UK defence issues and the odd container or two

Maritime Security Operations and the ‘myth’ of piracy

I want to borrow the catch line of the Canadian American Strategic Review (CASR) web site and make some “modest proposals” about maritime security operations, in the context of the SDSR and reducing budgets.

There are many suggestions in the comments placed on other articles on this site that run along the lines that UK (in the form of the Royal Navy) cannot afford “gold plated” warships, so it needs many, smaller cheaper vessels and that to remain relevant in the modern world, it needs to focus the use of these smaller vessels on missions such as “fighting piracy” – my pilot response to most of these suggestions in not printable!

Let me provide some background reading before going any further.

If you don’t know the Eagle Speak blog, its author, Eagle 1 (an ex-USNR Captain) does an excellent job of tracking piracy, and has been doing for a long time before Somalia become the media’s focus

Eagle 1 works with CDR Salamander (another active blogger) to produce the “Midrats” naval podcast over BlogTalk Radio; they recently interviewed Mr Stephen Carmel, a Senior Vice President with Maersk USA.  It is an excellent interview even though it has an obvious US centric view of piracy, commerce and shipbuilding.

Mr Carmel also recently gave a speech at a USNI conference where he suggested that piracy is simply not that big an issue from the commercial viewpoint; you can read the transcript here

As Mr Carmel points out, Navies may have long histories in fighting piracy, and other crime upon the high seas, but the operative word here is history. Piracy is not a military threat, to the UK or any other nation for that matter. Piracy is a law and order issue; do we call in the local TA battalion to deal with armed robbers or potential armed siege situations? No of course not, we call on appropriately trained and armed police – a civilian agency.

So I would like to examine a few points, and make a few of those modest suggestions, but lets start with the contentious stuff:

  1. The role of the Royal Navy is war fighting, military operations, not global maritime policeman
  2. BUT having said that, people who constantly moan about using T45’s (for example) for anti-piracy or anti-drug ops are missing the point: if we have such assets why not use them ? Would you rather they just sit alongside doing nothing at all?
  3. Building on point 2 – warships can do maritime policing, but generally speaking maritime policemen (coastguard type OPV’s for example) are not much use in war fighting
  4. The SDSR is actually divesting of assets that are very useful in maritime security type operations – more on this below.

Lets work this backwards a bit first, to get the modest suggestion for the RN out of the way.  If we do not accept that just letting commercial market forces (the maritime and insurance industries) deal with piracy is sufficient, and that for moral reasons we should intervene, then we should use the assets we already have to accomplish the mission.

So instead of mothballing one of the Albion class assault ships, we should make a modest investment in CB90 type vessels which can operate from the well deck on anti-piracy patrols. Now I accept the Albion Class are less than perfect, not having a hanger for their own helo, but perhaps we could attach a Bay Class style temporary shelter for a Lynx. However the main point is, a CB90 with its mix of range, endurance, speed and payload, its own radar, and even a cabin roof RWS with a 12.7mm MG is excellent small vessel for anti-piracy patrols closer into shore, with much cheaper operating costs than a Merlin HM1.

A previous TD article on the CB90 is here

Obviously the same combination would be quite good for anti-drug use in the Caribbean or anti-people smuggling in the Mediterranean. In the “West Indies Guards Ship” role, which has already been undertaken by the smaller Bay Class, the ability to carry large amounts of disaster relief supplies and equipment during hurricane season is an added boon!

Maritime Security Operations – Fleet versus Flotilla

OK, so now its time for that rather modest proposal I mentioned…………

If piracy, drug running and people smuggling are not a direct military threat to the UK, but a civilian ‘security’ issue, then perhaps we should leave it to the Coast Guard?  No, seriously, stop laughing….!

I know the UK Maritime and Coast Guard Agency is not exactly built on the same model as the US Coast Guard for example, and is not setup for such missions, but we have a successful model, which can be adopted: the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

While writing this article, I seem unable to get to the main RFA site, which might have something to do with the recent hack, so for those who don’t know a great deal about the RFA, check out the Wikipedia page

The RFA might be described as a “para-military” organization. They are the supporting element of the maritime armed forces, what in the days of sail used to be termed the Flottilla, as opposed to the Fleet(s) of combatant vessels. The RFA is manned by civilian merchant mariners and supply specialists. The RFA has for many years been a model other countries have envied,  and personally I have spent 9 months working as part of the Naval Party onboard RFA Diligence and have a very high opinion of their professionalism, particularly the bridge ‘watch keeping’ officers I worked with.

So why not use the RFA model to undertake ‘coast guard type’ maritime security operations, both in UK waters, and further abroad?

Currently the RN operates 3 River Class patrol vessels, and there is a current opportunity to purchase 3 Port of Spain class vessels built for Trinidad and Tobago

FantasyFleets has made a similar suggestion

The difference is I am suggesting these vessels be sailed under the Blue Ensign as part of the RFA, either ‘straight up’ as part of the Flotilla, or on behalf of the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency – personally I don’t care if they are grey, white, blue or whether or not they have ‘go faster’ stripes.

The existing Rivers should be transferred to the RFA and manned and operated in the same way.  In UK waters Fisheries officers could be carried, and Customers officers in the same way.  In the Caribbean or off Somalia I would suggest the boarding parties should be made up of Royal Marines

Using the RFA to provide this capability is only part of the response to a dwindling MoD budget though. The other element would be to take the Italian approach to funding; these maritime security ops could be financed in part by MCGA, Revenue and Customs, DfID etc not just from the MoD budget. If we accept that this is not a ‘war fighting’ role, why should they be funded by the MoD at all ?

Bigger is better

However, why stop there ? As I have suggested, I am not a big fan of smaller less flexible vessels, so lets go to the other extreme and examine the use of really big RFA’s for these maritime security operations.

As the RN surface fleet has shrunk, RFA tankers and the auxiliary landing ships of the Bay Class have been used on the Windies Guard Ship’ and other duties. While some have questioned the veracity of using a tanker to do anti-drug runner ops’ I say “so what?” – it’s a flexible asset, use it for whatever you can J

TD’s pre-SDSR article on ‘At Sea Replenishment’ mentions the Dutch Joint Support Ship design

In my complimentary article, I suggested we should join the JSS program and buy at least 4 of these large and flexible vessels to replace all 4 RFA Fort Class vessels

In fact in the comments (some where) I went further than this, based on TD’s relentless pursuit of educating us all to be experts in ISO Container based logistics, to suggest that perhaps another 2 could replace RFA Argus and RFA Diligence, and again following the Italian model, a 7th of class could be purchased purely for disaster response operations – paid for by DfID of course !

Now I realize these vessels are not that cheap (although relatively speaking they are certainly not that expensive either – c. 360 million Euro so 305 million GBP) but beating TD’s drum of standardization the benefits of having a large class of identical vessels (which would also reduce this unit price) would be great.

But what does all this have to do with anti-piracy or other maritime security operations?

Well many graphics of the JSS design show a LCVP type vessel on davits, port and starboard aft – if these were to be replaced by CB90’s we are back to my earliers suggestion of using Albion Class, we are talking about ‘mother ships’ – but in this case RFA vessels that have a big hanger to carry their own helicopters, two CB90’s on davits (plus RHIB’s of course) and even enough room on the cargo deck to build a containerized brig for your captured pirates.

So a single class of vessel which can act as tanker, dry stores support, helo training, support and transport, repair ship (remember the TD article about containerized workshops?) AND as a maritime security operations mother ship !

So whether you like big multi-role, or if your in the “lots of smaller hulls” school of thought, what do you think about giving this expanded role to the RFA ?

About The Author

Think Defence contributing author


  1. Sven Ortmann

    I’ve seen such overreactions to piracy as well, there are many such voices. It’s really ridiculous, as if logic was thrown overboard entirely.

    The commercial shipping businesses are barely annoyed enough to invest in some civilian security personnel, but navies are supposed to rebuild themselves to counter “pirates”.

    The operating cost argument against big ships is badly flawed, too. It considers sunk costs (the business as usual costs of the big ships), although these are by definition irrelevant for a decision.

    Btw, one often-made mistake is assuming that small is beautiful against pirates; it isn’t. Helicopters have proved to be indispensable as quick reaction forces. They need not only a landing pad, but also a hangar. The very minimum against pirates is therefore a small frigate, approx. Leander size.

    The naval approach is (obviously) a stupid approach, though. We should have gone to the roots; the well-known and few coastal towns from which the pirates originate.

    It wouldn’t hurt to chase away illegal foreign fishermen who ruin the Somalian coastal fishing grounds, though.

  2. Dominicj

    article point 2, if you’ve got it use it.
    Even if you have an f430, you might still use your diesel polo to get to work everyday.

    Keeping a carrier group at 30 days to deploy should be a damned site cheaper than deploying it here there and everywhere.
    If you deploy a t45 to somalia, you need to buy another to act as the ready fleet escort.

    Re piracy.
    Piracey was always dealt with by the armed forces when local police refused.
    The barbary pirates were reigned in when a multi national task force fired 100,000 cannonballs at their port.
    If you want to deal with pirates, reactivate an ohio and fire underway on all those nice new mansions.

    the legal problems with arming shipboard staff are extreme.
    US yachts can and do have mounts for .50 cals and staff kitted out in full body armour, try that off the french coast and they’ll probably sink you, sail up the thames and its jail time.
    The security force on board most ships Im aware of is ex british para, they’d love to be armed, but laws intrude.

  3. Rodney

    To paraphrase from Defence
    Contracting for availability
    “River class are leased to the Ministry of Defence for five years. supported and maintained through Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) – an innovative concept pioneered in the maritime environment by VT and the MOD.”

    “Under the CLS agreement, the MOD pays a daily rate based on the achievement of the agreed level of availability. For the River Class OPVs, the company guarantees 960 days’ availability per annum across the fleet to the RN. In a very successful first full year of operation, the three River Class OPVs achieved 97.5% availability” The two Echo Class Survey Ships are also procured under a similar but longer 25 year CLS agreement. Perhaps applying this practise would enable further vessels such as the Port of Spain class to be utilized, after all BAE systems who took over VT the original owners of the River Class probably now own the Port of Spain class?

  4. IXION

    OK shirt sleaves rolled up, eyes down!

    1 ‘The role of the RN is not global maritime policeman’.

    It suppressed priracy in the 19th century,
    It suppressed the slave trade.

