Thursday, August 5, 2010

C3 Recapitalising the Royal Navy Pt1


As the Royal Navy moves to ever larger and more capable platforms the number of those platforms is inevitably reduced. By enlarge I support this process. Ships like the Type 23 Frigate are excellent ASW platforms indeed possibley the best ASW platform in the world however they are little use for any other mission. Too expensive to use for simple patrol duties. Too specialised to use for Mine Counter Measures MCM and not capable of carrying large missiles to use in power projection or land attack.





As the Royal Navy brings in it small number of new Type 45 destroyers and begins to look at replacing the Type 22 and Type 23 frigates with a small number 6-10 Type 26 combat ships gaps inevitabley appear in the RN's force structure and its ability to maintain its standing deployments.





These Deployments at present are





Fleet Ready Escort





Typically a Type 23 or Type 22 Maintained at high readiness in UK waters. Used for various emergency's.





Mine Counter Measure Force





Standing Commitment to NATO to provide MCM in the North Atlantic. Normally carried out by a Hunt Class MCMV.





Fishery Protection Squadron





Provides fisheries protection and also responsible for guarding North Sea Oil and the UK's EEZ. Provided by the River Class OPV's





Atlantic Patrol Task North





Patrols the Caribbean and North Atlantic. The ship usually carriers out counter narcotics operations and provides disaster relief for UK dependencies in the Caribbean and Atlantic. Originally provided by Type 22 or Type 23 but now often meat with RFA vessel





NATO Response Force





The UK typically provides a warship Type 22,23 or Type 42 to one of two NATO Standing Commitments in either the Atlantic or Mediterranean.





Atlantic Patrol Task South





Typically a Type 23 or Type 42. The ship provide protection for British Territories in the South Atlantic. Usually covering the Falklands for the duration of the patrol.





Falkland Island Guard Ship





A patrol task monitoring Fisheries in the Falkland Islands. Now provided by HMS Clyde River Class OPV





On top of these commitments the Royal Navy Deploys various vessels on Indian Ocean Patrols either under EU, NATO or coalition Task Forces.





In Addition the UK operates a Carrier Strike Group on continuous readiness typically escorted by 2 frigates and 2 type 42 destroyers. As well as an Amphibious Ready Group with a similar escort.





With 6 Type 45's replacing 12 Type 42's and 10 Type 26's replacing nearly 20 Type 23's and Type 22's. Its not difficult to see that something will have to give. Indeed even with the present fleet the Royal Navy has been unable to make Frigates available for the South Atlantic and North Atlantic Patrols. They have used RFA vessels to plug the gap's (It has often been found that the RFA vessels are better equipped to deal with the basic patrol and re-supply mission required) Clearly something has to give and with the fleet already short on numbers the Strategic Defence and Security Review will do nothing to help. Indeed the Navy desperate to get its new carriers and escorts has consistently shed away numbers and paid ships of early. Now with the government looking for a 15% reduction in the budget the Navy will clearly not be able to meet its standing deployment's with the ships it has traditionally relied on.





It is my view that with a little foresight and proper planning the Navy could create a new ship. Cheap enough and insufficient numbers to take up all of its standing commitments. Leaving the expensive Type 45's and Type 26's to escort the carriers and sit in port ready to respond to real emergencies and war situations.





Clearly it makes little sense to try to use a Type 45 Destroyer costing £1.2 billion to do such mundane tasks as check fishing nets, delivering supplies and chasing pirates armed with nothing more than a canoe and an AK47.





Indeed the Navy has already issued a requirement for such a ship under the C3 Banner. The ship is destined to replace the hunt class MCMV's, The River Class OPV's as well as a host of other minor war vessels used for reconnaissance and hydro graphic work. It is my belief that a suitably flexible platform insufficient numbers could also replace a number of the standing deployments which at present are met by Type 22-23 frigates and Type 42-45 destroyers.





C3 Design (keep it Simple Stupid)





Inevitabley as with any defence platform the design process will be long and drawn out. The idea to start with a simple cheap design gets bogged down by different departments wanting to add more and more capability until we end up with a project which goes massively over budget leading to a reduction in units which then increase the per unit R&D costs which inevitably leads to a further reduction in units.



There has been much debate about what the C3 should actually be. The size, weapons fit (if any) endurance and speed required to fulfil its many missions. Other navies most notably the US have already tried (and failed) To come up with a suitable basic design able to fulfill the many low end missions required at a price low enough to produce the vessel in the large numbers required. Indeed the US Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) can give the Royal Navy valuable insight in what not to do when building and equipping the C3 vessel. Before I go into my ideas and design for the C3 I will first point out some of the major faults the LCS has and try to show how the Royal Navy can avoid such faults.



