Sunday, November 23, 2014

Type 26 frigates: new info and some thoughts

My earlier post on the reported troubles with firming up costs for the Type 26 and with getting to contract award have been generating a healthy discussion in the comments section, and that is great. Someone has been reading in my post a sort of hostility from me against the Type 26. I deny this very firmly. My point is another: for what we know about the ship requirements (settled in May 2012 and stable since then) and MOD-endorsed design (which has been frozen in its main lines for quite a long while, now), there is nothing excessively revolutionary that should make this platform unaffordable, considering how much equipment will be carried over from the Type 23 frigates.
It is not my invention, but a fact, that the Royal Navy has deliberately shaped Type 26 as a program which builds on earlier, incremental improvements adopted on the Type 23s and then moved across, without seeking innovation at all costs. A rough figure has been suggested, putting Type 26 in the field of "80% old, and 20% new".
This does not mean that Type 26 won't deliver a step change in capability from the current Type 23s, but rather that it will deliver so using already existing technology, and indeed re-using a fair amount of equipment.
The savings obtained by re-using equipment and by sticking with proven technology and systems are to be employed, in the idea behind the programme, to ensure a decent number of hulls get built, and to ensure that those hulls come with some new and exciting capability thanks to their large size, large aviation spaces and vast "flexible" mission space and, importantly, a large vertical launch silo that will open up routes the Type 23 has simply never been able to pursue.
I very much like the general idea, and my only wish is to see it working as intended.

I'm writing this new article because i've come across some excellent material that provides some great details about the Type 26 design that has been finalized and is being costed ahead of the Main Gate. The document is a letter, dating October 2014, from the Secretary of State for defence to the house of common's defence committee. The SoF replies to a series of direct questions, and provides some excellent information.

First of all, the Flexible Mission Bay. There is no indication of its size and shape, but the SoF finally provides a confirmation that the helicopter hangar is directly connected to the Mission Bay, with a passage large enough to enable the transfer of manned and unmanned aircraft from hangar to mission bay.
Hangar size unsurprisingy at least matches that of the Type 45: the destroyer is slightly larger in beam, but the hangar is not full-width, as it has the RHIB bays on both sides. On Type 26, there are no boat bays, although it is likely that the helicopter bay will be flanked by logistic and aviation stores spaces and by the delivery end of the new mechanized Air Weapons Handling System, designed by Babcock, which is to store, retrieve and deliver the weapons for the embarked helicopter to the Weapons Preparation Area.
Apparently, the AWHS will also handle the Stingray torpedoes for the ship's launch tubes (if they will be fitted, see further down in the article).
The hangar thus can be assumed to match the Type 45's one and it might actually be larger: the SoF says it "comfortably" fits one Merlin or 2 Wildcat. Using the Mission Bay space, more aviation resources could be carried: UAVs, both fixed and rotary wing, but also additional manned helicopters. It would be possible, albeit with limitations, to embark a second Merlin in the Mission Bay, the SoF specifies.
The ability of the mission bay to communicate directly with the hangar (and thus with the flight deck) is an eminently sensible feature to have, and it is good to have the confirmation that it will be there, and with ample chances of exploiting it over the long life of the ships (at least 25 years of design life).

It is also confirmed that the Flight Deck is being sized to allow a Chinook to land and deploy the ramp to enable comfortable embarkation and disembarkation. The compatibility with Chinook, while not strictly necessary, is useful as the heavy transport helicopter could make good use of the ample Embarked Military Force contingent that can sail into a Type 26, and it could also be used to bring aboard capability modules and stores.
Moreover, the Chinook-sized deck should also, and probably mainly, be seen as a way to ensure that simultaneous UAV and manned helicopter operations can happen with suitable space available for necessary deconfliction.
These features add a huge amount of flexibility to the design.

The mission bay itself is a large open space stretching from side to side, with large doors on both sides for deploying boats, unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles, as well as to embark mission modules which can come in containers as big as 20 feet standard TEU.
The mission bay can hold up to four 12 meters boats (and probably a few containers of additional equipment in the middle of the bay, judging from images seen this far) or up to 10 modules / 20 foot containers.
This flexibility will be invaluable in adapting to future missions and in enabling the adoption of future unmanned vehicles which are almost certain to become not just the main MCM system, but also more important in ASW. Having space and infrastructure is, consequently, very desirable for warships which have to last long into the future.
The UK is actively collaborating with France to develop modular payloads for MCM operations, and such developments are happening in other nations across NATO: the UK has taken the lead, according to the letter, for a project that aims to set international standards for the module interfaces, so that foreign systems in future can be embarked and operated where necessary.
One thing which isn't yet detailed is what kind of equipment the ship will have for embarking and disembarking containers and modules: will she depend on external infrastructure, or will the slide-out gantry crane be able to lift not only boats, but also the containers? It will be interesting to see which solutions are adopted. The mission bay will require a strong deck, as reinforced as the flight deck itself. A fully loaded TEU can weight some 24 tons, so a useful payload margin of at least 240 tons is apparently requested. The mission bay estimated size, considering what it can fit, is probably not inferior to a 15 meters long, 20 wide space.

