THE first of the Royal Navy’s five new patrol ships is ready for front-line action – as the third successfully completed her first spell at sea.
Portsmouth-based HMS Forth overcame fires, floods and fast attack craft over three intensive weeks in western Scotland – the final hurdle the warship had to overcome before being declared fit to deploy.
Forth's training culminated in a powerful display of gunfire laid down by Forth against ‘enemy’ forces on the ranges of western Scotland.
Lieutenant Matthew McGinlay, Forth’s First Lieutenant and one of the longest-serving crew members, said: ‘Operational sea training is always a difficult test which has been made slightly more challenging by the fact we are the first of this class of ship to complete it.
‘The training we’ve received is second to none and has put us in a strong position to deploy and conduct operations anywhere in the world.’
As Forth becomes operational, her younger sister HMS Trent has returned to Glasgow after a fortnight of being put through her paces in the Firth of Clyde.
And the second of the £116m warships, HMS Medway – formally handed over by builders BAE Systems – is about to make her debut in Portsmouth.
The five ships – which include HMS Tamar and HMS Spey – are bigger, faster, more heavily armed, able to land and refuel Wildcat and Merlin helicopters, carry more than 50 troops on missions if needed, while staying at sea a fortnight longer than the first generation of River-class ships which were built 15 years ago and are still in service.
After patrols around the UK, Forth is due to be sent to the Falklands at the end of this year to replace HMS Clyde as the islands’ permanent naval guardian while the aim is to operate her younger sisters from ports and bases around the globe in regions such as the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Far East.
For the first time, Forth also met up with HMS Trent while her sister ship was being put through her paces between Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae.
Commander Bob Laverty’s, Forth’s captain, said: ‘The era of the second-generation River class ships – the fighting batch twos – is coming.’