The United Kingdom Secretary of State formally started construction of HMS Medway, the second of three River Class Batch 2 vessels (Offshore Patrol Vessel – OPV), by operating the plasma steel-cutting machine at an event attended by representatives from the Royal Navy, the local community and BAE Systems employees.
Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, said: «These new ships are an important part of the £160 billion we are investing over the next decade in the equipment our armed forces need. The contract will benefit the dedicated workers of the Clyde, their families and the local economy in Glasgow. And the investment will ensure these shipyards continue to develop into world class engineering facilities at the heart of a thriving British naval shipbuilding capability».
Mick Ord, Managing Director at BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: «This is a proud day for everyone working on this important programme to deliver three new ships to the Royal Navy. The pace of progress on the River Class vessels reinforces the naval design, engineering and manufacturing skills we have in the UK. We are working closely with our Trade Unions, the Ministry of Defence and partners in the supply chain as we continue to build on our proud shipbuilding heritage. With investments in new technologies, cutting-edge processes, new ways of working and improved facilities we are transforming the way we design and build warships. This will enable us to deliver equipment of the highest quality at the lowest possible cost, helping to secure the long-term future of our highly skilled industry in the UK».
Construction of the first of class vessel HMS Forth is now well underway with its first unit transferred into the Ship Build Outfit Hall in Glasgow last week. The vessel is now being assembled alongside the final sections of the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, which will be delivered to Rosyth during the course of this year.
The 90.5-meter Offshore Patrol Vessel is based on a proven BAE Systems design, which is already in service with the Brazilian Navy and Royal Thai Navy. Engineers at BAE Systems have modified the design to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy in support of UK interests both at home and abroad. The OPVs will be globally deployable and capable of ocean patrol with a range of in excess of 5,500 nautical miles/6,329 miles/10,186 km and a maximum speed of 24 knots/27.6 mph/44.4 km/h.
The vessels will include a modified flight deck capable of operating the latest Merlin helicopters, larger stores and more accommodation for embarked troops. They will also be the first ships to be built with a BAE Systems designed operating system called Shared Infrastructure, which will be rolled out across the Royal Navy’s surface fleet over the next 10 years. Shared Infrastructure is a state-of-the-art system that will revolutionize the way ships operate by using virtual technologies to host and integrate the sensors, weapons and management systems that complex warships require. Replacing multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks with a single hardware solution, reduces the amount of spares required to be carried onboard and will significantly decrease through-life costs.
The manufacturing contract for the three 2,000-tonne ships was announced in August 2014 and construction of first of class HMS Forth began in October 2014. The production of HMS Trent, the third River Class ship, is expected to begin by the end of this year. The first ship is due to be delivered to the Royal Navy in 2017.
As the first steel is cut for HMS Medway, take a look back at the progress across the River Class Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessel programme