    History maybe, but a bold man to say ‘oh we won’t need to do that again’. When we obviously are doing it right now(and might I add using it to ‘big up the navy’ to the public and politicos.

    Piracy may be a commercial problem, but that commercial problem costs the economy a fortune, it is in effect an illegal tax on goods sent by sea. Currently the pirates seem to be nice ‘cuddly’ types who aren’t that mutch into rape, murder torture etc. That has not always been the case. Also what happens when one of these idiots crashes a supertanker full of crude, or hazardous chemicals into a reef of the west coast of Africa?

    Consider the links between organised crime smuggling people drugs and guns etc, and piracy and terrorism. Anti piracy is the same kind of opperation as anti terror. The one thing I aggree wtih the SDR about is the current primacy of the threat to this country from non state actors.

    2. Running T45’s etc in that role is ridiculously expensive. it is like using a Typhon to chase toe rags in stolen Ford Orions up the A1. It increases their annual costs, wears them out, and puts a strain on the logistics, (Underway replenishment etc). You are forcing square peg into round hole.

    3. The uselessnes of patrol ships in a shooting war.

    Is this not shot down by your own conclusion about vessel types needed (with which I agree). The vessels proposed by me and others some Bay type derivative/ conversion, will have utillity to combat navy as Amphib support, Underway replenishment, the perfect base for special forces insertion, etc. They would also be the perfect ships to provide flank cover agains swarm attacks from minor state navies. Also should make good anti submarine carriers when required (back to earlier posts).

    4. Getting rid of suitable vessels.

    I agree but I think its getting rid of vessels that could be used for this job, but much better vessels could be designed/ relativly cheaply purchased.

    Generaly your post is politacally naive.

    The RN should be doing this job.

    I confidently predict if they did not the RN would finding it’s funding and recruitement drying up within a decade.

    1) Politicos will see this going on and say ‘oh look the RFA/coast guard is protection our country against current threats, it needs more funds so thats commining out of your budget for ASub warfare”.

    2) Can you just see the recruiting posters

    ‘Join the RFA/coastguard and fight, terrorism, priracy, in the exotic 4 corners of the world, defend the motherland, bring disaster relief to striken tsunami / earthquake victims, get your picture taken with Kate Aidie’s sucessors on the BBC”

    ‘Join the navy and feeze your b*lls off in the north atlantic dropping practice torpedos, on non exitent submarines, sit in Portsmoth polishing your missiles’

    I know which one I and my kids would want to join.

    In Canada the navy is having a turf war with the coastguard for almost exactly these reasons, the cash there is, is going on protecting territorial integrity in the arctic, The navy is tryin to get its hands on the icebreakers and patrol ships proposed,(activities it positvly pooh pooh’ed in the 80’s). EXACTLY because it can see which way the wind is blowing.

  5. McZ

    I’ve supported and embraced the ISO-container case from the first day the Danes began to introduce STANFLEX.

    But modularization reveals a major flaw in the big-is-better-case. If modularization is accomplished, it simply doesn’t matter, what type ship or which size of ship you are putting those modules on.
    The Windies-guardship f.e. should be a small, 700ts-patrol boat or even an converted LCU (or better: both), based on the Caymans, manned by locals. The French are acting like this, apart from a prepositioned Floreal, they have those unshiny BATRALs.

    Piracy in Somalia can only be solved by crushing the local militias. Maybe it’s time to diplomatically support Ethiopia?

  6. IXION

    Can I just add in UK waters this work could and should be done by the navy, likewise air see rescue. The coastguard should be taken over by the RN. the coast guard role will increase in importance over the next decade, it will suck funds form the RN if the RN let it.

    This is high public profile stuff, and could be done by an RN auxill’y of territorial/reserve types.

    The type of ships should be commercial rig supply vessels that should also do the mine warfare bit.

  7. Sven Ortmann

    About legal problems: It was and most likely still is customary maritime law that civilian ships can be armed with 57mm cannons (at most).

    To tell the legal professionals to be less stupid is a lot less troublesome and costly than to build several coast guard cutters.

  8. Think Defence


    Nice to see CASR are back on the intertubes, it was one of my favourite sites.

    It is a bit of a dirty secret but the UK is doing rather nicely out of piracy thank you very much, maritime insurance is largely located in London so even a modest uplift in premiums comes back to us in cash terms.

    As to the central part of the question, is piracy intediction (or drugs in the windies for that matter) a naval role?

    I am torn on this one to be honest, it is clearly a ‘law’ rather than combat issue so coastguards, law enforcement and even overseas development should be taking the lead role but the counter argument is that in the absence of any other threat, why not?

    I like your proposal, it makes a lot of sense. Parallel to this I have been working on a piece on the lack of innovation of late coming out of the RN and this exactly the kind of thing we should be doing,or at least experimenting with

  9. Jedibeeftrix

    excellent article Admin,

    particularly the suggestion of having a flottila of River class derivatives within the RFA available for Coastguard/piracy ops and paid for via the relevant agency.

    A maritime version of my peacekeeping paramilitary article perhaps:

    I also like the JSS idea, similar in concept to the “Son-of-Bay” littoral control ship proposed some years back at warship1.

  10. paul g

    brigs for captured prisoners, well it would have to comply with “hooman rights” therefore equipped with tv,playstation and coffee maker. Plus it would have to include a desk so they could write out their asylum applications, something they can do to the nation that captures them.
    typhoons to chase joyriders? secretly i like that!!

  11. IXION

    paul g

    Chasing toe raggs up A1 in a typhoon.

    I like the idea too, but not exactly cost effective.

    All in all I agree with Jed’s posts conclusion re shipping, but they should be under RN Duty

  12. x

    Anti-piracy, anti-drug, and blockades are on the job training. Better a first rate does this in a time of peace than OPV been used to fight a real war.

    The limitation is the software not the hardware; that is to say the ROE are too pirate friendly.

  13. Jedibeeftrix

    Ah, cheers for the correction Admin, ought to pay more attention to the author.

    Congrats Jed, good article.

  14. Jed

    Hello all

    Due to the time difference I am only just getting my carcass out of bed on a sunday morning, so you have made a lot of comments to respond to. I can see my ideas are not universally supported – which is good, the whole point is to generate conversation :-)

    However as I do live in Canada, I have to respond to Ixion ref:

    “in Canada the navy is having a turf war with the coastguard for almost exactly these reasons, the cash there is, is going on protecting territorial integrity in the arctic, The navy is tryin to get its hands on the icebreakers and patrol ships proposed,(activities it positvely pooh pooh’ed in the 80′s)”

    There is no turf war, per se, in fact its a bit of the opposite, neither service is keen on taking on these ships. Its a political argument. The Canadian Coast Guard is not a para-military organization like the US Coast Guard and it really does not want to run armed ships, or take on the associated ‘security’ type roles. They are often decried on Canadian forums as a buoy servicing organisation who don’t really even want to do SAR ! The navy on the other hand is not keen on patrolling or protecting our longest coast line (the arctic) they are much happier in frigates and destroyers out the broad ranges of the Atlantic and Pacific.

    Now because I live in the Canada with access to beautiful parks on my door step, the wife wants to get out and visit one of them, so more comments in response to your comments later…….

  15. Dominicj

    lets say we arm crews on ships, and lets say they gun down a pirate, and lets say that a german port.
    Now lets say its off the somali coast?
    See the problem?

    When we say ‘arm guards’, we mean, ‘shoot darkies and no one will bat an eye lid’.
    Theres no somali court to handle it, are german courts going to try a russian crew captain, for a crime in somali waters aboard an indian flagged vessel owned by an american corporation?
    Im ok with turning a blind eye for convenience, is everyone else?

  16. Jed

    Ixion – no worries dude, did not mean to sound all high and mighty or anything, just that we get the full on TV news media coverage of this kind of thing – and by the way, our politicians sometimes make the UK’s look good !

    Do you notice how I keep using “our” when I am not actually a Canadian citizen……. :-)

  17. IXION


    No worries!

    If I’m going to pontificate is suppose I should double source. like a good journo.

    I stand by my arguement though, that the cash (such as it is), will be more plentifully available for Anti terror/drugs smuggling/ piracy work, rather than Anti sub (for eg).

    We see this in my areaof work, with Police Community Support officers, Plastic bobbies as they are known up north. They are actually requiring police officers to resign now, as PCSO’s are cheaper.

    The RN would be really daft to avoid useful ‘peactime’ work of the kind, that looks good in the papers/ on telly (all politicos care about.

    How about RN auxiller’y made up of retired RN Being paid civilian RFA rates;
    flying ASR choppers,
    running traffic control in channel,
    running fishery protection patrols
    Mine warfare etc.
    Anti polution
    Border patrol
    Customs etc
    Coordinating civilian contractors in UK waters.
    Doing all RFA jobs as well.

    It might also be used as part of basic training of RN ratings with excess RN personnel being asssigned as well. (perhaps some of our many admirals)!

  18. Somewhat Removed


    The Coastguard and the Navy should not be confused. The former is under the purview of the Home Office, the latter operates under the Foreign Office. The Navy is primarily an instrument of foreign policy not home policy and the two should not thus be confused. Same reason why sailors shouldn’t be firemen and the Army shouldn’t be patrolling the streets to beef up the police force. Using the military for Home Office tasking should be a matter of last resort.


    I agree there is a case for improving the secondary capabilities of our RFA’s, but I bring in the legal argument again. Whatever we decide to do to our naval auxiliaries, we must make sure we fully exploit the RFA’s unique legal position to maximise their effectiveness without compromising their status i.e. they are technically naval auxiliaries and can stand in for warships on occasion, but are civilian manned and thus will often be considered as less inflammatory than a warship might otherwise be.

    Remember, the RN and RFA do not do counter drug operations in the Caribbean; instead they support US counter drug operations. No arrests are made by UK personnel; it’s all done by and at the bequest of the US Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) teams.

  19. anon

    The Coastguard is a government agency under the Ministry of Transport and not a responsibility of the Home Office. The Royal Navy belongs to the Ministry of Defence.

    The thought of the F&CO having control of an armed service is too frightening to contemplate.

  20. IXION


    The Navies job is to, do train and equip, to do, what it is told to do by the elected govt of UK. If govt decides that a chunk of the navy should do anti piracy etc then it does anti piracy. I repeat I have seen this sort of thing happen, the de-skilling of areas where auxilleries and 2nd rank types grow and grow. If it means some cash for RN,doing that role from other departments then great.

