Saturday, September 9, 2017

Shipbuilding Strategy and Type 31: it does not actually look like renaissance.

The strategy

In its Shipbuiling Strategy, the MOD claims to have accepted all of the recommendations put forwards by sir Parker, and this is a welcome surprise, although on several points their acceptance is tied to too many exceptions.
With a courageous decision, the MOD opens the gates to the possibility of building frigates away from the Clyde. This of course opens their flank to SNP complaints about “betrayals” of workers in Govan and Scotstoun, but having a workable shipbuilding alternative to the yards in Scotland is not just a political weapon, but a strategic must. The UK cannot possibly depend entirely on Scottish yards as long as nationalistic nonsense about independence remains such a real danger.
In addition, breaking the BAE Systems monopoly is pretty much the only thing left to attempt in order to reduce the cost of building ships in the UK. The pricetag for the Type 26 frigates is simply monstrous and the Royal Navy desperately needs a way out of the death spiral.

In an earlier article I argued that working to a 30 years horizon when defining future plans for entire capabilities (and thus entire classes of ships) was the single most important factor. I remain of this opinion: short termism and insufficient joined up thinking has ended up forcing a premature order for OPVs that are being paid an absurd amount of money to bridge an occupation gap and keep the workforce going. Further to that, it has generated the Type 31 itself, a ship that risks to be an extremely low-capability constabulary worker which in some ways overlaps with River B2s and arguably with what the MHC mothership should have been (and could still be).
I did not expect the government would accept the 30 years plan recommendation. The inclusion of this element in the strategy is a very welcome development, and in some ways a surprise. However, it is clear that the MOD “Master Plan” is not and will never be the kind of outlook that is necessary and that sir Parker argued for.

The Master Plan will not be public. It will be an internal document, guiding the actions of the “Client Board” chaired by the 1st Sea Lord. The details will not be released. Industry should get some visibility on it, but the secrecy will ensure that the plan never translates in a commitment with any sort of assurance attached to it. Just like the Equipment Plan at large, it will remain subject to endless and stealth change. This negates much of its usefulness: I’m sure the Navy already compiles long-term plans of its own, after all. What was needed was a clearer direction, with a substantial degree of “certainty” attached to it. Something like the US Navy’s own 30 years ships master plan, in other words.

The UK’s Master Plan offers no real assurance. Where Parker argued for a “set and assured” outlook for budgets, the MOD responded by saying that the budget for a programme is set at Main Gate. And even then it remains subject to successive reviews. In practice, there is no real change from the current arrangement. The stability of funding lines, even at programme approved and underway, will be down to common sense and good will, with no additional assurance provided by “the strategy”. While no government is ever going to set definitive budget levels for such a long horizon, it is essential that the Navy and Industry have a good idea of what kind of budgets they’ll have to work with, well before the project reaches the technical maturity requested by Main Gate. 
The Client Board chaired by the 1st Sea Lord will produce the Naval Ship Acquisition Master Plan and seek the endorsement of the “Sponsor Group”, chaired by the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Capability), which will own the actual shipbuilding strategy and refresh it periodically. The Sponson Group includes the Treasury, so the budget battles will be fought at this level. The Client Board will have to juggle the priorities within the Master Plan and allocate the budget to the various programmes, holding them to account. Project Teams will deliver the actual programmes.

The shipbuilding strategy reaffirms the intention to build all “complex” combat ships in the UK, but effectively throws everything else open for international competition. This includes the amphibious shipping as well as survey and MCM vessels, and all RFAs. This does not necessarily mean that the UK shipyards will not be selected for major programmes in this area, but it introduces a very big risk. It is difficult to win competitions with foreign yards that build more, more often and, were applicable, count on cheaper manpower. For the Navy this might not be bad news (the 4 Tide class tankers bring a lot of capability for a very good price), but it is hardly a welcome proposition for british shipyards. Clearly, the hope is that british yards will be able to benefit from Type 31 modular construction and become more competitive, but a return “to greatness” from the current condition of the sector is not going to be easy. Building 5 Type 31s in blocks is highly unlikely to suffice. Building large blocks for the carriers was one thing; the Type 31 is unlikely to have a comparable effect.

Building large ships, such as the incoming MARS Fleet Solid Support, would inject more energy into the yards. The government is promising to evaluate with favor the effects of building in Britain over building abroad, but there is no assurance that british bids for the FSS project will be successful. It is my opinion that a firm decision to assemble the large FSS vessels in Rosyth, using the No 1 dock and the Goliath crane to receive and weld together modules coming from other yards would have had an infinitely more tangible effect on the growth of british capabilities in the sector in the near future.
It is down to industry, now, to propose something similar and do it in a way that convinces the government. The FSS are likely to be ships of 40.000 tons or more, the largest by far in the fleet after the carriers themselves, and the nature of their mission dictates that they will be relatively complex systems. In turn, that means valuable and consistent work for thousands of people.
Similarly, future large amphibious ships would have a key role to play in keeping the yards going.

