Wednesday, May 28, 2014

State of the Royal Navy: a roundup - Part 1

Type 45

Some good news from the Type 45s front. All ships appear to have received their Phalanx fit, even HMS Duncan, the last vessel to enter service, which sported them in her recent visit to Oslo for the 200 years of the norwegian navy.
As we have known from MOD words since last year, Harpoon missile fit is also on the way for four of the six ships. It is not exactly clear when the missiles will take their place on board, but the Royal Navy's website itself is confirming that HMS Duncan is going to be the first in class getting the system. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Daring, Dragon and Diamond will be the other three. It remains unclear if the other two ships in the class are going to be cut out entirely, or if they will be fitted with the launchers infrastructure, wiring and software, allowing the missile fit itself to be moved from vessel to vessel to ensure the deployed ships have the capability.
The MOD said that additional equipment would be purchased to enable the integration of Harpoon on Type 45 (in addition to the kit that is recovered from the four decommissioned Type 22 Batch 3 frigates) but it is not clear if it is needed for the four ships, or to prepare the other two.
If all vessels get the infrastructure and system integration, swapping the missile fit from one to another is not going to be an issue; but unfortunately i'm inclined to read it as having two vessels which will flat-out not get the capability.
It is also not clear when the missile fit will appear. HMS Duncan was seen in port last march with a white tent covering what was almost certainly work related to getting the Harpoon infrastructure in; but on her subsequent sorties to sea, she still does not sport the missiles.

HMS Duncan in Portsmouth, back in March, with tarpaulin covering the Harpoon area. It is reasonable to assume she underwent some fitting out related to the missile fit, but the job isn't finished yet. Photo by Chris Argles. Thank you for letting me use the image!

Seen in Oslo in May 2014, HMS Duncan has gained Phalanx, but is still missing Harpoon, in a Royal Navy photo

HMS Defender has made progress towards full capability by receiving her own Phalanx fit and by firing Sea Viper for the first time on May 15.

Those who follow me on Twitter already know that i've been doing my best to track the Anti-Ballistic Missile tests undergone by HMS Daring in her long deployment in the Pacific. A while ago i had concluded, thanks to documents of the US Missile Defense Agency, that she had been part of
Flight Test Operational-01 (FTO-01), a US BMD System operational test executed at the Reagan Test Site/Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Since then, an interesting Jane's article has confirmed that i was right in my reconstruction of the events. The results of HMS Daring's work with the modified SAMPSON radar have been good enough that the MOD has provided additional funding to continue with the ABM development program. This is a welcome development, even though so far there continues to be no plan for the eventual roll out of ABM capability to the Type 45 fleet, nor any plan to provide the ships with anti-ballistic missiles. 
The new phase of development should culminate in another ABM test in 2015. The target is to better integrate the ABM radar functionality into the ship's combat system, and add better interoperability with US ABM assets by introducing the necessary data link format. 
The 2013 test used an ABM software functionality that was separated from the ship's mission system. This required the effective "shut off" of the normal Anti Air Warfare capability of HMS Daring, which slaved its main radar to the sole ABM task instead. 
The aim for 2015 is to demonstrate an integrated ABM function running alongside the AAW mode. This paves the way for a "full spectrum" air defence and anti ballistic capability comparable to the latest american AEGIS Baseline 9 combat system; an ambitious target. 

In early 2016 the Type 45 fleet will also finally begin to receive the fully integrated Electronic Chart Precise Integrated Navigation System, the key component of the Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System (WECDIS) navigation capability.
WECDIS is a fleet-wide program which is delivering electronic mapping and navigation to the fleet, including to submarines. 

Type 26 

Although still unconfirmed, according to Jane's the MOD is about to select the BAE MK45 Mod 4 gun as the artillery piece for the Maritime Indirect Fire System program, a branch of the wider Type 26 frigate enterprise. This would mean defeat for the Oto Melara / Babcock team, offering the 127/64 Lightweight, which was earlier seen as the favorite. 
The Lightweight is a more modern artillery piece, offering a much higher rate of fire (over 30 rounds per minute versus 20 plus) and a wholly automated high capacity ammunition magazine. Both BAE and Oto Melara can also offer guided long-range ammunition, respectively the Standard Guided Projectile and the VULCANO ammunition family. These follow very different design phylosophies, with SGP using rocket propulsion to extend the range of a full-width 127mm shell, while VULCANO uses a sabot-discarding, slim dart which exploits aerodynamics to reach long distances, at the expense of a smaller payload. Details of the two guns and of their ammunition is inside an earlier article.

