Interesting news from the Royal Navy today: for the first time ever, a River OPV of the Fishery Protection Squadron is about to sail across the Atlantic to take up the Caribbean standing task role from the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll.
HMS Severn is preparing to sail from Portsmouth later this autumn to make the long transit to the North Atlantic station, Navy News reports. It came as a total surprise when i read of it, and while it smells of overstretch from far, far away, it also comes with a seed of opportunity for the future in itself, because the optimistic way to read this news is that the Navy might very much be starting to warm up seriously to the idea of making wider use of OPVs in constabulary tasks. With three new OPVs being built, and a decision to be made next year on whether it is worth (and possible) to keep them in addition to the current Rivers or not, this deployment takes on a whole new level of meaning.
As my regular readers know, i'm a big fan of the idea of keeping the River batch 2s in addition to the current ones, to help plug the gaps. Indeed, i'm quite a believer in the two-tier fleet, to a degree, as i think it is the only realistic option to keep filling standing tasks while having a true capability to respond to a crisis popping up, which is what the Navy is there for.
My earlier discussion on the River Batch 2 and its possible uses is here. I'll warn you, it is long. But i think it is genuinely worth reading, if you have an interest in this matter.
|Navy News photo of HMS Severn and HMS Tyne training together|
Before anyone says it in the comments, yes, i am very much aware that, in the worst case, the Royal Navy will have to replace the current Rivers and eventually try to cover both Fishery Protection in home waters and some standing tasks abroad with the same 3 batch 2 hulls. It is a possibility, and in a way the most disappointing one, as, like a too short blanked, it can be pulled to cover the feet or the face, but not both at once, and would effectively be a cut to Home Waters coverage, pure and simple.
It is worth noticing, about this very considerations, that barely months ago the government published its National Strategy for Maritime Security document which repeatedly quotes a joint RUSI/DSTL study (Future Coastal and Offshore Maritime Enforcement, Surveillance and Interdiction Study, RUSI & DSTL, 26 July 2013) which evidenced that the law enforcement in UK waters is already being done with fewer assets than elsewhere, and that no further reduction should take place. Release dated May 2014.
Now the same assets are being asked to cross the Atlantic as well, and it is clear that, when one of three ships is on the other side of the ocean, capability in home waters is reduced.
The Strategy also notes that the relevance of shipping is growing steadily, and implies that, as the demand for security increases, capability will have to be reviewed in light of the greater task. No, of course they won't say it has to catch up, that would be a too clear call for action. But the meaning is, in the end, the same.
It is government policy.
So it basically has little actual value, yes, since they will of course do the opposite of what they say, as always.
But still, one has to try and hope that the SDSR 2015 will have some room for common sense.
In the meanwhile, fair winds and following seas to ship and crew for this unusually long deployment!