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Why not look at adapting some of the many Offshore supply vessels for an RN role. Must be a cheaper option.


Feel That if you are going to use OPVs why not make them heavier to corvette type warships which would be about 1500 to 1800 tonnes and be heavier armed. Then These warships can be stationed at hot spots around our sphere of interest in the world, leaving the more heavier armed frigates and destroyers as well as submarines in ocean tasking. Also could have a multi-role minesweeper patrol warship to be a pair together with corvettes. However, still need a bigger navy to combat growing Russian and Chinese as well as Iran, North Korea etc. Need to think about re-introducing Cruiser warship with combination of 6 inch guns and Missiles to help give the Aircraft carrier task force some punch. How about the govt put 2 to 3p income tax increase to help pay for naval increases?


That’s a great idea and I do support the idea of cruisers, but let’s be realistic we are a joke right now. No one wants to join the navy because they might get caught in more defence cuts which will come when our prime minister decides she wants more money to watch cricket. We need to put more money into our military and try to get more people to join up. After we have stability in man power we then start building more ships. For example a new helicopter carrier to replace ocean and maybe a batch 2 type 45. The type 45 is the best ship in the world for air defence and once they are equipped with sea ceptor they could easily take in a small group of ships by themselves.


Would love to see the Royal Navy have Cruisers, 2 would be enough, either having them in support of the carriers or maybe on their own as a show of force. They could have two 5″ guns and a host if land attach middles and self defence air to air(Seaceptor). Would an enhanced type 45 hull be a bass for the design to keep costs down !! . Pie in the sky, I know, but having these as well as the new carriers would help us stop being the ‘joke’ many nations see us to be. Maybe these sort of vessels would increase recruitment as the navy would be seen as part of our armed services investing in the future


No thanks more tax to pay bad for overpriced rubbish. Dream on.


No need to be an a s s


You have forgotten that the Irish Republic – which as a small Independent European nation takes pride in its work in its EEZ has 7 OPVs in service and one on order. These while they are primarily for use in the Irish EEZ also are involved in Humanitarian work in the Mediterranean and have been used in show the flag missions in a large area of the world. If they task of your assets are to be able to respond to likely threats it would seem that this is the kind of Navy which a much diminished Post Brexit UK will need, of course they are exactly the assets which the Navy of an Independent Scotland would require to patrol their large EEZ


Despite a lot doooom mongering in the tabloids the RN is still one of the most capable fleets in the world, and certainly the most capable in Europe eg
2 70,000 ton strike carriers soon to enter service – that will dramatically increase the RN’s already substanial force projection capability, and with both QE & PoW in service the RN will have 100 percent carrier availability (unlike the French).
4 Ballistic Missile Submarines SSBN
7 TLAM capable nuclear-powered attack submarines SSNs – the equal of the Virginia-class.
6 high-end AAW destroyers – compared to the Marine Nationale’s two Horizon-class ships.
13 Type 23 ASW frigates – arguably the most capable ASW escort in any fleet, and the Duke’s air defence capabilities are being upgraded with Sea Ceptor.
6 amphibous assault ships (1 LPH, 2 LPDs, 3 LSDs) plus RFA Argus that has a secondary role as a
helo platform, and the sealift capability of the four Point-class RoRos, this means that the RN still has a brigade level amphibious assault capability, the only fleet able to put more troops ashore is of course the USN.
8,000 strong corps of Commando trained naval infantry.
Substantial RFA replenishment and sealift capability, that will increase once the four inbuild Tide-class tankers finally enter service, and the three planned Fleet Solid Support ships, that should have some amphib capability boosting the Amphibious Task Group ATG.
A global network of overseas bases and facilities (in import & useful strategic locations) eg
HMNB Gibraltar (vital base for RN & USN nuclear subs), HMS Juffair in Bahrain, the Shembawang support facility in Singapore, Mare Harbour in the Falklands, the US/UK base on the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia etc.
Plus a fairly large Fleet Air Arm (recapitalized with new platforms), a very capable MCMV fleet, Hydrographic survey vessels, patrol vessels including an icebreaker, 100+ Serco support vessels etc.
I trust the above illustrates how absurd it is to try and draw comparisons between the RN and the Irish Republic’s fleet of OPVs.


Wallander you may be having wonderful dreams, Yes the RN seems a wonderful thing on paper. Let’s take one issue the Carriers. will both of them ever be Commissioned at the same time – if so where are crew coming from? Also how many aircraft are they really going to have at how much a pop?
Secondly where will they actually be deployed? I remember one of the first lectures which I had on Strategy was about the importance of littoral States. Since then we have spent our time in basically landlocked conflicts.
You have been reading too many briefing documents for the Admiralty or the Navy League.
There is no point in being able to project power to the ends of the earth if you can’t keep the refugees from those conflicts from sneaking across the Channel then your security is basically compromised.
The fact is that you have been too busy looking at the Defence Industry’s glossy catalogues and saying let’s have these rather than thinking what the job which is needed.
A couple of years ago, on Christmas Day I drove along the B9012 above Burghhead and by chance saw a ship under weigh. It was a type 45. It had been sent up to take a look at the Russian Fleet which was sitting just over the Horizon. As a friend of mine who runs boat trips said, if it had been in the summer he would have been running trips out to them. It took it 24 Hours to get here. Presumably the only other pieces of the Grey Funnel Line within 600 miles, the Sundown Class Minehunters on the Clyde were on their Christmas Leave.
I suspect that the Russians were being shadowed by one of your highly capable Submarines which we hear about, the ones which run aground off Skye and try and surface under VLCC and are how much over budget?
I won’t compare the RN with the Irish Navy. the Irish Navy is equipped for the job which it is government policy to do. The RN is still looking nostalgically to the glory days of Jackie Fisher and all that.
Perhaps you do want 8 and won’t wait, but remember that the finest idea of Fisher and pert of the push for the 8 were the Battlecruisers, and we know what they did.
Above everything else it is home defence which is important. You have to secure your EEZ and your borders. There is a failure to do either which is only survivable by being in the EU.