In addition, British Forces News has visited the BAE design centre, and saw the virtual reality 3D design work ongoing for the Type 26 frigate. Observing the design work, a couple of things caught my attention: the new warship is possibly going to have a mission centre aft of the bridge, with windows looking out directly over the sides of the vessel, and possibly even facing aft, to give a greater and more immediate situational awareness. 
These 360° degrees bridges are becoming more common in warship design. The Holland class OPVs use the COBRA (COmmand BRidge Aft) arrangement; while other vessels have similar conceptual solutions, such as the DCNS Androit OPVs, and the still in design PAM multi-role warships for the italian navy.  
There is no way to confirm, at the moment, whether my suspect is correct or not, but windows definitely seems to have appeared aft of the bridge, suggesting a COBRA-like arrangement. 

A long row of new windows has appeared aft of the bridge, right beneath the sensors mast. The funnel mast also seems to have been redesigned and split into two masts of differing heights. 
The COBRA used on the Holland OPVs offers a mission control centre right behind the bridge. Armored windows ensure direct view of the bridge itself (see photo) as well as of the sides of the vessel. 
Panoramic view of the COBRA centre, with windows giving a view on the bridge and on the sides of the vessel. Might the Type 26 gain a similar arrangement?

The bridge itself seems virtually identical to the Type 45's one. The images shown do not allow me to say whether there are windows between the bridge and the supposed mission control area aft of it, like in the COBRA arrangement.

The graphic of the design being refined by BAE also suggests that the funnel mast has changed, splitting into two masts of different height. 

It will be interesting to see how the mast area is eventually reconfigured, and if it has any impact on the disposition of the pole masts and related communications equipment; on sensors and eventually even on weapons capability. The aft CAMM launchers apparently are still there, in the low mast aft of the funnel area, but maybe the new arrangement opens up space for anti-ship missile launchers?

The monolithic funnel mast as last showcased, at DSEI last year, with the CAMM missile cells. The more recent graphic suggests a split mast, with the aft half rising higher up (apparently almost to the same height of the SCOT 5 satcom radomes on the mast). Might we be looking at a new base for sensors or a relocated pole mast? 

In the design as last showcased, the Type 26 appears to have no space available for the fitting of the traditional quadruple missile launchers employed by Harpoon, NSM, Exocet, Teseo and other missiles. This could be seen as both a weakness in regard to exportability (those missile systems remain the most prevalent on the market) and a risk to the Royal Nayy's own anti-ship missile capability in the future, as there still isn't a truly defined plan to acquire a vertical launch weapon to replace the old Harpoon. The redesign could also address this aspect, possibly.

The Type 26 program should get the go ahead by the end of the year, probably with the aim to sign a contract for the first 8 frigates, leaving the other five for another day. 
Among the hurdles to be overcome, we have to include the referendum that will decide the future of Scotland. Until the result is known, the shipbuilding programs will be somewhat restrained, including the final go away for the BAE's plan of redevelopment of the shipyards on the Clyde. The preferred option sees a 200 million upgrade to the Scotstoun facilities, to create a single, fully capable yard, with the closure of Govan and the transfer of the manpower. There is also, formally, an alternative that sees both shipyard retained, and given a more limited uplift. The ship building process split on two sites, however, is less efficient. Finally, there's the "doomsday" scenario that sees both these ideas junked, in the quest for uplifting the capacity of one of the shipyards south of the border instead, in the case Scotland walks away. Something i dearly hope does not happen, as it would bring nothing good, to no one.



