UK defence issues and the odd container or two

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!


  1. mike


    Your T45 pics also has them spelling the name of their T45 class… I think the RN is filling in the role of HM Forces Sesame street pretty well ;)

    But hey, its them trying to improve their image… their PR is better than people think. I’d say the best currently.

  2. Red Trousers

    @TD, re naval PR crap. FFS, it’s getting even more vomit inducing and gay.

    Not sure this is a “recommend”, as I don’t associate Clarkson with serious historical analysis. Anyway, he’s doing an hour on WW2 naval convoy PQ-17 tomorrow night (2nd) on BBC2. That was when the Andrew were a proper fighting service.

  3. mike


    lol demographic… looking at the current crop of pics… I do fear for the future of the RN XD

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.
    That ops room pic is far far more better – proper RN.

  4. Simon257

    @ RT

    To be fair to Clarkson, the Documentry he did about the St. Nazaire Raid, a few years ago was very good. He was very passionate about it to say the least!

  5. Red Trousers

    @ Simon 257,

    I’ve got no problem at all with Clarkson, nor certainly with proper serious historical documentaries which I like as well: it’s the combination that slightly boggles the mind.

    I shall watch it tomorrow and expect to enjoy it, and I’d hope emerge with new found respect for some human spirit and resilience in godawful conditions. And not emailing home to get pictures of some new sprog.

    @ TD, no. A bit bloody younger…! ;)

  6. HurstLlama

    I do love the Omanis, they really are a great bunch of people. The very best of the Arabs and yet so delightfully old-fashioned British at the same time. Where else on the planet would the final paragraph of a news item reporting a high level liaison visit begin,

    “At the end of the visit, the British guest signed the visitor’s book …”

  7. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @apats – absolutely right – the TD back bar might prefer more traditional images of military life, but the GBP very much prefer the fluffy kitten stuff, and they are the intended target for this schmaltz…along with the metropolitan opinion formers who would certainly dismiss our preferred top ten as “prehistoric sexist macho shit” – and consider it in and of itself a compelling reason to abandon any and all Defence expenditure. In that respect the PR people are probably doing a pretty decent job…

    And in fairness I should add that the Army did rather more “hardened Squaddies befriend stray puppy and smuggle him home” and “gallant medic saves comrades under fire” than “Trooper Hardman McTough fillets fourteen Taliban with a teaspoon”…and the RAF tend to major on relief operations, not missile strikes.

    The purpose of PR is too give the audience a warm inner glow about its subject, not awaken their Inner Spartan and re-invigorate the Martial Virtues of the Race.


  8. Red Trousers


    you may well be right on the demographic, but I worry that it is self-reinforcing. Advertise for metrosexuals, geeks, fat lesbians and kitten huggers and that is what you will get. And that then defines your fighting force.

  9. Craig


    If you haven’t seen it before, you should check out Clarkson’s documentary on the Victoria Cross. It along with his programmes on Operation Chariot and Brunel. Nothing like his ‘act’ on Top Gear.

  10. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – Fair up to a point, but I think the more purposeful recruitment material has a rather different feel to the PR fluff…and I’m not sure how important it is other than at the margins; I think those with a genuine interest in HMAF will self-direct towards other information sources (including sites like this, in some cases)…and many will have family and friends connexions to them in any event…

    …mind you, I’ve plenty to say about the extent to which this sort of stuff is a symptom of the place going to the dogs (at least at present, and at least in some ways) but that is a whole book not a comment. Perhaps I’ll call it My Struggle…


  11. Peter

    I’m getting increasingly interested in the impending lease expiration of Diego Garcia. Since the Americans apparently are less interested in the “special relationship” and want us to have better relations with the EU and less dealings with them, it would be interesting to ask the EU if they would be interested in taking it on as a base.

    The EU couldn’t possibly actually use it of course, but hey. They might have a go simply to screw with the US. I think it’d be worth talking about it just to see if we can get a better rent for the place than an agreement that the Americans will sell us Polaris/Trident. What could the Americans do if we did find someone else to rent to? Not sell us Trident upgrades? Tragic. I suspect the French would happily sell us a batch of the missiles they developed for their subs.

  12. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Peter – Can’t help feeling that with rising tension in the South China Sea, the Cousins might well have a continuing interest in DG even if they do withdraw from the Gulf and “pivot to the Pacific”…and I am struggling to imagine any serious European interest in Defence (beyond further cuts) or any European Defence Entity either willing to take on a serious commitment East of Suez or able to offer us a deal with real value in respect of our interests.

    In my view the idea of “Europe” as a Defence or Foreign Policy had a once in a Century chance to make it’s mark in the former Yugoslavia back in the early 1990’s and was an utter, shameful, failure…


  13. Challenger

    I agree about Clarkson, his Operation Chariot and Victoria Cross documentary’s were rather good and his championing of Brunel as the greatest Briton was a measure above others backing Princess Diana, John Lennon and Oliver Cromwell of all people!

    His Top Gear persona is I think quite separate from his very real and passionate interests in engineering and history.

  14. Obsvr

    O Cromwell is the greatest ever Englishmen, even if he did almost become a New Englander. An astute politician, fine strategist, outstanding military commander and created the best army of the age, kicked the navy into competance as well, and put an end to regal buffoons thinking then could run the show. Clarkson clearly doesn’t know arse from elbow in this matter.

  15. Simon257

    @ Obsvr

    The late Professor, Brigadier and Author Richard Holmes, did the Oliver Cromwell Documentary for the Beeb’s 2002 Greatest Briton series. As a side note, he was asked was their anyone else, he would have liked to have represented. The only other person he would have done, would have been the Unknown Warrior.

    Here’s the Top one Hundred

    Challenger is right about Clarkson though. Their is the Top Gear presenter Clarkson. But, their is also the Serious Documentary Presenter Clarkson as well. Looking forward to tonight’s programme.

  16. as

    Bruising setback for AgustaWestland as India grounds helicopter deal

    Read more:

    India scraps £465million deal with British helicopter maker amid bribery allegations

    Read more:

    I hope they paid for the three airframes that have already been delivered.
    glade to see the Norwegian deal is still ok.

  17. dave haine

    The Indians seem to have form for this…I wonder if, really, the budget’s creaking, or they’re trying a novel tactic to get a bit of a discount…

    And another question:
    As they’ve spanked AgustaWestland for offering a bribe, what have they done to those in their government who accepted the bribe?

  18. Peter Elliott

    Hey TD

    Over on the QE Military Photos thread your favourite American Carrier Captain is just unpacking some of the relative merits of the Ford / QE / America Class debate.

    He paints it as a big threat to the future spend on Ford Class CVN. Which he sees as being the gold standard.

    But for me it reads much more as an admission of the inadequacies of the America Class design and the massive added value in QE. Capable of operating as a CV. Using the ski jump to lift big loads of the deck. Capable of recovering them without arrestor wires by SRVL. And still able to be a better Commando Carrier than ‘America’ ever can.

    And the issue for the Cousins that he tiptoes cautiusly around is why not build 20 QE class instead of 10 Fords+2 America.

    And atually why not? Quantity has its own value etc. And its not as if they are without budget pressures.

    They won’t do it. But actually maybe they should…?

    You would need a suitable VTOL AEW solution. And tanking. But actually given their budgets that is probably solvable. Evolved Osprey with pressurised cabin? Hummingbird on steroids? The answers are probably out there. If their inter-service politics would allow them to look for them.

    What think?

  19. Peter Elliott

    And indeed the other best poster on that thread has just unpacked some of these issues…

  20. Jules

    Just watched the Clarkson prog on the WWII Russian convoy PQ17. Spent almost the whole hr with tears streaming down me face!
    The whole episode just beggars belief…
    Got to go and watch something funny before I go to bed, humbling totally humbling…

  21. Simon257

    Ref Clarkson’s PQ17

    I must say, that’s probably the best thing Documentry I’ve seen in a long time.

  22. John Hartley

    Re Clarkson Convoy prog. Now you know why I rant on about future frigates/destroyers having hulls hardened for light ice conditions.

  23. Think Defence

    Have recorded it for viewing in the morning

    Was playing a game of family scrabble

    The score?

    I got a proper battering

    My youngest got 280, little bugger

    My Cambridge Undergraduate eldest not best chuffed

    Well worth it just for that

  24. dave haine

    @CBRN Guru
    Laughed my socks off at that one, there should be one of those in every regiment room, as an awful reminder…..

    I never said the rockies were incapable of Tw*ttery… And rightly, tw*ttery should be identified and brought to the attention of said tw*ts… In the spirit of continuous improvement, you understand…

    Standby for an anecdote:
    In my civvie career as an airline ops manager, I was involved in helping a major airport brief some army officers on what we needed from them, and what they had to do to comply with the regs, when they deployed onto aforesaid major airport. It was a bit of an eye-opener…. There were meant to be twenty officers there of varying ranks of which only ten turned up and only one non-attendee sent his apologies (from the RGJ). The Grenadier Guard officer turned up but slept through all the presentations, until my engineering manager threw a glass of water at him, the household cavalry officer spent his time yawning and telling us what we were to do which largely seemed to be park the aeroplanes over the other side of the runway, and let him park his tanks on the runway. The RTR officer treated the airfield driving rules as a basis for negotiation….
    In fact the only ones that impressed, were the RE and RGJ officers…they certainly were the only ones that asked sensible questions and took away the briefing packs, which contained all the legal stuff about driving and safety rules on an airfield. And we never had probs with their blokes, apart from the odd grass covered Rifleman appearing out of nowhere and scaring the crap out of the coppers.

    And what a dangerous bunch of bastards, the rest were… Scorpions crossing an active taxiway, in front of a B747 caused the plane to emergency brake, exceeding the nose undercarriage limit- two day hanger job there… Some mysterious rarden shaped dents on the side of a B757, yes, someone had actually driven into the side of an A/C with a Scimitar, I mean the aeroplane was white and f**king huge, so it must have been hard to see. Helmets and bits of green kit being abandoned on the aircraft stands…Soldiers playing chicken in front of an engine as it was spooling up…

    all for the want of the officers being a little less arrogant and listening to the experts…Still one hopes the General might have got the message, when he was brought into an office and screamed at in turn by me, because of the cost of the flight delays, two engineering managers because of the cost of the damage to aeroplanes, the airfield Operations Manager, because of the stupidity, and the lack of example set by the officers, and finally and not least by the Air Traffic Services Manager, who, normally a very mild-mannered, calm chap, almost lost it, because the soldiers seemed to think that they didn’t have to obey Air Traffic.

    Oh and the police actually found the pipe bomb truck that had been sitting there for two days, after an army patrol had gone past, without noticing it.

  25. Observer

    @dave haine

    It’s not an attempted bribe solicitation, it’s an arms deal backstab that is a quirk of the current Indian procurement system. India is currently on an anti-corruption drive that sort of went off the rails, any allegations of a bribery scandal forces arms competitions to restart, so if a competitor does not like the results of the competition, all they need to do is drop a bribery rumour to political ears and viola, a 2nd chance at the pie. It’s anti-corruption being used to derail competitions and programs. It’s gotten so bad that Indian arms is at a standstill for most new procurements.

  26. Topman

    @ DH

    That story did make me chuckle. Especially ‘ someone had actually driven into the side of an A/C’ Perhaps they were aspiring RAF movers? ;)

  27. Tom

    Lovely Anecdote DH.

    “…the only ones that impressed, were the RE and RGJ officers…”

    But of course, they were from God’s Own Corps and ‘The Chosen Men’.

  28. Red Trousers


    Sounds a bit odd all of that. 20 officers from such a range of Regiments?

    I only once did an airport exercise: a standing military task for security at Heathrow that was normally given to the Household Cavalry at Windsor, but occasionally devolved to the recce Regiment at Tidworth when the Tins were away. It was about 99% providing a cordon sanitaire in case an aircraft was hijacked. The idea was that the hijacked aircraft would be directed to a remote parking area that we would secure. Of course, there were a dozen tunnels underneath the parking area, and covered approaches that the Hereford Hooligans could use to get into position unobserved.

    What you may not have noticed in your amusing little anecdote was that during any military deployment to an airport the legal situation changes, and primacy is handed to the military under MAC(P) regulations. So any aircraft hitting a military vehicle is probably doing something it shouldn’t. ;)

  29. Nick

    Type 26 Propulsion – and another what might have been story.

    What ever happened to the to next step in the advancement of the navy ship propulsion which the RN with the success of the Type 23 in 1980’s to the WR-21 used in the Type 45, though successful it was overall an expensive road bump, but the RN engineers looked to have recovered with design of an economical way to exploit the GT genset for the all electric ship with long life, fuel efficient, advanced cycle marine gas turbine alternator sets, the Turbomeca ACL-GTA

    With the Type 26 the RN lost it’s faith in their own engineering due no doubt to the cost of the WR-21 and the substantial pressure from BAE / Rolls Royce. What is unforgivable is that by design the ITT (The Invitation To Tender) specified diesel gensets, thereby excluding Turbomeca with their GT genset, so we will never know if cheaper. It was in RR’s own self interest as they own 50% of MTU Friedrichshafen, Germany who to no ones surprise won the contract with the Type 20V 4000 M53B diesel genset, four per ship set. (RR are exiting the small turbine market ref. the sale last September of their 50% stake in the RTM322 to Turbomeca.)

    Turbomeca ACL-GTA – The RN New Thinking
    In 2000 the RN under its Marine Engineering Development Strategy (MEDS) the MOD placed a contract with Turbomeca, Bordes, France for the development of a 2MW Advanced Cycle Low Power Gas Turbine (ACL-GTA) directly driving a permanent magnet high speed alternator (HSA) providing 800V DC.

    HSA Requirements
    Max Output Power 2030 kW
    Speed Range 19krpm to 22.5krpm
    Over Speed 27krpm
    Output Voltage 800V DC @ EU output
    Duty Cycle Continuous
    Ambient Condition -20 to 55 degrees C
    Available Cooling Water/glycol

    The HSA operates at the same speed as the gas turbine, so a gearbox is not required, and by trading speed for torque the direct drive the genset provides a compact, light weight, efficient and low maintenance solution. This approach is enhanced by the advent of low cost high power semiconductor switching devices.
    The goal of the development programme was to demonstrate the Turbomeca ACL-GTA system as a “diesel beating” solution in performance and cost. An integrated unit with all major components mounted on a common skid, gas turbine, heat recuperater, high speed alternator and electronic unit.
    Gas turbines all reach minimum specific fuel consumption (SFC) at or near maximum power and so as to minimise the SFC of the ACL-GTA and keep it on the optimum point on the curve to earn the diesel beating accolade it had to operate at near full power. It would have achieved this with the five or six 2MW gensets on the Type 26 and cutting them in out on load demand.
    The low weight and volume of the ACL-GTA would allow location at a higher deck level, as on the CVA, reducing the gas turbines appetite for large volume air ducts both intake and exhaust and not adversely effecting ship stability.
    DC distribution is assumed so all that is required is a rectifier connected to the output of each generator.
    At ASME Barcelona May 2006 the first very successful trial results were presented and then…………. the RN/Turbomeca ACL-GTA appears to have sunk without trace.

