Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Arming the Royal Navy of the future

During DSEI, Navy Recognition had the chance to speak with Geoff Searle, program director for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, and one factor emerged: apparently, there is not a clear plan, at the stage, for arming the Type 26 with a surface to surface missile. At least, there is not a plan that BAE knows: it is always possible that, within the MOD and Royal Navy, thinking is actually at a much more advanced phase, since there is a long running program for the definition of Future Maritime Fires capability.

At the moment, however, what can be observed is that the Royal Navy does want at least 16 Strike Length VLS cells fitted to the new frigates at build. There just isn’t a precise plan (at least not out in the open) for fitting a specific weapon system in these cells.
More precisely, a definitive choice hasn’t even been made yet about which cells should be fitted: the europen Sylver A70, or the American MK41 system? A choice could be made next year, or later still.

At the same time, the Royal Navy is preparing to fit the Type 45s with the electronics and wiring needed to support the Harpoon Block 1C missile, with four of the destroyers effectively fitted with launchers and missiles taken from the prematurely withdrawn Type 22 Batch 3 frigates.
In addition, a 2012 graphic in a Royal Navy presentation which provided some insight into what programs are included in the famous 10-year Budget Plan, includes an important voice of expenditure detailed as “GWS60 Harpoon sustainment program”, meaning an upgrade and life-extension for the missile currently in service. There is no detail (yet) about the extent of the upgrade, nor an indication of the extent of the life-extension the missile is going to get, but I believe it is fair to assume that the aim of the Sustainment Program would be to delay the OSD for Harpoon all the way to 20230 – 2036.
The 2036 date is not casual: on the current planning assumptions, 2036 is the year in which the last of the Type 23 frigates, armed with Harpoon, leaves active service.
The graphic, which is the only information we have at the moment, does not provide precise numbers on the amount of money that will be devoted to the various programs, but provides a visual indication of when the most of the expenditure is planned, and that is between the 5th and 9th year of the 10-year budget. Since the budget covers the period 2011/2012 to 2021/2022, the Harpoon sustainment program should be in full swing in the second half of the current decade. 

This graphic shows the plans the Royal Navy has made for the allocation of its portion of the Core Budget in the 10 years plan. This expenditure is "uncommitted", as there are not yet contracts signed about these programs, but the work is ongoing and the money is allocated. The expenditure for Type 45, CVF and Type 26 is not shown in this graphic as they all are part of the Committed core budget.

NOTE: for an in-depth analysis of the workings of the 10-year budget and of the above graphic, see my earlier article.
The graphic also shows the Future Maritime Fires System expenditure, roughly starting from the fourth year of the Budget. The main item of FMFS is the new medium gun to be fitted to the Type 26 frigates, and in fact, in compliance with the general indication coming from the graphic, the selection of the new 127 mm gun (either the Oto Melara/Babcock 127/64 Lightweight or the MK45 Mod 4 127/62 from BAE/United Defense) is expected next year. There is no telling, at the moment, if FMFS also includes the purchase of new missiles: while missiles (and even the Fire Shadow loitering ammunition) are all part of the study, there is no evidence suggesting that they are part of the funded program in addition to the new main gun. The relatively small amount of money suggested by the graphic makes me think that, for the moment, the budget just covers the guns.

It is anyway in the FMFS voice that the long-running requirement for a Future Surface to Surface Guided Weapon has been likely folded into. The british requirement is indicated under the very generic acronym SSGW (surface to Surface Guided Weapon) and has been around, in a shape or another, from the early 90s. An SSGW system was part of the Type 45 planned mission fit, but was notoriously written off from the list of requirements for the AAW destroyers for the time being. The detailed requirements are not known, but according to some sources, the ambition included developing a rocket boosted-weapon for long range anti-submarine attack as well as providing an anti-ship and land-strike missile. The anti-submarine rocket would restore a capability the Royal Navy has missed for decades, ever since the old IKARA system was retired from service without a replacement. Comparable weapons of this kind in the world include the American ASROC and the Italian MILAS: these rocket-propelled torpedoes enable a frigate to immediately attack a submarine contact at ranges of over 30 kilometers, even if the helicopter is unavailable. They are a good solution for the need to hit time-critical targets at range without having to send the helicopter in the air all the time, and they are good at filling the many gaps in helicopter coverage that come up in a rolling 24 hours period. The Type 23 and 26, which will relay on the big Merlin helicopter for ASW work, and that carry a single such machine, would appear to badly need such a gap-filler, since a single helo can’t be in the air all the time, and obviously can’t be expected to be always in the right place at the right moment. Despite this consideration, it is fair to assume that it will be really tough for the royal navy to develop or even just adopt this kind of very single-role, highly-specialized weapon.

Certain is, instead, the requirement for a genuinely multi-role missile capable to hit enemy warships but also able to strike targets well inland. The new missile will be vertically launched, and it is behind the selection of Strike Length cells on the Type 26. 
The idea seem to be that the old MK8 Mod 1 gun and the old Harpoon missile will be around as long as the Type 23 is in service, which under current plans means 2036. At that point (or by that point) the new Medium Gun can be expected to be retrofitted to the Type 45 to standardize the fleet back on a single main gun type, and the 45s could finally receive their own Strike Lenght cells, losing Harpoon in exchange for new capability. 
There is also the chance that MK41 cells make their debut on Type 45 much earlier than 2030, if the ongoing assessment of the T45s as anti-ballistic missile platforms evolves into a program for the acquisition of kinetic ABM capability.  

With the RAF and with France

The only new anti-ship missile there is currently talk of, is the UK-France Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon (FC ASW). And to say the truth, it is not like there is much talking going on about it in the open. This new weapon was conceived under the framework of the UK/French joint Declaration on Defence and Security Co-operation agreed at Lancaster House in November 2010, but only came to the light in early 2012, when the governments of France and United Kingdom disclosed its existence and announced that a two-year seed contract had been awarded to MBDA in December 2011. The contract was signed by the French Direction générale de l'armement (DGA) with MBDA UK and MBDA France, on behalf of both countries.
Currently, we are at a very early stage: the contract covers initial studies over the concepts, technologies and system options that could be employed to bring to life the new weapon, or family of weapons, which is destined to replace cruise land attack and anti-ship missiles currently in service.
In practice, Storm Shadow, Harpoon and Exocet would all be replaced with the weapon(s) that come out of this joint development. Perhaps even Tomahawk would be replaced by this new missile.