HMS Tireless is about to leave service, after having its life extended (it was planned it would decommission already last year) and after completing another long deployment which gained great media visibility when it was sent searching for the lost MH370 airplane. 
HMS Artful, the third of the Astute class submarines, has finally entered the water, many months later than originally planned. In general, the delays of the Astute class sure have kept the Royal Navy worried for a long time, and caused quite a bit of pressure. 

Artful is the first in class fitted with the Common Combat System (CCS), which uses common consoles, electronics cabinets, and commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software to create a shared computer environment. The CCS is the result of a Royal Navy initiative to streamline and future proof the fleet's combat systems, to develop more open system architectures that are more cost-effective to maintain and easier to update.

The next submarine, Audacious, will be launched incorporating further improvements. such as the Naval Extremely / Super High Frequency Satcom terminal (NEST) and a variety of enhancements grouped under the Astute Capability Sustainment Programme. 
NEST has seen the installation of a new antenna and related equipment at the Colerne satellite ground station in Wiltshire. This new equipment enables Super High Frequency communications using the british Skynet 5 satellite constellation, or Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications using the american AEHF satellite constellation.

The Rafael TORBUSTER advanced countermeasures system, which uses decoy which combine seduction and hard-kill capability, has been proposed as part of the Astute CSP by a team made up by BAE, Babcock and Rafael, but we might never get told whether it is being installed or not.When it comes to submarines, information is always sparse. 
Full new Communication and Radar Electronic Support Measures (CESM and RESM) capability has also been funded as baseline fit from Boat 4 onwards. 

The Spearfish heavyweight torpedo upgrade programme is also underway. The program includes the replacement of the two different fuels employed by the torpedo with a single one; the replacement of the warhead with a new one, compliant with Insensitive Munition rules; the digitalisation of the weapon; and a new fiber optic guide fibre replacing the current copper/cadmium wire, removing the delays in communication between the torpedo and the submarine. The end result will be almost a new weapon, with much greater capability and greater safety. Again, the details on the state of the Spearfish upgrade program are under wraps, but there has been a delay in the signature of contracts for the next phase of the work, which means delays. 

Looking ahead, to the delivery of the next Astutes and further away to the Successor SSBNs, the MOD and BAE have given green light to a 300 million project for the upgrade of the shipyard facilities in Barrow.  

The future could also include ultra-accurate navigation, completely independent from vulnerable GPS signals, thanks to a science development project ongoing for quantum positioning technology.

New OPVs

The contract for the delivery of three new OPVs should be signed soon. Little is known about these vessels, other than they will be derived from the 90m OPV design mostly known as Amazonas class, due to the ships of this type having been purchased by Brazil.
The new OPVs will have a flight deck compatible with the Merlin helicopter. What's not at all clear is the fate of the OPVs of the royal navy, as shortage of money and manpower might make these new vessels the replacements for the still young River-class. Even though the MOD has just purchased, for 39 millions, these vessels which have been operated for years under a leasing agreement.

I've already expressed my opinion that such a decision would be an inexcusable waste of money, time and good ships. While i fully understand the rationale of keeping the shipyards working to bridge the gap between the carriers and the Type 26 frigates, in order to keep the production line "hot" and in order to retain manpower and expertis, i think that withdrawing the Rivers would be a grave mistake.
The new OPVs will be extremely welcome and useful if they are kept in addition to the Rivers, not in their place.
The Rivers will be barely around 14 years old when the first new ship is delivered, in 2017, and the Royal Navy has a clear need for deployable hulls. The new OPVs, with their greater sizes and capability (including helicopter) can and should be used away from home, to relieve the frigates of some of their tasks (Caribbean, but also counter-piracy, for example), while the River continue to do what they have done well for years.

The government has right in these days published its Maritime Security strategy. The document, while being of some interest, hardly deserves the praise it received from several commenters. Moreover, the supposed "strategy" is written out in a deliberately ambivalent, vague way, especially when it comes to the new OPVs: mentioned several times in the document, they are described as a "further improvement" to the UK's maritime security capability, but not once there is a clear statement of their fate, and that of the Rivers. The official line is that the decision is left for the next SDSR. Of course.
The document has been written in such a way to allow the government to bin the Rivers and still describe the situation as an "improvement" because of the greater capabilities of the new vessels, regardless of the fact that, observing historical trends in the use of the Rivers, it is safe to say that such additional capabilities would be hardly be needed, and will only sparsely be exploited.

