The Atlantic Conveyor #Falklands30

This is a reprint and refresh of an older post on the story of the Atlantic Conveyor, one of many incredible stories to come out of the conflict.

Atlantic Conveyor before conversion
Atlantic Conveyor before conversion


The Atlantic Conveyor was built on the Tyne by Swan Hunter and delivered to Cunard in 1970 as part of their contribution to the Atlantic Container Line consortium.

At just under 15,000 tonnes she was a hybrid container and RORO ship. These were revolutionary designs at the time, combining RORO and container storage in a single vessel and were designated the G2 class

Atlantic Container Line G2 Cutaway
Atlantic Container Line G2 Cutaway
Atlantic Container Line G2 Schematic
Atlantic Container Line G2 Schematic

ACL are still in business, read about their history here.


I won’t go into much detail here, there are plenty of sources online for that but this early phase is best characterised by this quote;

Don’t make yourself too comfy mate, we’ll be back.

Unknown British Royal Marine [as leaving, to Argentine guard, following Operación Azul]


One must remember in 1982 UK forces were configured for ‘Cold War’ NATO tasks and expeditionary capabilities did not have the same priority as given to the expected Warsaw Pact thrust into Western Europe. In order to support the logistics effort a number of civilian vessels were therefore requisitioned under the Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT) system. Other vessels were chartered and in total just over 40 civilian vessels of many types took part in the conflict.

After some preparation, 4 Chinook helicopters from 18 Squadron RAF were detached to RNAS Culdrose to support the task force by ferrying supplies to the ships including a 7 tonne bearing. Radar Warning Receivers were fitted and discussion on how they would be transferred South commenced. The plan was to deploy 4 aircraft to the Task Force and one at Ascension and it should not be forgotten that the Chinook had at that time, only been in service for a short time.

Harriers and Sea Harrier users started preparations, the Harrier GR3 was fitted with radar warning receivers and even modified to carry and fire the Sidewinder air to air missile.

14th April

After a meeting at the MoD on the 14th during which the concept was evolved, the Atlantic Conveyor was designated to carry a number of Harriers and helicopters, the Harriers were to replace expected combat losses.

The Atlantic Conveyor was therefore not an aircraft carrier conversion in the typical sense but a transport vessel for replacement harriers.

She sailed from Liverpool the day after.

16th April to 5th May

After arriving at Devonport on the 16th conversion started immediately.

Modifications included covering the container hold with steel plates and creating a system of shelters and equipment stores using ISO containers (I knew I would be able to squeeze containers into this post) both on deck and in the hold. Existing accommodation, showers, kitchens and other facilities ion the ship would support the extra embarked personnel and the on deck containers were used to store fresh water to wash the seawater residue off the aircraft, oxygen and other essentials.

The decision to use the Atlantic Conveyor for other stores was taken on the 17th and 20th of April, after the initial concept had been approved. Thus, no additional magazine capacity was installed with the 600 cluster bombs, rocket motors, anti-tank missiles, grenades and small arms ammunition stored in normal containers, this would have a significant bearing on the aftermath of the attack.

A wide variety of things like a tent city, stacker trucks, 12 Combat Support Boats, specialist spares, munitions and more or less our entire stock aluminium matting for temporary airfield construction were loaded.

Helicopter and Harrier operations were also tested and confirmed, surely an incredible feat, just to remind you of the time scale, 10 days.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The short time in which the conversion went from concept to reality demonstrated how close working relations between military and civilian personnel could achieve stunning results.

The 4 Chinooks were flown to the Atlantic Conveyor, rotor blades removed and the airframes protected with Dri-Clad covers and corrosion inhibitors.

At 4pm on the 24th, the ship left Devonport and after a period of further loading and testing the newly installed RAS gear, she arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the 2nd of May arrived at Ascension Island and offloaded some stores, including one of the Chinook helicopters.

Atlantic Conveyor Replenishment at Sea
Atlantic Conveyor Replenishment at Sea

7th May

The Sea Harriers and Harrier GR3’s, after record breaking single seat ferry flights from the UK, were flown onto the Atlantic Conveyor and covered with the same Dri-Clad bags that protected the helicopters.

RAF Harrier GR3 being refuelled by a Victor tanker en route to Ascension
RAF Harrier GR3 being refuelled by a Victor tanker en route to Ascension
RAF Harrier GR3 at Ascension
RAF Harrier GR3 at Ascension

8 Sea Harriers and 6 Harrier GR3’s were to be carried South.

A number of different sources cite the 5th of May as the date when the aircraft were loaded but a day here or there is not significant for the purpose of this post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One Sea Harrier was kept on ‘Deck Alert 20’ in the anti shadower role to protect against the Argentine Air Force 707 reconnaissance flights with tanker support provided from Ascension for a short period should it be needed.

Atlantic Conveyor sailing SouthAtlantic Conveyor sailing South

18th to 24st May

After rendezvousing with the Task Force, the Harriers were disembarked to HMS Invincible HMS Hermes, with all the GR3’s going to Hermes. They would of course had to take off vertically, a difficult manoeuvre from a rolling deck.

During this period the Atlantic Conveyor stayed in close proximity to the Battle Group, providing helicopter support in which 1 Chinook and 3 Wessex were used. The Chinook crews broke new ground, the aircraft was still in its introductory trial period..

Atlantic Conveyor sailing South with Wessex on the rear flight deck
Atlantic Conveyor sailing South with Wessex on the rear flight deck

The one Chinook used was the famous Bravo November, flown off the small rear deck. Because of blade clearances the ships rear ramp had to be partially lowered as can be imagined by looking at the image above , still, must have been quite hairy flying.

Stores and munitions were also transferred and a Lynx embarked as a hot spare.

With the Harriers no longer on board, the main mission of the Atlantic Conveyor had been achieved.

25th May

The Atlantic Conveyor was signalled to be ready to move to San Carlos Water under cover of darkness to disembark all helicopters at first light. Preparations continued including moving stores to disembarkation points and ground testing of some of the remaining helicopters.

2 Super Etendard’s of CANA 2 Esc approached from the North after refuelling from a Hercules tanker.

The call ‘Handbrake’ was received on board the RN ships, indicating a detected Super Etendard radar emission.

At 19.40, Emergency Stations was sounded by the Atlantic Conveyor’s ships alarm.

A number of warships including HMS Alacrity deployed chaff countermeasures but whilst lured into the chaff cloud the missiles flew through it and detected the Atlantic Conveyor.

There is some difference of opinion on whether one or two missiles hit the Atlantic Conveyor.

The official Board of Inquiry stated two and three diary extracts from the HMS Brilliant website would also seem to confirm that.

Our weapon systems locked onto both the missiles and tracked them all the way in but they were unable to engage them because they were out of range. She was on fire within minutes of being hit and it was getting dark we were told to get in as close as we could and pick up people in liferafts. We picked up a life raft with about 24 in while we were doing this about five floated past, they looked dead a couple had put there survival suits on wrong and were floating feet up. I think they were picked up by helicopter. It was a terrible feeling knowing it could have been you and so it goes on.


The Captain put the ship into defence watches at 7.30 but I stayed in the Ops Room and we had an EW detection of Etendard radar at about 7.40 then shortly after this an unknown contact to the NW. We then saw them – contacts double (obviously missile release) as the missiles started in. The system immediately acquired them and the T.V. monitors showed them heading some 5 miles NW of us toward the Atlantic Conveyor. The missiles were so close together they were both on the same T.V. monitor. They were v. low and v. fast. We saw them hit the middle of the “Conveyor” and the explosion seemed to go through her and out the other side.


While the rescue attempt were being carried out on Coventry two low aircraft were spotted at about 26 miles away from the force. They released Exocet missiles at 23 miles All the ships fired Chaffe which is just bits of silver paper it worked for a second but the missiles locked on again straight into the stern of the Atlantic Conveyor. Our weapon systems locked onto both the missiles and tracked them all the way in but they were unable to engage them because they were out of range. She was on fire within minutes of being hit and it was getting dark we were told to get in as close as we could and pick up people in liferafts. We picked up a life raft with about 24 in while we were doing this about five floated past, they looked dead a couple had put there survival suits on wrong and were floating feet up.

The Board of Enquiry stated the following;

ACO hit by two Exocet, port quarter level with after end of superstructure, 10-12 feet above waterline. Missiles entered C cargo deck in vicinity of lift shaft. Ship in a port turn passing through approximately 90 degrees at the time

Between then and 20.10, when the decision was made to abandon ship, the damage control and fire fighting continued, despite a number of systems failing. HMS Alacrity came alongside to attempt boundary cooling and RFA Sir Percival also stood off the port quarter to render assistance.

The light was fading and sunset marked at 19.58.

Ammunition was dumped overboard but at 20.05 the fires were assessed as being uncontrollable with a high risk of spreading to the forward hold where considerable quantities of kerosene and cluster bombs were stored.

Shrapnel was reported to being seen coming through the ships sides as ammunition was exploding.

There is often a debate about the difference between military and civilian ships in terms of design, damage control being one of the principal differences. The document below is from the Board of Inquiry highlights those differences.

Despite the valiant efforts of those involved 12 men lost their lives.

3 were lost on board and 9 after entering the water. 22 were rescued from the forward deck using helicopters and more from lifeboats. 137 out of  the 149 on board were rescued which is obviously a great credit to all involved and testament to the calm and orderly manner in which the ship was abandoned.

I thought this, from the London Gazette was fitting at this point in the post.

Captain Ian Harry NORTH, Merchant Navy. On 14th April 1982 SS ATLANTIC CONVEYOR was laid up in Liverpool. On the 25th April she deployed to the South Atlantic converted to operate fixed and rotary wing aircraft and loaded with stores and equipment for the Falkland’s Task Force. This astonishing feat was largely due to Captain North’s innovation, leadership and inexhaustible energy.

SS ATLANTIC CONVEYOR joined the Carrier Battle Group on 19th May 1982 and was immediately treated as a warship in most respects. Almost comparable in manoeuvrability, flexibility and response Captain North and the ship came through with flying colours. When the ship was hit on 25th May Captain North was a tower of strength during the difficult period of damage assessment leading up to the decision to abandon ship. He left the ship last with enormous dignity and calm and his subsequent death was a blow to all.

A brilliant seaman, brave in war, immensely revered and loved his contribution to the Campaign was enormous and epitomised the great spirit of the Merchant Service

The last lifeboat was recovered by HMS Alacrity at 23.00.

A few comments from the earlier article on Think Defence

The conveyer was with us as we had been cross decking harriers and kit all day. I can remember the action station alarm going off and the urgency in the voice of the person sounding the alarm and we knew it was close. When I closed up to my action station I got kitted up I opened the weather deck access door for a peak to see what was happening. I could see her clearly ablaze especially around the super structure lads running up and down the deck donning there once only survival suits and going over the side as she was that close to us. Then all the helicopters started closing in on her and winching up the lads out of the water and from the life rafts. I knew several of the lads who were on her and they were brought over to us. It seemed quite funny at the time in a strange way and we were taking the piss out of them (gallows humour I suppose) then I can remember looking at them and seeing the shock in their eyes and the reality of what had just happened to them sank in. Had she not taken the hit would it have taken us?

