Saturday, August 27, 2011

What would a modern Type 21 Frigate look Like?

I have been trying to come up with a concept for a vessel which could not only fulfill the requirements for MCM, Hydro Graphic Survey and EEZ patrolling as outlined in the C3 requirement but could also give us a decent sized warship able to take the strain of the all to over worked escort fleet.

After looking at a number of options I was stuck by a question asked on Think Defence, What would a modern Type 21 Frigate look like?

Type 21 Frigate

The class was designed to fulfill a requirement for a relatively cheap yet modern general purpose escort vessel to fill a projected gap in the number of escort hulls in the fleet. Many older vessels were rapidly approaching the end of their useful live

s yet their replacements, the Type 42 destroyer and Type 22 frigate, would not be ready until the mid-to-late 1970s. The Admiralty design board were busy with the latter, therefore the Type 21 project was given to private shipyards Vosper Thornycroft and Yar
row. The unmistakably yacht-like and rakish lines were indicative of their commercial design. Their handsome looks combined with their impressive handling and acceleration lent itself to the class nickname of Porsches.

The first of the eight built, HMS Amazon, entered service in May 1974

referenced from Wikipedia

What Would a Modern Type 21 Frigate Look Like?

We have to ask ourselves here what are we hoping for? Really we are looking for a smallish warship with a decent sized naval gun and basic protection. It needs to have a half decent radar with some sort of sonar which would need to be advanced on the MCM and Hydro gra
phic versions. It must have a flight deck with a small hanger able to take a medium sized helicopter. It needs a little speed but we don't need to break the rules of physics here 25knots is fine. A long range with a cheap diesel engine.

We would want a vessel which has a relatively small crew more minesweeper sized than destroyer sized. We need a vessel with a flexible mission deck aft boat ramps and the ability to launch and recover small boats and UUV's. Most importantly we need something really cheap that can be built in large numbers.


Much as with the US Navy's littoral combat ship there is a rational for combining many if not all the smaller warship types.

  • Modern Mine Counter Measures (MCM) rely more on remotely operated vehicles and sensors now than small specialised vessel. Indeed many modern mines are so lethal that no vessel no matter how specialised and plastic would want to go any where near them. Deploying these types of UUV's and sensors requires significant space and working area on board which a small dedicated mine hunter or sweeper is not able to provide. In the future MCM may rely more on UAV's as well meaning aviation facilities are required again something not necessarily on board a small mine hunter

    • Modern destroyer and even Frigates have become much larger in recent year. Much closer to the size of WWII Cruiser's. Conversely they find it more difficult to operate close to shore. There great expenses has also lead to a massive reduction in numbers meaning that there are not enough hulls to do all the jobs of the past. Especially the really dull important ones like policing EEZ's. Another type of cheaper smaller vessel is needed to fill the gap.

    • Thanks to self contained mission modules a modern vessel should be able to carry out a number of roles that previously required dedicated specialized vessels. This will allow the navy to deploy more vessels with a smaller number of hulls.

    Okay that all makes sense to me. Very logical it would seem. Small, lightly armed, aviation facilities and mission modules.

    This was what the US navy sought to get however after the usual gold plating they ended up with a 3000 barley armed speed boat costing some £500 million per vessel. (initial projection was £60 million)

    Errors to Avoid

    The US Navy went wrong from the get go. It tried to design a warship of 3000 tonnes that could accommodate a Chinook. It decided that it wanted a vessel which could be armed with mission modules carrying everything from land attack cruise missiles to surface to air weapons able to supplement an Arleigh Burke Destroyer. It wanted a vessel which could keep up with a carrier but at the same time out maneuver an Iranian speed boat armed with RPG's. This lead them to engine systems capable of moving the vessel above 40 knots. Inevitably it ended up with something that tried to be all things to all men and the US navy laughably believ
    ed it could get such a vessel for under $100 million each. These are the same people who belied the F35 could be done for less than $60 million.