The hope can only be that, thanks to the very modest cost in money and manpower, the OPVs gain points in the SDSR.

Carrier Enabled Power Projection 

With HMS Queen Elizabeth to be named by the queen on July 4, and the manufacture of HMS Prince of Wales currently significantly ahead of schedule, the building of the carriers is progressing well. The program costs have been re-agreed, hopefully for the last time, and the MOD is planning ahead to reach the SDSR 2015 with a full set of options for the way ahead for CEPP. In particular, the MOD is coming up with plans for the second carrier, as well as for the vital MARS Fleet Solid Support capability, which has to deliver the ships which will replace the Fort class vessels in the 2020s.

CEPP also includes a dependency program for the delivery of amphibious capability via the carriers, a requirement made unescapable by the impossibility to fund a dedicate replacement for HMS Ocean.
The carrier includes design features such as wide assault routes and accommodation for a 250-strong reinforced Marines company, which can be expanded further depending on the composition of the air wing. Less jets means more Marines and helicopters. Deck manoeuvers, and even deck layout, are being thought out to accommodate the amphibious requirement, including concurrent jet and helicopter operations. It is possible that the deck layout selected will include 10 spots for medium helicopters operations.

In a very welcome move, the MOD has also moved to substantially close the unacceptable gap in AEW coverage, by keeping 7 Sea King ASaC in service all the way to 2018, and by speeding up the CROWSNEST program by 18 months, with the aim of having the first AEW capability on Merlin HM2 in 2018, in time to nearly completely avoid the gap.

Fleet Air Arm  

As said above, even as the Sea Kings of all other variants are withdrawn from service in 2016 as planned, 7 MK7 ASaC will be kept flying with 849 NAS up into the second half of 2018. By then, it is hoped that the initial capability of the CROWSNEST radar package for the Merlin HM2 will have been achieved, substantially closing the dangerous, unacceptable AEW gap which would have lasted for a good four years or more according to the initial plan.

As a way to prepare to the return of fixed wing naval aviation when 809 NAS will reform on F-35B, the Fleet Air Arm has taken back control of Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) from private contractor Serco. The squadron, equipped with 14 Hawk T1s, was recommissioned in Culdrose on June 6, 2013 as 736 NAS.

736 NAS is an extremely busy squadron, which has inherited all the tasks of FRADU.
Its role is serving as Maritime Aggressor Squadron, and is best known for providing threat simulation to warships conducting OST in the South Coast Exercise Areas. The Hawks, with the help of Falcon 20 aircraft loaded with towed targets and EW pods, provided by the contractor Cobham, train the royal navy in defence against air attacks.
736 NAS also delivers intercept training to the RN School of Fighter Control at Yeovilton, Close Air Support (CAS) training to 3 Cdo Bde as well as Army units, and Affiliation training to Rotary Wing Squadrons at both Culdrose and Yeovilton. It is a good place, in other words, for the Royal Navy pilots to work their way up to the rebirth of naval fixed wing aviation. 

FRADU in action, with Hawk and Falcon 20 jets, the latters equipped with a variety of EW system pods

The Fleet Air Arm has finalised its plan for the transition from Lynx MK8 to Wildcat HMA2, which will include the return of 825 NAS, which will reform out of the merge of 700W Nas and 702 NAS as the training squadron moves on from Lynx to Wildcat. 

825 NAS will be commissioned in september this year, to deliver training for the Wildcat and to form the first four ship flights. 
815 NAS will begin to convert to Wildcat from the second half of 2015. The transition will take time, and Lynx helicopters will continue to provide their service all the way up to their OSD, planned for 31 March 2017. 
815 NAS, once fully converted, will line 12 single-manned Flights at readiness for deployed operations worldwide and 2 double-manned MCT Flights at very high readiness in the UK.

One problem remains for Wildcat: the big delay in the FASGW program which has to deliver the two missiles it will use in its maritime attack role. They are not expected to be available before 2020, which means a big gap is taking shape as the Lynx force draws down and, with the Lynx, the Sea Skua missile does progressively vanish as well. 

