The report proves me largely right, since the design now officialized was shown in detail on this blog already in March 2012, after BAE systems began to circulate a very short video of the evolved Type 26 design in January 2012.
148 meters long, and around 5400 tons in weight. The Type 26 will be a big ship, albeit smaller than once expected (up to 7000 tons in some proposals). Propulsion is expected to be CODLOG, with a MT30 gas turbine (a variant of those used on the CVF aircraft carriers) and 4 diesel engines for silent running in ASW role. Core crew was expected to be around 115 men, plus around 15 for the Helicopter Flight and space for a further 36 men. A further 84 accommodations were described as a possible use for the mission bay some time ago, but until we learn of the current shape and sizes of the flex deck, take this value as indicative only.
Updated BAE System data (they did not update the photos, though!) however suggests a crew of 118 (not clear if it includes Helicopter Flight, probably it does not) and accommodation for a further 72. It would appear that, with the Navy wanting to use drones on Type 26 in the future, a significant increase in accommodation facilities was agreed upon, from 166 to 190. A wise move.
Speed in dash will be superior to 28 knots, and the ship will offer a logistic endurance of 60 days (very high value) with a range of 11.000 naval miles at 15 knots (7000 naval miles at 15 knots between a replenishment and another will be the typical indicative plan, though).
The Royal Navy is trying to shape the Type 26 as an innovative, future-proof multirole vessel, while doing all it can to keep costs down. Cost control on Type 26 is going to be absolutely crucial for the future of the fleet, there is no overstating this.
The Navy has decided, to help with cost control, to reverse the Type 45 approach: from an "80% new, 20% legacy" guideline to a "80% legacy, 20% innovation" ratio. But we should not look down at this thinking of Type 26 as a ship that brings nothing new to the table, because the design comes with several great new enhancements for the fleet.
And even the "legacy" equipment will be modern and top-class: the plan is, in fact, to use the Type 23 as a test bed for development and adoption of new systems that then will live on into Type 26. For example, the new frigate will receive the world-beating sonar 2087, the Type 997 Artisan 3D radar (both systems will start appearing on Type 23 in 2016) and a combat system which will be an evolution of the DNA(2)/CMS-1.
The plan is to build 8 "ASW" frigates, fitted with the 2087 towed sonar array, and 5 "General Purpose" frigates with a reduced mission fit (no 2087) but able to be eventually fitted in the future. 13 ships to replace 13 Type 23 vessels with.
There are some good news, as it appears that the Royal Navy might have won this time around getting the go ahead for two major aspects of the design that they tried to include already into the Type 45, without success at the time: a new, modern and capable medium gun, and vertical launch cells for land attack weapons.
Type 26 will have 24 "cruise-missile compatible" Vertical Launch Cells, which should mean either MK41 or Sylver A70. In particular, the Royal Navy handbook 2012 said that the possibility of arming the ship with Tomahawk is still being considered. This means adopting flexible "strike lenght" cells and requires an investment in new Tomahawk VL missiles: the Royal Navy currently has an arsenal of sole torpedo-tube launched TLAMs, which come with a capsule for underwater launch.
The Royal Navy is also hoping to replace the Harpoon anti-ship missile with a new weapon system, vertically launched and with ground-attack capability. It is not clear yet if this new system is included in the 152 billion committed 10 years budget; we might find out only this autumn when a summary of said budget is expected to be released. I reported about this particular program here.
It is to be noted that the Fire Shadow loitering ammunition entering service with the Royal Artillery, currently as a rail-launched system, is planned to introduce canister-vertical launch in future, and the Royal Navy has been eyeing it as a possible future solution to Future Maritime Fires capability at least since 2009. The Fire Shadow can fit into a Sylver A50 cell (Type 45) and, of course, could fit easily into the "strike lenght" cells on Type 26.
Offering a 6 hours loiter at 100 or more kilometers of range, this hybrid drone/missile would add a lot of capability.