From a Royal Navy point of view, the draft master plan enables a series of observations. First of all, Type 26 is expected to take a long time to reach operational capability. According to the Master Plan, it’ll be 2026/27 before HMS Glasgow achieves IOC. According to a different table within the document, HMS Glasgow won’t even be delivered before 2026. That is a pretty incredibly slow pace, and does not suggest a great level of confidence in what the Clyde shipyards can do. In part, this is the fault of government which did not authorize and fund the development of the single site “frigate factory” development. The build of Type 26, a large and complex ship, inside infrastructure which is clearly inadequate is clearly not of any help. On the other hand, government is faced with the horrible risk of investing into a world-class shipbuilding facility which it might lose to a nationalistic pipe-dream; not to mention that going down from two yards to one, albeit more capable, would generate its own amount of moaning and bad press. It is not a problem of easy resolution, and we ought to accord government at least this one extenuating circumstance. Substantial investment in Faslane, in Lossiemouth and the building of the Type 26s themselves is already more than enough of a risk that they are taking. The consequences of losing all those investments to a future referendum would be nothing short of devastating for defence, first of all for the navy.

The schedule for the Type 31e is, instead, extremely ambitious. After a swift competition phase, the aim is to achieve Main Gate in the fourth quarter of 2018 and commence building in early 2019, with the first ship entering service in 2023 to replace HMS Argyll. The other four would follow at 12 months intervals, while Type 26s will only arrive every 15 to 18 months. The second Type 26 will be laid down in 2019, the third only in 2021. The timings work out acceptably due to the fact that the ASW Type 23s hit their OSDs later than the 5 tail-less General Purpose ones.

The Type 31, however, exposes even more the overall diffidence that government and navy feel for the shipbuilding industry: the Core Requirements outlined by the Royal Navy for the ship, which has a cost cap of 250 million pounds, are humiliatingly basic. The service didn’t even dare asking for a Merlin-sized hangar, or a gun of more than 76mm caliber, or a CAMM installation in its core requirements. This suggests that very few believe that british yards will be able to deliver any kind of meaningful capability within the price boundaries. Certainly the navy is hoping with all its forces that industry will be able to accommodate some of the extras (or “adaptable” features, in the document released at the industry day) within the RN design, but it seems like nobody dared putting it on paper.
Nobody will be able to complain about the requirements being too ambitious or gold plated: the list of core requests makes the Type 31e equally or less capable than some of the OPVs in service around the world. They could not possibly be any humbler and vaguer.
For the first time in many years, the MOD is doing what was done at the time of the Type 24 and 25 “Future Light Frigates” in the 70s (without generating any actual build, however) when the designers were given maximum freedom: “all you want if it does not cost more than 100 million”, write David K. Brown and George Moore in their “Rebuilding the Royal Navy – warship design since 1945”.  

The Draft Master Plan shows that the MCM and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) programme is still moving roughly on the same path as before, anticipating the IOC of a new ships for the period 2028 – 2032. The Capability Decision Point is expected before 2022: by that point the joint MCM programme with France should have been extensively trialed and the UK-only unmanned sweeping capability should also be (finally) mature. The expectation is that a number of Hunt-class ships will be modified to turn their “open” sterns into mission areas equipped for carrying, deploying and recovering the unmanned vehicles employed by the new MCM solutions. The Sandowns are not suitable for the same kind of conversion, on the other hand they are key, with their Type 2093 sonars, to mine hunting in deeper waters.
The MCM flotilla badly needs the unmanned systems to progress: the unmanned sweeping system is more than a decade late, considering that it was meant to replace the conventional sweeping capability of the Hunts, last deployed at sea in October 2005. The unmanned sweeping capability, born as FAST (Flexible Agile Sweeping Technology) became a rolling programme of demonstration and experimentation, but while it allowed to advance the future of MCM ops this prevented the Navy from re-generating a deployable sweeping capability in the times once planned.
Both Hunt and Sandown class MCM ships are receiving updates and life-extension interventions in their refits, but the two fleets are in the crosshair of budget cutting: the SDSR 2015 made clear that 3 ships would be removed from service by 2025, and the Times now report that 2 ships will leave service already next year. According to Deborah Haynes, defence correspondent for The Times, those two ships would be in addition to the 3 already earmarked for dismission, signaling a cut of 5 hulls.
It is clear that the entry in service of the novel systems cannot happen soon enough, and that shaping a way forward for the Mothership segment is a matter of increasing urgency. Removing the need for specialized, expensive GRP hulls for MCM ops opens the door to the adoption of larger, steel-hulled vessels with far greater sea legs and utility across a wider range of constabulary tasks.
Unfortunately, the Type 31 and the River Batch 2 have invaded the “patrol” sector and the P has been shaven off by MHPC. It would be a grave mistake, however, to not exploit the MHC mothership as a way to enhance the global presence of the Navy.
I never made any mystery about my opinion on the Type 31 / MHC matter: if the “Light Frigate” ends up being an extremely low-key patrol ship for constabulary tasks, the only sensible thing is to merge Type 31 and MHC and build a single class of self-escorting motherships for constabulary tasks.

