Vosper Thornycroft (VT) Group will open its naval shipbuilding facility in this spring. The $63M development is located within Portsmouth Naval Base, home of the U.K. Royal Navy’s surface fleet, and will help VT to consolidate its reputation as one of the world’s leading suppliers of naval vessels for overseas navies and the Royal Navy. “The new facility will enable VT and its customers to benefit from major increases in productivity and reductions in costs,” said VT Shipbuilding Managing Director Andrew Bunney. Initially, the facility will be used to build blocks for all the Royal Navy’s new 7,500 tonne Type 45 destroyers. VT will build the forward section, funnel and mast sections for these large ships. VT is also hoping to secure further orders from the U.K. Royal Navy for offshore patrol vessels. Three of these new generation OPVs are currently contracted and will be used for duties within the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The first of these ships is now in service with the Royal Navy. The design is also attracting a considerable amount of interest from overseas customers. Although the Royal Navy role will focus mainly on fishery protection and protecting oil and gas installations around the British Isles, VT has designed the VEGA Class, an export version of the River Class which can be deployed in a wide range of operational scenarios linked to EEZ. These include assisting civilian authorities in case of disaster relief, anti-pollution, firefighting, rescue work or interception. This version also features a flight deck for land based small/medium helicopters and aviation facilities can be enhanced to handle larger helicopters or to provide storage and maintenance facilities for helicopters. This ship takes into account the latest advances in stealth and propulsion technology. The planned design projects considerable firepower with a medium calibre gun, utilising the latest stealth mounting, and two small calibre weapons, along with eight surface-to-surface missiles, close-in-weapons system, a vertical launch missile silo capable of housing both surface-to-air and anti-submarine missiles and two twin torpedo launchers. The latest electronic warfare suite is also included in the design which has both hull mounted and towed array sonar capability. In addition a flight deck and hangar can accommodate helicopters up to Seahawk S70B size. Three Super VITA fast attack craft, based on the 56m. ships currently in service with the Qatar Emiri Navy, are already being built for the Hellenic Navy in partnership with Elefsis and a contract is expected to be signed for a further two fast attack craft in mid-2003.