Today the “Initial Gate” of the replacement programme has been given the official go-ahead: by 2015, the special steel for the hulls and the reactors and propulsion systems for the SSBNs will have been acquired and the design brought forward. By 2016, Main Gate approval will be needed, to ensure that the first submarine enters service in 2028, ensuring that no capability gap in Continuous At Sea Deterrent happens.
Asked about the issue at Prime Minister's Questions by pro-nuclear Tory MP Julian Lewis, David Cameron said he backed renewal of Trident as it was the "ultimate insurance policy against blackmail or attacks by other countries".
The prime minister said the government's policy on Trident was "absolutely clear".
"We are committed to retaining an independent nuclear deterrent based on Trident," he said.
Mr Cameron also said he hoped to "elevate" the issue beyond party political debate and get the support of the opposition for the move, pointing out that the last Labour government had agreed to Trident renewal in 2007.
"When we voted to go ahead with Trident, it was on the basis of a Labour motion that was supported by most Labour MPs and, I believe, all Conservative MPs."
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy backed the decision, saying Trident had been a "cornerstone" of the UK's peace and security for more than 50 years.
However, of course, not everyone has the brain to understand things, and a demented statement has to pop up soon or later, and Labour MP Paul Flynn wins today’s prize for the most absurd statement with his:
“Trident is a national virility symbol and has not been used in any conflict for many years and is unlikely to be in future.”
We all have to say our thanks to the sky for having avoided the nuclear holocaust from 1945 to today despite the many years of Cold War tensions and uncountable international crisis. May someone take a moment to explain to mr Flynn the concept of “deterrence” and let him know that Trident has been working, non-stop, every single minute, every single second even, from its very introduction to today, and that it will continue to be used, hopefully with as much success, in the future? Because the use of Trident is just to Exist and be out there, at the ready.
The day we’ll have to start a nuclear war and launch nukes on enemy towns, it’ll mean that Trident has failed. May none of us live long enough to see such a thing happening.
Type 26 changes post SDSR
The respected Warship Technology magazine reports about the changes that the Type 26 Global Combat Ship has undergone post SDSR, and it shows that I’ve been right about my assessment of the C1 and C2 concept being dead, killed by the new cuts. There was no way in hell the navy could be allowed to pursue two classes of new frigates. Who’s read my Future Force 2020: Royal Navy page will know that I had long ago seen this happening. Interestingly, I also did go very close to the numbers that the MOD now envisages. I suggested 14 ships, trying to be optimist: 8 ASW “C1” and 6 “C2” general purpose frigates completed with a lot of “fitted for but not with”. The MOD target is for 13 vessels (basically a replacement like for like of the current fleet) with 8 ASW “C1” and 4 “C2” hulls. I went very close to it.
The target in terms of unitary cost has been set in a figure between 250 and 350 million pounds for vessel, against an original figure of 500 millions. This is midway between realistic and optimistic: France is paying 6.5 billion euros for 11 FREMM frigates, of which 9 will be ASW optimized and 2 will be “FRéDA” (FRègate de Defence Antiaèrienne) optimized for air defence role, which will mitigate the effect of the cancellation of the second pair of Horizon destroyers. The FREMM are similar in sizes to the revised Type 26, will have a more expensive weapons fit (namely Aster missiles above all, and, for French FREMMs, Scal Navale cruise missiles) and the French cost is inflated by the fact that France had been planning 17 vessels, while now only 11 will be built. On the other hand, FREMM frigates benefit from a construction tail of 22 vessels (11 for France, 1 for Morocco, 10 for Italy) on which costs can be spread, and being a binational programme it has allowed to split design costs on the two budgets of Italy and France.
The FRèDa is a modified FREMM, armed with Aster 15 and 30 missiles and fitted with a more powerful, longer-ranged Herakles radar. The ASW variant of the Aquitanie (French FREMM) is armed with a 76 mm Oto Melara Strales gun, which fires radar-guided shells good in a CIWS role, Aster 15 SAM missiles and Scalp Navale cruise missiles.
The italians have tackled the air defence problem in a different way, by fitting all of their FREMMs with the Sylver A50 silos, capable to take the Aster 15 and also the longer, bigger Aster 30. They have upgraded the launch software to use the Aster 30 as well, but not changed the radar, at least for now, which means that the vessel cannot use the Aster 30 to its best range and performances, but still deliver protection on a larger area. Third-part cueing is considered as a way to contrast the insufficient power of the radar. Italian FREMMs (Carlo Bergamini class) come in two variants: the ASW (4 vessels) is extensively kitted with ASW weaponry included the Milas anti-submarine long range missile and two Strales guns, one on the bow and one on top of the hangar.
