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Good article. I am impressed by the new Batch 2’s.
Although there is obvious potential to upgrade these vessel’s, within the current unknown budget that would only ensure they are labeled by the misinformed as proof of the navy not needing T-26/31’s. Although when the navy has the T-31 in service, they may be able to purchase a few more 40mm Bofors and provide a cheap enhancement as covered by the previous excellent article ( ).


Reported HMS Belfast will loan her one of the twin 40mm Bofors for quarter deck mount.


I like the B1’s and have visited all apart from Clyde. Thankfully these B2’s have a flight deck!!!

A ‘slightly’ bigger gun for willy waving would be nice. But 30mm will be OK-ish. A monitor (or two) would be nice.


In a cash strapped Navy £500m for these vessels isn’t value for money for the incremental improvements they offer over the Batch 1 ships.

I’d have rather we built four of them but with a hangar funded by deleting the fifth ship. They could have then carried out SAR, anti-piracy and disaster relief missions. Without a helicopter they are sod all use for any of these missions.

Presumably RFA Argus has been deployed to the Caribbean for hurricane disaster relief because HMS Medway, which was already there, is well short of being able to carry out the mission thanks to having no helicopter.


I like the Rivers but they are not the best package. My favourite is the  Fassmer 80 OPV as used by Chile. There is even an ice strengthened one.

It is nice option to be able to host helicopter but there are considerations to be made such as firefighting and so on. But a flighdeck for winching on/off, VERTREP, etc can only be useful. As can a large weather protected space, the hangar, next to it for all sorts………..

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The Castles were nice vessels. We need something smaller than the Rivers.


What’s the problem now? The Fassmer ship is not a better package? It is though from its aviation facilities, boats, sea keeping…….

Or the Castles were nice vessels?


Is it full warship spec? Where is the Pool/Jacuzzi, I don’t see it? Must be a fail.

Tim Hirst

The price was mainly about the government’s promise to keep BAe shipbuilding on the Clyde in work until the T26 was agreed and started. Something with a hangar would have been nice but the MOD and BAe left it so late to agree the the T26 was not going to start of a couple of years that there was no time to do anything more than minor changes to the Brazilian ships.
An RFA is on hurricane standby as it’s been found that they are much better than a warship. At least as importantly as a helicopter an RFA can transport Royal Engineers equipment. Argus is covering for the Bays that have been doing good work in the Caribbean for the past few years.


The French had small landing ships for similar duties. And now infrastructure is better in their ’empire’ the new vessels are like oil rig support vessels.


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Meirion X

I see, like stern landing ships.


Tim Hirst

For support to islands and remote territories those ships look fine. But for maritime law enforcement they are a bit slow. 15kt V’s 25kt for a B2 River.


I like the River2; but for all the money put in, why doesn’t BAE now use that to develop the design and show joe soap ( the wretched Tax payer) what a River 3 would look like? Who knows they might sell a few more, if they made an effort?
To me this shows a very negative and grudging mind set by BAE. Resting on their laurels isn’t the way forward for global Britain. Its as if they resent having to build ships at all!
The saddest day, in my opinion, was when they bought and shut down Vospers. A national disgrace. It seems nothing has happened to develop the Rivers since then because remember, its a Vosper design.
The Government need to get a grip and with a drumbeat of orders set about a 20 year plan to help restart British ship building as per the NSS with immediate effect. No cutting of orders in the usual half baked fashion; a clear way forward is required. Is it beyond us?


I agree BAES shall try improving Vosper OPV series’s design.

On the other hand, BAE has successfully exported its design to Thailand, the 2 Krabi-class OPVs. So, they are doing “something”, not nothing.

Also, the ~£620M cost of 5 River B2 surely is not only for its hull. TOBA was there, which was vital to secure workforce needed for T26.

  • River B2 is the trial design to be applied the 3D CAD-based virtual-reality software/system, which was then used for T26.
  • River B2 has “25 improvements” (if my memory works) added to Brazilian Amazonas-class. Although they look similar in “out-look”, they differ internally.