Interestingly, a capability decision point for the post-Type 45 world is expected as soon as 2022, with the aim of achieving IOC with a future AAW solution in the 2033 – 2037 time window. Assuming that a new ship is implied, this would mean decommissioning the Type 45 at the end of its intended service life, without extension. The 25 years service life of HMS Daring would expire in 2034, in theory, and by 2039 the whole class would be gone. Replacing, rather than life-extending, is a key recommendation of the Parker report that the government, at least for now, seems to embrace.
There is every reason to doubt about the long term commitment to the approach, but that is another story. It is also going to look pretty weird to begin decommissioning the Type 45s before the last of the Type 23s is replaced!

Very vague indications come about Future Maritime Security UK and Overseas Territories. The Draft master plan doesn’t help in understanding whether the idea of losing all River Batch 1s in the next two or three years is still the plan, or if there have been changes. It also offers no clue as to what comes after the P2000s or the Gibraltar patrol boats, the latter supposedly due for replacement within two years.

By 2022 the Navy expects to decide on the future of the Amphibious flotilla, which will reach the end of its service life in the early 2030s. Jane’s reported recently that a pre-concept study, expected to report in early 2018, is evaluating a Multi Role Support Ship concept which could cover amphibious, forward repair and medical capabilities.
It seems too wide a spread of roles to be covered with the same hull. Clearly, medical capabilities would benefit from a ship with ample aviation facilities and a well dock for boats and crafts, but the Forward Repair capabilities offered by RFA Diligence until its untimely demise seem far harder to conciliate with the rest. It is at least comforting to know that something is moving.

Before 2022 is over the Navy also expect to have to take decisions about the replacement for the Auxiliary Oilers, also known as “Fast Fleet Tankers”, RFA Wave Ruler and Wave Knight. The replacements should achieve IOC around 2030, according to the table.

The navy is aiming to hit Main Gate for the MARS Fleet Solid Support programme in December 2019, with contract award by March 2020. The Draft plan confirms that the 3 vessels are meant to replace the “Auxiliary Fleet Support – Helicopters”, aka Fort Austin and Fort Rosalie as well as the Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment Fort Victoria. IOC is indicated in the late 2020s, while delivery was repeatedly promised “around the middle of the 2020s”. The two things are not incompatible, but the current OSDs for the three Forts will have to be extended if a colossal capability gap is to be avoided: Austin would bow out in 2023, Rosalie in 2024 according to earlier plans.

The future of RFA Argus remains a huge concern as well. The Draft plan puts the Medical Ship decision point in 2028 at the earliest, while the last OSD given for RFA Argus is 2024. IOC for the future medical capability is given close to 2040: frankly, the most puzzling element in the entire table.

The Type 31e

The document revealing the requirements for the Type 31e design distinguishes between “Core” and “Adaptable” features. Core is described as what is designed, integrated and assembled in the UK and represents what the Royal Navy absolutely wants to have.
The Adaptable features are described as “available for build under license overseas”.

As a consequence, it is to be assumed that at least a part of the “adaptable” features will not be available for the Royal Navy, not even as “fitted for but not with”. Even FFBNW has a cost, after all, and whatever doesn’t fit in the 250 million simply won’t be included.

The Core requirements include:

-          a crew of 80 to 100 with some room for augmentees and specialists.
-          Capable of fitting a hull-mounted sonar
-          6500 nautical miles at economic speed and 28 days logistic endurance
-          armour in key areas for the protection of personnel
-          hangar for a Wildcat and Rotary Wing UAS system, or alternatively for a single medium helicopter such as NH-90
-          Seaboats and ability to carry and operate unmanned vehicles
-          Interoperable with allies as well as joint forces and civil authorities
-          Sensors for operating area situational awareness
-          Medium gun and light guns for anti-FIAC use and maritime interdiction
-          Point Defence Missile System or CIWS and FFBNW point defence missiles
-          Ability to replenish at sea
-          Commercial shipbuilding standards are the default, with enhancements only where a clear need or benefit exist

