Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ocean Patrol Vessels to save the day

With BAE Systems making it clear that there is no job in sight for its shipyards after the work on the aircraft carriers is complete, Portsmouth is living days of well justified worries as its shipyard is the one most at risk, and closure means 1500 jobs lost, in a time of economic crisis.

To make things worse, closure of Portsmouth, the only active shipyard in England that can build complex warships could become even more of a damning issue is Scotland was to become independent with the referendum.
Not later than yesterday, in Parliament it was proudly announced that the "residual UK", left without Scotland, would have the capability to build its warships in its own yard(s). The statement was, frankly, pathetic. There is only one active yard capable to build warships, Portsmouth, and it might soon close.
As minister Peter Luff honestly admitted on Twitter, there are potentially locations and yards that could in line of principle build warships, but all of them would need development. Development means costs, and important ones at that. Where would the money come from? From additional defence cuts, probably from a further reduction in the fleet. And i'm not even getting in on the immense headache (and cost) that would come with the need to re-base the whole SSN fleet and, much more challenging, the nuclear deterrent fleet and facilities.
The prospect of having to move back to England the submarine fleet is already enough of a financial and operational nightmare in itself, without closing Portsmouth's yard to add another problem to the list.

If only for prudence, a wise government, no matter how "confident" about Scotland making the right choice, would preserve its only realistic plan B.
Not to mention, again, that in times of economic crisis closing major sources of employments is just dumb and exactly what is not needed. Particularly when MOD and BAE have signed a Terms of Business Agreement that means that the shipyards get either work orders, or money, in order to live on.
Closing the shipyard and paying for it is dumb not one but two times.

So there's who has sensibly proposed bridging the gap between the aircraft carriers work and the Type 26 by ordering a couple of Oceanic Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy, with an investment of 150 or so million pounds. 
So far, the plan is being resisted and it has already been described as unlikely to be adopted, but it has so much merit that i truly struggle to accept that it won't be considered.

A relatively small investment such as this could greatly help the Royal Navy, providing it with two much-needed, cheap patrol vessels more adequate for some of the standing tasks at hand: OPVs would be perfect for the Caribbean and for anti-piracy patrols, as well as for the protection of the minesweepers in the Persian Gulf from the very real threat of fast attack crafts and suicide speedboats.

The "bridge" offered by the work on the two OPVs could keep Portsmouth viable well past the Scottish Referendum vote, keeping England's shipbuilding option alive in the facts and not just in empty statements.

In addition, the OPV order would keep 1500 people employed, and it might help the shipyard rebuild some international prestige and credibility, essential requisites for aiming much more aggressively to winning export orders. The sale of 3 OPVs to Brazil was great news, but even those 3 ships were available because of an export disaster. Much must be done to improve Britain's exports chances in the shipbuilding arena.

The "gap-filler" order would keep Portsmouth active until work on the Type 26 frigates starts. At that point, for many years, the british shipyards might be happily busy: it'll take over a decade to replace the Type 23 fleet (if the plan does not change, the first Type 26 should enter service around 2021, and the last Type 23 should bow out in 2036!), and around 2028 the Navy expects to replace its Hunt and Sandown minesweepers with at least 8 newbuild vessels under the MHPC program.
There's a four years gap between 2014 and 2018 that needs bridging, but assuming that the Type 26 program goes ahead as planned, after 2018 there should be work for everyone. It would be a shame not to allow Portsmouth to live on to that date.

As for the Royal Navy, would two OPVs be useful?

HMS Black Swan and HMS Starling

For the Navy, two OPVs would be great additions. The fleet is overstretched, and short of hulls. It is being asked to be present in too many places at once, and it currently lacks a credible, long-range second-tier fleet of simple, cheap patrol vessels for the more mundane tasks, such as contrast to smuggling and drug traffic and anti-piracy.

The Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards recently admitted:

"One of my biggest concerns is the number of frigates and destroyers the Navy has."
“You get to this ridiculous situation where in Operation Atalanta off the Somali coast, we have £1 billion destroyers trying to sort out pirates in a little dhow with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] costing $50, with an outboard motor [costing] $100. That can’t be good. We’ve got to sort it out.”

The problem is that there are too few hulls in the water. There are standing tasks that are regularly met by RFA vessels more or less removed from their natural roles: i'm thinking about ships such as RFA Argus, sent to the Caribbean to patrol its waters and provide disaster relief instead of working as the hospital ship she is meant to be. The Royal Navy deployed an amphibious Task Group in the Mediterranean sea for Cougar 12, as we know, and the whole task force only had the limited medical facilities of HMS Illustrious and a makeshift hospital ward on the frigate HMS Montrose.
It is more than fine to test the ability of Montrose to deliver forward medical capability on exercise, but the navy should be able to call on its hospital ship for such deployments, not have it doing OPV work on the other side of the Atlantic.
And when it's not Argus, it's a RFA tanker, which is equally more or less removed from its intended job. 

Cougar 12, again, deployed with no RFA support vessels assigned: no tanker and no solid support ship, because there was none available. Sure, Cougar is an exercise and happens in the friendly waters of the Mediterranean, where ships can just go into a friendly port to refuel and load stores, but the RFA support vessels are not there to do OPV work: they should accompany Task Groups to enable them to stay for long periods at sea with minimum to no support from the shore. And the major exercise the RN faces in one year should never happen without testing and exercising the ability to sustain the fleet out at sea with the RFA's ships.

Cougar 12, again, put to sea an amphibious task group without a single air defence destroyer, but just two frigates with short-range missiles, one of which has then left the task group to head into the Gulf to take over the patrol role there.

The Royal Navy lost to cuts one of the invaluable Bay-class ships as well. Fundamental to enable the UK's amphibious capability, the 3 remaining vessels are never really available for their role as amphibious transports, because one is constantly in the Gulf working as "Sea Base" for the command and sustainment of the mine countermeasures fleet in Bahrain.
Add to that the awareness that another of the two remaining is likely to be in refit after spending two years in the Gulf, and the amphibious force deploying to the Mediterranean manages to bring along only 1 Bay.  

And we should not forget that Cougar 12 is, of course, a training deployment planned months before it started, but it is at the same time a temporary forward basing of the UK's premium rapid reaction force. The Response Force Task Group of the Royal Navy uses Cougar to prepare itself for war, but while it is at sea it is at Very High Readiness to deploy for military operations. Last year it was Libya, this year it is Sirya, and the next place is not yet known.
Training exercise, sure, but also first available tool to respond to crisis, so the Task Group should be as capable and "warlike" as possible. And this year's Task Force wasn't at its best, to say the least. 

These are all alarming signals. There are not enough high-end and specialised vessels to do the job, partly because there is just too few ships, and partly because many of those which are available are being used in the wrong way because there is not a second-line of ships.

The frigates that Nelson notoriously wanted in greater numbers were not the frigates of today. They were lower-rank vessels, meant to operate widely dispersed, on a variety of tasks, while the capital ships - the big ships of the line such as HMS Victory - were the big fist meant to knock the enemy down.

Today's frigates and destroyers are the Ships of the Line and Nelson's frigates are OPVs, corvettes and small, cheap warships. To be clear: the place of the Type 45 destroyer is not in the sea in front of Somalia to chase pirate boats, but it is at the flank of HMS Illustrious in the middle of the Cougar 12 task group. Or at the side of HMS Ocean near Libya last year. Or in the Gulf, where the situation can get hot very quickly and the other vessels in the area could suddenly need protection. 

This is where OPVs step in. The OPV goes to the Caribbean, or to Somalia, and lets the warships do their actual job.

Building two OPVs (two truly excellent names would be HMS Black Swan and HMS Starling, if i may suggest even the names...!) and forward-basing them (like HMS Clyde, which is permanently assigned to protection of the Falklands) would take quite some heat away from the overstretched fleet of frigates and destroyers.

