Friday, April 19, 2013

Royal Navy surface fleet: the coming years

In a break from the Army 2020 saga which has for quite some time now been the main focus, i've wanted to work on some interesting new documents i've found, to put some order in the current plans of the Royal Navy surface fleet for the future, starting from the Type 26 design, which is maturing quickly. 

Type 26 frigate

“There will be no more destroyers or frigates. There will be combat ships.”

The quote is from Cmdr. Ken Houlberg, Royal Navy who, until August 2012 , was the Capability Manager for Above Water Surface Combatants at the MOD. As such, he was the man in charge of the ongoing plans to design and build the new Type 26 Global Combat Ship  and, equally important, the developing plans for the Type 23 Capability Sustainment Programme.

We have to keep in mind, after all, that the last Type 23 is only expected to bow out of service in 2036: for many more years, the 23s will continue to be a fundamental part of the fleet, and for well over a decade they’ll serve alongside their successors. 

Another point he made is also absolutely worth highlighting: “These ships will be the spine of the Royal Navy. But they will be expendable. The day we make our escorts so expensive that they become strategic assets is the day I suggest we got it wrong.”

The Royal Navy is fully aware that the costs of the Type 26 frigate program must be kept on a tight leash: there must be no escalation. Either they are affordable, or the fleet will be in deep trouble.

The Royal Navy is trying to be considerably careful about what it asks for. It has been very openly admitted that, if 80% of the Type 45 destroyer was about innovation and revolution for the fleet, the Type 26 will be 80% about careful evolution of capabilities already available. The expectation is that several important elements of the ship’s equipment will cross-deck from Type 23 frigates decommissioning, in fact.

There have been doubts and disappointments voiced over this approach, and the validity of the whole Type 26 has been contested by some commentators, but personally I believe this is actually a completely valid approach. Besides, the emerging Type 26 frigate promises to deliver major improvements and great capability despite the relative “conservative” design philosophy.

Commander Houlberg, speaking in October 2012, shared some details on the MOD-endorsed Type 26 design: no shocking revelation, but several welcome confirmations of data you’ve already had the chance to read on this blog.

First of all, the Mission Deck, which originally was to be located in the stern but actually moved upwards, to Deck 1, adjacent to the helicopter hangar. Despite the move, Houlberg confirms that it remains a large reconfigurable space, with an available volume for 11.5 TEU containers and/or boats (up to four 11.5 meter boats) and unmanned surface and sub-surface vehicles. This confirms data which is also reported on the BAE Global Combat Ship website, but which appeared doubtful and possibly outdated. Now we know that it is not the case: the Mission Bay remains as part of the design, and continues to offer considerable amounts of useful space for the embarkation of mission modules of all kinds, such as a containerized field hospital or accommodation modules for an additional 84 troops, or command and control facilities. Crucially, this space will be available to carry air, surface and underwater unmanned vehicles which, in a future not too far, could be an absolutely crucial component of the ship’s combat system. 

The above image, courtesy of, shows a now old Thales concept of reconfigurable hangar and Mission Space, which was proposed for the Future Surface Combatant, now Type 26 Global Combat Ship. The image is still relevant, as it helps giving an idea of what the current hangar + mission bay arrangement could be like. 

We do not yet have a map or graphic representation of the current Mission Bay layout. I’ve made a guess already some time ago, but I hope we will be given some official indication in the future.

The move from stern to Deck 1 is reportedly due to several factors: the need for a wide, spacious mission bay conflicted with other requirements that the Royal Navy prioritized. Above all, acoustic quietness of the hull design, which has been the most pressing requirement all along. In addition, the free head available in the stern area was going to be very limited, and the low freeboard needed for boat operations via stern ramp was in conflict with stringent damage control requirements.

Last, but not least, the stern boat ramp and mission space conflicted with the installation of the towed torpedo decoy and of the 2087 towed sonar, introducing some serious challenges.

The move to Deck 1, on the other hand, implies boat operations will be more complex than they would have been with a ramp available in the stern. The decision was nonetheless made to go ahead with the move, meeting the challenges of boat launch and recovery with two motion-stabilized davits, port and starboard.

Houlberg is confident that the Type 26, also thanks to such free, mission-reconfigurable space, will be future-proof, and able to eventual employ railguns and direct energy weapons such as lasers. In the shorter term, the ships are expected to have 48 CAMM missiles in bespoke vertical launch cells, plus up to 24 large missiles including potentially a mix of anti-submarine, anti-ship and land attack weapons. These will be carried in 24 “Strike Length” cells, readily available for use with the Tomahawk and with a future Harpoon replacement. There will be two Magazine Torpedo Launcher Systems, as on the Type 23s, and the ship is planned to do away with the MK8 Mod 1 medium gun, to take aboard a modern, powerful 127 mm gun instead, which will also have the advantage of commonality with most allied navies, from US to Italy. The ship will have the capacity to embark a couple of CIWS systems for self defence, and it will also carry a couple of light guns for surface defence, plus a couple of miniguns and four GPMGs. 

This NavyRecognition photo shows the BAE Systems Type 26 model as showcased at Euronaval last year. I've evidenced the main features of the weapon system.

The type of VLS system is not yet decided, by BAE confirmed last January that the Type 26 is designed to be fitted with either the MK41 Strike Length or with the equivalent Sylver A70 cells.