Hermes 82 – TD Commenter

I was embarked on the Conveyor (848 NAS) at this time. There has always been a debate as to whether we were hit by one or two missiles – it doesn’t really matter I guess, despite gallant efforts there was nothing we could do to save her. The lone question I have always carried with me is, if she was so important to the success of the landings, why weren’t we better protected?

Peter Burris – TD Commenter

I was spreading the rotors of the Wessex 5 just aft of the forward flight deck when we were hit. A scary time for a young 19 year old, but recently my mind has been blown away by a fact that I read in the “Board of Enquiry” of the sinking of the AC. I was rescued by a Wessex 5 of 845 squadron “YD” XT459. I didn’t know this until last week when I read the report. In December 1983, I was on operation “Clockwork” in northern Norway, left hand seat in “YD” when we spiralled in nose first from 1200ft. I’m in shock that the same aircraft rescued me, then 19 months later nearly killed me!

Phil Russo – TD Commenter

I was on the Alacrity at the time we had detected the Etendards and had fired chaff resulting in the conveyor being hit. we spent the next few hours first tied up alongside trying to fire fight and rescue survivors but it was too rough and we were getting smashed together. We then stood off and put swimmers in to rescue survivors and recover some of those less fortunate.

Stevey – TD Commenter

Certainly brought back a few memories for me! 54 merchant ships were taken up from trade (STUFT) to assist the armed forces during the South Atlantic conflict. 43 sailed for the South Atlantic with Merchant Navy crews and Naval Parties embarked, before the Argentine surrender on 15th June

Commander Nick Messinger RD** FNI RNR Retd – TD Commenter

Was serving aboard HMS Alacrity at the time. As I recall the Exocet(s) were aimed at us andor the carriers, but we sent up loads of chaff which confused the missile(s), which carried on past us and then, as programmed, they hunted for the next large object which happened to be Atlantic Conveyor, about a mile away from us? Alacrity was first alongside, and as Stevey correctly stated, it was far too rough for us to stay alonside for long, especially as it turned out that the Alacrity’s hull was already in poor condition due to the battering it took down south. I recall vividly hauling some bodies on board, we had nowhere to store them, so we had to temporarily stow them in one of our ammunition stores. It was another terrible day, coming only four and two days after losing two of our sisters, Ardent and Antelope respectively. Morale was pretty low for a time. Dave “Bungy” Williams WEM(R)1

David J Williams – TD Commenter


26th to 28th May

A Wessex helicopter from HMS Hermes photographed the still burning ship the day after the attack.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the 27th at 50305 5451W the Atlantic Conveyor was again sighted and although the bow section had been completely destroyed by exploding cluster bombs and fuel, a decision made to attempt to bring her under tow.

Atlantic Conveyor under tow by the tug the Irishman
Atlantic Conveyor under tow by the tug the Irishman

Despite repeated efforts to tow using the tug, the Irishman, she sank in the early hours of the 28th of May.

Three containers were sighted floating at the position where it was assumed she sank.


In addition to the huge volume of stores, 3 Chinook, six Wessex and a Lynx helicopter were lost, including their specialist tools and spares. The remaining Chinook, the famous Bravo November, would be kept flying with borrowed tools and improvised engineering but one thing was certain, the route to Stanley would be carried out on foot.

The full BOI report can be found here, which includes an extensive narrative and a great deal of supplementary information including information on how the explosives, ammunition, bombs and other hazardous stores were stowed.

Although the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor ultimately did not change the result of the campaign the loss of two things were to be acutely felt.

The first and obvious one was the amount of vertical lift available to land forces, although Sea King and Wessex could both lift sling loads they were in no way comparable to that of the Chinook. Personnel transport using helicopters were also much fewer than the Chinook. With only one Chinook available, priorities would mean that this would be largely used for supporting the Light Guns. No large scale move of infantry forces by helicopter was now possible and most of the troops had to walk (tabbing or yomping depending on the colour of your beret) up to fifty miles across East Falkland, from San Carlos to Stanley, before starting the main attack, a feat of arms that is still notable today.


The impact of a shortage of helicopter lift on the decision to attack Goose Green and the subsequent tactics is interesting to debate but the most significant impact would be the decision to send 5th Brigade to land at Bluff Cove and its subsequent losses.

A second, but less widely discussed impact of the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor was the loss of the Harrier Forward Operating (FOB) equipment and stores. Using scrounged materials the Royal Engineers completed an improvised FOB at Port San Carlos on the 2nd of May and whilst providing a vital ‘pit stop’ for both Harrier GR3’s and Sea Harriers it was at nowhere near the capacity of the one by now sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic.

If a more capable FOB could have been established earlier, following the planned 25th/26th offloading of the Atlantic Conveyor it would have provided an operating base for the Harriers much closer to land forces and vessels near the Falkland Islands. Pure speculation of course, and maybe a spot of what of revisionism but the impact of this on subsequent ship losses and casualties would have been significant.

On 11th June the British troops mounted a brigade sized night attack on Argentine positions in the mountains surrounding Stanley and three days later, after more heavy fighting in the area, the Argentine garrison surrendered.


There remains to this day a question of why the Atlantic Conveyor was not provided with a suitable escort, with Sea Wolf and not equipped with any self-protection, beyond GPMG, such as chaff launchers.

After the BOI report was released in 2007 the newspapers printed the headline grabbing news that Atlantic Conveyor was left defenceless over concerns about legality.

From the Times, December 11 2007

A helicopter-carrying merchant ship that sank with the loss of 12 men after being hit by two Exocet missiles in the 1982 Falklands conflict was unarmed and unprotected because Ministry of Defence lawyers feared that it was illegal to fit a commercial vessel with weapon systems, according to newly released classified documents

The full text from the BOI report is below

I would tend to veer towards the very short time period for conversion as a critical factor but that is just a personal opinion.

The point about a shortage of suitably equipped escorts is critical.

The decision on what to protect, carriers or the Atlantic Conveyor, must have been an agonising one to make and one should never seek to second guess that process.

Not considering the Atlantic Conveyor a High Value Unit was maybe an error but we should also avoid any criticism, difficult decisions have to be made and there is no doubt about the value of the aircraft carriers. What would have more effect on the outcome of the operation, the loss of a carrier or the loss of the Atlantic Conveyor?

It is an interesting subject to discuss but it is very easy to understand the decision making process.

However, with a greater appreciation of the value of the heavy lift helicopters, perhaps the Chinooks could have been offloaded sooner?

Also, if the commander(s) also appreciated the value of the FOB, enabling both Harrier and Sea Harriers to operate from the Islands with obvious endurance benefits, would subsequent outcomes been different.

Despite seeing with perfect 20:20 30 year hindsight vision, I do wonder if not providing the Atlantic Conveyor with sufficient priority was indeed, a mistake.


The Atlantic Conveyor had a less well known sister ship that also took part in operations in the South Atlantic. The Atlantic Causeway was pressed into service in the same time frame but with a different set of modifications. Requisitioned on the 4th of May and taken to Devonport on the 6th she was converted to carry, operate and support helicopters.

The conversion differed from the Atlantic Conveyor in having a large hangar forward and improved aviation fuel handling facilities

Atlantic Causeway sailed on the 14th of May with 28 helicopters and arrived in the Total Exclusion Zone (TEZ) the 27th of the same month, disembarking her aircraft and stores in San Carlos Water from 31 May.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

During the operation she received 4000 helicopter landings and refuelled aircraft 500 times, an impressive feat for a conversion and restoration that cost £2million.

From Hansard;

HC Deb 22 December 1983 vol 51 c424W 424W

Mr. Dalyell asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost of converting the Atlantic Causeway into a ship capable of carrying helicopters.

Mr. Lee The Atlantic Causeway was taken up from trade and converted to transport aircraft and stores during the Falklands emergency. She has since been restored and returned to her owners. The total cost of conversion and restoration was about £2 million.

That particular aircraft in the picture below is FMA 1A 58 PUCARA A-515/ZD485/9245M, now an exhibit at the RAF Museum, for a full history, click here

Atlantic Causeway and a Chinook unloading the spoils of war
Atlantic Causeway and a Chinook unloading the spoils of war
Atlantic Causeway and a Chinook unloading the spoils of war
Atlantic Causeway and a Chinook unloading the spoils of war

Two other similar and arguably even less well known vessels were similarly converted, the Contender Bezant and Astronomer.

Contender Bezant was utilised as an aircraft transport, ferrying helicopters and harriers on deck.  Following purchase by the MoD in 1985 for £13million she was converted to an aviation training ship at the shipyard of Harland & Wolff, Belfast, with the addition of extended accommodation, a flight deck, aircraft lifts and naval radar and communications suites.  She is now effectively an aviation support ship operating aircraft from her former container deck with the RORO vehicle deck converted to an aircraft hangar.  A Primary Casualty Receiving Facility was added before Argus was sent to participate in the 1991 Gulf War.  Another role of RFA Argus is that of RORO vehicle transport with vehicles carried in the hangar and on the flight deck, a role she performed in support of United Nations operations in the former Yugoslavia.  During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Argus was again present in the Persian Gulf as an offshore hospital for coalition troops, earning the nickname “BUPA Baghdad”.

MV Contender Bezant
MV Contender Bezant
MV Contender Bezant
MV Contender Bezant

MV Astronomer was another civilian container ship pressed into service for Operation Corporate. Originally owned by the Harrison Line she was converted and departed the UK on the 8th of June 1982.

In December 1982 Astronomer was leased by the Ministry of Defence and underwent further conversion during which she was fitted with the Arapaho system, a flight deck and hangar facilities for trials.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

She was later commissioned into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary as RFA RELIANT in late 1983.

RFA Reliant
RFA Reliant
RFA Reliant (Image Credit - RFA Nostalgia)
RFA Reliant (Image Credit – RFA Nostalgia)
RFA Reliant (Image Credit - RFA Nostalgia)
RFA Reliant (Image Credit – RFA Nostalgia)

RELIANT’s first deployment was off Lebanon in 1984 in support of British troops in Beirut. She was later redeployed to the South Atlantic to act as a Helicopter Support Ship. However RELIANT soon proved the Arapaho system unsatisfactory, she could not support AEW (Airborne Early Warning) helicopters and 70 containers were needed to support five AS (Anti Submarine) Helicopters.

In 1986 she was decommissioned and returned to Merchant service.

The tremendous versatility of the Harrier was demonstrated a year later with an unplanned conversion of the Spanish cargo ship Alraigo

Bravo November

No story of the Atlantic Conveyor would be complete without some reference to the one that got away, Bravo November

During the attack on the Atlantic Conveyor, Bravo November was moving netted cargo of Lynx spares and was therefore still in the air, after being ordered to hold position for a short period the helicopter returned to HMS Hermes.

