The C1 and C2 concepts as defined in the FSC (Future Surface Combatant) programme make a lot of sense in the context of a cash starved Royal Navy, the study has examined each mission and threat environments and tried to approach them with a pragmatism not seen in the Royal Navy for some time. It envisages a dual class of vessels, trading capabilities in the C2 variant for greater overall numbers, the C2 being the less capable.
The C2 concept can be likened to medium weight armoured vehicles, the US Stryker for example. Unfortunately this has produced a design with too many compromises, too lightweight to survive on a modern battlefield yet too heavy to be strategically mobile, in short, the worse of all worlds.
Is the C2 concept the same, too under equipped to be of use in a high threat environment yet too expensive to obtain in significant quantity and over specified for many of its likely missions, a compromise too far?
Possibly yes, because overall numbers would be so low the difference in cost will be marginal and therefore the expected advantages of greater numbers will simply not materialise, we all know that story.
As a payoff for our proposed cancelling of the CVF in a previous post, a single class of escort frigate should be obtained.
Replacing the Batch 3 Type 22’s and the Type 23’s, FSC was originally mooted as being based on the same hull form and set of machinery with the differences being the weapon/sensor fit but this seems to have changed recently. The next generation of Royal Navy escorts have been through so many design studies that it is difficult to keep up.
One of our recurring themes in the ‘Future Defence Review’ series of posts is that of rigorously enforced commonality, by accepting some compromise in certain capability areas the through life and capital cost reductions become significant enough to warrant losing that top 5%
The Type 45 is a case in point.
It would surely make sense to reuse as much as possible of the Type 45 design for C1. Unfortunately, the Type 45 design is optimised for a different set of mission requirements. Low speed handling whilst towing a sonar array and a reduced acoustic signature were not specific factors in its design yet these are the factors that contribute to the Type 23′s undoubted prowess in anti submarine operations.
The question is therefore raised, can we trade off this capability in order to enforce commonality, reduce cost and therefore increase overall numbers or does it compromise the design to such as extent that it becomes too sub optimal?
If so, then commonality must be a design goal.
I don’t make any claims in this area because the costs are not known but demonstrable past experience shows that having more of anything decreases its unit cost and the through life cost reductions generally dwarf the unit costs. The Type 23 class showed the benefits of a long term steady production rate, steadily reducing costs.
This single class of large escort should be seen as evolutionary design, its large size allows systems to be changed or added over its lifespan.
So this is my take on its design…
Design and Construction
A large, sturdily constructed hull improves sea keeping, supports a long endurance deployment, provides spacious accommodation, makes damage control easier and allows systems to be added or changed at a later date, as the saying goes, steel is cheap, air is free!
The front half of the proposed C1 would look largely the same as the Type 45 but the aft half would need considerable change to accommodate towed sonar, a mission deck and stern ramp for small boats or UUV/USV’s.
A single flexible hangar should be large enough to accommodate 2 Merlin sized helicopters with a Chinook sized landing deck fitted.
Providing naval gunfire support for ground forces, the main gun would be the 155-39 weapon currently being developed. This should enable the C1 to use the same ammunition types as the Army’s AS90 self propelled gun, taking advantage of the wide range of natures in service including High Explosive, smoke and illumination. Non destructive ammunition such as smoke and illumination can be just as useful as the high explosives types one might normally associate with naval gunfire support. As precision natures become available and are bought into service it should be relatively straightforward to adopt them for naval use.
There are many reasons to question the usefulness of traditional naval gunfire support in the age of precision guided weapons yet despite these it has proven decisive on many occasions and if the 155mm weapon can be developed into working solution it will provide a useful capability improvement and cost reduction.
For fires further inshore a number of options might be considered; the Fire Shadow Loitering Attack Munition, SCALP-Naval or even the navalised version of the GMLRS might be considered as options.
SCALP N is based on the Storm Shadow cruise missile currently in service with the RAF. Having a naval launch capability in addition to an air launched one does of course create a duplication but this would simply increase flexibility. One might consider that the Tomahawk should be considered but this would need a Mk41 strike length VLS; an extra cost for marginal advantage and the Storm Shadow/SCALP-N has sufficiently different characteristics (warhead and performance, yet shorter range) to Tomahawk to make it more useful in the land attack roles likely carried out by the C1 design. The main disadvantage to SCALP-N is that it requires a longer launcher, the SYLVER A70 and this would of course increase costs, the SCALP-N is already expensive SCALP.
A more practical and lower priced alternative might be a navalised version of the GMLRS rocket, a weapon achieving much success in Afghanistan. GMLRS is short enough to fit in the A50 SLYVER silo, so providing commonality across the Type 45 and C1. The US Navy developed an extended version of the M/GMLRS system called POLAR but this was cancelled but a version is also available to fit in the Mk25 quad pack cell for the Mk41 launcher, the concept of using GMLRS in a vertical launch silo, proven. GMLRS has been fired out to 90km, much further than even extended range 155mm artillery shells and again, commonality with the Army will bring obvious benefits. An even lower cost option would be to dispense with silo mounting and simply fit the launch mechanism on the superstructure. The ATACMS guided rocket which is part of the same family, can be fired to over 300km and reportedly fitted with the same BROACH warhead used on Storm Shadow and SCALP-N. Whilst useful, the ATACMS is too large for silo launch so would have to be superstructure mounted. The GMLRS/ATACMS option could be used to support forces ashore or used independently whilst providing commonality with the Army.
The developmental Fire Shadow is designed to offer ranges of approximately 150km, again this might be silo launched or housed in a separate launch mechanism.
