Image - HMS Forth at Berth in Mare Harbour (credit: Royal Navy Library. Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.
 
As part of the BAE Systems CLS team I am based at Mare Harbour on East Falkland, supporting the Royal Navy presence in the South Atlantic by maintaining the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) HMS Forth. 

June this year saw the end of three months of commemorations of the Falklands conflict, which occurred 40 years ago this year. It has been a period of remembering the sacrifices that were made by Royal Navy personnel in the waters around the Falkland Islands and of the critical role they played in the outcome of the war.

The commemorations of the Falklands War have been front-and-centre for everyone here in the Falklands, both military and civilian staff. We’ve been honoured to bear witness to the various activities the Royal Navy and the locals have undertaken to memorialise this important conflict. We were particularly proud that our home base, the City of Portsmouth, has twinned with Port Stanley as part of the ceremonies, building a closer bond between the two communities. Several of the senior members of the CLS team are Falklands war veterans and it was a privilege to represent them at the memorial events that I attended.

As critical as the events of 1982 were, I think it is important for people to also remember that British Naval support in the Falklands is not something consigned to ‘the past’, but is an ongoing, live strategic activity today – one that we are proud to sustain.


HMS Forth


HMS Forth, the first of the Royal Navy’s ‘Batch Two’ OPVs, plays a critical role in the Royal Navy’s strategy of reassurance and engagement in the Falklands. 

She has been based at Mare Harbour on East Falkland since January 2020 and is tasked with maintaining a British military presence in the South Atlantic 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 at reach, 8,000 miles from the UK, 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. Part of the job is finding intelligent solutions to sourcing material and tools to minimise cost and time in transit.


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.John Copley, John Copley, Systems Manager, HMS Forth


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. Our 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 Falkland Islands.

[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]
 
[This article has been lightly adapted from a previous article, originally published by BAE Systems in February 2022, and brought up-to-date following the Falklands 40 celebrations across June 2022.]

John Copley

Systems Manager HMS Forth, BAE Systems
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