One ideal location for a forward-based OPV is the Caribbean. The Royal Navy in this area delivers two main effects:

- Counter Narcotics and Terrorism (CNT)
- Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)

To face these missions, the vessels deploying to the area are normally assigned a Lynx helicopter with its complement of 12 to 15 men (including two Royal Marines heli-snipers) and a 20-man specialised HADR team of Royal Navy personnel, to whom 30 men from the core crew of the RFA vessel at hand provide support. 

A good OPV, forward-based in the area, is better suited than a tanker to CNT role, and being permanently based in the area it relieves the navy from the pressure of having to rotate ships in and out of the Caribbean, releasing vessels such as Argus and tankers that can so better focus on supporting the fleet in their intended roles.
Crews and Lynx personnel can rotate every six months, reaching the Caribbean by airplane and taking over the vessel for the successive period. During the Hurricane Season, the HADR team can fly from the UK to the Caribbean and join the ship.

What the OPV needs to have is:

- Good endurance (both in terms of fuel, and thus of range, and in terms of stores and supplies for the crew): the UK needs its OPVs far away from the home waters, so it needs them long-legged. They must not become a nuissance, needing excessive support from RFA support ships: they must work on their own as much as possible. 
- An hangar sized for a Lynx / Wildcat helicopter. An helicopter is fundamental to almost all missions, and a hangar for its recovery and maintenance is very much needed.
- Good accommodations for a sizeable additional force embarking for HADR operations or other roles
- Ideally, space for at least a couple of standard TEU containers for additional supplies and material for disaster relief and other roles.

The second OPV could be forward based in Bahrain, like the minesweepers, and from there provide security all the way down to Somalia's waters.
It would be fantastic if the OPV could support and command the minesweepers fleet and release the Bay LSD for its intended amphibious role, but this might prove impossible: the Bay, after all, is a wonderfully capable 16.000 tons ship with a well deck, a huge cargo capacity, good sensors and communications and a very large helicopter deck. A true sea-base. A 2000 tons OPV would never match the possible output of a Bay.
However, the OPV would offer better speed, an hangar for the helicopter (the Bay LSDs do not have one) and possibly a sensors and communications fit just as good as that of the LSD, so perhaps it wouldn't be totally impossible to release the Bay.

The US Navy has converted the USS Ponce, an old LPD, into a sea-base for supporting mine-countermeasure and boat operations in the gulf and elsewhere, but the UK cannot afford the luxury of such a path. Nor can it afford to continue depleting its precious amphibious power projection option by "wasting" one of its few amphibious ships in the Gulf.
Perhaps the OPV in this particular case is not the answer, but a converted civilian ship could make a cheap and effective sea base: the UK used to be very, very good at modifying civilian vessels quickly. Two examples are still in service, after being prepared for action as far back as 1982, when the Falklands War raged: RFA Diligence and RFA Argus, both unique and invaluable within the fleet.
The Royal Navy should not shy away from the option of adapting a commercial vessel to the military role, when and where this is possible, because the first way to solve the problems of the navy is ensuring that the warships available are all used in their intended roles, and are available when and where needed.

In any case, the OPVs could certainly help the Royal Navy and the UK.
And another certainty is that getting rid of RFA Largs Bay was very, very stupid.



  1. Lusty may or may not need a Type 45 even given potential role of being part of a Syrian op--since it can't be part of any NFZ. If it is to be used for evacuation purposes, I guess allied/NATO warships plus the Type 23s will have to step in. Besides, wasn't one of the Type 45s in repair dock or something?

    On OPVs, sounds good but I think the 1SL and his party just can't negotiate stuff well enough with MOD or their other uniform counterparts.

  2. Replies
    1. Light guns, perhaps with LMM missiles cluster for added firepower, and ideally some space reservation for fitting a battery of CAMM missiles for self defence. Nothing too ambitious (and thus expensive) at least for the start.