Bigirishman as far as I’m aware the core of QE’s crew is being formed with personnel from the decommissioned Illustrious, and likewise Ocean’s crew will form the core of PoW’s.
The QEC carriers will alternate in service, with one the ‘on call’ carrier, while the other is
in refit, training or alongside. The plans for the QEC carriers TAG have been widely publicized eg
Strike role –
For a routine Cougar/RFTG deployment to the Med & Gulf:
12 x F-35B
9 X Merlin Mk2 (full ASW squadron, as practiced on Exercise Deep Blue)
5 x Merlin Crowsnest AEW
For an operational deployment:
24 x F-35B (809 NAS with the surge capacity provided by 617 Sqn RAF)
9 x Merlin Mk2
5 Merlin Crowsnest
It was also confirmed that the UK plans to stand up a third and fourth operational F-35B squadrons,
probably to eventually replace the two Tranche 1 Typhoon squadrons that will stand up in 2019.
For a major operation the second carrier could be deployed in the Commando carrier role, with
perhaps 500 RMs embarked and 40+ helos: Chinooks, Merlin Mk3/4s, Apaches & Wildcats.
I would guess that the QEC carriers will have two main tasks: first to increase the RN’s force projection capability in order to safeguard the UK’s overseas territories and global interests, for example the vital LNG imports from the Gulf (hence the new RN base in Bahrain), and to enable the UK to make a significant and worthwhile contribution to international (nodoubt US-led) operations, second to provide a another large carrier deployed in the Med and Gulf when the CdG is out of action, in light of the US ‘Asia pivot’, that’s one of the main reasons why the Americans are doing everything they can to help the RN get back in the strike carrier business. USMC F-35B and V-22 squadrons will also operate from the QEC carriers.
Sure, there have been problems with the Astute-class (mainly due to the gap between work finishing on
the Vanguards and starting on the new hunter-killers), but the programme is back on track now, and they are very capable platforms. For example the weapons loadout: 38 TLAMs and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes, nearly twice that of the T-boats.


I think the Republic should do more to participate in Western Europe Defence generally. At present it isn’t pulling its weight in my opinion.

Edward Andrews

The Irish Republic made a decision to be neutral for political reasons. Actually if you looked at recent decisions you would see that it is signing up in the EU defence agreement, has been heavily involved in rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean, and had a mission in Afghanistan. Since teh mid 50s it has been heavily involved in UN operations throughout the world.
The beauty about being an independent country is that you don’t have to be drawn into others people’s wars. However the US are permitted to use Shannon Airport which rather annoys who want teh Republic to remain neutral as our Passports are so much more useful if our country is not involved in bullying.

I agree with the concept of a quality fleet of OPV’s for UK and Dependent Territory Patrol duties but there is a real risk that the existing Batch 1 ships will be sold off to a third party country that will no doubt up-arm them and use them to their full potential. The argument about OPV’s seems to mirror the old internal RN debate amongst seamen – “Big Ships, Me” or “Little Ships, Me” – but there is a third option. Create a Patrol Service using the Batch 1 ships crewed by Royal Navy Reserves with a cadre of permanent crew for each ship, These could be based around the UK and effectively create real incentives for Reserve recruitment where real sea time with real skills being offered and used in a positive way. Having recently watched the BBC Documentary series about the RNLI may provide some insight into how a model they use at some stations provides 24/365 cover by operating a shift pattern for their volunteer crews in their local area could, perhaps, be adapted for this fleet of low cost, effective patrol ships. It would also offer a visible RN presence in many more locations around the country, showing the value and necessity for a genuinely enlarged navy. Secondly. with the development of modern submarine technology. both conventional and nuclear powered. when will our politicians realise that any nation with a few submarines could blockade the UK? The sea is the UK’s main trade arteries. Threaten them and watch the panic in Parliament as the realisation dawns that cutting the Royal Navy to the bone has been a false and possibly fatal economy.


I see no problem in the use of OPV’s as a way to free up capacity of Type45 / 23 warships to be able to focus more on escort or high risk deployments for which they are meant for. In that regard I would welcome the current batch of 5 batch 2 Rivers to be increased. My main concern is that these ships have so little in the way of self defence it makes them targets. I don’t expect them to have all the bells and whistles of a frigate but at least look to give them something more that a small calibure gun and a few mini guns etc, a small installation of Seaceptor on half of them and maybe something like a ship based version a sea venom on the other half would allow them to at least protect themselves as well as show a minimum of deterrence.