    BMT came up with an interesting design a few years ago called Venator. Venator see

    med like a well worked out design with mission modules and an aft docking bay. However it is very light on weaponry. Not really the type of thing we could call a warship and while it has a large aft flight deck it has not hangar. Its top speed likley to be around 18 knots may also make it too slow for many missions such as interception of cargo ships

    A number of authors most notably Think Defence have proposed a basic de

    sign modeled on Offshore Supply Vessels used in the oil and gas industry. The rational is that these vessel are durable, flexible and above all cheap coming in at the $60 million mark. The only issue I can see with these proposals are that the vessels themselves are but ugly. That might not sound like a problem but remember one of this vessel primary roles will be flag flying. Entertaining dignitaries on the back of a cargo ship hardly says do business with Britain. More than that the vessel will hopefully participate in a number of military exercises with allies across the world. What kind of message does it show when;

    Singapore shows up in this

    France shows up in this

    and we show up in this

    There is an old adage if it looks right then it is right. We should also remember that a major goal of this project will be to attract international buyers. Most of those buyers are little swayed by the vagaries of cost and performance. Pure looks unfortunately goes along way.

    Off The Shelf

    It will be extremely important to get this vessel at the right cost. We do not need to reinvent the wheel here. The UK and other countries build vessels like this all the time at a reasonable cost. Perhaps the best example of this recently comes from Vosper Thornycroft the same people who gave us the Type 21.

    The Khareef Corvette built for the Oman Navy has some very impressive statistics.

    However perhaps the most impressive is its cost at just £400 million for 3 including all design work and training for the crew. Indeed in many way the Khareef is a modern Type 21. While the vessel has all the warship attributes we are looking for it does lack the versatility and flexibility we need to provide MCM, Hydro graphic work and it has no aft boat ramp to recover vessels. However it would not be too difficult to redesign the vessel with an aft section incorporating mission modules and small boat recovery area. In essence we keep the head and body of the Khareef Corvette and we add on the rear end of the Littoral Combat Ship USS Independence

    The LCS Independence has a beam of 3 meters more than the Khareef. It is also 16meters longer and it ways an extra 500 tonnes. However we could accommodate these changes into the overall design using the additional space for mission modules and extra fuel giving us a design of around 3000 tonnes with a range of some 7-8000 miles

    Mission Modules

    This is one area where everyone (including me) starts to go crazy. We start of with the idea of a few mission modules for sensible things like disaster relief, MCM and hydro graphic survey. We then end up migrating through every conceivable mission from ASW to land attack. Obviously these more unique type modules will be the most expensive. They will probably add the least value to the project as well. As with the the LCS we have to realise that this vessel is not a full blown warship. We are not designing something that can single handily sail up the Yangsi river and free Tibet.

    We also have to realise that the more space devoted to these modules the less space we have for the actual warship part. We can be in danger of ending up with little more than a cargo ship. As with all thing balance is the key. I cannot foresee the need for more than 4 modules to be carried by any vessel.

    We should avoid the higher end weapon system types in favour of the lower end really useful modules items such as

    • MCM
    • UUV storage
    • Diver support
    • Special Forces equipment storage
    • Medical supplies
    • Water Desalination
    • Emergency Food Rations

    Most of these items require little more than a standard ISO container painted grey and filled up with useful stuff. They do not need integrated electronics to launch missiles or strange an exotic weapons like lasers and rail guns.


    The choice of helicopter is possibly the main area we can go right or wrong with this vessel. Its also the main area where the gold platting is likely to arise. Any modern naval vessel should be not only capable of having a helicopter but should carry one at all times. It makes the vessel infinitely more valuable for almost every task.

    However there are helicopters and there are helicopters. This vessel is not a high end ASW frigate. It will not be hunting submarines because it is not designed to do so. Its a patrol vessel. It should have space on its fight deck to accommodate an aircraft up to the size of a Merlin if needed and its hanger should be able to accommodate a Lynx Wildcat but it should not be routinely expected to carry either. The New Lynx coming in at $27 million a piece makes them far to expensive to procure in numbers.

    Yes it would be nice and it would save a few quid to have a common fleet of helo's for the entire navy but those savings would be more than offset by the roughly 5 to 1 price of the Lynx compared to other lighter vehicles.

    There are two lighter cheaper helicopters available in the market today that could satisfy this role. The first is the AW109 family which comes in several navalised variants. The second is the Eurocopter Fennec AS 555 SN. While the AS109 is an excellent helicopter at $9-$12 million its roughly twice the price of the AS 555 SN at $4-$5 million. For that reason I would choose to have the AS 555 SN

    Eurocopter Fennec AS 555 SN

    The AS 555SN is used for shipborne missions operating from ships above 650t. The helicopter is equipped for anti-submarine warfare and over the horizon (OTH) targeting. The helicopter can carry a lightweight homing torpedo. A chin-mounted Telephonics RDR-1500B X-band, 360° digital colour radar is used for search and surveillance.
    The radar also provides weather avoidance, beacon transponder location, and waypoint navigation display. An unarmed naval variant, the AS555MN can also be fitted with the RDR-1500B.