Separately, in the Commando Helicopter Force, 847 NAS is converting to Wildcat as well, but the squadron uses the Wildcat AH1, the same variant employed by the Army, in support of the Royal Marines. 847 NAS will be the first operational Wildcat squadron.

Another transition is due to take place in the CHF, with the Sea King HC4 being replaced by the ex-RAF Merlin HC3/3A, later to become HC4 as they are fully upgraded and navalised.
While Fleet Air Arm crews have been training for a long time and the transfer of the helicopters to the Navy is underway, the first bit of naval capability will only arrive between late 2015 and early 2016, as the first 7 Merlin are delivered in interim, Phase 1 navalisation including folding rotor head, lash down points and other minor changes. These helicopters (HC3i) will bridge the gap forming as the Sea King HC4 bows out of service, replaced by helicopters which, in their current form, are unsuitable for shipboard operations.

848 NAS, the training unit for Sea King HC4, stood down in december 2013 after delivering the last training course. 846 disbanded in March 2014, leaving Sea King to move on to the Merlin. The squadron will reform in September 2014, while the RAF Merlin squadron 78 will disband as the helicopters are handed over.
845 NAS continues to serve the Marines, with a mere 11 Sea King HC4 left in service. The squadron will reform with Merlin in August 2015, and sometime in the same year the second and last RAF Merlin squadron (28 Sqn) will disband.
It does not seem to be planned to reform 848 NAS: training will probably be delivered from within the two frontline squadrons. The total number of crews in the force will drop from 43 to 37, with all of them expected to be trained come 2016.

For the disbanding RAF Squadrons, there's a little ray of hope, as one of them might stand up again with Chinook as the new HC6 arrive, but this is not confirmed at the moment.

25 Merlin helicopters will undergo upgrade and navalisation (Phase 2) including the seven interim helicopters. The full program of changes includes electric folding tail, folding rotor head, lash down points, fast rope kit, a cockpit upgrade like that of the naval HM2 helicopters, an integrated digital map system, improved CHF-specific communication systems and uplifted integrated defensive aids suite, including Generation 3 Common Missile Warning System, which actually ads the capability to locate the source of small arms and RPG fire as well.
The first fully reworked helicopter, to be known as HC4 / 4A, will be delivered in late 2017, and the deliveries won't be completed before march 2022.


  1. Welcome back Gabriele.

    Thank you for this.

    I'm concerned at the loss of 28 and 78 Squadrons and hope like you that at least one will stand up on Chinook. We will have over 60 after all.

    Further ahead, I can see the end of either Benson or Odiham, unless MoD get off their backsides and spend some of their money on decent Puma replacement.

    Agree totally on OPV's and their use and lets pray we get 2 carriers retained next year.

    1. Around 60 Chinooks once all the HC6s are delivered. If they are all put in service, it is likely that one squadron will have to be based on Benson, according to what the CO of Odiham said some time ago.
      My fear is that a sizeable part of the fleet actually ends up parked. Mind you, having back up airframes is not bad, it'll add life to the fleet... but it would really suck to spend a billion pounds on new Chinooks just to park a lot of helicopters away, while the amphibious support and embarked AEW, for example, have to make triple somersaults to survive.

    2. There is also the MSHATF at Benson so would have imagined it would go to the Army instead of outright closure.

      If there is not enough space at Odiham then that is just fine! Keep a squadron there.

      Even 12 aircraft per squadron would only make 48. Enough for embedded OCU, spares and maintenance aircraft with 12 spare?

      I don't actually know the no of Chinook per squadron for the Odiham force, especially with No 7 and JSFAW.

    3. I suspect the number of airframes per squadron has long ceased to be fixed. The JSFAW in theory should eventually work with the 8 HC3 (HC5 once updated) as they have the fat fuel tanks the SF requested so long ago, but it has also been suggested that they might jump ship directly to the HC6.

      I do hope they form an additional squadron, and make good use of all the helos.

