WPB Replacement?


Inevitably the CG will want to replace its Marine Protector class WPBs. MarineLog reports construction of a class that look like something that might be considered. Yes, they are bigger than the existing WPBs, but at 35 meters (115′) vice 47 meters (154′), they are significantly smaller than the Webber class. Even so they can make 29 knots and have provision for an 8 meter RHIB.

54 thoughts on “WPB Replacement?

  1. Looks very good. Just move the life raft from the foredeck to create a nice clear winch zone. I’ll take 12 with ‘UK Coast Guard’ stencilled on the side (never happen, but if we did have them, they would have made a far better contribution to the Mediterranean migrant rescue plan than the two Border Force customs boats (Damen Stan Patrol 4207 design) which, as configured are slightly inferior to these smaller vessels).

    Anyone have a source for the endurance of this new design?

      • I’ll stick with my example above of the recently announced return to SAR ops in the Mediterranean. This is because the UK will be deploying two of its 4207 hulls.

        In the absence of more detailed data such as unit cost, unrefueled endurance and other details, I see two immediate advantages over the current UKBF boats for this mission:

        1. Higher speed. Rapid response to intelligence (whether intercepting smugglers or migrants in distress). In this example it could also help in deterring any smugglers/traffickers who are hanging around the migrant boats – armed traffickers in accompanying motor boats have menaced rescue craft in the past, sometimes forcing them to withdraw. The Veecraft would have the speed to intercept and possibly apprehend them, and/or position itself to deter them while the rescue was underway.

        2. Crew size. The Veecraft boat needs only 8 crew, with surge accommodation for 14. The UK Border Force 4207s have a crew of 12 (I can’t find a source for surge accommodation – they have a custom cabin layout so it may not be the same as for other 4200 series boats).

        From a USCG perspective I understand this won’t be considered an advantage, but consider the tight budgets many other countries currently operate under. Skilled people are thin on the ground and require things like benefits and pensions. The total crews* of the UKBF 4207s that currently operate 4 boats could man 7 of the Veecraft vessels. It’s all about presence. Can’t be effective if you’re not there. This is a growing problem for all UK emergency or armed services these days. There is no depth of resource thanks to budget cuts, so the emphasis is always on doing more with less. The Veecraft design, based on what we know so far, would be an example of doing more with the same resources. And I suspect this is increasingly a priority for the USCG, as well!

        [* The UKBF has a total of 120 sea going personnel organised into 10 crews, to support 5 cutters in total (the 5th cutter is not a 4207).]

        On a tangential topic, the lack of fixed armament on the UKBF boats is also a concern. While they don’t need big guns to police the channel, they might if they encounter some hard core traffickers from Libya, especially if they’re tasked with apprehending them! The UKBF boat crews have sidearms, only. I sincerely hope the fact that their hulls are grey dissuades the traffickers from any aggression, but I fear it might not.

      • My readings suggest to me maritime policing (MP) a need to operate more on a human scale than say would be expected in naval combat operations. A MP boat needs to do everything from SAR to LE to “liaison” tasks (boat races etc.) There is a need to be physically connected to the situation and eyes on is better than sensors. Drones etc have their uses but the shore is a complex environment. (I think we all have looked at aerial photos of areas which we know really well and struggled to orientate ourselves.) Therefore I like high bridges with good all around visibility.

        Nemesis size means she can venture out into the EEZ with a bit of confidence. I know most boat manufacturers will tell you that their 20m offerings have similar reach but I don’t know. You have to consider crew fatigue etc. It is easy to push a small platform at 90% and it will serve you. But if you are pushing something at is near maximum you are probably better off with something of greater capacity. Actually I would say the argument for having some reserve is made strong the less it is needed. Then again Nemesis is the largest boat in NSWP flotilla, a similar boat for the USCG would be one of a range of options toward the lower end of the capability spectrum. Saying that I think a slightly stretched version could work say 5m extra?

        Longer higher bow would help with those long sorties. And more space back aft would allow for a 7.5m RIB which is better size boat for most tasks bringing more utility to the total package.

      • The fact that the it could handle an 8 meter RHIB was one of the things I liked about the boat above.