The large Chinook on the crowded deck of HMS Hermes caused some problems for aircraft movement and consideration was given to sawing the blades off and stowing below or even dumping it over the side in best Vietnam fashion

Thankfully, these options were eventually discounted and the next morning it was refuelled and flown to Falkland Islands.

A good account of Bravo November can be read in the 18 Squadron Association newsletter, click here including the amusing note that when it landed on the Falkland Islands, Bravo November had a grand total of 18 flying hours logged.

In the same newsletter a mission is described in which it carried 28 men and two 105mm Light Guns in the cabin, plus another Light Gun slung, must have been a tight squeeze!

Bravo November Chinook Falkland Islands 1982
Bravo November Chinook Falkland Islands 1982

Another mission included carrying 81 fully tooled up Para’s to Fitzroy, yes, 81.

From commencing operations until the Argentine surrender, Bravo November moved 1,530 troops, 650 POW’s and 1,600 tonnes of stores.

It is difficult to see how the Royal Artillery could have kept up the intense Light Gun firing rate without the heavy lift provided by Bravo November.

Ship Borne Containerised Air Defence System (SCADS)

After the conflict some consideration was given to extending the concept of converting merchant vessels for aircraft operations, one such study was called SCADS.

Shipboard Containerised Air Defence Systems (SCADS)
Shipboard Containerised Air Defence Systems (SCADS)

The September edition of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) News described the system, dubbed HMAS Lego.

Of course, they don’t publish magazines like this anymore, see if you can get past Page 3

The article starts by introducing the need for the system because the UK had decided not to sell the RAN HMS Invincible after all.

The utility of the Atlantic Conveyor and her sisters was clearly recognised and working with the Atlantic Container Line the MoD created a number of working concepts and tests, the ACL Generation 3 (G3) CONRO design even had its own dedicated MoD Radio Room.

ACL G3 with Mexeflote
ACL G3 with Mexeflote
ACL G3 amphibious operations
ACL G3 amphibious operations
ACL G3 with helideck
ACL G3 with helideck

RFA Reliant would also see service supporting the UK contingent (BRITFORLEB) of the UN Multinational Force (MNF) in Lebanon between 1982 and 1985, Operation HYPERION.

RFA Reliant off Beruit in support of UN MNF  (Image Credit - Flickr Dave Ireland)
RFA Reliant off Beirut in support of UN MNF (Image Credit – Flickr Dave Ireland)


In June 2007 a memorial to those lost on the Atlantic Conveyor was unveiled at Cape Pembroke, the most Easterly point on the Falkland Islands, near the now disused lighthouse.

Atlantic Conveyor Memorial
Atlantic Conveyor Memorial

Up until that point she was the only vessel sunk in the conflict without a memorial.

The memorial features a propeller and shaft that has been aligned on a magnetic bearing of 62 degrees to indicate the point, 90 miles out, where the MV Atlantic Conveyor finally came to rest.

In 2008 the Protection of Military Remains Act (PMRA) 1986 was extended to include the Atlantic Conveyor

A Lighter Note

Thought I would end this post on a lighter note, an urban myth perhaps, but a good one.

Because it was not absolutely clear what stores were on board, it was said for years after the sinking, every enterprising Quartermaster (QM) in the British Army seized the opportunity and indented for equipment that supposedly ‘went down on the Atlantic Conveyor’

The amount of kit thus claimed would have been enough to fill several Atlantic Conveyors.

The best one I heard was that some old tentage, still on the books from Boer War, was finally written off as being lost on the Atlantic Conveyor!





Fast Air UK

The Army Rumour Service

Britain’s Small Wars

Imperial War Museum

RAF Web Site

Some of the images are seen in any number of locations so it is difficult to pin down the originator, as usual, thanks/apologies to those I haven’t managed to get permission from in advance

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
April 3, 2012 11:17 pm

The reason why Thatcher tried to get Pinochet released. And why AEW is so important for naval task forces

Growing up where I did, I met a few FAA pilots. One was on the Atlantic Conveyor. He never discussed it with me, but my parents said his wife reported that the RN was no longer the “fun” job afterwards: he stayed in, but it was more duty than anything else.

April 4, 2012 1:54 am

Great post TD, great post.

My Yeoman instructor at HMS Mercury was a AC “survivor”. My very good friend was first mate of the Irishman and got the OBE (or BEM ?) for the salvage efforts.

In 87 when I deployed to the gulf on an a Hunt Class MCMV we got a ‘radar warning receiver’ and “Barricade” chaff and flare launchers – cheap, simple, easy to operate systems – perhaps if they were around five years earlier AC might have dodged the bullet ? Of course fitting her with guns would have made no difference – although a RAF Reqiment friend once noted that early in 82 the US Army in Germany had just retired a whole battalion of towed 20mm Vulcan air-defence systems – the same gattling gun as used in Phalanx, but with optical sights and a small tracking radar – take the wheels off and weld it to the deck ? Hindsight eh ……

Really when you consider the kit she was carry, she was about as much as a High Value Unit (HVU) as the carriers, could we not have found a Seawolf equipped Leander or T22 to act as “Goalkeeper” (very close escort).

April 4, 2012 6:46 am


The first article was not bad, I can see why the “sequel” was worthwhile.

I can now, again, take FBOT’s “designs” seriously. Also, wf’s link is astounding (the gvmnt managed to silence the media at the time).

Just a small detail: those wave-breakers (in the photos), were they for the on-call Harrier not to be washed away, or for all of what was on deck (well wrapped-up)?

April 4, 2012 10:46 am

Amazing what can be acheived in a short time when the pressure is really on. What was done then could plausibly be done again.

OTOH a purpose built ‘Aviation RFA’, or even a very austere planned conversion, would have: damage control, magazines and mounting for CIWS.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 4, 2012 1:02 pm

Excelent post TD!

I mentioned damage control being a weakness in my Auxiliary Cruiser concept. DK Brown said the main problems with civilian ships were access hatchs below the waterline/low in the ship and their fire control water mains: they are kept in a dry stae and water pumped through when needed. In a warship, particulary a Carrier, the mains are always kept full, so requiring special anti-corrosion treatment.

These problems would be difficult/expensive to fix in existing ships but could be built in to new builds, perhaps with the government paying any extra expense? The government have done similar in the past.

April 4, 2012 1:26 pm

That Jose Pinera link is interesting. Note the French being helpful (routing via Tahiti?). Mind you I have some doubts summed up in this map. Easter Island is about 590 miles out of C-130 range from Papeete, and that’s without making any effort to flight-plan properly with alternates (although, where exactly is an alternate for Easter Island? I presume LAN Chile just tanker enough fuel in their 727s to go back to the mainland). Bora-Bora is even further.

Also, we’d never have heard the last of the RAF having a lay-over in Tahiti.

April 4, 2012 1:29 pm

‘Also, we’d never have heard the last of the RAF having a lay-over in Tahiti.’

Oh I don’t know about, bet it’s not a patch on Bermuda…

April 4, 2012 1:46 pm

Actually, a bit of thought and Google Erf…Mangareva/GMR is about 1000 miles from Papeete and 1600 from Easter and there’s 6000 feet of runway. Or if the French were being implausibly nice, Mururoa, although it’s not as helpful being about 280 miles West.

April 4, 2012 5:47 pm

“their fire control water mains: they are kept in a dry stae and water pumped through when needed. In a warship, particulary a Carrier, the mains are always kept full, so requiring special anti-corrosion treatment.”

The Falklands war was only seventy something days.
How much would they have corroded in that time if ept full?

April 4, 2012 8:32 pm

Great post. Thanks.

“The amount of kit thus claimed would have been enough to fill several Atlantic Conveyors.” – CPO Pertwee would have been proud…

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 4, 2012 9:16 pm

@ Dominic J – I have no idea but sea water is surprisingly corrosive…

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 4, 2012 9:19 pm


Any thoughts on the capabilities and performance of SeaCat?
How well did it do in 1982, did it shoot down any aircraft?

My view it was RN trendy vicar to get an short range AAW missile onto some hulls.

Would the previous generation automatic 40mm gun been more use in San Carlos Water?
From memory this was a huge gap across both land and sea forces, the lack of an upmarket, modern and capable small / medium calibre AA gun.

Regarding the ship itself you can see design in action, you could see that the merchant ship conversions got better over the month, with the AC’s being the poorest and the most limited.

Also the lack of modules and chunks in the build process shows in great detail that it was 30 years ago, so much seems to be being carried out on deck rather than the workshop or build hall.

Another point is the size of the AC, almost toy town by today’s standards which then limited the capabilities of the conversion plus the fact that the AC was a strange container / RoRo hybrid.

Finally, finally was a conversion of a large VLCC to ever discussed?
It would have been much more capable and flexible plus Loch Long was full of idle ships.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 4, 2012 9:46 pm
Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 4, 2012 9:52 pm

RE: SeaCat. I’ve heard the RN was not overly happy with the SeaCat; one third hand account I heard suggested it was the ideal answer to Stukas…

steve taylor
April 4, 2012 10:28 pm

SeaCat was often referred to SeaMouse.

April 4, 2012 10:39 pm

Just seen Dauntless setting sail for the Falklands. Seems to be missing her Phalanx CIWS!

I wonder why that is?

Do we think she is also short on Aster missiles as well?

April 4, 2012 11:37 pm

I think neither Sea Cat or Tiger Cat (thankfully!) shot down anything. Blowpipe scored 1 hit for 95 launches with the UK, and also shot down a Harrier for AR. Sea Wolf managed 2-5 kills for 8 launches, Sea Dart 6 for 26. Rapier scored 1-5 for 40. SAM’s had a bad war, but Sea Harrier and Sidewinder did very well, with 20 for 26

April 5, 2012 12:41 am

Really good article boss.

Re; Sea Cat
One confirmed kill of a Skyhawk by Type 12 HMS Yarmouth, who had a surprisingly active campaign. Also a Sea Cat was listed as a possible in a kill of another Skyhawk, though a Rapier and Blowpipe both have claims to that kill.

Sea Wolf – 4 kills,
Sea Dart – 7 kills,
Rapier – 1 confirmed,
Blowpipe – 1 confirmed,
Stinger – 2,
AA fire – 4,

April 5, 2012 8:45 am

Hi Phil D, RE
“Seems to be missing her Phalanx CIWS!

I wonder why that is?”
– RN has contracted for conversion of the Phalanxs to the B standard (different barrels, armour-piercing ammo to deal with surface targets…)
– I wonder if a couple at the time is sent back to the factory (anyone know?)