    4. Agreed that it would be good to see one of the ex Merlin squadrons reform with Chinooks, their is little point in building up a force of 60 air-frames if we aren't going to use anymore than we currently do, especially seen as the whole fleet (young and old) is going through an upgrade and maintenance program to provide a mix of HC4/5/6 variants which removes the need to rotate them between the front-line and storage to stretch out their service life's as we have done with certain other fleets in the recent past.

      With 84 Chinooks and Puma's in service (at least until 2022) i'd say both Odiham and Benson will both be needed for sometime yet. If the unfortunate happens and the Puma retires without replacement then that will be the logical time to review the need to keep two helicopters stations going.

  2. Thanks for another great analysis Gabriele. The T26 two-site video shows a fore and aft Phalanx layout. I presume that is artistic license or CGI based on obsolete data. Interesting about the mission centre layout. Greatly looking forward to Part 2

    1. that's an old shot. As with the Type 45s, Phalanx goes port and starboard to give better coverage--protecting where ASM will hit.

    2. Yes, it just looks like they re-used old graphics to save time. Wouldn't read too much in that.

  3. 825 NAS is a great name to revive. But that means about 10 Wildcats in it--4 for the Type 45 ship flights and 6 for training/OCU?

    Merlin Mk2s--would mean the squadrons of the current ASAC may disband--if not how to spread out 30 Mk2s amongst 814, 820, 824 and the ASAC NASs?

    1. I don't think the deployable flights will continue to be part of 825 NAS once the transition phase is over. The ship flights, i believe, will all be in 815, while 825 will have only training and test flights.

      As for the ASaC squadrons, yes, they seem condemned all vanishing over 2015 and 2016. 849 NAS will live on to 2018 under the current plan, but at that point will most likely vanish.
      The AEW role seems set to be loaded on the shoulders of the existing Merlin squadrons. Most likely only on 814 and 820 NAS, since 829 is all about Small Ship Flights for the frigates, while 824 is the OCU.

      Very, very much would support upgrading 8 more Merlin to HM2 cockpit and avionics, and have a separate AEW squadrons. There's way too much work for 30 Merlins and their crews, for how things are going, and while i can believe that the CROWSNEST kit will be able to be installed and disinstalled in two hours, i have a lot of doubts about the crews being equally able to switch easily from ASW to AEW... Will have to see how things end up being managed.

    2. But that leaves like 8 Lnyx for Type 23 if 4 are for 4 x Type 45--Type 45s would rarely or never get a Merlin onboard.... So what number of Wildcats for 825? I would say 4 of them definitely stay in that NAS for the Type 45 ships.

      Money to upgrade the remaining 8 may not be there. Keep them place them on the RFA Repair, and medical ship, and spares for even the new OPVs or move around for 43 CDO. Not all eight but some. You dont need new Mk2s for the a repair ship or a medical ship. Medical could def do with an attached Helo....

    3. Regardless of which squadron holds them, what matters is having deployable flights. The Royal Navy news release suggests just 12 ship flights in total. To this we have to add the 6 Merlin ship flights from 829. Deploying warships draw from here, just like it happens today.

    4. It's five flights for six ships--read the website.

      4 for CHF

      Leaves 24.

      14 for 815

      So 6 for 825?

    5. 825 will initially have 4 Flights, it says. But once the transition is over, the focus of the squadron becomes training and tests. I don't think operational ship flights will be part of the squadron in the longer term. It will have training and test flights, and that will be it.

      As for the helicopters for 847 NAS, they come from the 34 AH1 of the army, not out of the 28 for the Navy. It is quite clear that under the current plan a good number of the 28 Wildcat HMA2 will be kept as spares for attrition and for backup inventory purpose.

    6. I fully agree that the planned fleet of Merlin HM2, whilst able to roll Crowsnest on/off in a short amount of time which i think is a great idea and shall bring a lot of added flexibility, will none the less be very overworked to provide both capabilities over a wide range of platforms with just 30 air-frames available.

      I was all for using those 8 extra HM1 Merlin's they have in storage but i have heard rumours from multiple people over the last few months that suggest it's already too late as they have long since been cannibalised for spare parts to go towards the RAF Merlin HC3/4 upgrade and marinisation program.