In other words, River B2 was built with many “not needed as an OPV” aspects. This is very understandable because its original rationale is “to secure workforce and skill sets to build T26, a full-fat escort”.

I think what UK need is TOBA for future, on which Treasury may agree. In addition, RN must stop playing chicken games = prepare alternative options “in case” something go bad. If they had plan-B = for example, improved River B2 or Khareef-based OPV-H design by 2013, ~£620M spent on 5 River B2s could have been 3 Floreal-like surveilance frigates, and then 10 T26 will be ordered…

TOBA with good future thought (with margins and plan-B included), will be a good way to go, I think.

Glass Half Full

I suspect BAES are not interested in smaller vessels as a business case nowadays, these types of business just don’t move the needle for growth for a company BAES’ size, as one of the largest defence focused companies WW with 20B+ revenues and a heavy US focus. We should think of them as a top price bespoke Saville Row tailor versus off-the-peg high street retailer, when it comes ships and aircraft and perhaps also some of the systems that go on them.

Consider the lack of standard portfolio in smaller ships, where there is significant competition across the world and where many smaller countries want to build their own ships anyway. Compare to Damen, scrapping for business everywhere it seems or China happy to low ball. BAES already stated as part of the T31 program that they weren’t interested in a race to the bottom on price. Contrast to the multi-billion dollar long term T26 programs, where BAES leverages its high end warship expertise to maximise returns in markets which by their nature few can address; while the original design was to UK spec, funded by MoD and where the govt. were even prepared to effectively subsidise through TOBA. BAES may only have lost out in the US because T26 wasn’t already in the water so couldn’t compete. BAES may still have hopes down the road in the US if T26 proves to be much more capable in ASW than FREMM.

Consider also the lack of a standard naval AESA radar portfolio versus ranges from Leonardo, Thales, Hensoldt, SAAB, CEA Technologies. Too much competition for BAES and no differentiator. Clearly BAES won’t sell naval radar in the US, hence why they have probably pulled back and are perhaps hoping the UK will fund a future program, or they buy one or more smaller companies such as CEA Technologies, if the technology is good enough to carve out a large market share, but its tough to see how with so many competitors.

Trainer aircraft are probably another example where there doesn’t seem to be any new design for a Hawk replacement, perhaps because there is significant already existing international competition. But conversely BAES is fully committed to Tempest and high end unmanned platforms for multi-decade, multi-market, major revenues, where they have world leading capabilities.


Unlike the majority of French defence contractors BAe is now a private entity with little Government influence, so the UK’s needs are no longer their priority, they seem to have outgrown us.

Meirion X

It beggars belief, how the proposed Type 26 frigate went from big to smaller(like T31), and bigger again, all within a decade, up to 2015. This matter should of been decided over a decade ago!


In another world, where the full T45 order was allowed to be completed, and/or the T23 replacement was initiated on time, BAES would be occupied with the high end surface ship construction, and smaller yards like Appledore could do cheap and cheeful River type OPVs and so on, and maybe Cammell Laird and H+W get tasked with large ships for RFA…but that would require some commitment from the Govt/Treasury etc.

Meirion X

Build on the replacements of T23GPs should have started in 2015/16!


£500 mill each . It will be nothing like that as a ‘delivered cost’. We can see how the publicly known US contract of 9 x P-8 was far less than it was said the over £2.5 bill ‘program cost’ .
the MoD inflates production costs with all sorts of later maintenance and training costs, thats fine if you are thinking of the costs over 10 years , but a mistake to think thats what it costs from the shipyard

Meirion X

No, the River B2s are Not £500m each! The cost of River B2 second batch is about £127m each.


Lovely warship – would benefit with weapons upgrade


Good read, as well.

If “8 T26 fully equipped” and “5 T31 as is”, are secured, I agree River B2 do not need up-arming, as it will mean River B2 loses its superb advantage = longest sea-going days among any ship within RN. (When I talk about “up-arming” River B2, it is to disband/sell T31, to save the remaining 5 T26.)

