BAE Systems and Bangkok Dock have signed a new contract for the licensed construction of a second 90-meter offshore patrol vessel (OPV) for the Royal Thai Navy (RTN). BAE will supply the engineering support and advice during construction in Thailand, according to a BAE news release.

The first, HTMS Krabi (OPV-551), was delivered to the Thai Navy by the Bangkok Dock in 2013 under a similar BAE deal and has already completed 1,000 days at sea. The ship is based on BAE's 80-meter River-class vessels operated by the UK Royal Navy since 2003.

The OPV is designed for "management of economic exclusive zones and the provision of effective disaster relief," the news release said. "Good sea-keeping, speed and fuel economy have been improved further by the lengthened hull of the 90-meter variant."

The Thai Navy has a requirement for a total of four OPVs and the sea service will probably remain with the River-class design and building arrangement between BAE and Bangkok Dock's Mahidol Adulyadej Naval Dockyard, said Tony Beitinger, an analyst at AMI International, a US-based naval analysis firm. The second OPV will be commissioned by 2019 and expectations are for the final two vessels to be ordered by the end of the decade, he said.

Bob Nugent, an independent naval analyst, said the cost of the platform was between $60-80 million. This places the Krabi solidly in the upper end of the OPV market, he said. "This ship has a robust combat systems suite, is well armed with 76mm main gun and 30mm secondaries, and has a helo deck," he said. "Further, the RTN is planning for the ship to be capable of mounting a surface-surface missile, which it is fitted for but not with."

According to the BAE news release, the company is also constructing three OPVs for the UK Royal Navy at its facilities in Glasgow, Scotland. The UK is committed to procurement of two further OPVs in its recent Strategic Defence and Security Review: "The optional commonality with UK Royal Naval command systems provides significant potential for minimizing future obsolescence as well as providing scope for training in the UK."

The design can be modified for naval or coast guard vessels, including options for hangar, alternative combat systems, boats and internal compartments, such as additional aft accommodation, the news release said.

Nugent said the River-class OPV is a "bright spot for UK naval shipbuilding exports." With sales of the design to Brazil and Thailand, as well as the UK Royal Navy with three hulls, the River-class design is proving a capable competitor to peer OPV designs from builders like the Netherland's Damen and Germany's Lurrsen.

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