The Type 26 will have a crew of 118, and room for 72 other personnel for the aviation element, for boarding teams, pre-landing forces of the Royal Marines, or for specialists coming to operate the modular mission systems. From the SoF letter, it becomes clear that some real attention has been paid into giving the frigate excellent capability to host the Royal Marines pre-landing party.
In recent times, HMS Montrose, a Type 23 frigate, experimented with a sizeable pre-landing force of over 70 Marines in 2012: must have been a real tight fit on a Type 23, but on the Type 26 there will be space and infrastructure to do much better.

In terms of weapons fit, the letter specifies that the vessels will be fitted at build with a sizeable Flexible Strike Silo numbering 24 cells, for anti-ship, land attack and anti-submarine weapons. The letter specifies that the cells will be american MK41. This is a surprise, since earlier info suggested that since MK41 is somewhat larger than Sylver modules, only two launchers (for 16 cells in total) could be fitted: it appears it is not so, and the higher number of cells has been confirmed in the finalised design.

Confirmed are the 48 Sea Ceptor canisters as well, almost certainly in the two silos configuration seen in CGIs and models so far, so with 24 cells on the bow, ahead of the strike cells, and 24 aft of the funnel mast, amidship.
The Type 26 will have a 127mm gun, too, replacing the old MK8. I'm told that, although it has not yet been officially announced, only the MK45 Mod 4 remains in the frame, with the Oto Melara 127/64 out of the race. Jane's had reported a while ago that the MK45 had been given preferred bidder status, so it seems things are moving in that direction. The new gun will "allow" the Navy to buy into the new long-range guided ammunition being developed for the calibre, which is a NATO standard, unlike the 114 mm of the MK8.
There will also be two 30mm light guns, as expected, and the possibility to fit two Phalanx CIWS.

The list shown in the letter comes without one notable piece, however: it makes no mention of Stingray torpedo tubes, which is very surprising considering that the Type 26 is an ASW platform, and that the launcher systems could reasonably be transferred from the Type 23s.
It is an omission that causes questions to arise: it seems unlikely that there would not be such a fit on this kind of vessel, especially since vertical launch anti-submarine rockets, which are mentioned in the letter, are not in british service, and would have to be somehow procured (read: financed, as that is the issue). It is not a product line where there is much choice: the americans have the ASROC, the italians have the MILAS (which is not vertically lauched, however) and the South Koreans are producing a system of their own. Japan also has its own anti-submarine missile system. None of these is fitted with a british Stingray torpedo, obviously, although this could probably be fixed quite easily.
Not fitting the torpedo tubes would be a puzzling decision, if confirmed. The ship's tubes are admittedly more of a snap self-defence fit than anything else, considering the limited range of the lightweight torpedo fired from them means that the frigate launching them would probably already be under attack by the enemy submarine; but doing away with them entirely, besides while not having a clear path to a vertical launch solution, is questionable.
Might it be just a case of them having been "forgotten" in the letter? Can't be excluded.

The letter also has another nice little bit of a news in itself: the FASGW(L) missile, the Thales Light Multi-mission Missile, has been given the name MARTLET in british service. This hadn't been disclosed to the public before, as far as i'm aware, unlike Sea Venom which was named earlier this year.

(Secretary of State for Defence - Type 26 letter to the defence committee)

A displacement of 8000 tons? 

Type 26 is going to be a large and "dense" warship. The 6000 tons displacement quoted by BAE is pretty much certainly not the weight of a fully loaded Type 26, and indeed some recent news reports have suggested that the ship might now be an "8000 tons full load displacement vessel". I'm however not sure i can believe the 8000 tons value at this point, because it sounds excessive in relation to the specifications and the size of the vessel, but it will be an heavy ship, that's for sure. The SoF letter does not provide any helpful indication about this subject.

