UK defence issues and the odd container or two

A Mistral for Sale

So

A lot of people think we can just whip out the Queen’s credit card and integrate the ship into the Royal Navy, if only life were that simple, even though the French are officially our new best friend forever.

Russian Mistral e1406040022260 640x312 A Mistral for Sale
Russian Mistral

Are we too wed to a tight equipment plan to have any flexibility, is all the unallocated underspend going to the Army and RAF, does our amphibious doctrine need the traditional LPH/LPD mix and what about the Terms of Business Agreement between the MoD and BAE?

Many barriers but just for fun, how about a quick fantasy fleets exercise

With the basic rule that it would have to be manning neutral and an assumption that the costs of conversion to a form suitable for UK use (relevant regulations, machinery and other equipment etc.) would not be astronomical.

what would you trade for one of these Mistrals?

a) Nothing

a) My idea is…

Or, do you have a other cunning plan.?

Shared NATO use, RFA manned for training, a way to fill the shipbuilding gap without the worlds most expensive fisheries enforcement fleet that no one wants, straight swap with this and Watchkeeper, offshore gambling den!

 

PS

If by buying this we could avoid buying VBCI, it would get my vote icon smile A Mistral for Sale

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!

144 Comments

  1. frightenedyouth

    Shared NATO use has been floated (haha) but I think the questions there are 1. Who will man it? 2. Whose assets will be on deck? 3. Will it ever get deployed if indeed its use is shared. Presumably, everyone who needs a ship like this in NATO can either build one on their own. Also, the people that don’t have them probably don’t want them (like Germany)…and what contribution could it make anyway again?

  2. Simon257

    As the second ship is being partly built in Russia and the Russians know doubt have the complete plans for the Mistral Class. What’s stopping them building the entire vessel themselves as they plan to build another 2 in Russia?

  3. Jules

    BIN THE BAYS!
    BIN OCEAN!
    But only if we can have the two!
    Could we get two? No we can’t!
    And have Albion and Bulwark at the same time…
    Then it’s just,
    Fantasy fleets!

  4. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon 257

    They are only building certain parts and I guess what would stop them would be that France would ban the export of cruicial pieces of equipment which would leave the Russians trying to reverse engineer or shoe horn in items not designed to be there. Both are a recipe for an expensive disaster.

  5. Swimming Trunks

    Medical Diplomacy/HADR/PCRS?

    http://blog.usni.org/2011/03/17/paint-it-white

    “Of all the flat decks, the Mistral would be a top choice because France seems likely to remain an active and enthusiastic partner in maritime outreach in the coming years. France also maintains many islands and remote territories. Of the countries that have the most to gain by building a set of active maritime alliances, France is it. By picking the Mistral as a standard for an aid vessel, the Coast Guard would be creating a longer-term tie to a valuable seaborne ally.”

    http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2008/November/Pages/ToWinHeartsandMinds,GiveCoastGuardNewHospitalShips.aspx

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mistral-class_amphibious_assault_ship#Hospital

    You could throw in ASS as well? JMMS?

    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/s-pore-may-buy-large-ship/1222080.html

  6. x

    In my darker moments I sometimes think the EU wants the UK to be Europe’s squaddies. The idea, in a way, that they, Germany and France, are in the market to sell us the tools to do their dirty work makes me feel a bit queezy………

    Not sure about Mistral. Not sure at all.

  7. Lord Jim

    I have no problem with the UK becomming the EUs squaddies as long as the other nations like France and Germany both pay for us to do so and provide all the kit and support needed!

  8. Chuck

    I think it would make a solid Ocean replacement. As for paying for it, turn the screws on a couple more celebs and their ‘investment schemes’. Should be able to rustle up the cash in no time.

    The shipyards have plenty of work already with PoW, T26 and successor in the pipeline. Not a bad time to buy foreign, so long as it’s cheap.

    Problem would actually be getting it cheap, think there’s quite a few folks out there who wouldn’t mind adding it to their fleets. I think just about everyone east of Suez wants or has been mulling over a small flattop.

  9. All Politicians are the Same

    @ Simon 257

    That is the stern section and it set off in April, the French can build all of it as they have done 3.

  10. Observer

    Swimming, the JMMS is probably going to be an Endurance 160. One thing I really like about it is that the deck plans for it are open source on the web :lol:

  11. WW

    Where does a Russian Mistral differ from a French one, apart from sensor/comms/weapons fit? I suppose there are differences too in areas such as internal layout, fit (Russian Navy standards and stuff) and hotel functions (accomodation, galleys, …).

    Of all the main functions/features of a Mistral (amphibious assault, aviation facilities, troop transport, multifunctional vehicle deck/aviation hangar, hospital, command&control), only hospital and aviation facilities (though only for aviation training) are requirements for the future RN (Argus replacement). Not official requirements yet. All the other ones are very much nice to have, but not really required until Albion/Bulwark and the Bay’s are up for replacement.

    All considered, probably not worth the effort and money of converting/adapting.

    May it rust in peace!

  12. x

    WW asked “Where does a Russian Mistral differ from a French one, apart from sensor/comms/weapons fit?”

    One smells of garlic, bunkers, and ozone/sea and one smells of cabbage, bunkers, and ozone/sea. :)

  13. Challenger

    OK so the Mistral’s have low crew requirements making her manpower neutral (at least when Ocean retires, how it would effect the potential retention of PoW in service is a whole other headache), and you would like to think our continental buddies would give us a decent price considering we would be taking her off there hands.

    However, does the Mistral design meet the RN’s various requirements? The various landing craft and other small boats in UK service, would they fit nicely into the well-deck? Would it be able to cheaply and efficiently take our radar systems, other sensors and defensive armament? What about helo’s, what’s the maximum size helicopter her deck and aircraft lifts/hangar would take? Would our Chinooks be compatible should we ever wish to use them at sea again? What about propulsion? So many questions!

    I guess if all of the criteria were met then getting her in service, at least officially, as some sort of Ocean/Argus replacement in the aviation training role might work. Making her RFA would be worth at least looking at as well.

    The one thing i’m sure on is that if buying this second hand Mistral or any other large vessel threatens the expected bringing of both CVF into service (at least in some shape or form) then it’s too risky to pursue.

  14. Tenor

    The biggest issue of course is “Does acquiring a Mistral endanger HMS Prince of Wales?”

    If so, forget it. we cannot even place the risk of losing that second carrier here for a vastly less powerful ship. However, Ocean desperately needs a replacement and Argus can’t be long to follow.

    Retire Ocean/Argus and replace both with a single Mistral. She has a hospital on board to take over that role (albeit not as large a one) but Argus’ moveable facilities could be moved to Mistral to save money in that regard. Bring Ocean and Argus’ defences onto her too, with excess going to helping arm out the Type 26’s, that will need many more CIWS to fit the entire fleet anyway.

    Sure, it’s exchanging 40k tons for about 21k, but budgets are going down. Did we really see Ocean being replaced anyway? This would kill two birds with one stone AND throw in another well deck to boot!

    The other issue is that clearly the Politicians (here we go…) might worry about it contravening their “complex warships made in Britain” thing. But I don’t see this as farming out the ability…we just saw a good deal and snatched it. Bring her to Britain and let us kit her out.

    It would go a long way to solving the problem the two QE’s have, that between them we have no proper LPH. Using a 70k ton Supercarrier to offload marines is absurd, as you would need the other on station anyway. 140k tons for something we could do with 90k? Much better.