The issue is competence. The new OPVs are costly and have a pathetic offensive and deterrent capability something I can’t believe any admiral would have approved. There’s no short range SAM nor a decent main gun. A similarly short sighted thinking has meant the carriers have no credible air defence ie missiles, 2 type 45s have no Anti ship or anti sub capability. Don’t give the top brass any credit for their rationale or thinking. The same goes for RAF where they continue to operate without any anti ship capability…too many senior officers thinking the same.


The 4 type 45 destroyers (that are really just big frigates as destroyers are supposed to have teeth in surface warfare) that do have ASHMs recieved them from 4 old type 22 frigates that were sold off….I am all for recycling parts but having a destroyer designed with no offensive punch is humiliating.

Aaron D

A good article and agree with both concepts of retaining existing River class patrol boats, and/or replacing them with additional numbers of new ones since they are helicopter capable.
As for comments, Cruisers, why? Guns are fired so infrequently that they would not perform a purpose. Since the Falklands we have had Frigates built, serve and retire without ever firing their 4.5″ guns in anger. A type 45 meets any need a future cruiser could perform.
As for larger arms on patrol boats, again when has any patrol boat fired her weapons in anger? Has a single 20mm round been fired off any River class other than for practice in their entire life? Patrol boats are just that. Small arms and a 20mm or 30mm cannon is fine for pirates, smuggling, drug busts and other tasks.
My one exception was this week having a patrol boat escort a Russian warship through UK waters as we were short of a guardship. The Russians must have been laughing their socks off. Still this was just a shadow exercise, they don’t need escorting really.

Ivan Z

We all wish for a RN with more warships and more manpower.
But the reality of the RN’s current predicament is not what they, or we, wish for.
It is how the vessels that are actually been built can be utilised with the current manpower.
Wishes do not change the fiscal environment, or the mentality of politicians who deploy the funds.
For some obscure reason, the UK has for decades been eroding the capabilities and size of the RN and the other services.
We know the size of high capital assets – warships, fighters, tanks, have all been massively reduced since the end of the Cold War along with the manpower required to run them.
Some of this is based on the interpretation of the reality of the threat against the UK and its allies, other aspects are due to the desire to try to fiscally benefit other areas of the economy, and the remainder is down to the public desire to have their taxes deployed in immediately tangible ways (NHS, education, infrastructure, social services etc.)
All in all we have an economy that is hostile to more money been spent on defence.
Although the UK is a wealthy country, there is little desire by any political group to been seen spending money on defence when more votes can be garnered by financing things that appease their voters.
This used to be different.
During the Cold War the UK had a very large defence industry spread across numerous company’s and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers. This was a time when political capital was gained with voters when a new military program was commenced.
The voters liked it because of the jobs provided; the politicians liked to invest because the voters liked it etc.
The size of industry ensured its survival, that is one reason American’s defence industry does so well:- it has influence.
Over time the UK situation changed due, mainly, to two aspects:
Strict EU regulations prohibited EU governments from directly funding their countries companies due to it causing unfair advantage.
Leading to numerous smaller companies been consolidated to the degree that now the UK has one main defence supplier (BAE).
Due to this the UK has a smaller defence industry that does not have either the lobbing power, or the number of interested voters, to ensure it can claim a bigger share of the budget.
Although this seems dismal for the services, we are now at a point where it should be about to change.
The UK’s exit from the EU (when implemented in less than two years) will allow the UK government to invest in whichever companies it feels are of strategic benefit (new ship manufactures etc.) without falling foul of EU regulation.
While allowing a large company like BAE to exist is extremely useful to ensure it can compete for USA defence programs, the UK government may decide that at home BAE will need to spin off parts of the business to ensure better competitive prices in the UK.
This will lead to government investment in those companies, increasing jobs – increasing voter interest in the defence sector.
But all this is some time away (five to ten years at the least).
In the meantime, we can either wish for whatever we want the RN, and other services, to have.
Or we can see the opportunity that is been offered by the cheaper vessels that are been currently built.
Yes they are under armed, but that is missing the point.
The RN can get five under-armed vessels.
It cannot get five better armed vessel.
It would not take much of an upgrade to vastly improve the new OPV’s armaments, or add additional capabilities.
From telescopic hangars, containers for drone operations and numerous weapon improvements.
The reason for this is the base design of the OPV’s has one superb quality above all else.
OPV’s can be changed into very useful vessels, but need to be bought in such a basic configuration to ensure the politicians, taxpayers and accountants are kept happy and maybe agree to have some built (the more that are built the cheaper they become).
Once all are been built, then upgrade them.
Ivan Z


Just one problem. The EU has never inhibited governments protecting Defence Industries – so you are another ignorant Brexiteer. If you look at the Gordon Brown reelection bribe – the Aircraft Carriers, you will see that were part of the protection of Babcock. Money will continue to be poured into BAE because they have the revolving door connection with Whitehall.
What BAE or a few surviving suppliers can’t build will be supplied by the Americans, for example Trident, for the replacement of Trident is only a subsidy to the American Defence Establishment.
In the mean time bad choices will be made. BAE was given Nimrod to modify, they spent millions and produced nothing, we should have gone to the Americans and got an airframe and fitted it with UK avionics.
The UK is a decaying elderly empire with its best days past it, but still with pretensions. You start off by looking at what you want the ships to do, rather than looking at an arms manufacturer’s catalogue and seeing what Gucci kit is on offer, Boring, but much less likely to waste money.