The “RN Type 26 design” exploits the Cold Launch feature of the CAMM missile to locate 24 missile cells in the funnel mast, but this arrangement is not available for use with conventional, Hot Launch missiles due to risks and problems connected to heat and exhausts. Customers, however, which were to buy the Type 26 but require a different air defence weapon, could be given other options, such as different, large array of cells on the bow, or perhaps even a second missile silo in the space that the british variant uses for the Mission Bay.

BAE Systems is offering potential customers a variety of solutions, including a different, integrated mast with AEGIS-type radar aerials. Discussions on Type 26 collaboration have been started with a variety of possible customers including Canada and Turkey, but the most interested are Brazil and Australia. BAE has recently confirmed that a number of Brazilian engineers are involved in the over 300-strong team working on refining and finalizing the Type 26 design, while the UK and Australia have signed defence collaboration deals which include quite a focus on the possibility of walking together down the Global Combat Ship route.

The main gun is set to be either the BAE/United Defense 127/62 MK45 Mod 4 or the Oto Melara 127/64 Lightweight. The first gun has the backing of BAE Systems and is the latest variant of the standard US Navy gun, while the second is possibly the most advanced medium gun in the world and is in use or has been selected for future use by Italy, Germany and others. France is also interested in eventually acquiring the 127/64 LW for at least some of its FREMM frigates, after the experience in Libya in 2011 suggested that the 76mm gun is not really sufficient for what is going to be the main surface combatant in the future fleet.
Oto Melara is bullish on the possibility of achieving an historic win in the UK with the 127/64, and they have chosen an important british partner to work with: Babcock.

Routinely, the ships will embark either a Merlin or a Wildcat helicopter, plus, it is expected, at least one unmanned aerial vehicle, probably rotary wing. It is quite likely that the hangar, like that of the Type 45, will have actually have room for a couple of Wildcats.

The crew will number just 118, thanks to greater automation, but there will be accommodation for 190, leaving space for 72 more personnel. These will be “Capability Teams” of specialists operating in the most diverse roles: it could include anything from Royal Marines to Helicopter Flights to operators of unmanned vehicles and other capability modules.

The ship in addition will have an unprecedented logistic autonomy of 60 days, giving her roughly twice the endurance of a the Type 23’s.   

The Type 26 for the Royal Navy will be built with a CODLOG propulsion arrangement, expected to combine a single gas turbine and four high speed diesel electric engines connected to two electric motors. Rolls Royce confirms It has been contacted, and will make its bid: it is widely expected that its latest “lightweight” MT30 gas turbine will be selected for the Type 26.

Wärtsilä is the favorite for the contract for the supply of the diesels, but the main factor in the choice is to be, again, the ability to run quietly, as the Type 26 will do its ASW work on diesel propulsion. Converteam is  very likely to provide the electric motors.

The Type 26 aims to have the capability to cruise at up to 18 knots with diesel-electric propulsion, and there is a requirement to sprint to speeds above 28 knots using the gas turbine in direct drive.

It remains intended that 13 Type 26 ships will be built, with 8 configured for ASW missions and 5 as “General Purpose” vessels. The hulls will be the same, but the GP won’t be fitted with the towed sonar 2087 and other expensive ASW kit.

This already happens with the Type 23 fleet, with only 8 ships having been fitted with the advanced 2087 towed sonar.

The first Type 26 should enter service in 2021, and afterwards the building rhythm would be of one ship per year, until all Type 23s are replaced. By the end of this year, the team working on the Type 26 design is expected to grow beyond 400, active in Portsmouth, Filton and Scotstoun.

Surface Fleet programs in the Core Budget

An October 2012 presentation from DE&S contains very important information about the Surface Fleet programs featured in the Core budget. As we know, the document released to Parliament about the 10 Years Equipment Programme was extremely poor of details and basically named no programs other than the big ones already contracted for. Practically nothing was said about the large number of smaller programs that sit both in the Committed and in the Uncommitted Core Budget.

It must be remembered, in fact, that only a part of the Core Budget is already contractually committed. Around one half of the Core Budget is currently “uncommitted”: planned to be used for programs that still haven’t reached the point of contract signature. In the early years, up to 80% of the core budget is already contractually bound, but the balance changes rapidly: by 2015, it is roughly a 50:50 balance between committed and uncommitted, and towards the 2020s the balance is 20:80. This excludes the famous 8 billion “headroom”, planned to be available mostly after 2016/17. 
The 10 year Equipment Budget

For the Surface Fleet, the core budget for the next 10 years is as follows: 

10 year Core Uncommitted budget for warships

KIC stands for Key Industrial Capability. These KIC points are agreed levels of national shipbuilding capability that have to be preserved under the terms of the Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA) signed by the MOD with industry. The contract workings are complex to explain, but there are agreed levels of work that the MOD must ensure for the restructured national shipbuilding industry, otherwise a KIC threshold is broken and the MOD is forced to pay to preserve capability. 

RT997 is the new Type 997 radar, more commonly known as Artisan 3D. It is due to become the new standard 3D radar for the fleet, and it will be present on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers as well as on Type 23, LPDs, HMS Ocean and Type 26. 

Do not be scared by the absence of CAMM/Sea Ceptor from the list, as its costs are part of another budget voice, the "Complex Weapons" one. 

The list of programs relative to warships includes:

Future Inshore Patrol Capability: this program, which from the graphic seems to benefit from a quite large budget (although exact values aren’t disclosed), is connected to the P2000 patrol boats. It might be a replacement for them, or, perhaps more likely, a program of improvements to their capability.