In the first quarter of this year, a first selection was made between the concepts emerged so far, with around six being brought forwards for further study and development. The approaches being considered to make this new weapon survivable and lethal against ever improving air defence systems (mostly of Russian design) essentially come down to stealthness and to very high speeds, with Mach 3 having been mentioned more than once in recent MBDA concept works, such as PERSEUS and, more recently HOPLITE.
The aim of the joint project is to prepare the new weapon (or family of weapons) in service sometime between 2030 and 2035. 

Among the requirements that this new weapon will have to satisfy, there’s clearly the capability to be launched from vertical cells on warships, from airplanes and almost certainly from submarine’s torpedo tubes as well.
Being intended also as a Storm Shadow replacement, the FC ASW project is part of the Selective Precision Effect At Range programme of the RAF, as Capability 5.

SPEAR Capability 4 is about the mid-life upgrade and life extension of Storm Shadow. This project, which once again is jointly sustained with France, should start soon enough and aims to keep the missile relevant and effective out to the 2030s. France confirmed in its own White Paper, released earlier this year, that the joint work on Storm Shadow (Scalp, in French service) will be funded.
Together with the Harpoon sustainment programme, this seem to be intended to “hold the ground” before the new system developed under the Capability 5 headline does arrive.

Sylver or MK41?

I first of all invite you to give a look at the following presentation about MK41, which will give you a much better idea of what a VLS system is and how it works: presentation by Mark Zimmerman

With the Type 26 frigate, we are back to a debate which never really ended ever since it was opened by the attempts of the Royal Navy to get MK41 VLS systems for the Type 45, attempts that were frustrated by European political considerations and by the worries connected to the possible costs and technical challenges of integrating the European Aster missile in a VLS cell made in America.
The problem is now back on the table for the Type 26, and a decision has not yet been taken.

It is clear that, if the Royal Navy has no real hopes to get a missile into the Strike Length cells before SPEAR Capability 5 comes of age, going Sylver A70 might make sense: since the FC ASW missile is developed jointly with France, compatibility with the Sylver VLS system will be a requirement from the very first moment. The French have adopted the Sylver A70 on their new FREMM frigates, and the same launcher will be expected, in the future, to welcome the new missile. It is to be seen, though, if this is enough of a justification for going again with the Sylver line of VLS systems.

In the short term, in fact, Sylver A70’s only weapon is the Scalp Navale cruise missile, ordered in 250 pieces by the French armed forces. This “European Tomahawk” seems not as capable as the Tomahawk itself, especially the most recent TLAM Block IV, while it is much more expensive, as is to be expected for a new weapon, which has not been (and perhaps never will be) produced in the same huge numbers as the Tomahawk. France is planning to purchase some 250 missiles in four separate orders. 50 missiles will be encapsulated for torpedo firing from the new nuclear attack submarines of the French fleet, with entry in service in 2017, while the rest will be for vertical launch from the A70 VLS cells on the FREMM frigates. The expected cost is 910 million euro, and done the math, the Tomahawk is a much, much cheaper option for the Royal Navy.
Of course, the A70 cells can also be used to embark Aster missiles, but it is a bit of a waste since these only need five meters deep cells (the A50 module) and not the full seven meters of the A70 VLS module.
Until SPEAR 5 eventually happens, the only use of A70 cells eventually fitted to Type 26 would be as launchers for the Scalp Naval: but there is no reason at all to justify the purchase of a more expensive, less capable “clone” of Tomahawk, establishing two separate logistic lines.

Adopting the MK41 Strike Lenght VLS used by the US Navy, instead, opens the door to the possible integration in the Type 26 combat system of a huge variety of weapons, including the full range of surface to air missiles employed by the Americans, plus Tomahawk, ASROC and, in a not distant future, the new LRASM anti-ship and strike missile.
Adopting the MK41 would, in my opinion, offer the greatest insurances for the future. As it is destined to remain the launcher of choice of the US Navy for many more decades, the MK41 won’t be short of support and will be the launcher for which the greatest number of weapon systems will be certified. The sole fact of being fully ready to employ the Tomahawk Block IV is an important consideration, as the TLAM has effectively become the weapon of choice in all military operations. The Royal Navy tried to secure funding for the addition of MK41 cells and vertical launch Tomahawks on the Type 45s already in the early 2000s: the attempt was unsuccessful back then, but there are good chances that it would be successful in a new try.

Gaining the capability to fire Tomahawks from surface ships as well as from submarines would mean having more platforms fully capable to influence events ashore, well inland. It would simplify planning, as it would be much easier to bring a launcher platform in the area of a crisis, and it would not tie a precious nuclear submarine into a “launch box”, a small area of sea where the SSN stations and waits for the order of launching a missile against targets ashore. In the future, the small, precious fleet of SSNs could be needed to cover many other tasks, so avoiding the limbo of the “launch box” would help meeting the other commitments.
There is also an important financial factor at play: an SSN is an expensive launch platform, which is not always necessary. Against an enemy with capabilities as limited as Libya’s, there was no real need to covertly deliver strike missiles from an undetectable submarine: a cheaper surface ship could have done the job almost as safely.
Again, the Tomahawk capsule for torpedo tube firing adds several hundred thousand dollars to the price of every single missile, compared to the Vertical launch variant used on ships from MK41 cells.

Strike Lenght cells aren't an easy fit: they go down into the ship for 7 to 9 meters, so they can't be fitted everywhere.
Lockheed Martin has introduced the very smart idea of the ExLS insert, which is an "adaptor" which can be slid into MK41 cells, with the electronics and canisters made for missiles not initially thought for MK41. An ExLS with quadpack is being validated for use with CAMM. The ExLS can also be used, in some cases, as a stand-along launching system. An ExLS Standalone with three CAMM cells is being jointly developed by LM and MBDA.

The first test ejection of a CAMM missile from a MK41 cell fitted with ExLS module.