    Table 1 – 2MW Alternator Data Comparison
    Characteristics 2MW synchronousalternator (typical) HSA
    Rated Power 1800kW (+10%) 1800kW (+10%)
    Nominal Speed 1500 – 1800 rpm 22,500 rpm
    Efficiency (full load) 96.6% >98.0%
    Weight 7000kg 850kg
    Length 3m 1.35m
    Diameter 1.3m 0.72m

    Table 2 – Weight and Space Data
    Genset Speed(rpm) Rating(MW) Length(m) Width (m) Height(m) Total Weight(tonne)
    ACL GTA 22,500 1.8 6.2 2.3 3.0 15.0
    MAN B&W
    12VP185 1,800 2.0 6.5 2.56 3.69 30.0
    MTU 16V4000
    M50B 1,800 1.8 6.5 2.1 2.9 32.5
    12V200 1,200 2.0 7.5 2.8 3.6 38.0

    As a follow up the US Navy Office of Naval Research, sponsored the following research paper confirming the engineering design of the RN.
    “Directly-Coupled Gas Turbine Permanent Magnet Generator Sets for Prime Power Generation On Board Electric Ships” 2007

    As the above paper points out with gas turbines shaft speed decreases with power, Turbomeca ACL-GTA 2.0MW @ 22,500 rpm versus the RR MT30 36MW @ 3,600 rpm for the power turbine for alternator drive and @ 3,300 mechanical drive. The output power of synchronous generators is directly proportional to its shaft speed and as the power density of rotating equipment is directly related to rpm if torque is held constant a machine that rotates twice as fast will have twice the power density of the same machine running half its speed. With generators and motors efficiency is compromised when the rotor surface speed approaches the speed of sound. As a result large motors have lower rpms than smaller motors and they will have lower power density.
    As a design option to work round the above constraints would be for the MT30 using the mechanical drive power turbine option and geared output up to say 15,000 rpm for four suitable high speed lightweight alternators would take substantial weight out of the 75 tonne Converteam generator as installed on the CVA.
    If the MT30 genset had been chosen for the Type 26 it would have given the holy grail of the “All Electric Ship”. I suspect the option chosen for the Type 26 of the MT30 with mechanical drive power turbine at 3,300rpm to a David Brown gearbox, as used on the Astute, was substantially cheaper at the cost of lost flexibility.

    DC v AC Bus
    The DC breakthrough has been enabled by the development of the compact high speed solid-state circuit breakers for MVDC, both switch and tripping unit, capable of interrupting high DC currents in micro-seconds without generating an arc and are maintenance free, deliver extremely fast fault interruption, low peak currents, flexible and programmable coordination and mechanical isolation; the keys to a reliable and safe operation, (the original DC bus died years ago due to the extraordinary cost of the switch gear due to the difficulty in extinguishing the arc in a DC contractor).

    The DC bus is relatively simple, the standard AC generators, inverter modules, AC motors, etc. are kept, but the main AC switchboard and the heavy duty and bulky drive transformers are no longer needed saving weight and space.

    The drawback of the traditional AC power distribution systems used on ships have historically used a fixed frequency of 50 or 60 Hz. This means that the diesel engines running the generators must be kept at a constant speed in order to provide the electrical power system at this fixed frequency. Gensets with both diesel and GT engines operating on constant speed with a low load requirement have a low fuel efficiency, as when using the towed array.

    The advantage of using the DC bus for power distribution enables diesel engines to operate with the flexibility of variable speeds down to 50% or lower and GT gensets power on or off dependent on system load resulting in reduced fuel consumption of up to 20%.

    All AC power generation modules must operate at the same frequency in a state of synchronisation to avoid massive transfers of electrical power in transient mode between machines. To add another genset online it must match both the amplitude and the timing of the network voltage, which requires both speed and excitation to be systematically controlled for synchronization by an automatic system, this process can take several minutes.
    The DC bus has no need for the speed synchronisation to stabilise separate engines. With a DC bus a genset can be connected to a power network by adjusting its open-circuit terminal voltage to match the network voltage by either adjusting its speed or its field excitation, the exact engine speed is not critical.
    In a normal diesel-electric AC power system the delivery of power to the main-board results in harmonic distortion of frequency and current. Harmonic distortion occurs through non-linear loads of standard frequency converters, which cause distortion of the electrical supply which can, for example resulting in flickering lights on board, or possibly blackouts or components over heating problems. These generator sets need an advanced power management system adding cost and baulk. (The Queen Mary 2 suffered a catastrophic failure of a capacitor and explosion in the aft harmonic filter room September 2010)
    With a DC board each line of generator sets is equipped with an AFE (Active Front End) rectifier, filtering and transforming the delivered AC power from the generator set into DC power for the DC main board. The DC bus system allows you to combine different kinds of generator sets with varying speeds, frequency, voltage, AC or DC, or power capacity, resulting in total flexibility, you could use batteries as backup to bring power on instantly in case of battle or fire damage. All main board consumers are equipped with a standard industrial DC/AC converter, ensuring the supply of clean sinusoidal AC current. In this way the harmonic distortion is solved at the start of the system, before the main-board, instead of solving the problem at the end, or consumer side, of the electrical system.

    One example of the DC bus being the ABB “Onboard DC Grid” system which enables a combination of power sources suitable for installed power up to 20MW and the circuit operates at 1000V DC.
    ABB state that with a DC bus the footprint and weight of the electrical system can be reduced by up to 30 percent, which would leave more space on the Type 26 for extra systems, weapons and fuel plus greater flexibility in the positioning of system components in the ship plus up to 20% in fuel savings.

    Motors & Propellers
    No mention has been made to date of the motors to be used or gears required for the design rpm for the propeller. As rule of thumb only 12.5% power is required to achieve 50% of rated maximal speed so the motor could be between 2.5 to 6MW per shaft, the four MTU diesel gensets output is in the order of 12MW. (The CVA which is all electric uses tandem motors on each prop shaft, Converteam AIM 180 rpm 20MW 110 tonne.)
    Electrical motor propulsion using frequency modulation allows for the use of variable speed fixed pitch propellers, FPP, less costly than CPP, simple with low maintenance, small hub giving better open water efficiency than CPP, performance degrades rapidly at off design speed leading to potential cavitation.
    The alternative is the controllable pitch propellers, CPP cost 3-4 times a FPP. With it’s large hub needed to contain the pitch actuating mechanism which at a low load leads to hydrodynamic losses estimated at 15% and cause cavitation, not desirable on on an ASW frigate where low noise is a most. The CPP also requires complex control hydraulics and maintenance is of an order of magnitude higher than the FPP. To offset the above the advantages is the pitch can be optimised over a wide speed range, enabling sailing efficiently at varying load and weather conditions and if the pitch range is large enough the propeller can produce astern thrust.

    Final Note
    To bring the Type 26 in on budget and on time the BAE announcements at DSEI of subcontractors RR, DB & MTU does not inspire confidence as so many other long lead items of the propulsion system were left hanging in the air, lets hope it was just PR and that on final Main Gate approval all will be in order.

    “If you look at their approach, (Japanese, Koreans & Chinese) they never start a construction project without having their design done, the planning done and the material available. And what we sometimes miss in this country,(US) there will be people who say I got 80 percent of the design done, I’m in good shape. And that’s mediocre at best. And I’ll tell you why because the last 20 percent of the design is the most difficult. And if you’re looking at where you’ll possibly have inconsistencies, errors in the design process, it’s in that last 20 percent. ”…ding-platform/

    2500 kWe / 60 Hz / Standby 380 – 13.8kV
    Rolls Royce MT30 Fact Sheet
    ABB DC Bus

    e & eo as not an engineer ;)

  30. SomewhatRemoved

    On a completely different subject, my TD experience has just improved immeasurably! DII just upgraded to Internet Explorer 8! Oh the browsing joy…

    Still not allowed into YouTube or Flickr through, makes some articles just plain unreadable.

  31. Dunservin


    “…What you may not have noticed in your amusing little anecdote was that during any military deployment to an airport the legal situation changes, and primacy is handed to the military under MAC(P) regulations. So any aircraft hitting a military vehicle is probably doing something it shouldn’t. ;)”

    – Military primacy? The UK may have been under martial law when you were serving but things have changed, even where airports are concerned, according to Joint Doctrine Publication 02 (JDP 02), 2nd Edition dated September 2007 – OPERATIONS IN THE UK: THE DEFENCE CONTRIBUTION TO RESILIENCE.



    1. A core responsibility of any Government is the security of its sovereign territory and population. In the United Kingdom (UK) , there is a distinction between the defence of the UK against military threats and UK civil protection as established in statute by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and enabled through the cross-Government Department and Inter-Agency Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) approach.

    2. All military operations undertaken within the UK fall under the generic title of United Kingdom Operations (UK Ops). This designation includes the Defence contribution to resilience, which is provided at the specific request of the civil authorities, is subject to civil primacy and requires the authorisation of Defence Ministers.


    3. This publication addresses those UK Ops that rely on close civil/military cooperation. UK Ops activity includes: Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA), Military Operations (MO) in support of the standing strategic and overseas tasks and Military Home Defence (MHD) of UK territory against an external military threat. Although MHD is a dormant UK operation, details have been included to reflect its close association with both MACA and the Standing Home Commitment (SHC) military tasks…

    417. Command Relationships. Overall responsibility for the resolution of criminal and terrorist incidents lies with the Police, and the direction of operations at the scene will rest with the Police Gold Commander [Bronze, Silver and Gold correspond to the Operational, Tactical and Strategic level of police operational C2]. Service personnel deployed under MACP arrangements will take direction from the senior police officer dealing with the operation, irrespective of rank, to enable the delivery of authorised effect. However, command and tactical control of Service personnel will remain with a military commander.

    896 (6) Airport Operators. Not every LRF (Lead Responder Forum) area will have an airport within it, and not every airport will be subject to the CCA [Civil Contingencies Act 2004]. Only ‘relevant airport operators’ [Defined as those with an annual throughput of at least 50,000 passengers or 10,000 tonnes of freight] are covered by the CCA. During an emergency affecting an airport, the airport staff retain control of operations and meet obligations as prescribed by the regulator…

  32. wf

    @SomewhatRemoved: why any organization, anywhere, uses IE is beyond me. Unless they are so screwed up they have to continue using ActiveX of course….

  33. Chris

    wf – I’d love to find a browser that doesn’t hoover out all spare memory and some, doing things I don’t want or need on behalf of faceless spy programs called cookies. But so far I have failed. I have tried using all the non-IE based browsers I can find (Firefox/Seamonkey/Netscape, Opera, Chrome, Safari, K-meleon), many have difficulty displaying content developed presumably on IE and not sufficiently tested on other platforms. But all of them eat memory like its going out of fashion – when minimised the memory occupied by the browser is small, but over a few minutes the memory usage ramps up more than tenfold all by itself; all I can guess is that this is the thousands of “you must accept this” cookies reporting stuff from my PC to organisations I cannot trace. I would dearly love cookies to be made illegal – I will accept a slower load of webpages; in exchange I’d get my memory back. Sadly refusing to accept these nasty programs generally blocks access to web content.

    Whether all this background stuff is ActiveX or Java, Flash or other plug-in I have no idea. All I know is for reasons immaterial to me third parties are prodding around inside my PC for stuff to steal.

  34. East_Anglian

    Reference the AW-101’s caught up in the Augusta/Indian bribe row..

    I understand that 2 have been delivered 2 are about to be,and 2 have been flogged to somewhere else leaving 6 on the production line.

    How about the UK buy them to provide a dedicated pool of airlift for UK Operations/general ass and trash hauling/VIP transport as and when required?

    Perhaps form an RAuxAF flight to look after them?

  35. Red Trousers

    @ Dunservin,

    It was in the 80s, but MAC(P) still trumps normal civvy laws, when invoked. Think about it, no one is going to try to maintain normal airport operations when a hijacked civvy airliner is on the Tarmac, at least not in the immediate area. The Hooligans have total primacy once COBRA hands over the situation, the cordon of green troops is under command of the Hooligans, and if the task is to stop unauthorised movement into the cordon, with lethal ROE authorised, then some spastic air traffic controller’s attempts to keep the 1115 to Ibiza on time is going to be over-ruled.

  36. SomewhatRemoved


    Apart from being yet another irritating thing I have to click to get the computer to do something, I have no idea what an ActiveX control actually does! Believe me I’d rather use Chrome or Firefox. The Indians got it right with OpenOffice.

  37. TED

    On no subject at all can anyone tell me where future force 2020 came from? Specifically to the RAF and does it link with SDSR 2010.

  38. TED

    Cheers for that Simon I just found it there as well. My question is, is that a government initiative or is it the services saying how they will meet it or something else. I just don’t get where it came from :D probably someones overactive imagination!

  39. wf

    @Chris: I use Chrome with the Ghostery add on which allows you to see what cookies and other tracking are active, and block all or some of them, whenever you wish. I also use “click to run” as an option for content to ensure Flash etc will not start automatically unless I explicitly click on the object. Unlike Firefox, I do find Chrome to be less prone to memory leaks…but YMMV :-)

  40. Chris

    wf – I have just put the ghostery thing in the PC for the two browsers I normally use. No significant change in memory use, but hopefully less prying by those who have no business in the PC. Thanks for the info!

  41. Simon


    Your guess in certainly as good as mine on that one. I think the SDSR 2010 was a bit rushed. Normally the gov state what they want to achieve strategically and the services then indicate how they would deliver that capability. I get the impression it was not done quite that way with this SDSR. I put it down to the gov not actually knowing what they really want to achieve.

    ALL (re: browsers),

    IE tends to be the memory gobbler in my experience. It also fails to conform to standards which makes the programmers that target IE only (many of ‘em) support a company that continually seems to want to undermine the value of the Internet/HTTP/HTML/etc.

    I do agree with wf that it is differrent for different users. I personally use Firefox and have done for the last decade. I continually try other browsers and only Safari made me change for a while (I changed back eventually).

    Perhaps you should just disable Flash?

  42. Chris

    Just for a bit of fun:

    Mark Hanna did much the same to us at Goodwood’s first Revival meeting in 1998 (the same event where his dad Ray flew a Spitfire at speed along the start/finish straight so low those in the grandstands were looking down on the plane). He flew in at full chat in the Hispano version of the 109 hurtling in from behind us spectators on top of the circuit banking, maybe 50ft above us but more likely 30ft, on his way to beat up the airfield. Spectacular! None of us were complaining.

    Here’s a bit of Ray & Mark stretching the legs of a couple of old warriors: – sadly it seems a combination of CAA commandment, insurance conditions and a reluctance to stress the aircraft any more than absolutely necessary means the current air displays are sterile to the point of boredom. Not a description that could ever have been used when Hanna father & son were at the controls; never a dull moment when they were in control.