    Furthermore, Mistral can fit the EDA-R, which is bigger than our current (and future) landing craft in terms of width anyway. So she can fit our stuff no problem.

    In short:

    Ocean + Argus for Mistral

  15. Observer

    Swimming, it has a big flaw though.

    Lots of crazies keep trying to turn it into a carrier!! :)

    “We need a C&C helicopter capable hospital ship.”
    “Let’s put the F-35 on it!!!”
    “??? Can the F-35 help in HADR?”
    “We can drop laser guided *food packages.*”
    “Will the refuges survive your food?”
    “If they are lucky. I call it the Molotov Breadbasket method of supply.”

  16. Jules

    @Swimming Trunks, my fave of the lot!
    @ x, ok you win an RFA but where does all of their COSTINGS end up eventually? Don’t answer, I don’t care what anyone says, they are an asset and they cost money, they cost the MOD money too just because they are crewed by the RFA and fly a red duster thats a load of old tosh!
    The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a civilian-manned fleet owned by the Ministry of Defence.
    I don’t care where we save the money from as long as we do, leave that up to the bloody bean counters, offer them a saving and they’ll grab it!

  17. Daniele Mandelli

    Obvious Ocean replacement.

    How much does one of these cost?

    Agree silly ignorant politicians may see it as a replacement for one of the carriers but seriously who would buy PoW? Cannot see the UK selling her.

    1 carrier in service, 1 in reserve or surge if required, and this. Nice.

    I would not trade a thing!

  18. The Other Chris

    My utterly cunning plan is thus:

    Franco-British joint ownership (£300m each to complete construction, cost relative pennies annually to operate on a “one available” basis similar to QE and PoW proposals).

    Assignment to the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force.

    Place under the command of the Maritime Component Commander.

    They would form the core of the Naval Task Group in the CJEF that France and Britain wrap additional assets around as needed.

  19. Dave R

    Understand this is a theoretical exercise. but interesting to note there is absolutely no issues or comments regarding the alleged total impossibility of complex RN vessels being built outside the UK. Or is the Mistral design just a glorified transport ship?, Is Ocean or Argus then? where is that line drawn? or is it now flexible dependant on fleeting circumstances like this? Obviously in reference to the possibility of T26 being built in Scotland if there’s a yes vote in the referendum

  20. x

    @ Jules

    Actually the Albion class and Bay class have different functions. You basically said, “Let’s scrap two logistics vehicles and two fighty vehicles of one type with two(one) fighty vehicle of another type.”

    I know it all comes out of the same pot.

    BTW not a red ensign,

    http://farm9.static.flickr.com/8523/8522042320_d231573f34.jpg

    and ensigns are worn not flown. Flags are flown by ships carrying flag officers. But hey crack on……….. :)

  21. ArmChairCivvy

    ” Place under the command of the Maritime Component Commander”
    – does it/ the rest of the force exist?

  22. Daniele Mandelli

    You joking Mark!?

    I want a LPH with the Albions, not 1 ship to replace the 2.

    Then we are back to the worries over 1 ship or 2 again, like CVF.

    Also the Albions have C3 capabilities. Does the Mistral? No idea.

  23. Chris

    ElSid – surely you mean Flagship of the Navy of the Scottish Republic? Named SRS President Salmond the First?

  24. tweckyspat

    Mistral on paper has a 150 worsktation C3 space hence I suspect that offers at least Albion levels of capability.

    Don’t buy an LPD to do an LPH job. However I really like the idea of an LPD in the Helo Support /PCRS role with an RFA crew. and those lovely landing craft toO!

  25. mickp

    No thanks

    We need a clearer and longer term strategy surrounding Ocean, 2 Albions, 3 Bays and 1 Argus (7 vessels)

    I’m not convinced about the need for an LHD, I think a direct Ocean replacement would be more relevant and cheaper. Build 2 – one RN manned with suitable defensive kit etc, and one ‘austere’ for RFA manning part funded by DFID as a hospital / crisis intervention ship. Maybe the same strategy for future dock ships – 4 say, 1 or 2 RN and 2 or 3 RFA (with a hanger!). 4 classes down to 2?

  26. Mark

    DM

    No joke if you prefer we could put pow up for sale and buy mistral. You could transfer c3 to cvf from albions. Not enough people to have 2 cvf and 2 Albion let alone add a mistral. I think a mistral is more flexible than an Albion so that’s the choice I made.

  27. Jules

    Which brings me to my favorite idea of all and that’s an austere CVF!
    The carrier can be an LPH but it can’t do both at once effectively in my opinion, so lets not buy the mistral at all then.
    AN austere CVF can do the Assault role, do the hospital role and be the aviation training ship
    With two carriers and one dare I say Elephant we’d be sorted…

  28. Waylander

    The Marine Nationale’s amphib capability is actually quite limited, the recent defence white paper said that only two of the three Mistrals could be deployed at once and the French Navy’s last LPD is going to sold (possibly to Chile).

    So for a major op it would just be two Mistrals, no LPDs or LSDs to do the heavy lifting.

    The Mistrals at just 21,000 tonnes are too small for LHDs eg

    Aviation capability 16 “heavy” helos

    By heavy I assume they mean medium lift like Pumas, not Chinooks, off topic but the F-35C could not land on Charles de Gaulle either, so cross decking with the French carrier even if the QE’s had been CATOBAR was always a none starter.

    The Mistrals sealift capacity is quite light, just 450 troops (more for short duration) and 59 vehicles including Leclercs.

    The RN’s ATG compares quite well:

    HMS Ocean – air group of around 18- 20 helos including Chinooks, Sea King/Merlins HC4s, Apache AH1s, Lynx/Wildcats etc
    Up to 800 RMs
    40 trucks, 34 trailers & 6 105mm guns

    2 Albion class LPDS each able to carry

    400 – 700 RMs
    60 vehicles including MBTs
    No hangar but able to operate two Sea Kings, Merlins or Chinooks.

    3 Bay class LSDs each able to transport

    350 – 500 RMs
    150 trucks or 24 MBTs
    No hangar on Mounts Bay or Lyme Bay, but they can operate two helos including Chinooks, Cardigan Bay has been fitted with a small hangar for a Lynx flight, she is forward deployed in the Gulf.

    So the RN has a much greater sealift capacity than the MN, especially as only two Mistrals could be deployed at once, I realize that Albion and Bulwark alternate in service, but for a major operation the mothballed ship would have to be reactivated.

    The ATG would be light on helos, however a bunch could be carried on RFA vessels:

    5 Chinooks, Sea Kings, or Merlins on Argus
    5 Sea Kings or Merlins on Fort Victoria
    2 Sea Kings or Lynx each aboard Fort Austin & Fort Rosalie
    The Wave class tankers can also each operate two Merlins, and in the future the Tides.

    The French Navy only has four replenishment vessels, so it is not comparable with the RFA.
    The 4 Point class sealift ships could also ferry helicopters.

    Anyway after all that, my point is that the RN does not need the Mistrals, especially with the QE’s having a secondary aphib role, better to wait until the Albions and Bays need replacing and build a new class of LHDs at least 30,000 tonnes.

