Production of the UK Royal Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) has started today, with the first steel cut at BAE Systems in Glasgow.
The Ministry of Defence’s Chief of Defence Materiel, Bernard Gray, formally started construction by operating the plasma steel cutting machine that began shaping the steel for the first of three new ships to be built at the company’s facility in Govan.
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 Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael also attended the event to pay tribute to the workforce and 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."
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."
The 90 metre OPV is based on a proven BAE Systems design which is already in service with the Brazilian Navy and Royal Thai Navy. Engineers at BAE Systems have modified the design, ensuring it meets the requirements of the Royal Navy in support of UK interests both at home and abroad.
The vessels will include a modified flight deck capable of operating the latest Merlin helicopters, larger stores and more accommodation for embarked troops. They will also be the first ships to be built with a BAE Systems designed, new state-of-the-art operating system called Shared Infrastructure, which will be rolled out across the Royal Navy’s surface fleet over the next 10 years. Shared Infrastructure revolutionises the way ships operate by using virtual technologies to host and integrate the sensors, weapons and management systems that complex warships require. By replacing multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks with a single hardware solution, the amount of spares which are required to be carried onboard is reduced, significantly decreasing through-life costs.
The manufacturing contract for the three ships was announced in August. The OPVs will be globally deployable and capable of ocean patrol with a range of in excess of 5,000 nautical miles and a maximum speed of 24 knots. The first of class will be named FORTH and is expected to be delivered to the Royal Navy in 2017. The second will be named MEDWAY and the third TRENT.