The Integrated Review was unclear about the future of the three Batch 1 OPVs but a recent support contract award announcement makes it clear that these ships will remain in service until at least April 2028.
In November 2018 it was announced that the three Batch 1 OPVs would be retained in service. (The 4th modified vessel, HMS Clyde was sold to Bahrain in 2020). This was a reversal of the 2015 SDSR decision that they would permanently retire from service as the Batch II OPVs were delivered. By the time of the announcement, HMS Severn had formally decommissioned but HMS Tyne never held her farewell ceremony that was planned for May 2018. HMS Tyne was reactivated in July 2018 and HMS Mersey never went out of service. After refit, HMS Severn returned to operations in July 2020 and her formal recommissioning ceremony, delayed by COVID, was held alongside in London during August 2021. The attractive sounding 2018 plan that the ships would be base-ported around the UK, HMS Tyne in Newcastle, HMS Mersey in Liverpool and HMS Severn in Cardiff, was abandoned due to the complications in logistic support requirements.
In May 2021 the MoD Naval Ships Support (NSS) Team issued a tender for the future in-service support of 3 Batch 1 OPVs and 5 Batch 2 OPVs. The successful bidder would be required to plan for “the execution of global repair and maintenance; engineering support, planned preventative and corrective maintenance, Operational Defect rectification; obsolescence management; stores management; logistic support; risk management; and post-design services” BAE Systems was the incumbent contractor and has maintained the OPVs in partnership with A&P Falmouth for some years.
A contract award notice published by DE&S on 14 October indicates that the out of service date for the three ships – HMS Severn, HMS Tyne, and HMS Mersey has been extended to April 2028. Unsurprisingly, BAE Systems retains the support contract which has a value of between £350M – £400M.
Keeping the Batch Is in service until at least 2028 will provide a measure of certainty to finely-balanced fleet planning. Without them, some of the Batch II vessels, all five of which are now forward-deployed overseas, would have to return home to maintain fishery protection and UK waters patrol duties. Assuming the Type 31 frigate project can keep to its taut construction schedule, then the first ship, HMS Venturer, should be available to relive a forward-deployed Batch II to return to the UK in 2027/8. The current expectation is that the Type 31s will gradually replace the OPVs on station overseas.