If we are to discuss improving capabilities for moving ‘men and material’ from ship to shore it is important to look at existing capabilities, those of the UK and our allies to compare and contrast.
UK ship to shore logistics is spread across multiple services and organisations;
- The Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm (CHF)
- The British Army
- The Royal Fleet Auxiliary
- The Royal Air Force
- Civilian Strategic RORO Service
With possible additions coming from standard civilian ship charters and in extremis, Ships Taken Up From Trade or STUFT.
It is either a model of jointery or a complex inter service mosaic, perhaps depending on your perspective!
What is certain is that within the overall capacity constraints, it works, works well and amongst NATO is second only to the USA in depth and breadth.
In this post I am going to concentrate on the logistics elements, so for example, HMS Ocean will only warrant a small mention and equipment soon due out of service such as the RLC RCL’s will also only get a small mention.
- The Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm (CHF)
- The British Army
- The Royal Fleet Auxiliary
- The Royal Air Force
- Civilian Strategic RORO Service
- Futures and Observations
- Other Posts in the Series
Landing Platform Dock (LPD)
From the Royal Navy website;
The Albion Class, Landing Platform Dock ships (LPD) primary function is to embark, transport, and deploy and recover (by air and sea) troops and their equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous cargo, forming part of an Amphibious Assault Force.
HMS Albion is at Extended Readiness as part of SDSR 2010 force reductions
Four davits carry the LCVP Mk5 landing craft
The LPD’s are also equipped with a side loading ramp
The most important feature of this class of vessel is the very large floodable well dock, with enough room for four of the large LCU Mk 10′s in two rows or combinations of smaller craft. The central barrier can also be removed.
At about 1 minute 40 seconds into the video below is a good illustration of the well dock in action
Above the well dock is a mobile gantry crane from Houlder and SCX Special Projects that can lift 4.5 tonnes, mainly used for stores pallets for example. The JSP 467 compliant installation used surplus equipment from HMS Ark Royal
Accommodation depends on overload conditions but normally it is a couple of RM Companies plus supporting personnel although the exact nature of the embarked force will vary considerably depending on needs and can be increased to around 700 in overload conditions.
Vehicle capacity can include everything from Land Rovers to Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks and everything in between.
if HMS Ocean has a higher number of personnel but very little in terms of vehicles and stores, the LPD’s reverse that relationship and include significant command and control facilities as well.
The LPD is the business end of amphibious operations with all the small craft now co-located with the bigger ships
HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion are due out of service in 2034 and 2033 respectively
Mine Countermeasures, Survey and EOD
When looking at the mine countermeasures capability it is important to start with mission requirements and threats.
Expeditionary Missions; mines are a basic sea denial weapon, their objective is not necessarily to sink ships but deny movement. Clearing Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and supporting amphibious operations are the most common expeditionary requirement. The objective may not always be the complete neutralisation of all mines but to provide assured access or an acceptable level of risk.
National Missions; when looking at this subject we should not forget the legacy of old sea mines and other unexploded ordnance. Any new capability must still be able to counter these old fashioned but no less deadly threats.
Threats; the diversity of mine threats creates a significant challenge. Environments include the surf zone, very shallow water, shallow water and deep water. Types of device include surface, anti invasion, buried, partially buried, moored contact, bottom influence, moored influence, floating contact and rising influence. These can range in sophistication from very simple WWI vintage devices to the latest mobile intelligent devices that use a variety of initiation methods.
Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) formerly known as Mine Countermeasures Force Northern Europe (MCMFORNORTH) and before that as Standing Naval Force Channel (STANAVFORCHAN) was formed in Ostend on 11 May 1973. It is one of two standing mine countermeasures forces maintained by NATO. Area of operations includes the waters of Europe from the North of Norway to the Mediterranean and from the Irish Sea to the Eastern Baltic Sea although it has also operated beyond these boundaries. As with most NATO forces, operational command rotates through the contributors to the force, these being Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and United Kingdom (providing ships on a continuous basis) and Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as other commitments permit.
In the context of this post, it is the expeditionary requirement that is relevant and the range of threats will also encompass the immediate area inland of a landing beach or a port.
As we saw from the Iraq 2003 case study the single largest barrier to opening Umm Qasr was a combination of mines and unexploded ordnance and although the Royal Navy played a leading role in the maritime mine clearance effort the Royal Australian Navy took the lead on port clearance operations because they were the only force in the coalition that had a fully worked up doctrine and procedurally mature capability.
I have covered Royal Navy MCM several times over the last few years;
Have a delve into the archive.
