OPV Design at Chucks House

Chuck Hill has a guest post that I think might be interesting

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2014/04/13/three-nations-share-german-opv-design/”]

Read about the Fassmer 80 OPV

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.fassmer.de/index.php?id=190″]

And watch a video


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April 22, 2014 12:11 pm

Nice looking ship – interesting they get a small hanger on a 80m opv and we can’t get one on a 90m opv

April 22, 2014 1:57 pm

Agree it ticks a lot of the boxes. Perhaps would like a higher sprint speed (25kts+) and a rear loading ramp, but the rest is there. I’d go to BAE / BMT and say that we want the same (plus my two add ons) for £50mn, or we will go and order from people that can deliver.

April 22, 2014 2:13 pm

There’s plenty of potential MHPC, designs out there and like Repulse said just ask BAE/BMT to build which ever we decide with very minimal adjustments if required.

April 22, 2014 4:46 pm

Yeah o.k. it’s nice but really what does it have over a stretched-River? “A hangar” you say; but it won’t take a Merlin (the pad might not either) so what’s the point. Is it worth giving up Merlin capability to have these rather than Rivers?

Brian Black
Brian Black
April 22, 2014 5:27 pm

Like many OPVs, it’s been stretched. The 90m version can accommodate a Merlin dimensionally. Weightwise? Don’t know.


April 22, 2014 7:05 pm

The crew requirements (86) for the 90m version seems steep, best keep to the sub 40 standard crew requirements (plus specialist / air support personnel).

I’m not bother particularly to hanger a merlin, would be useful, but as long as it can land and refuel one then being large enough for a Wildcat is probably enough.

April 22, 2014 7:40 pm

RE ” keep to the sub 40 standard crew requirements (plus specialist / air support personnel)”

That was the keen aim with the Holland Class. went up somewhat, in the end; closer to 50 as you can’t pursue anything fast without the chopper that needs a specialist contingent
… of course, when you are just bobbing, the fewer in the crew, the longer you can stay out (still the watches to man, but not the repair/ fire fighting parties that you would expect to see on a warship)

Chuck Hill
April 22, 2014 11:22 pm

If you are interested in this, perhaps you would also be interested in this survey of similar ships.

April 23, 2014 12:23 am

@ Repulse,

We can’t go anywhere else on this.

If you recall this order is to keep them busy before the Type 26s start building there (barring Scottish independence).

If we go somewhere else we have to pay them to sit on their backsides anyway and the whole thing gets silly! :-)

April 23, 2014 12:42 am

Well, even better if the fact that Chuck’s fantastic site educated me to the fact that the UK Border Agency is now the UK Border Force and it has 5 Cutters !!


April 23, 2014 1:11 am

@ Brian Black

That seems like an amazing amount of ship to pack in to 90meters

@ Wise Ape

I don’t see any need for a hanger for a Merlin on an OPV.

The stretched rivers are a fine ship but a hanger for a lynx would add considerably to its versatility. The trouble is that the Treasury will start to look at them as frigates and we will lose even more escorts.

April 23, 2014 1:18 am

@ Jed

HMRC is a sub part of the treasury and obviously has no problem paying for its own boats. perhaps if we use the SSN’s or the carriers to chase down cigaret smugglers we could get a better budget from the treasury :-)

April 23, 2014 9:39 am

Now THAT would deter the smugglers. Show of force from an F35 anyone?

We dont need a hangar for merlin for an OPV. Wildcat will be better suited to chasing down smugglers. If you want (for some weird reason) ASW from an OPV just fit a dipping sonar to Wildcat…

If you can land a Merlin on the back though they will be useful for training…

April 23, 2014 1:42 pm

I’d favour the New Zealand Protector-class OPV’s. 85 metres long with a compliment of less than 50 including flight personnel. Full helicopter facilities, a couple of RIB’s on davits & a rear deck with crane for containers (MCM-role?). Also nice lot of deck space for containerised weaponry. Built by Tenex (now part of the BAe group) & costing around £50million. Some ice-strengthening so useful in the South Atlantic & a useful top speed of 22 knots. I know the class had a few problems initially but shouldn’t be hard to iron these out. A genuinely useful minor war vessel that could be built in decent numbers.