Type 26 is 148,5 meters long and around 20 meters in beam. Not too far from the 144,6 and 19,7 meters of the italian variant of the FREMM frigates (the french ones are slightly shorter, as the italian ships are being lenghtened post-build by some 3,5 meters adding an additional section in the stern) which have a declared displacement of 6700 tons, sometimes indicated in more than 7000. The italian navy has released some different, contradictory figures for the displacement, which consequently isn't identifiable with certainty. Even the reason for the lenghtening isn't yet fully clear: officially, the expansion was mainly due to the need to improve all-weather operations with the AW-101 Merlin helicopter and was exploited to provide additional accommodation space, 100 tons of additional fuel (bringing endurance to 6700 nautical miles against 6000 earlier) and a second RAS station. The weight increase coming from the lengtening was indicated in 250 tons.
Unofficially, there have been strong suggestions that the lenghtening has been inspired by the wish to correct weight distribution, as the italian FREMM have been given the same huge main mast of an Horizon destroyer, carrying the heavy, powerful EMPAR radar system, and this has, again reportedly, made the ship remarkably bow-heavy, with consequences on handling, particularly in rough seas.

In many ways, the italian FREMM is a good comparison to Type 26: the italian navy is taking delivery of two variants, the General Purpose and ASW. The first replaces the towed sonar of the second with a stern ramp for the deployment of a 11-meters RHIB. The other main differences are that the GP is armed with a 127 mm gun and a 76 mm gun-CIWS, while the ASW has two 76 mm guns. The GP is, for now at least, not fitted with the SLAT anti-torpedo decoy system, which is instead standard on the ASW.
Both ships carry two helicopters in two hangars: one, slightly larger than the other, can house an AW-101 Merlin, while the other is sized for the NH-90 helicopter. The frigates can employ one AW-101 and one NH-90, or two NH-90.
In fairness, i've heard comments suggesting that the AW-101 hangar is quite tight, and considered more adequate to carry a NH-90 and offer spaces for its maintenance rather than allow the actual enduring embarkation of an AW-101 Flight. The smaller hangar bay has been described as just large enough to house the NH-90, without work spaces, so it does seem more practicable to go with two NH-90s, which is by the way more likely as Italy is procuring 40 to 46 NH-90 NFH, while the AW-101s are much fewer (10 ASW, 8 amphibious assault / transport and 4 AEW) and generally meant for use on the Cavour aircraft carrier.  
Both ships employ one 11-meters RHIB and one 7-meters one, with the GP adding a second 11-meters in the stern, as already said.

It would be interesting to have an accurate displacement value, as it could provide a useful ballpark idea for what the Type 26's own displacement might be.

The italian FREMM has accommodation for at least 200 following the modifications (180 on the french FREMM), but also has a core crew considerably larger than the french variant (108 including 14 men of the helicopter flight): the GP was meant to have a crew of 131, and the ASW of 133. Use of the platform at sea has since inspired an expansion of 34 men, as well as some 23 for the aviation department.
The increase in crew size has had some impact on the vessel: currently, the space originally preserved to fit two 8-cell Sylver A70 launcher modules for strike missiles has been sacrificed to provide additional accommodation spaces.
The standard of accommodation, especially in the original rooms, is very high. The room with more bunks has only 4 beds. That's a lot of volume used in what does not appear to be a very efficient way.  

The Type 26 is aiming for a core crew of 118, with accommodation for another 72 personnel. On the Type 45, junior rates sleep 6 per room. On the Queen Elizabeth class, the 6 bunks rooms are larger, but come with two folding beds which can be used to embark 2 more personnel.
On the Type 26, which will need some pretty well optimised use of space for fitting accommodation for 190 plus a large flexible mission bay and a substantial number of VLS, the arrangement of bunks has not yet been detailed. However, back at Euronaval 2012 some reporters talked about 9-bed rooms, a bit of a sacrifice in terms of crew spaces to make everything fit.

Sensor-wise, the italian FREMM is fitted with the EMPAR, as said earlier, a system considerably larger than ARTISAN 3D: the antennas of the two systems weight 2,45 tons against 0,7 tons.

In armaments, the italian FREMM carriers two 8-cell Sylver A50 modules, with the SAAM - Extended Self Defense control system, which enables limited area defence employing not just Aster 15 but Aster 30 as wll. The limitation in area defence performance comes, effectively, from the fact that the FREMM does not support the EMPAR with a long-range radar as happens instead on the Horizon destroyers.  
Type 26 will be able to employ up to 48 CAMM / Sea Ceptor missiles, distributed in two silos. Weight-wise, despite the big difference in numbers, it is the SAAM-ESD that weights the most, since each Aster 15 in its canister weights a full 550 kg, with Aster 30 reaching the 700 kg, while each CAMM canister is in the region of the 100 kg, and being a cold-launch weapon it does not need a VLS as bulky and complex as Sylver (over 8 tons per module, but exact weight not available).
The FREMM armament is completed, in the GP case, by a 127/64 gun (34 tons with turret ammunition drums filled with 56 shells) plus 305 shells in an automated handling two-storey ammunition depot; two 25 mm guns, two triple MU-90 torpedo tubes, eight TESEO anti-ship missiles (770 kg each in their canister) and a 76mm gun on top of the hangar, weighting 7,9 tons without ammunition.

