The UK Royal Navy’s newest patrol ship HMS Spey (P234) will make her debut in Portsmouth before the end of the month after successful trials.
The vessel is undergoing fine-tuning and final tweaks following an intense ten-day workout around the Firth of Clyde and waters of western Scotland before preparing for a long-term mission thousands of miles from the UK.
The ship’s company and shipwrights and technicians from BAE Systems are now making the final preparations for Spey’s 700-mile journey from the Clyde to the Solent at the end of October. As with her maiden voyage, the delivery trip will see the ship crewed jointly by Royal Navy personnel and merchant crew – Spey will enter Portsmouth under the Blue Ensign (denoting a vessel in government service, rather than one in the Fleet).
Her trials focused largely on the basics of seafaring, testing machinery, propulsion, steering, sensors, winches and cranes, and communications. The ship’s guns, led by her main 30mm armament – fired remotely from the operations room – were flashed up off the island of Ailsa Craig against a giant red ‘killer tomato’ inflatable target.
Once in Portsmouth there will be further trials and training, the ship will be formally transferred to the Royal Navy and commissioned, before being ready for front-line operations by the early summer of 2021.
HMS Spey is last of five new Batch II River-class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and will join her older sisters HMS Forth (P222), HMS Medway (P223), HMS Tamar (P233) and HMS Trent (P224), all of which are now operational.
The second batch of River-class OPVs are part of the Royal Navy’s forward presence programme which will see ships forward deployed on operations around the globe. It will see the ships remain on task while members of the ship’s company work on a rotation basis, giving them time to take leave, complete promotion courses and undertake training.
HMS Forth and Medway are already deployed to the Falklands and Caribbean, with the patrol areas of Trent, Tamar and Spey herself yet to be announced.
The new OPVs provide enough space for a flight deck and accommodation for 50 embarked Royal Marines. The flight deck is large enough to support the Fleet Air Arm’s Wildcat and Merlin helicopters.