The current RN MCM fleet consists of the Sandown-class with the variable depth multimode Thales Sonar 2093 which is designed to detect mines through the water column to a depth of 200m and the Hunt class fitted with the hull mounted wideband Thales Sonar 2193 which detects and classifies small mines up to 80m depth Both have the NAUTIS 3 combat management system. Supporting NATO operations, amphibious operations, securing Sea Lines of Communication, providing harbour defence and clearing legacy munitions the current fleet (even accepting recent reductions) is highly effective.
Recent introductions include the Hydroid (now Kongsberg) Remus 100, Remus 600 and Atlas Elektronic Seafox C unmanned systems. The larger Remus 600 is called the Recce UUV that supports detection and classification whist the Seafox C is a compact disposable one shot neutralisation UUV, a variant without the explosives is also in service, the one that is orange if you see it in pictures, called an inspection vehicle or Seafox I, a training only version called Seafox T is also available. Ultra Electronics delivered the Seafox system in partnership with Babcock for the Royal Navy.
The Remus 100 is used for shallow water identification and search and has also been upgraded with new sonar systems from Seebyte
Another UOR was the Shallow Water Influence Minesweeping System (SWIMS) designed to operate in the shallow waters in the south of Iraq.
SWIMS consists of a towed magnetic and acoustic source, a tow/power delivery cable, a power conditioning and control subsystem, and an external or palletised power supply. Its small size and reduced weight require minimum handling equipment, and it is deployable from a helicopter or surface craft by two personnel. 12 QinetiQ modified remote controlled Combat Support Boats (CSB) were also used to tow Australian Defence Industries (ADI) Mini Dyad System (MDS) and Pipe Noise Makers (PNMs) ahead of the RN minehunters as part of the SWIMS payload. It is worth noting that the system demonstrator was available within 3 weeks of order placement, a truly remarkable feat.
The unmanned systems are designed to reduce the need for clearance divers but they cannot be used for everything. The clearance divers use a range of specialist equipment from low metal fins to the ordnance recovery system, mostly supplied by Divex in Aberdeen, it is a highly specialised trade. A relatively new system is the Clearance Diving Life Support Equipment (CDLSE) that is a closed circuit rebreather design.
The most recent example of Royal Navy mines countermeasures excellence was off Misrata, Libya, a few years ago, the presentation below provides a good overview.
Bringing the capability story up to date is OPERATION KIPION which replaced TELIC and CALASH and is the name for the broad range of East of Suez operations. Bahrain is the main operating location and the Royal Navy has four mines countermeasures vessels in the area supported by reasonable sized battlestaff and a Bay Class LSD(A) acting as an Afloat Forward Staging Base. Sir H has a good write up about the solidifying presence in the area. The vessels have a series of communications, protection and environmental protection upgrades applied before operating in the area and the two types of vessel/sonar compliment each other in the high ambient water temperature and salinity of the Gulf.
This permanent presence started in 2006 and has progressed through a couple of operational phases, AINTREE and HECATE for example and this latest deployment is called the UK MCM Force UKMCMFOR
It would be remiss not to mention that the battlestaff make use of ISO container based workspaces that can be transferred to the LSD(A)!
Hydrographic Survey is another jewel in the Royal Navy crown.
I am not going to go into the deep water hydrography capability as it is not relevant for this series but shallow water survey is vitally important and the Royal Navy has a range of small craft and systems for this application.
Kongsberg produce a good introduction to hydrographic survey equipment, click here to view
The Royal Navy Fleet Diving Squadron has two Diving Groups, North and South, that provide EOD from the high water mark to the UK territorial limit, on vessels, the RN estate and offshore facilities. The Royal Engineers are responsible for the clearance of WWII German bombs (except those in crashed aircraft which the RAF look after), land mines and military booby traps. Just to make this even more complex, they also deal with service ammunition above the high water mark or non tidal water (rivers and lakes) except those specifically within the remit of the RAF, RN or RLC. The Royal Engineers will also be used where functions like drilling or excavation are required and also provide specialist high risk search capabilities. The Land Forces EOD and Search Branch was established in 2010 with the aim of providing a single focus for all policy, direction and inspectorate responsibilities. The Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps as was, because of their expertise with ammunition have generally dealt with the more complex IED’s. The RAOC were made responsible for disposal of defective munitions in WWI and this continues today, they retain the lead for all IED disposal activities. Joint Defence Pamphlet 2/02 Joint Service Explosive Ordnance sets out the details, read here
For port and beach clearance there would likely be a mix, potentially of all three services complimented with RLC, RN and RE dive teams.
Assault Squadrons RM
Aboard the LPD and LPH are small detachments of Royal Marines that operate the landing craft, aboard HMS Bulwark for example is 6 Assault Squadron RM.
Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Mk 10
Part of the programme for the Albion and Bulwark LPD’s were new Landing Craft Utility, Mk 10, replacing the Mk9′s carried aboard HMS Fearless and Intrepid.
The LCU Mk10 are large craft designed for transporting men, stores, armoured vehicles and large plant. The roll on roll off design (stern and a bow ramps) is designed for ease of loading and unloading in the well dock of the assault ships.
Up to 120 troops, a Challenger main battle tank or other heavy or logistics vehicles can be carried in the 30m long craft. The LCU Mk10 can be used for general movement of equipment and operate independently for up to a couple of weeks with its 9 man crew out to a range of 600 nautical miles.
Interestingly, the bow ramp can be used to lift an inflatable raiding craft out of the water when operating as a mother ship for raiding parties and such like. The LCU Mk10 is just under 30m long, with a beam of 7m, a draught of 1.7m when disembarking and a top speed of 9knots. Click here for details of the engine and propulsion.
A total of 8 LCU Mk10′s were bought into service in the £35million programme, all delivered between December 2001 and February 2003 with a pair of prototypes in addition to the eight.
The RORO capability is especially useful but as the wheelhouse impinges onto the load area at the stern it is not wide enough to accommodate a TES Challenger 2 vehicle and derivatives.
Although not normally armed they have been seen recently with a range of automatic weapons on manually aimed mounts, mostly from ISTEC
They are dependable workhorses.
Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) Mk 5
These smaller craft are generally used for up to 35 personnel although they can carry a small vehicle or 6 tonnes of stores but weight distribution can be restrictive.
With a top speed of 24 knots the LCPV Mk5 is carried on davits on the assault ships (HMS Bulwark and Albion) and HMS Ocean.
There are often seen with a deck shelter, an essential addition when operating in cold weather
The UK has 12 LCVP Mk5’s, obtained in two batches and purchased at a cost of £750k each
They even get a showing in this Top Gear review!
Commando Helicopter Force
When the ongoing saga of Merlin HC3/3a transfer to the Commando Helicopter Forces comes to an end the Royal Marines will have an effective(ish) replacement for the difficult to replace Sea King junglies.
Although the Merlin is relatively fast and has a good range with a voluminous cabin their lift capacity is not brilliant (although an improvement on the Sea King) and the degree of ‘marinisation’ they will actually end up with is likely to be minimal
Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle
To recover damaged, destroyed or broken down vehicles from beach areas during amphibious landings specialised vehicles are needed. They must be able to operate in the surf zone, have sufficient pulling or pushing power to deal with vehicle casualties, be protected and heavy enough so they don’t float away or be thrown around by waves.
In 1996 a replacement was sought for the Centurion based Falklands veterans, invitations to tender were issued in 1999 for the Future Beach Recovery Vehicle and four companies responded; Hagglunds, Pearson Engineering, Marconi Marine Land & Naval Systems and the Dutch company, RDM Technologies, who had developed a Leopard 1 based BARV for the Dutch Marines
Hagglunds won (who had then become part of Alvis, now BAE) with a design based on a Leopard 1A5 Main Battle Tank.
Four were ordered in the £7.5 million with one of them being used for trials and development.
In 2001 the Hippo Beach Recovery Vehicle was unveiled with Lord Bach stating;
The Hippo is vital for the success of an amphibious assault across a beach. It can manoeuvre in water up to ten feet deep and can be used to clear crippled vehicles from assault lanes and recover stranded landing craft.
We hope that these new vehicles will enter service a year ahead of schedule in parallel with the entry into service of the new assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, from which they will operate.
The design is also broadly similar to previous generations but with obvious ergonomic improvements. Other modifications include a revised gearbox that decreases speed but increases tractive force.
Designed to recover vehicles up to the Challenger and a fully loaded DROPS plus trailer the Hippo has a weight of about 50 tonnes, two days fuel, ptoection from small arms and artillery splinters, a crew of four and can operate in up to 2.95m of water. It can also push the 240 tonne LCU Mk10 and lighter LCVP landing craft.
A 2003 Parliamentary Answer confirmed the Main Gate expected acquisition costs were an eye watering £13 million
HMS Albion and Bulwark had one each and the other two were used for training with 11(Amphibious Trials and Training (11 ATT)) Squadron Royal Marines and as a war reserve.
Although you can never have enough heavy plant the beach role is very specific.
Vehicles exiting either a Mexeflote or LCU will likely encounter soft ground that with repeated trafficking quickly become impassable. Shingle and pebble beaches can also quickly degrade tracked vehicles.