    Bizarrely, the most astonishing display of a Spitfire I have ever seen was at East Midlands airport; we were finishing the 737 sim I mentioned elsewhere; our building looked over the taxiways to a set of small hangars. Not that we were aware at the time, but in one of these hangars a Spitfire was being restored ready for flight. One evening we heard the stutter of a Merlin starting – unmistakable – so gathered at the windows to see what was going on. The aircraft was quickly ready for flight; if I recall correctly it used the taxiway as its runway and was airborne within a short distance. It then proceeded to perform very accurate, very tight, very high speed manoeuvres at low level, all just over the way from our vantage point. What I mean is manoeuvres like knife-edging between hangars too close together for level flight, performing 90 left 90 right turns over the taxiway and disappearing on the opposite wing-tip between another two hangars on the other side of the taxiway. All at high speed. It was the only time I ever saw a Spitfire being used to its full potential as a high agility fighter and it was absolutely mesmerizing – a truly astonishing display and brilliantly flown. I understand it was performed as a thank-you to the team of restorers who had just finished putting it together – what a thank you! I also understand the pilot was called to the headmaster’s office at the CAA shortly afterwards…

    Staying with the same sort of aircraft, this has some fine air-air footage:

  43. dave haine

    It wasn’t a hijacked aircraft situation- That is a different game, and would be done at Stansted- which has a large apron specifically for such events. Where the soldiers can play without trying to make aeroplanes crash, or kill vast amounts of innocent travellers through stupidity. And yes, we wouldn’t try to continue normal ops with a hijacked aeroplane on the tarmac…there are more important things than on-time performance…little things like safety…keeping people alive…and unhurt.

    This was during a heightened security threat- where the army was brought in assist security.
    So that ‘spastic’ air traffic controller is the absolute legal authority on that airfield. Regardless of any situation there are two people legally responsible for the safe operation of any airfield- The Airfield Operations Manager and the Air Traffic Services Manager…Ultimately they are answerable to the DfT, and can be prosecuted for any failing.

    Now just to put my cards on the table…I have a DfT Aviation Security Managers ticket. And the Department for Transport line is just as Dunservin indicated…responsibility remains with the airfield operator.

    Officially, a hijacked aeroplane is just a ‘delegated’ operation, in so much as command is delegated to the senior police officer, who can use whatever resources he requires. If the ‘Gold’ commander wants to use the gentlemen from Hereford he can ask under MACA. Even then, only when the gold commander is satisfied does he relinquish control. Ultimate authority and responsibility still rest with the airfield operator if it goes to f**k, and the operator hadn’t demonstrated appropriate responses and due diligence, the operator is the one who would be prosecuted.

    My point was that, apart from, the RE and the RGJ officers, the others were too arrogant to take advice from ‘thems as knows best’- and this seems to be a common theme amongst our military brethren…I will say that the RAF were probably worst at one time- but if you work in an airline now, especially a big one, chances are you will meet ernest RAF officers, trying to learn more about how we do things.

    BTW, it was 20 officers from the Guards, Household Cavalry, Royal Green Jackets and Royal Engineers. Why the Royal Tank Regiment chap was there, is anyone’s guess, but he was on the list submitted by MOD. The gentlemen from Hereford, had organised their own private meeting a few days before, where they said nothing, listened intently (and I mean unnervingly, intently), took copious notes and drank all the tea and nicked all the biscuits. And they never went to the Kharzi either.

  44. El Sid

    +1 on the Clarkson VC prog, Chariot wasn’t bad either.

    Did I miss somewhere a suggestion about getting grown-ups writing articles? There’s form across the pond, where some in the Pentagon “get” the idea of engaging in public debate, Galrahn has had the likes of Bob Work contributing articles to But then they’ve always had the tradition of thrashing out issues in the pages of the USNI Proceedings and dozens of thinktanks, whereas…we invented the Chatham House Rule. Plus we have a much smaller defence community which lends itself to face-to-face discussion, and we don’t have the luxury of thinking about a fleet of FACs or whether we can afford to lose four 100,000t CVNs. Still, as the old man said, when we have run out of money, now we have to think – and I think there’s lots of debate to be had about the Army in particular in the run-up to SDSR 2015.

    The SDSR is a strategy review – the MoD looking at the strategic environment (which includes the budget and political environment) and come up with a strategy which includes planning the future force structure. SDSR 2010 was not as detailed as say the USN’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, but Future Force 2020 as set out in the SDSR is a snapshot of where the MoD thinks it’s heading. That can change – for instance the SDSR planned for seven C-17’s, but the poor deprived crabs now have another £200m toy to play with.

  45. El Sid

    Radical suggestion – you could browse TD at home, when you’re not on the Queen’s shilling? :-)

    Cookies aren’t programs, they’re just bits of text – depending on how your browser stores them, you can read them in Notepad. And the thing to remember is that in general only the server that sets a cookie can read it. I don’t have too much problem with cookies set directly by a website, it makes my life easier if TD remembers my name. The problem comes more when a webpage pulls in bits from other servers, most notably from ad companies. Cookies let them record each site that your computer (not you personally, note) has visited, where it gets problematic is when they start cross-correlating that information. So if a company has served up an ad to you on and and you then visit a supermarket site, you might expect to get bombarded with adverts for organic tofu babyfood and nappies hand-knitted by Tibetan monks.

    OK, so pandering to right-on new mothers is maybe not the worst thing they can do, but you get the idea. The ad companies are not as bad as the likes of Twitter and Amazon who used to drop cookies when you visited unrelated sites with an image link to Twitter/Amazon, there was just no excuse for that. Personally I think the analysis of webmail, and the patterns you reveal by your search engine use are probably more of a privacy problem (at least cookies can be blocked and/or deleted periodically). One thing that makes life better is a custom hosts file ( ) which misdirects your browser whenever it’s told to go to and so no cookies get set (nor do you download the advert). So you see fewer ads and get fewer malware/privacy problems – pretty much a no-brainer.

    The web is based on HTML, which is just plain text and so pretty much since the start people have tried to make web browsers do “more” by embedding little software programmes inside web pages. Several software frameworks have been used to provide this kind of functionality – ActiveX was just the Microsoft version, you may have heard of Java which was the main alternative back in the day. In the early primitive days of HTML you needed a helper program just to make a button change colour when you moused over it, and until quite recently you needed something like Flash in order to break out of the browser so that a video could be displayed in full screen, but you could build full-blown applications as well. The trouble was that downloading random programs in a web page was a security nightmare often exploited by virus writers, and the frameworks themselves had holes in them. Apple pretty much killed them off by banning such frameworks from the iThings, along with HTML advancing to the stage where you could do most of the trivial prettifying using HTML. So the likes of ActiveX have been pretty much consigned to the dustbin of history.

    I’d make the comment that browsers don’t stand still, and what is true of one version may not be true of more recent versions. The problem with IE rendering sites differently to everything else was only a big problem up to IE6, but since then MS has sorted it and recent versions are in some respects more standards-compliant than Firefox/Chrome. Same with the memory leaks – IE was horrendous up until IE7 or so as it treated each new tab as a new window, but that’s now fixed, some people would claim it’s now better than the others. In any case memory leaks are not something to really worry about if you’re not a heavy user and you’re switching the computer off each night.

    Just generally, Chrome seems to have reached a peak 2-3 years ago, but there seems to be a thought that Firefox has overtaken Chrome recently. Personally I’ve never quite got on with Chrome and I don’t like all my privacy eggs in one basket, so I’m happy to let Google have my search business but go elsewhere for my browser and phone operating system.

    As always, if you’re not paying a business for a product – then YOU are the product being sold….

  46. Red Trousers

    @ DH,

    It doesn’t matter how much you go on about normal day to day rules, you are still talking about MAC(A), not MAC(P). Until you understand the difference, it’s wittering.

  47. Fluffy Thoughts

    Some lovely pictures from ‘xav’ over at Question:

    Should we not park our Daves on the right (S’board) areas; thus keeping the centre-line clear and allowing SRVL (or whatever it is called) to approach from Port?

  48. Fluffy Thoughts

    “Convoy is to scatter” was something I read in 1981. It was an old, painful story then (published 1974).

    Why do ‘grown-up’ relive an Al-Beeb picture-fest when there are so many documents recorded,* readable and addressable….?

    * World-at-War; The Times History of the Second World War. [All before 1990….]

  49. dave haine

    @ RT
    Laboriously copied out from my DfT Manual:
    “All operations must be conducted within both civil and military law. Failure to comply with this principle may result in criminal and/or civil law proceedings being brought against individuals or the appropriate agency. Unlike the Police and some other civil agencies, it should be noted that members of the Armed Forces have no powers over and above those of the ordinary citizen. They have the same personal duty as anyone else to abide by the law at all times.”

    Air Traffic Services Managers, Airfield Operations managers, indeed an Airline Operations Managers are all ‘Approved Posts’. Which means the Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of the DfT have to approve the individuals filling those posts. This means that they come under ‘some other Civil agencies’.

    As an Operations Manager I had the:
    ‘legal duty and power, in any circumstance, to direct any and all persons to act in such a way as to effect the safe operation of an aeroplane registered within the UK, or an aeroplane operating on behalf of an operator approved and licensed within the UK’
    As well as being:
    ‘Required to prevent any actions by any person, in any circumstance, that may reasonably be expected to endanger the safe operation of any aeroplane registered in the UK, or an aeroplane operating on behalf of an operator approved and licensed within the UK.

    There’s a whole load of other aviation legalish…The whole document was eight pages long and had to be signed on every page.

    It’s the ‘in any circumstance’ that’s the arse-biter….

  50. dave haine

    And just so you know- that I do understand…(Please don’t forget DfT-approved Aviation Security Manager)
    I’m going to quote from the policy document:
    “Maintaining operational readiness to provide military support for activities in the UK”

    “Standing ready to support the civil authorities when their capacity is overwhelmed. The armed forces provide this support from spare capacity, so it is subject to the availability of resources (without affecting core defence objectives). It is not typically force driving (i.e. MOD does not generate forces specifically for this task).”

    “Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) includes:

    a. military aid to other government departments (MAGD): assistance provided by the armed forces on urgent work of national importance or in maintaining supplies and essential services

    b. military aid to the civil power (MACP): assistance provided by armed forces to the civil power in its maintenance of law, order and public safety using specialist capabilities or equipment beyond that of the Civil Power

    c. military aid to the civil community (MACC): assistance provided to the civil community for emergencies, special projects or events of significant value to the civil community, or attachment of volunteers

    d. training and logistic assistance to the civil police (TLACP): used when the military is not directly involved in the civil power’s operation but supports their operational activity, for example by allowing the police to use a Army Reserve centre to assemble and brief a large number of police officers.”

    Notice the words ‘support’, ‘assistance’….not ‘command’, ‘Control’.

    You would be talking about operations in the event of a breakdown of civil authority…yes we covered that too…that would be where the senior local commander could ‘require my assistance’

  51. Red Trousers


    You are still going on about normality. Don’t you know about powers in council when COBRA sits?

    Basically, if power is handed over to the military under MAC(P), clearly for limited circumstances and time, then your normal rules don’t count. So no need to re type extensively your very interesting civil service rule book, it was designed for a different situation.

  52. Dunservin


    To dh: “You are still going on about normality. Don’t you know about powers in council when COBRA sits?”…

    – As he has since confirmed, dh’s anecdote initiating this discussion (021132 Jan) was situated in the MACA context of what you term “normality”. It was you who clouded the issue by introducing irrelevant refererences to COBRA and exceptional powers that might or might not be delegated to SF in rare circumstances.

    – Of course airport operations are likely to be affected by an incident but the regs specify that airport staff will continue to control them, albeit under the direction of the Gold Commander if appropriate. Such operations include the movement of all vehicles airside which brings us back to dh’s anecdote that sparked your challenge to the authority of airport staff, vice the military, to control airport operations in a MACA situation.

    – My former line of work included participating in dozens of MACA/MACP operations, usually as senior ‘military officer’ present, and I believe I am still relatively up to speed.

  53. SomewhatRemoved

    El Sid,

    Unfortunately since I’m paid by the day I’m permamently on the Queen’s time, so no luck there. Plus I’m 8000 miles away from home!


    The genset idea does sound ideal. What you’re missing is that by specialising in a one-off supplier, you limit the maintenance support available. By buying a comercially available diesel genset you buy into a much more agile and effective supplier chain, plus most ports will have an MTU, Caterpillar or other heavy diesel suppier and maintainer (or representative). Commerical repair options, both for cost and speed, make a lot of sense – why fly a representative out to fix a broken genset if there is a commercial one available? The idea you proposed has the same potential flaws as the god-awful ICR technology on the back of the WR-21 in the T45, as well as the utterly awful Paxman Valenta and Deltic engines we still use today. Commercial diesels are built to a far more robust standard than anything of a military spec, which is why we are upgrading the T23 diesels to Caterpillars (I think, one of the major manufacturers anyway).

    Plus, a high frequency genset (and lets face it, a GT is a high frequency device no matter how clever the genset) will therefore generate high frequency noise emissions which are far harder to mask acoustically than a low frequency diesel (which also sounds like any one of ten million other diesel engines out there). For an ASW platform, avoiding high freqency noise is essential.

  54. dave haine

    @ RT
    To be absolutely clear- My anecdote was a heightened security state where the police, acting under the direction of the Airfield Operations Manager requested the assistance of the army under MACA. We were instructed to make sure that the army were aware of the legal responsibilities and the flight safety duties concerned with being on an airfield.

    Hijacks are covered by different rules- which without going into detail can be summarised as:
    Ultimate authority always rests with the airport operator, unless the aircraft is in the air, who delegates incident command to the Police, who can request any support they think they will require.
    If the Gold commander believes a military response is necessary, then the police will request authority to transfer command for the duration of the active phase of the military operation to the senior military officer, who will hand back control upon completion of the active phase.

    After speaking to my DfT contact (which will cost me beers I will point out). He pointed out that, in all cases, the military have to be given command by the incident commander and in no circumstance can/will COBRA order a transfer of command, without consulting the incident commander (This is apparently, the judgement of the Attorney-General, having been tested in a previous case) An order in council would only be used in a national emergency, in which case the whole question of legal authority is moot anyway, because, generally, normal civil liberties and responsibilities will have been suspended anyway.

  55. The Securocrat


    It’s worth reading some of the work done by RUSI and Andrew Dorman and Paul Cornish in International Affairs on analysing the SDSR in 2010. As a very short answer it was complicated by the financial situation and the Coalition Government. The need for a Defence Review had been recognised by the previous government, so there had been a Defence Green paper published (which sets out the questions to be answered) and the background context prepared in the Future Character of Conflict and Global Strategic Trends papers. Defence started on a series of ‘workstrands’, with the knowledge that they also had to deal with the financial hole, but not sure how.