Everything else falls in the “Adaptable” bracket, beginning with:

-          Flight deck and hangar suitable for Merlin operations
-          CBRN citadel
-          Command and Control for Maritime Task Unit and up to Task Force
-          Active hull mounted sonar for ASW
-          Towed array sonar and ASW weapons
-          Anti-ship missiles
-          Space of an embarked force of 40
-          Mission bay or deck space for 2 containers
-          A gun of caliber superior to 76mm, fit for Naval Gunfire Support

It is immediately evident just how basic the Core requirements are. The hull mounted sonar is not requested specifically; there just has to be the ability to install it.
CAMM is not mentioned, even though the Royal Navy will be able to recoup it from decommissioning Type 23s: while Sea Ceptor has local area air defence capability, the requirement specifically talks about point defence only.
Merlin operations are not envisaged. ASW is completely left out, as is anti-ship firepower. The RN is apparently fine with a main gun of max 76mm caliber, even though this means introducing a new gun system into service. In theory a DS30M 30mm gun, a 57mm MK110 as on LCS or a 76mm would all be accepted.
Dimensions are left to be driven solely by seakeeping considerations, and the RN does not detail what the “wide range of sea conditions” exactly entails. Industry is given pretty much complete freedom: it is almost impossible to write a requirement list any poorer and vaguer than this one.

In the run up to the Type 31e announcement, industry has revealed a number of designs for “affordable” frigates. Notably, BAE has proposed AVENGER and CUTLASS; BMT its VENATOR 110, Team Stellar its SPARTAN and Babcock its ARROWHEAD.
The brochures are impressive and show flexible ships with a good spread of capability, with the bottom represented by the BAE designs, CUTLASS and AVENGER, which also happen to be the least detailed offerings. The news of a very demanding price cap being placed on Type 31 have generated comments from BAE about the competition being a dangerous race to the bottom in which industry could end up making promises it can’t keep and end “out of business”. Nobody believes they won’t file an offer but they might actually elect to put very little effort in it. The MOD in recent years has been, at least in the Land sector, apparently following a “anyone but BAE” policy, and BAE might be about to sit this one out as a sort of revenge, letting the other yards bet their future on this dangerous race.

The other designs are well detailed in the brochures released by the respective owners:



All the proposals pre-date the announcement of the 250 million pounds price cap. The reasonably capable ships proposed by BMT, Stellar and Babcock will no doubt need a considerable strip-down to meet the cost target. The key question is just how much will have to be stripped out of the design. Even BAE’s AVENGER, effectively a stretched River OPV, a sort of “Batch 3” with helicopter hangar, a stack containing CAMM cells and a 127mm on the bow, exceeds the core requirements detailed by the Navy. The CUTLASS, which is a 117m extended Khareef corvette, itself a development of the River class, is also overspecced compared to the Core demands, as it includes a CBRN citadel, a 127mm and CAMM.
What price did BAE have in mind when it formulated those proposals? What kind of money do the other proposals require?

The decommissioning Type 23s could supply a number of systems (CAMM, most notably, but also 30mm guns, decoys and radars, from Artisan to the new Sharpeye navigation radars) for transfer, but that would negate entry in service of the first ship in 2023. HMS Argyll would necessarily need to bow out early and be stripped to enable the migration of the systems to the first Type 31.
In the long term, it seems the Navy will even have 3 precious Type 2087 sonar tails in excess, as 3 are being ordered for the first Type 26s exactly to avoid the need for early Type 23 decommissionings.
In theory, the Navy will have enough sonars, radars and guns for 16 frigates as a result.
As of now, it does not seem like the Type 31e programme is meant to take full advantage of this fact. Timelines negate the feasibility of the migration.

Considering that the Navy is effectively already one Type 23 down, due to manpower issues, I see no reason why the timelines could not and would not be adjusted to make the transfer possible. If such expensive equipment can be moved across, as is the plan for the later Type 26 units as well, the Type 31 will have a bit more of a chance to come together with some kind of capability. A temporary reduction to 12 or even 11 frigates is surely to be preferred over a reduction to 8 plus 5 “large OPVs”, surely…?  

The Medium Gun passage is particularly interesting. All designs proposed by industry include the 127mm MK45 Mod 4, as planned for the Type 26. This system, however, is a new buy and requires a significant amount of money. BAE might now be tempted to offer its Bofors MK110 in the 57 mm caliber. Others might include the Oto Melara 76mm, which in its Strales incarnation doubles up as a very capable CIWS thanks to radar-guided ammunition meant to explode in the path of incoming missiles.
The 76mm, in theory, would cover two requirements at once, that for a medium gun and that for a CIWS. It still comes with a non insignificant cost, however.

