Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Type 26 updates

The Global Combat Ship is rapidly becoming the new "big thing" in the Navy's procurement, despite the ongoing Queen Elizabeth mega-project, and with Type 45 procurement far from over. This is actually a good news, and reassuring almost as much as the promise of safeguarding and financing the Global Combat Ship. 

In the last few days, some more information emerged about the vessel, which post-SDSR changed a good bit to move towards much more conservative price tags, necessary to fit within constrained budgets. For Type 26, the requirement specifies eight ships capable of ASW and five ships equipped for more general duties. This is the latest evolution of the original C1 and C2 approach to what was known, for many years, as Future Surface Combatant. At the times of the C1 and C2, we were looking at 10 ships of an ASW-optimized, high-end design for complex operations, and 8 "C2" vessels for stabilization ops, involving less fighting, but lots of presence, counter-piracy and other roles. 
Now we are looking at a single class, the Type 26, which will deliver 13 hulls of the very same design, but with only 8 of them fully kitted out, with towed, variable-depth Thales sonar 2087 and all the rest of the most expensive equipment, while 5 will be (at least at build) "General Purpose", without the expensive ASW suite. This is, overall, consistent with the current situation, which sees 8 ASW-specialized Type 23 with the world-beating sonar 2087 and Merlin helicopter ship flights, plus 5 frigates without the expensive Thales "tail". 
The common hull will allow each frigate to be converted to full ASW specs in refit if and as required. Overall, it makes sense, and it has good chances of delivering more savings than building two different types of hulls, no matter how much cheaper the C2 hull could (eventually) have been made (realistically, not much). 

BAE Systems won the 4-years, 124-million contract for the assessment phase of the Type 26 project last year and is now approaching the important halfway point of the project, known as the Capability Decision Point and scheduled for November of this year. This marks the dividing line between the strict concept and design phases of the project. Currently, the team of around 200 engineers on the project is fine-tuning issues of the ships’ capabilities in a complex trading exercise, prioritising the various systems, fittings and functions on board in order to arrive at a description that fits the requirement but also comes in line with the budget for the project assigned by the government.

The second part of the programme, will involve detailed design work to price the ship  up accurately and to deliver, at the end of the assessment exercise, a 3D CAD drawing that will show exactly what the ship will look like and what will be there. That will be the moment in which Main-Gate decision has to be taken. At that point, the planning of the build itself will start, along with purchasing some of the major pieces of equipment (long-lead items orders), and first metal cut could follow maybe nine months to a year after that.

In November, in other words, we should know if the Navy will design a ship with MK41 Vertical Launch System and Tomahawks (it is an option) and if the adoption of a new medium caliber gun (with the deletion of the 155mm TMF MK8 Mod 1 upgrade, the new gun would almost certainly be the excellent 127/64 Oto Melara Lightweight gun, offered by a Joint Venture of Oto Melara and Babcock) is seen as possible within funding constraints or if the "future" will be, once more, in the ancient 114. 

It has also been confirmed that for the first few Type 26s entering service, the plan is that much of the equipment on board will be transferred from Type 23s as they go out of service. This "equipment" actually isn’t even on the Type 23s yet; it is a “future legacy”. Essentially, these items are the CAMM missile and ARTISAN 3D radar. CAMM was (and should still be) planned to replace Sea Wolf missiles in 2016. Being radar-agnostic, the CAMM will work with the ARTISAN radar for finding its targets, without having dedicated sensors, thus keeping down costs, and allowing the removal of the current two fire-control radars that Type 23s use for direction Sea Wolf, removing a good bit of items and related costs and maintenance issues from the vessels.
Sonar 2087 and Stingray torpedoes might also migrate, and possibly the 30 mm Light guns too. In the worst case, if money can't be found for a new, more powerful medium gun, the MK8 guns could migrate as well. The systems commonality with the older hulls is seen as a great factor in reducting the risks of the Type 26 project, and its costs.