Ultimately, Tomahawk has proven to be a highly useful, highly requested and highly useable conventional strike weapon. When TLAM was first purchased, specifically for use on submarines, the british armed forces didn’t think they would end up using it so much, so often. TLAM was almost conceived as a conventional arm of the policy of submarine-based deterrence, but operational experience has proven that it is far more than just that, as Dr. Lee Willett wrote in his essay “TLAM and british strategic thought”. The introduction of the Tactical Tomahawk, the Block IV, has only made the TLAM even more useable, and further improvements are being jointly developed by the US and the UK, including the Joint Multi-Effect Warhead System, which couples fragmentation effect with enhanced bunker-busting capability, making the missile capable to engage pretty much any kind of target. Importantly, TLAM is evolving to be able to engage even relocatable and moving targets, with Third Party In-Flight Retargeting capability already demonstrated, also during HMS Astute’s TLAM firing trials in the US.
There is every reason to consider an expansion in the number of Tomahawks available to the MOD (thought to remain at a total of around 60 to 65 rounds) and, critically, in the number of launch platforms. 

A Tomahawk is launched from a MK41 cell on a US Navy warship. Notice the blast of the rocket venting upwards and wooshing out of the opening in the middle of the launch module. CAMM removes this complexity by adopting the ingenious Cold Launch feature: a piston powered by compressed air ejects the missile and shoots it around 100 feet into the air before the Sea Ceptor's rocket ignites. CAMM, however, is an exception, not the rule: the other missiles need a VLS system, complete with the exhaust system.
The adoption of MK41 cells on Type 26 would be the solution. It would also be a reliable parachute for the Royal Navy, was something to happen with the development or procurement of SPEAR Capability 5: with the weapon potentially more than two decades away from entering service, I don’t think the RN can shape the new ships to be only focused on the hope of getting this particular European product. Was the program to die in future budget cuts, and the Royal Navy had fitted Sylver cells, the alternatives would be very few: the Navy would most likely end up having to fork out new money to try and adapt an American missile to the Sylver system.

Since MBDA and Lochkeed Martin are now collaborating to integrate European weapons in the MK41 launcher, starting with the Sea Ceptor missile, also known as CAMM, I believe there is every reason to go with the proven MK41. After signing an agreement last May, the two companies have very rapidly made tangible progress, and demonstrated in early September a first ejection sequence from an ExLS quadpack inserted in a MK41 cell.
Considering that the Type 26 design is still to be completed, and keeping in mind that SPEAR Cap 5 is many years away, there is all the time to make sure that the missile can fit into the MK41 cells when the day comes. This would ensure the best capability for the new frigate, both in the near term and in the long term.

Anti-ship capability: timeframes do not match

Tomahawk is a ready-to-go solution available to give the Type 26 a punch against land targets, from day one at entry in service, if the MOD will want and find the money for it. There is also the option of adapting the Fire Shadow loitering munition for vertical launch, MBDA says. Fire Shadow only has a range of some 150 km, but it can loiter over a target area for six to ten hours, sending imagery intelligence back to the ship and denying an area to the enemy by being ready to strike as soon as one shows up. It would be a great capability to have, although completely different in nature from the long-range reach offered by the cruise missile.
What about anti-ship capability in the fleet, though?

A new vertical-launch missile, especially if large enough to require strike length cells (which means tubes with a depth under deck that ranges between 7 and 9 meters, meaning some three deck levels) could never be fitted to the Type 23 frigates, which just do not have the space for such a VLS system.
If the missile is longer than around 5 meters, it won’t fit the Sylver A50 cells employed on the Type 45 destroyers, either, but the Type 45’s VLS silo has been built to a design and size values that make it possible to add a further 16 cells to the current 48, and all the cells (newly-fitted and existing ones) could be Strike Length if the need was identified.

The Harpoon currently in use is not a Vertical Launch missile. It can only be fired by the well known stacks of tube launchers employed on the Type 23s. The Royal Navy uses quadruple launchers, but the canister-launchers can also be stacked in couples, or even used singularly. The Type 45 destroyer has been built with space and fittings arrangements for mounting a couple of quadruple Harpoon launchers behind the Aster missile silos, and four of the six vessels will receive their fit of Harpoons in the next future, the MOD has confirmed.

Observation of the current Type 26 design, however, suggests that it is not possible to install the conventional stacks of canister launchers (used not just by Harpoon, but by the likes of Exocet, Otomat TESEO, PRBS-15 and Naval Strike Missile). Observing the images and the models showcased so far, there does not seem to be any adequate allocation of space for the installation of the launchers. On the Type 26, the typical locations in which such an installation normally happens (amidship between radar mast and funnel, or, in british style, behind the main gun/ VL missile silo) do not appear to be properly dimensioned and kept clear of obstacles. In particular, the space between the sensors mast and funnel does appear to be really too restricted. And effectively, the conventional launcher for anti-ship missiles was last seen in the very first concept pictures for Type 26: as the design progressed, they vanished.

The twin quadruple launchers commonly used by current-generation western anti-ship missiles were clearly shown on the very first Type 26 design. Soon, they vanished.

Today's Type 26 has changed a lot, and improved a lot.

The current arrangements of the ship's spaces and armament suggest that the Royal Navy wants to make the big step with the new frigate, moving entirely to vertical launch weaponry.

While the decision to move fully to vertical launch makes perfect sense, the Royal Navy is going to find itself in trouble because of timeframes that do not match.
The Type 26 frigate will, under current plans, begin to entry into service from around 2021, and will then replace, one for one, the Type 23s at a rhythm of roughly one per year all the way out to 2036.
With the Harpoon apparently incapable to move from the Type 23 retiring to the Type 26 entering in service in replacement, the number of royal navy ships fitted with an anti-surface capability will shrink dramatically from the third T23 onwards (assuming that the Harpoons removed from the first two Type 23s would move on to the last two Type 45 destroyers).
With the risk of having to wait until 2030 or 2035/36 before a new missile is inducted, the Type 26 could be without an anti-surface weapon for over a decade, and the Royal Navy could go down to as few as six or seven vessels fitted with such a capability, before a replacement comes with SPEAR Cap 5.


