of the required 26 hulls is acceptable.
    It is becoming an urgent strategic requirement to enlarge the Royal Navy now. As a nation we have suffered too many cut backs and reductions in our national defences to the point that we now only have 17 active frigate and destroyers and cannot even fix the vessels we have got (type 45 destroyer propulsion problems)
    Lets get on and rebuild the Royal Navy- the simple fact is that we are a rich nation- we just all need to pay more tax (say 2p in the pound income tax- with 1p going to defence and 0.5p to NHS and 0.5p to education)- bring back the defence to GDP ratio of 3 or 4% and that should easily suffice.

    • I think most people agree with your sentiment but the issue I have is that for their cost and size they should have been more useful than for simple coast guard duties.

      You might argue they free up larger ships. But it is the waste and the typical lack of weaponry that has plagued our warship building since the Daring class (8000 tonnes but only 48 AAW missiles, no ASW torpedoes and no AS missiles after 2018) that annoys me.

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