The fitting of armor, better weapon mounts and other improvements to HMS Tracker and HMS Raider, which have been removed from University taskings and assigned to Force Protection duties might have more than a little something to do with this budget voice. 

HMS Raider and HMS Tracker have been removed from University duties and upgraded to better serve in the Force Protection role.

 It is not clear if there is any link between this program and the Royal Marines’s requirement for a new, deployable Force Protection Craft.

Surface Combatant Common Core Combat System (SC4S): a Royal Navy effort to evolve combat systems in service across the fleet to build around a common core. Commonality will drive costs down and simplify adoption of fleet-wide improvements and additional capability modules. HMS Ocean, in her currently ongoing refit, will be the first vessel in the fleet to receive a Shared Computing and Network Infrastructure which will be progressively rolled out on the other vessels as well, with the LPDs to follow, before the escorts.

Naval Mode S Interrogators: continued roll out of the Successor IFF technology, with passage from the MK XII (first rolled out in 2003) to the latest MK XIIA Mode 5.

New Navigation Radar (NASAR: NAvigation and Situational Awareness Radar): this program is about the replacement of the aging Type 1007 navigation radar. A competition for the NASAR requirement was started as far back as 2009, with the aim of putting the new radar in service from 2012. Delays followed, and in a 2011 debate in the House of Commons it was disclosed that the ISD is now indicated in 2016.

NASAR’s objective is to select a Type 1007 replacement to be used across the whole RN and RFA fleets.

The contenders are the Kelvin Hugher SharpEye and the Ultra SCANTER 6000. The SharpEye has been selected for use on the new MARS Fleet Tankers, with each ship set consisting of three such radars. This suggests that the Royal Navy has chosen. Unless they have abandoned the proposition of using a single type of navigation radar for the whole fleet, we should be seeing more orders placed in the coming years, starting with ship sets for the new aircraft carriers.

Future Maritime Radar Electronic Surveillance (FMRES): fleet-wide adoption of the latest fully digital Thales Radar Electronic Support Measures (RESM) already being fitted to the Type 45 destroyers.

There is a series of research and development programs for improved Force Protection of warships against ASW and ASUW threats, from swimmers to fast attack crafts.

Maritime Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (MIDAS): this most interesting, complex programme includes multiple activities and objectives. A variety of new RF and IR decoys is to be developed, and there is also a requirement for protection against laser guided weapons.

The current fixed, six-barrel decoy launchers would also be replaced with a new generation launcher. This specific requirement should be known as DAS-SS. The contenders include the Rheinmetall Multi Ammunition Softkill System (MASS) and the Chemring CENTURION trainable launcher. The CENTURION appears in the slide, but the image does not automatically mean a selection has been made already. For sure, the Royal Navy is genuinely interested, and officers will be present at trials of the system planned for later this year. Chemring also firmly believes that the Royal Navy will eventually buy in: the CENTURION’s website is full of images of Type 45s and RN vessels.

The CENTURION is a stealthy, fully trainable turret launcher with 12 independently aimed launcher tubes capable to fire all existing 130mm decoy rounds, and larger ones as well. It can be loaded with multiple different types of decoy at the same time, and its main advantage is its ability to deliver accurate payload placement to maximise decoy effectiveness, regardless of the ship’s position.

Recently Chemring has signed a deal with Raytheon to work on a weaponized variant of Centurion, which will be able to fire not just decoys, but missiles for the defence of the platform, mainly from Fast Inshore Attack Crafts (FIACs). Missiles proposed include the Javelin, the Griffin and even the TOW. 

Almost certainly part of, or directly related to MIDAS is also the ACCOLADE technology demonstration programme, a joint UK/France effort for the development of a new, active Radar Frequency decoy. The contract dates back to February 2011 and has a value of 14,4 million pounds. Field and sea trials should happen in the coming months, before the demonstration concludes, by May 2014.

Other programs and researches connected to MIDAS aren’t publicized. Some high level research is obviously classified, as the Royal Navy places huge faith and importance in the Soft Kill technology, mindful of the fact that, as of December 2012, from 1967 there have been 241 anti-ship missile attacks in the world. Of these, 128 have been defeated by the ships’ defences, with 127 ASMs tricked by decoys and Soft Kill technology and only one stopped by interception (the Silkworm missile shot down by HMS Gloucester in 1991 during operations in Iraq).

One such research has been revealed recently, unfortunately because the MOD has been unable to continue funding it and has authorized Thales UK to seek new partners willing the fund the next phase among a list of allied countries.

The self-defence system that was to come out of this development program sounds very capable and very promising, but it also sounds like it realistically requires quite a lot of funding to reach maturity and be completed.

The system is described as a meter-high laser turret capable to employ up to four or five lasers in different wavebands. The lasers can be used to dazzle or destroy the electro-optic seeker on incoming anti-ship missiles; engage sensors on the enemy platforms firing the missiles, and even act as a non-lethal defence in asymmetric scenarios, dazzling people with an eye-safe laser.    

The DefenseNews article seem to suggest that MIDAS has been shelved as a whole, but I doubt this is correct. Although new cuts have been announced for the MOD in the budget 2013, they are not expected to bite into the core equipment programme. So, at least for now, it is more likely that MIDAS has entered a new phase (perhaps changing name to another impossible acronym, since the MOD loves doing that) and has selected just a few developments to fund, being unable to ensure money for those at a lower maturity level, such as this laser countermeasure. Hopefully, Thales UK will be able to bring other partners on board, to continue development of this very interesting system, which has, in my opinion, great potential. The MOD would then be able to buy the finished product later on, saving money.