    Try this for about 5 years time if the RFA coastguard force gets expanded.

    ‘We have a CBG we only need 4 type 45’s in commission we can mothball the other 2, We only need enough anti sub frigates to cover the north sea now we can mothball the rest, look at all the good work done by the RFA for our current security needs;- we can tranfer the saved funds (plus a small slice for the treasury’. Bet the mortgage money that’s what happens.

    Look at what is happening to RAF.

    I like the ships proposed etc but they should be RN. If you create a coast guard /RFA as a sepperate force, it will quickly suck the Navy dry of personel and rescources, because it will be seen as (and indeed may even be), more relevent to our current security needs.

    I know I can’t convince the;-

    ‘RN should be survaying the broad blue oceans, looking for Her Majesty’s enemies, to come steaming over the horizon in proper warships. Not chasing oiks and psychos in speedboats. That’s a job for some sort of waterborn policeman’.

    Types, so I will stop trying.

  21. Euan

    “The thought of the F&CO having control of an armed service is too frightening to contemplate.”

    Well it already has control over the Secret Intelligence Service or as most people like to call it MI6.

    Generally the FCO from what I know rather much takes the position that we should stay out of other countries internal and external affairs as it’s none of our business. They tend to get rather upset when the Muppets/politicians elsewhere go pissing in the pool undoing the careful work and plans of diplomats.

    Anyhow nice post as always Jed:)

  22. x

    @ IXION

    I would have a look at the Norwegian Coastguard which was set up as recently as 1977.

    And you do know that the UK Border Agency operates the 4 former HMRC cutters?

    Actually I think your idea has some merit.

  23. Brian

    How about operating the Nimrod and ASR fleet under some version of a CLS agreement, perhaps civilian-crewed with a reserve obligation in emergency?

  24. Jed

    Hey guys – thanks for all the comments, hope you all had a nice sunday, here are some responses:

    @Dom 09.03 “Piracey was always dealt with by the armed forces when local police refused.” – yep, maybe, but we don’t need to be wed to history, and in the case of Somali for example, there is no local “police” to deal with to start with, but as others have noted, a political solution for Somalia as a “failed state” is what is actually required.

    @Rodney 09.12 Yes, although I did not specifically mention it, one would hope that BVT would do a River style wet lease for the 3 Port of Spain class.

    @Ixion 11.09 “Piracy may be a commercial problem, but that commercial problem costs the economy a fortune, it is in effect an illegal tax on goods sent by sea” – well apparently if you Google it, this does not appear to be true. See also the comments by the gentlemen from Maersk, piracy is not currently costing the economy a fortune at all. Also there is a no current link to Somali (or any other piracy) and non-state actor terror groups, so anti-piracy is certainly no synonymous with anti-terror ops. I am not saying it does not have the capacity to go there, but right now they are very different things.

    Also ref the “uselessness of patrol ships in a shooting war” – you agree with me that Amphibs have secondary role in MSO ops, but these are not what I meant by patrol ships, I mean River / Port of Spain type OPV’s.

    Yes running a T45 around the coast of Somalia is not a good use of that type of vessel, and it is not at all cost effective BUT you can use a major warships for MSO if you want / need to. It does not work the other way round.

    Ixion @11.27 “Can I just add in UK waters this work could and should be done by the navy, likewise air see rescue.” Why ???

    “ The coastguard should be taken over by the RN. the coast guard role will increase in importance over the next decade, it will suck funds form the RN if the RN let it.”

    Well based on the incompetence of our duly elected officials there might be an ounce of truth in this, BUT the RN can’t let or not let funds go elsewhere, it has no choice in the matter, either the government funds it, or it doesn’t, the Admirals do not actually have a say in the matter, other than providing advice through the official channels to the NSC. So, I hear you, but I think this is an emotive argument.

    @X 1.52 “Anti-piracy, anti-drug, and blockades are on the job training. Better a first rate does this in a time of peace than OPV been used to fight a real war”

    Exactly ! Good point well made sir ……..

    @ Ixion 6.13 “How about RN auxiller’y made up of retired RN Being paid civilian RFA rates;” – well I hear you ref PCSO’s (I have also worked in the UK criminal justice system) I don’t think this would work very well in practice.

    @Somewhat Removed 8.26 “Remember, the RN and RFA do not do counter drug operations in the Caribbean; instead they support US counter drug operations. No arrests are made by UK personnel; it’s all done by and at the bequest of the US Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) teams.”

    Not entirely sure this is accurate. Yes we normally carry LEDET teams, or police from other Caribbean nations, but I have been onboard a destroyer, taken off tasking and sent out to intercept arms runners (small arms for the IRA). I think there are still various clauses in UN conventions (“the law of the high seas” if you like) so that you can detain and hand over to civilian law enforcement later. This must be the kind of thing which allows us to machine gun and sink / blow up “pirates” boats – otherwise wouldn’t someone be arresting Jack for destruction of someone else’ property ?

    Anyway, as I suggested, RFA manned “coast guard” vessels on MSO ops would carry the staff of the appropriate agency (for example the UK Border Agency X)

    So to round up – I admit that Ixion’s level of paranoia about such a scheme actually harming RN funding is actually possible in the weird and screwed up world in which the UK resides, but then again, maybe it would not……… ☺

    Cheers !

  25. All Politicians are the Same


    Somewhat Removed post about our situation in the caribean is correct. LEDET teams do the boarding/arrests. Off the coast of Somalia warship teams do indeed do the boarding but arrested pirates are not dealt with by UK law. Wave Knight gave the pirates she captured to the Kenyans.
    Your example is one of a direct threat to UK national security and where we will always act e.g. Sutherland and SBS takedown of the merchant ship in the English Channel 2001.

  26. x

    Jed said “a T45 around the coast of Somalia is not a good use of that type”

    Um. But it is closer to the Gulf if the balloon goes up; better I think to fight into the Straights than fight out. Handy for a trip across to Malac if needed. I think what I am saying is that perhaps we need a first rater more there than we do chasing around the Caribbean. Or perhaps just as much. Really what we all saying in our own way is the navy is important because of it strategic reach and high endurance.

  27. Somewhat Removed


    Correct – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not directly control the Armed Services, but perhaps I should be more specific in my comments. The Armed Services are an instrument of Britain’s foreign policy. Foreign policy is decided by the F&CO. Thus if the UK government decides to deploy military force to achieve it’s foreign policy, it is on the recommendation of the F&CO and under the agreement of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. You don’t think the MOD decides its own foreign policy, do you? That is a frightening thought…

    Jed, my contribution, if I may?

    When we refer to the RN or RFA taking over coastguard duties, which duties are we referring to? There are three distinct agencies operating in UK territorial waters, each distinct from the other and necessarily so.

    The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) is the agency responsible for implementing the Government’s maritime safety policy. That includes co-ordinating search and rescue at sea through Her Majesty’s Coastguard, checking that ships meet UK and international safety rules and preventing coastal pollution. They have the four Emergency Towing Vessels (the Anglians) but they were axed under the SDSR.

    Counter terrorism, counter drugs and counter piracy in UK waters is undertaken by the Police and Security Services. They may have support from the 5 UK Border Agency cutters, or their own inshore patrol craft and heavy RHIBs, but they are hugely dependent upon intelligence for their operations and shore-based assets. And the UK Border Agency is responsible for all border controls, including customs and excise duties. Any long ranged surveillance for potential drug runners or immigrants MAY be conducted by the RN or RAF but at a significant cost to the agency requesting the tasking; the cost of a Nimrod running surveillance was well into the thousands of pounds per hour. This is also right – the military should not have a role in conducting Home Office business unless the homeland is threatened by foreign powers (note foreign powers and not terrorism. The distinction might be fine for some, but unless you can prove state sponsored terrorism it is a Police matter).

    So if the RN or RFA take over any aspect of these three agencies then you are tying up expensive assets which should be operating abroad and not at home. Should all future warships be designed to conduct maritime pollution control duties? Should we relieve the UKBA and start checking passports on yachts sailing across the Channel? No – these are not military matters.

    If anything, the Navy and its auxiliaries should stay well out of these matters and the support for the Home Office agencies should be increased, whilst simultaneously banging their heads together. I am personally aghast at the decision to axe the four Emergency Towing Vessels (and, off the topic, the review and likely cancellation of the Maritime Incident Response Group). The Coastguard now has only RHIB’s and helicopters to its name, so you have just 5 UKBA cutters conducting routine patrols for customs duties alone. There appears to be a lack of jointery among the Home Office agencies, so perhaps some efforts should be directed here to support this. The three Port of Spain class vessels might be useful replacements/supplements to the UKBA fleet; combined with a closer cooperation between the Police and the UKBA we could see a better organised and probably more effective maritime security presence in UK waters. BUT, no matter how close in appearance these might be to some aspects of the Royal Navy, they are not, and should not be, military.

    So, IMHO the case emerges for a US-style Coast Guard proper. Admittedly they are formally a branch of the US Armed Services, but they conduct all the roles of the MCA, the Police and the UK Border Agency in one, plus DEFRA’s fishery protection duties. They do indeed have a unique legal status so perhaps we should look to ape this. Take the River class OPV’s, the UKBA cutters, all MCA and Police inshore and offshore maritime assets, maybe the Port of Spains, certainly retain the Anglians, and combine under the banner of Her Majesty’s Coastguard. Charge them with the maritime law enforcement mission, give them jurisdiction in territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone, and have them act as an independent agency but tasked by the Home Office for all matters of homeland security, economic security and marine safety. If necessary, look to force these agencies to work together – chances are we’d make a saving as well.

    A stretch too far?

  28. All Politicians are the Same

    Whilst I agree with your proposals per se I must disagree with your stance on terrorism being a Police Matter. The police simply do not have the capability to deal with a 911 type scenario. A hijacked airliner being flown towards a major UK target would have to be dealt with by the RAF. Also a similar maritime threat e.g Sutherland 2000 is a crucial part of the FRE duties. An Iranian embassy type siege will have to be dealt with by SF as CO19 do not have the ability to do explosive entry. We do not have in the UK the clearly defined line which makes it “in theory” illegal for US forces to operate in a policing style role within their borders. Part of this is that we do not have the capabilities outside of the armed forces that the US have in their Coastguard, National Guard, Air National Guard and FBI HRT. Until we have those sorts of capabilities provided ouwith the armed forces they will continue to provide a vital counter terrorist(of any variety) capability.