  29. Paul Robinson

    http://www.marinebuzz.com/marinebuzzuploads/e958047a71f1_77F2/BPC_Mistral_L90134.jpg Cutaway plan of Mistral Class layout – sorry chaps but in Frog. Still trying to zoom and find the cheese, wine and garlic store. DCNS will also give a good price on FREMMS. 9 times out of ten the e mails get from French defence or military sites its BPCs or FREMMs and plugs for DCNS. Will admit Rafale M (Marine) nifty mover, but not quite VTOL. UK has now no naval strike fighters, and France using 40 year old Super Etendards (Modernisée). Conclusion Anglo French military cooperation should be on a supersonic helicopter.

  30. Jules

    @x I’m not looking for a fight but you are a bloody pedant and no mistake but hey ho!
    So scrap albion and bulwark then and keep the bays and you can go on your nice little flag folding course and we’ll all be happy!

    I reckon the frenchies will keep it anyway!

  31. monkey

    The French built their third Mistral,the Dixmunde for 300m euro’s , theirs are built like the Ocean to commercial specs in commercial yards. The Russian specs might be different ( over to NaB ) , but are probably little different ,the hanger deck is probably taller than the originals to allow the Kamovs rotor assembly but not much . The vechicle deck is built to take Le Clerc’s / T-90/95’s weight not a C2/l2/M1A2 like the San Carlos/Canberra’s so may needed upgrading but other wise at 250m of Her Majesty Great British Pounds would be a bargain so let’s have two to work in tandem with each CVF on a proper rotation

  32. Observer

    ” The vechicle deck is built to take Le Clerc’s / T-90/95′s weight not a C2/l2/M1A2″

    Think there were pictures of USMC M1’s operating from the Mistral online, so shouldn’t be a problem.

  33. Observer

    I wonder if it is too big a credibility stretch to go to the shipbuilders and say “I got a 200 million budget and I need a ship to do this, best design in this price range gets the deal, impress me.” It’s something like the comments on Kings should just give the orders and let the generals get on with their jobs in the Scout contract thread (Sun Tzu). If you gave the designers free reign, wonder what interesting tweaks they could come up with.

  34. jedibeeftrix

    b) My idea is…

    bring both carriers into service… and replace albion and bulwark (and ocean/illustrious), with two 32k tonne LHD’s in the twenties.

  35. ArmChairCivvy

    Waylander, thanks for putting it so clearly.

    The French doctrine is all about 1st wave: vertical lift emphasized but enough cavalry/ armour brought in, not to leave the lads on their own
    – there is no 2nd or 3rd wave, as opposed to our one Coy by air and another by LCP/LCU, and the rest to follow

  36. Mark

    The word can’t maybe a little strong with the French carrier an f35c. Maybe more can’t at certain operation weights and us low observable technology based on a French ship for months at a time may lead to interesting operational challenges.

    As an aside was that often talked of text book amphib assault on al faw conducted with uk Lpds present?

  37. Observer

    Can a F-35C work from carriers without a cat assist? I thought it couldn’t, the SVTOL variant was the F-35B.

  38. Mark

    Was that often hailed text book amphib assault on al faw conducted with UK LPDs present or was just ocean and ark royal?

  39. El Sid

    @Chris
    Nah – SNP policy has always been to retain HMtQ as Head of State in a personal union of two kingdoms/one Crown like 1603-1707. There’s a definite republican tendency among some of their activists but the leadership and electorate seem to prefer the status quo – although I know some Scots who still lovingly keep a painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the hall…

    Think people are forgetting one of @TD’s criteria:
    With the basic rule that it would have to be manning neutral

    Ocean‘s crew and then some are earmarked for PoW (assuming PoW is commisioned into the RN and not mothballed). Reroling Argus’ crew only works if you’re prepared to retrain doctors and nurses as helicopter ground crew – Argus’ hospital facilities are significantly better, with Gucci toys like a CT scanner.

    I’ve heard that the Aussies were rather underwhelmed by the build quality of the Mistrals versus Navantia’s efforts – which is saying something, let alone if you get the Russians building bits of it. @Paul Robinson’s cutaway clearly shows how the two-block construction makes for an internal layout that is sub-optimal – having the vehicle deck on top of the dock is awkward when it comes to loading.

  40. monkey

    @Observer
    Thanks that’s one less thing to worry about, they also put a CH53 on one of theirs so a Chinooks weight should be no problem ☺

  41. The Other Chris

    Mistral’s forward spot is the reinforced one, can take an Osprey. No idea about the others.

  42. The Other Chris

    @ACC

    No idea. The land exercises have been in full flow for a while.

    About to pass the port. Wish us luck!

  43. Waylander

    @Observer
    No I meant the C variant, I was referring to the 2010 SDSR decision to switch from the B to the C, much was made of the fact that a CATOBAR carrier would allow FAA/RAF F-35Cs to cross deck with USN carriers and also with the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, however the MoD apparently realized late in the day that the F-35 is too heavy to land on CdG, so interoperability at least with the French was a none starter. From memory the Rafale M weighs 60% of a JSF. It makes a nonsense of all the stuff in the media about the French being pissed off because the UK had gone back to the original plan of two STOVL carriers.

  44. MSR

    Ocean is clapped out and can’t last much longer, but should not be replaced with a quick foreign purchase. In the medium term Ocean’s capability will be replaced by CVF with the long term (and thus far unstated) hope of replacing both LPDs with proper LHDs (although the fact that one LPD is kept in reserve may hurt the ambition for two replacements… unless the reserve is recommissioned to partly replace Ocean, of course).

    Mistral as a replacement for Argus is tempting, but there’s no suggestion that Argus is wearing out and she just had a nice refit (I know, that doesn’t stop her being sold but it’s not a reason to, either).

    Playing fantasy fleets, with a much reduced future surface fleet, one active carrier and fewer, albeit high quality, RFA’s to support the RN’s global presence, then how about a jointly RN/RFA crewed replacement/supplement for RFA Diligence (which no one has mentioned). She would be an effective forward deployed support ship with loads of aviation access, waterlevel access (ship some mexiflotes) and plenty of deck to mount cranes up front with a direct route below via the forward elevator. Her lack of compluance with RN warship standards would be less of an issue, yet she could still provide additional amphibious capability if needed.

  45. Gewyne

    Wonder how this will effect military sales for France. After a lot of time and money your equipment might not get to you because you may incur the ire of Western Governments at some point – how willing are countries going to be to spend/order from an unreliable deliverer ?

  46. Repulse

    @TD: You had to ask didn’t you :)

    I would give up the following:
    – Both Albions
    – Ocean
    – Argus

    To get:
    – PoW active
    – A Mistral Auxiliary Carrier – RFA and Army manned
    – 3 more batch 2 (non ASW) T26s – which are the RM company mother ships I’ve been annoying people with…

    Sure it would cost more for equipment but would give a balanced fleet. Sure we would only have one LHD, but this is a gap that is manageable given the lack of boots on the ground scenarios – worse case you don’t go over the beach to invade somewhere… Lose the 100% CVF availability and it impacts more than just the ability to do amphibious assault.

  47. Overseas

    Brazil will have it, keep it alongside for a couple of years and then sell it to one of their mates in the BRIC. Which means Russia get it after all.

    To answer, there’s no need to take it.

    I’m a stuck record on this count, but build more Bays (with hangar). Terrifically useful vessels, can be used as LSD, hospital ship if kitted properly, and forward-deployed mothership. I reckon you might even find an export market for them too.

  48. Not a Boffin

    Mark – as I suspect you know, there were no LPD in the Al Faw assault, primarily because Fearless had finally fallen apart on deployment in 2001 and decommissioned in 2002, using that well known phrase “taking risk” while Albion was finished and entered part IV trials.