April 5, 2012 8:49 am

Hi wf,

You point out Sidewinder (no doubt was there), but wasn’t one of the emergency help measures to ship AMRAAMs straight out of the USA?
– I think it was on the 59 minute Max Hastings piece on Falklands that was linked to by Jedi
– raises the question how could you slot them straight in when integration nowadays seems to take ages

April 5, 2012 8:59 am

@ACC: the US shipped 110 *replacement* AIM-9L instantly so we could raid our existing NATO stocks. AMRAAM didn’t exist at that time, sadly.

Sidewinder in those days was fairly simple: the physical work had already been done with other variants, and L was designed to be compatible anyway. Even ASRAAM is designed to slot into the Sidewinder launcher :-)

April 5, 2012 9:05 am

Thanks wf,

I thought something did not tally up (was it GR7 or 9 that was due to get AMRAAMs, so a huge time gap?)
– how do you use BVR missiles without a radar, btw? Assumes an AWACS always available?

April 5, 2012 9:21 am

@ACC: GR7/9 was never going to get AMRAAM. Sea Harrier F/A2 had AMRAAM from 1993-2006 :-(

April 5, 2012 8:11 pm

What would have been done, if modern RoRo ship had existed …
The Mark V class M/V Tønsberg is a nearly 265 m long flat desk with laterialized exhaust :
A nearly LHA…

steve taylor
April 5, 2012 8:33 pm

Both Type 12s had a good war. It has been said they were most useful ships down South.

Shame that Plymouth is heading for scrap heap. Says a lot about us a country.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 5, 2012 10:19 pm

WF @ 11.37

Blowpipe – 1 from 95 launches.
Did we ever get our money back from that one?

We would have been better off firing RPGs at them and hoping someone would have had a heart attack.
And I thought SeaCat was bad.

What level of Concept generation / R+D did we have in industry?
Was this lack of quality known about at the time?
Or did combat shock the MOD to its core?

April 6, 2012 12:27 am

@FBOT: I think it’s more or a general thing. It’s noticeable that AIM7 and 9 early variants had a 8 and 12% success rate in Vietnam for example. That being said, having a missile like Blowpipe, Seacat or Rapier, you require lots of live training to operate it successfully. I doubt that was ever funded.

I’m glad combat shocked the MOD. Unfortunately, with the lack of realistic testing for things like Aster, it seems those lessons are wearing off :-(

April 6, 2012 4:26 pm

Wasn’t part of the problem with Blowpipe that it was designed for aircraft attacking head-on, not ones passing right-to-left or left-to-right?

April 6, 2012 5:01 pm

@DMN: I know it was sold as superior to Redeye, on the basis it *could* engage head on. It had a relatively slow speed (M1.5) would make all but head on engagements problematic anyway.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 6, 2012 5:31 pm

AAW / Missile Debate

In San Carlos Water would a well equipped 1945 USN group have been more effective at shooting down aircraft than the 1982 style RN?

I am thinking lots of 40mm stuff plus the 3″ with a proximity fuze?

Would a 1945 RN group have fared better under the same circumstances?

Would a tactic of drenching the air with pre-planned AA fire forcing the AF to fly through it worked any better than the tactics they did use?

Thinking of the 91 low flying debacle.
30 years tactics and training wasted in one week of real flying?

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 5:54 pm

Both the Army and the RN of the time didn’t do AAW very well compared to other European nations. The RN excuse was it would be operating in the deep Atlantic and pop-ups missiles and ASM from surface ships would be the threat. I don’t know about the Army but compared to the Germans with the Gepards and missiles etc. Rapier alone and a few “mandraulic” guns don’t quite cut the mustard with FJ targets doing over 450kts. More autocannon would have helped for sure. More Rapier too. I don’t think anybody quite appreciated the threat. I read that Ardent sent a GPMG back to stores because they thought it wouldn’t be needed. Stories I read of scores of Para’s or RM on their backs shooting their SLRs en masse into the air sounds amusing but to me smacks of desperation. I think during WW2 the Parachute Regiment had 20mm air-dropable Polstens. Lastly as has been pointed out may times the Argentines were very well equipped; it could be argued better equipped than the British by some margin in certain areas. And this can be seen with their army’s, air force’s, and marine’s AAW systems they had TigerCat, Roland, and several modern gun systems.

The Mk6 mount onboard the Counties and Type 12 is a DP mount but off the top of my head I can’t remember any kills being registered to that system. Remember this was the mount fitted to the T41 and T61 AAW, respectively AAW frigate and fighter direction frigates.

The thing is with SeaCat is as a first generation system it’s poor performance was to be expected. Oddly enough the system which SC could have said to have replace called STAAG was actually pulled from service along while before. STAAG was a gun system. Just as the first of a new breed will suffer from poor performance it seems the last of a breed will suffer too due to being over complicated.

April 6, 2012 6:09 pm

The army has not moved on much from 82, still has rapier, GPMG not sure what the present status of Starstreak is.

Air defence orders at the time were fully elevate turrets aim into the centre of the position and open fire. The idea being an attacking aircraft had to fly over the position and through a cone of fire.

Even if it would have worked then, these days with Brimstone, Hellfire etc there is very little chance with the equipment we have.

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 6:33 pm

@ Jim

Well they procured StarStreak didn’t they for point defence? A heavy machine gun is sub-marginal for jets. There is an argument that guns give a very positive boost to the morale of those being attacked because they have the opportunity to hit back at the enemy. But the actually affects of the HMG or MMG are negligible.

April 6, 2012 6:46 pm

As x says, a heavy bde (to be used in a schwerpunkt, rather than in a territorial defence, role)even in a conscript army would have something like
– half a dozen tracked AD cannon units, each with their own radar
– 2-10 Crotale or similar units mounted on wheeled armour
– a central unit to utilise any networked radars in the area
– 20-ish shoulder launched missile teams
– 20-ish less mobile light cannon units, networked to the radars but also to their own supporting troops dispersed across the area being defended

I guess all the AD assets (Rapier, Starstreak, no cannons) are currently with one RA unit and even if all of it would go with a brigade to be deployed, it could hardly match the level of defence described above
– is the assumption of air superiority under all circumstances “water proof” enough for maintaining only a “Center of Excellence” from which to ramp up if lead time will allow?

April 6, 2012 6:50 pm

Hi x,

Yes “Well they procured StarStreak didn’t they for point defence?”, but how many are left?

Rapier is not much more than point defence, but at least the current one is very performant, sharing a lot with Seawolf
– but can only be used when static (unlike Starstreak)

April 6, 2012 7:17 pm

Rather than retire Starstreak/Stormer, can it be modified to carry 4 LMM on oneside & 4 Starstreak on the other?
That way it can deal with land or air threats.
A couple roaming around Mount Pleasant would ruin any Argie Para drop.

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 7:28 pm


Yep. Rapier is no Patriot that’s for sure.

My understanding was Rapier was a divisional weapon. While StarStreak was deployed to defend important positions like bridges etc.

April 6, 2012 7:42 pm

yes, divisional when defined in a very narrow way (because it was/is static when ready for use): command posts, supply nodes, airfields and the like that do not move every day
– compare with the next step up: SAMP-T aka Aster, for theater defence

Starstreak can of course protect anything, but conversely, it was/is the only thing to give to formations on the move

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 7:45 pm

ACC – yep

April 6, 2012 8:07 pm

In a normal world, Starstreak and Rapier would, with their limited range, be battalion point defence weapons, while CAMM/Aster would be at the brigade level and Patriot/Bloodhound would be divisional assets. We have ended up with almost nothing in the locker, even after a really close shave in the FI. Doesn’t say much for either the RAF or the RA….

April 6, 2012 8:12 pm

Land Anti-Aircraft defence is a neglected area in most armies. They seem to have taken the position that its just not worth the expenditure. The last time the British Army/RAF did not have air superiority must be in France and Egypt 1940-41 and at Arnhem in 44 and we all know the result of that one.

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 8:39 pm

@ Jim

In 1944 the Allies had complete air superiority to boot.

@ wf

That is why I struggled to call Rapier a divisional weapon. As you say every brigade should have had such a system.

April 6, 2012 8:55 pm

Oto Melara seem to have been thinking about this issue.

April 6, 2012 8:56 pm

The reason the Army has got very little effective AD kit is because

(1) AD is seen pretty much as a joint responsibility, with budget and programmes flowing to whichever capability or service is seen as being able to best achieve the desired effect.

(2) AD is not very sexy in the Army, reinforced by the RAF saying they are Biggles on steroids and the Navy trying to rescue something after being largely irrelevant for 30 years.

(3) The last time the Army faced an air threat was in 1982, and even then apart from Bluff Cove it was mostly from Pucara. Wheras the Navy lost ships, so went hard at AD afterwards.

We are currently spending around £11 billion on another layer of air defence capability beyond the T45 which is itself costing about £6.5 billion. It is interesting to note that only around one third of this combined cost of approaching £18 billion would ever be in a position to actually do any air defence for any future operation.

In addition to the nearly £18 billion on CVF, JCA and T45, the RAF also brilliantly specified that Typhoon be specified as initially an air defence aircraft, as opposed to a useful jet that is optimised to drop bombs, which is what is actually needed. The programme costs are so far predicted to be about £20 billion.

So we will be spending something like £38 billion in total on Air Defence assets over a period of about 20 years.

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 9:03 pm

Well even with total air superiority after D-day it still took best part of a year to push the Germans back to Berlin.

Mike W
April 6, 2012 9:05 pm


“I guess all the AD assets (Rapier, Starstreak, no cannons) are currently with one RA unit”

I don’t think so. The last article I read seemed to suggest that StormerHVM was still with 12 Regiment RA and that Rapier was still with 16 Regiment.

@John Hartley

“Rather than retire Starstreak/Stormer, can it be modified to carry 4 LMM on oneside & 4 Starstreak on the other?”

I don’t think all the Stormer HVMs are being retired. In fact, the last I heard was that those remaining were to be upgraded. They have been seen recently on Salisbury Plain. There has also been some talk recently about the Army thinking about fitting LMM to the vehicle. One advantage would be that it could also be used in the ground role.

However, in the light of a recent press article, all this might have changed. I am still very concerned about the assertions in that “Sunday Telegraph” article. I just wish we knew what was happening.

wf is quite right when he says that we have almost nothing in the locker.

April 6, 2012 9:10 pm

@james: I’ve got no quibble with the budget. It’s just we don’t seem to be getting enough for the money :-(

April 6, 2012 9:15 pm


you caught me half way through an exercise of trying to identify when the British Forces have last faced a peer air threat. Battle of Britain is looking good at the moment, but I need to do some further checking.

More importantly, looking forward I am really desperately trying to work out which other nation may in the next 50 years constitute a credible air threat. I’ve got a resurgent Russia launching swarm style cruise missile attacks, but that’s about it so far.

April 6, 2012 9:16 pm

My bet is the £38 billion spent on Air Defence will never ever be used, thus putting it into CASD levels of VFM.

April 6, 2012 9:29 pm


Of ocurse we faced a Russian air threat during the cold war. The fact that it didn’t crystalise doesn’t mean it wasn’t a real threat. By that token the money spent preparing to meet it can’t be written down as altogether wasted.