  29. Jed

    Somewhat Removed – I have no problem at all with forming a ‘proper’ para-military Coast Guard with an appropriate legal status, and as you suggest, in the end it might actually save some money through efficiency of operation.

    However I guess my modest proposal of RFA manned Port of Spain class was more aimed at Somali piracy, if we accept that we have a moral obligation to act (see all the media coverage of the two recently released hostages) versus a lack of commercial / national security imperative to do anything; I was not really thinking about UK waters all that much.

  30. Dangerous Dave

    SR: 14/11-8:26 + anon 14/11-9:22

    Indeed SIS is part of the FCO, as the Security Service is part of the HO. But only since 1994 and 1989 respectively. Before that they were responsible only to the PM and operated under a series of Warrants that were granted “roughly” at the pleasure of the Monarch.

    Anyway, to my main point. I like Jeds idea of dedicated assets for anti drug and piracy patrols, such units could raise the profile of the Navy in a way that answered criticisms raised in the TD “Why things don’t happen-RN underfunding” post. The problem is, who to control it.

    The problem with creating a “maritime police force” either a Coast Guard or RFA, is that police forces need to rule of law to work under, and have clearly defined geographical juristiction. Outside of UK territorial waters there is precious liitle law, and any UK vessels will be way beyond their juristicion. Add to that, the syphoning of funds away from the RN proper, and it could be the start of a slippery slope.

    The other end of the scale is to put such assets under the RN directly, possibly forming a distinct command within the existing force structure. This would have the benefits of allowing RNR/RNVR officers and “surplus” RN personel to crew the boats. But it would be more difficult to find cross-departmental funding (esp from DfID and FCO), as they would be essentially be propping up the MoD. Also, unless such funding is ring-fenced, what is to stop the MoD to use the funds for more “high-end” grey boats, after all they can act as OPV’s too.

    Which brings us back to Jed’s original idea, putting these assets under the RFA. After all the RFA are controlled by the MoD, but the crews are a mixture of civillian (actually civil servants) and RN/RNR, such a plan could work, but needs to prove independence from the RN “proper” to stop mission creep stealing away all the RFA assets – after all the RFA only became an essential service during WWII, even though it was founded in 1905. The independance as a service arm, would help with gaining access to territorial waters in pursuit of the anti-piracy mission, and in gaining cross-departmental funding. But it’s a bit of a tightrope, and I’m not confident about the MoD’s sense of balance!

  31. IXION


    I have always been a big fan of the US coast guard, and a single multi role organistation to do uk coastguarding would make much sense.

    Likewise RFA doing the foreign bit in big multi function vessels(I dont think Jed is wrong about the mission definition or the best vessels for it). Maybe the coastguard could swallow the RFA and be a single organization

    But I remain convinced it (or they) should be under thr RN control and jurisdiction.

    And fly the red ensign.

  32. Dangerous Dave


    Looking at my post, I think it was a rambling kind of way of agreeing with Jed, just pointing out some of the “human error” pitfalls of such a project.

    Coastguards tend to ber limited to territorial waters in their juristiction though, maybe calling it something else would have more political capital.

    Just a thought; putting the force at the disposal of the UN (when it isn’t doing work for HMG), would be positive PR and gain more political capital in the process. It could even enhance our standing in the world, knowing that our “supra-national” maritime police force was working with arguably the only relevant legislature in the international domain.

  33. Fat Bloke on Tour


    Basic question on this issue, when it comes to spec’ing a ship for the C3 role, even the possibility of a C4 role, what is the main driver:

    Is it size or is it cost?

    On the issue of the various needs for government departments for ships / boats / ferries would it not make sense for the RFA to spec and procure the ships and then rent them out to the relevant agencies?

    Keep it simple, keep it consistent and keep the assets RN compatible if needed in the future, supporting the tail or emergency war-fighting?

    The SEG Fishery vessels are my starting point.

  34. Jed

    @Dangerous Dave – ref: “Just a thought; putting the force at the disposal of the UN (when it isn’t doing work for HMG), would be positive PR and gain more political capital in the process. It could even enhance our standing in the world, knowing that our “supra-national” maritime police force was working with arguably the only relevant legislature in the international domain.” – yes all good stuff, using the cheaper RFA manned vessels for “soft power missions”, hence my preference for the “big ships” based on JSS type, you need 6 to replace current RFA, so you buy 7 or 8 so you always have one on standby for “International Rescue” type operations.

    @FBOT – when it comes to spec’ing C3 I don’t see this as their role. River Class is fine for UK EEZ, but as I suggested for the broader ‘international’ MSO ops then use a big RFA. The C3 is for MCM, survey etc and can at a pinch be used for MSO ops, as can a T45 or a T26, with the caveat of course that C3 sized vessel would be cheaper (an maybe more cost effective).

  35. Paul Z

    There are a lot of workboats/supply boats being produced that would make good, cheap patrol vessels. A small turret mounting a 20mm in the front and a couple of .50 caliber Brownings pintle-mounted behind the wheelhouse and full aft would deter many a smuggler or pirate.

  36. x

    Dave said “crews are a mixture of civillian (actually civil servants) ”

    It is surprising how many non-RFA, non-RN, bods there on board the larger RFAs…….

  37. Fat Bloke on Tour


    As noted earlier the RN has historically split into two different streams of endeavour, I see it as analogous with the situation in the police, the constabulary and the detective function.

    We currently have an RN that is down to having a 1st XV of warfighters with an ever decreasing bench, detectives if you like and a make do and match fleet to do the naval equivalent of helping grannies across the road and patrolling the streets.

    In today’s world the emphasis / workload is shifting from the detective function to the constabulary element and the RN must evolve and adapt to be relevant in this new global environment. Therefore I think we need more hulls in the water capable of oceanic deployments to keep the maritime peace rather than do no holds barred ASW in a WP – NA – Kitchen Sink engagement.

    With this in mind I see the C3 role doing quite a lot in the future as the escort fleet reduces to 19 hulls.

    My main question then stands is the C3 spec cost driven or size driven?

    If size driven the question has to be why?
    If cost driven then there is room for 6K tons of colonial sloop at 22knots, a £50mill price tag and a basic fit out.

    The question of using large, flexible support vessels to carry out some of the constabulary tasks is a good one but it then becomes a case of whether or not these vessels are tasked primarily with these tasks or they are a secondary consideration? If they are secondary then it will be difficult to fund them in sufficent numbers to ensure they are always available.

    Bay Class based – 15-20K tons @ 22knots = £100mill for the basic hull / systems.
    Govan has the ship down to a fine art so a small batch should not have any problems.
    You then could be looking at a figure in the region of £200mill for a vessel fully kitted out for a specific mission:
    Replenishment / Aircraft support / Hospital Ship / Smallcraft support ship …

    In this scenario the Colonial sloop then becomes a “force multiplier” doing the small jobs that the “Support Ship” is too big for or it acts as a consort to it, providing an escort in crowded litoral waters or an extra flightdeck so that the “Support Ship” / the UK’s aid effort can be in two places at once.

    Next up would be a family of basic patrol vessels to be procured by the RFA and rented out to the vrious departments that need a presence at sea.

    The SEG Fisheries protection squadron has a mix of large patrol vessels at 2K tons and inshore ones at 800 tons approx. Joined up government should mean that they are procured to a national template so that volume builds are achieved, consistent standards are delivered and unit costs are reduced.

    Is this too utopian to hope for.
    Whitehall never mind MOD in-fighting suggests that it is, but it surely is worth a go.

  38. All Politicians are the Same


    What is the SEG fishery protection squadron? The never ending problem with military procurement is that we inevitably end up equipped to deal with yesterdays problems tomorrow. I agree on the inccreasing role of the C3 based on todays issues but if we swing too far in that direction we will be stuck ther in 2025 when they may not be the issues. The fact remains that a C! type vessel can do anti piracy and constabulary ops but a C3 vessel cannot do war fighting. There is a fine balance to be struck. Modularisation and extra space may well be a means of allowing a C3 type vessel to be upgraded should the requirement emerge.

  39. Fat Bloke on Tour

    All PATS

    Scottish (Executive) Government – 2 large / 2 small patrol vessels, from memory.
    There was a spat when it was revealed that the latest “small” vessel would struggle to catch modern trawlers.

    She is said to be able to do 14knots.
    However that may be down hill with a wind at her back.

    The problem with a T45 / C1 vessel doing constabulary duties is that somewhere in Whitehall a Treasury bean counter licks his lips.

    Also 6K tons of colonial sloop can be tarted up to do a limited war fighting role.
    I put forward a £50mill price tag for the basic ship.
    That would be £30mill for the bare hull, £5mill for extra power to get to 22knots and £10mill for the warship steelwork and £5mill for a rough fit out.

    Second hand big gun up front and a couple of basic 30mm units elsewhere plus all the hand carried stuff that a RM section can carry – AAW out to 5-7km + A/T stuff as well.
    Refurbished CIWS on loan?

    The next step is to work out what can be provided for an extra £20, £30, £50mill and take forward the best value solution if that is whtat’s needed.

    Main thing is that witha 19 vessel escort fleet the RN is going to be spread very thin.

  40. x

    With fisheries work it is a bit more subtle than “catching the offending trawler.” It takes a while for nets to be brought aboard. It is the nets you are racing as much as the hull. The RN trailed a hyrdofoil in the 80s that was spectacularly successful at catching naughty fisherman. But it is gas turbine plant cost a small fortune to run. (Though it would be interesting to compare endurance and running costs of HMS Speedy and those of Nimrod (and perhaps a biggish helicopter too.))

  41. Fat Bloke on Tour


    I think the issue was trying to catch said vessel after it had shut up shop and was heading home / international waters.

    It was chatter in the local papers when it was first announced, I got interested as to why such a vessel would be put in the water with a speed slower than a Flower class corvette.

    Thrifting gone mad / painting yourself into a corner / designed by a one club golfer? – You decide.

    Another 1MW of installed power would have produced a much more capable vessel.

    Any way just one of a number of state agencies that need a water based presence, if they are all doing their own little thing then it will be very wasteful.

  42. Jed


    Thanks for the last bunch of comments. FBOT I understand where your going with this, but don’t agree and your police detective analogy is overly simplistic.

    APATS – I am fine with a C3 that is either constrained to a war role of MCMV, or is fitted with a magazine for helicopter delivered weaponry. Search for the C3 articles on here to see more.

    My main problem is with the “RN need to be doing anti-piracy to be relevant in the modern world” type argument, which IMHO is complete bollocks.