    The Mistral were built as more capable replacements for their LPD, not as additional ships, hence the disposal of their LPD. You can’t compare them (or their specification) to ours – simply because I suspect none of us knows what it actually is. It is however a naval ship as it was designed by DCNS – the input of what is now STX was construction of the aft end for subsequent integration with the rest of the ship at DCNS.

    All this guff about cross-decking and interoperability is (and was) a sideshow to help justify the original switch. Other than two USMC Harrier embarkations on CVS when JFH was committed to Herrick, we have never operated another countries aircraft since WW2. F35C weights vs CdG are (I suspect) another urban myth. Again, if you don’t know what the patch weight of the landing gear is compared to the deck rating, you don’t know whether it can recover or not.

    There is no current funded requirement for a replacement for the Air Training capability that Argus provides and if there is a funded requirement for Argus’ primary role (PCRC), it doesn’t necessarily mean a ship, although most are keen on such, rather than some nonsense hosted in containers, which is what some in the Army are after.

  49. Red Trousers

    Can’t we just “beurrmme” them while still in a French harbour to halt the sale at all, and call it conflict prevention? ;) . After all, the French have form for disabling boats in harbours.

  50. Jonathan

    Swap out the albinos, and buy two mistrals. They can do everything better and only need a crew of 177. So there would be a saving on staffing costs. These are what we should have had if politicians and Whitehall did not have a strange aversion for capital costs.

    Mistral vs albinos

    Hanger: mistral wins ( Albion nil, mistral 16/35)
    Flight deck: mistral wins( Albion 2 spots, mistral 6)
    Troop capacity: mistral wins (Albion 410, mistral 450)
    Vehicle deck: mistral wins ( Albion 6 MBTs and 30 APCs, mistral 13 MBTs and 46APCs)
    Well deck: draw( 4 all)
    Command: mistral wins ( I think)
    Hospital: mistral wins (Albion nil, mistral 69 beds including 7itu, two theater suites and radiology )
    Crew: mistral wins ( Albion 325, mistral 177)

    The aviation and hospital facilities of the mistrals means we can bin argus and put the crew and ongoing cost savings into an extra type 26.

  51. Allan

    @monkey….

    “250m of Her Majesty Great British Pounds would be a bargain so let’s have two to work in tandem with each CVF on a proper rotation”

    Fair comment it’s just that other taxpayers might point out that the RN has got two big new shiny vessels at about £6.5bn and that those awkward taxpayers might wish to see £250-400m spent on cancer care or education (and all versions of HMG are aware that spending on health, welfare,, education and the emergency services is always – nearly always – more popular than defence spending).

    Or is the RN plan to have one big and shiny toy kept in the cupboard at home for ‘best’ and then have the other big shiny new toy floating around with not much stuff on it bar the stickers, paint job and batteries / elastic band to make it move / make beeping sounds?

  52. El Sid

    Another attempt to beat the spaminator…
    @Chris
    Nah – SNP policy has always been to retain HMtQ as Head of State in a personal union of two kingdoms/one Crown like 1603-1707. There’s a definite republican tendency among some of their activists but the leadership and electorate seem to prefer the status quo – although I know some Scots who still lovingly keep a painting of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the hall…

    Think people are forgetting one of @TD’s criteria:
    With the basic rule that it would have to be manning neutral

    Ocean‘s crew and then some are earmarked for PoW (assuming PoW is commisioned into the RN and not mothballed). Reroling Argus’ crew only works if you’re prepared to retrain doctors and nurses as helicopter ground crew – Argus’ hospital facilities are significantly better, with Gucci toys like a CT scanner.

    I’ve heard that the Aussies were rather underwhelmed by the build quality of the Mistrals versus Navantia’s efforts – which is saying something, let alone if you get the Russians building bits of it. @Paul Robinson’s cutaway clearly shows how the two-block construction makes for an internal layout that is sub-optimal – having the vehicle deck on top of the dock is awkward when it comes to loading.

  53. WiseApe

    Coming very late to this so apologies if I repeat others’ comments. I can foresee four possible uses for an unwanted Mistral:

    1/ Target practice;
    2/ DfID flagship;
    3/ Artificial reef ( perhaps combined with 1/ above);
    4/ Chinese casino.

    I had considered a prison ship, but there appears to be far too many means of egress in that hull.

    Do we know how much the French would be offering us to take it off their hands? :-)

  54. Observer

    Jonathan, Albions, not albinos. :)

    The design focus on both is different so it’s not really equal to compare them like for like, for example, the Mistrals are LHAs focusing on aviation, hence the flat deck and the large helicopter complement and hanger. The Albions are LPDs which focus more on moving things by sea, hence less helicopters and more LCUs (it’s actually 4 LCUs and 4 LCVPs I think vs the 4 for a Mistral).

    Wise, I think they’ll rather set fire to it themselves than allow you to use it for any of the proposed tasks. :)

  55. Peter Elliott

    The crew numbers quoted by Jonathan don’t seem right. How can the Mistral be so much more capable for so many fewer bodies? The Albions aren’t that old.

    Maybe the Albion’s crew numbers involve deck and dock crew and some RM boat handlers? While the Mistral’s number is the bare bones to sail the boat with all the above skills being added as part of the embarking force?

  56. Midlander

    Permanent Shared use is a non starter per the points raised by frightened youth…
    But what about rotating use of the 2 vessels for a 2-3 year stretch at a time?
    What about Netherlands, UK take 1 Mistral on a joint basis for the NATO UK Netherlands Marine Unit.
    The other one is in refit and use in the remaining 18 months by France.
    Every little helps….

  57. Observer

    PE, the numbers are totally stripped for skeleton crew only, their C&C has another 150 workstations etc, excluding air crew too, so I won’t be surprised if they had a full crew of 450+ (177 perm staff, 150 C&C personnel, 120+ air crew)

  58. Jackstaff

    ‘Lo all,

    I’m going to skip over the comments thus far not out of disrespect but simply to avoid getting sidetracked while I answer the OP. And, yes, I have prayed for this possibility since the Ukraine kicked off in January:

    Pay off Ocean and the LPDs. The latter are just young enough, and have quite a number of virtues apart from being stupidly hangarless, that one just might find a buyer for one or both.

    Tell the Treasury bods that this allows you to replace three hulls with two, and just over the crew manning of one. While they’re addled by the loss of blood to their heads now going towards their raging erections at the hint of something being cheaper, you might be able to talk them into the deal :)

    I’ll come back to money shortly; let’s say Dark Blue FC take their usual sensible approach to crew manning viz. the French, and crewing goes up to 180-90 per ship rather than Le Royale’s 160. That’s still 360-80 or so, not much more than it takes to man Bulwark, and with broad similarities of rank and specialization with Ocean and Bulwark, both being amphibious ships. That offers the chance to crew and pay for both while either sacrificing other crew slots and their benefits/pensions to help pay the way or, better in the current climate, to help provide a maintenance-and-training crew for the second QE so you can really rotate then properly.

    One Mistral joins what we can now call the Fleet Carrier Task Group, with 1x QE, 1x Mistral, 2x Bays. At normal load (allowing for a few bods bunged in corners on the carrier and RFAs or escorts) this force could carry a proper light battlegroup of about 1,250 (instead of the ungainly 1800-in-lieu-of-a-brigade.). Bring in the second Mistral and assault-overload everyone and now you have 3200-3400 aboard the ships, the same “two RM Commandos plus as much of 3 Cdo Bde as they need” used at Al-Faw. Drop a para BG into the beachhead with them and you have a nice proper triangular entry brigade.

