Thursday, October 7, 2010

Replacing HMS Ocean

I am trying to get as many posts out about the Royal Navy before the 20th of October when the SDSR will be published and I will likley top my self LOL.

One of the key debates will be the future replacement for HMS Ocean as well as the future direction for the UK's amphibious task force.

At present the UK amphibious task force is suppose to consist of the following vessels

1* LPH - HMS Ocean or Ark Royal if Ocean is in refit
1* LPD - HMS Bulwark or HMS Albion
2* LSD - Bay Class

In addition the task force has various escorts, logistics ship's and even RoRo's of the point class depending on the task required. However these four vessels form the core.

The likley outcome of the SDSR will be that Ocean will be scrapped. Either payed off early and sold or simply not replaced after 2018 when she is scheduled to reach the end of her life.

In addition to HMS Ocean the 2 LPD's of the Albion Class will need replacing around the 2020's. At present the thinking seems to be a like for like replacement for the Albion's with Ocean probably not being replaced and Prince of Wales will be slotted in as the world's largest helicopter carrier.

We can be reasonably sure that come what may of the SDSR the best we can hope for is 2 ships to replace the current 3.

If done properly this may not be a bad thing. While the Ocean Class and the Albion Class are excellent vessels they are not without their weaknesses.

HMS Ocean

While HMS Ocean has been at the fore front of every operation in the past 10 years she is not an ideal amphibious platform. Ocean is actually an Invincible Class optimised to operate helicopters. She has four LCP's to embark personnel however she does not have a well deck. She can take vehicles on her lower deck however to disembark these vehicles she needs a port so they can drive of a ramp.

She can embark Chinook's however she is unable to bring them into her hanger deck to protect them or carry out maintenance.

HMS Albion

The Albion Class are specialised Amphibious platforms. They have a well deck at the rear and are able to disembark vehicles through landing craft. They have an aft helicopter platform that can accommodate up to 2 Chinooks. However they do not have a hangar. Any helicopters rely on Ocean to store and maintain them.

Over Crowding is a common issue on LPD's flight deck

A Better Otion

If we are only going to have two vessels then we cannot afford for these vessels to be so specialised. A Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) can perform the role of both and LPD and LPH. In many ways in can perform the role better than the specialised vessels. An LHD is essentially a small aircraft carrier that also has a well deck in the rear of the vessel that can take both landing craft, mexi floats or hover craft. Typically and LHD will be bigger than either and LPH or LPD. Normally weighing in at 25-40,000 tonnes. They can carry anything up to 30 helicopters and 1800 soldiers.

The US Navy has the largest of these vessels with their Wasp Class LHD. With a displacement of 40,000 tonnes they can embark up to 42 sea knight helicopters. They also have the ability to take 3 LCAC's. In helicopters and personnel they can take double the capacity of Ocean and Albion combined. While the WASP class is far to abitious for the Royal Navy we can look to the continent at some excellent examples.


Mistral with LCAC
France are building 4 of their Mistral Class LHD. These vessel way in at 21,000 tonnes. They can embark 16 Helicopters and upto 900 soldiers. The well deck can accommodate upto 2 LCAC's. Cost comes in at between $320 million - $600 million. Russia has selected the vessel to form the core of its amphibious force of the future.

Juan Carlos

Juan Carlos on the right
The Spanish have built the Juan Carlos LHD. The Vessel weighs in at 27,000 tonnes. It has the ability to embark up to 1200 soldiers. It can carry 4 LCM's in its well deck and is also fitted with a Ski Jump to operate either Harrier or the F35B. Cost comes in around EUR 350 million. This vessel has been selected by Australia under the Canberra Class to form the future Australian amphibious capability.

Royal Navy Choice

It may be possible for the Navy in the future to gain the budget to replace 2 of it's three vessels. While something on the scale of the USS Wasp is out of the question and the Mistral is probably too small the Juan Carlos is just right.

It would allow us to enhance our current amphibious capability. If we selected to build this vessel in time to replace Ocean we can probably look at a cost of £350 million. To put it into context that is just 1/3rd of the cost of Astute 7, Less than half the cost of an extra T45. It's probably just slightly more than the cost of a C2 frigate. In other words the Navy can find the money if it really wants to. If the vessel enters service in 2018 then we could replace HMS Ocean and HMS Albion. These vessels won't be too old and lots of third world Navy's are looking for Amphibious so we could probably get a decent price for them. We could build a second for 2022 and when it comes in to service we could pay of Bulwark.


  1. Forget selling Ocean, the things a wreck.
    It simply wasnt designed for the life its lived, I doubt it will make 2018.

    Its a great ship, and I think its proven the commerical standards arguement, but, its ready for the scrap yards

  2. Seen a few pictures of it looking prretty shabby recently. It's no suprise really it's been any more active deployments than any other ship I am aware off. Think its due for a refit soon although I am not sure. You are correct about Ocean though proving the commercial point.

    I think we could still sell it though. India bought Hermes in 1984 which was a wreck and they are still sailing it today. Bound to be able to get somehting for it. I think Albion would fetch a decent price. If we could get £100 million for the two then we could knock a fair bit of the replacement cost just when money is tight.

  3. I would prefer the RN to 'sell' the idea of CVF as a swing-role carrier/lph.

    This for the single reason that I want a permanent ability to create a carrier task group, and we can't do that if one is a carrier and the other is an LPH.

    The QE class has hotel facilities that can cope with a battalion in addition to the crew, and the likely JSF buy will probably see them operating with a single squadron of 12 JCA rather than the 36 it was designed for, so there will be plenty of deck/hanger space for helicopters to operate from.

    Were this to be the case for a LHD would be less compelling, and I believe Albion & Bulwark are good until the late twenties.

  4. Hello,

    I agree with jedibeeftrix.
    H.M.S. Ocean's replacement will cost £859 Million and displace 65,000 tonnes.


  5. I reaaly want to see us with two proper strike carriers. I know I am dreaming but if we convert prince of wales to an LPH its not going to be anything as useful as it could. Replacing our LPD's eraly with LHD's is the only feasible option I can see that will let us keep our curent capability. The present budget crisis is not going to last forever. Whil stike carriers are expensive and the RN is never likley to get a budget to build such things again LHD's built on commercial lines are realtivley cheap. In 5 or 6 years It's not impossible to see a budget to get them built. If POW is converted to an LPH then we will never be able to justify a budget for the LHD's or get a second strike carrier built.

  6. Hello Martin,

    £859 Million is not a bad price for a ship which can do both air assault and air attack.
    It's only £200 Million more than the production cost of a Daring class destroyer.