What the EEC (as it was then called) and the British Government did was to try, almost successfully, to kill off the British Shipbuilding Industry. Everything talked about here stems from that and before. At the end of the day someone has to have the courage to say, we are an island nation, one of the worlds largest economies and still a vitally important voice of liberal beliefs and reason in an increasingly illeberal, authoritarian and violent world. Despite the many sins of our fathers it remains a fact that liberal democracy in this world has been to a great extent enabled by the British Royal and Merchant navies. So much for history, the fact still remains we have a huge and vibrant economy with innovation in all sorts of fields constantly spewing from our universities and companies, when they are not taken over. Bigirishman, there may be no empire but the UK is far from decaying and if we woke up to the fact, we could most certainly revive the Royal and Merchant Navies to the level they deserve.


It may be difficult for you to see straight about the EU or that EEC. It was the yard owners who killed off the British Ship building industries, but failing to capitalise, and the ones who did were hammered by the Government with the Nationalisation of the shipyards, which was to reduce capacity, this was nothing to do with the EU or any of its predecessors.
Then the Ship owners built abroad, and failed to keep a flow of orders to keep the yards busy. The UK shipyards almost totally missed out in the building for Containerisation. The shipowners then flagged the ships abroad reducing employment opportunities for British seamen.
Sorry but you are at least 20 years behind the time in facts. about sea power. We haven’t enough merchant ships which could be taken out of trade for something like the Falklands.
As for the UK in the next 10 years it will probably loose 1/3 of its land mass and 10% of its population and 90% of its oil. Sorry, but the idea that you have is simply no longer in the reality of economics.

Racing Chicken

Just on the oil it is suspected that up to 150 offshore facilities could be at risk of being sold off in the North Sea as operators and oil companies look to recapitalise in to more profitable business. UK Gov figures from earlier this year stated that the country ceased being able to supply it own domestic demand from North Sea more than a decade ago (oil – 2005, gas – 2003).
Since then the UK has been a net importer of oil and gas, further assisted by a steady reduction in production. Slightly reduced demand massaged the figures a bit, but not much. In 2016 it is expected that 47 million tonnes of oil will be produced, against a requirement for 72 million. For gas, production will be 33 million tonnes, against a requirement for 66 million.
Over the next 20 years this trend will continue as the North Sea production of oil and gas slows/shuts down. By 2035 production of oil is projected to be 20 million tonnes, against a requirement for 70 million. For gas, production will be 12 million tonnes, while demand is projected to be 63 million tonnes.
Any Scotxit will of course have an impact, on culture, society and in having to find a new place for the deterrent. The economic impact would be negligible, and potentially positive.

David Stephen

Still be better off than you. With your OPVs and nowt else but a chip on your shoulder.


I remember the death of UK shipping. Joining the EU and the end of the shipping conferences played a substantial part. The Union’s intransigence and a loss of management will to invest and to continue was also key.
The final nail in the coffin was the forced takeover of P&O and Trafalgar house. This shows the death wish of City short-termism.
Is what I see was lack of belief in UK itself. Its easy as an Irishman to criticise the UK but history will judge 2 World Wars also played their part. So much for the excuses but that as they say is history and much more important is how a useful maritime industry can be reforged.
I think we just have to get a whole lot smarter. Brexit offers a real opportunity with fishing, although of course sadly Scotland and parts of Ireland could lose out if they vote with their feet to leave the UK.
Depending on the direction of the pound and the course of the economy shipping could very well rebound. The Dutch seem to have gone down the niche route and be doing well out of it. Generally I think Brexit with new partners offers a big opportunity for UK maritime. Time will tell.

Ivan Z

Back to the original topic of the article in question.
The German Navy has a new and similar sized vessel.
The Braunschweig-class corvette.
Five have been commissioned since 2008 – 2013
Israel has also ordered four of these from Germany under the Sa’ar 6-class corvette project.
Interesting to see what the UK RN OPV could potentially be upgraded to.
[76mm main gun, RAM anti-missile/anti-air, RBS anti-ship missiles]
Although the German corvette has no anti-submarine armament, it does possess a small hangar for a drone helicopter, providing additional sensor coverage.
Also, the German corvette design has a lighter displacement (1,840 tonnes compared to 2,000 tonnes) and a shorter range (4,000 n-miles compared to 5,500 n-miles) than the Batch 2 OPV.
The German corvette design implies that once the Batch 2 OPV have been ordered/purchased in their bare bones format… they could potentially be upgraded.
However, if the Batch 2 OPV’s were purchased in such a format, the RN may find itself losing other assets.
Buying OPV’s with limited initial functionality hopefully ensures that Whitehall does not see the OPV’s as corvettes and think they can further reduce the number of Type-26 and Type-31 Frigates.
This is fundamental to keeping the current and near future number of 13 Frigates. Even though 13 Frigates are not enough, the RN does not want to lose more Frigates due to their replacement with corvettes.
Sadly, more money would only be budgeted for the RN (etc.) based on the perception of need in the event of a coming war. As this would probably occur too quickly to allow time to build new vessels from scratch and train their crews, having vessels that could be upgraded with crews already trained on the vessels might be a help (depending on the speed of the upgrade and benefits/utility of such an upgrade).
Of course it would be better still if the UK’s governments would utilise the armed services, especially the Navy, more as a conventional deterrent – as was done in the past.
This would ensure that adequate assets, and their manpower, were already in place which would either dissuade a potential enemy from carrying forward an attack, or make such an attack more complex/expensive to plan, or, if all else failed, actually provide sufficient assets to deal with such an attack (and the effects of losing assets in such an attack).
How we convince the powers that be that this is the best type of insurance – I do not know.
Ivan Z.