    Then the Coalition was formed and decided it wanted to refresh the National Security Strategy and run a Defence *and* Security Review. As a consequence the Cabinet Office and new National Security Secretariat took over the work, and it had to incorporate a whole series of government departments. Added to this was the pending Spending Review. So either the NSS and SDSR could carry on at their own pace and be fully worked out (but risk being made redundant by the CSR) or they could be rushed to influence the CSR (but at the risk of making mistakes.

    So in the end, Defence got a better spending settlement, but we’ve seen the mistakes made in the rush and transfer to the Cabinet Office, like the problems with the size of the Army and the F35 and carrier conversion errors. In the end it took something called the ‘three month exercise’ in 2011 to have another bite at the cherry followed by some more work on the Equipment Plan before we ended up with the Future Force 2020 we have now.

  56. TED

    @El Sid and others
    Cheers I could read, understand and see the changes in it but I had no idea who decided to do it.

  57. Deja Vu

    The @DH @RT spat reminds me.

    A friend from Uni was attached to an ADR Sqn on an exercise on one of the clutch airfields, so they put him in the ops cell in the RAF Command Post, as one does. An aircraft was due so the Sappers were told to clear the runway, which they interpreted as deploying the ADR recce to the runway with the plant trundling on behind.

    Not that I would have used “Uni” at the time.

  58. dave haine

    @ DV
    Spat? Nah…..just a difference of opinion and interpretation.
    I like your anecdote…
    I’ve experienced some ‘oh f**k’ moments due to misunderstandings, like that

    One was at Ovda in Israel and went like:

    My aircraft’s Capt: “We need to clear runway, We have a technical issue”
    Ovda Tower: “Understood”
    After a wait an Isreali Armoured Bulldozer turns-up, with attendant ambulances and Fire trucks….
    Ovda Tower: “You haven’t evacuated your aircraft- you must evacuate your aircraft”
    Capt: “….errrr, Why?, we just need to clear the runway, while we sort out a problem”
    Tower: ” You asked to clear the runway- ?”
    Capt: “errr, ohh!….yes, we just need to come onto a stand, while we reset the auto-throttle”
    Tower: “Ohhhh…..(background noise of laughter)”

    Apparently, to the Isreali military, “Clear the runway” means the aircraft has a major problem, and cannot move without risk…..
    hence the armoured bulldozer, and yes, as there are fighters based there, they would just bulldoze the aeroplane of the runway.
    If the captain had said ‘we need to come back to stand’ they would have understood. The girl in the tower thought all this was hilarious, and had to call us in the Ops room, to recount the story (and claim her chocolate!)

  59. Phil

    It was in the 80s, but MAC(P) still trumps normal civvy laws, when invoked.

    The situation is far more grey than that in legal terms. Some commentators have called for a new law to make things like that clearer but I don’t believe there has been one. So the precise status of the military during UK Ops is not clear cut unless they end up operating under the various emergency legislation including the CCA2004.

  60. dave haine

    @ Phil
    That is probably the best way to sum up the situation.
    We have the situation where someone like me has got clearly defined legal duties and responsibilities, laid down by the CAA and the DfT. The police have similar legal duties and responsibilities, but laid down down by the Home Office. And they overlap….to the bemusement and amusement of many of the police officers I’ve dealt with. But we make it work by applying common sense.

    Just to confuse: CCA2004 (Which only replaced section 1 of the Emergency Powers Act 1964) only applies to Airport Operators- Aircraft Operators remain under the provisions of the various Civil Aviation Acts. As do National Air Traffic Services, and Air Traffic Services Managers.

  61. as

    Battle stations! Navy scrambles destroyer to challenge Russian warship off British coast (but it takes 24 hours to make 600-mile journey from Portsmouth base – was Putin testing our response time?)

    Read more:

    Do have to wonder why the Russians waste money the do not have on exercises like this which does not gain them much experience or useful data?

  62. x

    A picture of Rainbow Warrior 3 because I am still wondering about a Scottish navy.

    NB: No guns. Under powered green tech. Nice rainbow painted up the side. Only needs some chaff dispensers and it could be the new T26. Note the other “synergy” in that it is designed for and operated by organisation well past its prime, that is a little bit too politically correct, full of its own self-importance, and cries foul well tackled by men with guns. Perfect. It is enough to make you want to shoot a YouTube video miming to a pop song in a multimillion pound ship. :)

  63. All Politicians are the Same


    My favourite bit was that “no gunfire was exchanged”.

    Or the RUSI expert who claims that the Russian incursion into Swedish airspace last year was driven off when sweden launched aircraft when it was intercepted by Danish F16s on NATO policing in the Baltic States.

  64. paul g

    @wiseape, I was just checking to see if anyone else had posted a link to that story, you beat me to it! The savings quoted for tornado parts is interesting, I wonder if in the near future the stores will just have consumables on the shelf and a printer linked to a BAe VPN in the corner? Handy if you’re 8000 miles away at MPA, no waiting for the spare to arrive on a timmy (or is it Vinnie the voyager nowadays)!!

  65. Topman

    Seems they are just starting off small ‘protective covers for cockpit radios and guards for power take-off shafts.’ They are simple fibreglass covers, be interesting to see metal parts as per the warton example at front line units. It could be a change in how we do things. It’d interesting to see this sort of thing on ships, certainly be very handy when deployed.

  66. dave haine

    @WiseApe, paul g, topman

    Can’t see it replacing structural parts, but, you never know, Wonder how much the printer costs, and how big it is?

  67. mr.fred

    3D metal printers tend to be tens of thousands and they will be as big as the parts need to be. Bigger means more costly.

    In stainless and titanium the static strength tend to be the same as for bulk metal – i.e. little to no loss of strength. However the durability is a little less well known and likely to be less than mill-produced metal.

  68. wf

    @Mark: it’s been a long time since I drew pathetically banana-like blade sections and worked out my “fir trees”, but surely 3D printing sounds quite a bit like plasma disposition with regard to turbine blades?

  69. Mark


    I have never worked on engine bits closest I ever got was nacelles and the travelling public are forever thankful! So I can’t say I know too much about the technique. But am I right in saying that the plasma deposition is a coating that is applied to the blade after there made? If that’s the case its a similar technique only they would look to make the whole blade that way.

  70. SomewhatRemoved

    3D printing – definitely the way forward. Not sure how it would work onbard ship though – don’t most of them work on a liquid raw material? Ship roll!!

  71. wf

    @Mark: yes, I think that’s the point. I sort of wonder if this could be applied to making sintered components without the need for a mould. Either way, I suspect this stuff will be restricted to non-structural components for the time being. Still a big gain IMHO :-)

  72. mr.fred


    Some 3D printing uses a liquid medium (Sterolithography) – that was state-of-the-art two decades ago and restricted to plastic. More recent systems use powder beds (Selective Laser Sintering) which can do metals but they tend to be of poor quality compared to mill-produced material.
    More modern techniques include Electron Beam Melting which uses (surprisingly) an Electron Beam to melt feedstock, which can achieve very similar properties to mill material in some alloys.

    Until exhaustive testing is done on the additive manufacturing end product, it isn’t going to be reliable enough for primary structure, it might do for secondary or lightly stressed structure. Spare parts to get you home, prototype parts which will be watched closely or not critical if they break – these are the near future application of additive manufacture.

  73. John Hartley

    A few weeks back, Russia Today TV had an item on an American firm that had 3D printed a M1911 .45acp stainless steel pistol. They had fired over 1000 rounds through it ok. The machines to print it cost $600K to $1 million. However the patents run out in Feb & cheaper generic machines will follow. I think it was laser sintering from stainless steel powder.

  74. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Having missed his original post on the Nameless Islands Thread, I just wanted to say how sorry I was to read that @x has decided to part company with the alphabet soup…I for one am hoping that his departure proves only to be a sabbatical; likewise @IXION.

    However, in memory of @x “Build more ships! build more ships!” and of @IXION “Don’t be so daft! don’t be so daft!”

    A rather saddened Gloomy (Is that a tautology?)

  75. Mark

    Another we bit on 3d parts.

    ““Engineers are designing and producing 3D printed functional components at RAF Marham, which will cut the cost of repairs, maintenance and service to the Royal Air Force to the tune of more than £1.2 million [$1.9 million] over the next four years,” BAE says. Printed components will be made available for use with aircraft from four squadrons, under an agreement to run through 2017, with some £300,000 having already been saved.”

    This bit caught my eye mainly for the date given off when the contract runs until. Not the first time is seen tornado and 2017 mentioned together. Anyone care to take bets tonkas won’t see 2019 in uk service?

    Second is the army getting into this 3-d printing lark spares on vehicle fleets must be easier to certify that aircraft bit or is it still not economical enough for car parts?

  76. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Splendid – another way for we technological incompetents to bounce all over the place without rhyme or reason! But I am sure the others will be very happy…

    Ham-fisted and Gloomy

  77. SomewhatRemoved


    Excellent. I absolutely, totally, wholeheartedly believe that this 3D printing malarkey is the absolute way forwards for defence procurement. So many of our components are no longer in production, simple things like weatherdeck switches, TELEX components and control cards for diesels. Defence equipment is procured to last 30-50 years; companies that make this frequently don’t survive that long. If the MOD gets on and starts to patternise some of these unique items, we can manufacture our own again (or at least get a company sub-contracted to start patternising the bits).

    The future is bright. Let’s hope the MOD sees it and, well, seizes it!

  78. CheshireCat

    I know it’s not a new thought, but reading articles like the one below from Navy News, I can’t helping thinking what a huge bonus the three new OPV’s would be to the Fleet if the Rivers could be retained for Fishery Protection and these ships employed as ‘regional’ minor warships for standing tasks such as APT(N) and Op Atlanta, which are currently gapped by precious RFA assets:

    Similarly, our current running sores of the Falklands and Gibraltar could benefit from a slightly stronger presence, but one that is not a full blown warship, due to their scarcity and also the cries of militarisation that there presence would inevitably generate.

    A slightly more ‘warry’ OPV such as BAE Systems Khareef Class, fitted with the 76mm Oto Melera and for if not originally with CAMM (Sea Ceptor is such an awful name!), would be perfect for such roles, and would allow the release of the RFA’s for their intended purposes, which they are currently gapping.

    Whilst I appreciate there are real manpower challenges to introducing three even minor warships into the incredibly lean Royal Navy, but employed in the right areas these ships could have an impact way beyond they’re size!

    An optimistic thought for the start of 2014 atleast!

  79. TED


    I may be blind but… Can we have a dedicated space for open threads so its easier to find them please. If we havent got one already :D

  80. mr.fred


    Much is made of the capabilities of additive manufacturing, but there are things it cannot do.
    At the moment, it cannot produce electronic components. It cannot temper metals so spring steel is out. Only certain alloys are practical. When you are isolated (remote manufacture) you are restricted by the amount of feedstock and the different types of feedstock. Moreover, each machine is typically limited to a type of material and certainly can’t mix plastic and metal in one build.

    What it does allow is general purpose feedstock, less waste of the stock and the ability to build is limited to the size of the build area rather than the size of the stock material.

    In certain applications, the ability of additive manufacturing to build geometry that cannot be built any other way means that very highly optimised parts can be built with minimal waste. It isn’t the cheap option though.

  81. SomewhatRemoved


    The latest research I’ve seen in open media includes the ability to print wallpaper with LED’s incorporated into it, and more exotic items besides.

    You’re right in that the technology is in its early stages but the pace of development is already ramping up. If the US military, and dare I say it the RAF, can see the benefits now then why on earth are we waiting? The value of being ahead of this game is immense. Waiting until this technology matures is an invitation to be left behind – we need to grow experience in the field. If this was something risky then of course one should wait, but the weight of evidence says this is the future and it is happening right now.

    As usual though we’ll end up waiting because there’s no ready money to be had to invest. Allegedly.

  82. DavidNiven


    I listened recently to a BBC radio programme on 3D printing, and among one of the guests was (I think a Dutch) architect who’s company were envisioning printing buildings on site. An idea they had taken from a bloke who had suggested using the technique to construct bases on the Moon and Mars.

    Imagine the expeditionary capabilities of printing a Bastion equivalent.

  83. DavidNiven

    Thanks TD,

    I missed that one, I think Somewhat is right when he says 3D printing is something the armed forces should be getting into. I’m no bean counter but what would the cost difference be in printing a simple part in country as opposed to shipping one in from the UK, plus the reduction in pressure on the supply chain. Rather than ordering a new handguard for a rifle the armourer just prints one out of an ISO and the replen is a 1T bag of whatever materials it uses once a month.

    I can envision 3D printing being pretty handy for REME and RE units.

  84. DavidNiven


    Yeah, to be honest it has the potential to revolutionise the supply chain.

    Instead of deploying with wagon loads of spares you just deploy with one/two of most of your consumables, such as coolant hoses and gaskets etc. And when one is taken off the shelf a message is wireless sent to the printer that adds it to the list of things to print and just gets on with it, next day delivery. You keep spares to a minimum and the lead times are reduced along with the transportation costs, plus equip is turned around faster.

    You could even use a drone to deliver it to a PB, similar to Amazons proposal.

    (I think I may be getting a haed of myself now)

  85. CheshireCat

    Further to my earlier post, it’s interesting to read the difference in intended roles for the the 3 OPV’s between the original MOD statement and the article in December’s Desider:

    MOD Statement 06.11.13:
    ‘The ships are expected to replace the current, smaller River Class vessels, HM Ships Tyne, Severn and Mersey, which have been policing the UK’s waters since 2003, but a final decision will be taken in the next strategic defence and security review.’

    December Desider Article:
    ‘The new ships, which will be built by BAE Systems at it’s shipyards on the Clyde, will play a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.’

    A very distinct difference from fishery protection patrols, and much more in line with the idea of regional minor warships.

    I guess this may well just be sloppy journalism, or perhaps a glimpse into the Royal Navy’s aspirations/real intentions for these ships. Either way this could potentially be some really good news for the Royal Navy (the first bit for many) years, and could also be viewed as being in line with the CDS’ stated aim before Christmas that the Royal Navy should receive an increased share of the defence budget following the draw down in Afghanistan.

    Definitely worth keeping an eye on!

  86. Brian Black

    CheshireCat, this extract is from the same 6th November MoD statement that you quoted. The section that you quote from the article is clearly lifted directly from the MoD statement; not sloppy journalism at all.

    “The new ships will be built by BAE Systems at their shipyards on the Clyde in a deal that will sustain jobs in the UK’s warship-building industry, and will play a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.”

