Image - HMS Forth at Berth in Mare Harbour (credit: Royal Navy Library. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
 
 
HMS Forth, the first of the Royal Navy’s ‘Batch Two’ Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), plays a critical role in the Royal Navy’s strategy of reassurance and engagement in the Falkland Islands. For fifteen years we at BAE Systems have supported this role, with great success.
 
The Falkland Islands are approximately 8,000 miles from the UK so we really are working at reach when looking after the ship that protects these islands and its 3,200 inhabitants.
 
HMS Forth has been stationed at Mare Harbour, near Mount Pleasant Complex in East Falklands since January 2020 and is tasked with maintaining a British military presence in the Falkland Islands alongside units of the British Army and Royal Air Force. As well as island patrols, HMS Forth regularly engages in local community events, ensuring ongoing visibility of British naval forces in the area.
 

A strong heritage

 
Originally patrol vessels in the Falklands were maintained by the Royal Navy itself, but over time it became apparent that the Navy could enjoy the benefits of this support more cost-effectively and with lower risk by contracting it to a trusted partner like BAE Systems.
 
We began support for the Royal Navy’s Falklands-based OPVs in 2007, with the arrival of Batch One OPV HMS Clyde. Like Forth, HMS Clyde was built by BAE Systems (in fact, one of its legacy companies), meaning that we were able to bring a unique degree of knowledge to bear on its support.
 

Delivering globally, locally

 
The ability to deliver world-class support and expertise locally, alongside all the necessary materials and tools, has been critical to the success of BAE Systems’ support in the Falklands.
 
We maintain a permanent staff presence in the Falkland Islands, rotating managers in and out of the islands on a regular basis to ensure that there is always someone ‘on the ground’. We work out of a building that’s a mere five minutes from HMS Forth’s jetty.
 
While the Royal Navy addresses routine tasks BAE Systems is responsible for managing upgrades, periodic maintenance & upkeep and operational defects.
 
Given the relative isolation of the Falkland Islands, materiel can take a long time to get here. We call this the ‘Falklands Factor’. Anticipating the needs of the vessels and careful forward planning is therefore a critical skill. Where appropriate we hold stores or have parts manufactured locally; otherwise they’re brought across via air or supply ship, often months in advance. Part of the job is finding intelligent solutions to sourcing material and tools to minimise cost and time in transit.
 
This also applies to labour planning. With only two flights in and out each week, booked three months in advance, we need to carefully anticipate and plan the timing of specialist labour requirements.
 
The crew of HMS Forth trust us for one simple reason – we’ve proven again and again that, when they need us, they can rely on us to deliver. John Copley, John Copley, Systems Manager, HMS Forth
 
HMS Forth’s maintenance periods can involve anything from relatively simple husbandry – such as painting and deck maintenance – to significant maintenance of the engines, generators and other mechanical parts as required and agreed with the MOD.
 

Relationships are key

 
Beyond the technical and logistical, however, I believe our close relationship with the MOD and with the ship’s company is the single most important factor governing the success of Forth’s support.
 
HMS Forth continues to perform soundly, but if the ship is alongside I’ll be on board every day regardless meeting the crew face-to-face. If she is at sea I will be exchanging calls and emails to ensure requirements are met. Similarly, her crew know that they can drop in on our office at any time for a chat or to discuss an issue. A shared understanding of our customer’s needs is key to our success, and it’s something we‘ve built over the life of the contract.
 
The crew of HMS Forth trust us for one simple reason – we’ve proven again and again that, when they need us, they can rely on us to deliver.
 

Unique ability

 
We have shown ourselves to be capable, reliable, agile and responsive in supporting the Royal Navy’s OPV fleet around the globe. We’ve responded quickly to changing requirements to deliver extraordinary levels of availability: across 2020/21 BAE Systems delivered availability in excess of 98% to the OPV fleet.
 
All of this has been delivered under our Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) contract via a unique Contracting for Availability model that minimises cost and risk to the Navy. Support of the OPVs has been a major success story for both BAE Systems and the Royal Navy over the last decade.
 
I truly believe that we know these vessels better than anyone, having been involved in them through design and build right through to support. My team’s experience, abilities and relationships with the Royal Navy’s staff mean we can effectively deliver the MOD’s current and future OPV requirements, and we’re passing this knowledge on to the latest generation of apprentices too. BAE Systems’ reach, resources and international network all play a role in helping us to provide such high availability to the Royal Navy’s OPVs whilst routinely delivering value for money.
 
I take great pride in my work and that of my team, and it’s a privilege to support these ships and their incredible crews as they keep a visible British presence around the islands 8,000 miles from home.
 
[Image credit: Royal Navy Image Library. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0. Source: https://imagery.royalnavy.mod.uk/fotoweb/archives/5003-General%20Public%20Archive/Portsmouth_Archive/2020/February/17/BR200008022.jpg]

John Copley

Systems Manager HMS Forth, BAE Systems
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