The australian naval institute

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The Ships

The ISLAND class are. on the whole, a great success. They are cheap to buy. econom­ical in manpower and resources, relatively me­chanically reliable and very efficient in their duties. There have been some problems in settling down. Because of their size and facil­ities it has been rather difficult to decide whether they should run as big ships or small ships.

The equipping of the OPVs with the 5.4 metre SEA RIDER rigid inflatable has been an enormous success. These boats are so much an improvement over the now time-honoured GEMINI as to defy description. The problem in boarding now is only whether the boarding party can get on board the fishing vessel safe­ly. With care, although it is not the usual prac­tice, the boats can be operated in Force 7/8

The Bird Class patrol vessel HMS PETEREL (190 tonnes. 37 m overall, built 1977, one 40 mm gun, speed 21 knots complement 24) This class is based on the SEAL Class RAF rescue launches with stabilisers and improved sea-keeping qualities

by courtesy John Callis

journal ol the Australian Naval Institute - Page 49

conditions. Force 6 is normally the upper oper­ational limit One example which indicates the effectiveness of the SEA RIDER was the oc­casion when an OPV was due to act as the victim of a boarding exercise by a Type 42 destroyer. The latter hove over the horizon and signalled that the exercise was cancelled be­cause the weather was too bad for her boats. In reply, the OPV cheerfully sent away a SEA RIDER with mail and some Dover Sole for the Captain s supper' Game, set and match to the FPS

The major problems with the OPVs have been their extreme liveliness in a seaway and their speed. The OPV is quite big enough to face any weather, but, like the FLOWER class corvettes of World War II, moves so much in oceanic conditions that the crew become worn out. The roll has been damped by fitting deep­ened bilge keels in the first five of the class and rather erratic stabilisers in ALDERNEY and ANGLESEY, but all pitch very badly in a head sea.

The OPVs have only a 16V2-17 knot maxi­mum speed. When dealing with large and fast fishing vessels, this is an inadequate margin of supenority and can result in some very long stern chases.

The TON class MCMV. for their part, do a sterling job but are becoming increasingly de­crepit There are exceptions —CUXTON, for ex­ample, recently commissioned after 22 years spent in reserve — but most leak abominably, are cramped and uncomfortable, subject to frequent breakdowns and will naturally roll on wet grass. They are practically incapable of operations in Force 6 or over — and veterans of operations around the British Isles will realise just what a limitation this constitutes.

The solution appears to be to consider the ISLANDS as replacements for the TONS. Attempts were made to employ KINGFISHER class patrol boats, and these still work around North Ireland, but they have proved to be even more cranky than our own ATTACKS. The IS­LANDS carry only one more man than the TONS, they are very cheap and very roomy Their great draft does restrict them somewhat in coastal operations, but the flexibility of the SEA RIDERS more than compensates They can also be employed in the Offshore Patrol Areas, which the TONS cannot.

Two CASTLE class OPVs Mk II are presently under construction in Hall Russell Ltd. ol Aber­deen. With greater length than the ISLANDS, a speed of 20 knots and a helicopter flight deck, they and additional members of the class should prove to be an admirable supplement to the ISLANDS, replacing them in the more exposed patrol areas. Thus, we could expect a

squadron of five CASTLE class OPVs Mark II. in addition to nine ISLAND class OPVs Mark I

There is another line of development, which began with the recently paid-off TEN­ACITY and is continuing with the operational evaluation of the surface effect ship SPEEDY TENACITY, plagued by engineering problems and structural weaknesses, was never a suc­cess. The hope is that the jet-foil SPEEDY will provide a 'sprint' capability; remaining in har­bour until she has precise information con­cerning a fishing violation she will then pro­ceed at 55 knots to the scene of action.

There is certainly a lot to be said for this idea, but it is so much more expensive to pur­chase and operate a SPEEDY than an ISLAND that it is unlikely, unless the trials with SPEEDY are unusually successful, that the cost can be countenanced.

This matter of the cost of units and the level of technology which can be employed is one of great importance. Because DAFS. MAFF and the Ministry of Energy pay a pro­portion of the costs they are very keen to ensure value for money and will resist attempts to in­troduce ships or systems which they do not per­ceive to be cost-effective for the duties in which they are to be employed

Such thinking brought about the introduction of the ISLAND class despite all the protests over their tack of armament and mercantile design. It was fully justified by the results Similarly, the Ministries resisted the proposed introduction of the OTO MELARA 76 mm gun with the CASTLE class because of its great cost and lack of rele­vance to the fishery protection role. The Navy is not likely to get warships on the cheap through the FPS — although the CASTLEs must be seen as something nearer to the ideal than their predeces­sors.

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