The fifth and final new Royal Navy patrol ship – at the vanguard of the UK’s renewed global aspirations – is at sea for the first time.
HMS Spey (P234) has sailed from BAE Systems’ yard at Scotstoun on the Clyde to begin Contractor Sea Trials.
A mix of Royal Navy sailors, BAE employees, contractors, inspections authorities and civilian sailors are crewing the 2,000-tonne warship for the key tests and assessments off the west coast of Scotland.
The sea trials are a significant milestone in Spey’s short life to date and are designed to thoroughly test the capability and integrity of the vessel.
Her systems will be tested to the max and will include live firing of her weaponry (including her main 30-mm gun), pushing the ship’s engines to their full power and testing her top speeds before the ship returns to Scotstoun.
Her maiden voyage comes just weeks after the first sailors of her ship’s company moved on board and ahead of her journey to Portsmouth later this year when she will officially join the Royal Navy fleet.
HMS Spey (P234) is last of five new River-class ships and will join her older sisters HMS Forth (P222), HMS Medway (P223), HMS Trent (P224) and HMS Tamar, all of which are now operational.
When trials and training are complete next year, HMS Spey (P234) will operate as part of the navy’s Forward Presence programme, stationed around the world for several years at a time, with the ship’s company changing on a regular basis.
HMS Trent (P224) has been commissioned into the Royal Navy fleet during a ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base on August 3, 2020.
In 2013 it was announced that the Royal Navy had signed an Agreement in Principle to build three new offshore patrol vessels, based on the River-class design, at a fixed price of £348 million including spares and support.
The following year, BAE Systems signed the contract to build the ships on the Clyde in Scotland. The Ministry of Defence stated that the Batch 2 ships are capable of being used for constabulary duties such as «counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations».
According to BAE Systems, the vessels are designed to deploy globally, conducting anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling tasks currently conducted by frigates and destroyers.
HMS Spey (P234), the last of five River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), was named in front of gathered VIPs and employees at an official ceremony in Glasgow on 3 October, 2019.
In keeping with naval tradition, guests watched as Lady Johnstone, HMS Spey’s sponsor, named the 2000 tonne vessel by releasing a bottle of special blend Spey whisky from Speyside Distillery that smashed against the ship’s hull.
HMS Spey (P234) is the last in a class of five vessels that have been built in Glasgow. With construction starting on the first ship in late 2014, these vessels have provided an important opportunity to maintain essential design, construction and systems integration skills, while introducing new processes and technologies that are already being used in the production of the UK’s Type 26 frigates.
David Shepherd, OPV Programme Director said: «Today’s ceremony is a truly significant milestone for the River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel programme and builds on our proud heritage of British shipbuilding here in Glasgow. There has been fantastic momentum on this programme and the naming of HMS Spey serves as a great reminder of the importance of the capability and skills of our employees who are working together with the Royal Navy and partners to deliver these important ships».
Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: «Our Offshore Patrol Vessels play a pivotal role in patrolling our coastline, protecting our domestic waters, and supporting maritime interests from anti-smuggling to fisheries protection. The naming of HMS Spey is an exciting milestone for the OPV programme, demonstrating our commitment to UK shipyards while bolstering the Royal Navy’s capabilities».
HMS Spey (P234) will aid in a range of operations from counter-terrorism, and anti-smuggling to securing the UK’S borders to help keep Britain safe, making her a valuable addition to the Royal Navy fleet.
HMS Forth (P222) and HMS Medway (P223), the first two ships in the class, are now in service with the Royal Navy.
The second of the Navy’s next-generation patrol ships makes her debut at sea next month – as the fourth ship entered the water for the first time.
HMS Tamar (P233) became the latest second-generation River-class ship to be officially launched, lowered into the water at BAE System’s Govan yard, then towed three kilometres downstream to the firm’s Scotstoun facility, where fitting out takes place.
There she joins Ship No.3 in the class, HMS Trent (P224), and No.2, HMS Medway (P223), which are both being fitted out.
Medway is days away from completion. She is due to head down Glasgow’s great artery for her maiden voyage in November.
A mixed Royal Navy-civilian crew will put the 2,000-tonne vessel through her paces off the west coast of Scotland after months of training and preparation.
As well as getting used to a new ship fitted with new equipment, the crew – who are split between Portsmouth (warfare/logistics) and the Clyde (weapons/marine engineers) – have been breathing life into the Medway name, visiting the Scottish Legion in Glasgow and the city’s RNR unit Dalriada, and trying their hand at curling and clay pigeon shooting.
The Borough of Medway will be the ship’s affiliate throughout her lifespan and sailors are due to attend a council meeting early in 2019 when the Freedom of the Borough will be bestowed on the vessel.
Despite not being at sea yet – or having raised the White Ensign – the traditions of the Service remain vitally important to Medway’s ethos, from toasting the birth of Prince Louis to recognising stalwarts of the ship’s company, such as communications expert Leading Engineering Technician Paul Guy.
He’s clocked up 25 years of unblemished service in the Royal Navy – a milestone recognised with a bar to his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
It was presented not only by his Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander Hugh Harris but also by comedian and Phoenix Nights’ Ted Robbins – aka Peter Kay’s arch rival Den Perry.
«It was fantastic to be presented with this award in recognition of 25 years in the Navy», said Paul. «To have it handed to me by Den Perry however was something else as I am a huge fan of his and he made this really special».
If the sea trials run as planned, HMS Medway (P223) should move to Portsmouth early in the new year.