        I’ve felt for a long time the UK did not have enough patrol vessels. The overseas territories particularly seem to have been short changed.

        Obviously the USCG has a whole range patrol vessels. The closest to the Stan Patrol 4207 is the Webber Class, based on the Stan Patrol 4708. To meet Coast Guard requirements, the compartmentation was improved, the speed was increased to 28 knots and the 25mm gun was added.

  2. Just for comparison, these are the specs for the Marine Protector class:
    Displacement: 91 lt
    Length: 87 ft (27 m)
    Beam: 19 ft 5 in (5.92 m)
    Draft: 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
    Propulsion: 2 x MTU diesels
    Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)+
    Range: 900 nmi (1,700 km)
    Endurance: 5 days
    Complement: 10
    Sensors and
    processing systems: 1 x AN/SPS-73 surface search radar
    Armament: 2 × .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns

    • Very interesting.

      Talking of multi-hulls, I think the UK ‘missed the boat’ with RV Triton. While I understand it had its problems, every prototype does. It may not have been suitable for a circa 5k tonne frigate, either, but Triton as built was a good size for a cutter.

  3. @ MSR

    “I sincerely hope the fact that their hulls are grey dissuades the traffickers from any aggression, but I fear it might not.”

    You did hear that Italian coasties had an altercation with a speedboat full of armed Libyans over an “immigrant” vessel? The Italians wanted to sink the boat as it was a hazard. The Libyans wanted to take it back and fill it again.

    I suspect there will be chaps with green lids going along for the ride when the HMC’s are in the Med.

    When you at look other nations field and our geography the 4207 just looks a bit small.

  4. [QUOTE]When you at look other nations field and our geography the 4207 just looks a bit small.

    Depends how far away from a home port you plan to go. As an collection of islands the UK has many places to put in.

    Having said that, the Irish Naval Service has just bought three vessels just shy of 2,000 tonnes with a 6,000 nmi endurance.

    • I agree the UK needs more larger patrol vessels. at least they should keep the River Class, even after their replacements are completed. If they don’t need them around the European UK, then use them at some of the over seas territories.

    • States don’t buy vessels to sit alongside the wall. The seas around Britain aren’t benign. A 50m vessel perhaps with 2 RIBs would be better.

      Might seem a lot but not when you consider the MN have the 390t Flammant Class in Cherbourg.

      Somewhere up the page you mentioned UKBF has 120 crew available; I am going to put that into perspective. Schleswig-Holstein Wasserschutzpolizei’s recently due to cut backs its number of personnel went down to 120 from 200. The Met Police’s MPU, the UK’s largest maritime police unit, has a strength of 79 which is larger than the combined strength of the rest of the UK’s civil maritime police units.

      • From my perspective, 120 people is a very small force, since the USCG is 43,000, and in terms of personnel, larger than the RN.

    • My suggestion was based on fact that there are several good US boatbuilders with good designs. Those yards could win a WPB replacement or similar design for foreign customers. Swiftships is notable in its success in the FMS area.
      I all like to point out how the above designs could serve as Dual-Service vessels with similar propulsion plants but differing topside features for either USCG or USN. Naval version would have weapons (e.g. Mk 38 up forward), sensors and probably support an 11 meter RHIB which several USN/USMC units prefer.

  5. @ Chuck

    “The fact that the it could handle an 8 meter RHIB was one of the things I liked about the boat above.”

    Well I missed that completely!!!! I had it in my head that the largest RIB it could take 6.5m I apologise.

    Well I must admit that as a layperson I agree with you over the issue of patrol assets in UK waters. A few weeks back over at Think Defence I posted a few lists detailing our near European neighbour’s inshore capabilities capabilities to stimulate some discussion. For example from Brest to Callas the French Maritime Gendarmarie have 8 20m and 2 100 ton vessels plus their customs service has 2 boats covering the area. Our side of the Channel there would be a best one cutter with only Hampshire Constabulary 2 boats patrolling their part of the Solent and the Isle of WIght. I don’t include MoD Police vessels as they have very specific tasks. The discussion never really got going as a regular commenter there who happens to be an RN officer basically said I didn’t know what I was talking and I was making sweeping generalizations and the UK should concentrate on smart tactics such as drones. I never did profess to be an expert but I think when 9 neighbours have a substantial capability which we don’t and I can but assume the French and Germans are just as smart as the UK if not smarter it does beg the question of who is right. The UK isn’t an isolated island and the Channel and North Sea aren’t the Pacific and are easily traversed by quite modest craft. Even the Irish have a pair of customs cutter because of concerns over landings around their coast. Countries don’t buy equipment without a need. Though lay persons are often accused of being to kit centric equipment does equal capability, a desire for capability doesn’t come out of a vacuum but these days carefully prepared and accounted studies. I used to work in IT I am not always convinced by smart and progressive methods.