In theory, there are alternatives to a Type 26 without anti-ship capability for a decade. Going MK41 with the VLS cells would keep the door open for adoption of the LRASM, for example, which the US Navy is developing and trialing right now as a solution to its own Harpoon problem. The US Navy is, in many ways, are already in trouble for an acute shortage of anti-ship capability on its surface vessels. The old Harpoon is seen as increasingly outdated and ineffective against modern decoys and missile defences, and the number of ships fitted with it in the American fleet is much lower than one would think: attempts to develop a vertical launch Harpoon never went ahead, and the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers have not been fitted with Harpoon launchers ever since the Flight IIA production lot started.
The US Navy is, in many ways, in the situation that the Royal Navy seems doomed to experience in the 2020s, and is trying to take swift action with LRASM to remove this dangerous gap in capability.
The alarming fact is that the US Navy at least still has submarine-launched and air-launched Harpoon. The Royal Navy lost the first capability in 2003, and the second in 2009/10, when the Nimrod, last british air platform with a heavy anti-ship missile, was withdrawn from service.

Unfortunately, even the adoption of MK41 cells does not automatically remove the anti-ship missile problem: it is hard to imagine the Royal Navy having the money for a substantial investment in an interim anti-ship missile, while simultaneously having to keep spending on Harpoon and on the development of SPEAR Cap 5.
A large ship-launched anti-ship missile is an important capability, but a bit of a niche one, which hasn’t seen much use in the operations the RN has been a part of. Seeing how complex it is to get funding even for an expanded Tomahawk arsenal, despite it being used all the time, arguing for more investment for the anti-ship niche is likely to be a desperate, hopeless struggle.

One solution could come, once more, via Tomahawk. The solution could be the Maritime Interdiction Multimission capability proposal, also known as Multi Mission Tomahawk. The MMT would introduce a moving-target seeker and an upgraded data link to the Tomahawk Block IV, turning it into an hunter-killer weapon capable to locate and pursue moving targets including warships out at sea.
The MMT idea has been around since 2009, and has been briefly brought back in the spotlight in August 2012, when the US Navy and Raytheon were reported as “close” to going ahead with the development of an anti-ship capability package for the TLAM Block IV.

Early data for the “Maritime Interdiction” missile, released by the US Navy, assumed that the modified Block IV would be able to search for targets in an area of 30 square nautical miles, accounting for possible errors in the position of the target supplied by third-party directors and, of course, for the movement of the target at speeds of up to 30 knots. The range of the missile for such a complex anti-ship engagement would be around 500 nautical miles. The navigation system, the data link and seeker would have to be reinforced to ensure the missile can find its target even through jamming and decoys.  

The Multi-Mission Tomahawk was intended to be US Navy Interim Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare solution, but as of April 2013 the US Navy seems to have abandoned the Tomahawk Block IV conversion, while DARPA-funded work on the Lockheed Martin LRASM A (a weapon derived from the JASSM cruise missile) is ongoing, with a successful test on August 27 that involved launch from a B-1 bomber against a barge loaded with empty containers acting as target. The missile hit the containers as expected. Preliminary work to demonstrate launch from MK41 vertical cells was completed on September 4, and next year, LRASM should be fired twice from MK41 VLS cells, demonstrating its ship-launch capability. A submarine-launch variant could follow.

For the Royal Navy, a Tomahawk solution would have been easier to acquire, because it wouldn’t have been a total departure from established logistics and knowledge basis, and it would have fitted in the idea of expanding TLAM attack capability, as the missile retains full utility as a long range land strike weapon, indeed adding greater capabilities against complex, mobile targets.
The Tomahawk solution could still happen, though: the US Navy is still working on choosing its next move. LRASM could be chosen without a competition, but Raytheon and Boeing are ready with their own proposals if the pentagon decides to give a chance to other systems.

Sea Ceptor for everyone?

If the anti-ship segment of the RN capability is close to extinction, there is at least some relief in the Anti-Air missile arena. With an order placed for the production of CAMM Sea Ceptor missiles, the Royal Navy can now work to get it on all relevant platforms.
In March this year, a study should have been concluded, on the costs connected with eventual installation of Sea Ceptor on the new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers. There is no open-source evidence of the results of the study, nor can we realistically expect to see an investment made any time soon to fit the missile system, but it remains an option. The carriers are fitted with the Long Range Radar and with the Artisan 3D radar (Type 997 in RN service), both of which could feed targeting information to the missiles, which are, differently from Sea Wolf, fire-and-forget and would pursue their targets autonomously after being launched, with the aid of information relayed from the ship via secure Data Link.

The first platform that will get the Sea Ceptor in current planning is the Type 23 frigate. The first vessel should swap Sea Wolf for the new CAMM during a refit in 2016. The ship has not yet been identified. The work to be carried out will involve the removal of some five tons of Sea Wolf cabinets and old electronics, plus the two guidance radars, in exchange for a far more modern, smaller and lighter data link system.
The missile silo on the bow will be modified with the removal of the 32 Sea Wolf tubes and the installation of CAMM electronics. The Sea Ceptor missiles will be fitted in quadpacks into 12 sealed wells to protect the canisters from the sea water washing over the deck. The number of missiles carried will be boosted to a maximum of 48.  
On Type 23, the CAMM will be feed data on the targets by the Type 997 radar, which is due to replace the earlier Type 996 over the coming years, with HMS Iron Duke having received the first-of-class fit already.

The Sea Ceptor fit will then be physically moved out of the Type 23s as they are withdrawn from service, and installed on the new Type 26. The images and models shown so far about the new frigate show that the 48 air-defence missiles will be distributed in rows of 6 canister-launchers each, with four such rows arranged in the bow missile silo and a further four rows aft of the funnel mast.
The canister-launchers are weather-proof as they have been developed to be used (from around 2020) by the Army as replacement for the elderly Rapier, so they do not appear to have additional protection: on the Type 26, they are installed high enough in the superstructure to be protected by the sea spray without having to be sealed into enclosed wells like on the Type 23.
The Type 997 radar will also move on from T23 to T26.