The Automatic Identification System (Warship Automatic Identification System W-AIS) is a situational awareness tool which is being installed on all ships of the Royal Navy. It overlay AIS contact data onto Warship Electronic Chart Display Information System (WECDIS). WEDCIS is introducing advanced digital navigation on Royal Navy vessels, including submarines.

Future Maritime Fires System: this program’s main result is the choice to adopt a new Medium Gun starting with the Type 26 frigate. A 127mm standard NATO gun will replace the MK8 Mod 1.

Other offensive weapon capabilities have been studied and are considered, including “deep” integration of the Fire Shadow loitering ammunition for launch from the Vertical Cells of Type 45 and, in future, of the Type 26. 

Fire Shadow at sea

FIAC Target (also FIAC RT, Fast Inshore Attack Craft Realistic Target): purchase of training solutions meant to prepare for defence against swarm attacks carried out by small, fast boats, including suicide crafts. This includes purchase of unmanned target boats.

Type 23 Capability Sustainment Programme: covered further down in this article, it is a program of upgrades meant to keep the Type 23 relevant all the way to exit from active service, in the 2030s.

Maritime Composite Training System: the MCTS is expected to become a more and more important and effective way to train crews on land, using advanced simulations to save money.

GWS60 Harpoon Sustainment Programme: the graphic shows that a lot of money is expected to go into sustaining the Harpoon missile to its OSD. It will be interesting to see what choices are made in this area, and what missile will eventually replace the old Harpoon. The Type 26 is, in fact, expected to employ a Vertical Launch weapon: among candidates that have the RN’s eye there is also the Tomahawk IV “MultiMission Tomahawk MMT”, a US-backed development of the cruise missile to make it capable to engage ships in complex scenarios, including in the littoral.

There is also a joint study with France going on for a future cruise and anti-ship missile, with the MBDA Perseus concept being a first indication of what the general thinking is.

Maritime Engineering Development Programme (MEDP): research and development activities covering all aspects of marine engineering technology, including advancements in All Electric Warship configurations, integrated waste management, upper deck systems, fire-fighting devices, roll stabilization etcetera. 

Minewarfare and Hydrographic Patrol Capability: a bit budget is reserved for activities relating to the development of unmanned vehicles for hydrographic and MCM tasks, which will initially be employed on current minesweepers and survey vessels.

Eventually, the MHPC will also deliver a new, multi-purpose ship design to replace the minesweepers and, in time, survey ships Echo and Enterprise. Current indications are for a 2-3000 tons patrol vessel with global range, light armament and the capability to carry the unmanned vehicles needed for stand-off mine clearance and hydrographic survey.

UK Cooperative Engagement Capability (UKCEC): in early 2012 the Royal Navy had hoped to get the go ahead to fit CEC to the Type 45 destroyers, but the request was turned down. There was no money available for the program in the Planning Round, and the news was widely spread over the internet.

However, the graphic, which dates October 2012, confirms that CEC isn’t gone. It is planned to get greater funding from the fourth of the 10 years of the Equipment plan. This sudden increase might indicate fitting of the system to the Type 45s, and the level of spending, which remains high all the way to 2022 (the 10th year), hopefully means that CEC will find its way on the Type 26 as well.     

Small Boats: the money allocated to RHIBs and other boats in service with the Navy (and Marines?)

Type 23 Capability Sustainment Programme

As we have started to see, quite a lot of capabilities of the Type 26 will come from the modernized Type 23s, which will, in this way, also act as testing beds to refine systems and concepts for their successor.

It is expected that the Type 26 will inherit:

·         The Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes, and very possibly the tubes and launcher systems whole

·         The ARTISAN 3D radar (Type 997 for the Royal Navy), with the first having been fit on HMS Iron Duke during her latest refit.

·         The FLAADS(M) Sea Ceptor system with its CAMM missiles. FLAADS stands for Future Local Area Air Defence System (Maritime). It is planned to start replacing the old Sea Wolf on the Type 23s from 2016. 

·         The towed sonar 2087, with the eight set having been installed recently on the 8th Type 23 (HMS Portland, Westminster, Northumberland, Richmond, Somerset, Sutherland, Kent, St Albans)

·         Possibly the 30mm guns

In addition, the Royal Navy is working to develop a Common Combat System, with applications across the whole fleet. This evolutionary approach will eventually lead all the way up to the Type 26’s own system.

CAAM missiles will represent a dramatic improvement from the current Sea Wolf system. Fully fire and forget, faster and more agile, the CAAM has a greater useful range (in excess of 25 km, approaching that of the much more expensive Aster 15) and promises to have an anti-surface attack capability as well, with the capability to engage even Fast Attack Crafts.

MBDA shows on its website a video explaining the future refit that will be carried out on the Type 23 warships to move from Sea Wolf to the new system. The current 32 Sea Wolf tubes will be removed and replaced by just 12 cells, arranged in two rows of six, on the Port side of the existing silo. Each of the six cells will contain a quad-pack of CAMM missiles, giving a total of up to 48 weapons embarked. The cells are not Sylver VLS systems, but a much simpler installation enabled by the Cold Launch feature of the new missile.