    7. I fully agree that the planned fleet of Merlin HM2, whilst able to roll Crowsnest on/off in a short amount of time which i think is a great idea and shall bring a lot of added flexibility, will none the less be very overworked to provide both capabilities over a wide range of platforms with just 30 air-frames available.

      I was all for using those 8 extra HM1 Merlin's they have in storage but i have heard rumours from multiple people over the last few months that suggest it's already too late as they have long since been cannibalised for spare parts to go towards the RAF Merlin HC3/4 upgrade and marinisation program.

  4. Any speculation on what may happen to the "spare" Indian VIP Merlin cabs? 12 ordered, 3 delivered, 3 apparently already sold on elsewhere. Six potentially needing new homes - possibly at a reduced price. Any chance for Crowsnest perhaps?

    1. Really....I doubt HMG and MoD are that smart to actually think of cheaper alternatives....

      Agree with all posts, there should be dedicated ASAC Merlin's.

      Once the Cold War ramps up again, which it will, and there are Russian SSN's lurking, RN will need extra ASW capability once they have removed most of it.

      Nothing ever changes.

    2. Im hoping the choice to have "installable" AEW is for deployment to platforms other than QEC.

      We have seen the Sea Kings operating off the back of T45, and away from the fleet completely in Afganistan.

      Possibly it also allows for just 2 - 3 converted AEW airframes on QEC pulling replacements from ASW T26 if necessary.

      In summary I think all they are doing is building contincency and robustness. Im not sure we are thinking a crazy Thunderbird 2 roll of retasking every 5 minutes with new pods for all occasions !?


      P.S. Great article. i do love your stuff Gabe.

    3. I suspect a number of crews and machines will, in a way or another, end up being always working on AEW, yes. It is the most likely final result. How exactly it will be managed, we'll have to wait and see. These 30 helicopters are going to work hard...

  5. Good post as always. keep up the good work. Roll on part 2.

    1. Rolled it on! Put it online minutes ago. ; )

  6. Heard rumours that the T26 design has issues with top weight. Wondering if an initial order for 8 may be with reduced mission bay as it's not as important on a primarily TAS ASW ship.

    Be interesting if the 5 GP versions will ever be built or if they go to a smaller design that can be built in larger numbers now that the P has been dropped from MHPC.

    1. When did the P get dropped from MHPC?

      BAEs 'frigate factory' that they are preparing for the Type 26 needs as many hulls built as possible. Even with the planned 13 Type 26s, there will be a significant gap in complex warship building once production has come to an end. If he government cuts to 8 hulls, then it would kills the industry. No government can afford to do that.

      13 will be built.

    2. With regards to MHPC, the current focus is on developing the USVs and UUVs which will deliver stand-off Mine counter measures. This is why it may appear that the P has been dropped, but it hasn't.

      The Hydrographic capabilities are in no urgent need of development as the Echo class are still young. But this will start to change by the end of the next decade.

      The Patrol capability is simply a design feature of the future vessels which will deliver both stand-off MCM and Hydrography. The first such vessel wont enter service until 2028 at the earliest.

      Imagine the MHPC vessel as the mule of the Navy, doing all of the low end tasks such as MCM, Hydrography and sometimes low intensity constabulary duties such as anti-piracy, counter narcotics and patrol etc

      The destroyers and frigates being the work horses of the Navy.

    3. Yep, with remote controlled submersibles being gradually introduced to the mine-hunter fleet, the Hunt and Sandown hulls themselves not needed replacements until 2028 on-wards, the Echo class still being quite young and now a new order of 3 OPV's on the way it seems that MHPC isn't dead it's just slowed down a little with the emphasis moving away from the P for the time being.

  7. Was wondering how long old Tireless was going to soldier on for!

    It's no surprise the remaining Trafalgar's are being worked so hard as they gradually decommission. With the Astute's taking so long to commission and then actually enter useful service the SSN force as a whole is becoming dangerously stretched. It's a problem of boats being retired faster than their replacements become available which won't go away until Astute No.7 arrives in the early 2020's and in the meantime results in old boats being sent off on increasingly lengthy (8+ month) deployments and lingering in service several years past the expected dates.

