Launch of River Class vessel makes history

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The first ship to be built at Porstmouth Naval Base in nearly 40 years has been launched.

The Clyde is the Royal Navy's new 80m-long offshore patrol vessel (helicopter) and is the first ship to be constructed at the base since 1967, when the frigate Andromeda was built.

Weighing 1,850 tonnes, the Clyde will have a core crew of 34, with additional accommodation for up to 20 extra personnel, and be armed with a single 30mm gun.

She is a Batch 2 version of the current River Class vessels — the principal changes being the addition of a search radar, a flight deck and a greater level of survivability.

She will carry out patrol duties around the Falklands and can accommodate a single helicopter up to Merlin size.

BAE Systems provided the ship's combat management system CMS-1 and the Terma SCANTER 4100 air surveillance radar.

The Clyde is due to be deployed to the Falklands next summer, when she will relieve Dumbarton Castle, which has been in the south Atlantic since late 2004.

Until now, Dumbarton Castle and her sister, Leeds Castle, have alternated in Falkland Islands waters, but Clyde's increased reliability — both through design and a tailored maintenance regime — means that she will be able to replace both vessels.

The vessel is owned by VT Group and is to be chartered to the MoD — a contract that is due to extend to February 2012.