Future Surface Combatant Alternative
River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel
Here is our UK edition of warship alternatives, this time focusing on the long delayed Royal Navy Future Surface Combatant. This obscure warship design meant to replace Type 22 and Type 23 frigates are frequently overshadowed in the headlines by giant new aircraft carriers currently under construction or exquisite new anti-missile destroyers, but in wartime and peace small vessels have been the most crucial warships, able to deal with a variety of functions where larger vessels are impractical.
Instead of a traditional missile escort mission, something geared for Blue Water conflict, the designers might look to the ongoing counter narcotics operation performed successfully by HMS Iron Duke. Really, this class of frigate is overly large and costly for such routine patrolling, but other type craft already in service would be ideal. We are speaking about the River class offshore patrol vessels, as described here by Naval Technology:
Vosper Thornycroft Shipbuilding has completed delivery of three River Class offshore patrol vessels for the UK Royal Navy. The first of class, HMS Tyne (P281), entered service in January 2003, HMS Severn (P282) in June 2003 and HMS Mersey (P283) in December 2003. The River Class is deployed for fishery protection and other patrol missions around the United Kingdom…The River Class vessels are just under 80m in length and have a full load displacement of 1,700t. The design was carried out by Vosper Thornycroft, assisted by Three Quays Marine.
The hull design gives very comfortable sea-keeping characteristics, even in high sea states, and the 4,125kW engine gives a full load maximum speed of 20kt in sea state 4. A semi-active stabiliser tank is installed for roll damping at all speeds, including when stationary. The vessels carry sufficient fuel, stores and water supplies for an endurance of 21 days.
We think her seakeeping abilities make this class stand out. Their spacious landing deck would also give it room to launch either a UAV or increase its weapon’s load for use in threat areas. While an OPV isn’t something you could send to a major war zone without protection, the numbers you could build for the price of a heavy frigate would enhance its survivability and usefulness. Each vessel costs £60m, making it very cost effective for the type of low intensity operations against pirates and smugglers which the High Tech Navy has little time for. Very many of these vessels could halt the downward slope of the Royal Navy, while enhancing its presence worldwide. New weapons, such as unmanned vehicles, small missiles, even “rockets in a box“, plus a larger 57mm or 76mm gun, could make this ship more of a threat to the enemies of freedom than its size reveals.