The General Purpose variant (6 vessels if there aren't cuts to orders) replaces the bow 76 mm with a much more powerful Oto Melara 127/64 gun, much more adequate to deliver firepower against coastal targets. They will not have (at least for now) cruise missiles, however.
|The Oto Melara 127/64 is a successful gun design: even Germany has chosen it from its F125 frigate after it failed to adapt the 155/52 mm howitzer turret of the PZH2000 of the army as part of the MONARC programme.|
The 127/64 is offered, via a Babcock/Oto Melara joint venture, for the Type 26 frigate and for retrofit on the Type 45. It will contend with the immortal MK8 MOD1 114 gun and its upgraded Army-Compatible variant, fitted with a 155/39 gun from dismissed AS90 vehicles of the army.
The 127/64 is a world leading gun, capable of 35 rounds for minute and a range of 70 to over 100 km with ER ammunition Vulcano also from Oto Melara, but i'm a big supporter of the return of the 6'' gun: it is unlikely to fire more than 12 rounds for minute (little more than half the rate of fire of the current MOD1, because the loading cycle doubles as the 155 implies the shell and the launch charges (fitted into a single outer shell) being loaded separately), but it would compensate with a bigger punch and commonality with the Army ammo stocks and from the immense variety of ammunition available in the 155 mm NATO calibre. Included, again, the Vulcano, which is being developed for the 127 mm naval guns and 155 mm land guns alike, and would thus be available either way.
The Vulcano ammunition from Oto Melara actually exists in 3 variants, the A (Extended Range) is unguided and has a maximum range of 70 km. The B has a miniaturized Imaging Infra Red seeker and is meant to attack targets such as, in naval environment, other ships moving at sea from great distance. The C is the long range, guided shore-bombardment variant. The long ranges are achieved by means of a very high muzzle velocity and very low aerodynamic coefficients, compared to in-service large calibre munitions. The projectiles are equipped with a multifunctional fuze based on microwave technology and capable of being programmed with altimetric, proximity, impact, delayed impact or time functions.
Caliber: discarding-sabot dart, for 127 and 155 mm guns
Weight of the shell: 20 kg
Max Speed: 1200 m/s
Warhead: HEFSD High Explosive Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot
Vulcano A – None
Vulcano B – IIR Infra-Red imagery seeker. Used to attack ships at great distance
Vulcano C – GPS Long Range land attack
Vulcano A – 70 km from 155/52 (90 km from 127/64 gun)
Vulcano B – 70 Km from 155/52 (90 km from 127/64 gun)
Vulcano C – 100 Km from 155/52 (120 km from 127/64 gun)
Circular Error Probable: CEP < 20 m
The C variant is being developed in a new version provided with SAL (Semi Active Laser) terminal guidance for attack on moving targets designated from land forces or UAVs with laser trackers. This would be the most interesting variant for the Royal Navy and Royal Artillery, which for shorter ranges, if they were to really share the gun system, could use the Excalibur round, already trialed with success on the AS90 and very well battle-proven with US and Canadian forces.
The main difference in the land versions of Vulcano, apart from the caliber, is the propelling charge configuration which has been specifically designed for total compatibility with the PzH2000's automated loading system and for general compatibility with NATO standard howitzers.
Given the Type 26's stated role in influencing events ashore, the gun system is an important part of the ship design, so we must hope that the rumors of Mk8 MOD1 being retained "as it is" to keep costs down are not true. It risks being a cost-saving too much, depleting the ship of much of the utility it could well have if properly kitted.
The Type 26 frigate, as we know, is trying to become a multinational programme as well, by luring in nations such as Brazil, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but so far there is no firm commitment from any of these nations. Even Turkey and Malaysia have shown interest and are engaged in talks.
In terms of ship’s specifications, the changes that have followed the SDSR include, reportedly:
- Tonnage going down from as high as 6100 to 5000 / 5500 tons. FREMM, by comparison, is rated 5900 tons, and, like the Type 26 should be, it is 140 meters long.