Around 2016 there will also be the chance to transform a potential problem in an opportunity. The Royal Navy has decided that it will withdraw from service the Goalkeeper CIWS system, to standardize instead on the Phalanx (36 mounts + 5 new on order). This is due to the fact that the number of Goalkeeper mounts in the fleet by then will have fallen dramatically in number, due to HMS Illustrious bowing out in 2014 with her three mounts, leaving the sole Albion and Bulwark with a total of four mounts (although Albion’s ones have already been removed as she was put into reserve and mothballed).
In 2016 it is planned that the two LPDs will trade places in the fleet, with HMS Albion being refitted and regenerated to return into active service, while HMS Bulwark enters her own period of mothball (unless the SDSR, as I personally hope, allocates the 20 or so million a year needed to operate the second LPD as well).

The LPDs should both receive their Type 997 radar during the next refits, and they can be expected to be fitted with a couple of Phalanx CIWS in replacement of Goalkeeper.
The opportunity I see, however, is that of fitting the bow CIWS on top of the deckhouse, instead of on top of the small superstructure used by Goalkeeper. There might be some problem since the two manned GAM-BO1 20mm light guns for surface close defence are located up there as well, but it should not be an insurmountable issue. The GAM-BO1 are arguably well in need of being replaced by the DS30M remotely operated 30mm gun mounts being adopted throughout the fleet, as well.
Phalanx has no under-deck penetration, while the much larger Goalkeeper turret takes one deck of space. By removing Goalkeeper and relocating the frontal CIWS, the LPDs would have a little bit of precious free space on the bow for the fitting of CAMM missile cells.
This would of course have a cost, but it would massively increase the survivability of the LPDs against all kind of threats: the Royal Navy is fully aware of how vulnerable these large ships can be, especially when docked down for landing craft operations. Air attacks, swarm attacks with FIACs and missiles are all very serious threats, and CAMM would counter them all (the missile has a secondary anti-surface attack capability, good against fast and suicide attack boats).  

The LPD problem that could be an opportunity: replacing Goalkeeper

The small superstructure on the bow, currently occupied by Goalkeeper's under deck segment, offers precious space that could be used to fit CAMM cells.
Moving Phalanx on top of the deckhouse could be a problem because of the old GAM-BO1 gun mounts. Imagine doing this with a Phalanx mounts a few meters away, buzzing and taking aim and perhaps opening fire. The GAM-BO1 could and should really be replaced by the unmanned 30mm mounts as on the rest of the fleet

On the export front, there is some initial sign of interest from Italy. The Italian army will need to replace its Skyguard batteries in the near future, and CAMM is seen as an attractive option. MBDA Italy and MBDA UK could end up collaborating on the land variant of CAMM, with MBDA Italy looking at the command and targeting system, introducing elements of the SPADA 2000 air defence batteries. For sure, CAMM is a very interesting missile system, with a great potential and very good chances of gaining international success. 


  1. Another excellent summary,we can but hope that the decision makers in the MOD read this blog and take some ideas from it.
    Well done.

  2. Has the anti-surface capability of CAMM been introduced or is that still just "a possibility"?

    1. MBDA says the missile has anti-surface capability. Does not speak about mere possibility anymore.
      I don't know if it was live-tested, though.

    2. Great news if that adds to Type 23/26 capability (FIAC et al).

  3. Regarding: Mk-41 v.s Sylver.
    As far as I can tell, an 8-cell Mk-41 module takes up a deck area of 9m2, whilst an 8-cell Sylver A-70 module takes up a deck area of only 6m2 (and has half the weight).
    So, using Sylver gives a 50% increase in the number of missiles a ship could carry - assuming you can afford it, of course.
    But I'd really appreciate it if you could use your contacts to double-check that for me.

    Whilst the US will make sure its new missiles work in the Mk-41, likewise France only uses the Sylver, and so MBDA will make sure all its new missiles are qualified in the Sylver.

    The SM-1, SM-2, and SM2-ER all require dedicated missile director radars (like Seawolf) which the Type-26 lacks. The SM-3 requires an ABM radar, and that goes on the Type-45 not the Type-26.
    The Mk-41 would therefore allow the Type-26 to use: CAMM, a hypothetical active ESSM, SM-6, or potentially Aster-30. The Type-26 already has enough CAMM, which overlaps with ESSM, and I can't see the RN putting SM-6 on the Type-26 when it has Aster-30 on the Type-45!
    In conclusion, for AAW, the Mk-41 VLS will reduce the missile capacity by 33% in exchange for allowing the use of missiles that the RN is never going to want on the Type-26.

    The Mk-41 would allow use of a future US son-of-Harpoon, whilst the Sylver would allow Exocet MM40, if anyone wanted to qualify it for a VLS. More generally, Mk-41 will allow the RN to pick up future US missiles, whilst the Sylver will allow the RN to pick up future French-lead MBDA missiles. Except that actually most of the difficulty & expense of qualifying a new missile is in the software.
    Last I heard, the insides of Sylver A-70 were big enough for Tomahawk.
    The air-launched Storm Shadow is meant to be significantly stealthier than Tomahawk, but the Scalp-N is essentially a whole new missile, so no idea about that.

    Now we are talking. The M-41 can definitely hold the ASROC, and I've not heard any mention of any ASW / missile-delivered-torpedo for Sylver.
    It is probably worth double checking on that, though.
    Also, is this a capability that the RN is really interested in? (as opposed to just "nice to have"?)

    Re: Multi-mission Maritime Tomahawk.
    That software to allow the missile to patrol an area, find ships, and positively identify them against known valid targets, sounds like the sort of software we'd want to put on a UCAV. It could then drop a LGB on the target, with the expensive sensors & engine being reusable.
    Over-the-horizon ASuW weapons have always suffered from the flaw of needing a level of target identification that, historically, only a manned asset can provide. And once a computer can provide it, then congratulations, you now have a viable UCAV.

    Re: the budget for CEC.
    Do you happen to know if this is a US-style sharing of raw radar data, (very high bandwidth,) allowing all ships to have a huge picture?
    Or is it a more modest capability to use the "Link" - based guidance of modern missiles, to allow them to be fired "blind" into the coverage of another asset, which will then provide the "Link" updates to get it onto the target?