    Sonar - Thales KINGKLIP

    This sonar is specifically designed to operate in littoral environments. It is constructed to be easily integrated onto a number of different platforms and is currently used by the UAE, Malaysia and Morroco.

    Its Primarily an ASW sonar with simultaneous early torpedo warning. In addition it provides underwater obstacle mine-like avoidance capability.

    Radar - Thales SMART - S Mk2

    This is Thales’s latest 3D multibeam radar, operates in S-band and is optimised for medium-to-long-range surveillance and target designation in littoral environments.Its speciffically designed to locate small surface targets, helicopters and anti-ship missiles. Furthermore, SMART-S Mk2 is designed to match the full performance of surface to air missiles (SAM), such as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM).


    Gun - Currently Royal Navy OPVs such as the River class are armed with a 20mm cannon. while frigates are armed with a 114mm naval gun. The navy will likely phase out the 114mm gun in favour of a more NATO standard 127mm weapon. A 127mm weapon will be too large and expensive for this vessel while the current 20mm weapon is likely too small to allow anything but service in benign waters. There are two options available

    BAE System 57mm Mk110

    This weapon is used on the USN littoral combat ship and USCG National Security Cutter. It provides a high degree of capability against aircraft small boats and even missiles maximum range 15km

    Oto Melara 76/62mm super rapid gun

    Used on the Khareef Class Corvette as well as the the French and Italian FREMM Class frigates this gun provides a high rate of fire. It is also capable of being used as anti aircraft mode and against small boats. It has a wide variety of ammunition including HE fragmentation rounds and it can be used for shore bombardment at ranges of up to 30Km.

    The 57 mm fires at twice the speed of the 76mm giving it better capability against small boats and aircraft. However at 120 rounds a minute the 76mm is hardly slow firing. The large rounds are also capable of providing better hitting power against gun boats or corvettes.

    The 76 mm offers better range and a wider choice of ammunition giving the vessel more flexibility so for that reason I would choose the Oto Melara 76mm.

    AAW Weapons

    The Khareef Class Corvette is armed with the Mica SAM. While an excellent weapon I would instead opt for the new CAMM system being developed to replace seawolf. This will provide a highly effective point air defence capability as well as some anti missile protection .

    At a cost of nearly $10 million for Phalanx 1B or even more for SeaRAM a CIWS is an expensive piece of kit. With the air defence capability of CAMMS I would say that CIWS is something we could do without. However the vessel should be fitted for but not with this capability in case its needed in future.

    Surface to Surface Missiles

    Both Exocet and Harpoon offer excellent missiles choices with newer version having limited land attack capability. However neither missile is optimised for the littoral environment.

    I would opt to use the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile (NSM)

    The missile is optimised to operate in the littoral environment with the ability to even fly around islands and other features to attack a target. It also has a rather sophisticated land attack capability at a range of up to 240 KM.

    While its not currently being used by UK armed forces it may eventually be used by the RN and RAF on the F35. The missiles warhead is around half the size of harpoon so not ideal for taking out large target but perfect for hitting small fast moving warships and gunboats.

    Anti ship missiles are expensive. Average missiles cost around $1million each. While the vessel should be armed with twin quad launchers on port and starboard carrying 8 missiles would be prohibitively expensive and unnecessarily in virtually any scenario. Holding just two missiles in each launcher would half the cost while still providing almost all the capability. Boats in high potential threat areas like the straits of Hormuz could be armed with 8 missiles. This would also keep any potential advisory in the dark about how many missiles the vessel carries.


    On cost grounds I would rule out ship launched Torpedo's although the Fennec helicopter is capable of carrying a single light weight torpedo. This would be the only ASW armament of the vessel. Again it would be useful to leave space for a deck mounted launcher.

    Smaller Arms

    As this vessel will primarily operate in littoral environments it may need to defend its self against swarm attacks from small boats. Arming it with a pair of30mm DS30M Mark 2 Automated Small Calibre Guns on port and starboard towards the rear of the ship should allow solid all round protection from small boats when combined with the 76mm super rapid fire gun on the bow.


