The Royal Navy is retaining its three Batch 1 River-class offshore patrol vessels for at least the next two years, UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson announced on November 22.
The announcement follows the previous decommissioning of two of the ships in the class, HMS Severn in 2017 and HMS Tyne in May 2018. Tyne was returned to service earlier this year due to issues with the first of the Batch 2 River-class OPVs – the HMS Forth.
In March 2018, under-secretary for defense, Guto Bebb, revealed that the defense ministry had allocated £12.7 million in 2018-19 for essential EU exit preparations to fund preserving the three OPVs should they be needed to control and enforce UK waters and fisheries.
Announcing the decision on November 22, Gavin Williamson said that each ship would forward-operate from their namesake rivers – from Newcastle, Liverpool and the Cardiff area respectively – to boost rapid responses in British waters up and down the nation. The ships are also vital to the Royal Navy’s anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism work, and frequently escort foreign vessels, including those from Russia, through the English Channel.
“Britain’s patrol vessels are essential to protecting our waters, our fisheries and our national security. Safeguarding the future of these three ships in the Royal Navy will ensure we can respond quickly to incidents at any time, further protecting our waters as we exit the EU,” Gavin Williamson said speaking on board HMS Tyne.
By forward-operating these ships from their affiliated locations across the country, including the Tyne, it will not only allow them to react quickly, but also strengthen the bonds between the Royal Navy and local communities.
HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey are each operationally available for 320 days a year. The ships are armed with a 20mm cannon, which can fire 700 rounds a minute at at a maximum effective range of 1300 yards, and can travel at up to 20 knots.
They will also be bolstered by five new-generation Batch 2 OPVs over the next two years. The Royal Navy is expected to have all the Batch 2 OPVs, named HMS Forth, HMS Medway, HMS Trent, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, by the end of 2020.