We have expended much discussion on the Type 23 replacement, the Type 26 Combat Ship, but I think we all have very little confidence in it being delivered at a low enough cost to be able to be obtained in quantity, even the design studies are planned to cost over £120 million. Looking at the initial concepts which seem to reuse existing technology, equipment and systems it is difficult to see what that significant sum is going to get. We all hope it is not going to be another FRES, a load of fancy graphics and a feeling of emptiness.
In a previous post in this series I suggested cancelling the Type 26 as a separate design and simply create a batch 2 Type 45 instead.
Coincidentally, Jed sent in a post suggesting a similar thing so I thought I would merge the two. If you agree with anything that will be Jed’s ideas and anything wildly disagreeable will be mine!
Keeping up the shipbuilding drumbeat
For many reasons, I would suggest a derivative of the T45 could be built as the Type 26. I am going to try to keep my design as pragmatic as possible, and its budgetary pragmatism that leads me to this suggestion in the first place.
We have a design for approximately the right size of ship. We have carried out the design phase and invested in production. Continuing production of pretty much the same modules in the same dockyards just leverages our investment, it may even lead to a slight reduction in the unit cost if development costs are amortized across the full build of both types of ships – although I realize that the majority of costs for the T45 are not in the hull, but in the weapons system.
No ‘massive’ redesign; just some modifications
Just keeping building T45 hulls would allow us to benefit from considerable commonality in engines, electronics and other systems; this definitely conforms to the Think Defence ruthless commonality mantra and will accrue tangible reductions in training and maintenance costs.
The major hull modification would be to the stern, with a requirement to fit the Type 2087 towed array sonar system and possible space for mission modules beneath the large flight deck. Otherwise the main modifications to the design would be to the after superstructure, with the removal of the large volume search radar, but enlarging the hangar to take two Merlin HM2 helicopters or similar. The side bays for the ships RHIBS would be moved slightly forward and the inboard torpedo tubes would be fed from the same ready use torpedo magazine that arms the Merlin’s.
The modular construction of Type 45 should facilitate this limited redesign.
2 SYLVER vertical launch cells should be fitted, forward and amidships.
Keeping the Type 45 hull form might not actually save that much and result in a suboptimal design so some serious thinking would need to be applied but if we make the assumption that future ASW is likely to major on distributed sonar arrays deployed from a variety of unmanned systems then a ‘sprint and drift’ and super quiet hull/machinery design might not represent the most cost effective route. Difficult balancing decisions to be made but for the general thrust of this proposal we have assumed a Block 2 Type 45 hull/machinery combination is suitable.
The normal aviation compliment would be 2 Merlin HM2 but this might change depending on missions and could include combinations of Merlin HC3/4, Apache and Wildcat.
An off the shelf UAV would enhance situational awareness extend sensor coverage, an off the shelf design like the Scan Eagle or Camcopter might not be 100% optimal but would provide the Royal Navy with valuable UAV operating experience. Larger systems like the rapidly maturing FireScout or Hummingbird could provide both ISR and weapons delivery capabilities.
The Camcopter has also demonstrated a basic armament of a single Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)
The full compliment of air delivered weapons should be available including the Stingray lightweight torpedo, Hellfire, FASGW (Sea Skua replacement) and even the LMM
This is a fighting ship, it is not designed for hunting pirate skiffs or penalising errant fishermen so armament and sensors need to be tip top, fully reflective of her anti submarine, anti surface and land attack missions.
Providing air defence would be a mix of Aster 15’s and the CAMM based FLAADS. It is still unclear if it will be possible but it is the intention to quad pack CAMM into a single SYLVER silo. Complimenting the missiles would be a range of increasingly effective soft kill systems and a close in weapon system. The obvious CIWS would be donor Phalanx from the Type 23’s but we might also investigate the SeaRam missile system as a straightforward and arguably more effective point defence weapon to compliment Aster and FLAADS.
This mix may seem a little over the top but this ship will be going in harms way.
Offensive systems would include the Harpoon surface attack missile moved over from the Type 23’s, with a larger number of systems available it should be possible to fit 16 launch tubes per ship. Although it is rather old the Harpoon is still an effective weapon, even with likely restrictive rules of engagement.
Land attack would be provided by the MK8 4.5 inch gun, again from the Type 23’s. There is a low level programme to investigate the feasibility of using surplus Army 155mm barrels which would enable considerable ammunition commonality although the complexities of creating a 2 part ammunition loading system may negate these benefits. Other options include the Oto Melara 127mm system with Vulcano long range ammunition.
An additional land attack system would be a SYLVER launched SCALP(N) cruise missile, this would be a new system for the Royal Navy and would offer a complimentary overlap with the air launched Storm Shadow and submarine launched Tomahawk.
Short range self defence against surface targets would be provided by a mix of automatic weapons and whichever CIWS is fitted. Jed suggested removing the DS30B 30mm cannon mounts and but replacing them extended bridge wings for manually aimed 7.62mm miniguns, plus an added 4 x 12.7mm MG’s in mini-RWS. Jed also suggested port and starboard installations of NEMO 120mm automatic mortars. Be assured these are not for NGS missions! However why mess with medium caliber guns for the “anti-small boat” mission when there are so many varied ammunition types that can be fired from the 120mm mortar? Air bursting HE or sub-munitions rounds are going to really spoil the day of the Revolutionary Guards fast boat corps…….
Another close in protective system might be the MSI DS30 SIGMA that blends a 30mm cannon with a 6 cell LMM launcher, there are plenty of options but whichever one is chosen, there should be plenty!
The ARTEMIS radar could all be lifted from T23 / T22B3 as they go out of service and a full Cooperative Engagement Capability fitted, allowing a T45 to take full control of the Aster’s carried by the T26. This is a real force multiplier, creating a netted area air defence system that has both resilience and effectiveness.
There might even be a reasonable argument for fitting a SAMPSON lite, this would really enhance the air defence capability of the Single Task Group.
One of the biggest compromises is we must swallow the non ASW optimised hull form, but future ASW concepts may see less reliance on a specialised hull and more reliance on a network of distributed sensors, netted together and coupled with high speed data processing so it might be a compromise worth taking in order to get the cost savings on offer.
This is not a time for ‘fitted for but not with’ because with a small number in the Single Task Group they have to be absolutely hard as coffin nails.
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