Strutting her stuff for the first time under the White Ensign, this is the future of Royal Navy patrol ships.
HMS Forth is currently dashing around the Isle of Wight and Solent as she begins the long journey which will eventually see her becoming the Falklands’ permanent guardship.
Forth is the first of the second-generation River-class patrol ships to be handed over to the Fleet and has completed her first week of trials and safety drills with her ship’s company off her home base of Portsmouth.
Although called Batch 2 vessels, the BAE-built class of five ships have little in common with their 15-year-old forebears Tyne, Severn and Mersey beyond being named after British rivers… and being crewed by about 40 men and women.
Otherwise they are bigger, faster, much more capable and the goal is to station them permanently around the globe, such as in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South Atlantic or Far East, rather than mostly commit them to fishery protection duties like their predecessors, interspersed with the occasional foreign deployment.
Such thoughts are still several months off for HMS Forth’s crew who’ve spent their first week at sea practising man overboard, fire-fighting, damage control, and machinery breakdown drills.
Navy assessors were delighted with the performance of the ship’s company, allowing Forth to move on more demanding training and trials as she spends the remainder of 2019 preparing to relieve HMS Clyde, guarding of Britain’s South Atlantic territories for the past decade.
“It has been a long road for my ship’s company to get to this point and I am exceptionally proud of every single one of them,” said Commander Bob Laverty, the patrol ship’s first commanding officer.
“In many respects now is the beginning of the journey for Forth as we put her through her paces and get to know our ship inside and out.”
A Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton has been buzzing about Forth during the fine spring weather, for now just capturing imagery at sea. In time, it’ll be back to make use of the flight deck and aviation facilities on board.
“It’s always great to see the Fleet Air Arm and we are incredibly grateful for these fantastic shots showing Forth in all of her glory,” said Executive Officer Lieutenant Sam Fields.
“We’re looking forward to conducting the first-of-class flying trials later this year and proving the aviation capability of the class.”
Forth will be a regular sight in the South Coast exercise areas over the next few months conducting further trials and developing the experience of her ship’s company.
She will then head to Scotland where front-line training for smaller ships is conducted, then begin crew rotation (of the 58 sailors assigned to her, only two thirds are aboard at any one time), after which she’ll be ready to deploy.
Her trials take place just days after HMS Tamar, the fourth ship in the batch, was formally named on the Clyde. Ship No.2 (Medway) has been handed over to the RN, No.3 (Trent) is gearing up for her maiden sea trials, with the final ship in the class, HMS Spey, rapidly taking shape at Govan.
All five ships are due to be in the Navy’s hands by the end of next year.