  6. [QUOTE]The discussion never really got going as a regular commenter there who happens to be an RN officer basically said I didn’t know what I was talking and I was making sweeping generalizations and the UK should concentrate on smart tactics such as drones.[/QUOTE]

    Yes, well. This seems to exemplify a sentiment that has grown as the decades of budget cuts have mounted. I view this kind of thinking as an effort to garnish a turd dinner that the services have been forced to eat. Unfortunately, the British brass seem to be very good at fostering a culture of ‘shut up and eat it’ and of coming up with reasons why ‘it’s all fine, really’.

    ‘Smart’ tactics are part of the tired old argument that, for example, the RN only needs 6 Type 45 destroyers because they are so individually advanced that they can do the work of 12 (but can they be in more than one place at a time? And what if there is a break down, or damage, or other accident? These are all questions which are resolutely ignored by both the RN and the Government).

    The UK Coast Guard was effectively disbanded (as a seagoing organisation) in the mid-1800s when the Admiralty confiscated their vessels, citing the Coast Guard’s lack of efficacy as their reason. Today, boosting the number of assets available to the UK Border Force, or any other non-RN agency, would be taken as a direct threat to RN spending. The thought has occurred to me that the coast guard function should be made an RN task, with the formation of some sort of Coast Guard Squadron, perhaps based on or incorporating the Fisheries Protection Squadron and its OPVs. In this way the assets are RN and the personnel are mostly RN (I would think there would be a lot of involvement from Customs and the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency, and perhaps good use of RN reservists could also be made).

    However, I believe the RN would resist an arrangement such as this, even though it would keep them in control. Requiring the RN to spend more money on cheap patrol assets to cover security tasks both at home and in overseas territories would be met with wails of anguish from the RN, who have for the past 30 or 40 years religiously pursued a policy of only buying the very best, high end complex warships at the expense of having enough warships to meet all commitments.

    I think the RN, and UK Government generally, massively underestimate the value and utility of a properly organised, constituted and funded specialist coast guard force with SAR, security, surveillance and crime/environmental policing duties. This has the potential to be deeply ironic given the recent efforts to foster a closer relationship between the RN and the USCG!

    I’d be interested in any examples of foreign nations in which the coast guard function is either stated as a task of that nation’s navy, or where the coast guard is itself part of the naval command.

    • Might want to look at the Indian example. Their Coast Guard is part of the Ministry of Defense. Their Coast Guard has more ships than the USCG and they are built with the expectation that they can be upgraded in terms of weapons. Meanwhile their Navy also operates OPVs.

      They have been rapidly upgrading their Coast Guard and their maritime domain awareness since the Mumbai attack. One of their OPVs is still off Yemen after having participated in the evacuation of civilians.

    • Actually off an on I have been working on a post I intended to offer to Thinkdefence about how may patrol vessels I believe the UK should have. I was going to base it on the idea that they should be able to get a patrol vessel to any part of the EEZ within 24 hours. The UK EEZ is large, about 60% of that of the US which is the largest in the world. France is a close second, but their Lafayette and Floreal class frigates and some of their Aviso really act as coast guard cutters.

      As far as the type 45s being able to do the work of 12, the opposition (other than Argentina) has also gotten a lot more capable. In coalition warfare, if the Europeans are going alone, the concentration on high end warships makes sense in that it puts the Brits in charge with the other European nations supplying the low end ships, but if it is with the US, I think they are more likely to need help with more low end warships to make up the numbers.