    Navies are military organisations. Their primary activities are war fighting activities, be that sinking ships, sinking subs, shooting down planes, or firing missiles into the enemies territory. Sure MSO is a part of the peace time tasking, but it is not, should not and indeed cannot become a “primary” role – if it is then the Navy has become a Coast Guard.

    The good thing of course is that a ‘war’ ship can do MSO, because it is a flexible asset. It can rescue people in distress, it can chase drug runners, mount surveillance for people smugglers (slavers?) etc should it be desirable for it to do so at any particular time. It will not be highly cost effective in such roles, but it can do them.

    The fact that the RN will be reduced to 19 DDG / FFG is NOT an excuse to field a fleet of OPV’s !

    As I have said in every comment thread, on every subject, if HM Govt. were to stop playing silly buggers, decide to quit UNSC and stop “playing” at “great power” then reducing the RN to 6 T45’s for future expansion to ballistic missile defence of the homeland, would be just fine. But they have to be open and honest about it. Not continue with the “punch above our weight, force for good” crap.

    6000 tonne “Global Sloops” with a 4.5 and 2 x 30mm is just more “fudge” (to put it politely) – they are neither “nowt nor summat” as we say up North ! Being ex-RN I understand that “fitted for but not with” means “don’t expect it to appear in a real emergency” ! So having another 8, 12, 16 or however many 4K OPV’s or 6K Global Sloops is just a diversion, they can only do the jobs which IMHO could be done cheaper and better by RFA manned “mother ships” which might at least have a useful soft power (disaster support) and war time (amphib lift) role. The C3 / OPV / Sloop squadron would make fleet numbers look better and allow every one to breath a sigh of relief that we are back to having a bigger navy than the French or the Italians, but would bring absolutely nothing to the core roles of a navy.

  43. IXION


    I find myself sort of agreeing with you!

    But only sort of.

    We are going to be reduced to 19 ships, 4 tasked to the Carrier battle group.

    So that 15 left.

    Immutable law that to have one on station means 3 ships.

    So that’s 5 places in the world a any one time we can put t45 or t26. (less any playing chase Ivan in the north atlantic).

    Any scramble would mean them having to concentrate from arround the globe to say Horn of Arica or eastern med.

    Leaving nothing anywhere else.

    You could buy an equip 3 JSS, or 15 c3 for the cost of a t45.

    The c3 can do mine warfare, replacing MWV, the JSS can replace Bay and fort class, further reducing their relative cost.

    I like the idea of a US coastguard type organisation, ans see no reason why just because its called a coast guard it can’t do rfa as well.

    That is an awfull lot of soft power,national security for the price of two top flight T45 which can only ever be in 2 places at once.

    BTW I did not mean to link Somali piracy to terror, but an awfull lot of european smuggling drugs and people, etc is linked.

    Air Sea rescue remains top flight training tool, which is why it should be kept within paramillitary Coastguard /RN.

    “would bring nothing to core roles of the navy” SO: –

    Mine warfare.
    Special forces insertion.
    Blockade Work.
    Intelligence gathering.
    Possibly even coastal ASW.

    From a C3 (or JSS type) would not be “Core” to the navy?

    Your not one of those;

    ‘ When the Red banner fleet and Soviet northern aviation come steaming into the North atlantic I intend to be waiting there ready.’

    Types are you?

    I have a cat that spends all day watching the hedge, he does a brillent Job.

    No ones stolen it yet! But when they try Tiddles will be waiting for them.

  44. All Politicians are the Same

    Interestingly part of the contract for the River Class OPV was that it had to be faster than 90% of the EU fishing fleet. Tyne and Severn good for 20.5 knots Mersey had a redesigned bow and could do 22, with a 40kt plus Pac 22 never had any probs catching Fvs.

  45. Jed

    Ixion – ROFL’d at that one, as one of my “souvenirs” from my time in the RN is a Red Banner Fleet Soviet Ensign – I supposed we carried them on RN ships in case we had to surrender……. but no, I was a cold war warrior who deployed to the gulf on 5 different ships in 10 years, never trolled around the NA on a TA tug :-)

    But in response to:

    Mine warfare.
    Special forces insertion.
    Blockade Work.
    Intelligence gathering.
    Possibly even coastal ASW

    I have not seen a suggested C3 design that could do any of these except MCMV plus patrol (so does that include blockade ?).

    The other reason I am against multi-functional C3 being bought LCS style, is that if a C3 is on MSO patrol ops, then it is not an MCMV asset and the Muppets are not being trained to do MCM. If its a dedicated asset, of a common design, which can perhaps be re-roled as part of long term fleet maintenance then that is different.

    Same thing for inshore ASW – take of the MCM ROV’s / USV’s and equip it with USV’s equipped with dipping sonar ? But what weapons, where do you attach some torpedo tubes or ASW rockets ??

    I dont think we need a Coast Guard that includes the RFA, I think we need an RFA ‘Flotilla’ that can do peace time ‘coast guard’ type tasks, so 15 x C3 versus 3 x JSS, I will take the JSS please :-)

  46. Fat Bloke on Tour


    I have filed your post under “Waiting for Ivan”.
    If ship kills are the only mark of a properly functioning navy then probably best that the RN turns off the lights and goes away quietly.

    As was said before, if all you have to look forward in your service career is polishing your missiles then there could be an issue with recruitment and retention.

    On the “Colonial Sloop” issue, the £50mill bare bones ship is only the start. Some imagination, targetted investment and lot of dynamism would upgrade the vessel to a very useful standard and provide value for money.

    That might not be the current MOD / RN way but it is the way the rest of the world works if money is tight.

    If we end up with 19 escort hulls then something will have to give, the capabilities of the RN or the non delivery culture of the ship design establishment.

    The 4 year, £127mill contract for T26 concept generation has to be the last.

    The RFA “mothership” idea has a lot of validity but it loses out on the hulls in the water test, conflicts in priorities and its lack of flexibility. Consequently a mixed fleet would be the way to go, the main thing would be maximum commonality, design re-use and value for money.


    The 33% utilisation you describe surely cannot go on?
    I saw some figures on the “Navy Matters” site and it looks as if we are building ships as a makework scheme for UK dockyards / maintainers.

    At some point reality must enter the debate and absurdity shown the door.
    No other marine enterprise would accept such a low use rate.
    What happens to the crew when the ship is in dock?

    Finally Tiddles, he / she / it is to blame for the current state of my screen, Coke spray gets everywhere.

  47. IXION


    Like I said I’m not sure there is much between us as far as reality is concerned. (Leaving aside my Paranoia about politicos and treasury manderins; – and trust me I have seen them at work.

    MSo includes blockade / intel do not see why not.

    As far as the other uses concerned, somwhere someone was talking about fire support from figate, there has got to be room on 3.5k ton patrol ship for a 4.5 inch or MLRS or 120mm mortar, whatever. And will be better ship to go close in to a hostiel shore provided no As missiles or air threat and there wasn’t last time the RN did it, But a 2.5-3.5k rigg supply type vessel with Azipods and bow thrusters, should be able to do anything a River class can.

    Using containerised systems- a sort of Flex 3500, it could do all those roles.

    So might have a role in north atlantic/ north sea in a war fighting situation. It could certainly hold a towed array, remember T-AGOS. Would be able to detect and call in Helo/’proper warship’ in deep water. OR Dipping sonar and eurotorp in shallow water looking for bottomed ssk’s. Or likewise shout for help when it’s found one. Working in conjucnction with single tupe 26 lets call it a sonar picket.

    Just some thoughts, I know c3 would last 5 minutes against another properly armed frigate, or in anything other than benign air warfare situation, but they are not useless.

    I’m, not saying they are perfect, but the could be made to ‘do’.

    Lets think outside the box.

    (I know ‘fitted for not with’ means never fitted with, but if there was a sudden (say with 1- 2years notice), of a strategic change in the situation they would at least be there to be fitted with).

  48. Tony Williams

    A couple of related thoughts:

    The existence of some smaller patrol vessels within the RN might be a recruitment draw in that it would provide more officers with command experience – which could also be a good testing ground before they step up to command the bigger ships.

    The SoSfD recently stated in a speech that he wanted the defence industries to perform better in the export market. I wonder if anyone had the nerve to point out to him that the reason that they don’t is that the services tend to specify highly specialised and expensive equipment which has little or no export potential. The last warships we sold abroad in noticeable numbers were the Leander class frigates – good, simple, affordable general-purpose warships. And, oh yes, we did sell a couple of Type 42s – to Argentina. But how many Type 22s or Type 23s? And don’t even think about Type 45s…Conversely, there could well be a market for a cheaper patrol vessel which is in RN service.

  49. Jed


    If you filed that under Waiting for Ivan, you did not read it properly :-)

    I could not agree more ref the ship building industry – but when I normally suggest UK armed forces have dropped below critical mass to support a “defence industrial strategy” and we should just buy stuff “off the shelf” I tend to get shouted at …. ! To me that includes buying Absalon, FREMM whatever, instead of wasting more money on “concept generation”, although even more value for money would be to just tweak the T45 hull to meet the requirements and build your T26 as a T45 with a bigger hanger / towed array etc and no 3D volume search radar, blah blah blah – it would lever the investment made so far and allow the ship yards to keep up their now efficient production of the same modules.

    The T45 has many advancements in design that are supposed to ensure more time at sea. However there is only so much you can do to raise operational rates, we are not talking about just moving containers from a to b here…!

    A ships lifecycle might be something on the order of:
    1. workup – safety training, operational training, full FOST workup
    2. deploy – say 6 months in the Gulf
    3. post deployment maintenance period
    4. training, short deployment for a major exercise
    5. Alongside for major leave period
    6. Pre-deployment maintenance
    7. Pre-deployment training
    8. deploy – 6 months in South Atlantic
    wash, rinse and repeat, as many times as you like….. until a major maintenance period / dry-docking / refit is required.

    Ref: “what happens to the crew when the ship is in dock” – well you go home, on holiday, on professional training courses, maybe concentrate on taking some promotion exams, play rugby, get drunk and shag – not necessarily in that order – but I can assure you, when a ship is alongside, there is plenty for the crew to be doing.

    With the outstanding accommodation on the T45 and the new crewing regimes, swapping over some people on each port of call could easily extend the average operational deployment from 6 months to 9.

