New Patrol Vessels could plug gap for Royal Navy and Portsmouth

HMS Severn (P282) and HMS Mersey (P283), two R...

A report in today’s Portsmouth News suggests that the Government may be on the verge of ordering two new Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy.

Apparently such a move would be partly motivated by a need to keep the BAE shipbuilding yard in Portsmouth occupied between the end of the Type 45 and QE Class programmes, and the beginning of the Type 26 project. The proposed new ships would be built in 2014 and 2015, at a combined cost of £150m. BAE in Portsmouth already have a good track record of  building Patrol Vessels, having completed HMS Clyde and similar vessels for Trinidad and Tobago, which have recently been sold to Brazil. I am very dubious about the idea of building ships solely to preserve jobs, but in this case there is a strategic need for them.

I have long been of the opinion that well-armed Offshore Patrol Vessels are the answer for tackling low-intensity operations in places such as the Horn of Africa and the Carribean. A helicopter is a must, and the current 30mm gun is probably not powerful enough. A few more miniguns would probably not go amiss either. The ability to operate and launch several RIBs would also be important. Some might point to the lack of decent anti-air defences as a downside, but is this really needed for anti-narcotics and anti-piracy? Perhaps a shoulder-launched SAM or two might be the answer?

But looking at the current situation, is it a good use of a £1bn air defence Destroyer to have it sat east of Suez chasing Arab Dhows and Pirate Skiffs? Basing a patrol vessel in the Carribean and the Horn of Africa semi-permanently – as with minehunters – and rotating crews would free up a lot more escort hulls. An RFA as a mother ship would be pretty sensible as well I should imagine. It’s not far from the global corvette concept that was advanced a few years ago. And if you think about it, 30 or 40 years ago Frigates were not much bigger than River Class patrol vessels anyway. Yet the size of escort vessels has creeped up relentlessly, with the addition of ever more complex weapon systems.

Aside from the operational considerations, such a move would safeguard jobs in Portsmouth, and keep BAE’s shipbuilding in England running. Portsmouth is now BAE’s only shipbuilding operation in England, with its other main yard being on the Clyde. The political implications of Scottish independence do not bear thinking about, and it is surely sensible for the Government to play it safe when it comes to ensuring that such a strategic industry remains in British hands for the future. The shipbuilding industry in Scotland has enjoyed many years of political subsidy, and now must  endure the consequences of Alec Salmond’s bluff and bluster.



Filed under Navy, News, politics

28 responses to “New Patrol Vessels could plug gap for Royal Navy and Portsmouth

  1. Sorry, I have my doubts about this plan. Unless these ships are going to have some serious military value (as opposed to being no more than coastguard vessels), they are a waste of scarce resources. The proposed cost of £150 million for 2 ships would suggest that they will be pretty basic and lightly armed. There is also the danger that the Government will use the construction of ships like this as an excuse to reduce the Type 26 and/or MHPC build in future years. Something like the global corvette would be more acceptable, but you wouldn’t be able to build two of these for £150 million.

  2. hedgy

    think about two things…

    The cost of building a couple of OPV’s for £150m (the 3 that Brazil got cost £120m in total) as opposed to the intimated cost to the MOD of £600m that Bae would expect to close their yard.

    There is a need for hulls that can operate inshore as well as costal waters dealing with a lot of lower level problems….as outlined above. So makes a lot of sense from an operational point of view as long as the admirals resist trying to cram the OPV ‘s with lots of stuff.

    Finally I doubt if the Government would have a problem with this as it saves jobs and money. The big winge (?) factor will come from the RAF…as usual.

  3. hedgy

    God, I cant spell!

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  5. Could somebody steer me to a good site for the stats of this vessel? I’d like to see how it compares both to our Coast Guard ships and to the Littoral Combat Ship. I REALLY hope the RN isn’t thinking of an LCS copy – there are large segments of the US Navy that aren’t happy with the LCS, and the discussion boards over here are NOT favourable in the least!

  6. hedgy

    The Navy, if they are allowed to buy more OPV will use the existing River class boats, a little upgraded. The Navy has no interest in the LCS.

  7. James Daly

    I would imagine an up-graded River Class could do with something like the Oto Melara 76mm main gun.

    I’ve been wondering about how you would fit upgraded weapons systems onto such a small hull, but then you look at something like the Danish Knud Rasmussen Class – similar size hull to River Class, with 76mm and Evolved Sea Sparrow.

  8. James, have you got a link for this story?

  9. “But looking at the current situation, is it a good use of a £1bn air defence Destroyer to have it sat east of Suez chasing Arab Dhows and Pirate Skiffs? ”

    But that isn’t what they do:

  10. And an OPV is too small, with too short a range, limited weaponry, and limited communications with would be a problem with counter narcotics or counter piracy roles a long way away from the UK.

  11. No news. It would have been better to spend the money on thse ideas:

    Regenerate a pair of Sea Harriers:

    Borrow/lease a couple of AV8Bs:

    What value is there in ships that are not capable of performing a useful role?

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