Construction of Royal Navy's new River class OPVs gets underway

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Artist's concept of HMS Forth, which is now under construction

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BAE Systems has begun construction of the first of the Royal Navy’s three new River class Batch 3 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV). During a ceremony at BAE Systems Surface Ships’ Govan facility in Glasgow, Bernard Gray, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Chief of Defence Material, activated a plasma cutting machine, which sliced through first plate of steel for HMS Forth. The ship will be the first in the Royal Navy to incorporate the state-of-the-art Shared Infrastructure operating system in its construction.

HMS Forth and her two sister ships are based on a design already used in ships built by BAE for the Brazilian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy, but which has now been upgraded and adapted for Britain’s requirements. One key element to the new River class is the Shared Infrastructure system, which is already being retrofitted to the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. It’s designed to integrate the hardware of the ship’s combat and management systems, so they can all be accessed from a single console instead of from a series of dedicated consoles.

According the BAE, Shared Infrastructure is scheduled to be deployed across the Royal Navy’s entire surface fleet over the next decade. It is expected to significantly reduce operating costs while freeing up more space below decks and in the stores thanks to fewer spare parts being needed at sea to repair multiple console types.

When construction is completed, HMS Forth and the other two planned OPVs will join the previous five River class ships that will replace the Island and Castle-class patrol vessels. Larger and longer than previous ships in their class, the Batch 3s and the rest of the River class will be used mainly for Fishery Protection Squadron and Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) patrol, though they are designed for global deployment, with one in the class having been assigned to protect the Falkland Islands.

The new River class ships displace 2,000 tonnes (2,204 tons), are 90.5 m (297 ft) long and have a draft of 3.8 m (12.4 ft). They’re powered by two Ruston 12RK 270 diesel engines that give them a cruising speed of 24 knots (27 mph, 44 km/h), a range of 5,500 nmi (6,300 mi, 10,200 km), and an endurance of 35 days at sea. In addition to their complement of 36, they can also carry 20 troops, and their longer length allows them to accommodate a Merlin helicopter on the flight deck, as well as a 30mm DS30B gun forward.

"We've kept many of the engineering qualities that have made the [previous batch] River class OPVs so successful and reliable, and enhanced them with a design that is larger, more efficient, and more capable,” says Iain Stevenson, Head of the Offshore Patrol Vessel Programme BAE Systems Naval Ships. “This design is tried and tested and already in service with the Brazilian Navy and Royal Thai Navy, who are operating similar versions of these ships. For the Royal Navy, our engineering teams have modified this proven design, ensuring that it meets the demanding UK requirements, demonstrating just how flexible the design of the ship is.”

HMS Forth is scheduled for delivery to the Royal Navy in 2017.

The video below outlines the new River class OPV.

Source: BAE Systems

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