Little Cra**y Ship (LCS)



The LCS was an attempt by the US Navy to replace its minesweepers and Perry Class Frigates with a Flexible lightly Armed Vessel able to operate in shallow waters close to the coast. It was hoped that using Flexi Modules the ship could carry out a wide variety of tasks from MCM to ASW and even Land Attack and Limited AAW. The thought was that a ship built in large numbers 50-60 platforms could give the US navy a much needed boast in its own flagging numbers. Building such a large number of platforms would allow the unit costs to be kept low $100-$120 million per unit. This would take some of the pressure of the Navy ship building budget which is unable to pay for the high end Destroyers, Aircraft Carriers and SSN's it needs to build. (sound familiar)



After much debate about the role of the ship and its armament two different designs were chosen. With the extra weapons installed the platforms projected costs rose to $220 million per unit. Design flaws production delays and the constant desire of the Navy to keep redesigning the vessel pushed costs up to the point that now the USS Independence will cost $704 million without adding in the cost of her flexible mission modules.



Clearly the LCS program is a failure before it has even deployed a single vessel. The main point in the program was not to produce a go anywhere do anything warship but to build a cheap and flexible platform that could carry out the more mundane task required of the modern navy close into shore.



The LCS has gone wrong in a number of places. Below I have highlighted where the main faults lie that have lead to such a high cost.



Need for Speed



The US Navy seems hell bent on making a 3000 tonne warship that on its own can chase down a fast speed boat. The LCS is capable of speeds of 46Knts. Faster than any other medium sized warship has ever been able to travel at. The Navy justifys this need for speed in two arguments.



1. The ships speed will act as a defence.



2. The ship needs to be able to keep up with a Carrier and its attending escorts.



These arguments don't hold water. Be it 25knts or 45Knts a super sonic cruise missile will take little notice. Further more when the added speed comes at the cost of armour or defensive weapons the net effect is to reduce the ships protection.



Keeping up with the carriers was not really suppose to be what the ship was about. In fact it was suppose to operate close into shore miles away from carriers. The Increased speed has come at a great reduction to the ships range and endurance as well. So it can tag along with a CBG but needs to refuel so much that the CBG's tanker ship will be over worked reducing the entire CBG's range and endurance. Also a CBG is only as fast as its slowest vessel. Travelling at 30+ knts for sustained periods is impossible for the CBG's tankers and supply vessels.



The expensive gas turbines and water jets needed to push the LCS up to its top speed have been one of the main drivers behind its dramatic cost escalation.



The next main problem has been the Navies Interference. Civil Servants often think little of cost and focus on capability and usefulness. Indeed these factors should be the main drivers in a warship however they should be considered at the start. Once the final design is made the contractor should be free to build it. Changing a design mid way through construction leads to huge time penalties and drives up costs.



The third major problem with the LCS is the choice of 2 different designs. Straight away you cut your economies of scale in half. The desire of the Navy was to introduce competition to drive down cost. However when the supplier only has one customer competition is irrelevant and expensive. If the Navy could get to grips with the shipbuilders they could force them to give fixed contract prices the way you would expect a private company to do.

Learning from History

This is not the first time the Royal Navy has attempted to produce a Cheap versatile ship to carry out a number of low threat basic sea control duties. The Type 21 Amazon Class Frigate was such a ship. Built to replace a large number of retiring ships to take of the some of the burden which would be placed on the more advanced type 22 and type 42's. The ship was built by civilian contractors to civilian standards. Much of the technology used on board was either off the shelf or from retired vessels. Especially its Sea Cat Anti Aircraft Missile which was woefully out of date by the time the ships entered service in the late 1970's. The ships were primarily tasked with lighter patrol duties and flag flying missions. That was until 1982 when the Falklands broke out.

With only 3 type 42's and 2 type 22's available the Royal Navy desperately needed more escorts. What they had was a large number of the type 21's. Sent in to battle with outdated AAW equipment and a hull not designed for the South Atlantic Conditions inevitabley the ships suffered heavy losses.

In the Falklands aftermath much criticism was levied on the type 21 design. This lead to the Type 23 Frigate. The type 23 was given a VLS with the sea wolf missile. Phalanx CIWS as well as being equipped with Harpoon ASM and ASW torpedoes. The type 23 also had better armour put in place and improved stealth and decoy systems added.

While the type 21 was an excellent ship often referred to as the Porsche of the fleet it was not a ship built for war. A better criticism of the the type 21 would have been to ask the question why were they sent into a war they were not equipped to fight.

The main lesson to learn from the type 21 is. If you build a warship not meant to fight then don't sent it to war. Second any ship in the fleet might have to be used for war. If this is the case then at the very least it needs some decent armour in place as well as a decent anti aircraft armament.

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