Work today began on the first of three new patrol ships for the RN as the first steel was cut on HMS Forth in Glasgow.
The MOD is investing £348m in a second batch of ‘souped-up’ River-class vessels which will enter service from 2017.
Pictures: BAE Systems
THIS is HMS Forth and in three years’ time she’ll be sailing under the White Ensign after the first steel for her was cut on the Clyde today.
Work began on the first of three next-generation River-class ships – HMS Medway and Trent will follow at BAE’s two yards on Glasgow’s great artery.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and the MoD’s Head of Materiel Bernard Gray attended the symbolic ‘steel cutting’ ceremony, with the latter pressing the button to get the machines going on Forth.
Although the trio are classed as River-class Batch 2, the ships are closer relations of the Amazonas class of patrol vessels built for the Brazilian Navy.
Displacing around 2,000-tonnes, the 90-metre (295ft) ships will be equipped with a 30mm main gun, 16-tonne crane for two sea boats, capable of making 24kts and patrol for upwards of 6,000 miles or 35 days with a crew of just 34.
An extended flight deck (only HMS Clyde of the first batch has one) will be able to operate Merlin or Wildcat helicopters, while there’s accommodation aboard to take an extra 24 personnel, such as boarding teams, depending on the mission.
As well as bearing the names of three of the UK’s principal waterways, Forth and Medway resurrect the titles of submarine depot ships while the most recent HMS Trent was a wartime frigate.
“Today marks another major chapter in the long history of building warships on the Clyde,” Mr Carmichael said at the cutting ceremony.
“Scotland is leading the way in building the UK’s warships and this underlines the UK Government’s commitment to the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde.
“I am sure the Offshore Patrol Vessels will be yet another fine example of the expert craftsmanship of our skilled shipbuilders.
“Over the coming years we will see the familiar sight of ships coming off the yard and travelling down the Clyde to serve the Royal Navy’s activities across the globe.”
The £348m deal will sustain around 800 jobs in the shipbuilding industry and tide the BAE yards over between work ending on new carrier HMS Prince of Wales and construction beginning on the first Type 26 frigates – which will be considerably bigger and more potent than the new Rivers – later this decade.
The next defence review will determine whether the three new ships will be replacements for the existing River-class vessels – Tyne, Mersey and Severn which have been in service since 2003 on fishery protection duties – or will be in addition to them.