The first of five new patrol ships for the RN, HMS Forth, was today officially named – the modern equivalent to a traditional slipway launch – on a fine late winter’s morning on the Clyde.
Forth is the first of the second generation River-class ships to emerge from BAE’s Glasgow yards, bigger, faster, more capable than their predecessors built 15 years ago.
HMS Forth's sponsor Rachel Johnstone-Burt presses the button to smash a bottle of malt whisky against the patrol ship's hull. Pictures: John Linton, BAE, and Jack Eckersley, DE&S
IF YOU’RE going to smash a 12-year-old bottle of malt whisky without drinking a drop, christening a new £116m warship is as good a way to do it as any.
In keeping with Clyde tradition, the ship’s name, heritage and her future affiliations, patrol ship HMS Forth was today formally named – the first of five second-generation River-class ships to be built for the Royal Navy.
After two years’ work at BAE’s Govan and then Scotstoun yards by around 800 men and women – not to mention the input of 130 firms across the UK in the supply chain – the moment had come for the new ship’s sponsor, Rachel Johnstone-Burt, to utter the immortal words “I name this ship…” then send the bottle of Deanston malt crashing into the bow of the 90-metre ship – much to the delight of the crowd, including youngsters from TS Forth in Grangemouth – the new vessel’s linked Sea Cadet unit.
“It’s easy to forget that the she started life as a flat plate of steel in the winter of 2014, yet just over two years later she is afloat at Scotstoun, with the latest technologies and combat management systems, ready to depart for sea trials later this year,” said Iain Stevenson, Managing Director of BAE Systems Naval Ships.
“Today’s naming ceremony is an immensely proud occasion for each and every person involved in the design and manufacture of HMS Forth for the Royal Navy.”
Also addressing guests was the nation’s ranking sailor, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones.
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones makes some new friends among the Sea Cadets at the naming ceremony
“With the naming of HMS Forth, the Royal Navy looks forward to another impending arrival in our future Fleet,” he told them.
“In a few short years, these five Offshore Patrol Vessels will be busy protecting the security of UK waters and those of our overseas territories.”
After trials around Scotland, Forth will be officially handed over to the RN ready for front-line duties next year, followed by Medway and Trent in 2019 with Tamar and Spey completing the quintet – all based in Portsmouth – by 2021.
As with the four first-generation Rivers – which have proved to be far more versatile and useful than originally envisaged 15 years ago – the second batch will be expected to perform a wide range of duties at home and abroad: fishery protection, maritime security, counter-narcotics/people trafficking/terrorism and generally acting as the eyes and ears of the RN around the UK on a daily basis.
Instead of a crew of around 45, Forth and her sisters will go to sea with 58 souls aboard (although they can operate with just 36 crew…and have space for 70). All five ships have a flight deck (only Clyde on the first generation does), each capable of accommodating a Wildcat or Merlin.
The new ships are ten metres longer, four knots faster – top speed around 24kts – with the same range of 5,500 miles.
The city of Stirling adopted Forth’s predecessor, a wartime submarine depot ship – an affiliation which will now be resurrected.