River-class patrol vessel

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HMS Clyde MOD 45158399.jpg
HMS Clyde exercising off the Falklands in 2014
Class overview
NameRiver class
Operators Royal Navy
Preceded byCastle class
In commission2003–present
General characteristics
TypeOffshore patrol vessel
  • Batch 1: 1,700 t (1,700 long tons; 1,900 short tons)[2][1]
  • Batch 2: 2,000 t (2,000 long tons; 2,200 short tons)[4][5]
  • Batch 1: 79.5 m (260 ft 10 in)[1][3]
  • Batch 2: 90.5 m (296 ft 11 in)[2][4][5]
  • Batch 1: 13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)[2][1]
  • Batch 2: 13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)[2][4]
DraughtBatch 1: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)[1]
  • Batch 2:
    • 2 × MAN 16V28/33D diesel engines, 14,700kW/10,950HP, 2 shafts
    • 2 × controllable-pitch propellers
  • Batch 1: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)[2][3]
  • Batch 2: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)[2][4][5]
Boats & landing
craft carried
Two Pacific 24 RIBs[5]
  • Batch 1: 30[1]
  • Batch 2: 58[6]
Sensors and
processing systems
Aviation facilitiesBatch 2: Merlin-capable flight deck[4][5]
NotesBatch 2: 16 tonne crane[5]

The River class is a class of offshore patrol vessels built primarily for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. A total of nine are planned for the Royal Navy; four Batch 1 and five Batch 2. The Batch 1 ships of the class replaced the seven ships of the Island class and the two Castle-class patrol vessels. HTMS Krabi is a variation of the River design built in Thailand for the Royal Thai Navy. The three ships of the Amazonas-class corvette in service with the Brazilian Navy are also a variation of the River design.

Mersey visits Guyana during her Caribbean deployment in 2016

Royal Navy

Batch 1

Tyne, Severn and Mersey

In early 2001, the Ministry of Defence placed an order with Vosper Thornycroft (VT) for three River-class offshore patrol vessels to replace the Island class.[1] It was understood that the higher availability rates of the River class (up to 300 days per year), would enable the three new ships to perform the duties of the five ships they replaced. The Royal Navy initially chartered (or leased) the ships under a five-year, £60 million contract from the builder VT.[1] As part of the contract, VT would be responsible for all maintenance and support during the charter period. This contract was renewed in January 2007 for another five years at £52 million.[1] However, in September 2012, instead of renewing the contract again, it was announced by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond that the Ministry of Defence had purchased the vessels for £39 million.[1][10]

The River class are significantly larger than the Island-class vessels and have a large open deck aft allowing them to be fitted with equipment for a specific role, which can include fire-fighting, disaster relief and anti-pollution work. For this purpose, a 25 tonne capacity crane is fitted. In addition, the deck is strong enough for the transport of various tracked and wheeled light vehicles, or an LCVP.[citation needed] The class are primarily used with the Fishery Protection Squadron and EEZ patrol.[1]

In 2009, the running costs for the River class were estimated at £20 million: "The average running cost... of [the] River class is £20 million... These figures, based on the expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Defence in 2009–10, include maintenance, safety certification, military upgrades, manpower, inventory, satellite communication, fuel costs and depreciation."[11]


In February 2005, the Ministry of Defence placed an order with VT for the charter of a fourth modified River-class offshore patrol vessel.[1] This fourth ship, Clyde, was constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard and replaced the two Castle-class patrol vessels for duties around the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands. To fulfill this role, Clyde incorporates several modifications, including an extended length 81.5 m (267 ft 5 in) hull, a top speed of 21 kn (39 km/h), a 30 mm cannon, two miniguns and mountings for five general purpose machine guns.[1] Clyde's elongated hull permits a 20-metre strengthened flight deck able to accommodate a Merlin-sized helicopter. The ship has a full load displacement between 1,850[1] and 2,000 tonnes.[12][13]

Clyde is capable of temporarily embarking up to 110 troops and their equipment and inserting them anywhere on the Falkland Islands.[1] Clyde has a complement of 36.[1]


On 24 April 2017, in a written answer to a question raised by Sir Nicholas Soames, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence Harriet Baldwin stated Severn would be decommissioned in 2017, with Mersey and Clyde following in 2019.[14] As of October 2017, no date has been given Tyne's decommissioning.

Severn was decommissioned in a ceremony at Portsmouth on 27 October 2017.[15]

In March 2018, Baldwin's successor as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence, Guto Bebb, revealed that £12.7M had been allocated from the EU Exit Preparedness Fund to maintain the three Batch 1 ships, should they be needed to control and enforce UK waters and fisheries following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.[16]

Batch 2

Forth, Medway, Trent

On 6 November 2013 it was announced that the Royal Navy had signed an Agreement in Principle to build three new offshore patrol vessels, based on the River-class design, at a fixed price of £348 million including spares and support.[17] In August 2014, BAE Systems signed the contract to build the ships at their BAE Systems Maritime – Naval Ships shipyards in Glasgow on the River Clyde. The Ministry of Defence stated that the Batch 2 ships are capable of being used for constabulary duties such as "counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations".[18] According to BAE Systems, the vessels are designed to deploy globally, conducting anti-piracy, counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling tasks currently conducted by frigates and destroyers.[19] Steel was cut on 10 October 2014[4] and they are expected to enter service starting 2017, with the last being delivered by the end of 2018.[17] The ships are built at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard, then transferred to the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard for fitting out.[20]