To continue the discussion, the UK needs to have adequate protection for its EEZ. We have a mixup of the strategic position at the bottom of the “Gap” which means that we need deep sea highly technical ships to interdict places with real power, but we also need enough small ships to interdict people smugglers, drugs and the like as well as protect off shore assets as well a provide a realistic fishery’s protection service in a very uncertain post Brexit fishing zone.
The nostalgic views of a big navy merely demonstrates that there is no ambition to fight the next conflict, merely to get expensive toys to play with. There needs to be a real STR which actually analyses the place of the United Kingdom in the world rather than where people would like it to be.


Actually the SA’ar 6 is a much better armed ship then the German ship

The Ginge

Having read the article, can I say “AT LAST” someone who realises the usefulness of the River OPV’s. The fact is we are only going to have enough “Escorts” for either a Carrier Group, Amphibious Group or Working to protect shipping either in the Gulf or the N Atlantic and sweeping the Scottish Coast/North Atlantic for Nuclear Armed Deterrent.
Any other tasks are just going to be beyond 6 AAW Destroyers going through a major refit programme and 8 ASW Equipped T23’s / T26. We can all talk about Cruisers (What is a 8,000 ton T45 anyway, its a darn site bigger than any Destroyer we have deployed before and the same goes for the rumoured 8,000 ton T26) or replacing the 14 T45/T26 mix with 40 odd Frigates/Destroyers but there’s NO MONEY.
So lets look at what we’ve got and paid for and make the most of that. So we have 3 Rivers with no Helicopter Deck, 1 Batch 1.5 (Clyde) with a Deck and plus 3 Batch 2’s. The Three batch 1 Rivers cost £10m a year to crew, so assuming that the others are similar for 7 it costs say £25m which is a snip. Which is a lot less than the cost of 1 T23 Frigate.
So to make those OPV’s relevant what do they need
1. A good lightweight drone, capable of lifting a Camera and Sensors (optical, Infrared Etc), preferably a lightweight Radar. In Extremis this would be armed with a light machine Gun or a 2nd Drone. These as Quad Copter Design (readily available from Commercial Sources) would provide vital situation awareness. Launchable from even the non Flight Deck Rivers.
2. Have plans to bolt on Missiles (Heck Bolt on some Harpoon Canisters from the T22 Frigates if you have to or use the Konnisburg Missile the USA are bolting on to the outside of the LCS), look at Camm in Containers to Provide close in Air Defence for itself and any Merchant Escorts. All of these plans would be lash ups, but have them ready to go if ever things got hot. You could argues why didn’t we just downgrade T22’s or keep T23’s going longer but they all eat man power and money. This is cheap stuff.
3. Forward base Clyde in Falklands, 1 New OPV in Gibraltar for all Med Humanitarian Efforts with a Blue and Gold Crew Flying out to ship, 1 New OPV in West Indies to rotate home when an RFA ship deploys for 3 to 4mth Hurricane Season. 1 New OPV Based in the Gulf again crews flown out to work with MCN Vessels and any Transiting larger Escorts to work on networking Command Systems etc.
4. All the new OPV’s with flight Decks to work with and have deployed either a Larger Drone or light Helicopter to provide Situation Awareness for Ribs etc, or ASW work with a dipping Sonar Equipped Wildcat or even a Merlin that is based on land at the new Navy Base in the Gulf.
5. All 3 of the Batch 1 Rivers to deploy from the UK working on their original job of UK EEZ protection, especially working to form with the RN University Squadrons 14 Archer Class Patrol Boats to increase anti Smuggling (especially people smuggling) on the South and East Coasts Patrol Squadrons using where possible a skeleton full time crew supplemented by Navy Reservists. The one remaining new Batch 2 River to act as lead ship for these Squadrons and escort Foreign Shipping around the UK.
6. All the Batch 1’s to work with RN Engineers to come up with why to supplement their carried weapons with the work being done on the Clyde.
7. The Batch 2 River in the Gulf to look to work with the MCN community deployed to work on deployment of the Navies future Remote Mine detection equipment to deploy it from a Future River Class Ship. Making the MCN fleet at least deployable with the main escorts with long range and better sea keeping and increasing Hull Numbers.
Yes these ships are vulnerable, exposed to modern high intensity warfare woefully unprotected. But for 95% of the time they are going to be fine and do the job of a £300m T31 (And if you believe that figure I’ve got a bridge to sell you that’s on the Thames). Freeing the RN to make a decision over the T31, ie is 2 more T26’s worth it if the Rivers are relieving front end high cost units from routine patrol issues rather than 5 T31’s etc.
The manpower and budget is already there for 4 Rivers already in service, since one of the T45’s is already sitting in Dock in Portsmouth use the Manpower allocation and if you have to (say it very quietly) up the budget a smidge, move the 3 original Rivers to the Border Force and say you increasing the budget of the Border Force to counter the people smuggling issue (people will lap that up in the Tabloids) or find someway. The idiocy of selling 3 young paid for OPV’s seems madness to me. If you can squeeze another 3 OPV’s out of the Treasury at the original price of £50m as additional work for the yards on the Clyde happy days.
To my mind realisation, in the RN, the MOD and amongst the Naval commentators has to be made that we NO Money so make the most of what you’ve got.