(Similar things could be said about CASD. Just becuase we haven’t incinerated anyone doesn’t mean we aren’t getting VFM: quite the opposite.)

Other peer air threats: Malaya, Singapore & Crete. All in 1941. If you don’t count Korea as part of the cold war you could say we were there and that there was a peer air threat.

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 9:35 pm

@ James

What about China? According to one frequent non-British commentator here I am nut job for pushing the Chinese threat a good few decades hence. You don’t want to be in X’s Numpty Club do you?

April 6, 2012 9:39 pm

Hi James,

How about Korea when SeaFury was about the best that could be pitched against Mig-15s (I am not counting the RAF guys who were trained in America and flew Sabres).

Yes, jointness in this area is a fact and I actually read a Joint Doctrine or something, which had been put together in the time between the Falklands and Aster coming into service
– made a big play about radar capabilities now being better against land clutter than in the days of the SeaDart… a bit misplaced, because without AEW in any form, land cover (regardless of clutter) will still work.
– telling, too, that there was no updated edition (may be there is, but not in public domain)
– anyway, the whole thing (not a bad doc) smacked of encyclopedia style of writing rather than reading like a doctrine

April 6, 2012 9:42 pm


Also the underying point: do you believe in deterrance?

Or does all military spending have to result in someone’s day being spoiled to count as VFM?

Lord Fisher wasn’t actually hoping for Jutland when he built the Grand Fleet. He was hoping to prevent it.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 6, 2012 9:43 pm

The Army are getting CAMM(L) are they not? Which will offer a step change in capability. James, Korean war, Falkands war (imagine we did not have AIM9(L). Suez with Egyptian Mig 15s?
Typhoon will develop and as it was already used to drop bombs and fly CAP during OUP you lose your bet.
Plus if you can envisage succesfully every strateigic shock which may occur in the next 50 years you are not doing well you are a legend.
To illustrate some 50 year gaps between conflicts.
1876 siege of khartoum, 1916 battle of the somme.
1895 Jameson raid, 1945 atomic bomb on hiroshima.

April 6, 2012 9:49 pm

And soon every vehicle, especially those with a hatch on top, will have a shotgun as standard issue
– do you have to make the pellets bigger to improve the range against micro-UAVs? Or can you have some sort of group-saboted round, a bit like the HVM sp

April 6, 2012 9:50 pm

…spears (was the last word; sometimes the website just decides to do things on its own)

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 9:50 pm

Any who CVF is for dropping bombs on the Third World types without indoor plumbing not AAW or sinking ships; especially not the latter……..

April 6, 2012 9:58 pm

X @ 8:39 pm

During Market Garden they drew a line on the map which no Allied CAS aircraft could cross. The paras were left at the mercy of German air attacks. The US airborne even opened up a forward airbase which was intended for CAS aircraft however the RAF took control of it supposedly for evac flights, refusing permission for the fighter bombers to use it.

They may have had air superiority elsewhere but not over Arnhem where German aircraft were free to attack at will.

April 6, 2012 10:01 pm

No one will convince me we do not need AD, so I am glad no one is trying.

Equally, no one will convince me that AD is essentially a protecting function. It should never be the main strategic effort.

Examples such a Korea mean nothing now, being 60 odd years ago.

In a world of limited budgets, you have to apportion resources according to probabilities and threats.

Can anyone name a conflict in the next 10 years in which we are likely to face a credible air threat? No, no one can. And that has been predictable for the last 20 odd years since the end of the Cold War.

So, given bugger all credible threat, I say let’s spend some money on what we are actually likely to do. That is not the same as spend zero money on AD. Equally, it is not the same as the RAF and RN engaging in a financial orgy of ridiculously over-spending every penny we have not got, to face down a threat of some elderly Super Etendards or iranian Tomcats.

And guess what? Even if we did take some risks and are slightly caught out, we might lose a few planes. Well, shit happens. That’s war, and don’t anyone fucking dare tell me I’m being flippant, because I’ve served in a few.

We have lost nearly 1000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last ten years, and we don’t find £38 billion being spent to avoid a couple more deaths, do we?

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 10:07 pm

@ Jim

Did the Germans have much flying kit left?

steve taylor
April 6, 2012 10:17 pm

@ James

The figure I see banded about for the cost of Iran and Afghanistan wars is some £20billion.

And with deepest respect the Army has, despite some very advanced kit and considerable fire power, had their arses handed to them by a group of amateurs wielding a long arm 30 years old than than the SA80 and whose comm’s kit can be bought from Phones4U. I am wondering if they sit in their caves wondering how we can spend so much for so little.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 6, 2012 10:17 pm

James, Yes we have lost over a thousand soldiers in iraq and Afghanistan in wars of choice, not defensive wars! I have op toured in both, doing complement jobs, Iraq twice and if I want to call you flippant I will!
What would you have spent 38 billion on in order to avoid deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan? Maybe invading Iran etc in order to pursue those nasty insurgents even further.
We are spending money on core defensive capabilities, because they take time to develop and introduce into service and the world changes.
Korea means nothing now, well incase you havent noticed they are firing missiles which the Japanese are threatening to shoot down. Would we deploy to aid South Korea? More likely than spending another decade with an insufficient Brigade getting blown up By IEDS somewhere hot and dusty.

April 6, 2012 10:20 pm

“Can anyone name a conflict in the next 10 years in which we are likely to face a credible air threat? No, no one can”

Here goes: Eurozone economic meltdown leads to political meltdown; far right regime seizes power in Spain; attack on Gibralter; Typhoon threat to our relief force. Done.

I recognise that inventing future conflicts is easy and working out how to prioritise spending is hard.

If you could go back to 2001 what one critical piece of procurement would you have funded to save some of those 1,000 lives? Stryker perhaps.

April 6, 2012 10:38 pm

Hi James,

I agree “I say let’s spend some money on what we are actually likely to do. That is not the same as spend zero money on AD.”
– I was writing in the present tense about a Centre of Excellence, because my belief is that very soon that might be the case (one, dedicated RA Rgmnt, both training small detachments like the RM, but also ready to deploy whatever kind of asset might be required in the field)
– btw, SeaCeptor has been contracted but the land-based version is still far from it?

Ace Rimmer
April 6, 2012 11:01 pm

James, I’m not going to try and convince you, but I would repeat a suggestion I made on another thread, where I asked why even with our current technology, no-one has put forward a fire and forget MANPAD that is flexible enough to be used on both ground and aerial targets.

I’m thinking of a Stinger look-a-like that also has Javelin ATGW capabilities. Good enough to take out ground targets, flexible to point at the sky if the sh*t hits the fan.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 6, 2012 11:08 pm

AR Whilst at a slight tangent to your point, paprently star streak can penetrate 1M of armour at 6km. It takes 5 seconds to cover 6km so at 1km it would take approx 0.85 seconds and impact at a speed of approaching mach 3 so whilst not precisely fire and forget the next best thing.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
April 6, 2012 11:11 pm

James @ 10.01

You ask about things that could have been done to reduce the casualty rate in Iraq / A/stan?

Boxer – the great white hope that actually delivered.

Proper understanding of mine resistance from the start rather than tarting up trash and ignoring the rest of the world.

Invest in some proper light infantry tactics and stop treating the grunts as armed mules with huge rucksacks.

Learn from your mistakes.

I am not saying it would be easy but the BA is a much reduced force after its time in the ME / CA.

The current military love in with the mass media including the tax avoidance parts does the BA no favours, the last 10 years in history will read as being the Boer War that we lost.

April 6, 2012 11:18 pm

Hi Ace

Here comes:
out to 5 mls, 200mm armour, only Mach 2 though (against HVM Mach 3; but I trust the warhead more than the kinetic power of HVM)

April 6, 2012 11:40 pm

I feel I have to step in to point out that Starstreak cannot penetrate 1000mm of armour steel. Basic physics should indicate that a Mach 3, 300g projectile cannot substantially outperform a Mach 5, 5kg+ projectile (120mm APFSDS)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 6, 2012 11:49 pm

MR F, dont shoot the messenger, I had heard people talk about it and found some stuff online.

April 7, 2012 8:29 am

ACC “The system can hit targets flying as high as 16,500 feet.” and theres the problem, how many attacking aircraft are flying that low. What height were Typhoon and Tornado dropping Brimstone at over Libya ?

April 7, 2012 8:34 am

Is it not planned to park a T45 on the Thames during the Olympics as we don’t have a creditable land based AA defence system.

April 7, 2012 8:48 am

Hi Jim,

Part of layered defence, of course, present in great numbers in the vicinity of high-value targets or the main area of ops
RE “as high as 16,500 feet.” and theres the problem,how many attacking aircraft are flying that low”
– just takes off the option of fast-and-low, to get under the longer ranged defences
– you can still get under, but if the distributed* sensors tell where you are approaching from… that’s why Boliden has the head-on capability (they claim it is unique, but then again, everyone will have to come out with differentiators in marketing speak)

*mainly people, but what they’ll need is an instant channel to the central node (and voice is no good, because aggregation will need to be instanteneous, too).

April 7, 2012 9:19 am

@Jim: they are planning on installing Rapier and Starstreak in various parts of London :-)

April 7, 2012 10:30 am


I’m not having a pop at any one person, but common sense should be applied to all information, especially that found on line.
1000mm RHA is superior to almost all dedicated anti-tank weapons. The penetration method is known and the kinetic energy of the Starstreak darts is easily calculated. It is more than likely that 1000mm is a typo that has been repeated without anyone making a critical appraisal. If the figure was 100mm RHAe, then that would be believable.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 7, 2012 12:07 pm

RE: Type 41 Frigates: “Designed as an Air Defense Frigate utilising the Common Frigate Hull concept she was armed with two twin 4.5″ Mk VI gun turrets…
It was hoped the 4.5″ with automatic loading would combine the rapid rate of fire of the 4″ with most of the punch of the 4.7″

Sadly it did not. The automatic loading mechanism was so prone to jamming that the gun had to hand loaded, although it still retained some automated handling the rate of fire the designed specification of 24 rounds a minute was cut in half and left the barrage capability of the Type 41 sadly depleted…
In total defiance of all the lessons of WWII she carried very little light AA, being fitted with only the amazing STAAG system, a twin 40mm gun mount that weighed in at a boggling 15 tons…
Lynx remained operational until 1982 but was not reactivated for the Falklands war, an odd omission as her twin turrets would have been very useful for NGS and air support in the cramped waters of San Carlos.”

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 7, 2012 12:27 pm

RE: SAM’s as ATGW’s. I have heard about Stinger (and the Russian copies) already being used as such, the IR seeker looking on to hot engines, etc. As that is usually a weak spot in the armour a mobility kill might be possible? Also I recently read that the USAF has updated their Sidewinders to attack ground attacks of opportunity.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 7, 2012 1:12 pm
April 7, 2012 2:08 pm

One stumbling point with conventional SAMs and AAMs being used against ground targets is that they are typically proximity fused, so they will airburst some distance from the target. Dangerous against softskins* but not AFVs, which will be armoured against airbursting artillery shells.
Starstreak and similar are a bit different, being both command to line of sight, so they go where ever you tell them to, and Starstreak itself is impact fused only.

