As Commonwealth Day celebrations take place up and down the country, people’s minds naturally turn to our forces deployed around the world who play a role in protecting that Commonwealth, by land, sea, and air. Amongst these forces are some of the Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), which BAE Systems has successfully supported at reach for 20 years.
The Royal Navy’s OPVs have historically performed a number of roles around the world, reflecting their flexibility as a platform. These have ranged from maintaining a naval presence, to patrolling borders, guarding fisheries, delivering humanitarian relief, and providing a first line against illicit activities such as piracy, people trafficking, and narcotics.
Wherever they are deployed, all of the OPVs have one thing in common – the need for periodic, support in-region to be ready for tasking – whether that be addressing operational defects, regular ‘wear and tear’, or capability insertions.
BAE Systems supports the Royal Navy’s eight OPVs under its unique Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) contract, wherever around the world it is operationally required. This is delivered under a unique Contracting for Availability model, with BAE Systems holding its own bank of parts and spares.
In the case of forward-deployed vessels, repair and maintenance is usually delivered where the vessels happen to be. This requires us to either maintain a permanent presence on-the-ground, deploy personnel, or utilise local partner networks, or some mixture of these approaches as appropriate.
HMS Medway, for example, is normally maintained in Antigua and was recently maintained at BAE Systems Inc’s existing facility in Jacksonville, Florida. In the case of the Falkland Islands, where we have no shipyard of our own, we maintain a minimal, dedicated staff ‘on the ground’ to address issues within the same time zone, who co-ordinate use of other staff, contractors, and MOD personnel as required. And in other destinations we rely more on our partner shipyards (shipping in contractors and BAE Systems staff if required, and co-ordinating activities on the ground).
Our ability to offer agile deployed support to the Royal Navy’s OPVs requires deep expertise in the vessel class, expert planning, good relationships with teams across the Royal Navy, large networks of resources, and the infrastructure to anticipate and forward deploy materiel and other resources as required to keep vessels highly available. It is vital that we remain close to our customer to remain closely aligned with their requirements.
Put another way, though, our role is simple: The Royal Navy dictates which ships it wants to task, where, and how. Our role is simply to deliver against the availability and capability the customer requires, to time and to budget.
The CLS program has demonstrated real success over the twenty years that it has run, delivering an unprecedented 98% operational availability during the last year on record (2020) – a figure we’re very proud of. And we look forward to continuing to deliver on this high-performing contract to the benefit of the UK and its allied and Commonwealth nations.
[Image credit: Royal Navy Library. Source: https://imagery.royalnavy.mod.uk/fotoweb/archives/5003-General%20Public%20Archive/Portsmouth_Archive/2021/October/22/BB200020006.jpg]