  3. I agree the need for additional OPVs is clear and a simple one to make. In addition to the above two roles, I suggest the time is coming soon when we need something more heavy weight to deter the Spanish, also what is going to cover HMS Clyde when it eventually needs a significant refit.

    My suggestion, would be 3 enhanced Clydes with retractable hangers. This way BAE can differentiate themselves from other OPV providers for the export market and also more importantly the Treasury does not confuse them for Frigates...

    1. I think the Port of Spain 90m OPVs would be more indicated, but with some changes to their design, at least: an hangar and other improvements would very much be needed.

      Perhaps the Khareef vessels make for an even better base. Those were quite heavy on combat system and weapons fit, while a UK variant would have to put the focus on accommodations and endurance.

      The spanish BAM Meteoro class is a quite good example of what the RN could really use, i think, but adopting that design could imply expenses, while BAE might be able to quickly design the needed improvements to the 90m OPV range or Khaaref hull and roll them into production quickly and, crucially, at low cost.

  4. But there are quite a number of patrol vessels already. Would either a modernisation of them or a deployment of them out of HMNBs be just the same?

    1. That significant number is actually just 3 + 1, actually: three are busy in home waters for fishery and EEZ protection, and the other is HMS Clyde in the Falklands.

      There is no room for re-tasking them, and they aren't quite suited to the kind of missions the Navy has to cover.
      An hangar for the helicopter and longer "legs" are in my opinion indispensable.

    2. Oh please, all you want is war war and more war. Have you served? Have you seen the effect of personnel deaths of families and societies?

    3. You are either completely insane, or a professional troll. Either way, kindly go jump down the drain.

  5. "So there's who has sensibly proposed bridging the gap between the aircraft carriers work and the Type 26 by ordering a couple of Oceanic Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy, with an investment of 150 or so million pounds."

    What will be the ongoing cost of operating them though? By my estimations the cost of an average serviceman is just under £60,000 (pay, pension and accommodation). Then there's fuel, maintenance and all the support needed to operate thse ships halfway around the world.

    The last thing we should be doing is wasting limited funds on capital projects with ongoing current expenditure that we won't be able to afford, and all just to please BAE, unions and a small handful of voters. Gap-filling proposals like this tend to fall into that category far too often - it's the sort of thing that got the MOD into its recent mess in the first place.

    1. OPVs tend to be cheap ships to run. It's obviously hard to guess what the exact cost would be, but the MOD says the 3 River-class OPVs in service cost, as a whole, just around 20 million pounds per year.
      And this is a 2010 figure: at the time, the ships were available on a leasing that cost 7 millions a year. Sure, this included servicing costs, but also BAE's net profit.

      You'll probably know that the MOD has finally decided to buy the ships outright (for 39 millions) and now owns them, with the expectation of significantly lower running costs over the next decade.

      A dozen million pounds a year is a realistic enough figure, and makes for a good deal.

    2. I agree with anonymous. These ships aren't going to be built because there is no spare money or manpower. They would end up being mothballed or sold for peanuts upon completion, which is extremely wasteful. The future requirements of the RN (10 Type 26 + 10 MHPC at best) simply aren't sufficient to keep three yards working.

  6. Great post Gab, as usual I strongly agree with what you're advocating. You're correct in saying that this is a two pronged issue, not just shipbuilding but also the constant pressure the fleet is under and frankly absurd divergences ships are having to make in order to keep standing commitments filled.

    A simple, cheap OPV (call it a Corvette if you like) that has the important bits like a hangar and endurance factored into the design could be a real help. I really like the Khareef, kept lightly armed but with the provision for Sea Ceptor and other stuff worked into the design, just in case!

    If one looks at all of the current RN standing tasks then id say that it's only the Persian gulf that warrants a high-end platform (even the Falklands could probably militarily, if not politically do without a destroyer or frigate considering the pathetic state of the Argentine forces).