*if it is the target that initiates it and not, for example, a tree.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
April 7, 2012 2:48 pm

Perhaps more dual/multi-use weapon systems would be desirable?

steve taylor
April 7, 2012 3:12 pm

@ Gareth J

Well the T12s were supposed to have the twin 3in gun QF in the Mark N1 mount. Mk6 is described as semi-automatic. After that vid young Chris posted I have hankering (speaking to way too many Yanks at the moment) for one of those Oto 76mmm being fitted onto the T45s. Imagine if space could be found back aft for another mount? Who ever designed T45’s upper works needs flogging; the more I look the crapper the class’ general configuration becomes.

April 7, 2012 3:33 pm


That’s a tad harsh. Most of the design is signature reduction measures. Not sure where all this up-gunning has come from what you’re suggesting seems unnecessary. 45 has a very capable layered defense with Aster and Phalanx, and effective surface gun power in 4.5″, ASCG and Phalanx.

April 7, 2012 3:34 pm

The only change I would have made is to have the Phalanx fore and aft instead of on the beams – gives better 360 coverage and both can bear on an abeam target.

April 7, 2012 3:57 pm

With a Phalanx at the bow you can also turn towards the threat giving a smaller target.

steve taylor
April 7, 2012 4:07 pm

@ Somewhat

A good flogging never hurt anybody! Really I am only a tad unhappy with the design. And if what I wrote didn’t read with hint of tongue in cheek I must be losing my touch.

Any way I agree with you up to a point about the positioning of Phalanx because as you say of arcs. But I also think the “experts” those people who we naughty armchair admirals often try to second guess are probably right to put them on the beams. If you note the Italian Horizons have a 76mm on the hangar roof to cover those arcs that concern you. And by chance replacing the Mk8 as I just joked with a 76mm would also cover those arcs as well as being useful for the rare shot across bows policing type job. I do think the Mk8 is getting a bit long in the tooth now compares with 5in (127mm) and 76mm guns. As we know there were other plans for the gun system for T45 but to save money HMG went with Mk8. And the same could be said of Phalanx; it too is getting a bit old. Though one could ask why wasn’t the T45 designed from the get go to take a larger CIWS as the trend seems to be towards bigger guns in that role. Indeed one wonders where all the Goalkeeper mounts are from B3 T22 and Invincible. So really I don’t understand how you can say adding an extra gun back aft in the place where you would have a gun and indeed just asking for a modern gun system to replace the 40 year old plus gun system (Mod 1 mods to one side) on a new class is really “up gunning”. You make it sound like I was asking for 3 x triple 8in mounts. The Italians don’t think 3 x 3in guns are excessive. The Zumwalts will have 4 mounts (2 x 155mm, 2 x 57mm) You are very much a product of your service; a service where anything that shoots real ordnance is to be look on warily!!! (BTW that was a joke…….. )

steve taylor
April 7, 2012 4:12 pm

@ Jim

The missile will go for the thickest part of its target. And it will be coming down a bearing. Better for it to run into a stream of 20mm solid slugs.

April 7, 2012 5:16 pm


It seems likely that Goalkeeper is being gradually retired in favour of standardisation. The only ships mounting it that are here for the long term are the LPDs, and I can’t see the RN retaining those four mounts in service with everything else toting Phalanx.

If the service must standardise on one CIWS, Phalanx is the only practical answer.

steve taylor
April 7, 2012 5:33 pm

@ Anixtu

Yes I know. :) I suppose with RAM and laser weapons using the Phalanx chassis it may be a good decision. Though it being a decision made for economic more than for technical reasons I would hardly crow that the RN have made some super astute choice based on profound understanding of AAW requirements over the next few decades.

April 7, 2012 5:34 pm

Would Phalanx be able to handle an incomming brahmos? India and Russia are talking of selling the missile so its not a far fetched scenario in the medium term.

If we did upgrade to SeaRAM would this replace Phalanx or would we need to find mounts for both?

April 7, 2012 5:37 pm

Phalanx is going to be the RN’s default CIWS – Goalkeeper is being phased out and will eventually be replaced by Phalanx on LPD’s once enough remanufactured 1B’s become available. Phalanx 1B is extremely effective with its TV and thermal imagers and it is dual role anti-surface and anti-air. They’re not on Dauntless because she is not going to be shooting down any Exocet or Super E’s on her deployment, so not mounting them saves us having a pair of mounts beaten up by Southlant seas. It’s also a political statement. Phalanx is east of Suez fit only now – that is both a cost saving and a reflection of the likely risk to ships.

The only real shortcoming of the Mk8 is range and accuracy in the land attack role. It is still an effective ASuW weapon when used with the GPEOD or manual directors, and can be fired at very close range if required, i.e. ASCG/Phalanx ranges. Greater weapons cover aft might be a consideration for the swarm type threat, but the T45 design was penned before such threats became credible. Perhaps there will be a nod in that direction in the final shape of T26.

April 7, 2012 5:39 pm


Smaller visual cross section perhaps, not necessarily a smaller radar cross section. The brightest radar flash of any ship design is the bow, stern and beams where you have big flat surfaces to bounce it back.

steve taylor
April 7, 2012 6:01 pm

Can you see T45 being used on the gun line? I suppose with fewer and fewer escorts it will happen. But I also suppose MoD(N) will argue it won’t happen enough though for them to invest in something like Vulcano.

April 7, 2012 8:22 pm

For me we need to face the fact that the gun is now a secondary weapons system and settle for ‘good enough’.

Any funds we can rake together to improve our Land Attack and Anti Ship missions should be directed towards the VLS: presumably someone on our side is developing multi-role Mach 3 and Mach 7 missiles to complement TLAM?

April 7, 2012 9:46 pm

Anxiatu, SomeWhatInvolved et al

Lets get one thing straight, Phalanx as an anti-missile CIWS is obsolescent and has been for nearly 20 years – the longer barrels and improved ammo mean nothing and are unlikely to take down anything other than cheap Chinese knock off’s of the Styx, or early model Exocets. Against an FGA with a half decent rocket (such as our CRV7) it does not have enough range – BUT with it’s improved optics and improved manual command modes it is a good anti small boat swarm weapon system.

If the budget would allow then levering the investment in the mount by converting to SeaRAM would be a good idea.

April 7, 2012 9:48 pm

To sharpen the question I would say we should be installing Sylver 70 or Mk 41 VLS into both T45 and T26 before we spend a penny a sexy new rapid fire gun with guided ammunition.

1 This will allow us Storm Shadow / TLAM

2 We can integrate a new AShM into the VLS eliminating the separate Harpoon firing system.

3 When the Americans develop a Brahmos clone it will be launched from a VLS and not a gun.

April 7, 2012 9:52 pm


Agree on SeaRAM, but would you also retain the Phalanx gun for the small boat killing mission? Could both weapone be squeezed onto the same radar mount?

April 8, 2012 12:18 am

Definitely prefer to see money go to new Sylver A70 cells before anymore gun upgrades (can’t see the Mk.41 making an appearance on T45 because of Aster) but I think the gun issue has merit in the long run with the new Volcano ammunition, as demonstrated by the video linked to by X.

Perhaps when the Type 45’s come in for a refit they could be given both if the proper funding is set aside for it now (stop laughing).

The question is with the Type 26, whether you go for the full 5″ gun or with a 76mm (3″) to try and save a bit of cash and space in the short run. Still got 30km of range plus a supporting role in air defence.

April 8, 2012 1:19 am


One of the post mission observations of anti-piracy patrols off the Gulf of A. that was published is that in OOTW ops, a smaller gun is more flexible for use in that role. If you were to design a pure warship out to kill other ships or NGS, 5″ would be worth it, but for things like shooting up the engine of a hijacked tanker, a smaller, hyperaccurate mount is better. After all, you want to recapture the ship, not send it sky high :). The paper recommended smaller mounts with a High/Low ROF control, low ROF for OOTW “sniping” shots, high for threats and to tear up other warships. Will have to see how that works out.

The American Brahmos “clone” is the Waverider project.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 1:32 am

Observer, Like the ASCG 30mm mounted on T23 frigates perhaps? Waverider is a “hypersonic flight test bed” which will undoubtedly contribute to future missile technology is not a missile in itself. It is effectively an engine demonstrator, in some ways far more sophisticated than Brahmos but without any seeker head tech etc at the moment.

April 8, 2012 1:52 am

APATS, the 30mm would work, but I believe the original question was 5″ or 3″. And no, not talking about willy size.

I never said the Waverider was a missile, I said it was a project, though I can see how the misunderstanding came about. The Waverider has potential to become a missile, but that is years in the future, not to mention the design goals were different. Brahmos was a missile from the get go. Waverider was designed to test the hypersonic concept as a vehicle.

April 8, 2012 1:55 am

Sorry was interupted.


Why I mentioned the Waverider was that that is the most likely hypersonic project that a missile can grow out from, and if any Brahmos II competitor is going to appear, it’s going to be from here. Lots of work to be done for that to happen though.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 2:24 am

We do have a fascination with Brahmos on these pages. Yes it goes fast and at 300km it goes a reasonably long way. Couple of questions.
1. Who has it that would want to fire it at us?
2. how good is the seeker head etc? Could we maybe jam it using active off ship soft kill?

April 8, 2012 3:50 am

APATs, it’s being offered on sale. That’s what’s worrying. And the reason why there is a facination with it is that you hope for the best, but actually try to prepare for the worst, and a Mach 7 HV AShM is probably among “the worst” that anyone can think of. Look on the bright side, if you can defend against it, anything lower than that is going to be “yawn..” worthy.

Coming from Singapore, our “friendly neighbour” Malaysia is considering them for their new frigates. Can I worry now? :) Which ironically is one of the reasons for going down the “stealth” ship pathway. Can’t shoot what you can’t see.

As for ECM, that is also where the speed worry comes in. There is simply so much less reaction time to power up ECM and figure out how to spoof the missile than if it was slower. Not to mention seeker heads can be swapped fairly easily, or even have multi-mode intergrated seekers nowadays. I’m not sure if anyone got a cheap AESA radar onto a missile yet, but the ability to evade jamming + a TI function to counter chaff clouds is going to be hard to stop.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 4:00 am

Observer, The hypersonic version is still a concept. Not being able to shoot what you cannot see is a very good point why it is difficult to exploit the full range of ASMs you literally fire it at where you think the enemy are or where they were.
Without wanting to get a visit from people to my door, as long as you know what the threat is responses are pre planned so you are not working out how to do it.