The starboard half of the current missile silo will become available for other uses, freeing up invaluable space in a ship type that is inexorably approaching the end of its growth margin. The CAMM installation also enables the removal of the two Sea Wolf radar illuminators and of their bulky under-deck equipment, replacing them with much smaller secure Data Link antennas. The all-weather canisters used by the CAMM missile on the frigates are the same that will be used for use on the truck-mounted launcher intended to replace Rapier in the Army, maximizing commonality.

It is a real bargain: more missiles, more capable, AND precious free space suddenly available for other uses. Without the large mass of the Type 911 Sea Wolf radars, it will even be possible to fit Phalanx CIWS systems on top of the bridge superstructure, and/or on top of the hangar. It won’t necessarily happen, but there will be finally space to make it possible. 

But there is even more. Much of what will appear in the coming years on the Type 23s will then be part of the equipment with which the Type 26 begin their service life. The T23 CSP is part of the Royal Navy Core Budget, funded as part of the 10 year plan. However, most of the T23 CSP components currently sit in the Uncommitted portion of the core budget, as contracts haven’t yet been physically signed.

So, what further improvements are planned for the Type 23s?

In the red circle, one of the two Type 911 Sea Wolf radar directors. Their removal will free up valuable space. In the blue circle, the GSA.8 sensor turret, that the Navy hopes to replace soon.
The ULTRA Series 2500 EO/IR turret is the likely preferred option, having already been selected for the Type 45s.

The GSA.8 was also used on the Type 22 B3 (two turrets on each ship). The Type 45s entered service with the much more modern and capable ULTRA Series 2500 Naval EO turret. Two turrets are installed, and they are very easily spotted looking at a photo of the destroyer. A single Series 2500 turret could be fitted to the Type 23s to replace the GSA.8, but so far there has not been a contract award.

DAS-SS: the Type 23 is expected to get the new decoy launcher and, of course, the decoys that will emerge from the various MIDAS-related work streams.

The Type 23s can also expect communications improvements, including Data Link 22, which will in the coming years progressively replace the Data Link 11, introducing Beyond Line of Sight capability that DL11 does not offer.

MEWSS/UAT spiral development will roll in progressive improvements to the Electronic Warfare Support Systems, and under Future Maritime Radar Electronic Surveillance (FMRES) the ships will be fitted with the latest fully digital Radar Electronic Support Measures (RESM) already being fitted to the Type 45 destroyers.

And, of course, the Type 23 will indirectly benefit from improvements to the helicopter fleet: the Merlin HM2 with its vastly greater capabilities, the new Wildcat, and, in good time, the new weaponry, from the M3M heavy machine gun to the Future Anti Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW), both Heavy (Sea Skua replacement) and Light (Thales LMM missile, introducing a new capability, particularly effective against small surface targets). 

As we know there is also a Maritime UAV requirement, to be met via UOR, that should, in the coming months, deliver a contractor-owned, contractor-operated unmanned aircraft system. A first Task Line is wanted for a “RFA vessel” which is undoubtedly the Bay-class LSD based in the Gulf, but a second Task Line is wanted for the Type 23 frigates.

Already in 2006, the Royal Navy trialed Scan Eagle aboard, and demonstrated full level 5 control of the UAV from the ship.  

Don’t write the Type 23s off yet, their best days are yet to come. 


  1. Ah! A new article. Thank you Gabriele.

    A nice change from the army.

    I was especially interested in the mentions of the Archer Class boats in the URN Units. We could make much more of these in a home defence role.

    I want to see an increase in hull numbers. Even if this means a drop in quality in certain areas. Keep the high tech gold plated stuff for a Carrier Group and an Amphibious Group. And a larger fleet of cheaper frigate / corvette types for these " Gunboat Diplomacy" flying the flag roles, anti piracy, drugs smuggling, etc.

    It is ridiculous that we send a Daring alone, on anti piracy missions! Barking mad. We need more cheaper ships for that type of work.

    I may have missed it as it was a quick skim read, but where are the Royal Marines and RFA funding?

    1. I think the budgets for RM and RFA must be treated separately. They surely do not figure in the graphic. Which is a shame... gotta hope they release something else at some point, including some info on that too.

      And i do agree on the need for a second tier fleet for the simpler standing tasks. MHPC is a step towards that, but the delivery of the first such vessel is many years away still, and i'd really like something to be done earlier.

    2. Big cut in numbers again though. 8 MHPC replacing 8 Sandown, 8 Hunt, Echo and Enterprise, maybe Scott too.

    3. I don't think 8 can quite be considered a final number. MHPC is still evolving.
      Besides, the Black Swan concept floated out by the MOD some time ago is one of the signs of a revolution in thinking that might combine with the MHPC budget to result in an attempt to get a better deal. I hope very much so, at least.

      As for HMS Scott, i'm far from sure its systems will be replaceable via drones and a ship of the type and size envisaged for MHPC. Technology advances, sure, but there are reasons behind Scott's sizes...!

    4. Id love to see the Black Swan concept used for MHPC down the line.

      Before that I can't see much potential for surface fleet growth apart from maybe tagging a couple extra T26 onto the end of the programme if the unit costs are kept down...but that's still a long way off as well.

      The idea of light/cheap OPV's being purchased in large numbers would sit uneasily with me. I wouldn't mind a pair of ships to relieve the high-end fleet of it's Falklands commitment, but beyond that I think introducing another parallel class of ships and creating a two tiered surface fleet would probably end up eating out of the T26 budget and thus become counter-productive in long-run.

  2. Hi Gabriele,

    As always, great stuff.

    No mention of any new OPV? Is that project dead in the water? No pun intended.