    So you rotate Mistrals with the task group. The second one, when not in refit, is available as needed to spool up and run an emergency op like aggressive anti-piracy or evacuation, or run a load of gear to the khaki like the French did in Mali, or go join the task group as above.

    Now, money. As my mate from the before times, Jed, used to say, there’s always money. There are just deliberate choices in taxation and budget policy that make it unavailable. I would raid some of the MPA dosh because that’ll be the easiest to recover: the crabs, ever aware of the need to look relevant, have been reminded of their usefulness by an aggressive Russia; and the pollies, wedded as they are to the deterrent, already found a billion quid for it down the sofa when before there was none. I would at the same time look squarely at Washington and say, “look, you can bitch about our declining relevance and failure to pull our weight, or you can pony up some wonga to mollify the French and help us change that.”

    My one fear even if all this aligns, however, is blue-on-blue politics. The Mistrals can carry helicopters. Therefore the QEs will look awfully empty if someone doesn’t arrange for a goodly number of fast jets on them, alongside the ASW helis, whenever they leave port. Of course that could be solved by giving FAA control of the small batch of 48, or if the program ever does hit a death spiral, by launching Rafales off them STOBAR until some lucky government in the 2020s gets to fix te cockup. But that would require more than one attack of good sense per decade which is asking far too much…

  59. DavidJF

    The Mistral news from the Russians: http://en.itar-tass.com/russia/741690
    Quotes of interest:
    If France breaks the Mistral contract “Russia will demand not only its money back but also the sterns that were made in Russia”.
    “On Russia’s insistence, the design of the ships has been changed to make them capable of sailing in northern altitudes and ice-covered seas, increase their dimensions to carry large Ka-28 and Ka-52K helicopters, and to install additional weapons as such air defense systems, rapid-fire artillery guns and large-calibre automatic systems to repel attacks from sea. This will allow the ships to go on missions with fewer escort vessels in tow.”
    “Apart from these two ships, Russia has also purchased French technology for the combat information control and communications systems.”
    On the fantasy fleet question my vote would also be to adapt it as an RFA Argus replacement.

  60. Simon

    Ring up Mr France,

    Explain (because everything is negotiable) that we’ll accept a 3 for 2 offer on the Mistrale along with enough VBCI to fill their decks.

    LPH, LPD and FRES problems sorted and 3Cdo brigade protected.

    I thank you :-)

  61. as

    Is it just me or does it look like slab sided car carrier with a flight deck on the top.
    I am very skeptical about the supposed load of the vehicle deck.
    Comparing a Leclerc and a challenger 2 is like comparing a mini and a 7 series. A Challenger 2 is over a meter longer and half a meter wider and weighs a good 20 plus tonnes more. So they are heavier and take up a lot more space. So its loading requirements are quite different. The same goes for most french vehicles the tend to be smaller and lighter. So direct capacity comparisons are not really possible with out knowing the actual size of the vehicle deck and its maximum weight capacity for cargo.
    If the Albion-class is anything like the Fearless class it will still be in service in 2040 so they have long service lives ahead of them.

  62. The Other Chris

    Think we should all chip in towards £30k so NaB will design us a well dock for the back of the third QEC…

  63. as

    @x
    Thank you
    So the Mistrals vehicle deck is 2650m2.
    Does anyone know the size of the Vehicle deck on the Albion’s?

    On a side note the French seem very resistant to European pressure to stop the sale. They are to worried about the money side. Do they think the international court has the power to make the pay the Russians back if they cancel the sale.

  64. Paul Robinson

    Specs for BPC Mistral family from DCNS builders’ site – Displacement: 22000 tLength: 199 mBreadth: 32 mRange: 11,000 nautical miles at 15 knotsSpeed: 18 knotsJoint operation centre: 800 m2 for a command staff of 200Aviation : 6 helicopter spots, 16 (12 t) or 30 (5 t) helicopters, (up to 6 simultaneous take-offs).Vehicles: > 60Troops: >700Hospital: 69 bedsLanding craft: LCAT / LCAC / LCM / LCUMunitions : 200 t. ROLES- Mistral 210 LHD is a multipurpose ship able to assume the following tasks:
    – Command of combined and joint operations
    – Deployment of troops, helicopters, vehicles and equipment from the sea
    – Support to deployed forces
    – Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
    Mistral 210 LHDs are operationally proven and have proven their efficiency in situations such as:
    – Summer 2006 – Operation Baliste: in only two weeks, Mistral evacuated several thousand nationals from Lebanon while also providing support to UN forces- 2011 – Operation Harmattan: Mistral and Tonnerre deployed army combat helicopters over the Libyan territory.
    Mistral 210 LHD also includes:
    – A NATO-certified MCC (Maritime Component Command) HQ
    – A CATF (Combined Amphibious Task Force) HQ

  65. Challenger

    How much do we reckon a converted merchant ship solution to replace Argus (itself a merchant ship conversion) would cost in today’s money? Less than buying this orphaned Mistral?

    Stripped Argus of anything/everything of value to migrate onto the new hull as we are doing with the T23/26 would surely help to keep the costs down.

    Get something with a sizable flat deck and it can still fulfill the aviation training ship role and act as a replacement for Ocean in any potential emergency when the normal rules of practice go out the window.

    Then accept that Ocean’s role will be provided (albeit not ideally) by having both CVF in service until something more Ocean looking can replace the Albion’s in the 2030’s (after a 30-35 year life which isn’t bad, HMS Fearless may have done closer to 40 but she was seriously knackered by the end and we all know that Intrepid was essentially laid-up before The Falklands War and was then stripped of anything useful and left to rot from 1990).

  66. Jonathan

    @ observer

    ” albinos” that typo ( pain killer related, due to a buggered knee) brings me to my next fanciful idea. Use some of the 12 billion a year aid budget to:

    1) buy two mistrals, take off the pitiful self defence weapons and paint then white with big red crosses, name them thunderbird one and two
    2) buy 20 new Merlin mk2s, paint again paint white and name them thunderbird 3 to 23
    3) buy a hundred trucks and do above
    4) staff an NGO to run the above, lots of pilots, drivers, crew, doctors and nurses, make the whole lot reservists. Call the NGO international rescue

    Sail around delivering aid, stopping off at places that need some helicopters, trucks, a hospital or a requirement to move a thousand people. Soft power at its best, aid directed to people that need it under our control, the French owning us big and a ready made pair of staffed aviation, assault or hospital ships if we are ever in a big shooting war.

    What’s not to like.

  67. Red Trousers

    Apart from still wanting to bomb the ruddy boats while still in a French harbour (see comment far above), the thought strikes me why the Hell do the Sovs want them, and where do they think they are going with them, and what do they plan to do with helicopters and amphibiosity when they get there?

    It is normally GNB who can conjure all sorts of dark gloomy thinking from nothing, but if the Sovs want them in the Atlantic, we should be using the current crisis as a golden opportunity to stop them. OTOH, if they want them in the Pacific, time for a Nelsonian blind eye in the sanctions. “I see no Mistrals”. Throw a pair into the Pacific mix and it gets to our advantage, and a mutual sharpened stick into Moscow’s and Beijing’s eyes.