Usually there are a couple of Medium Wheeled Tractors with Class 30/70 trackway dispensers available to the beach party and carried about the LPD’s
The UK has a total of 22 Medium Wheeled Tractor Winterised/Waterproof, the JCB 436 EHT, that can each operate at a fording depth of 1.5m with an additional splash height of 0.5m. It is also modified to be able to operate in -46 degree Celsius temperatures and can be fitted with the Ulrich Trackway Dispenser and a number of other attachments.
The video below shows the Ulrich Trackway Dispenser in action with the Faun Class 30 trackway. Class 30 has now been renamed the Medium Ground Mobility System (MGMS) and Class 70, Heavy Ground Mobility System (HGMS). Heavier vehicles can use the trackway beyond its classification but this depends on the ground bearing capacity and number of passes before the trackway becomes unusable. Continuous lengths can also be joined using a joining strip.
From Faun’s website
MGMS is a military specification system that facilitates the launch and recovery of a temporary roadway. A standard MGMS provides one 32m length of roadway as standard, further spools containing additional 32m lengths can be stored and deployed by the same FASTRACK.
MGMS can be deployed by a trained two-man team in less than 6 minutes. The aluminium TRACKWAY will withstand repeated loads of up to 30 tonnes (rated to MLC 30).
MGMS is suitable for tracked and wheeled vehicles up to 30 ton, and is chassis mounted by crane, MGMS can also be deployed by tractor to create a solid beach landing area, utilising the BEACH DISPENSER system.
MGMS provides access for these vehicles into areas where there are no roads, or roads have been damaged. MGMS enables boggy or marshy terrain to become accessible to medium sized vehicles.
MGMS is best suited to adverse terrain conditions, including snow, marsh, mud and sand in a variety of climates. MGMS can also be used as shelter and tent flooring. MGMS is in use worldwide in a variety of military engineering applications, including humanitarian and disaster relief.
The Class 70 or HGMS is essentially, a larger and more robust version of the Class 30 product.
Commando Logistics Regiment
The CLR is an unusual Regiment because it contains personnel from the RN, RM and Army. Its basic role is to provide all manner of combat service support to 3 CDO
From the MoD
The CLR is situated at Chivenor in North Devon. It is home to about 620 personnel from all three Services, including mechanical engineers, medics and logisticians. No other unit has such an eclectic mix of cap badges working together.
The regiment’s purpose is to provide every aspect of combat service support for 3 Commando Brigade, anywhere in the world. In particular the regiment’s aims are to provide support for brigade amphibious operations when sea-based, during offload across a beach or port, and over a large battlespace on land.
Specifically, the Landing Force Support Party (LFSP) has the role of beach logistics support.
Read more about the Commando Logistics Regiment here.
Special Boat Service
The ability to covertly survey beach and other landing areas is covered by the SBS and other elements of the RM. Carrying out the usual special forces tasks is also an obvious precursor to amphibious operations.
The SBS use three Mk 8 Mod 1 Swimmer Delivery Vehicles that can be launched and recovered from a role fit shelter fitted to the Astute class of SSN’s designed and built under Project Chalfont by BAE, a replacement for Alamanda system as fitted to the Trafalgar class. Warm water trials were reportedly going to be complete this year but understandably, news is sparse.
A training facility called, funnily enough, the Chalfont Shore Facility (CSF) is available at Faslane.
Even in the Mod1 guise, the Mk8 is an old system.
The British Army
Royal Logistic Corps
17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistics Corps
17 P&M are relatively new, being formed in 1949 as a Corps of Royal Engineers unit, tasked with operating ports and beaches in support of the armed forces. In 1965 the Royal Corps of Transport was formed and assumed the port operations role from the Royal Engineers.
The role of 17 P&M is quite varied;
The Regiment has three Port Squadrons, a Port Enabling Squadron, a REME Workshop and a Headquarters Squadron. It operates a wide variety of vehicles, plant, railway equipment and vessels, including Ramp Craft Logistic (RCL), Workboats, Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP), MEXEFLOTE rafts and Rigid Raider Craft. It also has the only military Dive Team in the RLC; they are responsible for a range of tasks including port clearance and vessel maintenance.
The basic role of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment is to load ships at one end of the supply bridge and unload them at the other using road, rail and of course, shipping. The three port squadrons are organised on equipment lines, 51 Squadron, work boats, 52 Squadron, Mexeflotes and 53 Squadron, the RCL’s although recent operations have seen these dividing lines soften a little.
17 P&M are within the 104 Logistics Support Brigade which also includes air movement, postal and courier and movement control.