The Harpoon might well be a different, and very interesting story, since by 2020 the old Harpoons currently in use might really be too ancient to maintain, and their replacement choice will be very, very interesting. 
The US are thinking about following the Russians, Chinese and Indians on the path of supersonic anti-ship missiles, but they are also thinking about a less ambitious and innovative return of the anti-ship Tomahawk. Differently from the Tomahawk Anti Ship Missile (TASM) of the 90s', the TLAM IV would not be purpose-designed, but would have an added capability to engage and kill ships. This upgrade was announced by Raytheon already in 2009. In practice, the TLAM will receive a sensor head capable to seek, lock and follow moving targets on a 30-miles wide area, with a sea-skimming attack profile and high ECM resistance, for hitting ships moving at 30 knots at 500 or even 1000 naval miles away. The TLAM with moving target capability will have a range partially reduced to the space "eaten" by the sensor, but will expand the range of targets the missile can hit, on water and on land, and is a possible future solution for the RN. The US Navy is starting studies about this capability, and might order a first 40 missiles soon, with a requirement for production of 200 to 400 missiles.
Its greatest advantage for the UK would be its useability against land targets, and its push in the direction of adoption of MK41 VLS systems and expansion of the UK's small but invaluable TLAM arsenal. 
I find this hypothesis very suggestive.
In terms of requirements that appear to be now firm, we know that the design of Type 26 went down from 6800 to 5500 tons as part of "gold-plating removal" to draw down costs. The hull is to be 145 meters long and 19 meters wide, with the ship having an at sea endurance of 60 days and a range requirement of 7000 naval miles at 15 knots, with a maximum speed of 28 knots being requested. Previous experiences, including with Type 45, suggest that both range and maximum speed will be higher than this, and the RN is said to be very keen on getting high endurance and range capacity to reduce need for RAS while still keeping up deployability. 
Crew is expected to be in the range of 130, with space for at least 36 more for an embarked force or specialists. 

The GCS design supports three variants (Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW), Air Defence (AD) and General
Purpose) that are capable of global operations. Versatile and modular in design, all variants will share the common, acoustically quiet hull and realise economies of scale from a rationalised build and procurement process as well as substantial through life cost savings, especially in training, maintenance and logistic support. The Air Defence variant has not the eye of the MOD/Royal Navy, but is indispensable to aim at export markets and compete with the FREMM FREDA (French Air Defence variant of the FREMM, announced after the cut from 4 to 2 "Forbin" (Horizon class) AD destroyers.

In the imminence of the DSEI show, the Defence Equipment & Support unit of the MOD has released an introduction document about significant MOD programmes that will be shown during the event, and the article contains a couple of bits of additional, new info.
The Type 26 is described with the words "GCS will take full advantage of a modular approach to design and capability: missile silos and the medium calibre gun will deliver a range of munitionsdependent on the desired effect; a flexible mission space can accommodate a range of boats, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles, Unmanned Surface Vehicles, containers and helicopters, while additional accommodation to that required for the core complement, can be used to embark other government department personnel or other military capability teams."

This essentially confirms that the Navy and BAE are still maintaining the flexible mission bay/deck as part of the design, even after the cost-cutting exercises, while the "missile silos", "medium gun" and "range of ammunitions" give hopes for the future choices. 
The most interesting bit however follows, saying: 

These options are enhanced by aviation facilities that can support a heavy lift helicopter, while accommodating a 2 x light or 1 x medium lift helicopters in the hangar. These capabilities and capacity for four boats mean that the GCS is versatile across the full range of operations, including maritime security, counter piracy, counter terrorist related activity, humanitarian and disaster relief work and homeland security. Its Unmanned Airborne Vehicle will support this activity through improved Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance.
The 'Support' to the Heavy Lift helicopter is, in practice, the already known and expected Chinook capacity of the flight deck. The new part is the bit about 1 Medium (AW101 Merlin) or 2 Light (Wildcats) helicopters. This helicopter capacity is the very same one of the Type 45 destroyer, and seems to suggest that the rear of the GCS will resemble that of Type 45 by a good bit. 
It should also mean, i believe, that the original 'hangar + dog kennel bay for UAVs' design option was, finally, binned for a more rationale, single larger hangar. No new images have been released so far, though, so for the moment there is no visual proof. 

One of the original images released by BAE, showing the smaller hangar door leading into the "dog kennel" space for embarked UAVs, near the main hangar. The suggestion of a 2 Wildcat capacity, coupled to the 19 meters width (against 21 m + for the Type 45, which has the same capacity) suggests that the dog kennel might have been abandoned in the meanwhile.  

