The perfect sundowner venue
The humble OPV has come in for some flak of late from a number of parties as many look to compare capabilities with high-end fleet escorts and 8,000t destroyers and determine what utility such vessels actually have in the modern world.
Is there a place in modern navies for them? Let’s dip a little toe into that argument and test the waters
A report published earlier this year revealed that OPVs were the fastest growing segment of the naval vessels market.
According to the report, some 24 countries have a total of 136 OPVs on order and this was before the UK announcement, albeit made due to the need to keep shipyards in business, rather than meeting any actual requirement.
There are something approaching 800 in service around the world, compared to the just over 1,000 larger naval vessels (of all types) in operation.
The Irish defence white paper published a few months back reaffirmed its commitment to OPVs as their ship-of-the-line and other nations around the world, such as Vietnam, are busy building and buying hulls to fill out their fleets. Brazil too, were happy to get theirs at a knock down rate recently.
The UK Royal Navy will also see its small ship fleet expand, although for reasons other than force multiplication.
The kind of roles such vessels would be expected to fulfill include EEZ patrol, counter-narcotics, SAR and fishery protection.
For the blue-water navies, producing smaller cheaper ships means more hulls to use (providing you have the manpower) and as the old adage goes, you can’t be in two places at once. This tenet was further explored by a retired US Navy captain back in 2013 who argued in a report the point that putting all your naval eggs into one super-sized hangar had fewer security and diplomatic benefits.
The argument then was about the utility of ten LCS to a single aircraft carrier, but in a general sense it is about fitting the right glove to the correct hand.
Using first-rate frigates and destroyers for the most basic of patrol functions isn’t terribly efficient and in times when military budgets are constrained, this matters.
Another use, often glossed over, is the diplomatic value of foreign port visits. More ships mean more ports, more visits mean more mayors, local and military persons able to enjoy sundowners on the flight deck. Embassies use these visits to put a variety of people together in the hope of boosting imports or exports and it’s not going to be too hard for an event organiser to sell such a reception to potential guests.
So whether you’re a country just starting out on a new naval path or an established force projection powerhouse, there’s no harm in having a cheerful little chuffer to fly a few flags and act like a bobby on the high-seas beat.