CAMM, one would think, will be one of the first things industry will try to maintain in the design, and this will probably generate wider discussions with the Navy about transfer of equipment from the Type 23s.
Merlin hangar should also, one hope, be high on the list of priorities, together with the EMF accommodation and extra spaces for boats and unmanned vehicles. ASW will sadly but unsurprisingly come dead last, despite the mission being back in full force on the international scene. 
The only hope is that designers will include enough space in the stern to enable the installation of a towed array… giving the navy a chance to later on install the extra 2087 tails.
All of these, however, remain just that: hopes.

Type 31e starts off as literally the most depressing list of requirements available worldwide. Bad news for the Royal Navy, and for the export hopes for this vessel. Hopes that I consider pretty laughable, since there is an overabundance of good corvette and light frigate designs, already well established, that a customer can select. Just why anyone would want to explore Type 31e territory when there are MEKO, Gowind, Belharra, PPA and South Korea, or Chinese, or Russian alternatives on the market which come with far greater capabilities and not necessarily greater prices? A depressingly incapable Type 31e is not going to export anywhere.

Literally everything now depends on what the british shipbuilding sector can come up with. “All you want, as long as it fits in 250 million”. The one bit of hope comes from the impressive RRS SirDavid Attenborough that Cammel Laird is building, in blocks, under the terms of a 200 million contract. The ship comes with impressive specifications and sits on the opposite end of the cost scale than the Type 26, at a hefty 1 billion pounds. We are left to hope that something good can still fit within a 250 million Type 31e.


  1. Would not competition for the Type 31e contract induce aggressive bids? Winning the contract lets a firm compete in the export space for years to come. For BAE, winning prevents the strengthening of a smaller player into a more major rival in future deals.

  2. I am curious what you think the peacetime minimum structure of the RN should be in the surface fleet, FAA, Submarine, RFA and RM branches? In both number and vessel type/ role. Thanks

  3. From Martin:

    You are confusing what the MOD is asking for as a minimum with what the tendering companies will offer. Given the MOD's abismal track record this seems to be a better approach. Once the price tag for the T26 came in a £1 billion a go it was clear that something had to change otherwise they will cease to be a Royal Navy. It's almost certain that the design chosen won't be one of the less capable BAE designs, the other three designs seem quite reasonable and even if they are missing systems such as CAMM and ASM it's not a bad position to be in if they can be fitted later or in an emergency. The main thing would be to Ensure that the design has sufficient noise reduction to ASW work but even this may not be an issue as UUV's become sufficiently developed. While the export market is not massive there will be some market if the ship comes in a £250 million a pop. Even securing 4 or 5 orders makes a big difference these days.

    1. I'm confusing nothing. The article says clearly that industry will (obviously) seek to include as much "adaptable" content as possible. But the one unmovable requirement is 250 million pricetag. Do not expect miracles.

    2. If the ship is FFBNW at time of commissioning then CAAM, 40mm guns, Stingray, Artisan (and of course Wildcat and sea venom) could all be transferred over. My understanding was that 3 CAMM sets had been purchased upfront by the RN to give the "WIP" so that the timings of commissioning / retirement don't need to exactly line up. This plus a 76mm gun (which is in core) and a NH90 sized hangar (again, in core) represents a good capability IMHO.
      And in terms of cost remember this is probably not BAE and the union-friendly Clyde, it's Babcock and they're one of the tightest companies I've ever seen. Can they build this for four times the cost of the OPVs they've built for Ireland? I don't see why not.

    3. Just looked that up, remarkable value when compared to the river class.The RN has just paid more than that for a(Bae)reconditioned mark 45 gun.

  4. I'm not expecting miracles for £250 million but I am expecting a lot more than river batch 2. I don't think it's an unreasonable way to run a competition for such a vessel and I think we might get more than we expect atleast from the hulls. As I said noise reduction is the extra I would go for in the base platform . BMT indicates that as an option for venator 110 and I bet that will be the big deal clintcher for the RN when choosing a design. There is probably less than a 1% chance such a vessel will ever actually fire a missile in anger or engage a submarine. If these five vessels are needed to supplement the high end fleet then extra systems can be added in relatively short order under war time conditions.

    1. As proven disastrously wrong in the Falklands war.

  5. I also do t see adding either 76mm or 54mm weapjary to the RN as an issue, it's all Nato standard and both weapons have all the ammo being developed by multiple nations that we can buy off the shelf. I think having 4.5 on the T45 is a much bigger issue. The

  6. IMO there are three options:
    - Accept a sub standard frigate which will never be exported (the current £250mn version)
    - Cut the T26 order by two, and increase the T31e budget to £350mn for a class of 8 (might just get something)
    - Go for 5 stretched River with a Wildcat capable hangar but not CAMM and buy another T26.