  87. mickp


    I think its potentially more sloppy procurement and lack of clear strategy than sloppy journalism. The enhanced OPVs (if they are on the lines of the BAE 90m version) are indeed more suitable for “a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations”, albeit not entirely with no small hanger for a Lynx. Even without that though they are over spec’d for fishery patrols. If they do replace the 3 smaller Rivers then either fisheries patrol goes or these 3 vessels potter around the North sea, neither of which seems a runner. I’m strongly in favour of an enhanced OPV class, no gold plating but fit for purpose i.e. “a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations” – and add ‘pure patrol / intelligence gathering’ into that. But we should still maintain a shorter legged UK EEZ patrol / fisheries function

  88. mickp

    @Cheshirecat – I think this is a function of the ships being built to fill a production gap rather than clear ‘strategic’ thinking. BAE 90m OPVs will be quite suited for “a key role in counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and anti-smuggling operations.” They don’t need gold plating although the lack of a lynx hanger could compromise their usefulness e.g. on counter piracy. Either way they would be wasted on fisheries duties – if they do replace the Rivers, they can’t do both roles.

    Hence – keep rivers for fisheries / EEZ work and ensure there 3 new boats are made use of further afield. I’m sure the centre funnel could be split left and right to get a small Lynx hanger in there. Make sure it has at least 3x30mm seahawk sigmas or preferably a slightly bigger main gun (BAE 40mm or 57mm) and 2 30mms. No more fightly than that

  89. Challenger


    Well if they have any sense then they will fit them out in either a Amazonas or HTMS Krabi style, scrape together the manpower and find the modest amount money needed to keep them in service in addition to the Rivers.

    I won’t hold out much hope though. It’s far too sensible!

  90. CheshireCat

    I was thinking more of the Khareef Class that BAE have constructed 3 of for Oman:

    Whilst strictly a corvette (shhh!), it is a 99m version of the Amazonas Class, stretched to accommodate a hangar for a lynx and room for VLS and the Oto Melara turret at the bow.

    As I noted earlier the hangar and the turret would be enough to start with, with the space for VLS being more than adequate to accommodate CAMM should this be deemed necessary or when funding is available.

    To me this seems a perfect platform, so as you say absolutely no chance of it happening!

  91. Chris.B.

    Before people get too excited about 3D printing, there are limits to what can be done with it, especially in terms of taking a 3D printer with you.

  92. Jackstaff

    @CC, BB, et al.

    I suspect the “vital role” stuff (though potentially true depending on deployment and the kit provided) is media patter for this decision’s role in the Coalition’s schizophrenic relationship with both Scotland and BAE Shipbuilding.

    However, if they want to do something really useful with these, bung on decent sensors
    and a 76mm up front, and run them thus: one as FIGS, one in Gib territorial waters, one in rest/refit. (IIWK — If I Were King — the one at Gib would not just be pointing its gun at Guardia Civil cigarette boats, it’d be protecting floating prepo of heavy Army kit in that lovely harbour.) Then Clyde becomes flag for the Fisheries Squadron and the Rivers carry on normal jogging against the perfidious Faroese ;)

  93. Think Defence

    Not very good at printing hoses, or light bulbs or hydraulic cylinders I would suspect either!

    There is also the ‘warranty’ issues to think about, especially when it comes to liability should it break and cause a cascading failure or loss

    Simple shapes is where its at I think and I think the building area shows the greatest promise

  94. davidNiven

    ‘Not very good at printing hoses, or light bulbs or hydraulic cylinders I would suspect either!’

    I know there are limitations at the moment, but I would of thought that fan belts and gaskets, pretty much every switch and handle, dashboard etc within the interior of veh’s would be possible even up to a point levers and gear sticks.

    Bushes would probably be easy to produce as well.

    mainly the small commodities that are ordered over and again because it was never fitted or did not arrive within a week so was re demanded.

    Trust me Afghan is awash with small parts for veh that were demanded more than once and now gathering dust in a PB ISO. What was the cost of shipping that small door handle out to a PB to not be needed or used. What would the reduction in shipping cost be to a campaign such as Herrick if 10% of your small parts were produced there and the materials were partially refined bulk orders.

    What would the consequence be to the campaign if a veh was lost in a convoy that was carrying 20 tonnes of raw materials that could be quickly reordered rather than an ISO of manufactured parts. What would the savings in part costs be if it was ordered and produced in country with no waste and delivered and fitted in days.

    As long as the materials are of spec and its uses are limited to tested products I can see no reason not to investigate further.

  95. Jackstaff


    Good point about the nature of warranty with this technology. If ID and production are by separate entities they absolutely will hot-potato fault until kingdom come. As with everything digitised copyright and piracy will get interesting too.

    On the earlier topic of OPVs (can we just call them patrol ships? Although with the Rivers being fisheries ships first and foremost, the term “cutter” would be entirely appropriate) I’d like to see them as Lochs, pour encourager les Jocks. That also saves a Flower-class for whatever MHPC turns out to be :)

  96. mickp

    @Phil if they are a straight lift from the Amazonas / Krabi designs I don’t think either have hangers. I would have thought they need them if they are to be used for piracy patrols etc, unless they rely on an attendant RFA to carry the help. That can’t be a Bay! I’m not bothered about space of CAMM / AShM or any thing fancy, just a decent all round gun fit, ideally with a main gun that offers CIWS type options so we can send it to modest threat areas – either BAE 40mm, BAE 57mm, Strales 76mm (pick on and make it our standard fit secondary ship gun), a couple of 30mms on the beams and if we have a hanger some remote gun on top of that to cover the rear end. I like Jackstaffs idea for FIGs and moving Clyde back to the UK. Personally I’d base 2 in FI (much sea to cover and SG also – little need for anything bigger to visit other than irregularly), Clyde can lead fisheries and pay the odd trip to Gib and the other is around for separate tasking. As regards Gib, I’d rather we had some mighty tough tug boat with a few GPMGs on. Don’t need anything fancy, it doesn’t escalate unrealistically and a strong tug can’t half dent a shiny Guardia boat in the small waters

  97. Challenger

    RE: OPV’s

    If I was putting money on it id guess they are going to be based on the Amazonas class, or at an outside chance be a kind of modified River like the Krabi.

    They would really need a hangar for any kind of forward based ops, if they relied on facilities provided by another ship then it would really defeat the point of using them to free up other assets.

    If having a hangar means a larger design like the Khareef then so be it, but costs need to be kept down and that means a basic radar and 30-76mm guns only. Provisional space for CAMM and AShM is good enough. Without all the bells and whistles the basic design would still be fairly cheap.

    For what it’s worth I’d order 4 and stick 2 in the S.Atlantic (with Clyde joining the Fisheries Squadron at home), 1 in the Caribbean and 1 in the Indian Ocean.

  98. CheshireCat

    I’m sure I read somewhere that the Khareefs were c.£120 million a piece, it would be interesting to know what the monies under the TOB with BAE Systems is as that is what is setting the budget.

    Have to say the Khareefs are good looking ships and I would be delighted to see a few of them flying the White Ensign . . .perhaps they could be the start of a more balanced force and inform the design of the MHPC.

    As ever, here’s hoping!

  99. mickp1

    The latest BMT Venator 110 design looks good also – but possibly a bit fighter than the earlier concept which seemed suited more to the MHPC concept.

    We can however dream – I think Challenger is possibly right and like is deployment plan, but I remain to be convinced they’ll have hangers (even though the logic fails if they do not)

  100. Challenger


    £120 million a pop sounds like too much when we consider that a River class cost something like £20 million only 10 years ago. I’d hope the Khareef would be significantly cheaper without any of it’s major weapons systems and with a simpler radar/electronic suit, but I fear it would still be too expensive. Whatever is produced needs to be more in the£50-70 million a ship price-range.

  101. Challenger


    Actually considering the Khareef is armed with Mica SAM and Exocet AShM I’m not really sure any significant savings could be made on a RN version.

    Anyone know if a class based on HTMS Krabi would have the space for a Lynx sized hangar on the back?

  102. Mickp

    @challenger- am I right in thinking river are 70m, amazonas are 80m, Clyde is 80m and Krabi is 90m. If so that does mean the new Opvs will be 90m as I think one of the releases said 10 m longer than existing ( ie Clyde) or 80m being 10 m longer than River?

    Ie will we get amazonas or Krabi?

    I would have thought from pictures if the stack was split a small hanger would fit between. I thought there was a bae opv that had this arrangement but can’t recall where I saw it

  103. CheshireCat


    You’re absolutely right that it was mentioned in one of the early statements that the ships will be 90m long, with space for embarked forces and more ISO’s on deck, so it would seem almost certain that it will be a version of the Amazonas class, particularly when you consider they’re to cut the first steel this year!

    I guess with the Khareef I was just hoping that the Royal Navy could take full advantage of this unintended ‘gift horse’ rather than ending up with three ships that have no real teeth or purpose, and which as a result might even end up being considered a drain on scarce resources.

    I’ll stay optimistic at this stage though!

    is it just me or do the French design some really ugly vessels?

  104. Challenger

    I agree that the Venator, like the Khareef is a bit too ‘fighty’ for what the RN wants/needs with it’s OPV’s, especially in a tough economic climate when price and crew requirements matter even more than usual.

    It’s interesting to speculate on MHPC. With RN OPV’s potentially being replaced by more dedicated vessels and a target date of 2028 for when we need to start phasing out the Mine-hunter fleet I’d say the hope for a one-stop modular class is fading, at least put on hold for the next 20-30 years whilst another generation of warships comes and goes.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Echo’s got a specialised successor at some point in the far future, derivatives of the River’s soldier on and whatever replaces the Hunt’s/Sandown’s is at least intially limited to around 8 ships without much of a multi-role capability.

  105. Mark

    The MSA won’t be as capable as the P-8. But it will cost around $55 million to $60 million, roughly one-third of the P-8’s price, according to Field.

    Though the demonstrator is a Boeing-owned Challenger 604, future aircraft will be based on Bombardier’s updated Challenger 605. It will have a range of about 2,500nm (4,630km) and an eight-to-nine hour endurance.

    The base version of the MSA will be manned by two pilots and three system operators, and will be offered with a Selex ES Seaspray 7300 maritime surveillance radar and a FLIR Systems Star Safire 380 electro-optical and infrared sensor.

    Options include two additional crew stations and equipment like satellite communications and a side-looking airborne radar (SLAR), says Field.

  106. Simon

    Can anyone define what the requirements are for a UK MPA?

    I mean in terms of range, endurance, and patrol area coverage?

    What are the nominal detection ranges for MAD, EO/IR and surface search radar?

    I just get the feeling that we have a lot of coastline and the above Chal604/605 would mean we’d need to buy loads more airframes to cover our water.

  107. Dunservin


    I’m sure someone will be along to answer your question more specifically but, in ASW terms, I believe the Royal Navy needs an aircraft that can loiter as long as possible and can sanitise large areas (e.g. in the GIUK gap or South Atlantic) or search, localise and kill submarines over as great an area as possible, often far from base, MAD is a useful tool in certain circumstances but would be employed in conjunction with other techniques including laying and monitoring sonobuoys/sonobuoy patterns:

    A sonobuoy (a portmanteau of sonar and buoy) is a relatively small (typically 5 inches or 13 centimetres, in diameter and 3 ft or 91 cm long) expendable sonar system that is dropped/ejected from aircraft or ships conducting anti-submarine warfare or underwater acoustic research.

    Theory of Operation

    The buoys are ejected from aircraft in canisters and deploy upon water impact. An inflatable surface float with a radio transmitter remains on the surface for communication with the aircraft, while one or more hydrophone sensors and stabilizing equipment descend below the surface to a selected depth that is variable, depending on environmental conditions and the search pattern. The buoy relays acoustic information from its hydrophone(s) via UHF/VHF radio to operators on board the aircraft…

    – Active sonobuoys emit sound energy (pings) into the water and listen for the returning echo before transmitting—usually range and bearing—information via UHF/VHF radio to a receiving ship or aircraft. The original active sonobuoys pinged continuously after deployment for a predetermined period of time. Later, Command Activated Sonobuoy System (CASS) sonobuoys allowed the aircraft to trigger pings (or buoy scuttling) via a radio link. This evolved into DICASS (Directional CASS) in which the return echo contained bearing as well as range data.

    – Passive sonobuoys emit nothing into the water, but rather listen, waiting for sound waves (for instance, power plant, propeller or door-closing and other noises) from ships or submarines, or other acoustic signals of interest, to reach the hydrophone. The sound is then transmitted via UHF/VHF radio to a receiving ship or aircraft…

    This information is analysed by computers, acoustic operators and TACCOs to interpret the sonobuoy information.

    Active and/or passive sonobuoys may be laid in large fields or barriers for initial detection. Active buoys may then be used for precise location. Passive buoys may also be deployed on the surface in patterns to allow relatively precise location by triangulation. Multiple aircraft or ships monitor the pattern either passively listening or actively transmitting to drive the submarine into the sonar net. Sometimes the pattern takes the shape of a grid or other array formation and complex beamforming signal processing is used to transcend the capabilities of single, or limited numbers of, hydrophones.

    Many years ago, I had a trip around the bay in an old Nimrod MR1 from RAF St Mawgan. Even then, the aircraft and its hospitable crew had an impressive range of capabilities and it was the only occasion I have ever seen someone open a window in a jet to take photographs; rather unnerving at the time. The food was particularly good and it took the entire patrol to consume it.

  108. Mark


    I would say this could be seen as an aircraft with comparable performance/capability with the s3 viking only using modern sensors and the p8 mission system. The baseline configuration is the same as the danish airforce challenger mpa one of which has just returned operation ocean shield

  109. SomewhatRemoved


    Worth checking the TD archives for the answer to your question, there have been many good debates on this point.

    Simply put, an MPA is anything you want it to be and it depends what you want to do with it. We’re not that interested in patrolling our coastline – it’s not like there is much of a threat except from criminal activities and illegal immigration, and that comes mostly off the Northern European coast (or inside trucks through the Chunnel).

    What the UK needs is something long ranged to meet our commitment to provide SAR cover over the North Atlantic (one of the busiest sailing routes), and provide a long ranged area search/deterrent capability to ensure the safety of the UK SSBN force from Russian submarines. No, I’m not stuck in the Cold War – we still have a sub on patrol 24/7 and it’s weapons are pointed towards Moscow, just as a small proportion of theirs are still pointed at us. Until the need for CASD goes away (requiring unilateral UK/US/RU/FR nuclear disarmament) we need the SSBN’s and we need the aircraft that can protect, or at least deter them.

    The emerging requirement in the UK Armed Forces is for a multi-sensor ASW platform that can provide effective defence against the SSK threat in the Middle East, not something we were originally scaled to do but now are much more capable with Merlin/S2087. But a sustainable patrol capability capable of keeping the submariner’s head down and finding him when he thinks he is unobserved is very necessary, which is why so many US P3’s are operating east of Suez. In this case the need for a capable asset dictates that it has to be long ranged, because we have denied ourselves the opportunity to acquire a carrier based capability (also applies to EW and AEW but there you go). Such a platform could operate very effectively in support of ground forces, as modern radars have over-land capabilities (as proven by the Searchwater 2000 in Iraq and Afghanistan) as well as provide targeting by observing targets with modern EO devices (as we did NGS in Libya). A long-ranged ASW asset is pointless if it cannot attack the targets it is meant to find, so weapons carriage is necessary and yes, as you pointed out, you need a lot of sonobuoys as well (over 100 for a typical mission; Nimrods used to get through up to 300 but then we used to be world leaders in ASW, pity that’s been thrown away).