Whilst the Harpoon may be getting rather long in the tooth it is still effective, the attractions of another missile are many but this would not only mean a new weapon system for the RN but also for the Nimrod MRA4 as well. Recognising the need for continuity the C1 should carry 8 launchers, in the position between the superstructure and forward VLS cells, these being transferred from the Type 23′s
Additional surface attack capability would be delivered by an embarked Wildcat helicopter and its Sea Skua or Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGR). The Apache Attack Helicopter would also provide an effective surface attack system should it be embarked.
Close in defence against small surface targets would be undertaken as a secondary role by the CIWS, whichever is fitted.
A small number of medium calibre cannons and small calibre automatic weapons would supplement the larger weapons. The Army has a 30mm cannon and a development 40mm canon. The RAF has a 27mm canon and the Royal Navy have a number of medium calibre weapons, 20mm cannon (Phalanx), 30mm cannon (Goalkeeper) and couple of other 20/30mm canons in various mounts. Some consolidation is obviously needed.
The CTA 40mm weapon being developed for the Warrior and FRES Scout might be the obvious choice or even the RAF’s Mauser 27mm but how applicable these would be for naval applications would be the deciding factor. It is likely that Goalkeeper will be withdrawn and the upgraded Phalanx retained as the standard CIWS but the CTA 40mm might be a sensible option option for close in surface defence because if its advanced ammunition and ease of handling.
If CAMM can be quad packed in a SYLVER A50 VLS then there exists the potential for nearly 200 missiles in the forward cells alone. This is obviously too many and should provide the space in the forward cells for SCALP-N or GMLRS as described above, the actual mix depending on requirements. If CAMM cannot be quad packed in an A50 then this would change the missile fit dynamic and make SCALP less feasible as most of the 48 cells would be used for CAMM, it might be fitted elsewhere.
Close in air defence would be provided by either the upgraded Phalanx from the Type 23/C-RAM pool or Millennium Gun as per our Type 45 proposal and a full complement of arguably more effective soft kill systems.
The radar and anti air system presents an interesting challenge. To integrate CAMM with the SAMPSON radar would be expensive but then so would integrating t to ARTISAN or any other system. Consistent with our rigorous commonality theme the C1 should be fitted with SAMPSON radar and elements of PAAMS. All of the research costs have been sunk and ordering in such small quantities (the 6 on the Type 45′s) is what drives up unit cost. Ordering in quantity should enable unit costs to be reduced significantly as the development costs can be spread over a greater number.
This would open up the possibility of the C1 carrying a mix of Sea Viper and CAMM in a very high threat environment, all cued from a Type 45 using CEC, a task group would be able to flex the its missile fit up or down depending on the threats. This proposal might also go some way to compensating for the low Type 45 numbers.
With the proliferation of ultra quite conventionally powered submarines the sub surface threat remains and this would be an important mission for the C1. The Royal Navy has a well deserved reputation for anti submarine excellence and is a ‘go to’ capability in a coalition context.
Working in conjunction with bow mounted sonar the Sonar 2087 array on 8 of the Type 23’s contributes to a powerful submarine detection and classification system. Dipping sonar on the Merlin helicopter completes the picture. The 2087 arrays should be transferred to the C1 but if possible, should be mounted in a transferable container, this would enable the valuable sets to be moved from one vessel to another whilst they are in refit or in response to specific demand. The embarked Merlin’s will generally be responsible for attacking submarine threats and the Stingray mounts should also be transferred from the Type 23’s to provide close in self defence.
By containerising the 2087 array and handling equipment and providing standard ‘power and data connectors’ any future system can be implemented relatively easily. The future of submarine detection might use a network of distributed sensors in surface or sub surface unmanned vehicles and the rear working deck should be designed with this in mind.
Helicopters carried would be dependent on circumstances and requirements; Merlin, Apache, Wildcat, Chinook or anything else (AW139 as per an earlier proposal) could be operated.
In a previous post we suggested that the Boeing Insitu Scan Eagle would be a sensible off the shelf UAV for the Royal Navy and Army. By utilising a common ‘ground station’ architecture the Army’s Watchkeeper UAV could be be operated and managed and information from the Sentinel R1 or other ISR systems should be integrated into this system.
The launch and recovery system for the Scan Eagle needs a very small area and it would extend greatly the ships own sensors, especially in the land and surface attack role. There has also been some work done adding a miniaturised magnetic anomaly detector for anti submarine work.
Surface and sub surface unmanned vehicles might also be introduced as their design matures.
The usual compliment of ships boats would be retained, transferred from the Type 22′s and 23′s
A comprehensive flag capability should be incorporated, in addition to modest embarked force accommodation.
A modular ESM system should also be fitted.
With the C1, timing is crucial, industrial capacity, out of service dates for both the Type 22 and Type 23 and in service dates for new weapons and sensors will have to be carefully managed. Many of the systems from the Type 23’s should be transferred, although this would not be a completely simple process it is worth pursuing to reduce costs. There is also the issue of replacements for other vessel types to factor in to this complex ship building plan.
This provides the Royal Navy with a fully flexible and highly capable escort fleet configured roughly as a third AAW and two thirds ASW/ASuW/Land Attack for a total of 18 escorts.
No doubt, this proposal is capital intensive but its single minded commonality approach will create significant through life cost savings.
Although smaller than the 18 C1/C2 mix as proposed in the latest information on FSC our forthcoming C3 proposal will address the ‘can’t be in two places’ issue. The Think Defence C3 will be a concept rather than a single design and hopefully address some of the concerns over this reduction in escort numbers.