In the recent image above HMS Tyne can be seen flying the White Ensign, with HMS Forth under repair in the background. The MoD says HMS Tyne was never formally decommissioned, although this had certainly been the plan. Instead, she held a ‘paying off’ in a ceremony on 23rd May but in an unusual turn of events, the ship is going back into service.
It is broadly good news that that HMS Mersey will be re-joined on UK waters patrols by her sister, doubling available OPV numbers from one to two. The circumstances are unusual but reflect the strange times as the UK prepares for Brexit. £12.7m of additional funding was allocated to the MoD from the Brexit Preparedness Fund specifically for the preservation of the three Batch 1 OPVs. HMS Severn remains decommissioned but the return of HMS Tyne appears to be the only available option for bolstering territorial waters protection in the short term, given manpower constraints.
HMS Tyne is now manned and being readied for sea. Her ship’s company is drawn from the Fishery Protection Squadron personnel, not from the crew awaiting repairs to HMS Forth. The reactivation of Tyne is unrelated to the issues with HMS Forth.
As we reported in April, with a further updated in June, construction defects were discovered after HMS Forth commissioned and BAE Systems is working to make repairs in Portsmouth. Contrary to some rumours, she will not be towed back to her builders Glasgow. The rectification work is on track with the timescale previously agreed with the RN. Although considerably delayed, HMS Forth should relive HMS Clyde as the Falkland Islands guardship in 2019.
In July the CO of HMS Clyde stated in a Forces TV report that the ship expects to remain in the Falklands for another year. This is a considerable extension, as she was due to be replaced by HMS Forth in late 2018. Let us hope BAE Systems, who retain ownership and leases HMS Clyde to the RN, is underwriting the cost of extending her time in service.