The Type 26 however will have, as of October 2014 information, 24 MK41 strike lenght cells available in addition to Sea Ceptor. Each module, bare of weapons, weights some 14,5 tons. If each cell was filled with a MK14 Mod 2 canister containing a Tomahawk missile (the heaviest, at 2,777 kg each), the weight would rise rapidly! The maximum weight of the Flexible Strike Silo, launchers plus Tomahawk canisters, could be in the region of an impressive 110,15 tons.
However, to this day there is no real indication yet of what the Royal Navy wants to fit. Tomahawk appears to be likely, but the Royal Navy also needs to replace Harpoon, and the only MK41 candidate which could be readily available by then would be the american LRASM solution. The anti-submarine "rocket", if it will be actually pursued at some point, would be another novelty.

The italian FREMM carries enough fuel for 6700 nautical miles, and enough stores for 45 days, officially. The Type 26 reportedly aims for no less than 7000 nautical miles and 60 days, so there might easily be dozens of tons of difference in the amount of fuel carried, and a significant difference in the volume and weight of stores, as well, but providing exact figures is not possible at this point.
The propulsion systems have in common the presence of a gas turbine and four diesels, but that's about it. The italian FREMM uses a 32 MW LM2500+ G4 gas turbine and 4 Isotta Fraschini VL1716 diesels and 2 Jeumont Electric motors, while the Type 26 will have a 36 MW Rolls Royce MT30 and 4 MTU V20 diesels generating 12 MW. However, the FREMM is a CODELAG ship which can run the gas turbine and the diesels at once to sustain high speed in rough sea or obtain greater max speed, thanks to a RENK 170-175 gearbox set weighting some 120 tons; while the Type 26 will be CODELOG, which means the diesels will be used to generate electric power for silent cruise speed, but will be detached when max speed is requested, leaving the sole MT30 to directly drive the two shafts.
The electric motors of the Type 26 are to be supplied by General Electric, and the gearbox by David Brown.

Overall, it is quite natural to expected a loaded Type 26 to exceed 7000 tons and the weight of the slightly smaller and less armed FREMM, but 8000 tons would seem to be an exaggeration.


It is a good thing that the Type 26 does seek to reuse much of the expensive equipment fit (main radar, Future Local Area Air Defence System / Sea Ceptor, light guns, navigation radars and other equipment) and build on existing technology (including the shared infrastructure common combat system, which is being rolled out across the Royal Navy's surface fleet in the coming years, having already been installed on HMS Ocean, ordered for the Type 23s and mandated for the new build OPVs), because otherwise there would be no chance to meet the ambitious cost targets set for the programme.
The hull is going to be big and capable, and very dense, with such big spaces being requested for the Strike VLS, mission bay, fuel and stores. The Strike VLS fit is not new (it builds on something that is operational on hundreds of ships around the globe) in general terms but is a new entry in the Royal Navy, so will need to be acquired anew.

Ultimately, we do not know which is the current target pricetag for the Type 26. The newspapers have recently made headlines about Type 26 being a 4 billion project, but this isn't too helpful because government has notoriously indicated that there is likely to be a first contract for 8 ships, to be followed (hopefully) by 5 more later. If 4 billion applied to the first 8 hulls only, the cost per ship would 500 million pounds, rather non ambitious at all. On the other hand, 4 billion for 13 ships would likely be too little, at little more than 307 million per hull. Result maybe not beyond the realm of the possible in general terms, but looking too ambitious for british shipbuilding, which isn't really famous for being cheap.

Maybe the danes could get it done: they have very successfully built the IVER HUITFELDT class frigates, three capable air area defence warships which have cost an amazingly low 313 million USD each.
These impressive vessels, however, build their hulls on the experience of the commercial operator Maersk, a factor not to be underestimated. The design has also benefitted from previous work done to design the Absalom class, another success story.