232 Transport Squadron RLC(V) will re-role to a port squadron under the recently announced Army 2020 Reserves plan. 165 (Wessex) Port and Enabling Regiment will also see 102 Port Squadron and 275 Railway Troop withdrawn from the order of battle. 165 will also enjoy the company of 142 Vehicle Squadron RLC(V) and 710 Operational Hygiene Squadron RLC(V).
Where to start, the favourite subject of everyone at Think Defence!
The Mexeflote came into service with the British Army in the early 60’s, elegant in its simplicity, they are simply hollow steel pontoon sections with internal bulkheads that can be pinned together to form lighterage rafts, jetties, piers and floating platforms in the manner of big boys Lego. This modular construction allows a variety of shapes to be constructed.
Built into the sides and ends of the pontoon section are recessed slots into which connectors are fitted, multiple pins for multiple sections. The multiple bow sections are angled and articulated to facilitate loading and beaching. The manually operated, demountable articulator is mounted in a recess in the aft section and is connected to the forward section by an articulator ram.
The pontoon sections can be carried individually and assembled in situ but the norm is for the assembled raft to be secured to the sides of the carrying vessel for transit and when required, simply lowered or free dropped into the water. When in the water the propulsion units are craned over the side and secured in place and that is it, they are more or less ready to go.
In use stores and vehicles can either be craned from larger ships or driven onto the raft when docked inside a ship equipped with a well deck or ramp.
Recovery is a reverse of this process.
Each Mexiflote is usually commanded by a junior NCO and crewed with 4 or 5 other ranks.
Total payload depends on the size of the assembled pontoon;
- a. The Type A raft is 20.12 metres x 7.32 metres x 1.45metres. Capacity 60T
- b. The Type B raft is 38.41 metres x 7.32 metres x 1.45 metres. Capacity 120 T
During the Falklands War, loads of up to 200 tonnes were carried and Mexeflotes moved two thirds of all the supplies transferred from the various ships at San Carlos. A Maxi Mexe configuration is also possible and this has a rating of 180 tonnes.
The propulsion units, or outboards to you are me, are also rather special.
Modular Z Drive propulsion units from Sykes Hyrdromaster provided the motive force when used as a powered raft and although it might not look particularly seaworthy can be used in 1.5m wave height conditions.
In 1994 the Army ordered an additional 50 units and in 2000 upgraded most of them.
The Z Drives have now entirely been replaced with OD150N units from Thrustmaster.
Mexeflotes can also be used as an intermediate landing pier as in the examples below, conventional landing craft ‘beaching’ onto the Mexeflote rather than the beach
Although the Mexeflote design predates the widespread global containerisation they can fit inside ISO containers but are not sized to be completely compatible, two for example, are 50mm too long for a 20 foot ISO containers and when stacked two high, are again slightly too large for a Hi Cube container. The individual pontoon sections do not have corner castings for ISO twistlocks either.
Mexeflotes were instrumental in success Operation Corporate and have been used many times since including the ‘sail to fly. UK to Afghanistan movement of protected vehicles via Cyprus.
You can even buy them from Jenkins Marine in Poole.
Army Work Boat
51 Squadron RLC have four workboats and a number of combat support boats.
The work boats were made by Warbreck Engineering in Liverpool, subcontracted to VT Halmatic (now BAE) and are often used as tugs for mexeflotes, positioning other pontoon equipment and for handling flexible pipelines.
Combat Support Boat
Smaller than the work boats the RTK marine/VT Halmatic (now BAE) Combat Support Boat is a fast and rugged small craft used for a wide range of tasks and in service with both the Royal Logistic Corps and Royal Engineers. They are 8.8m long with a twin Hamilton waterjet propulsion system powered by twin 210hp diesel engines.
This latest version replaced the older Fairey Allday Marine combat support boats, 12 of which went down with the Atlantic Conveyor in 1982.
Ramped Craft Logistic (RCL) and Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP)
Although these are going out of service without, it would seem, a replacement I have included them for completeness
The RCL’s are large landing craft with just under a hundred tonnes payload capacity, at 33m long only 3m longer than the LCU Mk10′s, they are also too high to get into the well dock of the LPD’s.
8 were bought into service with a couple at Cyprus and in my post on the airport at Port Stanley (Part 3) there are details of two RCL’s that were transported to the Falkland Islands on the MV Strathewe.
17P&M also have a small collection of older LCVP’s, the image below shows one in action on RFA Largs Bay in Haiti
As I pointed out in the Falkland Islands case study, mobile plant, especially mechanical handling equipment is vital to the success of amphibious operations.
The Royal Logistics Corps, through the C Vehicle PFI, has a number of important pieces of MHE used onboard ships and at ports of a beach support area.