A difference that instead is already visible in image releases from some time is that the 2 Phalanx CIWSs have already become, as overall largely expected, "Fitted For, but Not With"

The modification to the hangar and aviation requirement is more than welcome. I have been advocating for such a change for a long time, and in the Royal Navy section of this blog, this is most evident. In a drawing, i've shown my own idea/wish for a single, large hangar (ideally two-Merlin capable, but this is fantasy fleet stuff, admittedly!) and for a revised, better position for the aft CIWS. 

Did BAE see my drawing...? : )

The four boats hint (11 meters RHIBs or similar, i'm guessing) is also interesting, as all concept arts so far showed stealth recesses for 2 boats, Type 45 style. Space for two more might be inside the Flexible Mission Bay aft, or in another change, not yet shown, of the notional design. Either way, it follows the lead of the german F125 frigate design in this regard, and recognizes the usefulness of ship's boats in current operations, in boardings and counter-piracy. 
Two Offshore Raiding Crafts with weapons and armor, carried in the Mission Bay, would be a perfect addition for a Type 26 deploying in Piracy patrols, after all. 
A RM Offshore Raiding Craft: with armour, high speed, 2 .50 heavy machine guns and a double Minimi 5.56 mount, this monster can sail almost 300 miles, and seriously ruin the day of pirates. Launched, supported, refueled and directed by a Type 26 frigate, 2 of these could expand the area coverage by a good bit.
Twice the amount of felines: 815 Squadron embarked 2 Lynx helicopters on HMS Dauntless D33, second in class of the Type 45, during July-August as it cruised to the US for an exercise, and took the chance to write the manual for dual helicopter operations with the Type 45 class of ship. Type 26 seems set to have this same chance.
Welcome news overall. Now the next point of interest is, again, DSEI later this month, and then this November, when we'll know even better what we are looking at. 


  1. Generally good news, for once.

    Regarding the launching of RHIBs, as far as I know (chatting to a relative in the Navy) the Type 45's hull means that the crew launching the RHIB can't see when it hits the water, (due to the angle of the hull) so there's a camera system being developed. This might not be an issue with what seems a less angular GCS hull, but the flexible mission bay malarkey would solve this, along with all the added bonuses it inherently carries.

  2. Indeed, a little bit of good news. Had not heard about that RHIB issue on Type 45, but indeed the hull of Type 26 seems less angular, so there should not be troubles.

  3. Hi Gabriele,

    I welcome the news that the type 26 looks like going ahead.
    But it wories me that they is only 8 fully fitted for navel warfare! At least 1 of these will be in refit at anyone time. Leaving 7 for navel ops?
    The idea of having another less capable ship based on the main class makes sense to me. Will these also be used for fishery work?
    It worries me that after escorts for the carrier, and support ships, the navy will have nothing left in the locker?


  4. 8 fully kitted for high-end ASW, actually, that's how it should be. CAMM, gun and perhaps even Stingray and such should go on all ships.
    It will be much the same as with the current Type 23: only 8 have received the "super sonar" and the Merlin Flights.

    And no, the "General Purpose" Type 26 will do frigate work and deployements like the current Type 23.
    Fishery work will remain with the Rivers for quite a lot of time.

    From 2018, the MHPC programme should deliver 2-3000 tons ships for MCM, Hydrographic and Patrol Work. 8 are planned, with a 1.4 billion notional budget, as replacement for the 14 Hunt and Sandowns plus Enterprise and Echo, the survey vessels.
    The Navy eventually hopes to order more MHPC in the years, to replace the Rivers and HMS Clyde with them as well.

    I also wait anxiously for fresh news about MARS Fleet Tanker requirement for the new oil replenishers. Replacement for the Fort class Stores Replenishers will follow in the future, and apparently even the Amphibious-support ship is still planned.

    It is not ships and programmes that aren't there. It is funding the constant trouble!

  5. Thanks for your reply Gabriele,

    I have looked at the standard US carrier group, and the Falklands deployment in 1982.
    In your view, what's the escort requirment for the Carrier in a full war deployment, say Falklands 2 post 2020?
    Assuming that either an LPH or 2nd Carrier was dispatched to support the main carrier group, what escorts would be available?
    Of course, some ships would already deployed on UK comitments, and refit, and escorting support ships to theatre.


