Meet the latest addition to the Naval family: HMS Medway, the second of five new patrol vessels for the fleet.
This morning a bottle of Chatham-made Dockyard Gin smashed against the bow of the 2,000-tonne warship, formally named at BAE’s Scotstoun yard on the Clyde by Lady Fallon, wife of Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and sponsor of Medway throughout her active life.
In under two years’ time the ship will be on patrol – either at home or abroad – as one of the second-generation River-class vessels ordered by the government to replace the first series built over a decade ago – HM Ships Tyne, Mersey, Severn and Clyde.
In their place come HMS Forth – currently undergoing trials off the Scottish coast and earmarked to replace Clyde as permanent guardship of the Falklands – followed by Medway, Trent, Tamar and Spey.
Like their predecessors, the second generation of ships will act as the constant eyes and ears of the Royal Navy, chiefly – though not exclusively – operating around the UK.
They will enforce fishing regulations, ensuring British and foreign crews do not break international rules and exceed quotas, monitor the progress of passing foreign warships and generally support security missions to safeguard the nation’s borders and shoreline.
In addition, when needed, Medway and her sisters can deploy thousands of miles from the mother country, such as patrols to support counter-drug trafficking efforts in the Caribbean.
All five vessels – built by BAE jointly at their Govan and Scotstoun yards – are sustaining around 800 jobs north of the border, with the final ship in the class, Spey, due to be in service by the close of 2020.
Each ship has a crew of 58 and is equipped with a 30mm main gun and flight deck capable of accommodating a Merlin helicopter. With a top speed of 24kts (27½mph), the second-generation can sail 5,500 nautical miles (over 6,300 miles) without needing resupply.
Medway is, unsurprisingly, affiliated with the Medway district and Medway Council whose leader, Cllr Allan Jarrett, said the naming of the new vessel was most welcome for “an area which has a rich naval heritage.
“Today we celebrate a new vessel being added to the fleet to help protect UK waters and we would be pleased to invite HMS Medway to visit us on the River Medway soon.”
Sir Michael said the new ship would “help keep Britain safe.”
He continued: “This year we have already named our second aircraft carrier, two Type 26 frigates and the first in the offshore patrol vessel class.
“It is a privilege to see yet another ship named for the growing Royal Navy. Named after Kent’s main river, my family has taken a particular interest in HMS Medway over the course of its construction and this is a proud day for all involved.”