The IVER class use a fully-diesel propulsion with 4 large MTU sets which can push the ship for 9300 nautical miles at 18 knots, but that can also thrust her to over 29 knots speed with a 120 seconds acceleration time. The base crew of 116 isn't too far from Type 26's target, nor is total accommodation available, set at 165+ men.
The IVER is a 6649 tons displacement vessel, about as large in beam as Type 26, but around 10 meters shorter.
The ships are fitted with an advanced combat system and with the excellent APAR multi-function radar used also on the german SACHSEN ships, supported by the SMART L, the long range radar which equips the Horizon and Type 45 destroyers (in the S-1850M variant). They have a 32-cells MK41 Strike Lenght silo amidship, supplemented by 24 additional cells for ESSM missiles and by space for more ESSM or for up to 16 Harpoon. They are fitted with two 76 mm guns, and a Millenium CIWS, but could soon enough swap one 76 for a MK45 MOD 4 gun. The other 76 could stay or be replaced by another Millenium.

Amazingly cheap, these ships deliver formidable value for money. The budget for all three was 940 million USD, supplemented by 209 million in re-used equipment (ESSM cell modules, Harpoon and 76 mm guns, mainly). The budget did not include the purchase of the SM-2 missiles for air area defence, so for now the MK41 is empty and only ESSM is available, and the 127 mm gun is planned but not yet purchased.
Deep in the hull, they have space reserved for a towed sonar, and further space for other equipment with a footprint equivalent to four 20 feet containers. 

It will be a big challenge for the british shipbuilding industry to keep Type 26 costs down. There is no revolutionary system being requested, but on the other hand there is admittedly quite a lot of capability being designed into a dense hull.
The amount of re-use of existing equipment migrating from the Type 23 could be a real lifesaver for the programme: the abundant carry over should represent a big "saving" of sort (money will have of course have been spent for all items, but early and separately), especially since it covers most of the big-money items of the combat equipment.

Saying how much it will cost to fit the new MK45 main gun and the MK41 silo is not easy, but thanks to an immensely useful USN document detailing the cost of new build DDG-51 destroyers by major subsystems, i've put together a ballpark estimate. Take it with prudence and salt, of course: this is a very rough method for estimating costs, but i think it is interesting enough to be included as a basis for discussion and reflection.

To provide a rough cost indication, i've scouted US Navy documents which helpfully provide a major breakdown of the cost of a DDG-51 by major subsystems and related components and activities, looking at the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. There are, as always happens in these things, some pretty large variations in price from a year to the next, but it is at least possible to get an idea. The yearly data suggests that ordering many in the same years significantly lowers the costs with economies of scale. (USN document)

The MK41 fit on a DDG-51 is a 12 launch modules affair, with a cost in the region of the 48 million dollars. 12 modules, however, are the fit of 4 Type 26s, according to the info we now have. So it might take around around 160 million USD to put 24 MK41 cells on all Type 26s. Rough estimate, of course, i want to say that again. The number of modules is lower per hull, but there are more ship sets. However, there should not be a big difference per se in terms of ship sets installation. Dropping 36 modules in three hulls or 39 in 13 hulls shouldn't be excessively different, but for the fact that they would be separate operations happening on different years. This might raise the cost, but overall i would like to think that things would even out in a reasonable way.

If it is decided that the Type 26s have to be able to successfully employ Tomahawk, they need the Tactical Tomahawk Weapon Control System fit too, and that could require up to some 16 million USD per ship (cost for a single ship set in 2014, the unitary cost drops as low as 11 million with 3 sets in 2013 and 13 million with 2 sets in 2015). 16 million for all 13 ships would add up to 208 million for the class. Again, rough estimate. All costs inclusive of technical support, engineering, initial spares etcetera. I don't know if LRASM has a comparable, separate mission planning system. Probably not, but there would be of course integration costs of its own with it having its own backend in a shape or another.

The rest of course depends on the missile, and how many All Up Rounds are purchased. The last Tomahawk contract, which included 20 submarine torpedo tube TLAM for the UK, was a firm fixed price order for 231 rounds (147 Vertical Launch rounds for US surface warships, 64 encapsuled rounds for US navy submarines with VL cells and 20 torpedo tube launch TLAM rounds for the UK) for 251,13 million dollars.

In theory, and i'll say it again in theory and in rough estimates, 24 MK41 cells + Tomahawk mission system + 231 missiles (using the 231 figure and its cost, even though the torpedo tube missile is more expensive than the VL) = 619.13 million dollars, or around 396 million pounds, at today's rates. And that's with a 231 TLAM order thrown in for good measure, that we all know isn't going to happen. Probably there would be a finite, much smaller number of missile loads purchased, and the deploying ships would stop by the Upper Harbour Ammunitioning Facility prior to deployment to take the rounds on board, since pretty much never are we going to see all 13 vessels on operations at once anyway.

