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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.

HMS Clyde MOD 45158399.jpg
HMS Clyde exercising off the Falklands in 2014
Class overview
Name: River class
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Castle class
Built: 2001–present
In commission: 2003–present
Planned: 11
Building: 1
Completed: 8 (2 fitting out, 1 sea trials)
Active: 5
Laid up: 0
General characteristics
Type: Offshore patrol vessel
  • Batch 1: 1,700 t (1,700 long tons; 1,900 short tons)[1][2]
  • Batch 2: 2,000 t (2,000 long tons; 2,200 short tons)[3][4]
  • Batch 1: 79.5 m (260 ft 10 in)[2][5]
  • Batch 2: 90.5 m (296 ft 11 in)[1][3][4]
  • Batch 1: 13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)[1][2]
  • Batch 2: 13.5 m (44 ft 3 in)[1][3]
Draught: Batch 1: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)[2]
  • 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)[1][5]
  • Batch 2: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km)[1][3][4]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
Two Pacific 24 RIBs[4]
  • Batch 1: 30[2]
  • Batch 2: 58[6]
Sensors and
processing systems:
Aviation facilities: Batch 2: Merlin-capable flight deck[3][4]
Notes: Batch 2: 16 tonne crane[4]
Mersey visits Guyana during her Caribbean deployment in 2016

Royal NavyEdit

Batch 1Edit

Tyne, Severn and MerseyEdit

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.[2] 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.[2] 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.[2] However, in September 2012, instead of renewing the contract again, it was announced by the then Defence Secretary Philip Hammond that the Ministry of Defence had purchased the vessels for £39 million.[2][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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[2] 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[2] 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.[2] Clyde has a complement of 36.[2]


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]

Severn was decommissioned in a ceremony at Portsmouth on 27 October 2017[15], with Tyne due to follow in May 2018, however, the latter underwent reactivation due to defects with Forth.[16]

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.[17]

On 22 November 2018, Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, formally announced that the first three Batch 1 River Class ships would be retained in service.[18] Clyde, unlike the other three, is not owned directly by the Royal Navy but is instead on lease. Once the ship is replaced by HMS Forth in the Falklands, it is planned that the Brazilian Navy will take over the lease of Clyde.[19][20]

Batch 2Edit

Forth, Medway, TrentEdit

On 6 November 2013 it was announced that the British Government 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 for the Royal Navy.[21] 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".[22] 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.[23] Steel was cut on 10 October 2014[3] and they are expected to enter service starting 2017, with the last being delivered by the end of 2018.[21] The ships are built at the BAE Systems Govan shipyard, then transferred to the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard for fitting out.[24]

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,[1] a top speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph),[1] Merlin-capable flight deck,[1] a displacement of around 2,000 tonnes[3][4] and greatly expanded capacity for accommodating troops.[1] 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.[4][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.[4] 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."[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[28]

The first, HMS Forth, was christened at a ceremony at the BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow on 9 March 2017.[29]

Forth is expected to replace Clyde as Falkland Islands guardship.[30]

Tamar and SpeyEdit

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[31]

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.[33] 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.[33] A £287m order, for two new ships and support for all five Batch 2 ships, was announced on 8 December 2016.[34] 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.[24]

Foreign ordersEdit

Brazilian NavyEdit

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.[35] The sale, for £133 million (compared to an original £150m), was then confirmed on 2 January 2012.[36]

Royal Thai NavyEdit

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.[37]

BAE Systems offshore patrol vesselsEdit

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 Recommissioned Status
River-class patrol vessel (Royal Navy)
Batch 1
Tyne P281 VT Shipbuilding, Southampton 27 April 2002 4 July 2003 24 May 2018 25 July 2018 In active service
Severn P282 4 December 2002 31 July 2003 27 October 2017 To be reactivated
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[3] P222 BAE Systems, Glasgow 20 August 2016 13 April 2018[38] In active service
Medway[3] P223[39] 23 August 2017 19 September 2019[40] In active service
Trent[3] P224[39] 20 March 2018 2019[6] Sea Trials
Tamar[41] P233[42] 10 October 2018 2021[6] Fitting out
Spey[41] P234[43] 19 June 2019 2021[6] Fitting out
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
Prachuap Khiri Khan 552 2 August 2019 TBA Under construction