Batch 2 – MOD Infographic[4]

The Batch 2 ships are fundamentally different in appearance and capabilities from the preceding Batch 1. Notable differences include the 90.5 metres (296 ft 11 in) long hull,[2] a top speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph),[2] Merlin-capable flight deck,[2] a displacement of around 2,000 tonnes[4][5] and greatly expanded capacity for accommodating troops.[2] The Batch 2 ships also have a different (full width) superstructure, and a fundamentally different above-water hullform shape (greater bow flare, different & less-pronounced forward knuckle line compared to the Batch 1 ships, lack of the distinctive fwd & aft bulwarks of the Batch 1 vessels). The class is also fitted with the Kelvin Hughes SharpEye integrated radar system for navigation,[7] the Terma Scanter 4100 2D radar for air and surface surveillance,[8] and a BAE CMS-1 Combat Management System.[5][9] The Batch 2 ships therefore arguably represent a distinctly separate class to the preceding Batch 1.

Batch 2 are also the first Royal Navy ships fitted with the BAE Systems Shared Infrastructure operating system.[5] BAE describes Shared Infrastructure as "a state-of-the-art system that will revolutionise the way ships operate by using virtual technologies to host and integrate the sensors, weapons and management systems that complex warships require. Replacing multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks with a single hardware solution reduces a number of spares required to be carried onboard and will significantly decrease through-life costs."[21]

The class has been criticised in Parliamentary evidence for: lacking a helicopter hangar (even a telescopic hangar), something that will limit utility of the helicopter deck by preventing embarkation of a helicopter for anything other than very short periods; lacking a medium calibre gun (such as 76 mm); and poor value for money. It is argued that because of the lacking features (which could have been incorporated for the price) the vessels will not be as capable in the ocean-going patrol capacity as claimed.[22] Indeed a critique of the class is that the reasoning behind their commissioning was simply to ensure that public money continued to support BAE dockyards and jobs prior to the ordering of the Type 26 warship. [23]

The Batch 2 ships for the Royal Navy include some 29 modifications and enhancements over the Amazonas-class corvette built by BAE Systems for the Brazilian Navy.[24] The Royal Navy ships are built to more stringent naval standards, with features such as magazine protection, improved hull integrity and fire safety modifications, as well as greater redundancy.[24]

The first, HMS Forth, was christened at a ceremony at the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow on 9 March 2017.[25]

Forth is expected to replace Clyde as Falkland Islands guardship.[26]

Tamar and Spey

The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 announced a further purchase of two new Batch 2 ships at an undisclosed date in the future, and a total fleet of 'up to six' offshore patrol vessels.[27] Expectation at the time was that this would encompass the three Batch 2 ships announced in 2013, the two additional Batch 2 ships announced in the 2015 defence review, and the modified Batch 1 ship, Clyde. The three Batch 1 ships without flight decks would be withdrawn in favour of the newer ships.[28] The defence review also suggested that the ships could be used to increase the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad.[27]

During a Defence Select Committee in July 2016, the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Andrew Jones indicated that the option for a fleet of 'up to six' offshore patrol vessels had been reduced to five, with Clyde being replaced by one of the new Batch 2 ships.[29] The First Sea Lord also elaborated on the potential uses for the Batch 2 ships overseas, including the possibility of forward basing an extra ship at the Falklands Islands, or forward basing it elsewhere.[29] A £287m order, for two new ships and support for all five Batch 2 ships, was announced on 8 December 2016.[30] HM Ships Tamar and Spey will join the fleet in 2021.[6]

On 21 April 2017, with construction of HMS Tamar already under way, the first steel was cut for HMS Spey. Like their predecessors, the ships are constructed at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard, then transferred to the Scotstoun shipyard for fitting out.[20]

Foreign orders

Brazilian Navy

Three vessels of the Amazonas-class corvette based on the River class were built by BAE in the United Kingdom. They were originally intended to be exported for use by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force; however, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago cancelled the order in September 2010. In December 2011 it was reported that the Brazilian Navy were interested in buying the vessels, and possibly up to five additional vessels of the same design.[31] The sale, for £133 million (compared to an original £150m), was then confirmed on 2 January 2012.[32]

Royal Thai Navy

HTMS Krabi is a modified River-class vessel built for the Royal Thai Navy. The ship was built in Thailand but with design, technology transfer and support provided by BAE Systems. In January 2016 it was announced that a contract had been signed to provide the Royal Thai Navy with a second ship based on the River-class OPV to be built under license at Bangkok Dock Company. The precise design has not yet been announced but it will be a 90 m vessel.[33]

