WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The U.K. Royal Navy announced Wednesday construction has begun on its third and final Royal Navy offshore patrol vessel.
The first piece of the hull was cut by a computer-guided laser, the Minister of the State for Defense Procurement said. Defense Minister Philip Dunne was on site to observe the progress for the first and second OPV, and praised the program for adding 800 Scottish jobs.
The OPV under construction, HMS Trent, is scheduled to join the Royal Navy's fleet in 2017 alongside HMS Forth and HMS Medway. All three vessels will participate in counter-terrorism operations, as well as combating piracy and smuggling.
The ships are being built in BAE Systems' shipyards as part of the company's $348 million contract with the British government. Dunne said the HMS Trent will be a valuable asset for the U.K's military.
"These new ships will provide an important capability to the Royal Navy and our Armed Forces," he said. "They will perform vital tasks in defending the nation's interests around the world."
The HMS Trent is part of a third generation of River-class patrol ships for the Royal Navy. It is expected to displace about 1,800 tons, be about 295 feet long, and 42.6 feet wide. Neal Lawson, Director of Ships Support for the Ministry of Defense, said the new vessel will be adaptable for Royal Navy operations.
"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," Lawson said. "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."
The ship is estimated to be able to reach a top speed of 24 knots, with a range of approximately 5,500 nautical miles.