Type 26 will have a new Medium Calibre gun, which is likely to be retrofitted, in time, to Type 45 as well (the transition will last many years, in any case). In Italy there have been several reports in the last two months about ongoing negotiations between the UK MOD and Oto Melara, the italian gun-maker industry.
In July, the respected italian defence publication "Rivista Italiana Difesa" reported from Oto Melara's base in La Spezia that the Managing Director of the company, Carlo Alberto Iardella told them that a historic success in the UK was close, with the American competition (described as politically powerful but technologically inferior) left to be beaten.
Oto Melara teamed with Babcock in the UK to put forward to the Royal Navy the 127/64 Lightweight medium calibre naval gun, and it would appear that this gun has the Navy's favor.
The American competition is represented by the 127/62 MK45 Mod 4 made by United Defense (BAE Systems owned). The current MK8 Mod 1 gun seems not to be an option anymore, and this is already a big novelty in itself.
The Oto Melara 127 is an excellent gun system. Germany has selected it for its F125 frigates, and Italy is putting the gun on its FREMM General Purpose frigates, with France interested in possibly upgunning its own FREMM ships with it in the future.
With 56 rounds ready-to-fire in four revolving round magazines, the gun can have 4 different types of ammunition available for immediate use at all times, and it offers and unmatched (in its calibre class) rate of fire of 35 rounds per minute.
The MK45 is also a very good gun, adopted by many Navies and used on all US Navy warships, but is not as advanced and, perhaps the true crucial difference, it is currently without a guided long range ammunition, after the advanced shell that the Mod 4 was supposed to fire was cancelled by the US Navy.
The Oto Melara 127/64 instead can come along with the Vulcano ammunition, which would offer a 70 to 120 km reach to the ship, a formidable extension in gunfire capability.
Moreover, the Vulcano ammunition comes in 155 and 127 mm NATO standard calibres, and with the Royal Artillery due to obtain a Long Range Guided ammunition by 2018 as part of the Core funded equipment budget announced by minister Hammond, going Vulcano would offer a degree of commonality between Army and Navy.
Said commonality would be much inferior to that offered by the sadly defunct programme for the development of a modified MK8 fitted with 155/39 or even 155/52 gun, but that option died in 2010, and the Vulcano appears the second best option.
The Royal Artillery as of 2010 was working to adopt the US Excalibur GPS-guided round, trialed and validated for use on the AS90 howitzer, but with the purchase of the extended range guided shell delayed to 2018 there should be plenty of chances to use a joint approach and collaborate with the navy to obtain a capability that is much superior to the Excalibur, offering greater range (north of 70 km against 40) and potentially even greater accuracy, as a Vulcano round combining GPS and Semi Active Laser guidance (SAL) is already being tested. This version is going to be a cheaper alternative to missiles for accurate, long range strikes.
|Type 26 as shown in January and March 2012|
For Self Defence, the ship is shown fitted with two DS30 remote gun mounts. The Royal Navy currently uses the Bushmaster MK44 30mm gun on them, but already in 2010 there was work ongoing at DSTL to trial a navalized 40mm CTA gun, the same weapon which will be on FRES SV and Warrior. With high-power HE grenades and Airburst grenades already available, a "DS40" would greatly enhance the ship's capability against swarm attacks of fast and suicide boats.
In addition, an "A3" (Anti-Air Airbust) grenade for the CTA will soon be ready, so that the new gun would have much enhanced "CIWS-lite" capability and would be a great anti-air weapon, particularly suited to killing UAVs, a menace likely to figure heavily in the battles of the future.
The firing positions are excellent to offer great all-around coverage.
There will be 2 Phalanx 1B CIWS positions (possibly Fitted For but Not With) and three separate silos for CAMM anti-air missiles. The Common Anti-air Modular Missile, known (as a system) as Future Local Air Area Defence System (FLAADS) and named Sea Ceptor by the Navy, is a fire and forget, radar-guided missile developed using the RAF's ASRAAM missile as a base. The missile is ejected "cold" from its canister, and thrown at 100 feet of height with cold compressed air, before its main rocket ignites.
