April 21 (UPI) -- BAE Systems has started construction for Britain's final River-class Offshore Patrol Vessel, the company announced on Friday.
Spey, the developing ship, will be Britain's fifth ship in its class and will support maritime security operations for the country's Royal Navy.
Prime contractor BAE Systems marked the event as a milestone for their contract with Britain's defense ministry in a steel cutting ceremony.
"The team at Defense Equipment and Support has driven the successful delivery of the OPV program; today's steel cut is a proud moment not only for us, but for the Royal Navy and our industry partners too," BAE Systems' Tony Douglas said. "I am looking forward to continuing this long-standing and close relationship when we begin manufacturing for the Type 26 fleet later in the summer."
The first Offshore Patrol Vessel completed in the program, the HMS Forth, entered service with the Royal Navy in August 2016.
The ships are built to be versatile maritime military platforms, and can be adapted to patrol exclusive economic zones as well as perform anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking operations. Weapon systems include 30mm small-caliber gun system that can engage fast inshore attack craft, as well as rockets and short-range missiles.
They have also been procured by the governments of Brazil and Thailand.