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Offshore Patrol Vessels". BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Bush, Steve (2014). British Warships and Auxiliaries. Maritime Books. pp. 23–24. ISBN 1904459552.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Ministry of Defence (10 October 2014). "First steel cut on new patrol ships". UK Government. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Construction begins on new Royal Navy warships". BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Royal Navy Ships – Patrol Boats – River-class". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e "The Forth is with us - the first of five new patrol ships is named on the Clyde". Royal Navy. 9 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Britain orders Kelvin Hughes radar system". United Press International. 14 April 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Terma's SCANTER 4100 radar system has been selected and ordered by BAE Systems for integration on board Royal Navy's OPVs". Terma A/S. 17 December 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  9. ^ a b "Combat Management Systems". BAE Systems. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  10. ^ Powell, Michael (14 September 2012). "Royal Navy nets 'Cod Squad' patrol ships for £39m". The News. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  11. ^ Lord Astor of Hever, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State For Defence (24 November 2010). "Written Answers – Armed Forces: Combat Ships". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. col. WA332.
  12. ^ Colledge, J. J. (2010). Ships of the Royal Navy. Casemate Publishers. p. 83. ISBN 9781612000275.
  13. ^ "HMS Clyde". Royal Navy. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 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. ^ Harriet Baldwin, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence (24 April 2017). "Warships and Submarines: Decommissioning: Written question – 71203". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons.
  15. ^ "HMS Severn decommissions after 14 years of service". Royal Navy. 27 October 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  16. ^ Allison, George (16 June 2018). "HMS Tyne to be reactivated as now delayed Offshore Patrol Vessel fleet faults worse than feared". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  17. ^ Guto Bebb, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Defence (16 March 2018). "Ministry of Defence: Public Expenditure: Written question - 132371". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons.
  18. ^ Ministry of Defence (22 November 2018). "Defence Secretary secures ships to protect home waters". UK Government. Retrieved 23 November 2018.
  19. ^ Allison, George (3 December 2018). "Brazil to take over HMS Clyde once Royal Navy lease expires". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Marinha do Brasil deverá receber o navio-patrulha HMS Clyde em 2019" [Brazilian Navy to receive patrol vessel HMS Clyde in 2019]. (in Portuguese). 29 November 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b Philip DunneMinister for Defence Procurement (12 November 2013). "Written Answers – Patrol Craft". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. col. 561W.
  22. ^ "BAE Systems wins £348 million contract for new UK patrol ships". Reuters. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  23. ^ "Work on three new patrol ships to begin in October". Navy News. 12 August 2014. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  24. ^ a b "Scottish shipyards begin building Royal Navy's latest patrol ship". Royal Navy. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  25. ^ "Construction begins on new Royal Navy warship". BAE Systems. 8 June 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  26. ^ Mark Campbell-Roddis (December 2014). "Written evidence to the Defence Select Committee: Shortcomings of the Royal Navy's new Ocean-Going Patrol Ships". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons.
  27. ^ Corfield, Gareth (9 March 2017). "Royal Navy's newest ship formally named in Glasgow yard". The Register. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  28. ^ a b Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Procurement (20 October 2014). "Patrol Craft: Written question – 210211". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons.
  29. ^ McCall, Chris (9 March 2017). "Royal Navy welcomes naming of HMS Forth in Glasgow". The Scotsman. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  30. ^ "Make way for Medway as second new patrol ship is named". Royal Navy. 20 October 2017. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  31. ^ a b 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.
  32. ^ Earl Howe, Minister of State for Defence (3 December 2015). "Patrol Craft: Written question - HL3909". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords.
  33. ^ a b "Commons Select Committee (Defence) – Naval Procurement: Type 26 and Type 45". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Commons. 20 July 2016.
  34. ^ de Larrinaga, Nicholas (9 December 2016). "UK orders two more River-class OPVs". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
  35. ^ "Brazil could buy the 3 BAE System's OPV that were canceled by Trinidad and Tobago". Navy 12 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  36. ^ "BAE Systems sells patrol vessels to Brazil". BBC News. 2 January 2012.
  37. ^ Thomas, Richard (29 January 2016). "Second OPV for Royal Thai Navy". Shephard. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  38. ^ "Portsmouth to welcome a new warship into service today". The News. 13 April 2018. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  39. ^ a b Bush, Steve (2016). British Warships and Auxiliaries 2017. Navy Books. p. 23. ISBN 9781904459699.
  40. ^ "HMS Medway ready for duty after Commissioning Ceremony" (Press release). Royal Navy. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  41. ^ a b Allison, George (8 December 2016). "New Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels ordered and named". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  42. ^ "OPVTAMAR". Twitter.
  43. ^ "OPVSPEY". Twitter.

External linksEdit