A guest post from the Mintcake Maker
After looking around for some more information, current build update about the QEC ships I came across this very interesting link: (it might have been there before now, I’ve only just noticed it though)
Full data sheet:
Could this be BAE preparing a pre-emptive strike, to get the RN all fired up for a replacement for Albion and Bulwark (was lucky enough to see HMS Bulwark being launched in Barrow many moons ago, okay not that many as I’m not that old but.).
Of course this does throw up several interesting thoughts. Firstly it’s the old LHD Vs. LPD & LPH comparison. The idea behind LPD & LPH is a sound one, different tools for different jobs and when not used it gives us more flexibility as we have more single ships. However given budget constraints and the fact that modern large LHD’s can do the job of and LHP & LPD very, I think that it’s possibly time for the RN to adopt the LHD.
The other factor is the fact that we have no Ocean replacement, well we do but I’m still not convinced that the QEC should be used as giant LPH’s (please for the sake of all that is holy can we not have this turn into an all mighty p*ss up about what should/should not have been bought with regards to carriers, for now I’m working on the principle that we will have bought the QEC(s) and we should now focusing on how we renew our amphibious capability with them, yes maybe we should have bought 4 small Cavour type ships but that time has passed). This gets even more interesting when you take into consideration that 10 years after the QEC’s have been in service the Albion class will need to be replaced. Could this be a chance to have a better helicopter/commando carrier and LPD rolled into 1? I think it could.
I quiet like this BAE design, however I would make a few changes to it. For starters at 23k it’s only just bigger than Ocean and for a multi-trick pony I think it’s just a bit too small for my liking especially when you compare it to the likes of Mistral and Juan Carlos I class ships.
So what would I change? Well for starters I would extend the length by 20m (making it the same length as the Juan Carlos therefore possibly allowing VTOL/STOVL jets of our allies to use it), remove the 40mm guns (I understand why they are suggested, however I don’t think we need to or have the money to introduce a new gun and ammunition) and therefore by removing the guns we can square of the flight deck making it a nice cheap rectangle. I would also change the internal layout. Instead of having a light vehicle/Hanger deck and a heavy vehicle deck, I would change it just a heavy vehicle deck and a Hanger deck that if need be can also double for light vehicles (purely because we still have the bays for addition vehicle storage.) The addition length might allow some internal re-design to allow for a maximum of 900 troops instead of the 800 currently offered.
The Idea: Amphibious Ready Group Mk 2
So thinking about what FF2020 says about command/marine forces. They want to be able to deploy 1800 RM under amphibious conditions, If we take this 1800 + the FAA air group it’s starting to sound a lot like the USMC Marine Expeditionary Unit. This is not necessarily a bad thing; of course the problem here is the air component and the joint-ness of the entire operation. This is where my slightly bonkers plan comes together.
First of all we order 3 of BAE’s slightly improved and larger LHD’s (circa 25/26k tonnes), also we would order 6 modified Dutch JSS ships (2x deployed to forward presence squadrons, 2x ready for the ARG, 2x maintenance and training). These would be part of the MARS deal as they would be replacing the 4 Fort class ships, Argus and the Bay we lost. By modified I just mean internally (we don’t need the space for 3 Chinooks / 6 NH90’s to be carried internally, 2/3 of that amount will be fine so use the saved space to increase troop capacity to 200 instead 130 of the current design) as externally I can’t find anything really wrong with the design.
This would give us 3x LHD’s, 6x JSS and 3x LSD’s. This essentially allows us to form 3 ARG’s on a rotation basis consisting of (minus escorts)
- 1x LHD, 900 troops onboard
- 2x JSS, 400 troops total onboard
- 1x LSD, 500 troops overload
This means that we have sufficient vessels to transport our 1800 strong RM battlegroup, it also means that if we needed to we could surge the ARG that was working up, allowing us deploy 3600 RM in one larger landing or at 2 separate beaches for an operation.
Now you’re probably wondering about the air component of this idea. Well I shall briefly discuss it here, however I am writing up the poison chalice that is my own view of airpower of HM forces and how it should be distributed.
If we take the 28 (22+6 Dutch) Merlins from the RAF + 2 HM1 Merlins from the un-upgraded FAA Merlins, this gives us 30 Merlins total (I know it’s a bit of a mix and match, but will have to do for now). Add to this 1x 12 helicopter Wildcat Squadron, 1x 12 helicopter Apache squadron and 1x 6 helicopter Wildcat SAR/Ships Flight squadron.
This allows us to form 3 Commando Helicopter Wings. Comprising of:
As you can see this allows us to deploy a full squadron of Merlins (6 on the LHD, 4 split between the 2 JSS), a flight of Apaches for ground attack, a flight of Lynx Wildcat for SF/Recon team insertion and a secondary Anti-ship/Anti-armour and 2 Lynx to provide SAR cover for the ARG (the escorts will have their own Helos).
The 10 Merlin’s and 4 Lynx’s enable us to airlift nearly 500 troops in one wave (based on standing room), this coupled with the landing craft means we could have everybody ashore in 2 to 3 waves.
By having 3 Commando Helicopter Wings, 3 RM Battlegroups and 3 ARG’s we can ensure that 1 full ARG is ready to deploy or can be deployed whenever or wherever we choose and allows us if need be surge extra men and equipment for those larger one-off moments.
The ability to provide a year round ARG ready to go and fight wherever it is needed also provides another advantage, that of the humanitarian nature. Imagine if another Japanese earthquake or another Haiti happens, then think what we could provide. The initial response by our forward deployed yet cheap C3 OPV (I’m thinking along the lines of the ICGV Þór/RR UT 512L design) and forward deployed JSS, this would allow us to provide limited help to the most affected people.
Meanwhile back in Blighty, aid agency’s can load up the ARG with supplies, we can embark the active Commando helicopter wing (less Apache’s) and vehicles like earthmovers, etc and then sail a quite considerable humanitarian package to the required disaster area to back up the local Forward Presence Squadron.
This also highlights the advantages to soft and hard power, how military assets can be used in humanitarian situations and how we need a graduated response to situations. What I am about to say, I shall say once and only once. I think the French may have got it right and I think we need to take a leaf out of their book. Have a small high-end core and a larger low-end fleet to deal with the day-to-day stuff.
As usual gentleman, your views and especially your technical insights are very much appreciated. So as they say, have at it.