    Re: Soft Vertical Launch.
    Have you heard any news on which missile is next going to have the "soft vertical launch" concept applied to it? (IIRC, CAMM was selected as the first one to demonstrate the concept with, but was never intended to be the only one.)
    Earlier attempts to launch MLRS missiles from ships have failed in part due to their caustic exhaust gasses being too foul for a ship. But a SVL would get the round well away from, and pointing away from, the ship, before its engine ignites.

    1. Re: the budget for CEC.

      I would be surprised if the firing "blind" by using the data from a third party platform via Link 16 isn't already possible. They have tested the same sort of thing on Typhoon using Amraam with the data shared via Link 16. So would think something similar is possible between the Type 45s (and Seaking AEW?) and Aster. Or at least it should only be a software update.

      As far as I understand, what CEC offers above that sort of feature, is that it enables composite tracks, so that if no platform has a proper track, a track might still be possible by combining the radar data from a number of platforms. It also automatically fuses the tracks so that there is no duplicate tracks etc, which can be a problem with Link 16(and have to be sorted out manually on Link 16).

    2. I have no idea of the deck area of the MK41 and Sylver standard modules, but i do not believe there is much difference, as the size of the cells should be the same, so there's no way in which the same number of same-size cells take up so much less space on one than on the other.
      In addition, while you can see on an Arleigh Burke a 64 cell silo made by 8 MK41 modules, each with 8 cells, all stacked up together, i've never seen Sylver modules grouped up so tightly. There is always some space between a module and another, at least on one side. This is true on the french FREMM, on CdG, on Type 45, on the Horizon, on any Sylver-fitted warship.
      I'd say MK41 is the system that allows the greatest density of missile cells, not the other way around.

      While France will want all its missiles to fit in Sylver, there is no reason why the UK could not make sure to request a MK41-compatible canister for new missiles. Honestly, who would you want to be "tied" to? I'd go with the US Navy, which is far more likely to have the money to keep innovating and developing new weaponry in the decades ahead.

      RE: ASROC and Royal Navy interest. Hard to say, but a simil-ASROC capability was included in the requirements for a new "family" of anti-ship missiles. I think interest is there, the problem is the budget and the objective difficulty in justifying such a weapon in this moment.

      RE: UCAV. I heard that same argument a lot about Fire Shadow too. But UCAVs are complex to develop, and the UK is currently hoping to have one not before 2030. And it will be land-based. Challenges include cost, number of airframes, capability to deploy them at sea, availability, and again, cost.

      You can only use a missile once, it is true. But you can also only use once a guided bomb or missile dropped by a UCAV. So you have to add the costs of:

      -Purchasing the UCAV
      -Supporting it
      -Crewing its ground segment
      -the cost of the weaponry it drops

      That's where a missile/Fire Shadow come in handy. In the end, the cost per engagement is much lower, and availability is much higher. If you have the missile on the frigate, you can fire it with authorization. If you have to depend on a UCAV coming from land, or from the carrier if you are lucky, you might have to wait a long time...

      The british CEC is very much based on the US one, yes.

      Regarding Soft Launch, it seems to be a feature of HOPLITE. But that is only a concept weapon. PERSEUS does not seem to have that feature, and it might be too heavy and large to ever have it.
      There's no telling if it will be possible to have SPEAR 5 Soft-Launched, for the moment.

    3. I was at at DSEI and whilst I liked some aspects of the new design, particularly the new location for the amidships CAAM silo and the extended Chinook capable flight deck, I will admit to huge disappointment in the apparent reduction in the strike length silos from 24 to 16. IMHO a big big mistake. Are we building a truly 'Global Combat Ship' here or just a very large ASW frigate as would now seem to be the the case? If anything Libya and even more Syria have exposed a gaping hole in our armament. Even if we had decided to partake all we could have contributed would have been one SSM (Tireless?) with prob 20 TLAM at most, and even the Storm Shadow option would have appeared to have been denied once Cyprus denied us the use of our Akrotiri base, as of course they did with Libya too. If ever a case was made for 'Carrier Strike' - that was it. To my mind some form of ship borne long range land attack capability is a must, and in the current strategic situation should be prioritised pretty much above all else. For the reasons Liger lists above TLAM is the only way to go. Whilst on the stand, and as is my way, I queried the apparent reduction in strike length cells and the BAE guy confirmed what Mike Wheatley says above, the new model depicts the T26 with MK 41 which has a larger footprint, whereas the previous design showed it with the Sylvar option which allows for 24. He did however say that it was quote 'a generic design' and the actual configuration of the cells had yet to be set in stone. On a more positive note we both agreed that if you deleted the dedicated CAAM cells forward there would be space for an extra row of MK 41 or possibly even two, giving a total of 32. With the added flexibility of ExLS you would then have the option of quad packing CAAM in one of these rows, whilst restoring the strike capability of the original design. Personally I hope that were not done yet as it looks to me that as with the 42's and 22's this is a ship that is already crying out for a stretch? Not much of one I would add, as it might be possible to reduce the size of the funnel structure and increase the gap that Gab's points out which would allow for an interim retro fit of quad-pack SSM. Sense would suggest that these should be Harpoon taken straight off the 23's as they are retired, but it would also allow for other options such the Norwegian NSM or even JSM perhaps. In short we need to open up the gap between the funnel and the main mast just a tad, and possibly move the gun forward and slightly increase the forward silo deck to allow for a couple more rows??


    4. Was it BAE that said that there is the space below-deck for fitting MK41 instead of CAMM cells on the bow? Because if this is the case (as i hope) it is a great news. Great for export, and potentially great for the RN. If this possibility exist, the RN should make every effort to secure swapping single-purpose CAMM cells for multipurpose strike lenght cells. More expensive, but would add a lot of flexibility and, potentially, firepower.
      It all always comes down to money though, as we know all too well.

      Now, though, i need to find out what size are the cells on the Sylver. They have to be smaller by a fair bit than the MK41's, diameter-wise, otherwise i can't see how Sylver could have so much of a smaller deck area when the number of cells per module is the same. It just doesn't seem to be possible, if the cells are the same size, as i always thought.