    Still, sink them if the start looking at the Atlantic.

  68. Allan

    @ Challenger July 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    “How much do we reckon a converted merchant ship solution to replace Argus (itself a merchant ship conversion) would cost in today’s money? Less than buying this orphaned Mistral?”

    I think these chaps have already been doing it for quite some time…..

    http://www.maersklinelimited.com/working-with-mll/success-stories/

    And for those that have the time (not quite on topic but I think quite interesting)….

  69. Red Trousers

    TD, I think it would be a kindness.

    No Mistrals in the short term buggering up a western joint approach to Sov sanctions.

    French fucked for a bit.

    No Mistral threat for decades.

    No additional expenditure on the Andrew, which is heading in the right direction.

  70. Not a Boffin

    Some people seem to be mistaking specifications for the usual stuff you can get from Janes.

    The specifications that cost money tend to be more along the lines of :

    Structural Design Class notation (or relevant naval standard)
    Stability policy (inc damage stability)
    Margins
    Shock, Blast, Fragmentation, Fire, Escape & Evacuation Policy
    Munitions stowage policy
    Manning policy (UMS?, self-maintenance capability, DCFF parties)
    Accommodation standard
    FW capacity (storage & production)
    Sewage Capacity?
    Deck strength rating, vehicle/hangar decks?

    As for merchant conversions to replace Ocean? They don’t work. Look up RFA Reliant and the use of Argus off Lebanon for examples. Maersk have been pitching their S-class conversions to the US military for over ten years. They’ve got nowhere, because while they look good on paper, when you get into the actual detail (specification) of what’s needed, all of a sudden it gets very expensive and much less practical very quickly.

    I’m with RT, apart from the Nelsonian eye to the Pacific. If they go there, it only affects the Japs and distracts them from their more pressing issues with China.

    Let’s have a re-run of Mers El Kebir. Oh hang on, we haven’t got any f/w or rotary air capable of anti-ship ops where there’s an air or SAM threat at the mo. Shame that. Oh well, break out the Brunei frigates, load them up with Perce and off for a re-run of St Nazaire. Gives Perce a post-Herrick role. What’s not to like?

  71. Mercator

    This is interesting:

    “…For its part, the United States should relieve the economic burden on France by purchasing the warships for the U.S. Navy. American Marines have successfully operated off the ships in the past during joint exercises and they could be finished and fitted using American electronics and weapons systems, thereby providing work to American shipyards. It is well-known that the “gator navy” is short by two to four such ships, even with the new America class warships joining the fleet, so the Mistrals would provide an immediate solution. Even better, the purchase would not cost U.S. taxpayers a cent. France’s bank BNP Paribas SA just agreed to pay an $8.97 billion fine to the United States for violating sanctions against Iran. Less than twenty percent of that fine could be diverted back to France to pay for the ships. Another fraction of the fine could be used to pay for the bringing the ships up to U.S. Navy specifications, still leaving the DOJ and Treasury a healthy return on their investigation of BNP….”

    thediplomat.com/2014/07/after-mh17-france-must-cancel-sale-of-warships-to-russia/

  72. Ronald W. McVan

    All the countries protesting against Russia chip in, France sells it at a discount and it is given to the UN for disaster relief.

  73. Observer

    Nice idea save for one. The UN doesn’t have a standing force, so who gets to use (and maintain) the LHA? If you want to kit it out after a disaster strikes, it’s way too late.

  74. H_K

    The Russians aren’t even sure they want these hulls, or that that they’re getting a fair deal. So I say let them have them – perhaps stripped of the combat system, full of spyware and without the LCMs needed to deliver vehicles ashore. Then turn around and give Poland a sweetheart deal on those sub’s and frigate’s they’re looking to buy.

    Let’s see the Russians make use of that.

  75. Observer

    H_K, they probably already come stripped of systems, most Russian stuff don’t play too well with Western ones.

    Agree on the Poland arms sale though.

  76. martin

    I would trade in RFA Argus for it.

    Call it HMS Pegasus

    On a more personal note I would quite happily pay for it just to piss Putin off.

  77. The Other Chris

    The main barrier is the lack of sanctions forbidding France from selling to Russia.

    Without those, if France tried to withhold the first vessel after Russia had paid for it EU courts would settle in Russia’s favour when the Russians take the French to European court.

    The second vessel is easier for France to cancel.

    As to why the Russians want a Mistral, Admiral Kuznetsov is reportedly a nightmare posting with very poor living conditions. Their own navy reported they thought they were a decade behind the kind of specifications that NaB discusses.

  78. Jonathan

    Fantasy fleets aside, the truth is we do not want theses….they would be more than a hassle to convert to RN standards and don’t fit with planning.

    The truth is the RN/ MOD seem to find it hard to stomach buying off the shelf….can you imagine them buying some else’s cast offs.

    As I see it we should:

    1) Get an EU ban on millitary sales in place and let the french get out of their own stupid mess. After all everyone told them it was a stupid anti social idea in the first place. The french pursuit of their own national interest no matter what deserves to come back and bit them now and again.
    2) play nice, get the EU ban,ask the US to reduce its fine to the french bank by a few billion and give the things away to a western nation/ally or sell them for scrap.

  79. tweckyspat

    The RN may have an aversion to cast offs but the RFA has been getting along fine with that policy. RFA Mistral/Pegasus (love that russian connection) for Argus would be very appropriate replacement. And a new home for mexeflotes too (even if the dock is smaller than on Albion I thinks its bigger than the LSD(A)s)

  80. Nick

    The Other Chris

    It must be quite hard to sit around the EU table discussing sanctions without pointing the finger at each other. Why should the French (I can hear them saying) take a financial hit if Germany/Netherlands/Belgium aren’t willing to (much of Russian Oil and Oil product – eg petrol exports – transit through Germany and are exported out of the EU at Rotterdam and Antwerp). What about the UK (and Cyprus, Luxembourg ?) banking sector (all that hot money) and Russian property investments ?

    The truth is that the EU can cause catastrophic damage to the Russian government and economy by sanctioning Oil and Gas movements through the EU, but the cost (disruption of chemical industry, refining, shortage of petrol, heating oil, gas etc) will be massive. Some of that damage could most likely be offset by non-Russian Oil imports relatively quickly (at a higher cost), but the Gas would be very hard to replace (especially the longer we wait).

    So, we continue down the path of restricting individuals ability to use their cash and making it increasingly difficult for Russian businesses to access new finance. This is hurting, but probably not enough to move Putin in the short and (probably medium) term. Perhaps all that is left, is to provide more significant military assistance(surveillance and weapons ?) to Ukraine.

    (one small edit caused the original post to be spammed – sorry if it reappears)

  81. The Other Chris

    Absolutely. Great segment on the radio this morning highlighting (in particular) the various German, French and British trades with Russia.

  82. Nick

    TOC

    In real economy terms, we would survive full on sanctions rather better than Russians would (the Oil and Gas sector is the Russian economy it pays for everything else). Short of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, this isn’t likely though.

    I think it might be better to threaten putting Ukraine on the path the NATO membership (which we’ve been avoiding for years) and to supply military support (a few Typhoons or Rafale with PGM would be decisive at ending the current ground war) as this is likely to be more effective than sanctions. Much higher risk strategy of course.

