River-class patrol vessel

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For other naval ship classes of the same name, see River class (disambiguation).
HMS Clyde MOD 45158399.jpg
HMS Clyde exercising off the Falklands in 2014
Class overview
Name: River class
Builders: Vosper Thornycroft (now BAE Systems Surface Ships)
Preceded by: Castle class
Built: 2001-2018
In commission: June 2003-present
Building: 3
Planned: 7
Completed: 4
Active: 4
General characteristics
Type: Offshore patrol vessel
  • 1,700 tonnes[1]
  • 1,847 to 2,000 tonnes (Clyde)[2][3][4]
  • ~2,000 tonnes (Forth subgroup)[5]
  • 79.5 m (260 ft 10 in)
  • 81.5 m (267 ft 5 in) (Clyde)[6]
  • 90.5 m (296 ft 11 in) (Forth subgroup)[7]
Beam: 13.6 m (44 ft 7 in)[6]
Draught: 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)[6]
Ice class: 1A
Installed power: 4,125 kW (5,532 hp) at 1,000 rpm[6]
Propulsion: 2 × Ruston 12RK 270 diesel engines, 280kW bow thruster, 185kW stern thruster[6]
  • 20 kn (37 km/h)
  • 21 kn (39 km/h) (Clyde)[6]
  • 24 kn (44 km/h) (Forth subgroup)[7]
Range: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km) (Clyde,[6] Forth subgroup[7])
  • 21 days (Clyde)[6]
  • 35 days (Forth subgroup)[7]
Boats & landing
craft carried:
2 × rigid inflatable boats
Troops: Accommodation for 20 extra personnel
Complement: 30, 36 (Clyde)[6]
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Air/surface surveillance radar[6]
  • Kelvin Hughes Ltd SharpEye navigation radar[8]
Aviation facilities: Merlin-capable flight deck (Clyde,[6] Forth sub-group[7])

The River class is a class of offshore patrol vessels (OPV) built primarily for the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom. A total of eight are planned: four for the Royal Navy replaced the seven ships of the Island class and the two Castle-class patrol vessels. HTMS Krabi was a variation on the River design built in Thailand for the Royal Thai Navy. Three more were ordered for the Royal Navy in 2013, stretched to include a Merlin-capable flight deck.

In the Royal Navy, the River class are primarily used with the Fishery Protection Squadron and EEZ patrol. The fourth Royal Navy vessel (HMS Clyde) features several modifications allowing her to undertake duties in the South Atlantic and the Falkland Islands.

Royal Navy[edit]

Batch 1[edit]

Tyne, Severn and Mersey[edit]

The ships 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.

Initially the three ships were not owned by the Royal Navy. They were constructed under an arrangement with the shipbuilder, Vosper Thornycroft (VT), under which the Royal Navy leased the vessels from the shipbuilder for a period of ten years. VT were responsible for all maintenance and support for the ships during the charter period. At the end of this, the Navy could then either return the ships, renew the lease or purchase them outright. In September 2012, it was announced by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond that the Ministry of Defence had purchased the vessels for £39 million.[9]


A modified fourth vessel for the Royal Navy, HMS Clyde, was constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard and replaced the two vessels of the Castle-class patrol vessel for duties in the Falkland Islands. This ship displaces 1,850 tonnes and has a 30 mm gun, as well as a deck strengthened for aircraft operations.

Batch 2[edit]

Batch 2 River Class - UK Ministry of Defence Infographic.[10]

Forth, Medway and Trent[edit]

On 6 November 2013 it was announced that the Royal Navy had signed an Agreement in Principle to build three new OPVs -based on the River class design- at a fixed price of £348m including spares and support.[11] In August 2014, BAE Systems signed the £348 million contract to build the three new OPVs on the Clyde in Scotland. The new Batch 2 vessels will be used for constabulary duties such as "counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations".[12] 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.[13] Steel was cut on 10 October 2014[7] and they are expected to enter service starting 2017, with the last being delivered by the end of 2018.[11]

Similar in design to the Amazonas-class corvette (the Brazilian variant of the BAE offshore patrol vessel),[14] the new ships will incorporate a Merlin-capable flight deck,[7] a top speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph),[7] be 90.5 metres (296 ft 11 in)[7] in length and displace around 2,000 tonnes.[5] Initial press reports suggested they would have a range of 6,300 nmi (11,700 km)[13] but more recent MoD publications put them at 5,500 nautical miles (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) like Clyde.[7] They will be fitted with the Kelvin Hughes SharpEye integrated radar system for navigation[15] and Terma Scanter 4100 for surveillance.[16] These Batch 2 vessels are fundamentally different in appearance to the preceding Batch 1 ships. Notable differences are that they are around 10m longer, 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). In this regard, the Royal Navy Batch 2 vessels (and their near-sisters of the Amazonas and Krabi classes) arguably represent a distinctly separate class to the Royal Navy Batch 1 vessels.

These Batch 2 vessels have been criticised in UK Parliamentary evidence for: [17]

  • 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 (76mm+).