A River B2 OPV can be at sea several (4 to 8) times longer than an escort. Big big difference, and this is mainly because of its simpleness. Thus, up-arming will simply destroy this figure-of-merit. Only when “smaller number of better armed patrol ship at sea is better”, up-arming shall be considered.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

The Up Arming I have in mind for the River Batch 2 is modest…from a 30mm Bushmaster Chain gun to a 40mm Mark 4 Bofors purely to give it a light AA capability. The 30mm can deal with Helo’s but not fast jets or Missiles. All Navy ships should have a minimum air defence capability…the Minesweepers too whether its defending the ship from Air attack or swatting pesky drones. The RN themselves were looking into a Leonardo 76mm SR for the Rivers in the future.


I am amazed at the spread and depth of UAV’s that were displayed on her. Ghost helped the Royals ‘defeat a much larger force of USMC’’? Much is is known behind the scenes but little is revealed methinks. I am encouraged.


If you have ever watched Gene Roddenberrys Andromeda….they use Drones to create a massive sensor grid to provide maximum coverage and to detect and eliminate hostile threats (Some ships deploy 20 plus drones in layered rings). I see this as the future of Naval Drones….you will no longer be limited to the Radar Horizon for search/tracking. No more hiding behind islands lol ?

4th watch

The good news is we now have 4 more (5 Less HMS Clyde) white ensigns on the Ocean. These are great ‘training’ ships which the navy has been sorely missing.
If there is to be any increase of armament, I think as far as possible it should be bolt on fire and forget, to keep complexity of maintenance to a minimum.


4thwatch I agree with you on the bolt on armaments. I suggested Bofors 40mm Mark 4 as the Navy is getting them for the Type 31 Frig apparently and that the Mark 4 is designed for ease of use. OPVs best weapons should be their sensor systems. For the OPVs “fitted for but not with” ASHMs/ ASW Torps actually makes sense as that can be considered Wartime future proofing. The Navy were looking at upgunning the River Class to Leonardo 76mm SR but IMHO while the 76 is a great weapon….the Royal Navy has no other ships using it and that complicates logistics no end. I can see a case for the 57mm Bofors Mark 3 however. I suggest the 40mm so Top Weight considerations are accounted for ?


The article pushes the RM side of things with these ships but the 30mm is not capable of supporting troops ashore other than via direct fire. The 40mm with P3 is really the minimum (accurate airburst being poor man’s NGFS). 57mm does have secondary indirect fire capability (as well as 3P) & 76mm is where real NGFS starts. Its not just the troops ashore either. That Argentine corvette whose main gun jammed & got a RM Carl Gustav round in its side showed the danger of operating close inshore when the opposition have what is fairly basic anti-armour weapons.


Indeed. When previously talking about upgunning the OPV some people took great offence to this with excuses like “OPVs are not designed to fight” or “”If it has more weapons then it will be used more directly in combat and get sunk”. One went as far as saying a bigger gun will expose the ship to ammunition detonations. Apparently some people dont grasp the term “Warship”. Ideally an OPV should have excellent range, excellent sensors, a multi role main gun for ASuW, AAW, AMW (Anti missile warfare), NGFS and some SHORADS missiles for self defence. Anti ship missiles and ASW torps should be Fitted for but not with incase of war or for specific deployments. OPVs must have good defences to withstand attack, not a pathetic 30mm peashooter

Last edited 3 years ago by Sam

Another option would have been to purchase something like the Dutch Holland class OPV instead of T31.

But we are where we are. A mix of platforms with no firepower and crucial equipment and systems missing.


Little use bemoaning how the RN should have ended up with something else. We all know the political and economic circumstances that led to the batch 2’s and now is the time to make the best of it.

It’s better to have too much space than not enough which was learned the hard way from operating the cramped T42’s and other classes.

Any additions that enhance their core capabilities (containerized UAV’s for anti-piracy, anti-smuggling and humanitarian survey work, or stuff like soft-kill decoys and Martlet missiles for surface defence (could be important East of Suez) are fine but any attempt to use what are ultimately large/capable but also pretty cheap/simple patrol vessels in any high-threat role would be a bad mistake.

I think forward basing the Rivers to fulfill surveillance and patrol tasks to save the high-end frigates & destroyers for tasks that warrant them has been a smart move.

