The Royal Navy is to get three new Offshore Patrol Vessels. The ships will be built by BAE Systems at their shipyards on the Clyde as a stop-gap measure to maintain shipbuilding skills between completion of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and upcoming orders for Type 26 Global Combat Ships.
Few details were available at the time of the announcement, other than that they are to be 10m longer than the current River class and will have a flight deck capable of landing a Merlin-size helicopter. Construction will begin in autumn 2014 with the first being delivered in 2017. Whether they will be used for forward-based guard ship duties, such as HMS Clyde provides around the Falkland Islands, or directly replace the River class, conducting security patrols in UK waters, is to be outlined in the next Strategic Defence and Security Review. Under the Terms of Business Agreement signed with BAE Systems in 2009, the MoD would have been liable to pay for any periods when no shipbuilding was taking place at UK yards.