    We will have a requirement to use a number of these vessel for MCM and more specifically mine hunting. A mine hunting vessel will require a more specialised sonar. To accommodate this need we should look to equip around 8 of the vessels with the Thales sonar 2193 hull mounted mine hunting sonar instead of the KINGCLIP. The 2193 is designed to be easily retrofitted so no design alterations should be necessary to operate this sonar. It is also compatible with the Thales TACTICOS combat management system.


    We are currently looking to spend anything upto £6 billion for 20 versions of the T26 and T27 Global combat ship. If we could get the cost of a modern type 21 down to £100 million with its helicopter then we could potentially replace the 10 or so T27's with 30 of these vessels. We are also likley to be spending around £1.6 billion on the MHPC to deliver some 8 vessels. Again with a combined program we could look to get that up to 16. However this would not take into account the various moduals needed especially for the MCM roles which are not likley to be cheap. Procuring a fleet of around 40 of these vessel is well with in the navy's current operating budget and it would go along way to relieving much of the pressure on the escort fleet.

    Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    Type 27 and Type 26 Frigate (Global Combat Ship)

    More details have been revealed of the Global Combat Ship from BAE. I wanted to update my speculation on what the program will likely deliver.


    Brazil is still in Canada and Australia are out. The MOD seems to have offered India a place in the program as well as Turkey. While many emerging navies have expressed interest none have come forward with firm orders yet.

    Global Combat Ship

    The plan is now to deliver three variants of the Global Combat Ship. There will be a specialist ASW version the Type 26 frigate and there will be a general purpose variant likely the Type 27. In order to try to gain as many international participants as possible  BAE is also offering an AAW version. This will allow it to compete with FREMM in the international orders. However the UK will not order this version as it already has the T45 AAW destroyer. It is still speculative if the AAW version will be built and it will likley not be refereed to as a Type 28.

    All vessels will be built on a standard hull of 5500 tonnes.

    The price of the vessel has been cut from the previously estimated £500 million to £200-£300 million

    Type 26 ASW Frigate

    This vessel will fulfill the role of the previously outlined C1 Future Surface Combatant. It will be a high end ASW platform.

    The Vessel will have an aft flight deck capable of handling an aircraft up to the size of a Chinook. The hanger will accommodate a Merlin ASW Helicopter.

    There will be an aft mission bay capable of launching boats and also accommodating multi mission modules.

    The vessel will be able to deploy a towed array sonar which will likely be the type 2087 currently deployed on the T23. This will also be deployed from the aft mission bay.

    The vessel will carry an Artisan 3D Radar as used on the T23.

    The vessel will be armed with  a medium calibre 127 mm gun

    Type 27 General Purpose Frigate

    This vessel will take on the mantra of the C2 Future Surface Combatant providing a more General purpose variant.

    This vessel is likely to perform a similar role to the Italian GP Land Attack Version of FREMM. The main difference with the GP version of FREMM is that it uses a 127mm main gun as opposed to the 76mm weapon used on the other vessels. However both T26 and T27 will carry this gun.

    The T27 will mount a sonar but it will not carry a towed array and its hull mounted sonar is likely to be of lower quality that the T26.

    The T27 will not carry a Merlin but instead a single Lynx Wildcat although it will have space for the Merlin in the way the T45 currently does.

    The T27 will likely carry the same Artisan 3D radar as the T26

    Common Weapon Fit for RN Vessels

    • 127 mm main gun
    • Sylvia VLS
    • twin quad packed Anti Ship missile (likely to be Harpoon)
    • CAMMS
    • Torpedo's (Likely the T27 will be fitted for but not with)
    • Phalanx CIWS


    At this stage nothing has been announced in terms of the VLS system. However the smaller size of the vessel and the fact that all reference to land attack has been dropped means that the VLS is likely to be something really small such as the Sylvia A35 capable of holding CAMMS but nothing else just as with the T23. It is likely that the hull will be large enough to accommodate up to an A70 launcher.

    In the end it may be that the T27  General purpose version ends up with the bigger launcher in the designated land attack version abale to carry Sea Shadow.

    Anti Air Warfare Version

    In order to try to compete with FREMM BAE will need to offer three versions of the GCS. However the RN will not be using the AAW version. This version if ever built will likely accommodate a lighter weight Phased Array Radar such as the Specter array (SAMPSON lite) radar. However given technology controls and the fact that any likely order will not be from a NATO ally it would seem difficult to offer such and advanced piece of kit. The missile fit would probably be Aster 15 and Aster 30.