  50. Navy What Navy


    The RN mothership does have wings. Bulwark when operating in the GOA in 2006 deloyed 2 boat groups consisting of 2 x LCU with embarked ribs and 2 x LCVP combined with the embarked 2 x Lynx this gave her a massive footprint whilst at the same time maintaining her primary roles as an amphibous assualt ship.

  51. Navy What Navy

    What happens when a Ship goes into a major refit period is that apart from a very small number the crew are broken up nad reassigned throughout the fleet.

  52. Fat Bloke on Tour

    Navy …

    The only issue is that Bulwark cost at least £400mill (2004-£’s) and what you describe could be handled by an Improved Bay class – lengthened, hangar, 2 containers worth of comms at a much lower cost.

    Bulwark can do the job, the issue is what happens if its amphib command facilities are needed elsewhere? That is why I would like more hulls in the water.

    The next step then comes with a colonial sloop with 4 davits for LCVP ++ aboard and two borrowed helicopters, how far off would it be from the Bulwark’s abilities

    Colonial sloop:
    125m x 22m x 4-5m = 6K tons / 22 knots = £50mill basic fit out.
    170m x 28m x 5-6m = 12K tons / 22 knots = £75mill basic fit out.

    The marginal cost to have this vessel fitted out with a dock would be a useful exercise. Although you might go the whole hog and buy an original spec Bay.

    Finally I think that the best and easiest improvement would be the replacement of the LCU’s with something more capable.

    I don’t think we got VFM from these vessels at £4mill each.
    Interested in the going rate for a more capable replacement?
    A new design is being worked on?

  53. Jed

    @NWN – ref “What happens when a Ship goes into a major refit period is that apart from a very small number the crew are broken up nad reassigned throughout the fleet.”

    It depends, but generally no. All ratings, senior ratings and officers, and even different trades will be on different length ‘drafts’ with different career progression etc, so people tend to trickle in and out of their appointments. If it was a “really” major refit – 18 months to 2 years or more, then a core crew would remain and others would drift away, because some would only be assigned to a ship for 2 years anyway. I have joined ships in refit (HMS Hermione in Chatham)and in build (HMS Bicester in Southampton) when the vessel still technically belongs to the dockyard and the ships company lives ashore, but starts to train together.

    Hope that helps :-)

  54. All Politicians are the Same

    At the risk of being way off topic. During refits and major Docking periods a small core crew is maintained, drfatees and carrer managers begin to look at the “plot” of vessels entering these periods a considerable time before and identify who will stay with the rest being moved on. If the timings work often to begin the manning up of a Ship emerging from a similar period.
    FBOT Agreed the colonial sloop could be made to perform the role of the LPD in the anti piracy sense but not in its traditional role. Surely with fewer hulls we want them to be able to do more. So our LPD can do anti piracy and a core warfighting role.
    Can I ask you to play a bit of fantasy navy and tell me what your make up of the 19 hull escort fleet would be once 23 is replaced.

  55. Chuck Hill

    To add to “Somewhat Removed” list of agencies involved in the UK, there is also the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency.

    The organization in the US is also not as clear cut as it might be. In addition to the Coast Guard, Customs and Boarder Protection Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration both have boats and aircraft as well.

  56. Fat Bloke on Tour

    All PATS

    I have to disagree you on the basic point of piling more and more roles onto fewer and fewer hulls.

    The basic point a bout the 6K ton colonial sloop (CS) is that it would be cheap to build / man, have a lot of growth potential, flexible to accept new systems / equipment and be a step change in RN vessel costs.

    The basic ship with a bare bones fit out would be £50mill.
    Packaged upgrades at £20, £30, £50mill could be developed to produce a more capable vessel as it got nearer the front line.
    Big thing would be all the systems would be containerised for easy installation and easy removal.

    1 “CS” + 1 Bay vs LPD
    The pair are cheaper to build, cheaper to man and can be split up if the mission requires it.

    The “CS” idea can be enlarged or reduced to suit any new requirements. All would have a range of at least 6000nm, do 22 knots and have an ability to land a helicopter

    2K tons = 77m x 15m x 3m+
    3K+ tons = 95m x 18m x 4m
    6K+ tons = 125m x 24m x 5m
    12K tons = 170m x 28m x 5.5m

    Common systems and design re-use followed by a bit variational geometry should mean that they are all cheap and can be built quickly in the same yard.


    Fantasy fleet ideas would span more than the new escort ships.

    Starting at the top

    1) Go with one CVF (the other looks as if it is going to France)
    I would thrift the combat command stuff leaving her with the air traffic control role.

    2) Build a pair of fleet flagships to take on the combat control role of the CVF and replicate the T45 AAW capabilities but with more missile capacity.

    210 x 32 x 7 = 22K tons – Armoured / 2 x VLS silos / Tanker capability.
    Bare bones hull to cost £300mill max incl 2 big guns and space for 4 helicopters.
    Weapons / sensor fit costs needs more work but £500mill max.

    3) Prototype bare bones carrier using a 2nd hand containership, Maersk Edinburgh or similar.
    Fitted with a hangar and flightdeck made up in slices and added to the structure at the main deck level.
    One catapult and one ski jump plus a full array of arrestors.
    Total budget = £500mill incl development costs.
    £100mill = donor ship / £100mill development / £300mill build cost.

    Once the concept has been proved, repeat as necessary with brand new builds.

    4) 7 x C1 / T26 – top of the range ASW vessel.
    11K tons = 170 x 25 x 5.5m / 4 x MS diesels for 50MW and 29+ knots.
    Top class sonars and £30mill spent on sound reduction stuff: batteries for silent running and extra rafting.
    Euro frigate class AAW fit / 50% of a T45 and a couple of big guns to keep the bad guys at a distance.
    1K+ tons of armour to aid survivability.
    FoC = £500mill, Series builds = £330 – £350mill max / All new stuff.
    Running costs 80% of a T23.

    5) 6 x C2 / GP frigate
    13K tons = 185m x 28m x 6m / 4 x MS Diesels for 60MW and 29+ knots. Mid range sonar stuff and no ASW gold plating.
    Weapons fit as C1 but with more growth in the ASurW sphere, bigger magazines for the 2 big guns up front.
    2K tons of armour, space for 2 helicopters and an ability to launch 2, ideally 4 60′ boats, either davits or stern dock
    FoC = £400mill, Series builds = £300mill including stern dock / launching system.
    Alternatively £250mill if C1 hull used and no stern dock.
    Running costs – 50% of T22 / 3

    6A) 6 x C3 – Colonial Sloop as described before.
    Looking to an extreme value for money weapons fit out over and above the bare bones of the base £50mill ship.
    6K+ tons = 125m x 24m x 5m / 2 MS diesels for 16MW and 22 knots
    Running costs less than a River class OPV.

    6B) 6 x C3 / Double Gun – Inshore fire support.
    As above but with an extra 10m length for the gun and 500 tons of extra armour to aid survivability.
    7K tons = 135m x 24m x 5.5m / 2 x MS diesels for 18MW and 22 knots.
    Same extreme VFM upgrades as above.

    Main thing about all the different types of ships, the hulls will be cheap, gold plating is allowed but only where fully understood and absolutely necessary. Everything is rough and ready, the costs are Q+D and any mistakes were intentional.

  57. Jed

    Ahhh bless, we have degenerated to fantasy fleets, again…. :-)

    OK, my article, so my pragmatic, real world (?) budgetary constrained year 2020 fantasy fleet (and I would royally screw the RAF to get it)

    3 x CVF – 100 F18E/F/G, 12 x E2D (1 carrier operational, 1 training / carrier quals, 1 maintenance/refit/extended readiness)
    8 x T45 (fitted with SeaRAM and Harpoon)
    8 x T26 (C1 role based on T45 but 2 helo and towed array, cheaper radars)
    8 x Absalon (C2 – search for my article to see kit fitted) but if we could afford it I would bump this to 12 !
    12 x C3 (say BVT Venator for arguements sake, replacing Hunt / Sandown / River / Enterprise classes)

    Sell off LPD and LPH (if we can find buyers), replacements to be
    3 x Schelde Enforcer 3000 LHA.
    4 x Bay Class.
    2 x Bay / Enforcer derivative with hangers and less cargo / more troop capacity

    Buy two big fleet tankers to support CVF
    WaveRider class tankers
    Buy 8 JSS to replace all Fort Class, Diligence, Argus, 1 allocated to distant MSO ops.
    Keep Argus in extended reserve as Primary Casualty Receiving ship

    Et Voila – could probably all be paid for with DfID budget, with change left over to create scholarships for students !

  58. Repulse

    My go…

    First tier:

    2 x CVF
    3 x LHD
    3 x LSL
    6 x T45
    6 x T26 (ASW version with 2087 sonar)
    6 x T26 (GP version with Aster 30 but not probably Sampson)

    These would be structured into 3 fleets, 2 CVF (one active at all times) and 1 Amphibious (with vessels roling in and out of active duty – aiming for 2 LHD and 2 LSL available for emergencies at any point in time).

    Second tier:

    24 x C3 (e.g. BVT Venator with CAAM and a 12k range)
    24 x Mid Shore Patrol vessels (like the Danish Flyvefisken class)

    These would replace all the Hunt / Sandown / River / Enterprise / P2000 classes. I would call the C3 the “City Class” and associate each with a UK City, preferably docked in the city (if possible) as much of the time as possible. And similarly, I would call the patrol vessels the “Town Class” and associated each with a main sea side / river town. The manning of these vessels would be a mixture of RN and local RNR. Give the Navy back to the people!

    6 x Astute SSN
    6 x Extended Astute SSGN (each with 6 ballistic missile tubes)

    Fleet auxiliary:
    Buy four big fleet tankers to support CVF / amphibious groups
    Three WaveRider class tankers to support small ops.
    Keep Argus and Diligence (or replace like for like)

  59. IXION

    My turn!

    3 x Mearsk type carriers (= 1.5 £bill)

    6 x type 45 (were stuck with them now = 6 £Bill)

    15 x (Jeds)JSS patrol ship(based on dutch design but faster to keep up with Mearsk, to opperat as AS helicopter carriers when so doing). (Long range patrol MSO or Amphib when not)(4.5 £bill)

    6 Times tanker sharing hull/ machinery with JSS= (£1.2 bill)

    Maybe small tanker class below that Like 10- 12 k tons for supply single ships on station.