    Id order at least two new OPV's and also look at something to act as mother-ship in the gulf, as you say a converted commercial ship could be value for money, although perhaps a foreign built modified Bay could work?

    1. I've long meant to write something about my vision of the Navy's tasks and needs, but so far i never got around to it.
      I do believe there are only two "warlike" standing committments: the Falklands, and the Gulf.

      For the Falklands, a frigate is a good fit, (better than a Type 45 because the frigate is more complete. The Type 45 would sadly have a very bad day trying to find a submarine and the lack of anti-ship missiles makes it not as credible a warship as it should be...).

      In the Gulf, where things are far more complex and dangerous, i think the Navy should and would like to always have in the area both a Type 45 for protection against threats from the air and a Type 23/26 with towed sonar for surface and subsurface targets.

      Then there are all other standing committments, mostly work for OPVs, and Task Group / War tasks, for the warships.

      As for modified Bay ships, of course it would work, it would work excellently, indeed. But it would cost more, and after throwing Largs Bay away it would take quite some guts to ask for more Bays...!

      Six Bay LSDs were once planned, then they became five, then four, now three.
      Sad story, especially since the Navy (or part of it at least) had already realized the potential for using the Bay design in a number of roles. A Bay-derived hospital and aviation training ship was proposed, for example, as replacement for Argus.
      Would have been an awesome solution.

  7. We shall have to agree to disagree on the Falklands because although I see a frigate down south as being a nice addition I really believe that a couple more Typhoon's, a battalion on rotation providing a garrison plus doing some cold weather mountain training whilst there and the occasional visit from a SSN would do the job nicely without a permanent escort ship.

    I agree though that a T45/23 or 26 pairing makes sense for the gulf. I see all other RN standing commitments as being essentially a waste of high-end assets which could and should be predominately slotting into amphibious and future carrier task groups.

    Sad to see how the vision for the Bay's isn't anything near the reality, I guess from both a political and financial standpoint you're commercial ship converted would best suit 'mother-ship' duties in the gulf to relieve the 3 Bay's we have left.

    Could the MARS replenishment ships eventually replacing the Forts be a basis for some sort of divergent/modular hulls as Diligence and Argus replacements?

    1. Hard to say what will replace Argus and Diligence at this point. But some concept art i saw would suggest that the option of using the same hull is indeed still going around.

    2. Good to know it's at least being considered, and lets hope we see some OPV's ordered soon, I'll keep my fingers crossed!

  8. Gabs,

    I also hope that 2 more OPVs are ordered. Question for you? Do you know if there is enough room on HMS Clyde to retrofit a telescopic hanger big enough for a Lynx, yet still leave enough flight deck space to land a Merlin when folded away? If so order 2 more River batch 2’s, first one to relieve HMS Clyde so she can return to the UK for her drydocking and overhaul and the second vessel to Gibraltar and once Clyde has been worked back up (and refitted with a telescopic hanger) deploy her to the West Indies (based in Bermuda). Then again I’d also like the government to spot hire (like protector) or buy an PSV type vessel, paint her gray and give her a hanger and flight deck then hand it to the RFA to use as a depot/mothership for the minesweepers freeing up a bay.

    As to how I would possibly mess around with the structure of the fleet.

    Western Fleet (Commodore, HQ HMS Excellent)
    + Mediterranean Squadron (Commander, HQ Gibraltar)
    -- 2x Scimitar Class
    --1x River Class (batch 2)
    + Atlantic Squadron (Captain, HQ Falkland Islands)
    -- 2x River Class (batch 2)
    -- 1x Ice Patrol Ship
    + Fishery Protection Squadron (Commander, HQ HMS Excellent)
    -- 3x River Class (batch 1)
    + 1st Escort Squadron (ad-hoc, under direct control of commander western fleet)
    -- 2x Frigates (1x FRE, 1x Patrolling Med/Atlantic)
    -- 1x RFA oiler