    UAV and UUV

    The flight deck will have an extra hangar door for a UAV along the lines of fire scout. The Well deck at the back will also have a system for launching and recovering UUV's


    This would be the ship we needed and wanted if we had a fleet of 12 properly armed T45's. What we are likely to end up getting is a poorly armed vessel which is too small for the job. Basically we are getting an updated version of T23.

    Its AAW capability will not help to supplement the T45 in escort duty also meaning the vessel will be unable to act on its own near to shore of an enemy with out the AAW capability of the T45 near by. It will likely not carry a VLS large enough for Sea Shadow which will give it essentially no land attack capability other than its main gun. The RN may decide to eventually purchase the land attack version of the Harpoon but this seems unlikely at present. We will not be getting a Mk41 VLS meaning we will not be able to use USN missiles such as SM3, TLAM or ASROC. Not having the 155mm gun will mean that we cannot benefit from new precision guided rounds such as Excalibur.

    The multi mission modules carried by the vessel would be useful in many ways however it is unlikely the RN will fund these modules to anything like the same degree as the USN. In the end these will be little more than storage containers for disaster relief.

    One has to ask if we really need a 5500 tonne vessel for £300 million a piece if it has little more capability that a OPV. Surely better to have something smaller in greater numbers. All in all this feels like another RN compromise vessel too small and badly armed  to do the job but too expensive and specialised to be built in numbers. 

    Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group, Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group,Stuart Yeomans Farringdon Group

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    2015 A Clean Slate (Part 1)

    The world today is a pretty grim place. Economic woes as well as the legacy of two of the most vicious and hard fought wars we have fought in 50 years have left all branches of the military greatly reduced in both capability and numbers. However things will not always be as bad. A government coming into power in 2015 my inherit a very different set of circumstances.

    In the spirit fantasy fleet I would like to ask what you might do in 2015 if you were a new British Government. With the Army out of Afghanistan and Iraq, A balanced budget and no major commitments what would you do with the military.

    Big Advantages

    There would be a number of big advantages to the new government coming in.

    The £38 billion hole in the procurement budget would be gone. There would be little in the way of new programs still to come as most things would have been either canceled or completed by then.

    The Army the most expensive armed force would have been cut back to around 80,000. Much of its heavy weaponry and forces deployed in Germany would have returned. Its likely that many of the cap badge arguments would also have been settled. The Army would need a decade or more to lick its wounds and fully recover from the fights its currently involved in.

    The RAF would have been cut down to a single air frame in the Euro fighter Typhoon. Some for of strike aircraft would be necessary which at present is likely to be the F35 JCA. However it may be that by 2015 the BAE Taranis UCAV is bearing fruit and ready to be manufactured into an actual production aircraft.

    The navy all though greatly reduced in number would have some of the most capable high end vessels in the world. Two new super aircraft carriers being completed with CATS and TRAPS. One of the most advanced AAW destroyers in the world in the T45. Possibly the number one SSN in the form of Astute and the new T26 Global Combat Ship design being completed. Possibilities like this would have been Tony Blair's wettest dream when he came into government in 1997. It would not be too difficult to order additional units for SSN's, Destroyers and even aircraft carriers from BAE at fixed prices. BAE should be willing to do this now that all the design work has been done and the designs are de-risked.

    What would I do.

    In a post Afghanistan world with a rapidly rising China I would likely follow a maritime focus. We could assume that a budget of 2.5% of GDP is affordable and in the countries long term interests. This would give an extra £10 billion a year to spend.

    The first thing I would buy would be 6 additional T45 destroyers. BAE offered Daring 7 for a fixed price of £650 million in 2009 prices. Assuming £700 million in 2015 prices we could get all 6 for £4.2 billion fixed price. We could likey make the batch two ship's slightly larger and give them the equipment fit they should have had. A few pundits have said its not possible to restart T45 production. However the T42 went through three separate batches of production even after lengthy shut downs. The Areligh Burkes in the US have been getting built for so long that new Burkes will begin to replace the original ones built. We still have the plans the ship yards, the equipment and the people who made them. A gap of 5 - 7 years should make little difference in the ability to fabricate them again.

    The next thing I would do is to obviously make sure both Queen Elizabeth Class carriers were completed and activated. I would also add a third vessel to the fleet HMS Duke of York. The additional unit cost of a CVF is actually just around £1.5 billion. Again we should be able to get this on a fixed price basis.

