Royal Navy Patrol Ship HMS Forth Arrives in South Georgia

The UK Royal Navy Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Forth (P222) has arrived in the South Atlantic to patrol the waters around South Georgia.

This is the first time HMS Forth is arriving at the British Overseas Territory (BOT) of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI).

The distant archipelago forms part of the territory 2,000-tonne Forth, which arrived in the Falklands at the turn of the year as the islands’ new patrol ship, must reassure and, ultimately, protect. The vessel crossed 850 miles of the icy ocean to patrol the waters around the archipelago.

The Falklands patrol ship spends the majority of her time around the namesake islands. But several times a year it heads to South Georgia for a mix of military training, providing support to the island authorities and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) A400M Atlas maritime patrol aircraft scouted the 850-mile stretch of southern ocean between East Cove and South Georgia; the waters are prone to growlers (small chunks of ice) and larger ‘bergy bits’ – remnants of much larger icebergs.

For this maiden visit Forth carried Brigadier Nick Sawyer, Commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands (BFSAI), and two dozen soldiers, air force personnel and civil servants – who made use of the 51-bunk embarked forces mess which makes the ship better suited to carrying troops/commandos than smaller HMS Clyde whom she replaced at the turn of the year.

After a 53-hour crossing, they were treated to the sight of Bird Island – popular with BBC wildlife documentary makers for its rich avian life – plus albatrosses, seals and whales as Forth continued towards the ‘capital’ Grytviken.

Once a thriving whaling station, the village is largely frozen in time, but does contain a museum and post office to cater for visiting cruise ships – one was in harbour at the same time as Forth – as well as a British Antarctic Survey research base.

The ship’s company explored the hills overlooking Grytviken, paid homage at the grave of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, and chatted with tourists and guides from the visiting liners.

HMS Forth is the first of the Royal Navy’s five next-generation patrol ships.

The five new Batch 2 River-class OPVs (HMS Medway is in service, HMS Trent is about to be handed over, HMS Tamar and HMS Spey are nearing completion) are a significant upgrade on their Batch 1 cousins, HMS Tyne (P281), HMS Severn (P282), HMS Mersey (P283) and HMS Clyde (P257), which were designed and built 15 years ago.

Built by BAE Systems at their base on the Clyde, the new OPVs are four knots faster than their predecessors at 24 knots, have an increased range of 5,500 nautical miles, have a 30mm automatic cannon as their main armament instead of a 20mm gun, two Miniguns, four machine-guns and are equipped with two Pacific 24 sea boats.

Each ship has an extended flight deck to operate up to Merlin size helicopters and accommodation for up to 50 embarked Royal Marines for boarding and supporting operations ashore if required.

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