    1. They only keep saying that "negotiations are ongoing" on how best to keep shipyards going. I don't know if there is any real hope.
      With the autumn and Budget 2013 cuts eating away all the underspend of these financial years, it is a bit hard to imagine where they could take the money from.

    2. I thought there are quite alot of so-called patrol vessels now in the RN as opposed to proper enduring combat ships. Even Minehunters get a role on both mine hunting and force protection too.

    3. While minesweepers can do some patrol job when they are in place, they aren't exactly globally deployable ships, they can't operate helicopters, don't have space for boarding teams or anything.

      They are not the kind of "corvette" or "sloop" that the Navy needs to carry out a wide variety of standing tasks all over the world.

  3. Fantastic as usual.

    All models of the T26 show phalanx-esque CIWS, but in reality we only have enough for T45 and LPH, LPD, CVF etc. Do you consider an investment in CIWS for T26? Or is it all just for show?

    1. A decision will be made in the future regarding that. A possibility is the purchase of a number of additional Phalanx or whatever CIWS will be in service by then, and fit it on the ships prior to deployment to areas such as the Gulf, while others don't have it because operating in realistically safer areas.

      Way too early to say for sure.

    2. CVF 1 (QE) should get both Phalanx and a small quad of Sea Ceptors/Aster 15 like old Charles De Gaulle. That will lighten the need for more planes for CVF air defence. One Type 45 alongside and that is good enough unless it is a super high threat environment.

    3. I don't think fitting missiles to the carrier would do so much difference, actually.

      Anyway, a study in the costs of fitting CAMM to the aircraft carriers concluded by the end of march. We'll see if they decide to fit the system... but honestly, i don't think they will.

    4. Come on, all major carrier (excluding Spanish and Thai and Latin American) have anti-air missiles.

      How munch do you want to bet on it.

    5. Id much rather spend money on giving the T26 CIWS than fitting CVF with CAMM. The on-duty carrier shouldn't ever deploy without a T45 providing an escort capability, thus making CAMM on-board of negligible worth.

      In an ideal world id do lots of things, but in reality if the money is available id try to make sure all 13 T26 get a Phalanx installed first. They aren't ruinously expensive and are an important feature on ships which will be expected to deploy in isolation and far from home waters.

    6. Agree with Challenger. I'd have CIWS as standard on all escorts, RFA and larger ships like Carriers and the Amphibs.

      If we deploy QE without at least a T45, a few T23, an SSN and supporting RFA's to make a carrier group we are more stupid than I thought.

      I would still like a defence system on QE. What is T45 has a computer failure and no Sea Viper at the critical moment? Like what happened to Coventry.

    7. It would of course be good to fit CAMM to the carriers, but even if there was the budget for it, i think there would be other priorities.

      Sincerely, if there was spare money and i had to decide how to use it, i'd:

      - speed up CROWSNEST to avoid the gap
      - only if the above proved impossible, i'd then use the money to finance the next phase of development for the Thales laser countermeasure system mentioned in the article.

  4. Very small mistake, but HMS Gloucester shot down the silkworm missile in 1991, not 2003 as your article says:

    "Of these, 128 have been defeated by the ships’ defences, with 127 ASMs tricked by decoys and Soft Kill technology and only one stopped by interception (the Silkworm missile shot down by HMS Gloucester in 2003 during operations in Iraq)."

    1. You are of course entirely right. My bad, corrected now.

  5. Turning the P2000s into more useful all round platforms or buying new ones is long overdue in my view. Along with the MHPC programme these are the real future backbone of the navy in my view. The site of the RFTG or solo escorts will get rarer and rarer.

    I also agree with the comment that frigates / destroyers are a thing of the past. A single multi-purpose design for all AAW and ASW needs makes a lot of sense for the RN.

    1. Agree on the future requirement for combat ships instead of separate and defined frigates and destroyers.

      I think when it comes to the future backbone of the fleet it's actually a case of different classes and programmes working together to achieve maximum effectiveness.

      Hopefully the P2000s can be either upgraded or replaced by something more powerful. Hopefully the RM will get a decent fast patrol boat that will further add to harbour defence. Hopefully at least 19 high-end escorts will be procured and remain in service with a full compliment of capabilities. Hopefully in time MHPC can incorporate a lot of the Black Swan concept and be procured in large enough numbers to contribute patrol capabilities to the wider fleet as well as full-fill they're primary roles.

      Unfortunately that's a lot of wishful thinking. It's what I think should happen...but it's not necessarily what we will end up with.

    2. According to the publicity for Seawork 2013 in June the team from DE&S responsible for boats up to 30m will to be present to brief on future requirements for small craft. That could cover P200s, etc.


    3. Yeah, i read of that and tweeted about it... i wish i could be present when it'll happen.
      Hopefully we'll have some kind of report coming out from the event.

  6. Also am I mad or does the ACA newsletter for April 19th really mention the fitting of armour to Prince of Wales (under Govan - inspection of Ring H of LB03? I don't remember seeing any other reference to armour in the carriers.


    1. Such aspects of the build are classified. It was always implied that "small amounts" of armor were "likely" to be fitted to certain areas.
      We won't get the details easily on this one, but yes, there likely is armor aboard in more than one place.

      Also, i read the Type 45 also is armored in some areas as well. Again, of course no details.

    2. A strange way to tell everyone where some of it is, though! And possibly not what was intended?

      Your update on developments is excellent by the way. Should have said that before.