Interesting to speculate whether all 5 batch 2’s will be based overseas (and if so where beyond The West Indies, South Atlantic and The Med?) or if 1 or 2 will be retained to beef up the RN’s presence around The UK.

Glass Half Full

We might see them used for additional anti-piracy and anti-drug smuggling as there seem to be plenty of opportunities –

So one off the East Coast of Africa/Arabian Sea/Indian Ocean, based out of Duqm perhaps. Another could be deployed in SE Asia in a similar role, addressing piracy in the Malacca Straights, and the S. China Sea around Malaysia and Indonesia, operating out of Singapore. The West Coast of Africa is another option around the Gulf of Guinea. I believe the French may already be patrolling in that region, so may have it covered and its also not clear where we would base locally for it. Certainly having a helicopter for these roles would be nice but using a surveillance UAV would be fine.


We could use another couple of these if you ask me, with Brexit looming we need more to patrol our E.E.Z. and protect our fishing grounds especially as some will be based overseas, some in refit, etc.

This order would be ideal for Appledore shipyard.


See my post above. Let’s see what a River3 is about to build up for next year when we will likely need another 3 to look after the fishing.


I think river 3 should look like a 90m version of the black swan sloop. This would give RN much greater versility all be it with less container space than the actual black swan. They recommend they would cost £68 mil a piece in 2012 so 90-100 mill today would be bargain. Mix of weapon fits having 52 or 40mm Bofors. Fitted with space for 8 seaceptors. Plus usual machine guns and miniguns. The rest can be containerised. Plenty of room for mission kit under flight deck and hanger to house chopper or UAV,s.


Slight correction – 57mm Bofors ? rather than 52 ? but yes a 40mm or 57mm with 8 Sea Ceptors (Which can be fired at ships too ?) OPVs need good sensors as their role requires it.

Something different

I think the Rivers should have a ‘modest’ upgrade.

All I’m proposing is the measly addition of a triple 6” turret, mk41 launcher with 64 cells, 128 silos for Aster 30, 4 quad mounts for harpoon, a 2087 towed array sonar and a fully fitted function room for cocktail parties to show dignitaries in far off ports the best of British hospitality.

Supportive Bloke

Sadly I don’t think some of your fellow commentards saw The humour in your post.

Your posts make me smile. And make a nice change from fantasy fleet and large varieties of incompatible weapons systems.

I take it that this would be for the new B2 model that looks like a capsized ship with too much top weight?

IRL I’m not sure why you would uparm the B2’s too much. Yes I would put a few AA missiles on them for self defence. But I don’t think a B2 belongs near a gun line or the very hot stuff: that would make sense for a T31 as that is a GP duty.

Something different

Thanks, much appreciated! Top weight can be issue on these types of vessels, especially this variety, might as well go all in then 🙂

These vessels should not be put in contested waters and as such they only need the minimum amount of weapon systems to execute their low intensity role. If we had American levels of funding, then fine maybe provide them a 76mm and/or some anti ship missiles capability but we unfortunately don’t have money to spare and if we did it could be used better elsewhere to add capability to units with a mission profile that would put them properly in harms way. Also, even a modest increase in weapons provides the opportunity to politicians to view them as ersatz corvettes or frigates which gives them the temptation to cut higher end units. There is also the impact on the maintenance schedule of added weaponry and by extension the number of days at sea and the overall affordability of their mission.


Simply Bristling with weapons.


Is she still in London, if so until when? Would like to go have a look.


I believe she has departed now.


In the good old days we used to have Admiralty Yachts. Surely this is the idea size for such. Get my drift?

David Williams

Be ok as a channel taxi for immigrants


At the liaison committee The PM, said that shipbuilding has an exciting future, so SSS to be built in UK plus?


What a beautiful ship…HMS Belfast. 12 x 6inch guns & 12 x 4inch, more naval artillery firepower than the entire modern fleet in one ship.

HMS Tamar, please it’s a police ship. How the RN agreed to a 2000 ton frigate sized patrol vessel without a hanger or more than a 30mm is beyond me.

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