All this, just to have a ballpark idea based on something. Better than speaking purely on wild speculation.
If you follow the link to the US Navy document, you'll see that it quotes Unitary Item Costs which are all much lower than the amounts i used. I did that deliberately, by looking at the total expense per ship related to the various items so to include, albeit of course in a rough way, the spares, engineering and services costs which are very much inevitable. Using the unitary cost alone would not be realistic, as the amounts resulting would be much lower than the real ones. In this other way, the cost figures should be much closer to the truth. 
This is mainly to indicate that it won't be the fitting of MK41 launchers that will break the programme's budget on its own: they fit 32 MK41 cells on the cheapest high end combat ships out there, as we saw.

As for the MK45 Mod 4, it is also of some interest to see its cost is in the region of some 25 million apiece, apparently. Again, the cost for a british purchase might be different, and it is indeed likely to be somewhat higher since for the UK it will be a totally new system, while it is business as usual for the US Navy. 

In this long piece, i've wanted to share the quality info i've found about what the design of Type 26 offers, and i've also tried to explain why i talked the way i did about the reports of cost issues and the delay in clearing Main Gate. The requirements, taken as a whole, are ambitious in several ways, and i won't deny that. But they have maintained steady over time, and they are being mitigated by a responsible approach to the programme. I hope that now the whole package can be made to work, and work well. Because one thing is certain: this programme is of vital importance to both the Navy and the british shipbuilding industry. It is in the interests of both that it goes as planned. 
If it did, it really might be a renaissance for british yards, because this ship, while not revolutionary in its subsystems, is very much (r)evolutionary in terms of what it delivers as a whole. A good product at a reasonable price: what is needed for the Navy to survive, and for export orders to return to british shipyards.


  1. Great article as always, Does anyone know if there has been any movement in the development of the Perseus missile as a possible harpoon replacement?

    1. The Perseus was a MBDA concept weapon that might or might not have been directly related to the joint UK and France studies for a new Future Cruise and Anti-Ship Weapon. Even if it was related, the studies are very, very early activities and the new weapon was said to be aimed at the 2030s, so a very long time away. Apart from a 2 year study award, which i believe should have concluded, there has not been much talk about it ever since, so i don't know if and when such an european missile will be an option.

    2. Thanks for clearing that up, So it looks like our best bet for a harpoon replacement is the LRASM then. The trials at present look promising.

  2. One conspiracy theory with no evidence other than pure guesswork for the delay in contracts being agreed for the T26, and the likelihood that they will slip till after the general election...

    Might it be that the Government want to keep that card safe for coalition (or more likely supply/confidence) negotiations, which could very possibly factor in the SNP?

    1. Highly unlikely, the most obvious reason is the well rumoured design and cost issues.

  3. I really don't know. It does not look like the most likely scenario, but who knows...

  4. On the face of it these are very capable looking ships, with the exception of the weak radar fit. However, hulls with lots of large spaces in them such as this with the helo hangar, mission bays and forward VLS space (especially with 3 Mk41 modules) always complicate ship design.

    Re the Italian FREM's, I was under the impression that an additional reason for increasing the length was to extract a bit more speed?

    1. Higher speed is sought by improving the diesel engines fit from the third ship onwards. The last ships in the class might get different diesels entirely.

  5. Suddenly all the links are 404

    1. So it seems, weirdly enough. I'll see what i can do about it. Might upload the documents onto Scribd to have a more reliable way to access them.

  6. One assumes it is a space / weight concern which has led to the decision to have 48 dedicated CAAM cells and 24 Mk41s, as opposed to say 30-36 Mk41s some of which could then be quad packed with CAAMs? I would have thought that the flexibility of more Mk41s would have made more sense?

    1. Weight, volumes and cost must have all considered. Since CAMM is always going to be onboard and its launcher costs a lot less than MK41 and is far less bulky and complex to integrate, it makes sense not to install additional MK41 cells which would be kind of wasted otherwise holding the CAMM.

      24 cells is a good number, it'll already be tough to have enough weapons to fill those. Having even more is probably not worth the money these days.

    2. Thanks Gabriele - makes sense, particularly your last point. As you note - if they bought 10 vessels, that equals 240 cells and assuming Tomahawk is the predominent fit, that would assume at least 200 missiles.... including reloads. Sounds a lot until you remember how many Storm Shadows the RAF eventually got - 900+. I've always wondered how they pulled that off, particularly given the greater utility of Tomahawk.... Ah well.