April 23, 2014 1:56 pm

Rob – interesting to note the Tenex website has no data on Protector class OPV but nor does the BAE website. Not a sniff. It wouldn’t be the first time a big corporation bought a smaller company/division just to remove a competitor, so chances are BAE wouldn’t build you an OPV to the Tenex Protector plans even if you stood on their doorstep with suitcases full of cash. This would be of course because BAE, being the experts they are, just know their own designs are far superior to anything anyone else could ever do.

April 23, 2014 5:06 pm

Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying we need a Merlin capable hangar on our OPVs. The RN want them to be Merlin capable – so the pad needs to be able to take them – while the featured vessel has a hangar which some might see as an advantage over a stretched River; but the vessel might not be Merlin capable – pad or hangar.

It would cut down on the typing if you lot were only telepathic.

That BAe are going to build them is a given – that they will only be willing to build them to their own design is highly probable.

BTW, my avatar appears in all its glory in Firefox but not at all in Chrome.

Chuck Hill
April 24, 2014 6:29 pm

The New Zealand Protector class OPV were designed by STX Canada and appear to have evolved into a candidate for the US Coast Guard’s Offshore Patrol Cutter program. It is being offered by Eastern shipbuilding. The other two candidates selected for further development are one based a Damen design
being offered by Bollinger and a development of the Spanish BAM OPV being offered by Bath Iron Works.


Helicopters are all round useful devices, for Search and Rescue, Medical Evacuation, Drug and Migrant Interdiction, Fisheries Enforcement, and Disaster Response, in addition to war time roles. I find it hard to understand why so few of the UK’s patrol vessels are equipped to support them.

The Other Chris
April 24, 2014 7:24 pm

Looks fine to me on Chrome.

@Chuck Hill

Would be grateful for your opinion on the hangar vs no hangar debate with respect to the UK River-class replacements.

April 24, 2014 7:25 pm

Chuck, UK ships do seem to be mostly fitted for helos. Only exception I could find was the Rivers class which might be due to their size and their limited intended usage, which make them the exception, not the norm.

Chuck Hill
April 24, 2014 11:17 pm

@ Observer, I was not referring only to the Navy’s patrol vessels, since the UK has several organizations, including some strictly regional ones, that operate offshore patrol vessels. in addition to RN vessels I refer also to the three Scottish Fisheries Protection Vessels and I believe there are at least a couple of vessels that are run locally by British Overseas Territories.

Looking at the Royal Navy run, dedicated offshore patrol vessels I see only five, three River Class without any helo facilities, a modified River with a flight deck, and the Arctic Patrol Vessel Protector with a flight deck, but none of them have a hangar. Also, unlike the US Navy, the RN I believe still uses MCM vessels to conduct law enforcement patrols, and they have no helo facilities.

Chuck Hill
April 25, 2014 12:53 am

@The Other Chris,

Most OPVs are now about 2000 tons or larger to provide the seakeeping the need to do their job.

Basically if an offshore Patrol Vessel is over 1,800 tons it is probably not too difficult to add at least a collapsible hangar.

The capability to support a helo does not necessarily add to the crew requirements, it depends on your manning concept. In some services, an entire crew comes aboard with the helicopter including the Landing Signals Officer and the tie down crew. In the Coast Guard, the regular crew does include crewmen who may be LSO or tie down crew, so our helo detachments may be relatively small.

When the Coast Guard first started putting flight decks on their patrol ships (210 foot WMECs and 378 foot WHECs) they did not include a hangar, but since then, all newer ships have been built with hangars and the 378s have had them added.

(Recently US Coast Guard aviation detachments have been deployed with both a Dutch Holland Class OPV and a RN RFA.)

The use of a helicopter deck as a “lily pad” is very limited. Keeping a helicopter tied down on deck for extended periods in rough weather, exposed to repeated dousing with salt water spray is just not a good idea, and adding a hangar is just not that hard. The modified River class which I presume will look like the Brazilian Amazonas Class (former Port of Spain) are 8.5 meters longer than HMS Clyde, which can land a Merlin. The beam is greater than that of the Fassmer 80 meter OPV which is wide enough to accommodate two boats, their davits and hangar all with 13 meters of beam.