  83. Frenchie

    François Hollande said that the delivery of the second Mistral depend on the attitude of Moscow in the Ukrainian conflict, it is a way to put pressure on Putin.
    Regarding the “Vladivostok”, the contract was awarded in 2011, the boat is almost finished and should be delivered in October 2014, otherwise we would have to repay 1.1 billion euros to the Russians.
    The second, “Sevastopol”, the rear part made in Russia has been delivered for assembly at the front built in Saint-Nazaire, the work is done more than 50%. Delivery is scheduled for October 2015. In case of blocking delivery, potential customers are few in number. NATO and Europe have already clearly said they would not pay, the French Navy is already provided and not the means. In addition, these boats have its own Russians technicality, as the function icebreaker. In fact, for the second, that will depend on how Russia will act until October 2015.

  84. Brian Black

    There is just no need for this ship at this time. And it wouldn’t even be worth putting in an insulting offer either, as the Mistrals would be an attractive ship to many navies.

    If we were replacing Albion and Bulwark today though, flat-top LHDs would be the right way to go. Since Suez, aviation has continued to become an increasingly important part of amphibious operations as technology and aircraft performance have advanced. The MV-22 is driving big changes in how the USMC operate, and in a few short years we will begin to see the next generation of vertical lift aircraft appearing.

    I think if we began designing the Albion’s replacements today without a through deck or even hangars, then the ships would look like a very 20th century solution and would be obsolete before they’d even got wet.

    Also with two big STOVL aircraft carriers in the Navy, it’s quite possible that we’ll come up with some unique STOVL solution for COD or other tasks that would also be very useful on a landing ship, and LHDs would allow us to get more practical return from any investment in such gadgets.

  85. The Other Chris

    @Frenchie

    Thank you for the update. It was mentioned before but it’s a good reminder that these Mistrals are ice-strengthened and slightly larger than the others.

    What would you like to see happen to the ships?

  86. Observer

    Is there even a “ship”? The first one may be a sale, but remember, the 2nd one was supposed to be assembled in two pieces, one in France and the other in Russia, so no sale, you got half a ship in France, another half in Russia. Try reselling that.

  87. tweckyspat

    Just looking at our own fleet for a moment I admit I haven’t kept up to speed on the various out of service (OOS) dates. Argus is OOS in 2020 I think so what is the plan for PCRS/ Hel Support then ? One of Bulwark/Albion out of ER and crewed by RFA ?

    I think it would make excellent political capital (if a little mischievously) for DavCam to make a genuine “competitive”offer for the 2nd hull (which is not in russia) just to see how the French wriggle….

  88. Frenchie

    @The Other Chris

    I think that by October 2015, the conflict will be finished, or there will be a war against Russia, what I don’t think so. So the ship will be sold to Russian. I don’t see any other issues.

    @Observer
    You are right, the rear part made in Russia has been delivered for assembly at the front built in Saint-Nazaire in France. Now the whole of the ship is in France.

  89. Martin

    @ Nick – I would love to give the Ukrainians a entire fleet of Typhoons and Raffales for free but unless we are prepared to supply the pilots and ground crews it will take them a decade to be able to operate such aircraft.

    Maybe its time for some sort if Eagle squadron. I am sure we could find a few volunteers in the RAF.

  90. Martin

    One thing that amazes me in this debate is that France is such a failed state that the Russians can buy it off with a measly £1 billion.

    That’s about ten hours of French government spending.

  91. monkey

    @All
    Regarding calls reduce or even waive the $8.9billion fine of BNP Paribas for breaching sanctions so the French don’t sell a ship is ridiculous IMHO. The bank was processing sales of oil from genocidal Northern Sudanese and the Nuclear Bomb pursuing Iranian’s and so funding their activities . BNP Paribas CONTINUED to process these sales even after the US officials visited them and informed the of the error of their ways , with a Gallic shrug they continued which is why the fine is so high .
    Lloyd’s Group took their hit for the same activities with the Iranian’s as did HSBC for laundering drug/arms/people trafficking profits of the central American crime cartels,why should the fourth largest bank in the world be let off?
    As well as not selling the Mistrals ( irrellavant anyway as they have full plans and are building half of it anyway ,the purchase from France purely a political move not a practical one) they should stop supplying the targeting systems for the upgraded T-90 and the new T-95 along with the component suites for the avionic upgrades to the Russian Aircraft fleet.

  92. Nick

    Martin

    I was thinking along the lines of a threat to act (a la Libya) if Russia doesn’t pull back.

    Since we aren’t able or willing to ratchet up sanctions to a level where they will have any effect on Putin, nothing is going to change the status quo. Putin can play this game until Kyiv comes back in the fold cap in hand. Short of that, the only thing I can see the Ukrainian’s doing is to use ever increasing military force and heavy weapons (eg flattening large parts of the major cites and towns). But this will just drive Russian public sympathy (= money and volunteers).

    The only other alternative is to tell the Ukrainians to partition the country and create a cordon santaire to contain the south east. I doubt this is possible as the Donbass is where what’s left of Ukraine’s major industry and coal mining (= energy production) is. Something has to give though.

  93. Martin

    @ Nick

    I don’t think the Russians take a blind bit of notice of our threats.

    bony weaponry that we have that could make a difference like Brimestone or Paveway IV is so complicated that it would require our direct participation to use.

  94. ArmChairCivvy

    I agree with monkey about the other technologies providedby Francemaking a bigger difference than the Mistrals.

    This, howeve, is not true”he purchase from France purely a political move not a practical one)”

    There have been big delays in Russian surface fleet deliveries. Combine that with problems to make new missiles for the sub_sea component to work, and amphibiosity would have had to wait without the Mistral order. I think k they have given up on the original plan to build. N:o 3 and 4 in St. pete?

  95. Fedaykin

    To be honest I would be surprised if the second Mistral for Russia is not delivered to the intended customer. I think the French will hold their collective noses and hand it over to the Russians.

  96. ArmChairCivvy

    Russia having the mistrals would be a blessing in disguise, because tracking the 4 marine bdes would be easier. They,together with the airborne and air assault bdes, are the dangerous teeth of the Russian forces. Capable le of going 0 to 62 without anyone oticing the warning signs.

  97. ArmChairCivvy

    V kind of TD setting the spam monster to a warning… The comment is still there (with the back arrow) for posting a tad later.

  98. Nick

    Martin

    exactly.

    1. The Russian’s are no longer selling gas to Ukraine, and threaten to cut Europe bound gas if Ukraine touches it and are no longer using Ukraine storage for west bound gas
    2. Supplies of gas from west are limited unless the Slovak pipeline is reversed (in any case the Russians have threatened to sanction any western company selling Russian sourced gas back to Ukraine)
    3. If you throw in separatist action against Donbass coal mines (either the mines or coal transport to the west for power stations) and Oil imports (mostly from the east or Belarus) then…

    Whatever, happens this is going to be very difficult for Ukraine this winter. I would guess the western Ukraine population will stand up for this, but the pressure to end it is going to be very high [I'm not sure what news film of frost bitten and dying Ukrainian's is going to do to European public opinion mind you].

    Putin wins this game if status quo prevails and Putin knows this (and I have to believe so do our politicians). Why are we bothering if we aren’t going to ante up ? Do we need widespread death in Ukraine and refugees flowing into Poland.

    By the way, a large proportion of Ukrainian cities are heated centrally (district heating) from common power station (gas or bunker oil powered frequently). This is pretty common place in FSU cities (including Moscow).