    5. You've convinced me to start an in-depth investigation on the subject. I have easily found the exact dimensions of a MK41 Strike Lenght 8-cell module. Now i'm trying to get the sizes of the Sylver A70 module, but it appears a much more challenging try.
      I'll update the article with the new information if something meaningful comes out of my attempts.

    6. Anonymous,

      Have you any links that say that "Cyprus denied us use of Akrotiri during the Libya operations"?

      Because as far as I'm aware we used our base there during the libya. Sentinel R1 was certainly reported to be operating from there. I think E-3s were based there too. There was actually a BBC news crew that flew a mission on one Sentinel from there, if I remember rightly. Now no fighter aircraft flew from cyprus as far as I'm aware, but that was due to the distance. As most of the sorties were flown over western Libya, the bases in Italy were much nearer than the base in Cyprus. For an aircraft like the Sentinel and other long range aircraft, it doesn't matter much, but for fighters the difference in distance would have meant a lot more refueling.

      Now of course the RAF flew long range storm shadow sorties from the UK, but I can only guess that is because they didn't want to deploy the storm shadow missiles overseas. Maybe too much effort for the few missions they flew with them. Either that or they just thought it was good publicity.

      As far as I'm aware the Cyprus government has no ability to control the use of the RAF base there. They are in sovereign UK territory. I also haven't read anything reliable about the RAF not being able to use to base for any action against Syria (if it had been taken). There are in fact 6 Typhoons stationed at the base at the moment, incase Syria tried to attack it.

    7. While I would like to see some land attack cruise missiles on the type 26. And most likely Tomahawk as that missile. I do wonder if there is too much focus on long range cruise missiles.

      I would like to see more focus on shorter range missiles, that were at least less expensive if nothing else. Fire shadow would be a good start. But also would it be possible to fit the sensors, etc from Brimstone into a CAMM missile? If the range of a CAMM for anti-air is >25km then maybe a land attack version could get 50km+ due to a more optimal flight path and not needing to do any intercept at the end. Now 50km sounds a bit low, but I can imagine a lot of situations that it could be useful. Libya would have been one such situation.

      Or maybe the Spear 3 missile could be VLS launched. While it would need either the MK41 or Sylver, I wouldn't think it would need strike length ones. Of course it would be better to have strike length ones if there is the room, but maybe the shorter ones would be a better trade off between space for them and space for something else. In a similar class to Spear 3, I guess would be a ship launched version of the Small Diameter Bomb. Boeing is working on a GMLRS version, so maybe they might consider a VLS launched version in the future.

      I just think TLAM would be over kill and too expensive in a lot of situations and there is a danger of getting too focused on it.

    8. What he meant is that Cyprus opposed use of the base for launching combat sorties. No combat aircrafts launched against Libya from Cyprus, only combat support assets: a couple of Sentinel R1 flew from Akrotiri, but later moved to Gioia del Colle, in Italy. The AWACS very possibly always operated not from Akrotiri but from Trapani Birgi, in Sicily.

      Cyprus possibly can't firmly deny the UK the possibility to employ Akrotiri for combat air operations, but the Uk is understandably not willing to compromise relations by ignoring Cyprus's opposition. Both at the time of Libya and now for the operations in Sirya, Cyprus opposed the use of Akrotiri as a base for the launch of combat sorties.

    9. On Shorter-range, lower capability land-attack missiles: do not forget that the Type 26 is getting the 127mm gun, with guided long range ammunition which offers ranges between 96 Km (Standard Guided Projectile, coming with the BAE 127/62) to 120 Km (Vulcano with the 127/64 by Oto Melara. So, out to around 100 Km, the idea seem to be that the gun does the job.

    10. Just a quick addition regarding using the Cyprus base for Libya operations.

      The distance between Akrotiri and Tripoli (straight line according to Google Earth) is around 1930 Km. While the distance between Marham and Tripoli is just over 2400 Km. So would a saving of around 500 Km, really be worth all the work involved in moving the aircraft and missiles over there and supporting them over there, rather than keeping them at their home base? I wouldn't have thought so.

      Now why they didn't fly the storm shadow missions from the base in Italy, I don't know and can only say what I said in the above post. The base they used in Italy was about 930 Km from Tripoli.

    11. Gabriele,

      I completely understand that no combat missions were flown from Cyprus and that the Cyprus Government were opposed to them. And while I agree that the UK government wouldn't want to get into a dispute with them if avoidable, I'm just not convinced that is the reason there was no combat missions flown from there. I think it was more to do with the distances and the Cyprus base just not being that useful for combat missions.

      If we had been involved in any Syria action, then I really think we would have seen combat missions flown from Cyprus. While the UK would want to get into a dispute with Cyprus, there really would seem no point in having the base there if the RAF could never use it properly when needed.

      Now of course we could debate if the UK really should have any sovereign territory there (and personally I find it hard to justify really), but if they are going to have them then I would expect them to use them when required. I also wouldn't expect Cyrpus to get much support in either situation, when most European countries would be supporting the operations.

    12. In Libya, Gioia del Colle did the job better, so the UK did not really need to lock in a fight. It just worked with the italian government and air force to bring Gioia back to full efficiency (including resurfacing runways and getting other neclected areas back to working conditions) and it flew the missions from there.

      For Sirya, we don't know how it would have worked out. The issue with Akrotiri is not just Cyprus, but Turkey. You might have read of how Typhoons and F16s from Turkey scrambled against each other in there.
      It can get pretty tense, pretty easily.
      Perhaps the RAF would have ended up flying Tornados from bases in Turkey, and not from Cyprus. It wouldn't have surprised me. But it now seems like we'll never know for sure.

    13. Isn't the latest on that Turkey/RAF intercept, that they were both in fact scrambled to intercept two Syrian Su-24s?

      The report about them being scrambled against each other, always seemed strange. As for a start there would be a NATO AWACS in the area.