      • My rule of thumb with UK “numbers” is double what we have and it would be about right. My current interest, such as it is, is more to do with policing in territorial waters where the UK has virtually no capability. This of course interfaces into customs work. I struggle to understand how tiny Belgium can find work for 3 police launches, a fast customs cutter, and two naval patrol boats for a coast line whose length is equivalent to that of (East & West) Sussex. Yes I understand that they are a small rich country and so perhaps distorts their capabilities somewhat but as G8 country with the world’s busiest shipping lane and one of the globe leading cities (on a river) all within a relative small area you would think we would do more than we do.

        I have other concerns, Scrapping ETV may have save us £32 million but any disaster is bound to cost us more. We “own” half of the world’s busiest shipping route it can be only a matter time before something does happen. Doing as the Swedes, Finns, and Icelanders have done and procured a large multi-purpose (multi-agency) vessel would have been a better option. (Especially seeing as RR designs such as a beastie!) Then again we are talking about a government who purchased a class of 1700t OPV sans flight decks. You can throw pollution control in with that too, The Swedes have a a combined cutter pollution control and patrol ship not much bigger than our current Border Force cutters. These specialist functions aren’t needed often (thankfully) and so combining them with a ship capable of patrol work too. I am not naive I know that the chances of catching criminals in the act is highly improbable, but that is the same with any police work. Patrol work is a more about presence (being there), deterrence (being seen), and intelligence work.

        To be honest I have come to a bit of sad discovery for me as a traditionally minded Briton; the UK in many ways is not really a serious maritime nation because unlike our European neighbours we don’t take active ownership of our maritime territory.

      • The UK’s approach is very different from that of the US. You have so many different agencies that do Coast Guard work. RN does fisheries. Separate Scottish agency also does fisheries. Separate agencies do fisheries in overseas territories. Your Coast Guard coordinates SAR, RN and RAF have provided helicopters and MPA, but now the MPA are gone, and helicopters are being contracted. RNLI runs coastal SAR boats. UKBF enforces customs and immigration.

        Its very confusing for us colonials.

    • Definitely interesting.

      This is a good example of intelligence led operations, and if that’s all you’re ever going to do (see the ‘smart’ quote that x got from the Think Defence member above) then you can get by with a very small number of real world assets. But what if there’s an intelligence failure? (Gosh, can’t think of the last time that happened…) You must, to a certain extent, rely on presence, deterrence and surveillance, which includes random stop and search, for which you need numbers. Not everything is ‘smart’.

      • Or you get into a situation like we have in the Eastern Pacific where we have good intel but not enough assets to exploit it all. We know where 80% of the drug smugglers are, but we only have assets to interdict 20%.

    • During the 80s and 90s a drug called “E” was very popular in the dance clubs. The main centres of production here in Europe were around Amsterdam and though much of it was smuggled in cars and by air passengers a significant amount was actually smuggled across the North Sea in boats. My concern is that this will be a route that will be used for penny packets of illegal immigrants.

  7. That looks more like it. Can I change my original order from the Veecraft above to a few of these?

    The literature identifies this as a 31 metre version of the 4207, and it has about half the fuel oil and fresh water bunkerage. Let’s guess at a crew of 8 and assume that the unit price is competitive. As I argued above, it would be about making scarce resources (financial and people) go further. But the advantage that Damen Stan designs have over the Incat Crowther design that Veecraft are building is the ‘big ship’ approach which emphasises crew comfort and seeks to enhance the endurance and efficiency of the crew in what is a relatively small vessel for open ocean work. Based on the global success of the 4207, it would seem this approach pays significant dividends.

  8. @ Chuck Hill

    You are forgetting we have three agencies looking after lights around the coasts of the British Isles! It is a hotchpotch but it does work. But there are those glaring gaps.

    Seeing what is coming down the pike I think we are in danger of being caught out. I would be a bit happier if I saw some “structural” work being done as a contingency. For example the P2000 Archer class are getting a bit long in the tooth. In an emergency it these little boats currently used for University Royal Navy Unit training would be performing the security tasks around sensitive sites. Replacing these with something larger and with adequate engines would be good. Perhaps finding the reason to increase their numbers by say allotting two Dartmouth and getting the RNR to take a subsidiary patrolling role (like the RCN and RNZN reserves) would be a start.