    1. Option 3 had occurred to me as well. Order a 9th T26 and then build some up-specced Rivers - stretched with a hangar and a 76mm gun spring to mind. I don't think the budget would stretch to 5 though, more like 3.

  7. Export prospects are probably driving a lot of decisions about the Type 31e and industry was presumably consulted before specifying a £250 million frigate. A quick check suggests that the much more warfare-focused Italian PPA frigate is £500 million. A French Gowind corvette cost Egypt £225 million. Maybe the British ship design and component-building industry sees an export opportunity to sell a frigate closer to the prices of corvettes than the prices of competing frigates. (I doubt such export Type 31e's would be assembled in the UK itself.)

    Gabriele's comment listing South Korea as one competitor for export sales is interesting. South Korea has a reputation for success in commercial shipbuilding and also has a growing military portfolio. Stimulating the UK shipbuilding industry to compete on price could be necessary to keep the industry afloat.

  8. It's tempting to compare the T31e with the T21 of the 1970s. However the high low mix question is one that has vexed the Royal Navy for centuries and I wouldn't be surprised if a similar debate will be running in a hundred years time.

    1. The "Low" is falling really, really low.

      The Amazons never had such depressing requirements. At this point, a new "Amazon" would actually be a triumph...

  9. He, he Gabby..even though you are Italian you are sounded British more and more, nothing like a good moan and whine about the capabilities of the British military. Ahh..if we all had the smooth and excellent abilities of the Ministero della Difesa

    1. For all their defencts and shortcomings, the italian armed forces chiefs are at least pursuing rational plans. Despite a tiny budget, capabilities have been safeguarded and even considerably extended in some areas.

  10. Hi Gabriele,
    Thanks for yet another great article.
    How do you think the future RN will look in the medium term:
    2 carriers,
    6 Destroyers,
    8 Frigates,
    8 a mix of OPV or light frigates,
    4 mother type ships for unmanned vehicles.
    2 amphibious support ships, operated by the RFA.
    Is that anything like what we are likely to see in reality?
    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    1. I hope not, because i'm a firm believer in the amphibious capability and consider completely foolish and absurd some of the things that are being said and thrown around.

      Other than that, i don't want to say anything at this stage. It would be a wild guess anyway.

    2. Hi Gabriele,
      I am only going on what has been mentioned.
      The 2 amphibious support ships, from the pictures I have seen, look like LHD's, similar to Albion/Bulwark, but with hangers?
      Being run by the RFA I assume is a way of saving on RN crews? Again, I assume that only one would be operational at any time.
      I agree with you on the combining of the light frigate and MCM mother ships into one class. How popular is that idea?
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

  11. According to Janes BMT and Babcock will be submitting a joint T31 proposal


    1. If i'm not mistaken, the proposal will be joint at the industrial side, but initially they will put forwards both of their designs, and see what, if any, the Navy picks.

  12. The Janes article suggests that only one design will be put forward. Babcock will submit the final proposal.


    1. I've read that. Curious. I'm not sure Jane's has got it right. At DSEI the representants said both designs would be put forward at first. Plan might have changed, but it seems weird to me that they would change their mind so quickly.

  13. Hi Gabriele,
    How big would a commando battle group be?
    I assume this would include;
    one commando unit,
    artillery battery,
    engineer squadron,
    assault boat company.
    And in terms of sea lift, what and how many ships would it take to move and land such a force?
    I am assuming that this is the minimum amphibious capability? But, both commando battle groups could be deployed by sea if 'ships in reserve' were mobilised?
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    1. That's a Commando battlegroup. The RN says it can deploy it using Prince of Wales, 1 LPD and 2 Bays. Plus, of course, there will be Point RoRos carrying follow on material, and RFAs for the fuel etcetera.

    2. Thanks Gabriele,
      So do I understand correctly, that both RM commando battle groups could not be deployed by sea? (with the current ships or indeed, future force).
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    3. You'd need to pull the second LPD and the third Bay out, and integrate with STUFT ships. Nothing really new.

    4. Could a commando battle group be sea lifted and deployed by a single ship?
      For instance a Juan Carlos type?

  14. Hi Gabriele,
    Do you think The RN will have a standing carrier group, including escorts and support ships?
    If so, I assume it may also include NATO ships?
    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    1. There already is a UK Carrier Strike Group HQ element, and there will be the carrier at readiness. How the other assets will be assigned to it, i do not know.