  7. Is the Minister tries to over pacify Rory Stewart. Tomahawk, suddenly the Type 26 design (still not confirmed) is a toy dream? Get the basics right first before painting wild dreams. OK, this isn't the US Congress, but the letter definitely seems over exaggerated

    1. Stick to the fact that they have settled for MK41. SoF lists all what MK41 offers which justifies its selection over Sylver A70, he does not say that all those weapons will be purchased.

    2. Ok, Mk 41 accepted but brandishing stuff like ASROC is too far

  8. Gabriele

    Thanks once more for another outstanding update.

    The overall tone of the SoS's letter was uncharacteristically upbeat to the extent where I almost doubt what level of scrutiny it was subjected to:

    My initial observations are:
    1. no ifs or buts - It referenced a class of 13 vessels, not the usual "up to"
    2. the reference to anti-submarine rockets is very left-field. Add this to the non-mention of torpedo tubes. Is it significant or are we reading too much into that? I suspect the latter.
    3. On the interoperability front, why no mention of MARS SSS. Again probably reading too much into the omission.

    But mainly, what has changed so much in the last few weeks?. On Oct 9 we were so gung-ho. Now we're talking about £19 million design reviews lasting until March. Let's continue to hope that allows a tiny window to get some announcement in before purdah descends, because after that, who knows?

    Finally, I'm only just beginning to get my head around the FREMM variants. But what gives with the Italian two-hangar concepts. There has to be a reason, but it's not obvious to me.

    1. On the subject of ASROC / anti-sub rocket, i wouldn't read too much into it. SoF is just quoting at large the capability that MK41 potentially offers, i suspect.

      Today in Topic Questions in Parliament the SoF has said that they are aiming to place further subcontracts soon, while the design is reviewed to validate costs.

      I don't see where the "gung-ho" is. The design they have been working upon has these features. Now they have to find the right agreement with BAE to move into production.

    2. The two separate hangar bays might have been a forced solution pushed by the need to accommodate a 76 mm gun on top of the hangar and also have a fly control bridge. You could not have a single, full width hangar with a flyco on top and a 76 mm even higher up.
      So Flyco has been built into the space separating the two hangar bays, and the 76 mm fit on top. See this photo:

  9. The MoD request to tender for the Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) / 127 mm gun for 13 systems including 10 years support with a estimated value of £400M to £600M, 28.11.2012.
    You have suggested a figure of 25M, not clear if $ or £, but the RTT implies a cost per ship could be a low of £31M to a high of £46M.


    1. I'm suggesting nothing. I'm using USN Financial data. 10 years of support are going to add cost, that is to be expected. Also curious to see if the "systems" include ammunition stocks. The RN does not have 127 mm ammunition, unlike the USN, so that will need purchasing as well.

    2. Gabriele, apologies for my wording. As you say it's vague on ammunition and no doubt various options and capabilities to be costed for the MIFS.

      My thoughts are that the basic system cost may look reasonable but to make it operational all to often the cost can easily double if not triple.


  10. Dear Gabriele

    Great work!

    Very helpful to understand the situation. I am now a bit more "convinced" why T26 becomes as large as 8000 t FL.

    However, I am not sure if it is worth the cost. For example why not 6 TEU but 10, why not 16 Mk.41 cells but 24, etc... I have a feeling that RN is looking for quality but NOT quantity in T26s. (Again I am pessimistic to say there will only be 8 T26s to come...)

    Then, if I think the baseline is 8 ships and want to make it 9, I suppose an idea will be to...
    - stick to Mk.8 114 mm gun (25M$ x8 = 200 M$)
    - install Mk.41 into only 5 ships, i.e. 3 ships without --> (12M$ VLS+16M$ Control = 28M$) *3 = 84M$ and TLAMS in it (=24*3 = 96M$) is in total 180 M$.
    - nothing else I can find ...
    Then in total it is ~380 M$ = 240 MGBP. All these stuffs are for US and for UK you will need additional cost (say, x1.2, i.e. development cost and so on). Then, 290 MGBP. IF a "full-fit" T26 is 400 MGBP, then without them, you can "almost" make another T26 (w/o VLS and 5in Gun), actually a little less ...

    In summary,
    5 T26 with 2087 sonar and 24VLS and 4.5in Gun (400 MGBP + sonar)
    3 T26 with 2087 sonar and 0VLS and 4.5in Gun (~300 MGBP + sonar)
    1 T26 with 4.5 in Gun, but w/o both 2087 and VLS (~300 MGBP) (?)
    compared to
    8 T26 with 2087 sonar and VLS and 5in Gun (400 MGBP + sonar) ....

    I am arfaid the latter is much atractive ... The story does not change a lot if we think the initial number is 9 and want to increase it to 10. Thus, adding a ship by reducing the fighting power of the others does NOT look a nice way to go at this moment.

