Construction of the Royal Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels started today, with the first steel cut at BAE Systems in Glasgow.
The Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel Bernard Gray, the head of defence procurement and support, formally begun production by starting the computer-guided plasma steel cutting machine that will shape the steel for the first of three new ships.
The £348m project to build the new vessels at BAE’s shipyards in Govan has protected more than 800 jobs, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Bernard Gray said: "I am proud to be able to start production work on this new class of ships, which will maintain the vital UK expertise needed to build the warships of the future. This contract, which will benefit the local economy in Glasgow, continues a 200 year tradition of building the nation's leading ships on the Clyde and will sustain hundreds of jobs across the region."
The 90m OPV is based on a BAE design already in service with the Brazilian Navy and Royal Thai Navy, but the firm’s engineers have modified the vessels to meet the Royal Navy’s requirements including a redesign of the flight deck to operate the latest Merlin helicopters and increased storage and accommodation facilities.
The OPVs will be capable of ocean patrol with a range in excess of 5,000 nautical miles and a maximum speed of 24 knots. The first of class will be named HMS Forth and is expected to be delivered to the Royal Navy in 2017, while the second will be named HMS Medway and the third HMS Trent.
Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael, who also attended the opening ceremony, said: “Today marks another major chapter in the long history of building warships on the Clyde. Scotland is leading the way in building the UK’s warships and this underlines the UK Government’s commitment to the shipbuilding industry on the Clyde.
“I am sure the OPV’s will be yet another fine example of the expert craftsmanship of our skilled shipbuilders. Over the coming years we will see the familiar sight of ships coming off the yard and travelling down the Clyde to serve the Royal Navy’s activities across the globe.”
The ships will be the first to be built with a state-of-the-art BAE designed operating system called Shared Infrastructure, which will be rolled out across the Royal Navy’s surface fleet over the next 10 years.
The system uses virtual technologies to host and integrate sensors, weapons and management systems rather than multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks, reducing the amount of spares that have to be carried on-board thanks to a single hardware solution.
Mick Ord, managing director at BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: “This is a significant day for our business and the UK shipbuilding industry, as we begin construction on a new class of warship for the Royal Navy.
“We’re making investments in our operations at Glasgow to reinforce our position as a world class UK naval engineering business and the OPV programme provides an opportunity to truly embed our new ways of working and new technologies, helping to pave the way for our future and ensure that we can compete with the world’s best shipbuilders.”