David Stephen

If we keep the 3 river batch 1s they should be used for something useful. I realise that all the current thinking is about EEZ protection and people smuggling but this is the wrong mindset. The function of the RN is to fight high end wars and protect sea lanes of trade and communication. Anything else is secondary. The border force with its cutters is a separate entity for this exact reason. Give the 3 batch 1s to the border force if you really want to up the numbers they have available. However if we keep them for RN service then we should get creative with their use. We currently have 4 OPVs, we are getting 5 new ones. Keep Clyde down south and replace the 3 batch 1s with 3 batch 2s for UK waters. This still leaves 2 batch 2s to be used in one of the ways already suggested (Gibralter, or APTN). This leaves the original 3 batch 1s unassigned. The best use of these would not be to make a silk purse from a sows ear by bolting missiles on (SAM or SSM) but to reuse the equipment coming from the 3 MCM vessels that the SDSR quietly culled. A very modest refit to instal hull mounted sonar 2193 or the 2093 VDS and some form of crane or a frame to help facilitate Seafox and other systems would result in a far more useful capability. If the experiment works well then we could build another batch specifically for the MCM replacement role. They would be instantly more deployable than the ships they would replace and have good range, solving the only real problem with the current types (Hunt/Sandown). Deletion of the helicopter deck to enable this is perfectly OK as the current ships manage without a helo. Keep the boat launching facilities and Bobs your uncle. The second batch would be 6 strong giving an MCM fleet of 9 globally deployable ships. As they would eventually reuse all 2193 & 2093 sonars 2 could replace the 4 in the gulf, 2 can go to cover the NATO MCM groups and 2 could be used to support the CBG or RFTG (6 deployable from 9 at any time). If border force needs more money or ships, then let the government sort that out, it’s not the RNs problem.

The Ginge

Dear Mr Stephen
The problem is it is the Navy’s problem. Because historically the Coast Guard that morphed in to the Border Force (by the way what a crap name) was never allowed to have a “fleet” as per the US version because it was seen as a RN responsibility to protect the waves. Hence why the Border Force has limited cutters and the Coast Guard have no boats. You can not have it both ways in stating for 300 yrs that only the RN can have Ships then to abandon protection of the UK because it is not high end enough ? Further why are we sending RN ships to do border work of Libya or Greece ? That’s not high end and there is no difference in stopping illegal migrant smuggling in the Med to the North Sea is there ? Further the RN has been involved over the last 10yrs using the same ships in the Fisheries Protection Task so what’s the difference ? If you want to put the budget in the Border force or the Dept for the Environment for Fisheries Protection do so, but to close your eyes and pay of ships with 20yrs life left in them because its “not my problem” when issues of national security are everybody’s problem is stupidity and the type of “my service is more important than yours” or “what I do is soooo super important” inter service rivalry that the Treasury has used since 1946 to devastate the armed force.
Secondly people want a solution to this problem it is “visible” work that would raise the profile of the RN. Nobody outside of websites and academia has any idea of the contribution the RN has put in too Iraq and Afghanistan over the years or the patrols in the Gulf or off the Horn of Africa, truly the RN is seen as a waste of time, why when you can fly troops and equipment do you need amphibious shipping etc etc. This is and escorting Russian shipping in the Chanel are the most high profile of tasks and need to be done by the RN.
Yes I agree that lashing things to the Rivers would be a last resort, but the fact is every other Navy in the world puts Sam Missiles, Asuw Missile etc on 2,000 tonne ships. Its only the RN who run scarred of the politicians thinking they are Frigates (and no other set of politicians do) that sends 2,000 ton ships out with a 30mm gun and no air support and no hanger because they do not want Sir Cumberly Cumberly the right honourable member for Reditch to suggest that the £1bn cost of a T26 might be better spent on these little ships. It’s a last ditch effort, hence why I suggest using the 3 UK based Rivers as Test beds for any ideas that RN Engineers or the Commercial Sector can come up with. Because if we have to fight in a big fight then every ship is going to be needed and if the rivers can do close in Air Cover for Convoys or even tow older towed array Sonars that are networked with a T26/23 for data processing these things need to be worked out over time as ongoing development. So if something unexpected blows up then we have some idea of how we can get the most Grey Hulls in the Water because 14 super Destroyers/Frigates is not going to be enough. I am not suggesting that the Armilla Patrol is covered by a River every year, but if you’ve got a War Going on with Russia and a Russian Cruiser pops up in the N Atlantic having something that can work with the P8’s or RAF Fighters to Network and launch a useful (Not Harpoon !) missile might be of use, whilst your other 14 Billion Dollar Ships are of protecting your £10bn Carrier.
The same goes for MCM Work. I fully agree with your point. Hence why I suggest one of the Rivers is deployed to the Gulf to work with the MCM Crews and uses its flight deck to supply aerial situation awareness ( I would also advocate the development in JHF of a light/small helicopter force of Wasp Size armed with a Gun/Sensors and Missiles to deploy with an inflatable Hanger on Flight Deck Equipped Rivers) and defence from swarm or small boat attack. In the long term I see future Rivers replacing the Hunts/Sandowns as you suggest but that is probably not for another 10 or 20yrs. As those boats have a lot of life left in them. But having a River working with them, developing the techniques over the next 5 or 10yrs means when it comes to replacing them we know what we need exactly as its already operated in the MCM environment.
Its a case of getting the most our what you’ve got and not wishing for a 40 Frigate Navy that’s never happening. Its not ideal, its not how I would do it with a clean piece of paper, I am sure its not how the RN Admirals would do it if Politicians hadn’t interfered over the last 20yrs, but we don’t live in that world. We can have 12 Rivers out on the Sea for very little capital cost (9 already to be or are already built) in 2 or 3 yrs time. The only thing stopping the use of the Rivers is people with preconceived ideas of what is important and what is not. Preconceived ideas that you need £1bn ships to go and catch Drug smugglers in the Caribbean or to do anti smuggling work of Libya. Whilst at the moment you have RFA’s, Amphibious Ships and Survey Ships doing a job of filling in rather than doing their own proper work. How long before Admiralty Charts for Submarines start getting out of date because our survey fleet is sitting of Libya fishing people out of the sea or rescuing British Nationals in Hotspots all over the world because we haven’t got enough hulls ? Live in the real world please.