    3. I'm pretty confident that the "revelation" is a small and harmless one. There is no detail, and the location of the armor probably doesn't really surprise anyone. I'm guessing it'll have something to do with the deep magazines for storage of the weaponry for the air wing...

      Thanks, i'm always glad when i manage to find and share some good info.

  7. T26 looks promising but we will not be getting 13. Possibly eight ASW plus a pair of GP or maybe the GP version will be dropped altogether. Unfortunately, anything more than 8-10 looks unlikely.

  8. Hey,

    Superb article as always. Just wondered if you knew whether harpoon has now been fitted to the t45s?

    Also, with the t26 build starting soon, when do you think the MHPC build would start? Would there be any chance of a opv for the med perhaps geared towards minehunting for ex ww2 ordanance that could be based out of gibraltar? That would fulfil the role as guardship for gib and our commitment to natos minecounter measure force in the med. feel extremely uncomfortable with the units currently assigned to gib even though regular escorts pass through.

    And finally abit off your article, but wondered if you knew the reasons behind selling the t23s to chile? Given there such useful ships and are the backbone of the fleet. In hindsight, had they not been sold, do you think we would have had a fleet of 23 with 6 t45 and 17 t23 with the 4 type 22s still being retired? With savings being made due to them being of the same class for maintainance etc

    Cheers sellers

    1. As far as i know, the announced fitting of Harpoon to the Type 45s hasn't happened yet.

      As for MHPC, i'm not entirely sure. There's a decade of difference in timing from a source to another: the SDSR and other documents seem to suggest that from 2018 we'll start seeing MHPC vessels entering service, but a research paper from DSTl contained the line that in 2018 we will be seeing only the unmanned vehicles and systems for remote MCM operations starting to roll in, while the first new ship will only arriver in 2028. I'm not sure what we should be expecting, as a consequence...
      As for Gibraltar, i really don't know. It would be nice to have something beefier based there, but i don't think they'll be in a hurry to fund that.

      As for the sale of the Type 23s, it has always been a bad decision. But the Type 22 Batch 3 had several unique or semi-unique capabilities of their own, such as command and intelligence features which were particularly precious, so they might have been kept at the expense of the never T23s.
      Hard to say how things would have evolved had a different choice been made.

      Perhaps the number of T23s would have nonetheless reduced from 16 to 13 all the same in one wave of cuts or another...

  9. Is the future threat more geared towards aerial and sub-surface? There's more leaning towards CAMM first, anti-ship missiles second they way I read the Type 26. And it's a 8 ASW 5 GP split. So really is the RN concerned more about aerial and sub-surface threats first? Long gone are the anti-ship missile threats?

    1. CAMM is a defence against anti-ship missiles even before it is a defence against aircrafts. Indeed, you could call CAMM a super-CIWS, since more often than not the enemy aircrafts will try to engage you with their own missiles without having to enter the 25km range of the Type 26's bubble of protection.

      As for submarines, they do remain the most tremendous of threats, and the Royal Navy prides itself as being the best at submarine hunting.
      Wasn't it for the lack of maritime patrol aircraft, at least.

    2. I was saying are the days of ships crrying anti-ship missiles geared up for ship to ship fights over? The last if not mistaken was the 1980s action against oil terminals in the Gulf. Beyond that, most western navies are placing AA missiles as opposed to ASuW missiles on their Combat Ships (for eg. US AB destroyers and LCS. LCS has virtually not ASuW weapons beyond a few miles). Move over RN in the future--will it be ships for AA/Anti-missile rather than ships for ASuW warfare? What then are the strike options? F-35Bs?

    3. I think the Royal Navy continues to want a anti-surface missile for its ships. Eventually, Harpoon will be installed on the Type 45s sometime this year, and the Type 26 will have its own system in time.

      But it is somewhat secondary, yes. Submarines and air attacks are expected to deal with the enemy fleet before there is a real need to get to the surface-surface engagement.

    4. seems like non-Western navies operate with a different mindset. They pack their ships full with ASuW weapons and capable AA missiles too.

  10. Great article Gabriele.
    A lot of good information, nicely presented in one place.

    I am very hopeful about the Type26 so far. All the info released so far point to solid design decisions and relevant, cost effective capability.
    I just hope they turn out to be as adpatable and future-proof as the T23 have proved to be. Really impressed with the upgrade path for the Type23.
    Of course the usual concern about future hull numbers...

    I am also very interested in more detail about the anti-ship missile statistics.
    "127 ASMs tricked by decoys and Soft Kill technology and only one stopped by interception "
    For example of those 127, were they all on target and a real threat etc? What type of missiles were involved?
    I dont suppose you would be willing to suggest further reading for those interested?

    1. I suppose a good proportion of these missiles were those shot during the Falklands?

    2. Not so many missiles were actually fired at the Falklands. The argies had just 5 air-launched Exocets, and used them all achieving two hits and three miss.
      Then they fired a couple from a truck and damaged HMS Glamorgan with one of those, after their plan to launch a major Exocet attack from surface warships was thwarted by the sinking of the Belgrano, with the remaining ships at sea returning to port in a hurry to avoid meeting the same end.

      I think the bulk of the number is actually made up by missiles expended in the gulf at the time of the Iraq - Iran wars.

      I would gladly direct you to narrative and documents about the whole thing, but the problem is that i don't really know at the moment where such data could be found.

    3. I'm wondering about that data. Ok Falklands not that many Exocet fired? Iran-Iraq ok, but I still can't figure out why so many. Definitely not in Vietnam, Suez Crisis, Malayan Emergency...