April 8, 2012 4:30 am

APATs unless you have a realtime orbital surveillance system over an area, which the Chinese are doing (Beidong) in conjuncture with their BM shipkillers. Of course, figuring out how to crack this nut isn’t really time critical as I seriously doubt anyone is planning to invade China in the near future.

Actually, 300km is a fairly short range, considering we were talking about TShMs with ranges of up to a thousand kilometers. Same problem though.

“threat is responses are pre planned so you are not working out how to do it.”

And once they know you know, they’ll do something and hope you don’t know that they know that you know…. :P

It’s always a race between defences and weapons, most telling being the CIWS (Phalanx/Goalkeeper etc) and counter-CIWS missiles (Onyx/Mosquit etc) and counter-counter CIWS missile missiles (SeaRAM etc)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 4:37 am

Observer, Indeed the biggest threat comes from an unnaounced suprise attack. Once you are at war then you can do things about satellites and surveilance and launchers etc.
The problem with such races is that they are very rarely ever tested. They are however extensively modelled, simulated and exercised.

April 8, 2012 5:17 am

And you know what they say about simulations vs reality. :)

About pre-planned responses, you also have to assume that you know what the enemy is going to do. Guess wrong, and there is a chance of kissing a 5B pound ship goodbye. Add to the problem multi-function seeker heads, which function are you going to jam? TI? Radar? Both? The person programming the shot can simply be choosing modes based on whim or dice, which is why time to figure out what mode is being used is so critical.

April 8, 2012 5:41 am

“Observer, The hypersonic version is still a concept”

Just did some checking. Yup, it’s still a concept, they only just finished final design testing this year. Probably will only see it out next year.

Time to hide. :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 6:48 am

Observer, you are a pessimist. Computer modeling and simulation have come a long way and you can actually make it harder than real life.
Hypersonic Brahmos end of the decade, neither the Indians(indigenous fighter and MTB) or the Russians have a great track record with really advanced stuff.
Again without going classified, there are some very good indicators which mode a missile is using.

April 8, 2012 8:37 am

Hi APATS & Observer,

Good discussion going.

Yakhont, Brahmos and Brahmos II are evolutions, each being the previous generation, in that order.

Because “the West” has had these kinds of missiles on a fairly low development priority, there are now three in parallel development in the US:
– the mentioned sea-based hyperstrike, which will have a huge range
– two more: subsonic & stealthy, going low all the way vs. a supersonic one going up and then diving

The latter two will come to the Critical Design Evaluation soon , and only one will proceed (will be with us way before Perseus, anyway).

The hyper-thingy is a derivation of the Global Hyper Stike, and as you report the technology is still being proved.

April 8, 2012 9:01 am

APATS you misunderstood.

Live fire test for the ground launched version was completed this year, operational 2013. Air launched and ship launched to be tested next year 2013. I wasn’t being flippant when I said next year.

You underestimated them by 5 years. Indians can do good stuff… provided their politics let them. And luckily for them, the Brahmos was fairly untouched from the rest of the massacre the politicians did of their armed forces.

April 8, 2012 10:31 am

Hi Observer,

I think you are mixing up the versions; this man here comes with all the bragging rights
– the interim development is putting the first version on AIP subs (still to be built; how many years are they behind with the Scorpenes which we meant to come out of the box and help to tool up the industry to produce their own designs)
– the latest test (March) was just to confirm that the first generation is good for coastal defence, too, and two army rgmnts will receive it

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 11:16 am


Though I am concerned about us stopping them I am just as concerned about us sinking them too. :)

April 8, 2012 11:43 am

I think there is too much worry going into the Brahmos threat. It may well be on sale, but it is not cheap and will be relatively difficult for second and third world navies to afford.

Phalanx will be almost useless against it because of sheer mass and velocity, but then the majority of threats we face are not fifth generation hypersonic battering rams but third and fourth generation Exocet and Styx derivatives manufactured and developed by China. Those can still be countered effectively with systems like SeaWolf and Phalanx.

That said, even the SeaRAM will struggle to knock such large weapons out of the sky at such close range. What you need is a high-g capable manoeuvring SAM coupled with an advanced radar mounted high up to detect, classify and indicate the threat in good time to destroy it. The design philosophy behind Aster and Type 45. I still absolutely maintain that T45 is the most capable AAW warship in service and could easily handle a salvo of Brahmos or similar. SeaCeptor (such an awful name) has a range advantage over SeaRAM so ought to be able to deal with the same threats at the minimum range.

Not enough credit is given here to soft kill capabilities, i.e. decoys and jamming. We deploy the Mk251 Active Decoy Round in RN service as well as a number of other decoys. All of them are significantly more capable than most people on this site would credit them with. In fact I’d go so far as to say soft kill right now was more effective than hard kill.

April 8, 2012 11:45 am

Anyway, India and Russia aren’t tooling up to meet the Western threat, but the Eastern one. If ever a Brahmos is fired in anger, it will probably be at a Chinese target not a Western one.

April 8, 2012 11:52 am

The CEO’s statement I linked to was not clear on the “not for sale” – was it regarding B I or B II (in the case of the latter, there is nothing to sell for a good while still)

April 8, 2012 12:26 pm

Off a wiki reference

“BrahMos II land variant design has been completed and 4 Land to Land test variants are ready to be tested. Rest of the variants will be tested in the successive years of 2012-13, design is projected to be completed by October 2011 [67] and will arm the Project 15B destroyers of the Indian Navy. In Russian navy project 21956 Destroyers are most likely to be equipped with BrahMos II. [68]”

April 8, 2012 12:35 pm


That’s true, but I really like my AA to be able to handle all threats. Besides, if it’s done once, you can bet others will follow or copy, so it’s good to try to be a bit ahead on the curve. Astor and the Ceptor (there goes English spelling) do seem to be good for the job. SeaRAM? 8km is about 4 sec at Mach 7. Not very promising. Decoys and ECM? Might be worth a look too, but remember, radar jamming only works until AESA gets built in. Think the Japs already have an AESA missile.

April 8, 2012 12:40 pm

Heat, dynamic pressure, drag and flight control software issues are several orders of magnitude greater for hypersonics at sea level compared to high altitude (which we currently can’t do) and at high level are orders of magnitude more difficult than super sonic travel. Hypersonic vehicles flying in none space re entry trajectories in earths atmosphere are IMO a generation away at least in any useable form.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 1:07 pm

Somewhat said “Not enough credit is given here to soft kill capabilities, i.e. decoys and jamming. We deploy the Mk251 Active Decoy Round in RN service as well as a number of other decoys. All of them are significantly more capable than most people on this site would credit them with. In fact I’d go so far as to say soft kill right now was more effective than hard kill.”

Reminds of a story I read about a USN commander visiting a T42. He was shown quickly around the weapons on the weather deck and was a bit underwhelmed. He was then shown to ops and given a comprehensive talk on all the various electronic gizmos and all their mind bending capabilities. At the end of tour he turned to his hosts and said “Gee you guys no exactly when you are going to die..” The reason why, supposedly, HMG funds a navy is to inflict violence on other nations not to field the missiles and armaments of other nations. You can argue that all these systems, soft kill or hard kill, is that they aren’t perfect. There is always a margin. Isn’t the FI War a lesson in how temperamental “modern” systems can fail (either for technical or operator derived reasons) and result in sip’s being lost?

April 8, 2012 1:26 pm

“Not enough credit is given here to soft kill capabilities, i.e. decoys and jamming.”

And this is why we must all here recognise that our opinions and comments and above all, criticisms must be tempered with the realisation that we don’t and cannot know everything.

For example, one might criticise the RN for not having enough CIWS yet soft kill may be far more effective as is said and our ships as safe as they can be with it. But because we cannot know about its abilities we cannot comment on it. Which skews the whole debate.

April 8, 2012 1:41 pm


The Falklands was a long time ago, and supposedly ‘modern’ systems failed on both sides (Argentine bombs and ASW tactics?). There were a lot of lessons learned from the mistakes that were made, and I’d like to think that analysis process is better today than ever. Besides, we took a blue water navy optimised for North Atlantic submarine hunting and effected an amphibious invasion of defended territory against a capable aggressor, so no surprise things went wrong. Atlantic Conveyor could have survived the Exocet raid if the escorts had placed their chaff better.

Warship design, like everything else, is always a compromise of affordability against probable threat. The RN has elected to follow a certain philosophy in its warship design which compared to some navies may seem inadequate, and to others overkill. We’re in the midst of an update process (SWMLU, 997, Aster/Sampson, SeaCeptor) that will allow us to deal with the newest generation of threats as well as the old, and the soft kill systems are not being ignored. Harpoon may be old and slow, but it is still quite difficult to defeat by all but the most modern navies. None of it is perfect, but it could be a lot worse.

Funny how a USN commander would make such a comment. After all it was a 42 that shot down the Silkworm that was heading for the Missouri in GW1 whilst its escort was busy shooting at chaff (although to be fair it would probably have just bounced off the Missouri).

April 8, 2012 1:44 pm

Anyone have a deck plan for the latest generation of Ro-Ro such as Tonsberg etc particularly where the hoistable decks are in relation to the weather deck and how much height there is from weather deck to first fixed deck

April 8, 2012 1:52 pm

“Isn’t the FI War a lesson in how temperamental “modern” systems can fail (either for technical or operator derived reasons) and result in sip’s being lost?”

Embrace the chaos.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 2:00 pm

@ Somewhat

Well the Silkworm was old and slow. :)

I used to work on high end IT kit equipment. In qualitative terms it was several factors beyond the quality of your typical good quality PC and was looked after by highly trained and experienced
technicians and that stuff failed. And it was doing zero knots in a controlled environment without anybody firing at us (often!) I admire your confidence in your equipment perhaps my background doesn’t make so sanguine in the ability of IT systems to remain on line 100% of the time.

As for Harpoon I have argued the same. But remind me how many of the latter are screwed down on to Dauntless deck at the moment? You may say there is no real threat and I would agree. But then we are not that far of arguing why send any ship at all aren’t we?

I under stand the RN philosophy concerning EW over kinetic capabilities. But perhaps I find it a bit too subtle. I wonder how many ships have sailed over the last two decades or so with even some of those electronic wonder weapons switched off, not fitted, or not working? Further in terms of system costs for the likes Harpoon we are talking what less than one percent of the total platform cost? And I am also told not to underestimate the abilities of the large far eastern navies. But if you are comfortable with a growing mismatch not only in firepower (size and speed of missiles and numbers afloat) and growing EW capabilities of potential enemies who I am to argue? :)

April 8, 2012 2:01 pm

Cracking article TD and a particular thanks for the link to the RAN News! Oh if only Navy News were similar ;-)

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 2:01 pm

@ Phil re chaos

I accept the chaos that is what is worrying me.

April 8, 2012 2:21 pm


What would you expect from such a conflict? Almost any situation that involves humans operating under pressure, with unknown and potentially disastrous outcomes equates to chaos on some level.