Thank-you Gringe. I agree with every word which you have written. It is unfortunate that there are some who decided to blame the present problems of the marine Community on the EU, and it is equally sad there there are some who don’t see that you need hulls to do jobs, and that in the context of its role the Eire navy is superbly equipped. I am not convinced that at present, as you pointed out, the UK is suitably equipped for the modern world. One of the suggestions which were being made was the Britain needs Cruisers. That is of course ridiculous and then I thought about it, clearly the writer had thoughts of the Protected Cruisers of the 19th Century.
I reflected further and thought of a recent attempt to seek in a cruiser HMS Bristol in the fleet. (thought the story is that the old County Class Destroyers were meant to be called Cruisers, but Mountbatten decided that he could sneak more of them through as Destroyers) Bristol is now an Accommodation Ship alongside HMS Excellent (When the plumbing can be persuaded to work). Ah Excellent, the last time I was there I didn’t see a single individual wearing bulled boots and pipeclayed gaiters I saw more brass hats than Matloes. I also passed the shed where the royal herse is kept. It needs I think 138 sailors to pull it. It was put at Excellent as there would always be a supply of people there. That’ll be right.
The fact is that the UK needs as many useful hulls as it can. Bits can be bolted on, and we need to think in terms not of a war, but as a conflict – the is what the Army are thinking about. In 1916 the British people expected another Trafalgar and didn’t get it. God knows what we will have in the next conflict/major operations. The fact that some OPVs would be much more use to the Navy of an Independent Scotland is only coincidental.

David Stephen

You do realise I am not advocating getting rid of them, quite the opposite. Also at no point did I call for 40 frigates. If you disagree with my suggestions/opinions fair enough but dont argue against something I didnt say. You may think that tasks like migrant fishing are important but I do not agree. As stated the navy exists to defeat another navy and win a war, anything else is killing time until the next war. I am happy to use lots of Rivers but beleive they should have a wartime function hence the idea to use them for MCM. If the Hunt/Sandowns have plenty of life left in them then give theose to the border force after the navy gets the new MCM rivers. They are much less deployable but in that role it does not matter.

Aparicio Gabriel

That is very stupid thinking. Yes navy is her to win wars but it is her to protect people including the EEZ


Looking forward to ‘Part 2’ of the article and what is has to say. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s views and even added a few myself ( I know the cruiser suggestion was a tad romantic but I stand by my comments to at least tool up the OPVs). All I can say is that there is a general consensus that doing more with what we have by getting the most out of OPV’s to free up the T45 23/26/31 fleet.
I suppose my biggest frustration with the powers that be is that the promises of new hulls always takes too much time and more importantly wastes money which we all know is limited. The last I read was that steel won’t be cut for T26 until late 2017.
On better news the Australians appear to be getting involved in the T26 so potential export opportunities could be on he horizon, Canada I believe have shown interest. I just don’t get why the cost of anything these days appears to be a billion a piece, staggering
anyway I love that there are people out there who care, it’s just a shame that the decision makers and bean counters always complicate matters, dragging things out and meaning that more resign money is spent and companies like BAE earn more money without actually building anything.

