The lead ship of the Royal Navy’s offshore patrol vessels, the HMS Forth, started sea trials on Wednesday sailing down River Clyde for the first time.
HMS Forth leads a class of five follow-on River-class vessels which will act as the RN’s eyes and ears around the 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 – yesterday afternoon with a maximum number of 110 crew aboard. Every bunk aboard is filled.
Contractors from builders BAE, experts from the military’s support organisation DE&S, the RN’s equipment trials specialists MCTA and ship’s company will guide Forth through her ‘contractor sea trials’ to see how she handles and how the equipment on board performs.
Compared to their predecessors, the Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessels are four knots faster, carry a 30mm, not 20mm main gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and two Pacific 24 sea boats. Each ship is equipped with a flight deck (only Clyde 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.
“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,” Lt 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 Mersey provided support to migrant operations in the Mediterranean or Severn and Mersey on Atlantic Patrol North.”
Ship No.2, HMS Medway, has taken Forth’s place at Scotstoun for fitting out having been floated down river from Govan in mid-August.