      I agree that it looks very unlikely that there will be any syrian action in the near term. Longer term, I still think it could be quite possible. As I doubt that Syria will stick with the agreement. They will play it out for as long as they can. Eventually the US might have enough. Now if there would be any UK involvement would still be unknown. But if the UK was involved and flew no combat missions from Akrotiri, then I would go along with the line that either the Cyprus government can stop them using it, or the UK government really will do anything just not to upset them.

    14. Thanks for asking at DSEI, and thanks in advance Gabriele for looking into it further.
      As you note, the specs for the Sylver are very hard to find. (The information on Wikipedia now goes to a dead link, and I can't remember my original source either.)
      I was considering that I might be wrong about it, e.g. if the specs for Sylver were not a like-for-like comparison with the Mk-41, so the confirmation from DSEI is very useful.

      Why the difference in size?
      The exhaust flames from hot VLS does not go back up the shaft that held the missile. Rather, is is channeled down, through a U-bend, and then back up through vents parallel to the missile canisters.
      The deck area is therefore 8 x missile canisters (very similar between Sylver & Mk-41) + exhaust vents + allowance for the structure width.
      The vent size is based on the energy of the gasses it is sized to cope with, and the ability of the materials to cope with it. (I suppose a design could have active cooling provided by the ships services?)

      The Sylver might have more advanced materials, allowing for narrower vents - or perhaps it can only handle cooler missile efflux - or it may be that the Americans simply didn't care that much about the deck footprint, their ships having enough space anyway.

    15. I'm still seeking information on the Sylver, but it is not smaller thanks to smaller vents. Actually, i learned that the exhaust vent shaft in Sylver is 1.5 times as big as the MK41's one, reducing the pressure the gas comes out at and (according to DCNS) allowing less time to pass between a missile launch and another in a salvo firing, without compromising on safety.

      More advanced materials and electronics might have a part to play, but i've seen indications that make me think that the Sylver cells are indeed smaller. I know the sizes of the MK41 canisters, and i'm trying to find evidence on the Sylver's ones.

      The americans, in the meanwhile, have developed the MK57 launcher, more modern and advanced, used on the Zumwalt destroyers (only on them, for now at least) which has even larger and deeper cells, offering space for the adoption of new, larger missiles. Currently the largest MK41 canister is 264 inches long. The MK57 canister is 283 inches long, a substantial increase.
      The canister have a square base, with side lenght of 26.12 inches in the MK41, and 28 inches in the MK57. The experience with anti-ballistic missiles suggests to the US Navy that the size of missiles in the future is likely to increase.

      I believe Sylver A70 canisters are probably around 264 inches long, as the MK41's ones, but Sylver is probably smaller in diameter. Tomahawk (diameter 517 mm) fits in MK41 canisters with some room to spare, and so it might be possible to integrate it in Sylver as DCNS claims, but only designing a new canister for it.
      DCNS's claim that A70 can take the Tomahawk dates back to the early 2000s, when there was a notional RN requirement for Strike Lenght modules (for Tomahawk) to fit at build to the Type 45s.
      MK41 and Sylver A70 were in competition, but as we know, that requirement couldn't be funded and did not go ahead into a program of acquisition.

      This is what i can say now. A friend promised to ask his contacts at DCNS to try and learn more on Sylver.

    16. Interesting...
      ...I look forwards to your future article on this subject.

  4. I think it says nothing the MOD doesnt know.

    1. Genius! I bow to your incredibly smart observation.

    2. LOL

      Oh Gabriel you made me snort.

      I have been reading these before and occasionally post.

      BUT you have been spending far too much time hanging around us Brits !!!


      ( not the same Anon obviously )

    3. I'm not sure if spending time hanging around brits has had any real effect on my humour.

      Short tempered i always was, and i suppose it has to do with the allegedly 'hot' blood of the latin people...

  5. Just a couple of pertinent points -

    1. With regards to the potential gap in a heavy anti shipping missile. We should be clear that this is a capability that the UK armed forces have never used and given the financial pressures which are apparent, it would appear extremely sensible not to rock the Treasury boat too much to retain it. Far better would be to secure the monies for 64 Mk41s for each of the Type-45s and 32 Mk41s for each of the Type-26s and secure meaningful Tomahawk land attack buys to launch from them until the follow-on MBDA missile is ready
    2. Regarding CAAM-Land and Italy - that is an excellent suggestion and should be vigorously pursued. Indeed one might suggest that Italy would probably be more than willing to do a deal should the UK be willing to standardise on the Oto 127/64 (20 units)

    1. The UK might have never needed so far to fire a ship-based ASM, but there have been well over 270 launches in the world since 1969. How long before it is the UK that needs to launch such an attack?
      Besides: due to the absurd, too-uncompromising separation in roles, a frigate carrying a Merlin is completely incapable to attack an enemy warship, since only Lynx/Wildcat carry Sea Skua. (and on the other hand, Wildcat will not have sonar and sonobuoys). If there is no ASM either, there really is nothing left but the main gun.
      We can't keep ignoring problems and introducing gaps everywhere, it just isn't serious, nor wise.

    2. While I think we need and will get a new ship launched ASM at some point, I have to wonder if like you have pointed out in the past, if the VULCANO IIR might actually be a better weapon. At least compared to a harpoon class ASM.

      It has a smaller warhead and less range, but more can be fired. In the 2020's any serious enemy ship is likely to be able to defend it's self against 8 ASMs. However they would find it harder to defend against a much larger number of VULCANO projectiles. It just depends on how well VULCANO preforms, as it will have a quite small seeker. I'm not sure the shorter range will be as big a problem as it seems, as are the ROE and targeting really going to allow many engagements beyond its range.

      There are so many questions in this whole area that just don't seem to have any answers yet. It isn't even known if LRASM will become a real navy project yet. At the moment it is just a DARPA project. Once they complete their project, it will be upto the US navy to decide if they want to take it over and develop it further. I'm not convinced that they will, as a large number of their existing projects are already struggling for funds. If the US budget cuts continue then I think they will at least push back any new ASM project.

  6. Good and informative as usual.

  7. Will the Harpoon quad launchers increase the RCS on the Type 45 destroyers?

    1. I'd say it's highly likely they do have an impact... but the stealthness of a ship is another thing from that of an airplane, so the impact is likely not meaningful.


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