The British Royal Navy’s first Batch 2 River-class offshore patrol vessel (OPV) HMS Forth has been formally commissioned into the fleet at its Portsmouth home base.

The vessel forms part of the UK Government’s £178bn plan to provide the country’s armed forces with the new equipment they are anticipated to require over the coming decade.

HMS Forth represents the first of five new OPVs that are currently slated for delivery to the navy.

“The new vessels have been designed to be 4km faster than their predecessors, possessing a top speed of 24km, as well as an increased range of 5,500nm.”

It has been specifically designed for counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, anti-smuggling, fishery protection, border patrol and maritime defence missions.

HMS Forth and its sister vessels Trent, Medway, Tamar and Spey are expected to provide a significant upgrade over the Royal Navy’s existing Batch 1 River-class vessels.

The existing vessels HMS Tyne, HMS Severn, HMS Mersey and HMS Clyde were originally designed and constructed 15 years ago.

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The remaining four new OPVs are being built by BAE Systems at the company’s Clyde base and expected to arrive in Portsmouth by 2020.

HMS Forth commanding officer commander Bob Laverty said: “The body of work being put in by my ship’s company will be reflected in not just one, but all five brand-new platforms being delivered to the Royal Navy and these fantastic ships will be a fine addition to the fleet.”

The new vessels have been designed to be 4km faster than their predecessors, possessing a top speed of 24km, as well as an increased range of 5,500nm.

The OPVs will each be equipped with 30mm automatic cannons as their main armament, in addition to two Miniguns, four machine guns and two Pacific 24 sea boats.

Furthermore, each vessel will feature an extended flight deck to enable them to accommodate Merlin-size helicopters.

The five OPVs are intended to help the Royal Navy to safeguard fishing stocks and protect the Falkland Islands.

The vessels are also expected to be deployed to the Mediterranean and Caribbean in order to protect the UK’s national interests worldwide.