Medium and Light Wheeled Tractors are used for a variety engineering roles; earth moving, excavating, mechanical handling trenching, dozing, grading and digging.
As mentioned above, there are 22 Medium Wheeled Tractors (Winterised/Waterproof) that are JCB 436 EHT’s. Supplementing the wheeled tractors are a couple of telehandler designs, also from JCB
These are the most numerous of C Vehicle equipment and have a broad span of users replacing the Volvo 4440’s and JCB 410’s (both of which are not telehandlers but converted loaders). The requirement for loading and unloading ISO containers dictated some of the size and mobility specifications.
There are two models, the Telehandler 2,400Kg which is a JCB 524-50 and the higher capacity JCB 541-70 called the Telehandler 4,000Kg.
Each has a number of variants with the smaller version coming in standard (150), standard with sideshift (150), winterised (15) and winterised with sideshift (15). The larger version has two variants, standard with sideshift (85) and winterised (6)
If the above are for loading and unloading containers, handling pallets and other logistics tasks the role of handling the containers themselves falls to the RLC’s Kalmar Rough Terrain Container Handlers (RTCH)
In the late nineties the US Army recognised the need to take advantage of civilian containerisation and issued an operational requirements document to which Kalmar, Caterpillar and Liftking Industries responded. The contract was awarded to Kalmar in 2000 with deliveries on the first batch of 346 RT240 Rough Terrain Container Handlers being completed at the end of 2004, other orders followed and it is still in production.
The US Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) Operation Iraqi Freedom after action report provided a glowing testimonial;
Vital to the rapid resupply of divisional troops are rough terrain container handlers (RTCH), as most of the corps and theatre logistics pushes arrived on flatbed trailers with containers.
They are relatively manoeuvrable and the extendable boom, rotation and sideshift top handler allow precise placement of the container.
Developed in close co-operation with the US Army, the RTCH is designed to handle containers in extreme conditions. Based on Kalmar’s reach stacker designs, the four-wheel-drive, four-wheel-steer machines can operate in mud, sand and up to 1.8 metres of salt water.
The RTCH can pick up two 20-foot railroad shipping containers at a time, or one 40-foot container, as opposed to the inefficient “one by one” method. Containers may be stacked three units high with the RTCH and the total lifting capacity is just over 24 tonnes. It is also surf zone capable and travels from beach to barge; retrieving containers and stacking them on dry land.
The designers have also built in an ingenious system for reducing its height, by moving the operator’s cab to one side, lowering it and then sinking the boom next to the cab the total height of the container handler is less than 3metres, thus enabling transport in a C-17 aircraft but at 53.5 tonnes it is a big lift, filling the C17 with its 3.65m width, 15m length and 2.98m height in shipping configuration. This preparation for air transport can be carried out in less than 30 minutes by one person with no external assistance, and without removing or dismantling any part of the machine. The reduced height also greatly simplifies road moves, bloody clever.
Unlike most container handlers the RTCH uses a single tyre arrangement. Both axles are driven and steered; crab-steer is possible and all steering is computer controlled for precise tracking. The axles are unsprung and two-wheel drive and single-axle steer is possible for road travel.
About 20 RTCH were obtained under an Urgent Operational requirement for Operation Telic and the National Audit Office report noted that over 9,000 containers were used;
Increasingly, the Department’s operations involve the use of International Organisation for Standardisation specified-shipping containers. Operation TELIC necessitated the use of some 9,103 such containers and exposed shortfalls in the Department’s ability to handle these containers both in the United Kingdom and in-theatre. While the Department procured an additional 20 container handling vehicles, 6 Supply Regiment highlighted that it had only three container-handling vehicles to deal with several thousand containers
Although you can pick up containers with a crane that requires more personnel and is much more slower, moving containers is a specialist function that needs specialist equipment.
The RTCH is not specifically tasked with beach operations there is no reason they couldn’t
At Marchwood there is also a range of specialist MHE that although not used when deployed, is still a vital element of the supply chain. The MoD recently let an £87m contract to Briggs Equipment for the Defence Mechanical Handling Equipment requirement that includes just over 3,000 pieces of equipment ranging from forklift trucks to container handling equipment.
Marchwood Sea Mounting Centre
Corps of Royal Engineers
Specialist Teams Royal Engineers
170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group Royal Engineers used to be called the Military Works Force and includes a range of specialist engineering disciplines including port operations. 65 Works Group is a wholly Army Reserve force and consists of a number of specialist teams, 509 STRE being ports infrastructure.
509 STRE is a small team, less than 30 personnel all in.
Although 131 Independent Commando Field Squadron has been retained in the recent organisation changes it has been resubordinated to 32 Engineer regiment.
