The transformation of the patrol ship force has taken a big step forward as HMS Medway raised the White Ensign for the first time. The ship was handed over from BAE Systems, whose workforce joined the ship’s company on the flight deck to celebrate the milestone.
Meanwhile HMS Forth and her crew are in the final stages to resume trials and training.
“People think these ships are tiny. They are not,” said Lieutenant Sam Fields, Forth’s Executive Officer. The rest of the Navy is in for a bit of a shock.”
The Batch 2 River-class ships:
--Have a greater range
--Have a flight deck for a wildcat or Merlin helicopter
--Have an air search radar capable of seeing more than 90 miles
--Have a 16 tonne crane to lift supplies ashore on disaster relief missions
--Have accommodation for up to 51 soldiers or Royal Marines
The Navy will not use them primarily for safeguarding fishing stocks in home waters but ‘forward deploy’ around the world.
Forth is due to replace HMS Clyde in the Falklands. Meanwhile her sisters could find themselves on patrol in the Caribbean, Mediterranean or the Pacific rim operating from Singapore.
“These ships will fly the White Ensign all over the globe,” said Commander Bob Laverty, HMS Forth’s Commanding Officer.
"They are a real step up, capable of being deployed for several years at a time.”
“We’re focused on taking Forth to sea before the end of March. We have belief and faith in the ship. Now it is time to test her at sea.”
Leading Engineering Technician Luke ‘Jack’ Frost, aged 27 from Chester-le-Street, has been with the ship throughout the past year.
“Going to sea will bring a sense of relief,” he said. “There’s a good mix of people on board, a great bunch and people love their jobs.”
Medway will be a couple of months behind Forth in going to sea for a second time.
She is currently having military systems installed on the Clyde after her successful first spell at sea before Christmas. After more trials and training, she’s due to sail for Portsmouth in July.
In September she'll have her commissioning on the river Medway. She will also exercise the Freedom of the Borough.
After that there's front-line training ready for her maiden deployment overseas at the turn of 2019/20.
For now, the crew of about 40 - two thirds the full strength of 58 - are concentrating on readying the ship for the return to sea in three months' time.
"This is the culmination of an immense amount of hard work - by the ship's company, by BAE, by the MOD.
HMS Medway's Commanding Officer is Lieutenant Commander Ben Power. He said: "It's a moment everyone can be proud of and it means we're moving forward."
"These are bigger, faster, far more capable.
"They are a huge uplift for the patrol vessel squadron - they have the legs and agility of a frigate but require the crew of a minehunter."