HMS Forth (P222), the first of the Royal Navy’s next-generation of Offshore Patrol ships has been formally commissioned into the Fleet.
Held at her home base of Portsmouth, the commissioning ceremony for HMS Forth (P222) represents the second ship to join the Royal Navy in less than six months.
After the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) in December, HMS Forth (P222) is the next generation of warships to arrive as part of the government’s £178bn plan to give the Armed Forces the equipment it needs over the next decade.
She is the first of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) designed for counter-piracy, anti-smuggling, fishery protection, border patrol, counter terrorism and maritime defence duties.
Commanding Officer, Commander Bob Laverty, said: «It’s a privilege to be the Commanding Officer of HMS Forth, the first in class of the new Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels. The body of work being put in by my ship’s company will be reflected in not just one, but all five brand new platforms being delivered to the RN and these fantastic ships will be a fine addition to the fleet. They are a highly capable and versatile warship and I am immensely proud of the effort and sacrifices all have made that have allowed us to be here today».
The commissioning ceremony lasted for just over an hour and guests included the Lady Sponsor Rachel Johnstone-Burt, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Ben Key and Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff Ships Rear Admiral Chris Gardner.
Classified as Batch 2 River-class OPVs HMS Forth (P222) and her sisters – HMS Trent (P224), Medway (P223), Tamar and Spey – are a significant upgrade on HMS Tyne (P281), HMS Severn (P282), HMS Mersey (P283) and HMS Clyde (P257), which were designed and built 15 years ago. With HMS Forth (P222) entering service this year the remaining four ships are all expected to arrive in Portsmouth by 2020.
They will become the Royal Navy’s eyes and ears around the UK, helping to safeguard fishing stocks, reassure and protect the Falkland Islands and are capable of deploying to the Mediterranean and Caribbean to safeguard the UK’s interests around the world.
Paddy Clayton, deputy head of the Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) OPV Project Team, said: «The team at DE&S is extremely proud to see HMS Forth’s commissioning. We will continue to work closely with our delivery partners throughout UK industry and our customer as the remaining four ships in the new fleet are delivered into Royal Navy service».
Designed for a total crew of around 58, but requiring only 34 to go to sea, she can spend up to 320 days a year on operations. The larger crew allows a rotation of personnel to ensure they get to spend time at home or on training.
Built by BAE Systems at their base on the Clyde, the new OPVs are four knots faster than their predecessors at 24 knots/26.6 mph/44.4 km/h, have an increased range of 5,500 NM/6,329 miles/10,186 km, have a 30-mm automatic cannon as their main armament instead of a 20-mm gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and are equipped with two Pacific 24 sea boats.
Each ship has an extended flight deck to operate up to Merlin size helicopters and accommodation for up to 50 embarked Royal Marines for boarding and supporting operations ashore if required.
The new OPVs will be supported at Portsmouth Naval Base by BAE Systems, initially under the terms of the manufacturing contract.