Royal Navy Deploys Two OPVs for Five Years to No Base in Particular

We have deployed cutters to the Western Pacific for months at a time, and PATFORSWA kept its 110s operating out of Bahrain for years, but the Royal Navy seems to be doing something different and I believe remarkable.

Naval News reports they are sending a pair of River Batch II class ships, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, well beyond the Suez. It sounds all very 18th Century Star Trek, “Our Five Year Mission, Proceed into the Indian and Pacific Oceans and act in the Queen’s Interests.” (No, not a real quote.)

If these ships were in the US Coast Guard we would see them as MECs. They are slightly larger and faster than the 270s, but are not as well equipped in some respects. They are armed only with a 30mm gun and no helicopter hangar. I don’t believe they have any ESM/ECM. Their crew is also considerably smaller, smaller in fact than that of a 210. (I have seen various numbers for the crew size, 34 in the infographic above, 58 in Wikipedia, 46 as reported below, but all well below the 75 common on a 210 or the 100 typical of a 270.)

“Each ship is crewed by 46 sailors, with half the crew trading places with shipmates from the UK every few weeks.”

The Royal Navy actually has considerable experience keeping OPVs deployed for long periods with austere support.

We might even see one of these helping with drug interdiction in the Eastern Pacific, more likely they will be countering piracy and drug or arms trafficing in the Indian Ocean or capacity building in East Africa or SE Asia. Maybe we could make a multi-national Freedom of Navigation transit of the Taiwan Strait.


23 thoughts on “Royal Navy Deploys Two OPVs for Five Years to No Base in Particular

  1. This will be logistically daunting but I think the RN knows HOW to do it. I think the USN has made many bad ship design decisions when it comes to endurance.Β  The “RTB assumption” is basically foolish

    It also reminds me of a former CNO’s call for Station Ships from our allies. The USN of course has nothing less than a DDG with decent good endurance.

  2. I like the idea of using local ports as lillypads to hop to one after another. BAE will provide logistics, sending people and equipment to a designated destination as determined. I’d love to see the OPC deployed like this in the Western Pacific.

    • The US does have bases in the Indo-Pacific. The Royal Navy not so much, so they are making a virtue out of necessity and using allied bases.

      They have some mine warfare ships stationed in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain I believe.

      Diego Garcia is really British but leased to the US. Naturally, they will be welcomed at any US, Australian, New Zealand, or Japanese base. Probably Singapore, India, and the Philippines as well.

      UK territory in the Pacific and Indian Oceans is very limited

      • House of Commons Library has this:
        “The UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain is the main naval facility in the Persian Gulf for UK naval vessels. Four mine-counter measure vessels and one Type 23 frigate are permanently based there. These are supported by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel. A new permanent Joint Logistics Support Base in Oman, opened in 2018, provides a permanent maritime base outside the Persian Gulf. It will support the new aircraft carriers when they are in the Indian Ocean/Persian Gulf.”

      • Bahrain and Singapore both have permanent UK naval bases, on the small side but fine for destroyers and smaller. Duqm, Oman is also getting one.

    • I also found this:
      “Once completed, the UK Joint Logistics Support Base, a multi-million pound joint venture between British defence company Babcock International and the Oman Drydock Company, will provide the UK a permanent training facility in addition to a key military logistics centre in the Gulf. It will also be connected to other Gulf countries by the Gulf Rail Project.”

  3. The Royal Navy uses a “third watch” system for its OPVs. Two watches run ths ship while one is home for leave or training. When it’s time to switch, they fly by commercial airline to wherever the ship is and one of the deployed watches heads home.

    While they may have about 65 people in total they run day to day on about 40. It gets more complicated by the fact that the Batch 2 River Class ships are designed with accommodations for up to 50 extra people. It’s apparently an attempt to keep the design flexible for use by anyone from special operations forces to a trade delegation.

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