The Type 45 is an antiair warfare destroyer armed with advanced sensors and the latest air defence missiles.
The Type 45 is a salutary lesson in the dangers of multi nation partnerships, starting in the NFR-90 programme which eventually collapsed (those pesky national interests again) and splintered into various programmes. Instead of realising that multi nation programmes to produce a common design are always fraught with risk the UK and other nations decided to have another go, this culminated in the Horizon Common New Generation Frigate. Differing requirements, industrial problems and other issues meant that the UK withdrew to pursue a national design, the Type 45, although some common equipment would be carried over from Horizon.
Designed to throw a protective bubble around a multi vessel task group the Type 45 is likely to be the most effective anti air destroyer in service for quite some time but then it should, it is one of the most expensive as well.
Utilising modern construction techniques like modular blocks and having a clean, reduced signature design, the Type 45 is thoroughly modern. The integrated turbine/electric propulsion system whilst expensive in capital terms will have very low running and maintenance costs, a good example of investing to save.
With a displacement of approximately 8,000 tonnes it is relatively large yet can still comfortably achieve 27 knots (with more if needed) with a range of 7,000nm. Armed with up to 48 Aster 15 or Aster 30 missiles (now called Sea Viper) as part of Principal anti aircraft missile system (PAAMS)
In addition to the main missile armament it is also equipped with 4.5” Mk8 Mod 1 main gun, a number of smaller automatic weapons and can carry the Lynx or Merlin helicopters.
Once the Sea Viper integration trials have completed and the Type 45 comes into service in the next few years it will be a worthy successor to the Type 42. The recent test failure was completely over hyped by the mainstream media and the UK version of PAAMS will be a genuine world leader with plenty of development potential.
All in the garden is not rosy though. The Royal Navy asked for 14, this was reduced to 12 in the 1998 Strategic Defence Review and the numbers have been whittled down gradually to the current position, 6.
The basic design, although very sensibly having room and provision for expansion, does seem lightly armed. It has no close in weapon system, torpedoes or sea/land attack capability.
In an ideal world the numbers would be increased to 8 but the time for extending the run has passed, in the context of reduced budgets the money would be better spent on making it more effective in its primary role and perhaps more suited to a number of secondary roles.
With this focus on its primary role, that of air defence, it would make sense for additional Vertical Launch Silos to be fitted for additional Sea Vipers.
When the RN moves to the 155mm main gun concept it is working towards then this should be installed on the Type 45’s although only for commonality reasons, the thought of using such a valuable asset like a Type 45 to provide Naval Gunfire Support should fill everyone with dread!
Close in defences should also be improved with something more effective than the Phalanx, perhaps the Millennium Gun which would also provide protection against short range surface targets. The newer blocks of Phalanx provide this dual role capability but its effectiveness against the latest generations fast and low flying missiles is in question. Soft kill systems are arguably more effective than CIWS like Phalanx but the two are complimentary and neither should be skimped on, especially as the Type 45 is a high value target.
The stop start programme that is Collaborative Engagement Capability which provides a single integrated air picture (SIAP) should be fully committed to, the US Navy CEC was cancelled for the Royal Navy in 2005 in favour of a UK centric version but given the obvious need to operate in conjunction with the USN it would seem to make sense to resurrect this. It will dramatically improve situational awareness creating something that is more than the sum of its parts.
Air defence is all about layers and with each active and passive layer playing its part, with our questioning of the CVF one of the outer layers is missing, this is an important argument for the CVF so the question is, can the Type 45 in conjunction with a CEC enabled C1 force and other measures provide sufficient air defence for an amphibious or other task group?
This is an important question but the capabilities of the Type 45 should not be underestimated, the likelihood of facing such a competent offensive airborne attack capability that has survived an initial Tomahawk attack (for example) and the very real possibility of operating in a coalition with either France and/or the United States should also be considered.
To summarise, the anti air warfare capabilities of the Type 45 should be developed over time but with the numbers remaining at 6.