  6. I believe the Type 45 is being asked to ensure that 5 out of 6 ships are available at all times.
    This is quite superhuman a task, honestly, but the bad thing is that, even if such ambitious target is met, it would often be hard to find ships at reach to react timely to a surprise scenario. Type 45s tomorrow might well be common sight east of Suez and in the South Atlantic, after all, meaning that if a crisis suddenly pops up, you could have 2 ships deployed, 2 working up/in transit to relieve them, and perhaps one ship in port or in UK waters to eventually call upon, but probably with the crew having just returned from a deployment of some kind.

    It would be complex to build up tasks forces, and it would be a slower process than in 1982. Ships would have to be called back from standing committments and sent, urgently and ASAP, to the crisis area, building up a deployment schedule shaped by protection requirement, AKA: from where to where we can expect to be attacked, by what kind of threat, and so along.

    Right now, for example, Argentina could only menace british ships in route when already quite close to the South Atlantic area.
    Thanks to their P3 Orion and Exocet, though, they have a bigger reach than in 1982 already.
    And in 2015 if they get their nuclear submarine, their potential range of action would expand further, in both geographic area and type (air threats AND subsurface threats, well north into the Atlantic, requiring convoys and escorts earlier than in the past).

  7. Hi Gabriele,
    In my opinion, for a full war deployment, for example Falklands 2 post 2020, the carrier would require 3 Type 26 and 1 Type 45 close escort, and 1 Type 26 and 1 Type 45 on air piquet. The 2nd Task group, of support ships and maybe the LPH, would require a similar escort. Allowing for ships on other deployments and refit, this leaves no ships available to escort an amphibious landing force and the large number of support ships that would require. Looking at the fleet deployed in the Falklands 1982, there was a higher ratio of escorts, but those numbers simply are not available now. I feel this is a minimum escort requirement for the carrier, bearing in mind the new risk from submarine attack, and the plain fact is that the loss of the carrier would be such a disaster, it would in effect mean the loss of the campaign, and a very serious blow to the UK, as the 36 F35’s would be also be lost, as well as the carrier itself and the likely huge loss of life.

  8. It is most certainly a likely interpretation. But much depends on how "close" the escort is. I suspect that the distance would be quite flexible when the amphibs entered the scene and the battle evolved. The reduced numbers of escorts will have to advance and cover the amphibs as they enter the assault phase: the carrier is "safer" by default is it can operate well further away from the incoming enemy assaults.

  9. Hi Gabriele
    In my opinion 6 type 45 and 13 type 26, are just not enough. I further fear that the type 26 project will be scaled back, if recent history is anything to go by! We could end up with just 12 or even 10 type 26, depending on how the project goes. That to me is just unacceptable. Money must be found to increase the number of proposed type 26, in my opinion to 8 type 1, fully equipped, and 8 type 2. Even if a number of type 2 platforms are mothballed, or manned by the RNR. How do we find the money? Well, we can rule out the RAF, they are down to just about the minimum, so we must look again at the army. I must also say, that I feel that 3 and 16 brigades are beyond the resources of the UK in there present role’s as they stand.

  10. It sure would be desirable to have more frigates. Instead, it is sadly very true that is far more likely that we will get less than 13...

    In terms of brigades, for a series of reasons, i would sacrifice 16AA.
    Indeed, i would have already sacrificed it in the SDSR, myself, to avoid cutting back on a Bay and on a LPD and downsizing the amphibious capability, far more realistic in my opinion than 16AA.
    Since it all comes down, simplifying, to 1 Air Mobile battalion deployable and at readiness, you can well have it into the MRBs themselves.

    One air mobile battalion in each MRB, two of which PARA and thus kept rotationally at readiness for deploying by parachute in the (unlikely) case that it proved necessary.

    An Air Assault brigade, in my mind, makes sense only if you can give it organic or at least genuinely sufficient airlift and the capacity to move AT THE VERY LEAST a whole battalion + support.

    I don't want to finance a brigade to deploy a battalion, especially if simultaneously i renounce to the one genuinely deployable brigade i have, slashing back its capability by cutting its transports and scaling back its readiness.

    It just makes 0 sense.