    I know this is just a "fantasy game" and there are many many issues not taken into account, but this is MY feeling and it was enabled thanks to your work.

    P.S. Very small issue. We in Japan has our own ASROC, named Type 07 Vertical Launched ASROC (there is only Japanes wiki...). However, I do not suggest you to make your own. I believe RUM-139C VL-ASROC is a good enough solution.

    Donald of Tokyo

    1. Forgot about the japanese Type 07... but then again, i honestly don't know much about it. There does not seem to be much data online about it.

    2. Dear Gabriele

      #I'm sorry I failed to upload my answer, and its so late...

      Type-07 VLASROC of Japan features
      - supersonic flight (US ASROC is subsonic)
      - enhanced range (noted "twice" that of the VLASROC = 22 km x2 = 44 km?)

      I believe the long-range AS missile has a room to survive considering the active-sonar oriented nature of modern ASW. "Ping" results in detecting EACH OTHER for frigates AND enemy sub. So "rapid reaction" will be desired in some case.

      However, if the torpedo defense (and USM defense) works, there is no need for rapid reaction. Actually, torpedo defense is needed regardless of having ASROC. And RN is one of the pioneers in this field. So it is not "must", but "better be", I believe.


      Donald of Tokyo

  11. Very interesting letter. They seem like fantastic ships. The main part always missing is how many we will get!

    If it is fewer than 13 the RN must get some compensation elsewhere in extra OPV's to offset the reduced orders.

    Any idea's yet what the Ships Naming Committee is planning with regards to Class and ships names?

  12. I wonder if this buy of mk41 VLS for our type 26 frigates could possibly open the door to their installation on our Type 45 destroyers in the future.

    1. I had understood that it was always the intention (at some point) to add an additional 16 "strike length" cells to the Type-45. The mk41 would be the obvious choice should it be picked for Type-26, however money and actually having enough missiles to fill said cells mean that this is probably a pipe dream. Perhaps even more importantly, purchase of the Mk45 gun means that the Mk8 gun currently fitted will have a declining shelf life if the navy is not to try and maintain two completely different sets of guns and amunition (god forbid!). That would logically mean a programme of retrofitting 6 Mk45s to the Type-45s in the ideal world that would be coupled with fitting the 16 Mk41 cells as well.

      Here is an alternative, and depressingly possible scenario - the harpoons are removed from the Type-45s in 2018, no new strike cells are added and the Mk8 guns are removed without replacement in the interests of economy. We are left with the "worlds best air defence destroyer" with only 48 cells of SAMs and a Wildcat helicopter.....

    2. There is the space to fit 16 MK41 cells in the future. This might one day be interesting, or maybe not. It won't happen any time soon, but you never know.

      The MK8 Mod 1 will be in service out to 2039, as of August 2014 planning. The adoption of the MK45 will be as gradual as Type 26's entry into service... which is an affair planned not to end before 2036.
      At that point, if they will be still around, the Type 45s will probably get their own guns changed.

  13. Is it even remotely possible to upgun Type 45 with a compact version of 6 inch AGS in the future? BAE is the maker of both AGS and Mk54 series cannon, I thought one reason behind favoring Mk45 over Oto 127 is BAE which is a British company.

    1. The space constraints alone would make this unfeasible, that is even before one gets to the cost, which would make it fantasy.
      With regards to the favouring of Mk45 over Oto 127 - highly unlikely given that the Mk45 is an American product through and through - not one bit of it is manufactured in the UK, it being a product of the US side of BAE. I would suspect that price and commonality with the US would be prime drivers here.

    2. I believe one of the issues with the Oto 127 is its sustained rate of fire. It has a high rate of fire using the rounds from the drum but once this is exhausted the rate drops considerably. The question is whether using precision rounds would reduce the number required to achieve the desired effect so that the drum is unlikely to be exhausted during a bombardment.

    3. It has 56 rounds in the drums, though, and now can be paired with an automated ammunition depot good for keeping the pace and for reducing required manpower connected to the gun. So, i don't think that is actually a problem.

  14. I am bringing this up since not long ago BAE did offer a scaled down 6" AGS to the US Navy for the upcoming Burke Flight III construction. It features a smaller magazine capacity in exchange for weight reduction. Any DDG sized surface combatant that can mount the Mk45 gun should able to host the new weapon, including Type45.

  15. If I was the MOD I would hold off on any decision on a new naval gun mount until after the rail gun trials on USNS Millinocket in 2016 take place. Even if it works half as well as advertised it would make all conventional naval guns obsolete overnight.


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