  15. Hello.

    I have never commented on here before. But speaking from a shipbuilding point of view, 5 frigates does not make for a real, wide shipbuilding strategy, and it coming out of the MOD shows this. A wider shipbuilding strategy would mean commercial as well as military. The fact that ships other than the now very military warship of warships meaning subs and frigates, and leaving everything else for tender abroad, means we are still abiding by EU rules that are hurting UK industry, the catch 22 downward spiral. Are tax reciepts from taxpayer funded ships being taken into account, some say 40% let alone indirect tax benefit to the exchequer? The socio impacts of losing orders if we lost the Fleet Solid Suppport Ships? The new impetus and spur UK industry needs with belief from it's own government to order from UK firms and consortia? If UK firms beleave the decision has already been made and the cards are stacked against them why would they bother to tender? Originally the MARS ships were to be a UKindustry/MOD partnership until EU rules dictated otherwise. Since then we have had the excuse of it's a competition, with lack of capacity and no UK firm/firms bid and so on. When a UK army General says competition does not deliver and the 610 million pound Tankers are a year late, I think the competition thing is a ruse to hide the fact that it is all about rules we feel obliged to adhere too and go with the supposed lowest bidder at the expense of UK industry and it's potential to modernise and be competitive again. I don't think those tanker being built abroad actually worked out to benefit the UK as whole. Maybe only a face price without anything else taken into consideration. To me, the Fleet Solid Support Ships are the main contracts, and as has been said, and I have written before, a UK closer consortia of Rosyth main assembly (due to dry docks and size with cranage capacity at the main assemby dock), with feeder yards being A&P Tyneside, and a re-tooled PALLION Wearside and even Wilton Marine providing decks topside bridge structures as Port Clarence (Teesside) did when owned by Swan Hunters, Not evern mentioned Britain Offshore at Haverton Hill, but people may ask, they are not skille din building military complex ships. I would say, don't be sdo poo faced about it all, as if we need facilites with magical ablities to build frigates. It is not long ago a yard building an oil tanker would then build a destroyer. You may say, but destroyers are different today, but only in electronic and weapon systems etc. Those specialist are normally brought into the yard anyhow, the hull is still a ship hull. Anyway, a little further afield but cost that can be kept to a minimum, maybe Harland and Wolff and Inchgreen (been seen as a future manufacutring and assembly area, but may be restricted by Peel Holdings for certain interests). Barrow's website KOFAC had ambition of building complex surface ships other than destroyers and frigates, but BAE have other ideas, and Govan it rented by BAE, and have no ambition for this facility other than frigates too, possibly why the kep hold to Govan when the owner of Fergusons wanted to buy Govan off of Peel holdings, BAE did not like this. Cammell Laird (Peel Holdings connected) could well be a big player in the Fleet Solids but in building the cargo or engine blocks with more fit out than they were involved in with the Carriers (mainly above waterline hull sections). So many possiblities, but a good plan is needed but can be made.

    So with ourselves, get your thinking caps on and add some positive ideas for a new invigorated Ukshipbuilding industry, that also beefits the RoyalRFA Navy too. Don't be shy in emailing certain bodies too.

    1. Sorry. This was very rushed, and my grammar is very poor.

  16. Good to hear a beating of the drum for UK shipbuilding enterprise.
    I would say the EU and USA are waiting for the UK to fail on a number of fronts on grounds of self interest; they have even said this in some cases, and we should be very hard nosed.
    However there are a number of medium sized players with who we can link up with.
    The reason I say this is because we need to become the centre of excellence again in ship building at an economic price. To achieve this you need volume. UK can learn a lot from the far East where for many years they have been very much more focused than we are.
    I think everyone has been impressed by the delivery of the MARS tankers. To get in the game, this is the standard and price the UK needs to come close to achieving to become competitive again.

    1. Yes. The 150 million pounds for a complex Polar ship is surprizing, so I know we can do it. Also hourly wage rates are not rocket high in the UK compared (that is not saying they are poor) to say South Korea. Back in 2007 the wage rate was from 1 to 20, Germany was 20, Italy 15, Japan in the teens, France higher, South Korea 6 to 7, with Britain 10. it was our production rates that were poor, but this is warship building we are talking about back then. With a great plan and well executed, winning the Solid Support Ships will show how good we are at shipbuilding. Building the Frigates, well... Some say, well we don't build tankers and such like any more. I would say, when was the last time we built a Frigate or big fleet Carrier (before the Queen Elizabeths)? Even if we built those tanker for a total (not just the build which was used to make them look like a lower price) of say 800 million (I know we could of built them for less), it would still be value for the taxpayer. We do need up to date facilities and to be innovating ourselves. We really can fly high in shipbuilding and I know we would shock ourselves in a good way about this, and leave the sad past behind at at long last (it was actually a short period, but the effects have been longer than warranted). As I say, the eyes on the prize are those Fleet Solids. I really do feel we are on the cusp of something good again, but our own government can kill all of this ambition.