    If money was no object a P8 force would fit the bill – modern, capable, the only option for us. Money is an object, but I think we will end up with some P8’s anyway. A sensible individual would also buy something smaller and more flexible such as the C-295 to complement it. Someone with no idea about what they’re talking about would press for a mixed fleet of UAV’s, blimps, basically anything that stops the RN acquiring something a) useful and b) expensive when it could be spent on resurrecting a thousand forgotten cap badges to wander aimlessly around the world looking for someone to fight. Or, of course, c) anything that flies that the RAF doesn’t own.

  110. JamesF

    Slightly off subject, but are we certain that new MPAs will be operated by the RN? I though the RN had taken over responsibility for ASW because the RAF doesn’t have any aircraft, while RAF C-130s still provide long-range SAR cover. I would imagine if we did get MPAs they will be operated by the RAF, probably alongside the rest of the ISTAR fleet from Waddington. Am I off track?

  111. Simon

    Dunservin, SomewhatRemoved,

    Thanks. I’ve gone through the MPA/no-MPA argument a couple of times and am still on the fence. Although I appreciate your views (and APATS’ in the past). I won’t go over it again, but instead I’ll pick up on our SAR commitment.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume a 20nm detection range of a lifeboat/raft with something like SW2000 or AN/APS-116. So we can “cover” a 40nm “stripe” as we fly. With a 2500nm range this means a coverage of about 100,000 square nm per sortie. We have a SAR area of 1.25 million square nm to cover, implying (to me) that we need about 12 aircraft to do this.

    Given that the P-3 is only $36m a pop it’s a no brainer, cheap-as-chips decision (£300m).

    Now, if we went for the P-8 ($275m a pop) it becomes a way more difficult decision (£2b). Even if the P-8 can search twice as far (quadruple the radar power) it’ll still cost us a cool billion.

  112. mike

    @ JamesF

    Would the RN have the funds? Looking away from the huge cost of T26, T23, QE class, Astute and Successor (without looking at the RFA and support…). When Crowsnest is still unfunded and the CHF needing funds for marinisation of the Merlin HC3’s… and the introduction of Wildcat?

    More likely a joint force, like the Sentinel R1 – mixed crews, considering the RAF’s expertise in the area has been carefully spread around, from seedcorn sending personnel as far afield as New Zealand, to sending AWC staff to the US, to looking at P8 hardware in Baltimore… not to mention the inevitable ISTAR mission creep such assets will be used for.

    Your final sentences are on track, for now… but who knows what will happen come ’15, but at the moment the RN’s small aviation arm has a lot to aim for with limited funds to go it alone on such a large fixed wing asset.

    I dont agree with some musing that SDSR’15 will bring a few ‘new/renewed’ assets… may be more like “business as usual” with a painful focus on the Army.

  113. Dunservin

    @James F

    “…are we certain that new MPAs will be operated by the RN? I though the RN had taken over responsibility for ASW because the RAF doesn’t have any aircraft, while RAF C-130s still provide long-range SAR cover. I would imagine if we did get MPAs they will be operated by the RAF, probably alongside the rest of the ISTAR fleet from Waddington. Am I off track?

    The RN and RAF have long shared responsibilty for ASW. The RN has manned ASW surface ships, hunter-killer SSKs and SSNs and a long line of smaller shipborne fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft, including helos with their own dipping sonar. The RAF has manned larger land-based LRMP (Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft in old-speak) with some useful cross-posting of RN personnel. It doesn’t really matter who mans any new MPA provided they are effective ASW assets available for tasking when required.

  114. SomewhatRemoved

    The SAR task isn’t about searching 1.25 million square miles of ocean for a liferaft. If someone has an incident it will be signalled by one of the many GMDSS means. The ability to reach that location, not only to air drop supplies or liferafts but also to track the vessel/casualties means they can then vector in nearby shipping to assist. If they go down without a peep on anything, then a) they’re not SOLAS compliant and deserve what they get, and b) it happens – the sea is big, wild and dangerous. Know what you’re getting into.

    Okay, so maybe we don’t have to do it but if we give up on the SAR task, it is yet another small element of prestige we are throwing away. Sooner or later we’ll be renowned for nothing.

  115. SomewhatRemoved

    And frankly, yes, the RN should be getting new kit left, right and chelsea. We are a maritime nation, dependent upon, raised and shaped by and experts on the sea. Our interests lie thousands of miles away and our shipping routes are vulnerable. We have successfully exercised maritime influence for hundreds of years both in peace and in war, and seem to be the only service that at its core understands anything beyond the application of violence, and we have done it despite the deepest cuts to any service and being bottom of the pile for over ten years in Defence planning assumptions. So yes, lets go back to a maritime strategy. That would be nice.

  116. Dunservin


    “…and seem to be the only service that at its core understands anything beyond the application of violence…”

    Don’t you go promoting the complementary benefits of soft power around here. You’ll get a right good kicking. ;-)

  117. mike

    @ SomewhatRemoved

    Calm down and have a cuppa.

    I agree (apart from soft power, the junior service is pretty good too… smaller scale, but good, the army is a little preoccupied and a lil immobile compared), but the RN has been getting new equipment, rather huge chunks of it. Fewer than we like and in piecemeal fashion, but well, the money is less and the threat has gone from the political and public mind.

    Today’s “we are an island dont ya know” comment :D

  118. Simon

    The SAR task isn’t about searching 1.25 million square miles of ocean for a liferaft

    I figured that “liferaft” could be replaced with “periscope”.

    Sooner or later we’ll be renowned for nothing.

    Urgh, I think we’ve been like that for a couple of decades now.

    Not one of the political parties’ manifesto says “we will make Britain great again”, so I’m not voting for anyone ;-)

  119. WiseApe

    I think SomewhatRemoved makes a good point – MPA is not only about home waters. Like Dunservin I’m not fussed who flies them, but mixed crews (and shared costs) would seem sensible. Unfortunately, I don’t expect anything positive on this from SDSR 2015. Expect the worst; at least that way you’re only ever pleasantly surprised.

  120. Red Trousers

    @ SR & Dunservin,

    Turning and examining things from the other perspective, I’m not sure that the modern Navy understand the application of violence at its’ core. Set aside the RM, who are good but basically only a light infantry force that only make sense when turned into a combat force by Army enablers, and all you have left in the Navy are a series of platforms that are handled by people who appear to be critically unadventurous and largely of little utility to the nation since 1945, much afraid of applying the Queen’s bayonet to the stomach of the Queen’s enemy, and more interested in the PR value of 3rd rate Channel 4 documentaries and recruiting fat lesbians and wimpy men with Facebook accounts.

    A Navy composed of a Submarine force is useful. Anything floating on the surface seems to me to have been little more than a money pit since 1945, and looking very much more expensive and wasteful in the decade to come.

    Isn’t it a good thing that the MoD can draw such a fine balance between my extreme view and SE’s equally extreme view in which he wants to increase the size of the Navy?

  121. Red Trousers


    So where do you suggest the Navy go then if they can’t go there?

    Hopefully, you are not about to suggest that their home is DFID, although some among them may like the idea.

  122. JamesF


    Yes, you are correct of course – i meant “total responsibility” – paraphrasing Hammond’s statement on the scrapping of MRA4.

    I am hopeful that, given recovery prospects and strategic necessity, long-range, low footprint (and thus maritime) capability will be a priority in 2015. But I’ll almost certainly be wrong.

  123. Simon

    Defence through…

    Race, colour and creed integration
    Financial blackmail and extortion

    …and when that all fails (which means we are incompetent at all of the above) application of rapid and short-lived ultra-violence (CVF and 3Cdo or C-17 and 16AAB).


  124. Observer

    Simon, unfortunately incompetence is contagious. If someone across a border fires a tank shell at you, you don’t send him a paycheck, you return the favour. Reference Kuwait, they offered to buy off the Iraqis for 9 billion from the demanded 10, but even the shortfall was enough of a caucus belli for the Iraqis.

    Some people you can’t negotiate with. Or do a small injury.

  125. JamesF

    On the OPVs….

    Admiral Sir George Zambellas, First Sea Lord, said:

    “These new patrol vessels will build on the proven performance of the River Class by adding a flight deck to take the Navy’s Merlin helicopters and by adding operational flexibility through extra storage capacity and accommodation.”

    Sounds like an off the shelf 90m BAe OPV design (Amazonas type) without a hanger but with a large flight deck. Will have a 30mm gun, like all the others I’m sure.

  126. JamesF

    One more thought on OPVs: there is that ambiguous point at the need of the statement that the new OPVs are expected to replace the River class, but a final decision will be taken in 2015. Take this together with another statement made a while back that the RN needs more hulls (can’t remember precisely when this was made – but maybe by Hammond at RUSI?), then there might be a debate on whether to keep the OPVs to provide extra capacity for anti-smuggling, piracy etc. or – and one hopes this is the outcome – build 3 more T26s’ (or perhaps more MARS SSS) .

    My fervent hope is that we do go for 3 more T26s’, but keep the Rivers around until these new ships are commissioned – getting 3 new hulls from around 2017-8 onwards.

    More hope that expectation.

  127. Red Trousers


    I have never done the National Lottery, until yesterday when young William (8) insisted upon investing part of his Christmas money in a ticket. As the Thunderball (whatever) is a rollover. The little sod’s just won £20.

    Do I tell him and so encourage a lifetime of gambling, or keep very quiet?

  128. Peter Elliott

    Use it to explain the laws of probablility and in particular the advantages of “quitting while you’re ahead” :)

  129. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @RT – He is far too young either to make sense of the law of probabilities, or be subjected to the moral hazard of gambling…as a responsible Father you have no option but to square your shoulders and tell him he lost (for his own good, obviously)…and then conceal the evidence by strolling down to the pub to spend his winnings…

    Might be better not to mention it to his Mother though…

    Pragmatically Gloomy

  130. wf

    Give him his winnings and suggest he plays some arcade games. He will probably lose most of the money and learn a lesson. Consider stacking the deck to ensure he doesn’t get lucky :-)

  131. Red Trousers

    I think I’ll use his winnings to part pay his mini-rugby fees this spring. He might make a decent open side flanker one day…. He’s got that odd chunkiness or solidity and a decent turn of speed.

  132. Simon


    Honestly, I’d give him 10 x £2 coins and let him spend them all (£2 each week) on another ticket. That way he should see his winnings slowly diminish – if not then you might have an 8 year old millionaire :-)

  133. Think Defence

    Seems like a perfect age to introduce him to beer, fags and hookers

    See how far he gets with £20

    Now that would give him a valuable lesson in the value of money :)

  134. Simon


    Whilst they have only one aircraft carrier, it would be a good idea for China to acquire another… in the form of 1000m of reef runway ;-)

  135. Gloomy Northern Boy

    Boss – you are aware that Mrs Red Trousers is a Spanish Lady of ancient lineage and unbending temperament aren’t you? I am a little concerned that she may even now be tracking you down with a view to clearing your ear-wax with a stiletto…I cannot imagine she would welcome the beer, fags and hookers proposal bearing in mind young William’s tender years…

    Even in these parts we don’t start on that sort of stuff until they are earning their own living by going up chimneys – at about ten or eleven!

    A concerned Gloomy

  136. TED

    @JamesF The 90m OPV looks quite nice really. With a 30mm and gimpy I think it will be more than good enough for anti pirate operations in the Med/Africa. And maybe one for the Falklands. It does beg the question though, why replace the rivers class. Surely in out own waters we don’t need anything that capable.

    I would have the Rivers class doing UK stuff and send these new fangled things with flight decks off on anti piracy missions.

  137. mickp

    I admit to being a proponent of the ‘new OPVs need a hanger’ argument but do they?

    Firstly, where would we get the helo from for permanent assignment? Our high end escort fleet will suck most of those up.

    Secondly, if the emphasis is true patrol rather than fighty stuff, what can a manned help contribute that an embarked camcopter or (even scan eagle can’t do)? I notice L’Adroit has operated a camcopter.

    If its really about hulls, presence, patrol are we gold plating with an embarked helo and hanger? Or course an OPV (or two) operating around land (UK / FI) or further afield with an attendant RFA can temporarily embark a helo as required.

  138. Simon


    …the ‘new OPVs need a hanger’ argument but do they?

    If these OPVs are to do drug interdiction and pirate policing then the answer must be a resounding “yes”. Turning up in a RHIB that isn’t even big enough to have a .50 cal fitted seems a little… how can I put it… suicidal ;-)

  139. Challenger


    If we wanted to deploy any small patrol vessel to the far flung waters of the Caribbean, South Atlantic or Indian Ocean then I’d say yes they need a hangar.

    The whole point of this would be to free up assets currently lumbered with standing commitments that keep them from their primary roles.

    Ships, such as the ones that steam around the South Atlantic do often get replenished by RFA tankers, but they meet up with them every few days or weeks when they need to. If you rely on a RFA to provide aviation facilities then it would need to follow the patrol ship around at all times, thus surely defeating the idea of using cheaper OPV’s to free up more specialised and much sought after platforms to do other things. In such a situation why wouldn’t an RFA patrolling on it’s own with a helicopter/hangar and boarding team suffice? Plus in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean RN ships rely on shore based logistics and port fuel stops far more than tankers and other auxiliaries.

    In the harsh environments RN/RFA ships operate in i really think any vessel that is supposed to fulfill a patrol tasking needs to be able to store and maintain a helicopter away from the elements.

    You make a good point about using Scan Eagle and other small UAV’s for surveillance and targeting, we will hopefully see more of that in the future. However putting a hangar on a ship is the cheaper part of the set-up and provides a sensible amount of utility and future-proofing. I’d rather put one on and then decide further down the line whether to permanently deploy a helicopter on the ship.

    You never know when/if a larger ship with a hanger will be available and you never know when something like this could come in handy, even if it’s not an absolute necessity from the start.

  140. mickp

    @Mark, although the NZ Protector OPV seems to get a hanger on an 85m vessel.

    I see the arguments for a hanger if these are really going far afield. I guess only certain ones need a Lynx assigned and the others can have a couple of camcopters in the hanger. Want I want to avoid is pushing the vessel up in size and spec so we get ‘patrol frigate’. I would have thought there was enough length in the Amazonas 90m design to get a small hanger on with minimal redesign.

    I feel that the three being built will be sans hanger though. Will be interested when we get more details

  141. mickp

    On the Venator 110 – ok provided its the CG version and not the ‘patrol frigate one. Essentially Amazonas class kit on a longer hull with hanger. Still a genuine patrol vessel rather than mini frigate. Perhaps its an option after the first three new OPVs. Wonder what the costing comparison is?

