The first of the Royal Navy’s (RN) next-generation patrol ships HMS Forth (P222) is at sea as she sailed down the Clyde for the first time on August 31.
HMS Forth (P222) leads a class of five state-of-the-art warships which will act as the RN’s eyes and ears around the United Kingdom (UK), help to safeguard fishing stocks, reassure and protect Falkland Islanders and deploy to the Mediterranean and Caribbean if necessary.
Designed for a crew of just under 60 (but needing only 38 crew at any one time to go to sea), the ship departed Scotstoun – where she’s spent several months being fitted out – on August 30 afternoon with a maximum number of 110 souls aboard. Every bunk aboard is filled.
Contractors from builders BAE Systems, experts from the military’s support organisation Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the RN’s equipment trials specialists Maritime Capability Trials and Assessment (MCTA) and ship’s company will guide HMS Forth (P222) through her ‘contractor sea trials’ to see how she handles and how the equipment on board performs.
Although she’s classed as a Batch 2 River-class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), HMS Forth (P222) and her sisters – HMS Medway (P223), HMS Trent (P224), HMS Tamar and HMS Spey – are a big leap forward from HMS Tyne (P281), HMS Severn (P282), HMS Mersey (P283) and HMS Clyde (P257), which were designed and built 15 years ago.
They’re four knots/4.6 mph/7.4 km/h faster, carry a 30-mm, not 20-mm main gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns, two Pacific 24 sea boats. Each ship is equipped with a flight deck (only HMS Clyde (P257) of the first-generation craft can host a helicopter) and there’s accommodation for up to 50 troops/Royal Marines to support operations ashore if needed.
Junior ratings share six-berth cabins – as on Type 45 destroyers; senior rates and officers will live in two-berth en suite cabins.
HMS Forth (P222), which is affiliated to the historic city of Stirling, also borrows many of the first batch’s features – which were revolutionary in RN ships at the time: fixed fire-fighting systems across much of the ship, a computer-controlled machinery monitoring system. The bridge is far more Type 45 (spacious, computerised with interchangeable displays, communications kit) than a rather cramped Type 23 frigate.
«Today marks a key moment in the generation of the ship and it is extremely exciting to be on board», said Commander Bob Laverty, Forth’s first Commanding Officer. «Forth boasts state-of-the-art equipment, and my Ship’s Company are looking forward to developing their knowledge of the systems on board with their industry counterparts».
The Batch 2s are from the same family as the Batch 1s «but are a completely new design», Lieutenant Tom Sleight, Forth’s Navigator, explained.
«The design provides a lot more operational flexibility with the large flight deck and space for the embarked force. These ships will be able to conduct all of the fishery protection and domestic security duties currently undertaken by the squadron but will now also provide far more capable platform for deploying overseas such as when HMS Mersey (P283) provided support to migrant operations in the Mediterranean or HMS Severn (P282) and HMS Mersey (P283) on Atlantic Patrol North. They are going to be extremely capable ships when compared with their predecessors».
Ship No.2, HMS Medway (P223), has taken Forth’s place at Scotstoun for fitting out having been floated down river from Govan in mid-August.