  8. Gaby

    I have not been following the progress of the Type 26 very closely because a) I have been very busy recently and b) I am a landlubber anyway.

    I know it will involve some work for you but could you possibly, if you have a few spare moments at any time, do a short summary of the armament the type 26 will carry. I do not know the latest position with regard to weaponry but have read separately at various times of the fitting of Sea Ceptor (CAMM), of VLS (for anti-ship and land attack?), of the BAE MK 45 gun, of CIWS, of torpedo launchers (helicopters only?) etc, etc.

    A short summary piece of the latest situation would be very much appreciated. Need only be a bare list!

    1. Type 26 should get, for what we know:

      48 CAMM missiles in 8 stacks of 6 cells each, arranged four on the bow and four aft of the funnel mast;

      16 MK41 Strike cells or 24 Sylver A70 cells can be fitted. Not too clear if they will indeed be fitted, or not.

      No clarity at all on what kind of anti-ship missile solution will be adopted. No space for Harpoon-like tubes in the models seen so far, so ship needs Strike Lenght VLS and a VL missile in the cells.

      Two 30mm guns.

      Two twin Stingray magazine torpedo launchers

      One 127mm gun, apparently the BAE MK45 Mod 4

    2. Will Phalanx CIWS be fitted as standard when built or will their simply be room left for them in the design?

    3. Hard to tell. In order to fit Phalanx to all ships, more gun mounts would have to be purchased, as the current stock would not be enough. I fear that fitted for but not with is a likely outcome.

    4. I always felt one of the few shortcomings of the T23 has been the absence of a CIWS, so when the T26 spec started to continually show and mention the addition of a system i started to think they may actually get them as standard.

  9. Gaby

    Many thanks indeed to you for that information.

  10. Hi Gaby. Great stuff always!

    Some thoughts:
    On T26 I think that the windows that you see aft of the bridge are actually doors: compare with most recent hi res visualisations (last year); there are mutliple doors in the same location. Seem to match
    On T26 names, Warship World report a letter from MoD saying that there will be no more place names because of the number of affiliation requests from an ever smaller fleet: hard to twin, say Sheffield with anywhere but Sheffield! Since Echo and Enterprise were last, I'm going for F and G (F for the 2087 equipped ships). Based on age, number of ships, battle honours, previous vessels and classes to be honoured and good old fashion names, I'd go for:
    Falcon (the first was in 1334!)
    Fisher (theres always an admiral now: Duncan and Anson)


    many of these names go back to the 17th or 16th century

    I think that 2014 is a turning point for the RN. There are many worries but:

    809 NAS announced
    Merlin HM2 and Wildcat into service on time
    Merlin HC4 given go ahead with full spec (remember the worries about whether there would be folding tail?) + sensible interim solution
    ASaC7 life extension and Crowsnest acceleration to all but close this vital gap
    QE launch - masses of publicity
    Ex Deep Blue begins the long road back to carrier operations (worth looking at in detail: talk of prototyping a Merlin TAG with mixed squdadron crews and maintenance personnel - perhaps a hint of how they intend to keep separated ASaC squadrons whilst sharing helicopters between ASW/ASuW and ASaC roles on board)
    Fort Victoria has £47m refit: must be staying in service for a while longer. If so, we could regain a tanker since 4 Tides are replacing a Leaf and 2 Rovers). This would be incredibly welcome
    T45 increasingly fitted with not fitted for: Phalanx, 2 Lynx proven, roll out of digital ESM, CESM and Harpoon
    Sea Ceptor production approved and on time

    For once, reasons to be pleased?

    1. We've had some good news this year, yes. Much needed, all of them.
      Fort Victoria, though, not too sure if that has to be put into the good news column, as it is not clear what impact it will have on MARS FSS.

    2. On the subject of names i have also heard that city names aren't going to be used again because as the previous poster stated it's difficult to have a ship affiliated with any place other than it's namesake.

      Perhaps if we didn't stick with the alphabetical naming (although i think we probably will) then using county names would be more inclusive and make affiliation easier?


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