Late July saw the long-awaited announcement of the award of a contract to build replacement fast patrol craft (FPC) for the Gibraltar Squadron of the British Royal Navy (RN).
The two new FPCs will be built by the UK’s Marine Specialised Technology (MST), with the first vessel due to be delivered in late 2021/early 2022. The £9.9 million (US$12.8 million) contract includes the provision of four years of in-service support by MST.
The new vessels will be larger, faster, and more heavily armed than the 1990s-vintage VT Halmatic-built FPCs, Sabre and Scimitar, which they are replacing. They will have a length of 19 metres. Three turbocharged Volvo Penta diesel engines, linked to waterjets, will enable a speed of 40 knots. Armament will consist of three machine guns, one forward, and two aft, and the craft will be manned by a crew of six.
Roles of the new FPCs will include countering incursions by Spanish naval and paramilitary vessels into Gibraltar-claimed waters, force protection for British and allied warships, sea and coastal surveillance, and search and rescue.
Sabre and Scimitar, meanwhile, have been withdrawn from service, and replaced temporarily by the larger, but slower, P2000 patrol craft Pursuer and Dasher.
Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.