Now take 30,000 odd thousand humans, put them in almost a hundred ships, and move them from the environment they trained in and from the threats they expected to face into new and extreme environments and new threats and I can’t imagine the situation would have turned out to be anything other than chaotic at times.

All the assumptions about the threats, environment suddenly become latent errors that can precipitate disasters when taken into a new context.

So you have a Navy structured to fight on the high seas mainly against submarine threat having to engage aircraft with clutter from land masses and on attack profiles not expected.

April 8, 2012 2:36 pm


There’s a difference between sending a warship minus a couple of deployment extras to a low threat environment, and not sending one at all. As I’ve always tried to point out, warships are diplomatic tools not merely warfighting ones – the political furore over Montrose being turned away from Peru is a case in point. Dauntless will have been tasked to do any number of things, from exercising with the Falklands air defence organisation (for which she is superbly equipped) to diplomatic visits to Brazil and other countries, and lots in between. She is still a deterrent in many ways, even if she is not fully scaled up to take on the Argies single handedly.

Articulating the non-warfighting capabilities of warships is always a tricky one to get right, and I’m not particularly well equipped to do it. However, a cocktail party isn’t just about the junior watchkeepers getting a free G&T! (waiting for the comeback on that one!!)

Our IT is rather shocking. But that’s the result of years of separation between the defence industry and civilian technological advances. I think the gap is getting smaller, but as always with new tech the more advanced it is, the less likely you are to be able to fix it when it breaks. I don’t think we can really afford to be too dependent on a Dell or Thales technician, so it does take time to select systems that aren’t so advanced we can’t maintain them. Anyway, we don’t need supercomputers just yet – even a Pentium II does the job!


As always it’s how you deal with chaos isn’t it? Kit is one element, training very much another. I do think however that we are moving in the right direction and increasing our littoral survival capabilities.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 2:47 pm

@ Phil

I think we are talking about conflicts to come no the FI War so much. Perhaps having read a huge amount on the FI War that is why I am not so confident in electronic systems and our lack of firepower. We have to assume I suppose that China is despite our dependence on iPads and takeaway food they are the (potential) enemy that has to be countered. The Argentine navy scuttled back to port after losing one ship in a war where 3 SSNs and an SSK at sea to counter what was then a 3rd tier navy. We have fewer units now and I don’t think China will be as easily subdued as their quality and numbers grow over the next few decades. I suppose we will hide behind the USN. As I said understand the RN’s EW/soft kill game plan but it is very defensive in nature. I think the Chinese will catch up in that area and will have invested in a range of kinetic capabilities too. Only one has to get through. But the chances of one getting through are increased if you have more weapons to start with. Every European nation has put their principal AAW to sea with ASM missiles (and ASW fit out); heck there are even pictures of of the new Danish escorts with 16 Harpoon tubes. It is hard to reconcile the RN being right and the Chinese, Indians, Russians, and other Europeans being wrong. It is about a range of options.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 2:55 pm

Somewhat said “There’s a difference between sending a warship minus a couple of deployment extras to a low threat environment, and not sending one at all. As I’ve always tried to point out, warships are diplomatic tools not merely warfighting ones”

Yes I know, this is the choir you are preaching too! :) The point for discussion isn’t what warships get used for 98% of the time. The point up for discussion is 10 years from now in the Indian Ocean when the balloon has gone up whether the RN has options available to inflict damage on the enemy or just to field fire. I am not specifically talking about the Falklands situation. That was just a vehicle to hang the discussion off. As I have just said to the boy Phil it is hard to reconcile what “we” do against when others seems to be taking a different tack. I will say again I do understand, as much as somebody in my position can, the RN’s approach to EW. I know in many ways the RN is still world leaders in that area. And I do appreciate the subtly of the idea.

April 8, 2012 3:09 pm

Anyway x, we’re all assuming that the RN will be involved in such a conflict. If it happens, I’m certain it’ll be India vs. China and we will be bystanders, maybe getting involved to protect our own interests but not much more than that.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 3:17 pm

Observer, You are getting block II and Brahmos 2 confused mate.
X, Any situation likely to involve Ship to ship combat with a peer opponent is not going to involve the RN in isolation and would allow sufficient time for integration of a plug and play ASM missile onboard.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 3:42 pm

@ Somewhat

Perhaps. But if we are not to fight China and other potential threats like the Argentines are really none threats one could ask who do you think who the RN’s potential opponents are?

@ Apats

As I said being able to attack the ships of others is a pretty fundamental capability for a navy to have isn’t it? Surely this is taking sharing or mix and matching capabilities a bit too far?

And yes I understand that plugging say the likes of Harpoon into a T45’s system is trivial. So trivial I wonder why the RN has done it before send Dauntless south.

@ Both

I am waiting James to appear and say the pair of you are basically arguing the navy is an irrelevance!!!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 3:46 pm

X,Dauntless is down South in a defensive posture. Adding Harpoon(an offensive missile) for the first time to a T45 before sending it South would have been siezed on by the mad Argy woman.

April 8, 2012 3:58 pm

So many comments to catch up on due to the time difference! Happy Easter every one……… so where to begin:

* 76mm versus 127mm (or even 114mm) – as we are not, and probably will not ever by using any medium calibre gun to ‘disable the engines” of pirated merchant ships it is a moot and indeed rather silly discussion. Even with Vulcano rounds 76mm does not cut it for a Navy working for a government obsessd with intervention and “power projection”

* Hypersonics – Waverider has nothing to do with either of the two funded DARPA projects for next gen AShM for USN/USAF – one of which is supersonic VL for ships, other is subsonic and stealthy for air launch.

As noted Waverider may eventually feed into the “Prompy Global Strike

April 8, 2012 4:18 pm

Arrgh sorry, Android tablet issues with comments box! As much as i have always disliked “Pompey” the idea of a Hypersonic missile for dealing with it is abit over the top :-)

* Supersonic threats are bad enough without worrying about non existing Hypersonics, and yes that is the whole point behind T45 weapons system – but as SeaCeptor will require either a reasonably sophisticated radar or passive threat warning system to cue it, there are many vessels in RN / RFA that would benefit greatly from SeaRAM

* EW / soft kill – when I joined RN immediately post FI we were behind the USN SLQ32 systems, by quite away. UAA1 and onwards were excellent passive radar threat warning systems but Type 670 jammer was a crude piece of kit, which was thought to be good against Silkworm, but would attract an Exocet via ‘via home on jam’ ! The 675 which replaced it was a highly sophisticated deception jammer, supposedly as good as any yank kit – it is now out of service, and I don’t know if we have replaced it’s capabilities. Rocket launched off board jammers have replaced the Lynx be used in anti-missile mode, for which it carried a jamming pod (can’t remember the designation).

* AESA missile seekers – of course they can be jammed or confused, it is just more difficult!

* multi-mode seekers – their are countermeasures for IR seekers, but rocket launched parachute IR flares no longer cut it, but ships have the power for laser based active IR / optical countermeasures. RN got caught out by the press as far back as mid 80’s when we had manually aimed continuous wave laser blinders – i seem to remember the controversy being that these were against the Geneva Conventions, and our response being that they were only for use against Iranian TV guided Mavericks, not the pilots of the F4’s launching them………. honest!

April 8, 2012 4:24 pm

There appears to be some schizophrenia here sometimes.

The MoD is berated for cost over-runs and project time slipping. And yet it is also often berated, especially in warship design, for not having every bell and whistle on every vessel.

T45 is an AAW unit. It does not at present need a ASM. If and when it does, it can be fitted. In the meantime there is no need to take up a finite pot of money maintaining and deploying a weapon system that has been fired a handful of times with mixed success. I have no doubt that T45 will eventually have a ASM fitted, when it needs it. In the meantime an awful lot of money will have been saved and hopefully spent on better more core roles for other kit and units.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 4:25 pm

@ Apats

I don’t think many Argentines or British know Harpoon from a drain pipe. I appreciate what you mean by defence posture.

April 8, 2012 4:26 pm


Oh that’s a good one! However, I can safely say I have no idea who our future opponents are.

Having been given a great introduction to future threats by the Joint Services Staff College, it’s safe to say that over the next forty or fifty years there will be any number of different and diverse threats emerging. I could go on for hours. But the bottom line is – nobody knows (maybe I should hold up a little card like in QI!). Because of that, our outlook must be to be flexible and adaptable to crises, able to scale our efforts from peacekeeping through to full scale but localised conflict. This applies to ALL arms of the military, not just the RN. It must encompass an ability to defend our interests across the globe (be they territories, access routes or resources), and be interoperable with all nations but prioritising those with similar global capability – i.e. US and France. Call me a traditionalist but that screams maritime-centric strategy to me.

It got rebuffed when I mentioned it last time, but I stand by the DCDC’s document ‘Global Strategic Trends – out to 2040’. Read the executive summary if nothing else – it does a pretty good job of trying to read the tea leaves. Maybe TD could do a piece on it – it’s a guess, but as well informed a guess as can be.

April 8, 2012 4:29 pm

Jed, the future Maritime Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (MIDAS) will encompass all aspects of missile defence in a fully integrated system, including laser dazzle. In development now. On another note entirely, chaff is almost out of service, will be fully eliminated by the new Mk 217 radar decoy next year.

April 8, 2012 4:31 pm

APATs go do a Google search.

I’m well aware of the difference between Mk 1 Version 2 and Mk 2 Version 0.

Might want to check up on more source material. A lot of it says the Mk 2 Land attack version is out.

steve taylor
April 8, 2012 4:33 pm

@ Somewhat

I don’t know! I come here campaigning for a 1000 ship nuclear powered navy are you professionals can’t come up with somebody to have a bun fight. :)

April 8, 2012 4:33 pm


I disagree, if a warships ‘standard’ fit should include Harpoon, then that should be carried at all times, having a vessel of that size, cost and complexity be no threat at all to other vessels beyond Lynx directed 4.5 inch fire is absurd.

Do you honestly think El Pesidente Loco is going to change her message based on whether not the Imperialist pigs warship is carrying a specific weapons system ?

April 8, 2012 4:34 pm

The trouble with documents like that, is that whilst they can sometimes grasp mega-trends, they just don’t foresee significant events.

Pick any 40 year period in the 20th Century and compare the world at the start and end of them. No way anyone could have predicted anything except in the very broadest terms and even then the lack of detail makes it almost useless. You can’t explain the trouble in the Middle East without knowing about Israel and you can’t understand Israel without knowing about the Holocaust.

So many things wrong with documents like that.

Interesting but not very useful.

April 8, 2012 4:35 pm

Hey jed, she’ll just make something up anyway, like a Vanguard doing a patrol around the Falklands! Controlled, no doubt, by the imperialist pig-dog conqueror William Wales…

April 8, 2012 4:36 pm

Okay Phil, so what’s the alternative?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 4:38 pm
All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 8, 2012 4:41 pm

Jed, had it been fitted I would not have taken it of f but it was not. Politically fitting it when we didn’t for daring going to the Gulf would have been an own goal.