    I would up the buy for the T26-T27 frigate buying 10 of each with the T26 being the ASW variant and the T27 being the more general purpose escort version of the same hull. If we can keep costs to £300 million each then we will be looking at a total program of £6 billion. Around half of this is already accounted for in current procurments budgets.

    In addition to replacing the frigates we will need to replace the Amphibs. HMS Ocean by 2018 and Albion and Bulwark by the mid 2020's.

    I would opt for Three Juan Carlos Style LHD's. Fortunatley BAE is now building such vessels in Australia the Canberra Class. Again with big orders we should be able to get these on fixed price deals. The Spanish paid EUR 350 million for the Juan and Australia is paying AUD 3 billion for two Canberra's. We should be able to get these three for £2 billion total.  

    The Bays will also be nearing a need to be replaced. With the three LHD's we could get away with three LSD's Total cost £800 million.

    The Astute program will be well advanced with number 7 being built. however there would still likely be a gap between Astute 7 and the first Trident replacement. Ordering two additional Astutes would allow us to close this gap. The total cost for Astute 8 and 9 would likely only be £ 1.8 billion  and again we should be able to get that price fixed. Astute 8 and 9 along with 3 refitted Trafalgar's would allow us to return back to a 12 boat SSN fleet.

    On the aircraft side. With the introduction of a Cat and Trap carrier we can begin to purchase US Navy aircraft. Chief Amongst these would be a purchase of E2D Hawk eyes. We could look to replace the current fleet of 7 RAF E3's and RN 13 Asac 7 Sea Kings with a single fleet of 12 E2D's. This would likely cost $235 million each to purchase so £1.7 billion. Running Cost would be within the existing budget as its much cheaper to run 12 E2's than 7 E3's plus 13 Asac 7 Sea Kings.

    At present the UK is committed to a purchase of some 40 F35 C aircraft. We will likely have to eventually purchase 100+ aircraft to maintain our status in the JSF project. Purchasing all F35 C aircraft would allow us to equip a Queen Elizabeth Class with an air wing of some 24 Aircraft in two squadrons. This would give an air wing consisting of 4 E2D's 4 Merlin's and 24 F35 C's. In addition we may look to supplement the reduced buy of F35's with a long range UCAV. This could either be a purchase of USN X47B or a Naval version of the Taranus from BAE. 12 UCAV's would bring the air wing back up to the intended 36 strike aircraft. It would also give a Queen Elizabeth Class around 60-80% of the combat hitting power of a US Navy Carrier.

    In terms of air force there are a number of wrongs I would probably look to  right from the SDSR 2010. First I would retain the R1 Sentinel Aircraft due to be scrapped in 2015. These aircraft are very new, highly capable and already in service. Scrapping them saves almost nothing.

    A replacement program would be needed for the Nimrod project that was cancelled. Going of the shelf for a purchase of some 12 airframes would seem the most sensible way to progress. A purchase of the USN P8 Poseidon would likely offer the best capability. This program is currently having many issues much the same as the Nimrod MRA4 had. However by 2015 we are likely to have a handle of the cost of this aircraft. It may be possible to buy surplus from the USN order of 117 following budget cutbacks. On current estimates we would be looking at a unit cost of £100 million per plane so £1.2 billion total.

    The RAF by 2015 will have had its strike aircraft force gutted. With The last Tornado's due to be scrapped in 2018 all of the F35's flying from carriers the force will be left only with some 160 Typhoons. Adapting the BAE Taranus UCAV demonstrator into a production aircraft could give the RAF a first class 6th Generation strike aircraft at a relatively low cost.

    BAE has managed to get the program off the ground for around £150 million so far. It is said that the prototype is actually capable of carrying and performing bombing missions. It should be possible to get a usable combat aircraft from this program. Especially if we go sub sonic and opt for numbers over quality.

    The Army scaled back to 80,000 men in 5 deploy able medium brigades is probably a relatively sensible force size.

