BAE Systems has started construction of the UK Royal Navy’s final offshore patrol vessel (OPV) after Defence Minister Philip Dunne cut the first piece of hull.

The new vessel, HMS Trent, is the final of three third-generation, River-class OPVs that are expected join the fleet in 2017.

The first two ships, HMS Forth and HMS Medway, are currently under construction at BAE Systems’ Govan yard in Glasgow.

Philip Dunne said: "These new ships will provide an important capability to the Royal Navy and our Armed Forces."

"This investment forms part of over £160bn in our 10-year equipment plan, which is funded out of the newly protected defence budget."

The new OPVs are being built by BAE Systems under a £348m contract.

With a displacement of approximately 1,800t, the new 90m-long and 13m-wide patrol ships will have a range of more than 5,000nm.

The OPVs are designed to undertake tasks, such as maritime security, border control, routine patrols, anti-smuggling, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, and fishery protection, as well as effective disaster relief.

" These new ships will provide an important capability to the Royal Navy and our Armed Forces."

In addition, the vessel will have an enhanced flight deck to operate the latest Merlin helicopters and will be able to carry two Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boats (RIBs).

UK MoD Defence, Equipment and Support organisation Ships Support director Neal Lawson said: "HMS Trent, along with HMS Forth and HMS Medway, will provide the Royal Navy with the flexibility to operate in a wide variety of roles in UK waters and overseas.

"More capable than the existing River class, they will have a flight deck to take the latest Merlin helicopters, fire fighting equipment, and increased storage capacity and accommodation."

As part of the project, the shipbuilder was able to protect more than 800 Scottish jobs.

Image: The new OPVs will take part in counter terrorism, combating piracy, halting smuggling and defending UK waters. Photo: courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence / Crown copyright.