  17. Hi Gabbi, i have read and heard that there will be cuts in the Sentry force, what have you heard?
    Many Thanks

  18. Hi Gabriele and Guys,
    A bit off topic, but I felt the need for a rant.
    As we all know, defence cuts are ongoing, and there is no end in sight for a few years yet anyway.
    Just my humble thoughts on the way things are heading.
    1. Bulwark, Albion and 3 CDO.
    It seems to me, dispite what Fallon says, that we are heading for 2 ships, bay like and with a hanger to replace Bulwark, Albion and the 3 bays, crewed by RFA.
    As for 3 CDO, after speaking from my ex boot neck mate,
    They want to head in the Special Forces direction, all 3 CDO units ending up like 42.
    So not really a war fighting brigade, more raiding companies launched from the carriers and the 2 above ships. With one company at high readiness. What happens to the army commando units within the brigade? In my humble opinion, if the artillery get there new 155mm gun,
    They won’t get enough to go round, and only the strike brigades will have them,
    No guns for either 3 CDO or 16 AA, which kind of fits?
    2. 16 AA. As 16 AA tends to follow what happens to 3CDO, I expect 16 AA to end up based on company sized deployments. With one company at high readiness. I don’t think it’s far off that now.
    3. Army, the 3 remaining brigades, 2 armoured, 1 mixed strike type. With the cuts to manpower and taking unit from the 3 CDO and 16 AA Carter maybe able to upgrade the 2nd strike type brigade to more than a paper formation, if he can get any more vehicles apart from Ajax and Mastiff he has already stolen from the armoured brigades. Robbing Peter to pay Paul seems to be the way things work.
    4. RAF. I don’t know how they manage to do it, but we have heard little about cuts to the RAF.
    Do they blackmail the other two? For instance tell the RN, if we have to cut our budget we will cut the hours you will have the F35s? And the Army, no Chinnooks for you this year? But I guess we haven’t seen how the F35 buy is going to workout yet.
    5. Did anyone watch the Army, on BBC2 last night? Great idea from Carter, if it costs too much to train units in BATUS, could we send them to Kenya instead? Such a good idea, who needs to train as an armoured battle group? What use is that in Estonia, deployed with your armoured battle group? Much better to train in Kenya without your warriors, artillery and armour. He then goes on to say, he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror if he thought his soldiers weren’t properly prepared for there tasks. Knob.
    Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    1. If the Royal Marines really want to head toward light infantry carried by helicopters, their Corps won't live long. They'll vanish very quickly. The Army has plenty of people to put on helicopters.
      The Royal Marines are committing suicide, and i'm amazed they do not realize it.

    2. I don't think they have a choice,
      they have to cut, so they are trying to adapt. So the RMC is going back to its roots,
      ship board infantry. The RMC will still remain,
      detachments on all RN ships,
      Raiding companies on the carriers.
      Dressing up in women's clothes,
      Stuff the army won't be doing.
      The army can't do what's its doing now,
      with further cuts to come, its not going to expand to bobbing about on the sea.
      Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    3. Insanity rules, in other words. First the strike brigades, then Type 31, then... this. These are not forces fit for war.

    4. I agree Gabriele,
      It was very sad to hear the army board last night saying, (On the BBC army programme) if we train without ammo we can save 2 million out of the 3.8 we need to find.
      I guess the worse thing, is there seems to be no end in sight to the savings that need to be made.
      Just to add to my thoughts on the way things are heading. The Household division seems to be detaching itself from the rest of the army. Do you think this could be to become a formation to support the civil defence forces? Based in London, I guess that would make sense?
      Phil (The cynical ex pongo)

    5. I don't know about the Household division, i've not heard anything about them, sincerely.

    6. I mention the Household division, as I was looking at the army web site and all the units of the household division were grouped together, as opposed to being listed under infantry, RAC etc.
      But I have just checked, and that has been reversed. Maybe the web page man had got a bit ahead of events?

  19. The real question UK needs to ask itself is..'Why if everyone else is arming up why is UK disarming?' Over to you Mrs May.

  20. Hi Gabriele,
    As there was no mention of any increase in defence spending in the budget, I think we can assume that there will be no extra cash for MoD.
    Therefore, there will have to be further efficiency savings. (Around 5 billion?)
    I would be very interested in your views on what must be kept and what will have to go and the best way forward before the refine report in February.
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

  21. The Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate is a good example of an effective way forward in terms of getting an awful lot for your money. Mike.R


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