    24 X C3 big riggg supply based Patrol ships for Eurpoean waters and med. /north atlantic AS/ MW etc. = (2. Bill)

    Ignoring type 45 as an allready ‘given’ that is

    9.2 £bill over the next 10 years. About what we will spend on cvf and t26 anyway.

    (And I agree with Repulse about subs).

    Ignoring pure tankers, thats 48 hulls in the water.

    All built to ‘commercial standards’

  60. Jed

    Repulse – I have to say I have no idea what you think we need to be doing with those 24 patrol vessels – but that being said I love the “give the RN back to the people” paragraph – very nice ideas.

  61. Repulse

    Okay, maybe over egging it with 48 in total, but:

    * The Mid Shore Patrol vessels would be a replacement for the training / port security duties covered by the P2000s and Sabre craft (of which I make a total of 18 currently). Don’t need to give them more than a few machines guns for a standard fit.

    * The C3 would be a straight swap for the Hunt / Sandown / River / Enterprise (currently 20) and add a few more to cover some of the drop in first class frigates.

    Therefore, overall we are just adding 10 more vessels in total; which as the navy is over stretched at the moment is a good argument to have.

    It would also mean we could do a lot more flag waving… :)

  62. Somewhat Removed


    I like the ideas, makes a lot of sense.

    As far as the P2000 replacements go, there’s a lot to be said for a much smaller vessel. Many of the port facilities we visit would restrict larger vessels, say River size, to fish berths, commercial berths, etc – potentially rather out of the way. I’ve seen some of the formal RN thinking on the P2000 replacement (imaginatively titled the P3000) and have a little experience of them myself, and I would suggest that a 25m hull is big enough to provide the training and inshore patrol piece, whilst being small enough to fit into most marinas and some of the small locks in such places. It also means they can use marina type shore facilities which will be significantly cheaper then commercial ones. Just a thought.

    On the C3 piece, might I suggest there is scope for a two-tier approach to the class? A larger number of River-sized hulls, with a large working deck for the MCM equipment, survey gear, diving support gear, etc, could fulfil the roles implied therein. A second, larger class, perhaps similar to the Port of Spain class, could fulfil the longer ranged constabulary role; give it a flight deck and collapsible hangar big enough for a rotary UAV, maybe even a Wildcat at a pinch, and it could quite happily run a patrol in the Caribbean, down the Falklands, in the Med, off West Africa, Somalia, etc. Make it big enough to be self sustaining for 3-4 months and build at least 3 or 4, makes them reasonably sustainable without being capital assets. I don’t think the large numbers aspired to would be achievable, but it would be nice.

  63. x

    Repulse said “give the RN back to the people”

    BZ!!!!!!!! The Canadian reserve program is the one to follow.

  64. Michael (Civ.)

    Can i play too?

    2 x CVF with whichever aircraft the navy really want.
    2 x LPD
    3 x LPH
    4 x LSL
    7 x T45 fitted with SeaRam & a good SSM.
    9 x T26 fitted for ASW, the best sonar’s & towed array.
    8 x GP Frigate fitted with 24 x Aster 15 & SeaRam.
    Reasonable sonar & space for ASW/AS helicopter.
    Again, a good SSM.

    All main surface fleet ships re-fitted with a NATO standard 5″ Gun, don’t care who makes it.
    Type 45 & GP Frigate fitted for full CEC. This is a must do!
    GP Frigate could be an Absalon type design, but i would prefer basicaly an Up-Dated Type 21 with better AA Armament.

    16x C3 based on the PSV, good comms, good propulsion & range.
    Telescoping hanger, light armament (40mm Gun, 4x 20mm & SeaRam), space for containerised weapons or aid for disaster relief. This is the ship you send for friendly visits to far places. In war you add weapons to support a landing, or cargo to support other operations. This is at the large end for the C3, 4000 to 5000 tons.

    Keep the Mine warfare/Fast Patrol/Antarctic Patrol & Survey Vessels as is. Build new vessels as required.

    Tankers/Support ships, build 1/4 more than you actually need.
    In a conflict these will be worth it.


    7 x Astute class.
    6 x SSK with AIP. (for SBS/SF insertions or guard ship duties)
    3 x Modified Vanguard Class or Astute Class with Anti-ship/Land attack cruise missiles.

    I think the idea that anyone would ever allow an SSN to insert SBS is completely insane. Imagine the following.

    The Gov.(Mi6/SIS, whoever) has an urgent need to get SF/SBS (Whoever), into a country that we are not currently at War with. They send an Astute class, it gets spotted & filmed by a member of the public on a mobile. Opposition launch an air-attack, sub’s reactor containment vessel gets ruptured, nuclear material now poisons a conservation area……

    Can you imagine what that would lead to?
    At the minimum all UK SSN/SSGN/SSBN would be scraped asap. under threat of full scale war.

    Get rid of Trident completely.
    Have a stockpile of nukes that can be delivered by either Raf or the Navy via fast/stealthy cruise missile.
    Objective being to hammer the oppositions military, not their civilian population. By all means smash Air/Army/Naval forces or bases but do not hit main population center’s. Spread the nukes around to keep everyone else in the dark.

  65. Jed

    APATS – you beat me to it !

    Micheal – you made me spurt diet pepsi on my keyboard: “They send an Astute class, it gets spotted & filmed by a member of the public on a mobile” – underwater tourist with water proof mobile :-)

  66. Jed

    Micheal mentioned weapons fits, I broadly agree:

    1. CIWS – lever the investment in Phalanx mounts by converting to SeaRAM but buy more, every ship, RFA tankers etc should have at least 2
    2. Medium calibre gun – stop frakking around with 155mm 39cal and fit OTO Melara 127mm Compact – and buy Vulcano long range muntions
    3. A good SSM – NSM3, although if SCALP-N good be tweaked for anti-ship role, it would at least fit in the A70 variant of Sylver VLS. Otherwise how about a VLS launched supersonic beastie based on Frances nuclear ASMP-A – it would also fit in A70 I believe (original ASMP being 5.3m long).

    On this topic, may I suggest you all check out last sunday’s episode of MidRats on BlogTalk radio for 3 ex-USN Captains discussing anti-ship missiles (Harpoon is crap), LCS (its crap, by Absalon) and strangely enough considering how this thread started, anti-piracy, and why its not a military mission !

  67. Michael (Civ.)

    Right, how to pay for all that…. :)

    Get together with the 15 richest countries.
    Agree to restructure Int. Aid/Development money in this way.

    Richest country (US) looks after the 9 poorest countries. Next richest (China) looks after the next 8 poorest countries.
    Next richest (Japan) does the next 7. etc etc etc.

    Make a serious, sustained effort to raise them up. Roads, clean power plants, clean water, much better health care, education etc etc.

    Do this for only 20 years. After that it all stops. All of it.
    The countries on the receiving end have 20 years to get it right.

    For the UK, stop bailing the banks out right now.
    Stop bailing other people out.

    If there are no consequences for people, they will contine to make the same stupid investments.
    How is the answer to debt, more debt?

    Stop giving money to the EU, this does not make sense at all.
    Why do we give money to the EU & then get some of it back for regional development in the UK? Or as a Rebate?

    The only reason i can think of for the UK to give all this money away is so people can make money on the interest as money passes through various Banks/hands/departments, as in Money Churn.
    Or we do it to buy influence.
    If either or both is the case, then (i think), we have already lost it as a civilisation.

  68. x

    Fantasy Fleet time I see……..

    4 Task Groups with,
    1 x Cavour
    1 x 30k ton fast LPD/LSD
    2 x stretched Darings with extra VLS aft for TLAM (64 per hull)
    1 x first rate frigate capable of carrying 2 Merlin plus UAV

    3 Escort Flotilla;
    1 x Garibaldi
    2 x Daring
    4 x second rate frigate (1 Merlin)

    4 SSBN
    12 SSN
    8 AIP SSK

    Army Landing Force
    RFA – 9 16,000 ton Enforcers
    RLC – 6 3,500 LST

  69. Michael (Civ.)

    Jed, about the weapons fit’s.

    I have been doing a lot more reading lately.
    The Royal Navy has always had a harrowing time under air-attack. Any way you cut it the record is bad.

    If it were up to me, RN Ships would look like damm hedgehogs.
    Air power is really almost unstoppable nowadays but i would really make the buggers work for it. What is the point of spending lot’s of money on the ships but not spending it on the AA weapons? I have never understood why we send people to fight at sea with at best a minimal defence, at least i would give them something to fight back with.

    Yes, fit SeaRam, fit other stuff too.
    Either Optical/Radar/Laser directed guns or missile systems.
    I do not really care what, as long as it’s varied & reduntantly powered with a distributed network for actually shooting it. As in auxilary control compartments.

    The main gun this is just due to procrastination, something which we are starting to excell at. Why we have not changed to a combination of 3″ & 5″ Nato standard guns i do not get.

    All Pats & Jed, about the swimmer thing,i know what you are saying.
    However, experience would tend to prove that the most stupid, unlikely things happen, again & again. Would either of you risk a nuclear mess just to get people ashore?
    I know the RN would & does but then again i think they have taken leave of the sense’s.

  70. Michael (Civ.)

    X, you could call it that if you wanted to.

    I’d prefer to call it being good neighbours, or helpfull relatives. For something like this to work it would need a real effort, something like the Marshall Plan without the eventual repayment. Repayment is simply a curse, we do not expect repayment of DiFD’s money do we?

    I bet that it would be cheaper & more effective in the long run. This is providing a good base, something nobody really did when the various empire’s were cut loose.

  71. x

    @ All Politicians

    I know. But it sounded more reasonable than my preferred 5 carrier groups based on 75,000 CVN with 3 CGNs escorts…… :)

  72. x

    Mike said “I’d prefer to call it being good neighbours, or helpfull relatives. For something like this to work it would need a real effort, something like the Marshall Plan without the eventual repayment. Repayment is simply a curse, we do not expect repayment of DiFD’s money do we? ”

    And thats the rub really. If the current financial crisis has proved anything it is that money is not real and by extension then neither is debt.

    Some of the more deeper thinkers have asked whether we should be developing these nations or not.

    And there are a host of political questions too. For example I don’t think the Japanese or Germans would like to go and guide another state.

    It is nice idea you have. Actually I think China are already looking after large parts of Third World………

  73. Michael (Civ.)

    X, i know, there has been “talk” of some sort of debt forgiveness or banks & “investors” having haircuts.

    I think it is our own long term interests to help other countries with long term development. Not helping them just leads to civil strife/high mortality & the smarter people in those countries leaving en mass for jobs in the west or the middle east.