In addition, the CAMM is a radar-agnostic system that can be made to work with any kind of air search radar: on land the British Army will use it with the Saab Giraffe ABM and perhaps with the radar of the Rapier, while the Navy will use it with Artisan 3D.
These two features make the CAMM a very flexible and easily deployed system, that can be "dropped in" onto any kind of truck or vessel, as there is no hot flames and smoke to manage like in normal "hot" launch missiles and VLS systems.
The Type 26 graphic animation shows two "small" silos (actually, each seem to have 12, and possibly more cells) on the bow, to the left and right of the forward CIWS, while another large array of CAMM cells is located amidship, in the funnel tower (this one very possibly showing 24 or more cells). This suggests direct use of the CAMM's own canister-launcher: another option (more complex and expensive) would have been to fit Sylver or MK41 cells and then "quad-pack" CAMM missiles into them.
Due to the cold launch feature, there is no need for complex and expensive VLS systems and exhaust piping for smoke and rocket blast, so it makes a lot of sense to just slot in the single CAMM canisters. The graphic suggests that, anyway, a Type 26 will easily be able to carry some 48 anti-air missiles, with room for even more.
The separation of the silos in 3 locations means further shortening of the reaction times to threats approaching from different directions and, even more, it means that the ship will not be left defenceless by a single aimed hit at the main silo on the bow.
CAMM is said to have a secondary capability against surface targets (such as speedboats, for a frigate application), and has an anti-air range of 25 kilometers. Its speed is superior to Mach 3. It is a great leap in capability from Seawolf, and will appear on Type 23 from 2016, before "migrating" onto the Type 26.
The Mission Bay for the frigate has been retained, but as i had already reported, the Flex Deck moved up, from the stern, under the flight deck, to the superstructure, forming a large space adjacent to the helicopter hangar. The press release of the MOD says that the frigate will have hangar space for "a Merlin helicopter or a Wildcat/Lynx", but i believe that, due to the arrangement of the ship's spaces, it is very likely that it will be possible to carry and employ 2 Wildcat helicopters at the same time, when necessary.
In addition, there will be fixed and rotary wing aerial drones, and surface and subsurface drones, these last ones deployed from 3 large davits.
The stern ramp and mission bay most likely ceased being viable when it was decided that the Type 26 would only be a 5400 / 5500 tons ship, opposed to the almost 7000 once envisaged. The downsizing has probably caused issues in trying to place a large flexible deck under the flight deck without affecting the height of the latter over the water, with negative consequences on all-weather aviation operations.
There is no detail on the current dimensions of the Mission Bay, but it was earlier described as capable to take four 11m boats or eleven 20' containers. The relocation to the superstructure might mean a slight reduction in the number of containers that can be carried, however at a minimum there would seem to be space for three large boats/drones plus aerial drones and support material. The superstructure shows the doors to 3 large boat davits, and in the latest graphics there would seem to be at least one additional smaller opening as well.
|Thanks to Richard Beedall's Navy Matters website, we get this awesome graphic of the mission bay of the Thales F2020 frigate concept, which was part of Future Surface Combatant studies. The current Type 26's mission bay follows a similar concept.|
|A quick sketch i made to show how i think the current Mission Bay is configured, judging from the openings in the superstructure and other elements, such as the funnel tower and hangar.|
In general, the Type 26 promises to be an excellent ship, with great patrol range and endurance, a hull and propulsion system designed to be ultra-silent and perfect for ASW missions, and a complete weapon system, which will give the ship much greater usefulness thanks to great land-attack capability. In addition, CAMM makes of this ship a good "Goalkeeper" for a larger asset (capital ships from Carrier and Amphibs to Type 45 itself).
There are, of course, challenges: first of all, the Royal Navy must do all it can to secure the funding, and then fit into it so to get all 13 hulls in the water. This is essential.
Developing a new vertical-launch multi-mission missile to replace Harpoon with is another challenge.
But the Type 26 design as revealed today is sound. Now the rule must be: stay in the budget. Get 13.