- Core crew is expected to go down to no more than 130 (previously 140) with accommodations for at least 36 more for the Embarked military force. FREMM crew figure is 145 + 20, even if a figure as low as 108 men has been suggested. It probably depends on the mission at hand.
- Endurance requirement for the Type 26 has “grown significantly”, and this probably explains the still important tonnage, when in terms of weapons fit the frigate should be much lighter than a FREMM (even if the ships gets Tomahawk, CAMM is much lighter and simpler than Aster, and there are many other differences too)
- In order to keep costs down, and endurance up, a wholly diesel prime mover fit, operating either in a direct drive arrangement (Combined Diesel And Diesel CODAD, as used on the french frigates class La Fayette) or as part of an hybrid diesel-electric configuration. The MOD is considering these options but has not lowered its standards in terms of survivability and acoustical quieting of the platform, however, so whatever propulsion system is chosen, it must deliver silent running at least as good as that of the Type 23. Which means it must be very, very silent.
- The drone capability in addition to the helicopter flight remains a firm requirement.
- The Stern mission bay also remains, but it is likely to be sized down at least a bit.
- In order to pursue export orders with the maximum possibilities of success, the ship will be “modular”: while the UK vessel will use ARTISAN radar and CAMM missiles (and hopefully Tomahawk), the vessel will be capable to take US missiles such as ESSM and Standard, or different radar fits such as the SMART. The same accommodations can be modified to deliver as many as 200 beds.
We should know more by year’s end: the MOD will end its review of the many analysis and proposals made by the end of 2011, with the aim of getting into Stage 1 design timely in early 2012.
Type 45 progresses
HMS Daring’s turn has finally come: due to a lot of different reasons, HMS Dauntless, the second destroyer of the class, had ended up being the first firing the Sea Viper missile, downing a target drone on the Bembecula range. Finally, HMS Daring has had her own opportunity, and easily dispatched the subsonic Mirach 100/5 target drone with a perfect hit.
|A Sea Viper missile leaves the silos of HMS Daring: seconds later, a Mirach 100/5 drone target is obliterated.|
The successful firing comes as the MOD announces that support for the Sea Viper weapon system has been secured for the next six years.
The £165m contract has been awarded to MBDA UK, based in Bristol and Stevenage, to provide technical assistance to the Sea Viper systems on all six destroyers that will be based at Portsmouth Naval Base.
Future Fast Landing Craft
Royal Marines trials of the PACSCAT have continued from when they received the prototype last year, and by now the craft is validated in the whole envelope of capabilities. Navy News of this month in fact reports in a very interesting article that:
- PACSCAT has been embarked and trialed on HMS Albion, validating its compatibility with the well deck of the LPD and completing more than 25 decking/undecking cycles, some of those with the mandated full load of 5 Viking vehicles.
- The PACSCAT has repeatedly shown its 25 knots speed.
- The PACSCAT has been trialed delivering the Hippo BARV (Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle). The Hippo is a conversion by Alvis Moelv of a Leopard 1A5 tank. The incorporation of Alvis Vickers into BAE Systems meant that elements of the work moved to BAE Land Systems, Sweden, formerly known as "Hägglunds", another ex-Alvis company. As with earlier generations of BARV, the main alteration has been the replacement of the turret with a raised superstructure which, in this case, resembles the bridge or wheelhouse of a small ship. The original 830 hp (634 kW) diesel engine has been retained but the gearing of the transmission had been lowered; this has reduced the vehicle's road speed from 65 km/h (40 mph) to 32 km/h (20 mph), but its tractive force has been increased to 250 kN (56,000 lbf). Other modifications include the addition of working platforms, a nosing block, raised air intakes and an auxiliary power unit; this has raised the weight of the vehicle from 42.5 tonnes to 50 tonnes. The Hippo has a fording depth of 2.95 m (9 ft 8 in) and can pull vehicles up to 50 tonnes weight or push off from the beach a 240 tonne displacement landing craft.
Currently, four Hippos are in service, one each on HMS Albion and Bulwark, with two based at the 11 (Amphibious Trials and Training)Squadron, 1 Assault Group Royal Marines.
This trial is important since the HIPPO is the first thing the Landing Crafts will bring ashore, as it is an amphibious landing-enabler and can even push the huge LCU Mk10 or the PACSCAT back in the water if they get stuck.
- The PACSCAT has been trialed even with a Challenger II on board, and it has registered an impressive 19 knots transit speed with such a huge load.