  142. dave haine

    Welcome back ‘X’

    Actually, I reckon you might be onto something there. The shikashima class might not be a bad model to follow.
    The way I see it any OPV we need has got to have:

    A good long range. (I figure that its going to be trundling around on its own a lot of the time)
    Good for horrible sea’s (It’s going to be working in the South Atlantic, or in the North Atlantic)
    Enhanced weaponry. (It ‘s got to look after itself, or at the very least get itself out of trouble)
    Enhanced Sensors. (See above)
    Hanger and embarked aircraft, both manned and RPAV. (Always handy if being anti-piratical, or for myriad other uses)
    Able to carry and deploy big, fast RHIBs (see above).

    I wonder if the defence and industrial agreement we made with the Japanese government would include these if we asked? As they’ve already got two, are planning to build two more, us piggy-backing another three would make it quite cost-effective for both nations.

  143. TED

    @mickp you are right of course about the amount of Helicopters. Another reason why I think the Army should stop buying its wildctas and give them to the navy, whilst getting something better for their needs.

    @Simon makes a good point about the vulnerability of a RHIB. But also if you have a nippy little speed boat going like the clappers your RHIB is going to take a long time to get it if at all. One Wildcat to shadow or stop it would do nicely.

    Navy Wildcat will give us anti surface/subsurface capabilities which could prove usefull if needing to high tail it out of somewhere. You are also much more useful in humanitarian mission as you can fly around under slung loads.

    I personally think its a bit off that RFA are doing more of the counter piracy stuff. I though we had warships for that sort of stuff!

  144. x

    @ dave haine

    Just skipping through.

    Brian Black said “Why buy a Type 26 sized ship from the Japanese when you could have a British built Type 26?”

    There is more to ship design than size.

  145. Simon


    Why buy a Type 26 sized ship from the Japanese when you could have a British built Type 26?

    Why buy a Honda when you can have a Rover :-(

    …although, obviously, I entirely agree with your statement.

  146. John Hartley

    For a multi-role ship, I am quite taken with the 9000 ton San Georgio style landing ship, the Italians are building for the Algerians. As well as being able to carry helicopters, troops & vehicles, it is also armed with a 76mm gun & Aster 15 missiles.

  147. Mickp

    @JH I agree. I think that is where my thoughts are going on future amphib fleet – a few smaller mulitirole ships with perhaps a couple of reinforced companies on, and larger dock ships in the RFA with a dual role as motherships etc.

  148. Nick

    New design Aircraft Carriers

    Out of interest Boston Globe leaked details of classified report on the $12.8 billion (22% over budget and counting) UNS Gerald R Ford, CVN-78, in which the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) feature highly, they were at one time to be fitted to the QE CVF class so as to enable the use the F35C instead of the less capable VL F35B.

    “The EMALS features a 100,000-horsepower linear electric motor, with a slide that accelerates along a giant rail. Land based tests of the system in New Jersey have demonstrated a reliability rate of only 240 launches without a failure, when it should be above 1,250 launches without failure at this stage of the Gerald Ford’s development. The advanced arresting gear, which is designed to safely snare landing aircraft with cables stretched across the deck, is similarly unreliable, according to the report. In the tests, the system of cables has averaged 20 successful landings without failure. That is far less than the 4,950 successful landings it should be achieving without failure. The ultimate goal is for the system to work 16,500 times without failure.” It is reported that both systems are 100% plus over budget and overweight which may lead to stability problems.
    The Ford which was launched last November will have to have the flight deck cut open to to install the revised systems, already substantial rework has had to done on the electrical power system.

    This again emphasizes the principle that you never start construction until you have a proven design and planning done with material available.

  149. Peter Elliott


    Looks like we had a lucky escape there.

    Well done to that plucky bloke Hammond for being strong enough to pull our chestnuts out of the fire!


  150. Nick

    @Peter Elliott

    It was a very lucky escape. The US Navy got carried away by the hype of the EMALS and sold it to Congress, just hope they can turn it around otherwise CVN-78 will be a white elephant, realistically they are having throw $billions at it to make it work. They should have installed the current steam catapults in the Ford and only until the EMALS & AAG and the other advanced equipment was proven to install on the follow on CVN-79/80 as was their original plan.

    At 70,000 tonne QE CVF class would have been an order of magnitude more effective warship if the proven steam catapults had been installed enabling the use of the F35C and E2D Hawkeye plus enabling enhanced joint operations with French and US aircraft carriers. The F35C has a longer range, larger payload and bomb/missile bay and lower cost, with simpler and lower maintenance than the F35B whilst the E2D capabilities will put the proposed surveillance and control Merlin helicopter to shame.

  151. Peter Elliott


    Agree based on current available airframes.

    But there is a clear development path that we *could* follow to get to a next generation rotorcraft with a pressurised cabin able to go to 10,000m.

    Not saying we will. But with a 50 year service life for the ships we can afford to look beyond Merlin in terms of reaching FOC.

    And the fact is the F35C has its own issues recovering to the deck and in terms of its ability hit speed and manoeuvrability targets.

    Another unknown is whether if we had funded Converteam’s EMCAT whether it would have been any better or worse than EMALS+AAG. At the time EMALS was seen as lower risk. But EMCAT’s approach to power management was, as I recall in some ways more promising.

  152. Not a Boffin


    What the report actually refers to are a number of teething issues, or elements where the test programme has not yet completed, which means that reliability figures cannot yet be confirmed, which MAY have a knock-on effect on SGR – “may” being the operative word. It most certainly will not require “billions” of dollars to fix.

    One issue they highlight for example is this figure of 240 launches before failure for EMALS. I suspect that much of this may be an incidence of a single failure of the demonstration rig at Lakehurst, which will distort the failure rate for the simple reason that you cannot generate enough launches at that facility to meet the reliability target in any sensible timeframe. Having been to Lakehurst myself, I can tell you that the cycle time for launching an aircraft down the rig, stopping it, bringing it back to the launch platform, re-rigging in a “test” style and then launching again is probably of the order of half an hour, which means that in a typical working day, you’ll get about 20-25 launches out of it. Any failure in early days testing will by definition hurt the statistical figure, until you’re in a position where you can generate significant numbers of launches in a compressed timescale. We call that the ship is undertaking trials and work-up.

    EARS / AAG is less mature, but the same issues will be seen there.

    Converteam have enough on their plate trying to sort out T45 – EMCAT would have destroyed them.

  153. Brian Black

    “There is more to ship design than size”

    Go on then, X. Assuming the Navy decided that for some reason it needed a couple of transoceanic, coastguard-spec patrol vessels about the size of a Type 26, what unique design feature does the Shikashima have that would make the introduction of a new class of two or three ships more worthwhile than a coastguard-spec Type 26?

    I personally think the idea is bonkers anyway. The Japanese ships were built for a specific escort task and were subsequently repurposed for use as OPVs, they are not necessarily what Japan would build for use as patrol vessels from the start.

  154. Nick

    CVN-78 is officially admitted to be 22% over budget and 2 years late. Last November “Leave it to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to bring up the uncomfortable reality of defense procurement overruns, focusing initially on an added $500 million needed for the CVN-78 – the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier whose cost overruns have grown to $2 billion.”

    Apologies if I did not make myself clear EMALS & AAG are not the only problems with the ship systems, there is also difficulties with the new Volume Search Radar and the electromagnetic Advanced Weapon Elevators amongst others
    When the shipbuilder has to rip out the designed power system and replace it to meet changed requirements of EMALS it gets expensive as it will when they have to cut out the flight deck to install the redesigned system and then make good.
    The current official estimate of the final cost is $12.8 billion, some are suggesting there will be no change from $14 billion, understandable after reading the GAO report.

    My point as before is that if we are to have a fighting chance to bring kit in on budget and time is that we must impose the discipline that you never start construction until you have a proven design and planning done with material available.

    Extract from US GAO report

    The Navy faces technical, design, and construction challenges to completing Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) that have led to significant cost increases and reduced the likelihood that a fully functional ship will be delivered on time. The Navy has achieved mixed progress to date
    developing CVN 78’s critical technologies, such as a system intended to more effectively launch aircraft from the ship. In an effort to meet required installation dates aboard CVN 78, the Navy has elected to produce some of these systems prior to demonstrating their
    maturity—-a strategy that GAO’s previous work has shown introduces risk of late and costly design changes and rework, and leaves little margin to incorporate additional weight growth in the ship. In addition, progress in constructing CVN 78 has been overshadowed by inefficient out-of-sequence work, driven largely by material shortfalls, engineering challenges, and delays developing and installing critical technology systems. These events are occurring in a constrained budget environment, even as lead ship costs have
    increased by over 22 percent since construction authorization in fiscal year 2008—-to $12.8 billion. Additional increases could follow due to uncertainties facing critical technology systems and shipbuilder underperformance.

    The Navy’s strategy for providing timely demonstration of CVN 78 capabilities is hampered by post-delivery test plan deficiencies, Joint Strike Fighter aircraft delays, and reliability shortfalls affecting key ship systems. Additional risk is introduced due to the Navy’s plan to conduct integration testing of key systems with the ship at the same time as initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). This strategy will constrain opportunities to implement timely, corrective actions if problems are discovered with key ship systems. In addition, significant discoveries during IOT&E could delay demonstration of ship capabilities. The Joint Strike Fighter, intended to operate with the carrier, has faced delays, and there is the likelihood of costly retrofits to the ship to accommodate the aircraft
    after CVN 78 is delivered to the Navy. But even after the ship commissions, several key ship systems will continue to face significant reliability shortfalls that will likely increase costs to the government and limit the ship’s mission effectiveness. The extent of these limitations will not be known until after IOT&E. GAO contemplated making a recommendation to delay CVN 78 commissioning until the ship successfully completes IOT&E. However, based on additional information provided by DOD, GAO decided not to include this recommendation in the report.

  155. Challenger


    Whilst I agree in hindsight the UK should have pursued some kind of CATOBAR F18/F35C/E2D solution from the off I don’t quite know where the steam generators would have come from?

    The USN carriers use their nuclear reactors to provide the steam, is their any cost effective alternative the RN could have used on CVF assuming they would have been designed for catapults and steam propulsion from the start?

  156. Simon

    …I don’t quite know where the steam generators would have come from?

    There’s a reason why us Brits drink so much tea… The kettle. :-)

  157. SomewhatRemoved

    The carrier conversion is off the cards permanently. BAE compromised on the flight deck, using thinner, lighter steel because there were topweight problems (the report was linked here somewhere but I can’t find it). As a result the deck doesn’t meet the structural strength requirement for arrested landings. To make the deck compatible, you need a new deck and then you face the original stability problem. Plus cost would be, well, epic.

  158. mike


    Well, good thing the plan was stuck to, can’t blame BAe designing for something originally intended for STOVL.

    Still, I thought a lot of future proofing was incorporated into its design? I guess the thought of future aircraft operations beyond the F-35B wasn’t on the agenda.

  159. Simon


    So much for ship design.

    It was supposed to be adaptable.

    We’ve got to get some competition back into the marketplace otherwise it will be failure, after failure, after failure.

  160. Brian Black

    This issue of lighter steel being used for the carrier decks has previously been presented as a better grade of steel that did not compromise on strength, but was cheaper as less mass of steel was required.

  161. Peter Elliott


    Before 2007 we had an adaptable design.

    In 2007 the design was ‘optimised’ to STOVL in order to reduce cost. This was a government decison and nothing to do with competition.

    After 2007 we did not have an adaptable design.

  162. Chris.B.

    “Needing to reduce the topside weight of the huge new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, BAE Systems decided to develop a new, thinner grade of steel plate to form the vessel’s flight deck. This involved close collaboration with steel producer Corus to produce a material that was tough enough for this application, even in lower-strength areas where two sheets were welded together.

    BAE Systems created the specification for the material and Corus came up with a number of options. Finding that the initial materials did not have a large enough margin of safety in toughness to compensate for loss of toughness around weld areas, the partners decided to use tougher calcium-treated steel – the first time this has been considered for a shipbuilding application in the UK. Strathclyde University provided in-depth analysis of the steel’s structure, while Air Liquide Welding assisted with improving speed of welding for the flight deck and hangar areas. The new material can also be used, in thicker gauges, for areas of the ship that require blast protection.

    The project succeeded in ’de-risking’ the choice of material from a different market sector and also demonstrated that, although the calcium-treated steel has a higher unit cost than the conventional, thicker steel plate, it is cheaper to use because the lower thickness – and therefore lighter weight – more than compensates for the higher price tag. Thinner plate also requires less welding, which leads to further savings and reduces the possibility of welding defects.”

  163. CheshireCat

    I see there was plenty of press yesterday on all matters UAV yesterday:

    All good interesting stuff, particularly the confirmation that both Somerset and Cardigan Bay will operate Scan Eagle at the sane tine, which presumably indicates what a valuable resource it is considered. It makes you wonder how quickly this relatively inexpensive system could spread across the Fleet once it’s undoubted usefulness is realised.

    on a related thought, a Scan Eagle, Lynx/Wildcat and CB90 (Riverine Patrol Craft( combination makes Cardigan Bay a pretty handy asset . . . I wonder if the Aussies would sell us Largs Bay back?

    Also, is it me or is this the first formal confirmation from the RAF is coming into core? With Reaper and Shadow confirmed, I do worry about Sentinel’s future, which is a shame as I think it:s a great aircraft with a huge amount of potential if the money was there to exploit it. Fingers crossed NATO AGS saves it!!

    On a related thought, I can’t help thinking that should Watchkeeper be deployed to Afghanistan, that it’s SAR and GMTI capabilities may again put Sentinel at risk.

    all a bit rambly, but some food for thought!

  164. CheshireCat

    Oh dear, apologies for the grammar and spelling in my last post, IPhone to Windows Phone transition going swimmingly!!!

  165. jamesf

    The RN buy was 14 scaneagle – I hear Insitu (Aussie manufacturer) screwed up and only 2 of them actually work right now. Boeing are livid.

  166. TED

    Just read Sea Harrier over the Falklands where the author critices the RAF for being PR monkeys and refers to the RN as being “the silent service” and not doing any PR stunts. Question, when did the RN stop being “the silent service” because they fill my news feed every day!

  167. Not a Boffin

    That article on steel is embarrassing. “Lightweight” steel? I doubt the density has changed from 7.87te/cubic metre. New “thinner” grade? High-strength, high toughness steel is supplied in a wide variety of grades. Lower strength areas where the steel is welded? That’s welding consumable development.

    There’s probably some truth in there somewhere, but hmm…..

  168. WiseApe

    @CheshireCat: “Also, is it me or is this the first formal confirmation from the RAF is coming into core?” I’m not sure of your grammar here; are you saying the RAF is coming into core budget? Perish the thought! 90 years counts as a temporary operational requirement in my book. :-)

    Oh and welcome back X.