      I can't think of which other naval battles.

    4. Well, there's some Israeli events too, from the sinking of the Eeilat, which starts the history of anti-ship missile attacks (4 weapons fired), to the recent attack by Hizbollah on the warship Hanit.

      I'm sure there are a lot of other less known engagements. For example, Royal Navy Lynx helos fired 25 Sea Skua in 1991 against iraqi naval forces, marking a contribution to the count.

      Several Harpoon were used by both sides during the US operation Praying Mantis in the gulf. And Iran and Iraq alone are thought to have thrown around 200 missiles at each other, according to some reports.

      Anyway, i've found this US document which provides a good history of the anti-ship missile attacks up to 1992. Not complete, as a consequence, but still very interesting, i think. It should help you.,d.ZWU

    5. To further clarify, the numbers i've used in the article are the Royal Navy's own count of worldwide use of anti-ship missiles as reported in a document relating to MIDAS.

      I get the feeling that the exact number of missile attacks is not entirely certain, and there are different totals reported by different sources.

  11. Great write-up Gab. Although I'm now confused on weapons fit. It's been reasonably speculated here before, that the T26 CAMM cells are singles, due to both their size compared to neighbouring strike cells and the fact that 48x4 would be a very excessive missile loadout by RN standards!!
    However that means the brand new T-23 quad-pack cells would not be carried across. Surely an inconsistent approach given the clear design trend to reuse as much T23 kit as possible, so to keep costs down. Nor can I see any other ship in the pipeline to take them. Interestingly the T26 singles(?) are also grouped in sixes, just like the intended quad-pack use on T23.
    Raises the question are the T26 cells: singles; quads; is the model in need of update; will another platform take them - if so can they be broken down into managed groups lower than six cells; as I can't see a future sloop or minehunter needing 6x4 CAMMs just for self defence.

    1. Please note that the Type 23 "quadpack cell" is just a capped "well" containing 4 CAMM canisters grouped up. It is not like the Type 23 is being fitted with a real VLS system such as SYLVER, as it is not at all necessary to have such a complex system installed, since CAMM is cold-launched.

      So far, the Type 26 seems only to have the sealed canisters containing each a missile inserted into the silo, without the additional protection of a cap covering them.
      The canister, as i said, is meant to be all weather compatible and is the same thought for use on land, so exposition to the weather is not a worry.
      Again, the canister can be clustered up in any number you like. On the truck-launcher thought for land use, there are two independent clusters of 6 missiles each, for example.

      The different choice to better protect the canisters on the Type 23 might have to do with the fact that the the silo of the 23s is far more likely to get washed over by sea water than the cells of the Type 26, which are positioned higher up and further back from the bow, in a much more "dry" place.
      Sea water is never good for anything, so it might be the reason behind the additional protection being provided.

      As such, there is not really much that isn't reused. The missiles in their canisters will be pulled out of the silo of the Type 23 and lowered in the silos of the Type 26.
      I don't know if i managed to be clear on this one, though. It is... a little awkward to explain.

      Besides, they might still decide to group the canisters up on the Type 26 as well, and give them additional protection capping them in groups of four, that will be for the Detailed Design phase to decide, i suppose.

  12. Unrelated or related, depending how you view it.

    I mean, there are enough US owned B61s bombs in Europe and the UK

    So what if you reduce the number of Trident Warheads and keep the money for conventional weapons? Or have 3 boats? 4 SSBNs and 7 SSNs just does not cut it.

    1. I don't really like the idea of half-assed deterrents. Either do it properly, or don't do it and admit you are surrendering your ultimate protection to being under the US and/or french nuclear umbrella.

      Cutting the fourth SSBN does not save much money. Indeed, it makes the first three more expensive as the costs of designing the boat are spread on less hulls.

      It also means ending the submarine production earlier than planned. What then? Lose experience as after the Vanguards were launched, and then pay it in the next program (as happened with the Astute, when too much experience had been lost and american help had to be bought in, not cheaply)? Start building a new batch of Astutes? Or even their replacement, early?

      What with the need to be able to have a SSBN always out on patrol?
      3 hulls means greater risks of being unable to do that. It also means working the boats harder, shortening their safe life, meaning a replacement is needed earlier.

      No, it is not like there are many realistic options.

    2. Armchair thinking. If you want a deterrent, you must justify it based on the extent of the threat and have also both the money to carry it out and money once one nuclear weapon is fired. If you like to maintain quad billion dollar weapons which is ridiculous to fire at North Korea (it will cause a social and economic meltdown more than military victory) then all is life is India, Russia and China. But nuke any country and you have global chaos. Meanwhile, you have small teenagers and terrorists using non-nuclear WMDs attacking you. Don't say there's no trade off.

      Why do you need so many nukes? If you dont want to fire a first strike, and you say perhaps for second strike, will there be a world to survive in at all?

    3. "So many" is relative. The UK proposed deterrent would only have up to 8 missiles ready to be fired. If you lower the number too much, there is the risk that your deterrent will no longer scare the enemy very much. A country as immense as Russia can absord a high number of nuclear weapons, particularly if your deterrent is aimed at military targets first of all (we wouldn't need a missile as advanced and accurate as Trident to hit a target the size of a major town such as Moscow).
      No one wants to be nuked, you will say. True, perhaps. But you can never really know what the madman of the day will think. You need to have a deterrent capable to hit back hard enough to really dissuade anyone from trying to mess with you.


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