Defence Policy,
Foreign Policy,
& Canada-US


In Detail
Offshore Patrol
Vessels (OPVs)
(or Smaller)



OPV Index

OPV Specs

In Detail


Modest Proposal



Coastal Patrol, Offshore Patrol & Maritime Defence – Sept 2004/Sept 2015

Maritime Security:  A Review of Existing OPV Types –
Corvette-sized  (or Smaller)  Offshore Patrol Vessels

Also seeAustralia and Iceland as case studies for smaller patrol vessels.
Only one corvette-sized OPV type been designed in Canada in recent years. The  PV75 Vigilant was the first design in this OPV series. [1] Created by a consortium of  West Coast firms for the Coast Guard of  Mauritius,[2] PV75 reflects a trend for smaller, faster OPVs combining weather  protection  with  stealth.

Vigilant's most distinctive feature is a large superstructure enclosing part of its forward deck and passageways back to the hangar. The main mast is largely covered as is the funnel. Only a small helicopter deck at the extreme rear breaks the vessel's smooth lines.

An evolution of  the PV75 is the Róisín class or PV80 built in the UK for Ireland. The PV80 was designed  for the heavier seas of the North Atlantic. Also known as the Guardian, PV80s lack helicopter deck but suit the Irish Naval Service. [3] LÉ Róisín came  to  the aid of  a burning HMCS Chicoutimi off  Ireland  in  2004.

Update For more on PV80s and new PV90 Samuel Beckett class, see Irish OPVs

The hull of  the PV85 is derived from those earlier, Canadian-designed OPVs but has a new superstructure which makes room  for a substantial helicopter deck and a hangar. New Zealand ordered  two PV85s  ( built in Australia )  for its navy as Protector class OPVs. The deck and  hangar are designed to accommodate a 6 tonne helicopter type.

Update: For more on the PV85 Otago class, see Royal New Zealand Navy OPVs

Another OPV able to handle maritime helicopters is the Royal Navy's River class. Rivers have no hangar, but a 5 tonne helicopter can 'land on'.  These RN ships will be very seaworthy, but with fisheries patrol as a primary role, armament is light and the ships slow.

Were DND to choose a corvette-sized OPV, a ship in the PV85 class would seem the best match. But there's one big problem with all corvette-sized OPV types: the large size of available Canadian Forces maritime helicopters. The CF's serving Sea Kings and the newly-arriving CH-148 Cyclones are far too large for these vessels.

The helicopters are indicative of  DND's problem with scale.  While North Atlantic neighbours like Iceland and  Britain (left) are content  with smaller OPVs, Maritime Staff  leaned towards reinventing the frigate. As with the MCDVs,  this is reflecting a tendancy to jam too many roles into one hull. If Canadian EEZs are to be secured, more economic vessel will be needed. The CCG already includes modest OPVs in its fleet. Convinving DND of the need will be a bigger challenge.

[1] The very first of the series was the Canadian Coast Guard's OPV, the Leonard J. Cowley (built in a Canadian shipyard unlike the Vigilant ). The hull of this 72m CCG  OPV is the basis  for the  PV75 VigilantPV80 Róisín, and  PV85 Protector.

[2] The Vigilant's development went largely unnoticed in Canada because actual construction was done in Chile as a cost-savings. The design is now handled by Aker Kværner (the consortium broke up but the parent firms remain active in BC ).

Update: Aker Kværner became STX Marine Canada which then became VARD.

[3] The are two PV80 hulls in Irish service –  LÉ Róisín (P51) and  LÉ Niamh (P52). Ireland has two other OPV types in service – 65m Emer class and 80m LÉ Eithne. Only the latter type is equipped with a small helicopter landing deck and hangar.

Update: LÉ Eithne is still the Irish Naval Service's flagship. The Emers are retired.

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