April 25, 2014 2:52 am


Then I can think of 2 possible other factors.

1) Budget. The killer of a lot of things.

2) Operating environment not usually conducive to heli ops. I spent a bit of time in Australia, and the southern coast near the pole can be the location of some very nasty and sudden weather changes, enough to cause some problems in recovery of a helo.

Either way, it’s not something in our hands, so no point worrying about it. Like you, I like the inherent flexibility of bringing your own aviation, but it all depends on how useful it is going to be where the ship is going to be deployed and if you can afford it.

April 25, 2014 12:21 pm


As a matter of interest, have you any view as to why the unconventional Ulstein X-bow by Vigor was not selected?
A fundamental problem (eg: with gun mount arc on the bow), outbid by better teams, or just too high profile for the risk?

Ref your links:

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 12:38 pm

Thank you for your insight @Chuck Hill, appreciated.

Chuck Hill
April 25, 2014 8:42 pm

, Don’t have any inside knowledge on why the Vigor/X-Bow contender was not chosen except that I have heard some complaints from someone connected to the project that the Coast Guard was inflexible regarding their suggestions as to how to cut the price. I don’t believe Vigor has had any prior experience building Navy or Coast Guard vessels so the rigor of the specs might have been a challenge.

Chuck Hill
April 25, 2014 8:56 pm

@Observer, Certainly the helo itself and crew are an expensive addition. Some facilities that may be necessary additions to the cutter like TACAN also add to the cost. The US Coast Guard feels the additional expense is justified.

The Coast Guard also operates in some very demanding environments, but when they are patrolling in Alaskan waters (ALPAT) they almost always embark a helicopter. Admittedly the ships used on ALPAT are generally among the larger and more capable, displacing 3,000 to 4,500 tons full load.

Chuck Hill
April 25, 2014 9:54 pm

Something to consider is that while the UK has a large Exclusive Economic Zone (about 60% the size of that of the US which is the largest), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusive_economic_zone#United_Kingdom, but it looks like relatively little of it is regularly patrolled. Most of the effort is centered on Main Islands in the North Atlantic that are only about 11.4% of the total.

April 25, 2014 10:51 pm

@Chuck Hill: thank you.
Not sure the X-bow could have made it to win, but a (whimsical) shame it failed at the first deselect. I thought Matt von Ruden sounded like he had put the legwork in.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 26, 2014 12:20 am

@Chuck Hill – spot on with respect to the UK EEZ – when I’m PM we’ll be spending at least as much money on developing options there as we do on overseas aid – and running a proper RN Coastguard Squadron to look after it without reducing numbers of proper warships. We should be “going about our business in the great waters” with a much higher level of seriousness, not least because we are much better fixed scientifically and technologically for seeking out opportunities there than in space (although Skylon is encouraging)…and as you observe there is a hell of a lot of sea-bed out there that we legally own.

Unfortunately our political class are an as yet unidentified class of pygmy reptiles whose normal resting position involves them sticking their heads up their arses so they need not deal with what I believe they describe as “the vision thing”…or indeed anything they cannot understand, which is practically everything but the contents of their own putrescent bowels…

Rant over…I’ll take more water with it.


April 26, 2014 4:12 am

when it comes to why one US shipyard gets a nod over another I always start with Tim Colton’s Maritime Business Strategies. He said this awhile back:
Coast Guard Cuts OPC Field
The unofficial word is that the Coast Guard has set the competitive range for the OPC program and has thereby eliminated at least three of the competitors – Marinette Marine, NASSCO and Vigor Industrial. If this is the case, that leaves five yards still under consideration for up to three Phase I contracts – two from the “Big Six” – Bath Iron Works and Ingalls Shipbuilding – and three from the “Second Tier” – Bollinger Shipyards, Eastern Shipbuilding and VT Halter Marine. My money’s on the three second-tier yards. September 6, 2013.

The short list is now BIW – for when their DDG work dries up, VT Halter Marine – inside lane, and Eastern Shipbuilding – might be to big a project?

See also the official USCG website for OPC:

Chuck Hill
April 26, 2014 7:13 am

Another thing to think about in terms of aviation for OPVs is that an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) may be in their future. Some of them are small, but the US Navy has one (MQ-8C Firescout) that is basically an unmanned Bell 407 Jet Ranger helicopter with a 6,000 pound gross weight. Essentially it will require the same sort of facilities as a manned helicopter.

Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 7:19 am

Wating to see where the RN goes in terms of rotary UAS. Firescout? Hummingbird? Something else?

The ability to lift a 3D radar vertically several thousand metres into the air could be a game changer for an AAW Comabt Ship.

April 26, 2014 8:10 am

I worry about the latest “unmanned” crazy, it totally overlooks some of their weaknesses, one of which is a lack of situational awareness and the advantages of being there “in person” when it comes to fine control.

BTW, I seem to recall something about helos being winched to deck in rough weather when trying to land. Any truth in that?

The Other Chris
April 26, 2014 8:30 am

RWUAS CCD and TMUAS are the Royal Navy’s UAS program.

The CCD is an AW optionally manned helicopter, analogous to the Firescout.

TMUAS is the end goal. There are a couple of concept photos around which resemble a sleeker, unmanned Wildcat.

Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 8:42 am

The attraction is without humans on board they can either have more endurance, or be much smaller and hence carried in greater numbers than manned helos. 3 or 4 of them on a Destroyer could be cyled to give 24 hour coverage. Or a couple carried alongside a light manned helo like wildcat.

Maybe the technology just isn’t mature enough yet for everyday use. I agree take off and landing from a moving deck must be very challenging to do either autonomously or remotely.

Is the CCD anything more than powerpoint yet? Has it flown from a ship?

April 26, 2014 9:05 am


It looks like that CCD has moved beyond power point as the plan is to have sea trails of an optionally manned SW4, though the long term goal does appear to be for a larger (possibly twin engined) rotary UAV. My knowledge of current AW helicopters is not good enough to be able to work out what the base helicopter the TMUAS art work is based on, any takers on what it is based on?

The article below gives a good summary:


April 26, 2014 9:11 am

Possible not quite the right place for this, TD please move to open thread if not really a good fit, but it is a Powerpoint slide from 2012 giving the UK maritime view on UAS which might be of interest.


Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 10:44 am


Slide 14 says it all

“Increase appetitie for… experimentation”

2012 is 2 years ago now. Any sign of appetite increasing?

April 26, 2014 11:31 am

@ Peter,

I just pleased that they are following the plans outlined in the slides and pushing ahead with the CCD programme on schedule and it will be interesting to see if Hybrid Air Vehicles expectations of a MoD trail in 2015 of the HAV 304 come to fruition and if they test it in the maritime surveillance role – obviously to slow for rapid re-tasking, but I guess it would be useful if you wanted to monitor a particular area persistently.

April 26, 2014 12:26 pm

A couple of years back on this forum I was speculating that the real reason of cutting F35 order to appr. 50 was not only budgetary, but to leave the door open to unmanned developments. The wording on the slides Tubby linked to points in the same direction:
“Alongside F35B

What is the solution and roadmap to 2030+?

Can we operate 4th
Gen (marinised Reaper/Avenger)alongside F35B in the meantime”

F35B itself being a manifestation of cross-domain “agility”

Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 12:28 pm

“if you wanted to monitor a particular area persistently.”

Until a storm blows through. Which happens quite a bit in the North Atlantic!

April 26, 2014 1:20 pm

Reaper on the carrier deck is something thats been kicking about for years. Gen Atomics even advertised a shorter span wing and stiffened undercart variant specially for the tasking. Coupled with the work that MoD has done with GA on viability of UK Reaper with the Seaspray 7500E radar (a somewhat popular AESA set incorporating SAR/ISAR and a few air-air modes) the benefits of this platform in the CVF airgroup are very obvious.

The interesting part will be how usable the STOVL deck will be for Reaper ops. One immediate saving grace will be the drones endurance…whatever deck reconfiguration is necessary to support a Reaper TO/Recovery cycle only having to do it once or twice either side of a 20hr mission schedule isnt going to crimp the flying programme too significantly you wouldnt expect!. Worst case Converteam has a low voltage emcat that would be quite sufficient to launch this class air vehicle and the USMC has nice, compact, portable arresting gear that could be added as a semi-permanent fit. Neither fit being, at face value, a massively difficult proposition.