  169. wf

    I’m not sure “fears grow” is really what most of us think. Unless she’s replaced by someone equally batso but competent as well…

  170. Red Trousers

    Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, the last but one WW2 Japanese soldier to surrender (in the Philippines, in 1974), has died aged 91.

    I am aware that he and his comrades were responsible for the deaths of 30 Filipinos after 1945, which should not be ignored, but I have always had a certain level of admiration for his sense of duty and stoicism. I think I’ll raise a glass to his memory tonight.

  171. Phil


    I’d have had that fucker shot on the spot – coaxed him out and put one between his eyes.

    He wanted to play the game, the game should have been played until the bitter end. Tough shit.

  172. WiseApe

    “…surgery on her head …” – Wonder what they were looking for?

    Re: Lt. Onoda – He was lucky the US hadn’t yet developed tactical nukes.

  173. Not a Boffin

    Just seen this from SR and I’m a bit doubtful…

    “The carrier conversion is off the cards permanently. BAE compromised on the flight deck, using thinner, lighter steel because there were topweight problems (the report was linked here somewhere but I can’t find it). As a result the deck doesn’t meet the structural strength requirement for arrested landings. To make the deck compatible, you need a new deck and then you face the original stability problem. Plus cost would be, well, epic.”

    For a start, there is a weight margin of several thousand tonnes with a centroid around the hangar deck, aimed at allowing for through-life growth and the cat n trap fit. So you don’t actually have the classic stability problem, you have something else. With the cats n traps not fitted you’d end up with a large metacentric height, which will mean a short roll period which is bad for air ops, whereas your classic stability problem is a GM that’s too small. What that means is that if the cats n traps aren’t fitted, you’d be trying to put weight back in to compensate.

    In any case, the landing area for CTOL ops is about 60 x 20m. If I put another inch of plate on that, I end up with about 250 tonnes and I’m feeling generous, so I’ll chuck in another 50 tonnes for beams and girders. That 300 tonnes is a single figure percentage of the weight margin in the design.

    Something about that steel story is awry. I know what grade and thickness the flight and hangar decks are and it’s not that special.

  174. Fedaykin

    @Red Trousers

    The RN surface fleet has been; “largely of little utility to the nation since 1945″ …. (pauses to take in breath before continuing to type) hmmm

    Your loyalties yet again give selective memory me thinks ;-)

  175. CheshireCat

    Ha, cheers for that WiseApe, clearly my composition is just as bad as my grammar!!

    Whilst it’s a nice thought to think any branch of the armed forces would be properly funded from the core budget, what I managed to miss from my last little missive was a reference to Reaper being confirmed as coming into the core budget, as I said it’s certainly the first official confirmation I’ve read.

    Good news undoubtedly, but it’s unlikely they’re going to be chugging around the skies of rural Lincolnshire when they come back from Afghanistan, so I’m curious to see where they might be kept and how crews will retain currency if not involved in am enduring operation?

  176. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @CheshireCat – most UK Police Forces make use of helicopters for both observation and pursuit these days, but have a limited capacity – aid to the civil powers? Not without its difficultie in legal/civil liberties terms…but genuine work and bloody useful in some of our more challenging Inner Cities…although we might need to draw the line at drone striking “gangstas” – sadly!


  177. WiseApe

    @CheshireCat – That’s a good point about what the Reapers are actually going to do – and haven’t we just ordered another five; seem to recall reading that recently. Hire them out to the French for their African adventures? Are they cleared to fly over water – temporary MPA?

    Speaking of (troubled) waters:

    But we might have another buyer for those new OPVs:

    “…the Navy is in the earliest stages of thinking about what sort of ship might be useful and affordable instead of an LCS.”

  178. Chris

    WiseApe – ref USN rethink – Sometimes you wonder if all the beancounters were sacked and projects once let were left to complete to the original spec, 1) just how much stuff the armed forces would afford to bring into service, 2) just how much better than the previous generation it would still be, and 3) just how many more generations of stuff would be affordable in any given time interval.

    You all know I spit feathers at the mountain of cash wasted on 25 years of CVR(T) replacement studies, all to end up picking 20 year old ASCOD as a platform. Worse still, having picked ASCOD because its all that was affordable, the requirement writers started all over again demanding upgrades and growth capacity and modifications etc that have resulted (the GD material on the web tells us) in a completely redesigned vehicle that just looks like ASCOD. Money no object.

    I assume the CVF project was run along the same lines; no doubt JSF is suffering similarly although the US authorities will temper UK MOD’s more extreme desires.

    Had the CVR(T) replacement office bought what was called FFLAV in the 80s, or TRACER in the mid 90s, or FRES in 2010 (to their original spec in each case) how would the spend profile have differed compared to the cost of decades of aborted studies?

    Had a new build of VAAC fitted Harriers been undertaken in the late 90s, would the Harrier force still be useful? For the cost (UK share) of JSF, would the mythical supersonic Harrier P1154 (more stealthy, faster, longer range) have been afforded?

    It just seems that all the requirement change after development starts results in massive waste of effort for no progress. By the idiotic structure of the competitive procurement process any military equipment buy will take a decade to get into service, once PQQ, ITT1, ITT2, BAFO, Preferred Bidder negotiations and finally D&M contract phases have been slogged through. If MOD could bring themselves to set a requirement, either pick an equipment that best matches and just buy off the shelf, or pick a producer and work together to get something bespoke (that’s customized for our American readers) then perhaps the equipment might be in service soon enough that the original requirement is still relevant?

    Anyway. Here’s a nice picture from when we actually managed to make brilliant stuff:

  179. Simon

    It seems the MoD have forgotten how to procure.

    You can either start with a requirement, locate or design a solution, and finance it…

    …Or you can start with a budget and prioritise the requirements such that you can build something you can afford.

    If the requirements are too high and the budget is too low you will fail – there’s simply nothing that can be done to avoid it. It just seems that we have forgotten to do the prioritisation bit.

    I recently wrote a requirement for a server which came to £4K when I priced it. Fortunately I’d prioritised the components of the deliverable such that I knew exactly what to yield on first (storage as it happens), after than it would have been RAM, then redundancy (multiple CPUs, power supplies, RAID, etc). I was then told I could only spend £3K so we have a server will less storage.

    I really don’t find it very difficult.

    I also don’t find it difficult going back to Mr Bigwig and saying – you can’t have what you want for the money you want to pay unless you buy second hand or change your fundamental requirements.

    Perhaps “procurement” should be a formal qualification (BA hons) rather than the usual “shopping for dreams”. Weirdly I studied it at GCSE level by doing Economics and DNR (Design aNd Realisation). This makes me seriously wonder about the caliber of the people we pay to waste our money.

  180. Phil

    I really don’t find it very difficult.

    Well it quite clearly is. I’m no apologist for central or local government but I get they work in some pretty trying circumstances.

    Not least the requirements matter is essentially a social construction that is often compromised by political and economic factors. We see it here for example with Recce. We see those here who argue big is better and we need AFVs for recce, and we have RT who would prefer to do recce on a sedgway painted matt green but otherwise naked. There is a difference of opinion on some pretty fundamental matters from top to bottom. Add in political considerations (jobs etc) and economic considerations (the money available shifts all the time) and the contextual considerations (the people, conflict situations and lessons are changing) and the fact that kit these days is really bloody complicated and it’s a wonder anything gets built at all.

    CVF was decided upon officially in 1998. I hadn’t started my GCSEs then. Now I’m almost 31 and there’s been 4x wars, 4x defence reviews, 3x Prime Ministers, 3x chancellors and 8x defence secs and the bloody thing isn’t due to be operation until 2018-20 yet!!

  181. WiseApe

    @Chris – I wonder who is the bigger waster of money – in proportionate terms – MoD or DoD.

    @Simon – Well if we’re paying them to waste our money then we really don’t have grounds for complaint, do we? Knighthoods all round.

    Has anyone come across any confirmation of TD’s earlier post about Typhoons for Kuwait? Not that I’m saying an online French newspaper is in any way unreliable….

  182. Red Trousers

    @ Fedaykin,

    I think you misinterpret me. 1982 was the only time when the Andrew proved useful. And so therefore largely they have not proven to be useful.

    (And if anyone wants to start talking about deterrence in the Cold War, well all 3 services were up to that so they cancel out).

    In contrast there were hundreds of named operations involving non-Cold War, or at least regional interventions in other parts. Very few of them involved the Navy as they were not really of utility.

    Same again since 1990. If there is a service really struggling to maintain a reason for existing, look to the dark blue. Frankly, they could be privatised less CASD and none of us would notice.

  183. Simon


    Interesting you picked recce especially since the MPA thread was going strong ;-)

    As an example, I think the problem with recce is it seems (since you guys know much better) that it constitutes two completely separate requirements: one is what I call “scouting” (sneaky, stealthy, information/position gathering). The other is what seems to be called recce-in-force, and something I call “flushing out”.

    I think, however, that my point was lost. I assume everyone in the business knows what the requirements and definitions are, it just seems that the priorities are never listed. Maybe that is the customer’s fault, or maybe it is the supplier’s or agents for not actually asking?

  184. Phil

    I assume everyone in the business knows what the requirements and definitions are,

    But that is the problem – there’s arguments for different requirements. So what you have are requirements that are socially constructed – n number of people negotiate and hash out x requirements. And then people move and events occur and then requirements change and drift.

    Having requirements is simple on paper but I think it is actually sometimes very difficult to achieve and there’s a tension in them because lots of actors have their tuppence to throw in on the matter.

    Recce is interesting because there are two clearly defined extremes.

    I am a heavy recce chap but that is not based on experience so much as history.

  185. Chris

    Phil, (Simon, WiseApe) – you have the problem in a nutshell. “people move and events occur and then requirements change”. Exactly the point – the hideous process is so vast that only the simplest UORs can be procured within a rationally useful time – all the others take so long that between User Requirement kick-off and in service date somewhere between four and six generations of desk officers have picked up and dropped the reins – monster programmes have even more. Each with bright new ideas that absolutely must be taken on board. Requirement and consequent project churn is guaranteed.

    I once joined a project that included an ex-GEC engineer; he’d been one of the flight test team on Nimrod AEW3 – the really ugly version of Nimrod and that’s saying something: According to this fellow, in its earliest days the system was very good – as in a better performer than the AWACS of the day – and the equipment was within the payload capacity of Comet/Nimrod so reasonable flight times and ceiling were possible. Over the years MOD requirement owners heard of new developments and new features on other radar platforms so added the requirement to AEW3. Radar power was significantly increased as a result, as was processing power on-board. The systems grew like topsy as more and more new features were demanded. In the end, the airframe was grossly overloaded with electrickery and big processor cabinets and RF power electronics – the radar transmitters had become so meaty they needed liquid cooling, so were fitted inside the fuel tanks. This meant the aircraft always needed a minimum quantiy of fuel in the tanks or the transmitters would burn – not ideal sat in a puddle of kerosene. He described the last flight he experienced in AEW3 thus:

    The aircraft started its take-off roll from way behind the piano-keys on one end of Prestwick runway, and despite full deafening power managed only modest acceleration (like a Morris Minor, I think he said) – it was still gaining speed as the warning markers for the far end of the runway passed the window, and very shortly before passing the piano-keys at the far end of the runway the aircraft lumbered off the ground. Even though it was not certain it would stay off the ground the instant weight was off the wheels the pilot threw the gear up – a bit of a risk this engineer thought, but as the gear doors thudded shut there was an unholy screechy hissy noise that whooshed down the aircraft. That apparently was the tops of the trees at the airport boundary scraping the underside of the Nimrod as it passed. The poor old overloaded aircraft did some unimpressive flying for an unimpressive length of time and had to return before the transmitter cooling fuel got too low.

    The story may or may not be true – I wasn’t there so can’t verify. But the inference was clear – if AEW3 had been procured to its original spec it would have been better than AWACS that was flying at the time. Instead it was ‘improved’ by overambitious requirement addition until it became a pointless joke. GEC had some skin in this – they could have been more honourable and resisted the new requirements rather than welcoming them (or the additional Cost-Plus funds they brought), but a lot of the responsibility needs to sit on the shoulders of those throwing in skip-loads of nice-to-haves in the misguided belief they are getting ‘more’ for the User, MOD & taxpayer. They must have been able to see how the project was regressing from useful to useless the more stuff they stuffed in.

    Of course MOD blamed GEC for everything, declared it a function of Cost-Plus which encouraged Industry to take advantage of poor little MOD, and walked away from AEW3 pretending its failure had nothing to do with them. Well they would, wouldn’t they?

  186. dave haine

    @ Phil
    I’m really confused now….Do you mean that you’re a recce chap that’s heavy?…..or a guy that likes heavy recce? (He said, jokingly proving another problem you can get with procurement)

    @ Chris

    Your point is very well made….but to be fair the Nimrod AEW3 was never going to be any good….it was too f**king pig-ugly. …Great believer in Sir Sydney Camms saying ‘If it looks right, it will be right’, see.

  187. John Hartley

    A couple of stupid mistakes ruined the Nimrod. The first idea for a AEW Nimrod was to fit the Hawkeye radar & create a “Hawkrod”. Sadly they went GEC bulbous instead.
    Then the MRA4 was ruined by reusing fuselages rather than complete new build. The Nimrod was not at fault, it was the 2 stupid decisions.

  188. El Sid

    As usual, Chris Cavas is closest to the story on LCS :

    That seems a clear nod towards buying something like a Nansen – Navantia already has a partnership with one of the US yards, although GCS would probably be second choice.

    The US is having a big rethink on strategy at the moment, so I suspect nothing will be certain until the dust has settled, but it does seem the frigate fans are winning over those who want to replace the LCS with something much bigger and slower like the Endurances. The trouble is budget – I suspect that a small LPD would be combined with the replacement for the Whidbey Islands (the next big procurement programme), whereas a frigate would probably end up stealing budget from the Burkes.

    I suspect BAE will be throwing money at lobbyists over the next year or two….

  189. Peter Elliott

    The bit about needing AAW capability that doesn’t fire out of Mk41 and doesn’t need fire control radar looks like an open goal for SeaCeptor.

  190. CheshireCat


    To be honest, if we had a warship building industry that knew how to export successfully they could clear up in the US at the moment if that article is to be believed!

    Escort Frigate for ASW and local air defence of itself and other vessels . . .

    GCS, check!!!
    Sea Ceptor, check!!!
    even Type 2087 sonar, check!!!

    Of course, BAE Systems pathological inability to successfully exports warships will kill all these opportunities in their tracks, and if by divine providence they did get their act together, Congress would never swallow a foreign frigate design . . . remember the replacement AAR Tanker episode?!

    Hmmm, might have done GNB’s job for him there!!

  191. Obsvr

    @ Chris

    Your ex GEC chum was a bit off track on AEW.

    The real problem was at that time MoD had a standard microprocessor that was mandated for systems, Moore’s law hadn’t been invented. There was no way the MoD std processor could cope with the AEW dataload.

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