  11. Hi Gabriele,
    I only hope that you are correct in relation to the missile fit,there is obviously space for Mk41 VLS launchers + 32 CAMM but will we get them.
    IMHO RN vessels have always been under armed in r elation to other nations and that includes up to now with the T45 (all fitted for but not with)
    We don't need another vessel with the 'space to fit extra launchers' we need one with them already fitted,lets hope that lessons will be learned from T45.
    I'm afraid though with the lack of funding that will be provided,I can see us offering a far more capable vessel for export than the one that the RN will get.
    May I say though an excellent article,thankyou.

  12. Thank you Michael, i'm glad that you liked the article. And i certainly agree with all of your points, save for the fact that the RN really has no real lesson to learn from the Type 45 and MK41 cells issue: it just needs to find a way to secure funding for MK41 on Type 26, because money is the sole and ever present problem.

  13. Gabriele,
    Forgive my ignorance but could you explain your remark re T45 and MK41 cells,I'm confused.

  14. The absence of MK41 cells on the Type 45 is due to financial and political reasons. In the Navy, many voices wanted MK41, even if it meant having to fund integration of the Aster missile in the MK41 cells.
    However, politically, the Sylver launcher was chosen, due to the need to support european missile developments and industry. This saved the cost of integrating the missile with the US launcher... but made adopting other weapon systems more complex.

    For a long time, the Navy tried to secure the addition of a 16-cells block of MK41 Strike Length cells for Tomahawks on the Type 45: space reservation exists, and the work would be, at any time, easy and quick.
    However, it proved impossible to obtain funding for adding that at build, and they put the MK41 and TLAM into their schedule for incremental updates to the Daring class. Even that schedule, however, lost most of its meaning as lack of budget and long-term clarity for funding makes it quite impossible to say "we'll add X in year Y".

    That's what makes me say that the RN does not exactly have anything to learn. They knew what they had to do.
    They merely need to find the money... and/or gain political support for the addition of such capability to the Type 26.

  15. Thanks for that Gabriele it has cleared up any confusion I had

    Slightly OT am I also talking to 'Liger30'

  16. Hi Gabriele,
    I don't know whether you have seen this BAE briefing video on T26 at the DSEI,if you have then it still might be of interest to others ?


  17. Thank you for the link, it might indeed be of interest if someone missed it. I looked at it, admittedly, but i was very disappointed: it really did not say anything new in the end... still interesting, but it did not answer any of my curiosities and questions, unfortunately.

  18. Yes I myself thought it was a rather rambling presentation for such a high profile event.Only got relatively interesting in the last ten minutes.
    The only thing I noticed was that in the diagramme of T26 as far as I was able to make out the 'Main missile silo' was directly forward of the bridge with the 'CAMM silo' seeming to be a continuation of it.
    Notice also in the CDG image that the 'dog kennel' was still in place,hopefully this was old footage and they are getting rid of it.

  19. Indeed, the Main Missile Silo was the most interesting detail: i'm hoping the UK uses it for TLAM, and not just to keep it empty/offer it for export.

    As for the hangar, i believe it is gonna lose the dog kennel and change shape for sure: the brief confirmed it will be able to take a Merlin or 2 Lynx/Wildcat, as on a Type 45, but Type 45 is over 21 meters wide, while Type 26 only 19: it is obvious that there can't be, at once, such a big hangar AND a dog kennel.

  20. There's no doubt 19 escourts is far too few, as are 7 SSNs. We need to lobby MPs for a real terms invrease in defence spending of ot 1 but 3%.I would like to see a minmimal increase to this.

    8 up from 7 Astutes
    8 up from 6 Type 45s

    16 (8 High end and 8 GP) Type 26's

    But lobbying our MPS is key and the forces working together and not against each other

  21. I know it's resurrecting an older thread, but thought it worth noting that with the recent announcement of the MQ-8C work being done it looks like the smaller B model Fire Scouts may no longer be a long term prospect. They appeared to be the primary candidates for the dog kennel.

  22. If anyone really believed that there would not be a growth in requirements (and thus in sizes) of the helicopter drones, well, they were very clearly deluded.
    I'm absolutely hostile to the dog kennel approach. A ship that's going to last north of 30 years, built with such absurd size contraints on the helicopter hangar and separate drone space? Absurd.

    The MQ-8C order is just a demonstration of how wrong the initial approach was, but i don't think that it is the cause of the rethink.
    I would hope that such a monumental bad choice will catch the eye of at least someone in the Navy or at BAE regardless of what's done in the US!

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