BAE Systems offshore patrol vessels

HTMS Krabi is a 90-metre variant of the BAE Offshore Patrol Vessel in service with the Royal Thai Navy
The Amazonas-class corvette is a 90-metre variant of the BAE Offshore Patrol Vessel in service with the Brazilian Navy
Name Pennant No. Builder Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Status
River-class patrol vessel (Royal Navy)
Batch 1
Tyne P281 VT Shipbuilding, Southampton 27 April 2002 4 July 2003 In active service
Severn P282 4 December 2002 31 July 2003 27 October 2017 Decommissioned
Mersey P283 14 June 2003 28 November 2003 In active service
Modified Batch 1
Clyde P257 VT Shipbuilding, Portsmouth 14 June 2006 30 January 2007 In active service
Batch 2
Forth[4] P222 BAE Systems, Glasgow 20 August 2016 13 April 2018[34] In active service
Medway[4] P223 [35] 23 August 2017 2019[6] Fitting out
Trent[4] P224 [35] 20 March 2018 2019[6] Fitting out
Tamar[36] 2021[6] Under construction
Spey[36] 2021[6] Under construction
Amazonas-class corvette (Brazilian Navy)
Amazonas P120 BAE Systems, Portsmouth 18 November 2009 29 June 2012 In active service
Apa P121 BAE Systems, Scotstoun 15 July 2010 30 November 2012 In active service
Araguari P122 16 July 2010 21 June 2013 In active service
Krabi patrol vessel (Royal Thai Navy)
Krabi 551 Bangkok Dock Company 3 December 2011 26 August 2013 In active service
Trang 552 23 June 2017 TBA Under construction

See also



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Bush, Steve (2014). British Warships and Auxiliaries. Maritime Books. pp. 23–24. ISBN 1904459552.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 "Offshore Patrol Vessels". www.baesystems.com. BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Royal Navy Ships – Patrol Boats – River-class". www.royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 "First steel cut on new patrol ships". www.gov.uk. Ministry of Defence. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 "Construction begins on new Royal Navy warships". www.baesystems.com. BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Royal Navy The first of five new patrol ships is named
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Britain orders Kelvin Hughes radar system". www.upi.com. United Press International. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Terma's SCANTER 4100 radar system has been selected and ordered by BAE Systems for integration on board Royal Navy's OPVs". www.terma.com. TERMA. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Combat Management Systems". www.baesystems.com. BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  10. "MoD buys £39m patrol ships from BAE". Press Association. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012.
  11. "House of Lords Hansard: Written Answers – Armed Forces: Combat Ships". www.publications.parliament.uk. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  12. Colledge, J. J. (2010). Ships of the Royal Navy. Casemate Publishers. p. 83. ISBN 9781612000275.
  13. Royal Navy HMS Clyde, royalnavy.mod.uk, Retrieved 8 June 2014. Quote – "At just over 2,000 tonnes displacement, she may not be the biggest ship in the Navy, but this is certainly made up for in capability."
  14. "Warships and Submarines: Decommissioning:Written question – 71203". Hansard. 24 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  15. https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2017/october/27/171027-hms-severn-decommissions-after-14-years-of-service
  16. "Ministry of Defence: Public Expenditure:Written question - 132371". Hansard. 16 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Hansard – Written Answers – Column 561W". www.publications.parliament.uk. 12 November 2013.
  18. BAE Systems wins £348 million contract for new UK patrol ships, uk.reuters.com, 12 August 2014
  19. "Work on three new patrol ships to begin in October". Navy News. 12 August 2014.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Scottish shipyards begin building Royal Navy's latest patrol ship". Royal Navy. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  21. "Construction begins on new Royal Navy warship". www.baesystems.com. BAE Systems. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  22. "Shortcomings of the Royal Navy's new Ocean-Going Patrol Ships". parliament.uk.
  23. "Royal Navy's newest ship formally named in Glasgow yard". The Register. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 29 April 2018. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Patrol Craft:Written question – 210211". 13 October 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  25. http://www.scotsman.com/future-scotland/tech/royal-navy-welcomes-naming-of-hms-forth-in-glasgow-1-4388154
  26. "Make way for Medway as second new patrol ship is named". Royal Navy. 20 October 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  27. 27.0 27.1 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom (PDF). 4.47 The Royal Navy: Government of the United Kingdom. 24 November 2015. p. 31. Retrieved 24 November 2015.CS1 maint: location (link)
  28. "Written question HL3909". Government of the United Kingdom. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Commons Select Committee (Defence) – Naval Procurement: Type 26 and Type 45, 20 July 2016". parliament.uk. House of Commons. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  30. de Larrinaga, Nicholas (9 December 2016). "UK orders two more River-class OPVs". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
  31. "Brazil could buy the 3 BAE System's OPV that were canceled by Trinidad and Tobago". Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  32. "BAE Systems sells patrol vessels to Brazil". BBC News. 2 January 2012.
  33. "Second OPV for Royal Thai Navy". Shephard. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  34. "Portsmouth to welcome a new warship into service today". The News (Portsmouth). 13 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Bush, Steve (2016). British Warships and Auxiliaries 2017. Navy Books. p. 23. ISBN 9781904459699.
  36. 36.0 36.1 "New Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels ordered and named". Retrieved 8 December 2016.

External links