Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Up Gunned Daring Class - A Replacement for Type 26
The type 45 Daring destroyer has come in for more criticism that any other navy project of the past decade. Cost over runs have seen the number of platforms reduced from 12 to 6. Designed as a much more capable replacement for the Type 42 AAW Destroyer the Type 45 Daring Class is a quantum leap in capability. However with the first 6 costing a whopping £1.2 billion a piece the Navy is not planning to build any more. Unfortunately 6 type 45's is the bare minimum required to cover the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).
This leaves no vessels able to deploy autonomously or to cover any of the standing deployments. This puts more pressure on the already over worked type 22-23 frigates.
In an attempt to further reduce costs the RN is introducing these ships without the full weapons fit. The phrase 'fitted for but not with' has come to be the latest buzz word for naval procurement. Given the present tight defence budget its not a bad idea to get the ships with their radars and primary weapons in place first then worry about getting the rest of the kit put in place later when funds allow.
However given that these vessels are 7000 tonne £1.2 billion battleships their present level of armament seems a little puny.
The ships are only armed at present with 4.5inch gun and the Sea Viper air defence system. The vessels have space for but are not fitted with Harpoon Anti Ship Missiles, Stingray Torpedos and Goal Keeper CIWS. The Ship Carry's a 48 cell Sylva A50 VLS. While this launcher can accommodate the aster 30 missle it is not able to accommodate Land Attack Missile ,ASROC or ABM missile. (although Aster 30 has limited ABM)
While the ship's hangar and aviation deck is large enough o carry a Merlin the ships aviation handling facilities are only at present able to handle a Lynks.
Despite these faults there are a number of things right with the ship. They Carry the Sampson Active Phased Array Radar. This system is different to the Aegis system by the fact that it uses a rotating dish with two back to back arrays. The smaller size allows the system to be mounted high up on a mast rather than on the ships super structure. This gives it a far better picture than the present Aegis system used in the DDG 51. The system is capable of targeting 40 different targets at the same time and its Aster 15-30 missiles are capable of knocking out the latest generation of super sonic cruise missiles.
In an attempt to bring more numbers of high end platforms the Navy is now beginning work on the Type 26. This vessel will be built on the same hull ast the Type 45 but will specialise in ASW rather than AAW. The rational seems to be that without the Samsong Radar the ships will be much cheaper than the Type 45. However preliminary cost estimates seems to be £500 million a piece. This was the starting point for the type 45 which ended up north of £1 billion.
While I am sure the Type 26 would be an excellent ASW platform it seems silly to spend so much on a platform which is not able to carry out all forms of escort from AAW and ABM to ASW and Land Attack. While the present Type 45 is a little puny it is surly easier to simply up gun and construct more vessels of a class which is already in service and the R&D work has already be carried out. For that reason I would suggest replacing the planned 10 type 26 frigates with 10 Batch 2 Type 45's. These Batch 2 vessels would be nearly identical to the Batch 1 types but with a few modifications.
Radar sensors should be the Same As Batch 1
Sonar should be an improved version possibly the TMS 4110CL . The 2087 towed array should also be able to be incorporated. This may require some minor hull modifications.
Same hull but slightly lengthened to accommodate a larger A70 VLS with 90 cells and possibly modified for 2087 sonar.
155mm Main Gun to replace the present 105mm
Goal Keeper CIWS (replaced by CAMMS on deck mounted rotating canister)
Twin Quad Launchers for Harpoon or ASROC
A70 VLS with 90 cells instead of the present 60. This Launcher will be armed with Aster 15- 30 and possibly Aster 45 ABM missle.
The launcher will also be able to accomodate a Naval Storm Shadow Missile in the way the french have done with SCALP. In addition the New Fire Shadow missile could also be deployed.
Stingray Torpedo Launchers mounted on port and starboard.
Aviation Facilities for embarked Merlin with full hangar.
The existing type 45's could also be upgraded with most of these adaptations over time however it may prove difficult to mount the 155mm gun. While they can already accommodate the A70 launcher they will be limited to a magazine of 60 missiles. This would probably mean that the Batch 1 vessels were used only for carrier escort which is suppose to be their primary mission anyway.
Given that the program will have almost no R&D costs and that many of the additional weapons required such as, Goal Keeper CIWS, Stingray Torpedo's and Harpoon Missiles and Launchers can simply be striped from the retiring type 22 and type 23 frigates I can't see why we could not get the unit cost down to £500 million per vessel. This would allow the Navy to accommodate the program in its existing type 26 procurement budget.
BMDS (Aster 45)
A vessel such as this should not be wasted on minor deployments such as South Atlantic, Caribbean etc. Instead they should be held largely in reserve able to surge to conflict zones when needed. However I would recommend using the ship as a ABM platform finally giving the UK a Ballistic Missile Defence Capability. The Ships should be stationed in the Black Sea
The US Navy is already stationing AGIS systems in the pacific to defend against the threat posed by N Korea. Its about to start deploying SM3 armed destroyers in the Black Sea to defend against Iran's Missile Threat against Europe. While I have no doubt the US would intercept any missile Iran Launched, Relying on the US to defend us diminishes our independent capability in the same way that not having our own Nuclear deterrent would.
In order to provide this capability we would only need an upgrade to the ASTER 30 missile. Adding a larger motor and some software upgrades and possibly a missile intercept vehicle. The US Navy was able to upgrade the SM2 to achieve this with little investment or difficulty compared to the national missile defence system. It may be possible to cooperate with France to produce the ASTER 45. If not the UK could go it alone. Being the only Nation in Europe with the ability to defend the continent from rouge missile launches would enhance our military and diplomatic standing hugely. The Ships could be on a NATO or EU patrol in the same way the Vanguards presently operate. This may help to take of some of the pressure on the US navy which desperately needs to concentrate these vessels against N Korea.
The Only other standing deployment I would have for these vessels is acting as a Flag Ship for the Royal Navy in the Indian Ocean when either the ARG or CSG are deployed else where.