24 Engineer Regiment Royal Engineers is the British Army amphibious combat engineer capability
The Royal Engineers also provide bulk fuel transfer capabilities although this is relatively limited.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) ‘Bay Class’
Based on the Dutch/Spanish Enforcer class the Landing Ship Dock (Auxiliary) replaced the Knights class. There were a number of issues bringing them into service, try the NAO report for starters. The four entered service between 2006 and 2007; Cardigan Bay (2006), Mounts Bay (2006), Lyme Bay (2007) and Larges Bay 2006). As we know the 2010 SDSR resulted in Largs Bay being sold to the Royal Australian Nany and she is now named HMAS Choules.
The Bay class are large vessels (16,160 tonnes displacement), much larger than the Knights and another principal difference is the well dock that can accommodate a single LCU Mk 10 or Mexeflote. Capacity includes 1, 150 lane meters for vehicles and containers and accommodation for between 350 and 700 personnel depending on overload conditions.
Their main role is to carry vehicles and stores, about 2,000 tonnes worth. Mexeflotes are carried on the sides, as the older vessels, it is a proven and simple technique.
Although they have a very large flight deck that can spot two Chinooks the aviation capabilities are relatively austere, per design of course, but this can hamper operations when deployed as a single vessel, in the Gulf for example.
Step forward Rubb Buildings that I looked at last year.
The preferred option is to drive the cargo onto the LCU or Mexeflotes in the well deck but the 30 tonne capacity cranes can easily move cargo onto lighters, landing craft and Mexeflotes
To summarise, HMS Ocean is aviation focussed, Albion/Bulwark has extensive command facilities and is assault landing craft focussed and the Bays are logistics focussed, RFA not RN crewed.
The Royal Air Force
Operating off HMS Ocean/CVS and the other amphibious vessels on an opportunity basis the RAF Chinook force would provide the bulk of vertical lift using in an amphibious operation with its 10 tonne slung payload being crucial for time critical stores.
It is worth noting that a single maxi Mexe can shift the equivalent of 18 Chinook sorties.
Civilian Strategic RORO Service
he 1998 SDSR recognised the need for a strategic RORO capability in light of increasing expeditionary requirements and likely trends in the commercial shipping sector. In 2000 a contract was let to AWSR Shipping, a consortium comprising Andre Weir, James Fisher, Bibbly Line and Houlder Hadley Shipping after competing bids from Novomar, Maersk and Sealion failed.
Ignoring the inevitable political wailing and gnashing AWSR placed a contract for 6 vessels to an established , but modified, design with the German company; Flensburger Schiffbau Gesellschaft or FSG for short. FSG were to build 4 and Harland and Wolff, the remaining two.
Hurst Point, Beachy Head, Eddystone and Longstone were the FSG built ships and Anvil Point and Hartland Point built by Harland and Wolff
The design chosen was the RoRo 2700;
Foreland Shipping list the capacities as;
Class:LR +100A1 RoRo Cargo Ship: Ice Class 1A, +LMC, PSMR, SCM, IBS, NAV1, ICC, UMS.
Main engines:2 x 6,300kw MAK; 500 rpm, CPP. 2 x 2,000 kva shaft alternators. 2 x Diesel Auxiliary Generators.(2 x 8,100kw MAK on Beachy Head, Eddystone and Longstone).
Bow thruster:1 x electric drive. 1,400 kw.
Speed /Consumption:18kns on abt 44ts; 17 on abt 38ts; 16 on abt 33ts; 15 on abt 30ts. MGO consumption in port: 4 ts.Beachy Head, Eddystone and Longstone have 9 cylinder engines with speed up to 21 knots.
Main dimensions:LOA: 193m; Breadth: 26m; GT: 23,335; NT: 6,971; DWT 9,921 a 6.6m draft.
Trailer Capacities: 35 on tank top (max height: 5.0m); 62 on main deck (max height: 6.8m); 67 on upper deck (max height: 6.8m).
Containers (on MAFI):72 TEUs on tank top; 272 TEUs (double stacked) on main deck; 324TEUs (double stacked) on upper deck.
Direct stow containers:Approximately 411 TEU (No container fittings in lower hold).
Reefer plugs:60 on upper deck aft to amidships.
Ramps / Access:Straight stern ramp 16.4 long by 17.0m wide. 12 x fingers of 2.70m. Each can be operated independently to enable ship’s operation at narrow link-spans. Internal ramps to all cargo decks. Side Ramp (Located starboard side between frames 160 / 170).
Deck Crane:Located starboard side between frames 140 / 150. 40ts at 25m; max 36ts at 28m.