    Eastern Fleet (Commodore, UKMCC Bahrain) – Holds post for DCCMF
    + 3rd Minesweeper squadron (Captain, HQ Bahrain)
    -- 2x Hunt Class
    -- 2 x Sandown Class
    -- 1x RFA support vessel (not a LSD(a))

    + 2nd Escort Squadron (Ad-hoc/Captain, HQ Bahrain) *
    -- 1x Destroyer
    -- 2x Frigates
    -- 1x RFA Solid stores
    -- 1x RFA oiler

    * All RN vessels in the gulf area that are not attached to a TF or transiting will be grouped together in this squadron

    Both these fleets would report to a Rear Admiral and staff and would be the “Presence force”.

    Likewise I would form 2 semi-permanent ARGs:
    +High readiness ARG: 1x DD, 2x FF, 1x SSN, 1 x CVF, 1x LPD, 2x LSD(A), 1x RFA stores and 1x RFA Oiler.
    + Non-high readiness ARG: 1X DD, 1x FF, 1xSSN, 1x CVF, 1x LPD, 1x LSD(A) and 1x RFA Oiler and would be used for training/refit
    Each ARG would be headed up by a Commodore, and again he would report to a Rear Admiral and this would be the Royal Navy’s “Battle force”. Both Rear Admirals would report to the Vice Admiral and his staff who is the FLEET commander.


    1. Nice structure. But i would add more than one DD to the high readiness group. I would cancel Typ 45/DD deployments to the Falklands (unless they get AsuW weapons) and place them in the high readiness ARG.

    2. TMM, your proposal has much to share with my own mentioned but yet unwritten force structure for the Navy.

      But i don't know if the existing Rivers could get a foldable hangar. Perhaps, but i can't say.

  9. I'd just like to point a couple things out from the perspective of a Scottish poster and with regards to Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards' comment.

    From Scotland, the overwhelming majority currently OPPOSE independance, thankfully! It's making a lot of noise but there has yet to be a single credible 'reason' given to anyone to separate from the UK other than blind patriotism of "Sticking it" to England. The public has been spotting this in building numbers these days. I wouldn't place too much worry about this, over the next two years we're liable to see further opposition grow as the SNP continues to not state any facts at all. Which is great, because Glasgow losing its shipbuilding contracts would decimate the economy here beyond belief. The Type 45 and QEC builds are incredibly important to this city, even if most don't even realise they get built here.

    Secondly, Chief of Defence Staff General Sir David Richards' comment is flawed and inaccurate. "1 billion" can only be a Type 45, of which none have ever operated in such a role to any degree of knowledge I can locate. At most we have operated a Type 23 in this role and as of right now I don't think we have any full frigates out off the Somali coast. Our only asset I believe is a Lynx helicopter aboard a French La Fayette class boosting their capabilities with its prowess.

    1. I welcome the news of Scottish people being convinced that the UK must stay united. I very much hope that there won't be a separation, because i believe it would be bad for everyone, and particularly bad for the armed forces.
      But confidence is one thing, prudence is another. Some prudence is in order, i believe, at least where there are still chances to act.

      As for the Defence Staff Chief's comments, you are reading them too literally. If it hasn't happened yet, it will happen soon that a Type 45 ends up in a role that is not really its own. And a Type 23 is arguably wasted just as much, pursuing pirate boats.
      As for no ship being there at the moment, that is true, but it is not a good thing at all. There is no ship there at the moment because the UK is unable to provide anything at all for that mission at the moment, save for that lone Lynx flight.

      Richards, if anything, was too kind in his speech. The situation is even worse than he dared describing, and we haven't yet heard the full extent of cuts implied by Army 2020, either, so the emergency is definitely there, in all three services, to a degree or another.

  10. So a billion quid gets you a boat that can only "shoot" things down out of the air?

  11. Hi Gabriele,

    Good post. I agree, 2 OPV's gets my vote!
    Money well spent, in my humble opinion.
    We need those escorts, not airships!