The trials of the PACSCAT are now complete, and they have been totally satisfactory. Now the Royal Marines will be busy trialing the CB90 during the next 12 months: the Sweden combat boat is a serious contender for the Future Patrol Boat requirement, but I’ve covered this extensively in another article.
The video shows a PACSCAT speeding up along with one of the latest LCAC(L). Surely impressive, and not something the LCU MK10 could do!
Improved capabilities of the fleet’s LPDs
HMS Albion and Bulwark have no hangar, but they do have large flights deck. After their latest refits, the two vessels are now capable, indeed, to operate two Chinooks at once on their decks.
This means they can operate with a sizeable number of smaller helicopters, and one of the firsts of this year’s Cougar exercise in the Mediterranean is validating the concept of a TailoredAir Group working from the LPDs.
The 18,500 tonne assault ship was never intended to operate her own air group - and certainly not for an extended period of time. Yet, now, this capability is being pursued.
HMS Albion, prior to leaving the UK for the six-months Cougar deployment, has in fact embarked crews from 847 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons. In particular, two Lynx AH7 and two Sea King HC4 are embarked as TAG, and during operations even a fifth Lynx, an HMA8, has operated off HMS Albion. Quite stunning use of her flight deck!
Number speak loud and clear, so it is worth pointing out that last year HMS Albion conducted 389 deck landings during her two month deployment on Exercise Auriga. In comparison, the first two weeks of Cougar 11 alone have already seen 180 deck landings.
Future Mine Countermeasures. Collaboration with France makes sense.
The Royal Navy plans to replace the Hunt and Sandown classes of minesweepers with a 2/3000 tons Mine countermeasure; Hydrographic, Patrol Capability (MHPC) vessel in the future, which will be built of steel and dispose of minefields from safe, stand-off distance thanks to an automated vessel capable to deploy in the danger area the proper sensors and search drones and, ultimately, one-shot disposal drones such as the already-in-use Sea Fox.
The SDSR confirmed that the UK will collaborate with France to make this vision a reality. Does it make sense?
Yes. It does. Because France plans exactly the same kind of solution to mine disposal problems, in a similar timeframe (2018 target date) and is doing considerable progress in trials and development. Enter the Système de Lutte Anti Mines – Futur (SLAM – F).
The French are thinking about demonstrating a Remote, Unmanned system of drones and sensors capable to operate in a minefield 10/14 miles away from the mothership even in Sea State 5. They envisage a mothership of around 3000 tons, which will deploy a multifunctional Unmanned Surface Vehicle “Taxi” that will deliver the Mine Countermeasure assets from the mothership to the danger zone.
They envisage a fleet of 5 Motherships, each capable of deploying two or three “Taxi” vehicles. They are considering a catamaran vessel for the mothership role, offering higher speed than current Eridan minesweepers and larger deck and working areas.
More importantly, they have built a prototype of the USV Taxi vehicle: the Sterenn Du is also a catamaran, built of aluminium and twin-engined, and for now is Optionally Manned, meaning that can be controlled directly or remotely. It displaces 24.5 tons, is 17 meters long and 7.5 meters wide. In the coming months, the Sterren Du will be trialed at sea: it will be used to autonomously deploy and recover a towed sidescan array and a drone.
|The futuristic, Optionally Manned Sterren Du is the prototype of the Unmanned "Taxi" vehicle in the French future mine countermeasure project. She'll be trialed extensively starting in the next few months.|
This is only the beginning of the trials, but the Royal Navy will undoubtedly look at the tests with great interests itself. In the Future Force 2020: Royal Navy page, at the voice MHPC, you can read the state of the UK’s planning for this vital future capability.
If there ever was a sector in which collaboration could deliver great results, this is it, I believe. The similarity in the concepts is striking. Not collaborating would be stupid. Again, info from Warship Technology, read the whole article there, it sure is interesting.
As part of today’s news is also worth remembering that Prime Minister Cameron has rebuffed the warnings of the Defence Chiefs about the UK being realistically “no longer a military power in the whole spectrum of capabilities”. The PM is unfazed by the firmness with which, together and in complete (almost unique case) harmony, the chiefs of the RAF, RN and Army have told the Defence Committee that they are not able anymore to ensure that their services cover all the requests they receive. Mr Cameron, pretty much, accused the defence chiefs of lying. He did it in a very gentle way, chosing words carefully, but that’s the implication of what he said.