Driver Cabins:6 off 2 x berth cabins.
The ships were obtained under a £1.25 Billion 25 year PFI, at the time, the largest in defence, with 4 of the 6 being used by the MoD exclusively and the remaining pair being available for commercial charter, the familiar PFI model we know and love so much. When required by the MoD, these two are available to the MoD at 20 and 30 days notice respectively.
The 6 ships replaced the RFA Sea Crusader and RFA Sea Centurion.
Crews are British (when on MoD service) and are Sponsored Reserves in a similar model to that used by the Heavy Equipment Transport PFI. AWS provide the ship management arrangements, Bibby the crew management, Houlder the finance and construction management and James Fisher a range of other support activities.
18 months ahead of schedule the ships were fully available for service in 2003 and the PFI agreement expires in 2024. The UK offers the residual capacity of the 4 permanently available vessels to NATO; In March this year the management contract was extended, with Andrew Weir Shipping being the ‘oh, really’ winner. The two non permanently contracted vessels have been removed from the PFI arrangement and until sold (see below) the total cost to the MoD is not known.
James Fisher has recently sold its 25% holding to one of the other consortium members (Hadley Shipping) for an initial amount of £11.4m. James Fishers share (25%) of the post tax earnings for last year has been reported as £1.6m.
The vessels can use an established RORO facility but don’t have a slewing ramp which means they are limited to stern on docking although they can be used with Mexeflotes
Mexeflotes and Medium Girder Bridges, back of the bloody net
Futures and Observations
The UK has a comprehensive set of capabilities in this area, it is easy to knock the lack of x or y but when taken together, it is probably the most comprehensive in NATO outside of the USA. Everything from survey to clearance, shipping, landing craft and specialist engineering capability is all there, even if it a reduced scale.
And, it is truly JOINT
Current plans are limited, except in the hydrographic and mines countermeasures area where the Future Mine Countermeasures/Hydrographic/Patrol Vessel (FMHPV) has matured in the MHPV. This programme will define a replacement for the existing Hunt and Sandown specialist vessels, some of the hydrographic vessels and the patrol vessels. The project will look at delivered effect and not be platform centric, so instead of creating a specialist vessel to carry out the task it will look at a number of means of delivery, not necessarily a dedicated vessel.
It is probably fair to characterise this as a collection of systems rather than a ship and will of course be concentrating on unmanned surface and sub surface equipment.
The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) has announced five shortlisted candidate companies to enter the next stage of the harmonised UK/French maritime mines countermeasures programme.
For the French, it is the Système de Lutte Anti-Mines – Futur (SLAM-F) and the UK, Mines Countermeasures, Hydrographic, and Patrol Capability (MHPC). Although the two programmes have differences there is enough commonality for a joint approach, managed by OCCAR and agreed during the recent Anglo French defence accord. Both are concentrating on creating a system of systems that will support offboard detection, classification and neutralisation of a range of mines. The shortlisted companies (ECA Robotics, Thales, QinetiQ, Ultra Electronics and Atlas Elektronik) will now enter the ‘invitation to participate in dialogue’ phase.
A demonstration from a Hunt class vessel was scheduled for this year and the various organisations involved do seem to be making quiet and solid progress.
I have uploaded three interesting presentations on these future systems into my Scribd library, click below to view
- DSTL Remote Mine Countermeasures & Hydrography
- RN Naval Operations Beyond MHPC
- Modularity iin MCM from Atlas Elektronik
The fast landing craft requirement and its accompanying force protection craft seems to be in the doldrums and future progress in the short to medium term is unlikely, the PACSCAT demonstrator having been sent for disposal for example.
The UK can land and support a modest sized force but port operations, clearance and remediation remain a challenge. The scale of available shipping, cycle time between ship and shore and lack of key capabilities mean that as good as it is, sustaining anything larger than a commando group will not be possible unless the ships are very close to shore, ship to objective manoeuvre at scale and sea basing it is not.
As part of the original MARS programme was a small number of Joint Sea Based Logistics ships but this aspiration is long gone with many proposing the Fort class of vessels replacement, the solids support ships, have some element of this. I tend to think that these should be simple ships focussed on the role of supporting the QE(s) and other ships rather than a compromised design that tries to do everything, step forward Karel Doorman and the JSS.
As I mentioned in previous posts, our doctrinal eyes are bigger than our reality bellies.
The next post will look at US and other allies systems, the US list is long, and allies, very short.
In a European context, the UK, Holland and France are the only ones with any meaningful capability with the UK ahead by some margin.
Some images courtesy; Challenger @ Plain Military and PG Models
Other Posts in the Series