A number of people have looked extensively at the vessel design, weapons fit and sensors required for the C3. Most of what I will outline here is from work that others have done. I would like to acknowledge the work done on the FDR post Think Defence as well as BMT.
The ship will obviously have to be of a sufficient size to accommodate a sufficient number of ISO containers as well as being able sustain transit's in heavy sea states.
The best design which seems to have emerged is the BMT Venator. The Ship will weigh in at 3000 tonnes around 50% smaller than a type 23 frigate. The ship will have minimal crew requirements of only 50-60 people while holding accommodation for more.
The ship has a multi configuration mission deck with an internal garage for storage of ISO containers as well as small boats.
The upper deck of the garage is capable of handling a helicopter up to the size of a Chinook. The flight deck has a telescopic hangar capable of carrying a helicopter up to the size of a Lynx.
The Venator Design seems to cover almost all requirements for the C3 design. The only changes I would suggest making would be in terms of access to the flight deck of the ISO containers. While the aft containers are ideally placed for launch and recovery of UUV's they are of little use for the deployment of additional AAW, ASW or ASM weapons. Incorporating a hydraulic lift under the container on either side of the flight deck would allow these containers to be jacked up and to the outer helicopter deck to fire. I will come on the the configuration of these containers later.
Sensors inevitably are the first and often largest area where costs will begin to over run. Sensor upgrades are also one of the main causes for ships spending time in maintenance and refit.
To minimise these issue I would suggest using the Thales I mast family of sensors. These Mast are available with various capabilities from S and X band radar to electro optical sensors. The sensors are contained in a single mast and specially designed so that sensor do not interfere with each other. The mast design allows the sensors to be placed at the highest point of the ship giving the best possible range for the radar.
|Thales I Mast 100|
Making the sensor mast reconfigurable will help to reduce costs, increase flexibility and reduce time spent in refit.
One of the main issues with the USN's LCS is engine choice. High speeds are not necessary for a ship of this class. A Maximum speed on 24 knots is sufficient to catch a pirate. 18knts will allow it to stay up with a task force. Range will be important as the ship will need to operate unsupported on distant solo patrols. For that reason i would avoid an expensive fuel consuming gas turbine and instead opt for a commercial diesel electric engines.
A range of 7000-8000 miles would allow the ship to carry out its long range transits and transit to the Falklands.
This is another area where costs start to pile up. Obviously a wide range of weaponry will be needed if the ship is to act in a ASW, AAW or even ship to ship engagements. To Arm a ship carrying out hydro graphic or EEZ patrolling with Harpoon or Aster would be unnecessarily wasteful. However mistakes of the past highlight that any warship needs to have the ability to defend itself especially from small boats and aircraft in almost any situation.
For this reason I am only recommending that the ship carry basic medium calibre weapons as standard. The ship would have two MSI SIGMA A2 mounted port and starboard. This weapon incorporates a 30mm ATK bushmaster cannon with a 7 cell launcher for the Thales light weight multi role missile a derivative of starstreak. The Turret is remotely operated and will give the ship a limited capability against small boats and aircraft. automatic weapons have proven in efficient against small boats so the addition of the Thales missile will add more capability when dealing with swarm attacks or suicide bombers.
|MSI SIGMA A2|
In addition the main gun of the vessel should be a modular mount which can be changed when required. The Germans have experimented with this and have even been able to mount a 155mm gun into a 76mm gun space. While a 155mm would be two large for this vessels it should be possible to alternate between at 76mm and 54mm mounting dependant on the threat environment faced. It might even be desirable to keep a couple of 105 mm guns to fit in case the ship is ever required to conduct shore bombardment.
|155mm Gun Installed on German Frigate|
The ship should also have space for a modular CAMS missile Vertical Launch System. The CAMS missile will give the C3 the ability to defend itself against a wide range of threats from sea skimming ship missiles to fast attack aircraft. The main draw back with CAMS is that it will add around £10 million to the design. However a modular plug and play VLS would allow for this system to be incorporated only on vessels deployed to potential conflict zones or areas where an attack is theoretically possible. Cutting the number of required VLS's system down to 20 or 30 rather than 64 for all vessels.
The ship's embarked helicopter is able to carry both ASW torpedo's as well as Anti Ship missiles however the ship should also be able to employ these her self in high threat environments. However these would be containerised systems held in ISO containers. A flexi module could be placed in the reconfigurable mission space between the bridge and heli deck. The module could contain two quad missile launchers for harpoon or potentially ASROC. Torpedo's could be contained in containers and launched through the side doors of the mission garage or from the after mission deck next to the boat ramp.
The ability to jack containers up onto the helicopter deck on port and starboard would allow the vessel to carry increased missile loads for Harpoon or CAMS. It might also be possible to incorporate land attack weapons such a Storm shadow or Fire Shadow into flexi containers to be raised up to the helicopter deck.