  12. I enjoy your bog...what do you think of my idea?

    In terms of the next generation of LPH/LHD et al...

    I propose a 3-ship class times to replace both HMS Ocean and RFA Argus that would be based around the Mistral class. (I understand has a 69-bed hospital facility).

    I would have the DFID budget pay for 70% of the first two ships (RFA Long Bow and RFA Strong Bow) as several of their taskings would be of a humanitarian and disaster relief nature. For example the Caribbean hurricane season (RFA Argus is out there now) and tours of east and west Africa, in co-ordination with UK NGOs, to perform the sort of free medical surgeries that bring goodwill diplomacy to these poorer nations.

    As a earlier post mentioned the dock facilities are very useful in humanitarian situations. The large aviation facilities would prove very versatile.

    As alluded to, manned by RFA, as well as Royal Naval reserves. When in the African ports providing the medical surgeries I would bring in Army Medical Reserves expertise and medical staff from charities. All part of a DFID brief and so out of their budget.

    But both ships would be available to train with the Royal Navy during peace time and immediately available for any conflict.

    The third ship of class (RFA Cross Bow) would be essentially a replacement for RFA Diligence and would provide the fleet with the necessary repair facilities, but with a great deal of additional value in its aviation capacity.

    All three would have command and control facilities to perform the type of tasking that the Royal Danish Navy has, through its Absalon class, in counter piracy off the Horn of Africa.

    The Royal Navy would get three very versatile, capable ships to draw on as part of a great deal...

    1. Thank you,

      as for your idea, 70% is a bit too much, probably, but i've long argued that DFID could contribute some to pay for the assets it so eagerly uses when the time comes.

      It is, said in a funny but true way, an "italian" plan: here, even the aircraft carrier Cavour was partly funded in that way.
      Sure, she sailed to Haiti loaded with supplies after the earthquake in exchange, but it was a good deal for everyone involved.

      Largs Bay delivered tons of aid to Haiti as well, yet she was decomissioned and sold.

      Your plan reminds me of both the italian budgeting approach and of the plan once envisaged by labor when they promised two new hospital ships as Argus replacement in 1998.
      Something could be worked out, if there was the political will to do so.

    2. DFID hardly utilises MOD assets. Those ventures are usually under the Conflict prevention pool--joint MOD, FCO and DFID--almost equal power sharing. You're hatred for the so call ring fence of DFID (only the aid disbursements are ring fenced and it is a tiny amount compared to historical MOD budgets) should not diplace other departments.

    3. That's your well known opinion. It is not mine.

      As for the "hardly", i doubt it, with how often C17s and other assets are called for doing the delivery bit.

    4. Thanks to CVF/F35, there is no chance of a replacement for HMS Ocean. It may be decided that when Albion and Bulwark need replacing (early 2030s?), the RN can manage with a lower level of specialist amphibious shipping. Maybe three or four general purpose landing ships for the RFA to replace all five Albion and Bay class? I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were the case.

  13. It is my strongly held belief that every DFID £ should have first have some eceonomic impact in the UK before it arrives overseas...

    and so what I am proposing is not contingent on how much DFID may have drawn on MOD assets in the past...

    what I am proposing is going forward that DFID contribute to a significant asset because it will be used as a very proactive, practical goodwill diplomacy tool; using the two ships as medical facilities off the east and west African coastline providing life enhancing/saving operations (in partnership with UK NGOs)...

    If they are needed for primary casualty tasking - then they are ready to go...

    But, but, at the same time - off the horn of Africa - these large versatile platforms can provide be the "mothership" facility we all agree is necessary.

  14. Maybe the OPVs should be a first cut at an MHPC

    1. To keep costs down, the design must be as close as possible as the ones already available. But most OPVs today have some space for 2 or more containers of extra equipment, and such a working/cargo area at the back would do much to future proof the vessels and offer a platform over which the navy can experiment some of the systems and concepts for MHPC.


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