    As would giving central government funds to those polices forces already operating maritime units to increase their size; not by a huge amount but to put them on a better footing. Hampshire for example covers Southampton. Kent’s unit struggles for funds. Essex the home of the UKs biggest container port lost its maritime unit to budget cuts last year. Dyfed-Powys Police patrol Milford Haven and the coast with modest RIBs. Giving the Met MPU jurisdiction out in the Thames Estuary and suitable craft to support such tasking would be a quick kill too.

    A small expansion of the UKBF wouldn’t go amiss with perhaps with perhaps 3 to 4 30m boats covering the upper Channel (IoW and up) around to the Wash.

    Lastly as RN hull numbers reduce further and new technology allow other enforcement measures in fisheries protection I can’t see the RN keeping the new OPVs in UK waters especially if Scotland gains independence with her current territory in tact . That is to say with all the island groups plus Rockall staying with Edinburgh. Never mind the near certainty that the T26 order will be nowhere near 13! There would be scope for a multi-agency multi-use to come into service for the Channel, Western Approaches, and Bristol Channel. Really not a huge amount of money compared to say a couple of F35 and supporting personnel costs.

    Training boat designs that could double as auxiliary patrol boats……….

    RCN Orca class


    Swede Ship 26m Naval Training Vessel


    Large multi-purpose emergency for the Channel….


    I am not professing to be an expert. I just think it is is odd that the UK doesn’t do what our neighbours do. And I am not that smug or arrogant to believe that we are somewhat cleverer than them.

      • Again it is something “we” don’t do. The French traditionally had a patrol frigate and a small landing ship stationed on their overseas departments. The Dutch in the Caribbean have a small coastie force and naval vessels too. I think what it is apart from the Falklands we don’t have large overseas populations just “rocks” as it were. Then again if they had populations the F&CO would have probably done their utmost to get rid of them. Since WW2 the UK establishment has gone hell for leather to recast us from an independently minded nation to one which sees itself as wholly dependent on Europe for direction. It was rather sad to hear Tony Abbott the Australian PM speaking about the situation in the Med as a British PM would have once spoke. Australia can act independently our politicians tell us we are helpless without the EU too small and too weak.

      • I know there is generally a vessel in the Caribbean and the Falklands patrol vessel, but where the European UK has less than 300,000 sq miles of EEZ those rocks bring with them another 2,200,000 sq miles.

  9. @ Chuck Hill

    I know. 🙂 I don’t run the government! 😉 As I said HMG one and only concern is Europe unless it is handing over large quantities of cash to Third World governments to little value for ourselves and seemingly little benefit to the peoples of those states.

    You might find it amusing to know but those like me are often termed “Little Englander” because we don’t like the EU. That many of us who oppose the EU believe it actually limits us on the world stage is studiously ignored by our detractors.

    • Just to ensure that both sides are represented, I should point out that I like the EU as I feel it has directly benefited me, a UK citizen, by providing a legal framework which provides overwatch of member state governments and has, in the past, prevented HMG* from enacting legislation that would disadvantage employees in favour of their employers (both public and private sector). I think there is a significant danger of NATO falling into decline and that a European defence co-operative is the only thing that could replace it, and this would be based upon the existing EU membership. I also understand and see the economic benefits of being in the club and cannot believe that the UK would be better off economically outside a club of nations which comprise 70% of our overseas trade. We would be the weak, lonely outsider and on top of that, our value in the eyes of other allies, particularly the US, would be severely diminished.

      *Her Majesty’s Government

      Like I said, just to keep the debate balanced! 😉

      • I do like it, but there are a couple of areas I would question. First is its ability to tow and second, the location of the secondary armament looks like it might be to close to the stacks and there does not seem to be a good place to put a CIWS if you wanted to add one in wartime since the stacks are so far aft on the hangar.

        I suspect the OPC would forgo the stern ramp and have a davit on either side. The flight deck might stop short of the stern to make room for a better towing and a CIWS (fitted for but not with in peacetime).

  10. Pingback: Coast Guard Budget in “A Budget for America’s Future, Fiscal Year 2021” and a small, unpleasant surprise | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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