It is argued that without these features (which could have been incorporated) these vessels represent under-armed and over-priced coastal patrol boats, rather than the Ocean-going Patrol Ships claimed. However, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones argued that they do have a defence-related role to play.[18]

Additional vessels[edit]

The 2015 UK Strategic Defence and Security Review outlined a future fleet of 'up to six' offshore patrol vessels, with a further purchase of two new vessels at an undisclosed date in the future.[19]

This will encompass the three Batch 2 ships, Clyde (which already has a flight deck), and two further River-class OPVs. The three Batch 1 ships without flight decks will be withdrawn in favour of the newer ships. One of the two additional vessels will replace HMS Cylde in the Falklands Islands while the fifth may be stationed as a second Falklands OPV.[20][18]

The SDSR also hinted that the OPVs could be used 'increasing the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad,[21] which might suggest a broader range of operations away from the UK.

Foreign orders[edit]

Royal Thai Navy[edit]

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 90m vessel.[22]

Brazilian Navy[edit]

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.[23] The sale, for £133 million (compared to an original £150m), was then confirmed on 2 January 2012.[24]

Running costs[edit]

Date Running cost What is included Citation
2009-10 £20 million "The average running cost per class of 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." [25]

BAE Systems offshore patrol vessels[edit]

HMS Severn, HMS Mersey and HMS Tyne in February 2012
The Amazonas-class corvette is a BAE Systems 90-metre variant of the Offshore Patrol Vessel in service with the Brazilian Navy.
Name Pennant no. Builder Length Launched Commissioned Status
River-class patrol vessel (Royal Navy)
Tyne subgroup
Tyne P281 VT Shipbuilding, Southampton 79.5 metres 27 April 2002 4 July 2003 In active service
Severn P282 VT Shipbuilding, Southampton 79.5 metres 4 December 2002 31 July 2003 In active service
Mersey P283 VT Shipbuilding, Southampton 79.5 metres 25 June 2003 28 November 2003 In active service
Clyde subgroup
Clyde P257 VT Shipbuilding, Portsmouth 81.5 metres 14 June 2006 30 January 2007 In active service
Forth subgroup
Forth[7] BAE Systems, Glasgow 90.5 metres 2017 Under construction
Medway[7] BAE Systems, Glasgow 90.5 metres 2017-18 Under construction
Trent[7] BAE Systems, Glasgow 90.5 metres 2018 Under construction
Krabi offshore patrol vessel (Royal Thai Navy)
Krabi 551 Bangkok Dock 90.5 metres 3 December 2011 26 August 2013 In active service
Amazonas-class corvette (Brazilian Navy)
Amazonas P120 BAE Systems, Portsmouth 90 metres 18 November 2009 29 June 2012 In active service
Apa P121 BAE Systems, Scotstoun 90 metres 15 July 2010 30 November 2012 In active service
Araguari P122 BAE Systems, Scotstoun 90 metres 16 July 2010 21 June 2013 In active service

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BAE Systems Offshore Patrol Vessels, baesystems.com, Retried 8 June 2014
  2. ^ Colledge, J. J. (2010). Ships of the Royal Navy. Casemate Publishers. p. 83. ISBN 9781612000275. 
  3. ^ a b Bush, Steve (2014). British Warships and Auxiliaries. Maritime Books. p. 24. ISBN 1904459552. 
  4. ^ Royal Navy HMS Clyde, royalnavy.mod.uk, Retrieved 8 June 2014. Quote - "As part of her deterrence role she also regularly visits other British Overseas Territories in the area such as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. 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."
  5. ^ a b BAE, UK Government Settle Agreement on New Patrol Vessels, defensenews.com, 12 August 2014
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "HMS Clyde Becomes First Ship Built In Portsmouth for Nearly 40 Years". Royal Navy. 14 June 2006. Archived from the original on 2010-06-21. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "First steel cut on new patrol ships". UK Ministry of Defence. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "New navigation radar system for Royal Navy - News stories - GOV.UK". 
  9. ^ "MoD buys £39m patrol ships from BAE". Press Association. 13 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "First steel cut on new patrol ships - News stories - GOV.UK". 
  11. ^ a b "Daily Hansard - Written Answers Column 561W". UK Parliament. 12 November 2013. 
  12. ^ BAE Systems wins £348 million contract for new UK patrol ships, uk.reuters.com, 12 August 2014
  13. ^ a b "Work on three new patrol ships to begin in October". Navy News. 12 August 2014. 
  14. ^ Offshore Patrol Vessels, baesystems.com. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  15. ^ Tomkins, Richard (14 April 2015). "Britain orders Kelvin Hughes radar system". UPI. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  16. ^ Rasmussen, Kasper (12 December 2014). "Terma Scanter Radars for Royal Navy". Terma A/S. Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  17. ^ "1 Pont Crescent". 
  18. ^ a b "Oral evidence: Naval Procurement: Type 26 and Type 45 HC 221". UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016. 
  19. ^ "National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure And Prosperous United Kingdom" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. 24 Nov 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  20. ^ "Written question HL3909". Government of the United Kingdom. 3 December 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  21. ^ National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom (PDF). 4.47 The Royal Navy. 24 November 2015. p. 31. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  22. ^ "Second OPV for Royal Thai Navy". Shephard. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  23. ^ "Brazil could buy the 3 BAE System's OPV that were canceled by Trinidad and Tobago". Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  24. ^ "BAE Systems sells patrol vessels to Brazil". BBC News. 2012-01-02. 
  25. ^ Hansard 24 November 2010 Written Answers.

External links[edit]