Kenneth Armitage

Doesn’t matter people referencing other navies and what they do to patrol their coastline. For us, the Royal Navy and Government ministers, we must never forget we have 15 Overseas Dependent Territories, mostly in the Caribbean and South Atlantic, and that means naval units capable of more than patrolling UK coastline, which is the responsibility of UK Border Force and HMCG not the Royal Navy. Whilst OPVs have been used as FF stand-in they do not have resources to operate at extended range and timescale as Frigates.The suggestion to employ older OPVs for additional patrols to support UK Border Force is reasonable but it were better if Government and Home Office got a grip and ordered the type of vessels required for border patrol especially in the Channel and North Sea. The excuse for not ordering new FF for last 15-20 years is pathetic and no doubt excuse is post 2008 economic collapse caused by banks and austerity programme but interesting to note social welfare budget, not pensions, increased from £58bn in 1998 to £113bn in 2015/6. At some stage this Government, because previous 4 did not have the cojones, will have to grasp the method and decide whether they really want a Royal Navy, notwithstanding the two planned Carriers, and what the strategy is for future naval operations and supporting DD/FF!

Joy Boyd Colhoun

I was always so proud of our Royal Navy coming from Londonderry (former navy base) and previously married to a RN Officer! Afraid I have been curtailed with the demoralising factors that our governments have undertaken! We ruled the seas once upon a time! Why! Why! are we being forced to become the “poor relation” I’m disgusted ashamed and SAD!!


This much debate over a handfull of gun boats! Just build them, stick a gun and a chopper drone on them and send them out to chase bad guys, immigrants swimming the channel or smugglers in Cornwall. As long as the boys n girls get a good run ashore once a week and wake up next to somebody’s daughter (or Son) jacks happy! Big ships? Why TF not, but do send them around the world…….make a new song up with Sir Rod put it on the BBC and then you get new sailors!! recruitment problem solved! “The secret of long life is capstain full strength and Rum! ” ( My grandad ex Jutland stoker he died 90 years old falling over ice)
76mm much better, a good old paddy wacker, pardon the pun! broader beam better for stable fire. Drone chopper can slap a homing torpedo using a dipping sonar. Using modern tech no probs That will give Ivan something to think about, The Russians are back boys, you can see them at Dover!! Yep build about 30 of them, one in every port and the population problem will be sorted out also! ( I was told by my CPO when I joined up that there was a mistake made, sunshine he said youre a ducking Geordie with a ducking job what the duck you doing here! )
Dont worry missus the navys still there! Allways has been and always will be!!!. Seen them in Portland last year! The Crew from HMS Diamond punching shoot out of each other & all falling over drunk, proud I was, I invited them over to our ship for some more tinnies but they sailed the next morning. Poor bar stewards they sailed at 5 am. Yuch!
HMS Bristol? somebody mentioned her? Good old boat Bristol, only one built like that, they made the redundant mortar well into a swimming pool. Apparently they had a barby once, right in the middle of the Russian red fleet excercise all fissed & mooning at the russkies. Proud of them too.
My uncle god bless him was torpedoed twice in 48 hours, he survived his destroyer and the rescue vessel ( and the war) that picked him up also got hit.
My son says the new A Subs are good and nobody can find them, I believe him. He showed me around his old T boat in guzz, nowts changed!
Si Vis Pacem, para bellum.
Give us ships and we will fight!
Never under estimate us!
Right time to turn too!


It’s pretty obvious where technology is driving, ISO containerised mission specific modules… Most of which will be for offboard sensors. In the main these have yet to be developed.
So you have to ask whether it matters if that ISO container is on a frigate, destroyer or OPV. For things like comms relay, data analysis and processing, UAV operations it certainly doesn’t. You could make a case for a ship operating an unmanned undersea vehicle being able to prosecute a target but it’s hardly essential, especially given the likelihood that it won’t be operating alone. Which doesn’t leave much.
Then if you consider the costs, even given the rather exorbitant price of the OPVs, a quarter the manpower and running costs what would you rather have? One frigate or 4 OPVs?
I think any ship subjected to a surprise attack, especially by some of the nastier anti ship missiles, would struggle so don’t really get the calls to uparm the OPVs. Again it’s all about offboard sensors and platforms, stick a Merlin on the back and you have an ASW platform, a Wildcat and you have ASuW and C4. If you desperately wanted an AAW capability then I suspect the Army’s CAMM(L) could be stuck on the flight deck but I don’t see a great need for it. The 30mm can also have LMMs added to it for a bit more punch if required.
The one instance where I think uparming them would be extremely useful is in NGFS, much better to risk such a vessel rather than one of our cruiser sized escorts.
Let’s not forget that these little ship’s have big brothers with some serious punch. An attack on an OPV would see a carrier task force sent in response.
Frankly though the cost of them is irrelevant given their primary role. Once we finally leave the EU our fishing grounds return to us which will be worth billions per year. Protecting those properly is a no brainer. The EU currently subsidises the Spanish fishing fleet to the tune of a billion euros a year despite them having little productive fishing waters of their own. I can’t personally see them respecting our waters until a few teeth are lost so yes, the more OPV’s the merrier.
Useful little ships which could turn their hands to all sorts of assignments should the need present.


It seems these small ships are ideal as Carrier Group Fleet Tenders. In this role they are detached ahead or to neutral ports or between task groups in a non-combat role. They have a full size flight deck which can be used to refuel the fleet’s helicopters, bring out/transfer stores and personnel etc. For this role in wartime they would be uparmed with an 8 or 12 shot container CAAM and maybe a very lightweight towed sonar.

Xander Anderson

Something I don’t understand is (I know it has stuff to do with politics) why not have less “important” vessels built abroad so that resources can be freed up for the frigates but we still get other ships that we need.