The fact that the US forces have been asked to provide a P3C Orion to scout the Mediterranean sea and keep the waters around the british vessels secure and under control is of no worry to him. The loss of Nimrod has been covered “by other assets”, and the fact that they are assets coming from allies’s generosity does not matter at all to him.
The bleeding gap in airpower at sea is also of no importance at all to mr Cameron.
Yeah. Ignoring those “unimportant” black holes in capability, the UK can still do almost anything.
Not satisfied with his first exhibition, mr Cameron again ignored the warnings of the defence chiefs by imposing the withdrawal of at least 400 british soldiers from Afghanistan this year. The US won’t like it, and the Defence Chiefs, once more in complete harmony, have warned that lowering the “density” of the troops coverage in Helmand too soon is dangerous, but both factors have been cheerfully ignored. At least, the defence chiefs have obtained to keep “frontline” force in Afghanistan up, at least for now. Because we are all eager to see all lads come back home to their homes and families, but doing so in a hurried way might endanger massively the progress of operations and the safety of the last ones to leave, who might pay the price in blood before their turn for return comes. Prudence is a must.
A good news is the end of the long Iraq mission: 170 Royal Navy personnel have been working to train the new Iraqi navy even after the rest of the british forces were withdrawn, but now, within Sunday, the time will come for their return as well. Mission Completed, finally.
In total, the UK still has about 170 mostly naval personnel in Iraq, - six dozen Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines, plus a number of RAF and Army personnel - helping to train the fledgling Iraqi navy from the port of Umm Qasr.Thanks to the efforts of the team at Umm Qasr, the principal Iraqi naval base, around 1,800 sailors and marines have been trained to such a standard that they are now guarding the country’s two oil platforms in the northern Gulf on their own.
The terminals – Khawr al Amaya and Al Basrah – are responsible for pumping oil into waiting tankers, generating more than 80 per cent of Iraq’s income, and they have been constantly guarded and protected by US and UK warships for all this time. The Royal Navy completed its final patrol of the platforms last month when HMS Iron Duke completed a stint around the Al Basrah terminal.
UK combat forces, primarily based in the southern city of Basra, withdrew in July 2009 but since then the Royal Navy has continued working alongside US forces to train 1,800 Iraqis. In its early hours, Telic had seen 46.000 british personnel involved, from all three services.
In all, 178 UK service personnel, and one Ministry of Defence civilian, died in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.
Fox said that the UK would continue to train members of the Iraqi security forces in the UK, and contribute to the Nato training mission which remains in Iraq.
Brigadier Max Marriner, commander British forces Iraq, said: "The UK armed forces can look back with pride at what they have achieved in Iraq since 2003 – security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south has dramatically changed for the better, as too have people's lives. "The Iraqi navy are ready, so now is the time for the UK to dress back and let them complete the mission they were created for."
Brigadier Tim Chicken, director, Iraq training assistance mission (naval), added: "Although conducted out of the limelight, the work of British forces in Iraq since the end of the combat mission two years ago, spearheaded by the Royal Navy, has achieved significant results.
"I am confident that our work with the Iraqi navy has set the agenda for a fruitful, long-term defence relationship between our two countries and everyone here is very proud of the role they have played."
In another good news, HMS Dragon, Type 45 destroyer out on sea-trials, saved the crew of the yatch Sceptre: the boat and her five-strong crew flashed an SOS as she drifted helplessly in strong rip tides and rough conditions towards the shore.
The mayday was picked up by the £1bn destroyer, currently in the middle of her second period of sea trials off the west coast of Scotland.
The Type 45 was fortunately just six miles away from the yacht at the time – and just 25 minutes after picking up the distress call, Dragon was able to put her sea boat in the water to offer assistance.
Five minutes later and the boat had a tow line across to the yacht. For the next 16 minutes it struggled amid high waves and a strong tidal race to haul the Sceptre until the tow parted.
A second line was thrown across as the RIB fought the elements to save the yacht from being smashed until the Campbeltown lifeboat arrived on the scene to take Sceptre to safety in the small fishing port.
Dragon has currently a mixed RN/BAE Systems crew aboard as she undergoes her extensive trials – and the same counted for her sea boat, driven by AB Brigs with BAE’s Willy Brownless and Robert Allen who were involved in the tow operation.