In today’s confrontational environment, ocean states have to guard their home waters on a continuous basis against the historic threats of illegal fishing, contraband trafficking, illegal migrants, and endemic security threats to the State and its wealth.
In more recent times, localised and worldwide threats have emerged such as piracy off East and West Africa, and parts of Asia.
The maritime assets to control and interdict such activity is; the developing naval workhorse, the Offshore Patrol Vessel. They are versatile vessels with small crew numbers, but capable of augmentation for training or support missions. A typical vessel would be 80 to 90 metres in length, with a range of 7,000nm plus, and capable of operating unsupported for 21 days. The vessel would be capable of frequent boarding, with two boarding craft for inspection duties or hot interdiction. She would be fitted with long range armament and a balanced Close in Weapon System such as an optically controlled 30mm gun, and two or more, 20mm and 12.5mm support weapons.
Some ships may have flight decks and an onboard helicopter. The flight deck is a useful asset for emergency land on, of a compatible helicopter, when operating on combined missions. On board helicopters on single ships operating alone are constrained if the vessel has to proceed to a location where the helicopter, if launched, must return to the ship’s deck, irrespective of the weather conditions at the time of landing. Within 150 miles of the coast they have the choice to return to land if they cannot land on the ship. The ideal offshore patrol vessel should provide a safe, stable environment to carry out its duties and meet the following basic requirements.
- The vessel should not be wet and prone to slamming. Any water shipped should be stopped on the foredeck by a full width bridge structure and not free to flood outboard alleyways.
- The ship should have sufficient freeboard to prevent early deck edge immersion when inclined, or accidental release of boats or life raft in adverse sea conditions. The ship should be built on a 1:6 ratio of beam to length.
- If fitted with or for helicopters, the vessel should be fitted with a suitable stabiliser system to minimise roll to less than 4 degrees in sea state 7 and have control of roll even at slow speeds. Bilge keels and stabilisers should be positioned at the tank testing phase.
- The bridge and operations teams should have a 360 degree view visually and electronically around the ship to at least 1000 yards.
- The vessel must be able to defend itself from a multi-point attack by boarders. Large open outboard alleyways should be avoided as they would need to be screened in piracy areas. External and ‘Zulu’ openings should be monitored.
- The vessel should be fitted with prewetting and a number of firefighting water and foam guns. The water guns should have a deterrent capability at full PSI.
- The ship should be fitted for humanitarian and other missions with facilities for extra craft and mission containers.
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