«We on HMS Medway (P223) are extremely excited for the challenges ahead and the imminent sea trials – and subsequent first entry into Portsmouth», said Lieutenant Commander Harris. «My ship’s company continue to work hard to meet every future milestone and ultimately fulfil all the responsibilities required of her as she comes into service next year».
By then, HMS Forth (P222) – the lead ship in the second generation of River-class vessels – should be back at sea.
Problems with her have kept HMS Forth (P222) in Portsmouth throughout the summer of 2018, but following rectifications by BAE, her crew are expected to move back on board in November with trials resuming in the second half of January.
The final ship in the class, HMS Spey (P226), is due for launch. All five vessels will perform a mixture of fishery protection work and general maritime security duties in home waters – with the ability, like their first batch of Rivers, to conduct overseas patrol missions as well.
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.
HMS Trent (P224), the third of five new River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), was officially named on March 13, 2018 during a ceremony at BAE Systems’ site at Govan, Glasgow, as final preparations were made before she enters the water for the first time in the coming days.
To mark the occasion, employees and guests watched as Mrs. Pamela Potts, Trent’s sponsor and wife of Vice Admiral Duncan Potts, named the vessel which will aid in a range of operations including counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling to secure the UK’s borders.
Mrs. Potts released a bottle of gin from the Nelson’s Gin Distillery & Gin School in Stafford against the ship’s hull to officially name the vessel.
Iain Stevenson, Managing Director of BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: «This is another landmark moment for the River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel programme and an important day that honours the traditions of the Royal Navy. Today is made even more special as we are able to see the full scale of Trent as she prepares to enter the water for the very first time in the next few days. This is yet another reminder of the importance of what we do».
Defence Minister Guto Bebb MP said: «As the third of five Offshore Patrol Vessels being built in Scotland, HMS Trent (P224) will soon be part of a fleet of highly capable ships. These new vessels will keep the UK safe by conducting counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, anti-smuggling and other vital maritime operations. UK Defence has invested in an unprecedented ship-building production line in Glasgow and the city’s shipyards with their 1,700 highly skilled engineers and technicians are benefiting from full order books for the next two decades».
After the Naming Ceremony HMS Trent (P224) will be loaded onto an awaiting barge which will then lower her into the water before her outfitting and systems installation. HMS Trent (P224) is expected to be delivered to the Royal Navy in the second half of 2018.
In February, HMS Forth (P222), the first of five River Class OPVs departed Glasgow and her birthplace on the Clyde, to make her way to the home port at Portsmouth Naval Base. This was a significant milestone in the programme as HMS Forth (P222) is the first completed complex warship to leave Glasgow since HMS DUNCAN in 2013.
The second in class, HMS Medway (P223), named in October 2017, is set to depart for sea trials in the first half of this year. The fourth ship, HMS Tamar, is now structurally complete while the final River Class OPV, HMS Spey, is under construction at BAE Systems’ Govan yard.
Guto Bebb MP, the recently appointed UK Minister for Defence Procurement, visited BAE Systems’ Clyde shipyards today to announce the formal acceptance of the first River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) by the Ministry of Defence and witness progress on the Type 26 programme as production started on the second hull section of Glasgow, the first of the City Class frigates.
Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: «Thanks to the hard work of the Clyde shipyards, HMS Forth (P222) is now ready to join the Royal Navy surface fleet and begin the vital task of defending the UK and her interests around the world. Developing the Type 26 capability is also making great strides forward, reflecting the UK’s commitment to this cutting-edge new warship, which will sustain 4,000 jobs in Scotland and right across the UK».
HMS Forth (P222) will remain at the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow for a short period to complete some additional work requested by the MOD and on departure will be the first complex warship to leave Glasgow since HMS Duncan (D37) in 2013. She is expected to be commissioned into Her Majesty’s fleet at her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base this year.
HMS Medway (P223), the second of class, was named in October 2017 and is set to depart for sea trials in the first half of this year, while HMS Trent (P224) will be formally named in the spring. Tamar and Spey, the last of the River Class OPVs are currently under production at BAE Systems’ Govan yard.
Iain Stevenson, BAE Systems Naval Ships Managing Director, said: «It has been a pleasure to welcome the Minister to our facilities today and we were proud to show him around HMS Forth (P222). She is the first of a very special class of ships that we know will provide the Royal Navy and her crew with the flexibility they need to perform their vital operations. We are equally proud of the progress we are making on Glasgow, which is the first of three contracted next generation City Class Type 26 frigates. We are committed to supporting the Royal Navy through the delivery of these ships plus the five River Class OPVs, while we continue to work with our partner Cammell Laird to bid for the Type 31e contract».
Manufacture of the first Type 26, Glasgow, began in July 2017 and is progressing well with production starting on the second zone of the ship. The first hull section is already taking shape at the Govan yard and the second houses the main machinery space, aviation stores for embarked helicopters and a recreational area for the ships’ 59 senior rates.
During the visit BAE Systems also announced the signing of a £5.6 million contract with General Electric to establish an Electrical Integration and Test Facility in Whetstone, Leicestershire, to enable critical de-risking integration tests for the Type 26 propulsion systems. The agreement, which follows a previous Design Development contract signed in 2016, brings the total committed investment in the facility to around £13 million.
With a cutting edge platform design and the ability to adapt to the requirements of different navies, the Type 26 design has been proposed for the Australian Government’s anti-submarine warfare frigate programme and the Canadian Surface Combatant programme.