    However the Army will have a massive surplus of heavy equipment left over from its armoured divisions returning from Germany. I would like to see UK 1 Armoured Division converted over to a National Guard style force. Maintain the ability of the UK to deploy this type of Force in a once a generation style Gulf War deployment. A force like this of some 25,000 men would likely cost £300-400 million per year about the cost of the present TA. Transferring armoured war fare to the reservists has a number of benefits besides costs. Fighting a large scale battle along the lines of Desert Storm is likely to put us against an enemy of conscript soldiers. So our own volunteer reservists should be well up to the task. It removes the necessity to deploy reservists to bitter policing actions like Afghanistan that the regulars would now be able to concentrate on. Tankers do not need to be as physically fit as say infantry. This means that when activated we can get the division deployed relatively quickly with little need for a physical work up. Not to mention that these type of clean warfare deployments tend to be relatively popular with everyone eager to kick the door in and get home in time for tea and medals.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Type 26 Update

    The UK has been very busy running around the world trying to sign up foreign allies to get on board the Global Combat Ship band wagon. Nations from Canada and Australia to Brazil and India have all been offered a part in the program. So far only Brazil seems to have made a commitment to the project. 

    While I have long advocated selling this ship to allied nations to promote jobs and retain capability in the UK ship building industry the current coalition government and the MOD seem to be repeating mistakes of the past. 

    Firstly the T26 seems to be being treated more like and export expo than a vital warship design. It seems that any nation that David Cameron visits is offered a piece of the pie weather they will be buying vessels or not. Indeed to read one commentators views from Turkey the UK is requesting Turkish assistance to build its own vessel.

    India is the latest nation to be touted as a possible partner. According to news media all Indian vessels will be built in India at private shipyards which currently have no warship building design skills.

    In desperation the MOD are going about this program in totally the wrong way which could lead to a major disaster with arguably the most important ship designed for the RN in a generation.

    Firstly T26 has been scaled back massively. The Original intention was for a large design of some 6500 tonnes capable of providing a high end ASW capability to replace the T26. It was also to have a 155mm main gun as well as a VLS capable of carrying Tomahawk Cruise missiles for land attack. In addition it was to carry ASTER 15 missiles to supplement the AAW role covered by the fleet of just 6 T45 destroyers. It was estimated that T26 would be built on the same hull as the T45 with some modifications.

    In addition to T26 the Royal Navy would get a fleet of simplar cheaper general purpose frigates the Type 27. These vessels would way in at around 5500 tonnes. They would likely carry CAMMS for point air defence and have some form of ASW capability but would not have the advanced towed Array Sonar of the T26. Neither would they carry the ASW helicopter Merlin but would instead use the new Lynx Wildcat. A sensible plan we might say.

    However all talk of a 6500 tonne vessel seems to have now gone out of the window. All mentions of T26 are for a 5500 tonne vessel with a General Purpose Variant, ASW variant and likely a AAW variant available. This would make the program not unlike FREMM.

    While I am all for commonality in design and trying to get a large number of hulls in the water a 5500 tonne design suggests we will be loosing many of the capabilities we so desperately need. Mainly land attack. Lets remember that ships have not engaged each other at sea since the second world war. The main role of navy's has been land attack. T45 was built without the ability to launch land attack missiles. One of the main goals of T26 was to provide this capability.

    It may be that the UK has began to sacrifice many if its required needs from this vessel to make it more attractive to foreign partners. However we should remember that the UK has a very poor history in cooperation on warship designs. Even with very similar allies such as France and Italy let alone very different foreign partners such as India and Brazil. Also while we need a General purpose and ASW variant we have no need of an AAW variant so who would pay for the development of such a vessel?

    It seems to me that the Global Combat Ship may go the same way as so many projects in the past. We start with the best intentions of bringing in partners to share R&D and bring down costs while keeping a simple common design. When we actually sit down and work everything out what we end up with is an unnecessarily complicated design which tries to fill too many roles.

    Then we find that those same foreign partners were only really kidding in their commitment to the project. They scale back orders but keep a gun to our head to keep work share. We end up with an expensive project delivering a sub standard design at a high cost with much of the work taking place in foreign countries. We also inevitably loose our ability to compete in the global market to sell the thing.

    Both India and Brazil will need a high end ASW frigate if they wish to compete in the 21st century naval arms race. We have the most advanced technology and capability to build an ASW frigate in the world. Better to build a vessel for us so we can then sell to them rather than designing something by committee which end up not being wanted by anyone.

    Many other nations may be interested in buying T26 or T27. However if we allow Brazil and India to share in the design work and construct all their own vessels they will likely cut us out of the market as they will be able to under cut us with cheaper labour costs.

    I hope I am wrong in my assumptions and that the UK will  end up producing a real winner that can be sold to a wide variate of world customers however all my experience tells me otherwise. We are likely to end up with another farce costing billions and producing nothing.