    Maybe it would be good for Japan & Germany to get out & about in the world.

    China is doing something very smart, we here in the UK used to call it TRADE.

    They give large parts of the Third World what they want in exchange for what China wants. The problem we have, is that we have lot’s & lot’s of people who are just interested in Preaching.

    We could do a lot better, we could offer better training for their civil servants, training for engineers etc etc.
    However, for something like this to work, it really would have to be a once only deal. Either they get it right or else they fall flat on their faces, with noone around to help them up. You cannot protect people from their own mistakes forever.

    Continuously giving people small amounts of aid is just not helping them. Look at the last 40/50 years, it has been nothing more than Sov. Union & USA/EU trying to maintain “sphere’s of influence”.

  74. x

    @ Michael

    You proposition is very rich it is Phd level dissertation.

    I think we need the Germans and Japanese out there.

    And I hear what you are saying about “preaching.”

    The West is now very risk adverse. And governments, even those one supposedly to the right, are in the thrall of liberal/socialist mind sets. The Chinese don’t suffer that handicap.

  75. Michael (Civ.)

    Just one other thing X.

    In Ireland over the last 10 years or so there has been a housing Boom. Some of the villages where new houses where built now have 300% more houses than they need. There are whole Ghost estates! There are houses without sewage & electricity/gas services. Also now there are loads of unfinished properties. Which is insane.

    Who has really needed houses over the last decade?

    South Africa, Brazil, India, Pakistan, maybe add the UK too?
    Ireland could have been smarter. Invested in housing where it was cheap & really needed.

  76. Michael (Civ.)

    X….i am not smart but have been thinking about it for a long time. Not so much how to help other people but how we can best maximise our expertise & knoweldge. For our long term advantage & their’s.

    The Ugandan “contraception” program is in the long run a good idea. However they need real improvements in healthcare too.

    We could really help if we wanted to. It’s just a matter or political will.

  77. x

    No I think you are smart. We have to push out these models to be tested. That is in essence what politics is about, applying a framework. It is when you appreciate that no models are perfected that you have achieved a level of understanding that is approaching wisdom.

    Being English you see in the modern PC 21st century world I should be suffering “empire guilt.” And sometimes I do feel sickened by what my forebears did. But there are many more times when I look at say India, I rising superpower built on British model, and feel pride, well perhaps that is too strong a word. I have many conflicting thoughts about Zimbabwe. When it was Rhodesia it fed Sub-Saharan Africa, now it can’t feed itself. Who is right there then? Who has gained? Who has lost?

    I think you idea has some merit. But it would take a diplomatic effort that would be equal to talking away all the nuclear weapons and the conventional ones too. I just don’t think humanity is there yet.

  78. Tony Williams

    A small application of cold water:

    The UK national debt is officially over one trillion pounds but if you count in pension obligations etc it comes to nearly five trillion. Even with the Osborne cuts it is continuing to rise by over 150 billion pounds per year.

    In this context, bailing out the banks wasn’t a problem, it only cost 70 billion and we’ll probably get that back – and even make a profit – when the government’s shares are sold over the next few years. It was a very good investment, given the chaos which would have followed wholesale bank collapses.

    But the present position, in which the public sector soaks up more money than the private sector can produce, seems to be unsustainable in the long run – which indicates that further spending cuts which make Osborne’s look like nibbling at the edges will be needed.

  79. Fat Bloke on Tour

    After reading some of the “Fantasy Fleet” ideas I am surprised by the number of times the issue of cheap being small turns up. Every second design for a C3 vessel turns up with a “telescopic” hangar and similar compromises brought on by a hull to small to do the job in hand.

    All very 1970’s RN ship design but not where we should be given the productivity and technology of modern vessels. Looking back at the RN designs of 40 years ago did the builder get paid by the ton with little thought given to the size of the basic hull and the size, capability and complexity of the systems installed in that hull?

    If the link between hull size and the finished ship price can be broken then a step change in the size, shape and capabilities of any new RN ship can be effected at very little additional cost.

    Thrifting a C3 vessel from a 5K ton hull to a 2K ton hull will generate very little in the way of savings and will lumber the navy with a limited one task ship providing little scope for enhancements over time.

    Big + Simple = Cheap / Capable / Value for money.
    Small + Simple = Cheap / Limited / Not value for money.
    Small + Complex = Expensive / Capable but no growth / Not value for money.

    This issues covers all the ships of the RN.
    Interesting to see detailed figures on the CVF to see how the costs compare between the basic hull and the systems being fitted to the hull.

  80. Somewhat Removed

    The article posted by APATS is a suitably sobering piece of work which reminds us of just why it is that we need warships designed for high-end warfighting as well as value-for-money platforms for general duties. The Far East is the next region destined for conflict as the world’s resources run out – and if we’re going to have any involvement in that, we need the best. Puts into perspective the odd concepts so often championed here of converted merchantmen, and stymies all the dreams of fleets of F18’s and carrier battle groups. The money isn’t there. Let us focus on what we do best, ASW, and remember that we are not going to be operating alone for much longer.

  81. x

    @ Fat Bloke

    DK Brown often quotes the split between hull and weapons systems as 40/60. For submarines he uses 90/10 split.

  82. All Politicians are the Same

    A bit biased what is actually true is.

    Big+Simple=Cheap/Somewhat Capable/Value for Money
    Small+Simple=Cheapest/Less capable/Less Value for Money
    Small+Complex=Expensive/Most capable(in its role)/Some value for Money

    I give an example below.
    It really depends what you want the hull to do. A FAC like the Super Vita Class that the Greeks have would set you back about $120M but that gives you a 62M FAC with MM40 block 3, 76mm oto melara gun, RAM, 2 rapid fire auto 20mm, full command system and proper ops room, 37kts, 4800NM range. If you are going to be dodging around Islands in the Aegean or Norwegian fjiords and springing out to launch you missiles/engage with gun then you want small size and a bit of speed instead of 5,000 tonnes of clumsy colonial sloop. However if you see C3 as a means of carrying out ant piracy in the GOA and the Caribean Patrol then the extra size and aviation capabilities help. Your table is valid but without a proper task based asessment of requirement is about as strategic as the SDSR itself.

  83. Fat Bloke on Tour


    Looks like an empirical formula much loved by metal bashers everywhere.

    If it covers the T45 then the basic hull was £260mill approx.
    Not bad for 5K tons of steel and a couple of GT’s.
    There is money to be made in that line of work.

    Although if the marginal system cost of a T45 is £390mill then that is where the real money is to be made. You have to wonder what BAE’s gross margin is?

    Would that formula extend to the CVF?

    All PATS

    Interesting stuff but nothing to do with the discussion at hand, the future shape C3 requirement. You know more hulls in the water to help out our 19 ship escort fleet.

    As for the ship itself, number of interesting points, all MS diesel sounds good and the $120mill price tag would probably translate to £120mill if the MOD were involved.

    However as part of the debate, anti-pirate and all, not relevant in the slightest unless of course the vessel was being bought by the Somali’s.

    Finally result just in:
    6K Colonial sloop + Helicopter 1 – FAC 0

  84. Chuck Hill

    Who is going to do fixed wing Search and Rescue from the UK when the Nimrods are gone? Searching over water is something of a specialty that can’t be assigned arbitrarily to just any C-130 or A400 Crew.

  85. jon

    CO19 Specialist Firearms Officers are trained to use explosive entry. Just do a search for the mpa and you will see they do in black and white (so to speak)

  86. Gareth Jones

    I’ve just watched two episodes of a Series called Pirate Patrol on the Discovery Channel. It follows a RAN frigate on a Six month deployment to the Horn of Africa and Persian Gulf. Whilst watching I noted many things which I think some might find interesting;

    – The Frigate carries only one Seahawk which performs two patrols a day up to a range of four hundred kilometres. No UAV’s were carried. This proved a serious problem when the Seahawk broke down. Although the support crew could repair the aircraft, they lacked the parts. The helicopter remained grounded for a considerable amount of time, severely restraining the capabilities of the Frigate.

    – An attempted boarding by the Helicopter in rough seas had to be aborted and continued by RHIB. As an amateur I would have thought it would have been the other way round but apparently not.

    – The boarding parties were not marines but Clearance Divers. I believe this to be a RAN only situation …? Although the most common side-arm was the standard Australian rifle the Steyr AUG, the boarding parties were armed with Pistols (Sig’s?), Shotguns and M4 carbines. Why they didn’t use the AUG was not said.

    – The number of boarding’s a day were many and could be ten or more, the most shown on screen were suspicious Dhalows with excessive fuel and personnel. It proved difficult to tell whether they were motherships for fishing vessels or Pirates. These operations highlighted the need for sound intelligence sharing and translators.

    – On a crew level, R and R/shore leave was needed to maintain morale, and offered a chance to “show the Flag”. However, a stomach bug caught while on shore leave left ten percent of the crew unavailable for duties. That and a medical evacuation (broken arm) would seem to indicate more medical facilities were required. Regular communications home would also benefit morale.

    – Although difficult to judge due to the structure of the episodes the Frigate appeared to RAS regularly, the time taken to replenish obviously not spent on station.

  87. Gareth Jones

    It appears the MOD is reading this blog or just very strapped for cash;

    The tone of the article seems negative but personally I think its a good thing. The observations above clearly point to a larger, more capable/flexible vessel than a frigate or Destroyer – now to persuade them to form more “Guard” areas (aka Forward Presence Squadrons)…

  88. DominicJ

    “The boarding parties were not marines but Clearance Divers. I believe this to be a RAN only situation …?”

    Theres a career in the Royal Navy, I think its called Steward, from what I could gather, his two duties are to make and deliver bacon buties when the crew are at alert stations, and to board enemy vessels.

    “Proper” Marines are likely overtasked, and basicaly anyone can board a ship if the crew make no effort to resist.

  89. Jed

    Gareth thanks for the link – very sad, wonder why the pirates felt the need to murder their hostages….. :-(

    Dom, I have never seen a Steward on a “boarding party” ! A Stewards duties are to look after the officers, and in wartime to be a “medic”. When I was in RN all ships had a “boarding party”, training got more serious after Iraq sanctions, i.e. fast roping training and more small arms training. However in these ‘peacetime’ hostage situations your not going to use ‘standard’ sailors if you can help it. As the RAN has no marines, it could be that their clearance divers are the closest thing they have to SBS / SEAL teams.

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