Paramilitary: Bigger And Better River OPV

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February 3, 2020: At the end of 2019 HMS Forth, a new “Batch 2” River class RN (Royal Navy) OPV (offshore patrol vessel) arrived in the Falkland Islands to provide constant patrol of offshore waters and keep poachers out. Forth replaced HMS Clyde, a Batch 1 ship that entered service in 2007 and spent twelve years in the Falklands. Clyde was decommissioned after leaving the Falklands. Since it was leased, not purchased, Clyde will undergo some refurbishment and enter service with the Brazilian Navy. Brazil already has three River Class type OPVs, known as the Amazonas class. These are slightly larger than Batch 1 ships and have a number of additional features. The Batch 2 ships were based on the Amazonas class but not identical to them. Thailand also built two modified River class ships locally. These are also, like the Brazilian ships, more like the Batch 2 ships. Brazil and Thailand plan to build more River class ships but at the moment there are 14 completed, eight of them British.

Forth is the first of the Batch 2 River Class ships. It entered service in early 2018 after three month delay to fix problems found during trials. A second Batch 2 ship entered service later in 2019 and three more will enter service in 2020. River class OPVs are corvette size ships that are optimized for patrolling coastal waters to protect fishing grounds and offshore oil fields as well as deal with smugglers or anyone else who should not be out there. The Batch 2 ships cost $97 million each.

The River class OPVs are a British design built by BAE or by foreign customers under license. Britain was the first user of these ships and four entered service between 2002 and 2007. Five 2,000 ton “Batch 2” River class ships were recently completed. These are an upgraded version of the first four 1,700 ton Batch 1 ships and are a little larger to accommodate a 14 ton AW101 helicopter, carry a larger crew (58 versus 30) and can carry 50 passengers (troops) versus 25. The Batch 2 ships are 90.5 meters (297 feet) long, which is 11 meters (31 feet) longer than Batch 1. The new ships are also nine kilometers an hour faster (at 46 kilometers an hour) than Batch 1. Endurance has grown from 21 to 35 days. Armament for batch 1 was a 30mm remotely controlled autocannon and two 7.62mm machine-guns. Batch 2 is the same with the addition of two 7.62 six-barrel 7.62mm machine-guns. These fire thousands of rounds a minute. Batch 1 had a 25 ton crane while the new ships have a 16 ton crane. A major difference between the two batches is the much improved electronics of the Batch 2, which integrates nearly all the electronic systems, especially the sensors, so that on the bridge a single display can show data from several sensors or ship systems, either individually or in various combinations. For example, any one of the displays on the bridge can show combined results of the surface search and 3-D air search radars. The larger engines of the Batch 2 ships provide more power for sensors and other electronics as well as higher speed for the ship. Batch 2 has better protection for the ammunition magazines and more internal space in general.

The larger crew on the Batch 2 ships is misleading. While there are 58 crew, only 34 are needed on the ship at any time. The others can be away on leave or for training. This enables the Batch 2 ships to remain at sea for up to 320 days a year without exhausting the crew.

 


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