  99. ArmChairCivvy

    The Nazis embargoed Switzerland in1944, RE
    “Whatever, happens this is going to be very difficult for Ukraine this winter.”
    – why they thought the Swiss don’t have a backbone is a nybody’s guess
    – we might get a Ukrainian nagion as an end rezult from this process. That is difderent from anation state, which by now hasbeen”there” for a long time

    Anyone with common sense would do this”, a large proportion of Ukrainian cities are heated centrally (district heating) from common power station (gas or bunker oil powered frequently”
    – common sense also dictates that one should diversify the sources of supply, or also the energy mix (helping to do the former)

    Nick, you seem to know something about Ukraine/ Russia. Have you lived in in one or the other?

  100. ArmChairCivvy

    There are promising signs that the Spam Monster has had a slap across the wrists
    … i might be so bold as to start editing my typing again!

  101. Nick

    ACC

    I work for a company that has investments in both places. I have spent a fair amount of time there and have gained an appreciation (albeit high level) for both places and people. The first time I really understood what cold was, was in Northern Russia at -27 c. Mind you they only stop sending the kids to school at -30, so I’m certainly a wimp.

  102. Nick

    ACC

    Ukraine is very much 2 nations. There was a lot of talk about separation not that long ago. However, even in the East, the majority are of Ukrainian ethnic origin, which is probably why the separatists aren’t having the same effect as Crimea. The underlying issue (I think) is economic as much as anything. The East was afraid that the EU accession agreement would drive their rust belt (Steel/Coal) industries into extinction. They already felt ignored and under-invested in by Kyiv. Fertile ground for Eastern Ukraine politicians (Yanukovych and his mafia were from Donets/Donbass).

  103. Engineer Tom

    I think the Ukrainians are only fighting this hard as they know if they pull back, and hope diplomacy will sort the issue out, they will lose control of the region forever, just look at Georgia and Moldova, they both have autonomous regions with Russian peacekeepers and they will never regain control over them.

  104. MSR

    @Red Trousers and anyone who hasn’t thought why the Russians want these ships: one at least is going to Vladivostick where it will form the core of a revitalised Russian effort to bully Japan into finally conceding control of the Kuril islands.

    This is the best reason for blicking the sale, because it will help createa situation in which a key US ally finds itself bookended between China playing silly buggers in the South and Russia doing the same in the North. Japan will then make its grievances known to Washington who will be more than hapoy to circulate them to NATO along with somechoice four letter remarks.

    It’s another strategic fuck up happening right under our noses.

  105. Gloomy Northern Boy

    @Nick – District heating…is it oil/gas? Or domestic refuse with an oil/gas feed to keep the temperature up if needed? I believe that’s a more common arrangement…certainly the one in use in Gloomyville, and I believe various Scandinavian cities.

    On the East/West split, I think that may relate to the old border between Muscovy to the East, and Poland/Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the West…many Catholics in the Western half I believe. Curiously, I went to Donetsk on a civic bun-fight back in 1981; hospitable people offering copious quantities of vodka and Crimean fizz, but an absolute dump in many ways. I remember it in black and white, like an early 60’s spy movie, which is a bit odd, frankly. :-)

    GNB

  106. Kent

    Just toured the USS Lexington, CV-16, yesterday (07/22/2014). One thing about a ship that has a huge crew is that if something goes wrong, there are lots of folks to work on it. Damage control planning seems to be lacking on newer ships. Are the planners just expecting the ships to sink right away if they get hit?

  107. Nick

    GNB

    In practice with district heating I would guess you could find most things. I doubt very many of them are particularly modern or been upgraded any time recently. In the soviet era, gas was extremely cheap (even today, the domestic price of Gas is about 25 % of export prices in Russia) as was fuel oil (they used the very lowest grade of refined oil) plus coal of course. Because costs were so low, efficiency and energy saving wasn’t a key concern. The whole system is highly inefficient from what I understand (domestic gas is also highly subsidized).

    I missed out on going to Donetsk, but from what I’ve heard it’s probably worse than you remember.

  108. Dan Entwisle

    I have to admit to not being a fan of the RNs present amphibious flotilla.
    I just think the ships are of the wrong specification, namely lack of hangar space – Ocean being the exception.
    The LPDs seem such single mission ships. They are great for what they are designed to do, if old school NATO northern flank operations are your thing. As part of a task group, they fit in well. It’s just that they seem a bit too “big navy” for my liking.
    Ocean is the ship that could always have been so much better. The plans Swan Hunter on Tyneside had for the LPH were more expensive, but she would have been a better ship. Sadly I can’t remember the specifics.
    Ocean does a good job, and has proved her worth. She has also proved the requirement for an LPH in the Royal Navy, sadly with the introduction of two the two QE class carriers; I cannot see the UK getting a replacement.
    The bays, again lacking hangars to a good job and selling one was a mistake. Even laid up, as Albion is, they are still an available asset. The Enforcer design is very capable; it is a shame the RFA got the bargain basement – non hangar – version.
    Argus has been a wonderful investment, from the moment she became a STUFT ship in 1982 as the nearly new Contender Bezant, through her acquisition, conversion, refitting and use in a host of operations.
    Argus has been an imperfect solution. Not great as an amphibious platform, useful as an aviation support ship, and reasonably capable in the primary casualty evacuation role. In many ways she and Ocean are the most useful of the UK amphibious force.
    Would a Mistral change things? No. Potentially it is a design the RN could look to in the future, but the ships as they stand now are really not what we need.
    A Mistral would be a one-off orphan design in the RN. Spares specific, training specific. Just too much hassle. For hassle, read cost.
    There was a point around 2005ish when we nearly had the perfectly balanced Royal Navy. 3 carriers, with an all be it limited air defence and strike capability. One in service, another working up, or down and another in refit. A capable LPH, integrating things like Apache into the ORBAT, the ship the RN always wanted the likes of the old Commando Carriers to be. We then had new, modern and more capable LSL replacements in the shape of the Bays.
    A decent little navy – if you ignore the lack of Type 45s.
    Things have moved on. The RN has paid a heavy price for the new carriers which will be the core of future navy. Every major escort will be geared towards supporting them. Talk about over stretch.
    Sadly, Albion and Bulwark cannot really fill that gap. It really does come down to the lack of a hangar, and that single mission LPD role. Yes you could task them on Atlantic Patrol operations or in other theatres but they would really be the wrong ships for the job.
    I think instead of hankering after a cast-off Mistral, we should be looking at a sensible, achievable and early renewal of the RN’s amphibious capability.
    Does that mean towing what he have to Alliaga and raising a few quid? Probably not. It means careful thought about what the Royal Navy has to or wants to do, and what it has or wants to do it with.
    Assume we get two QEs in service most of the time. There is therefore no need for a dedicated LPH. It would be a nice to have, but not needed.
    Do we really need LPDs? I don’t think so. We need an amphibious command facility, and we need flexibility. That is when we look to Mistral or the Spanish/Australian design for our future ambitious requirements.
    We replace the LPDs with flexible ships, large flat decks, not aircraft carriers, just decks with space for helos, containers, trucks, diggers and the like. A well deck would be nice, with the capability to take all sorts of craft from US size LCAC, to LCUs and CB90 type craft.
    What you have is an amphib that can work as part of a task group, but with the command and control facilities as well as physical capabilities to operate as a single asset on constabulary duties that the overstretched escort force has to engage in.
    We buy smart. Get them built where we can get them cheapest, and get them into service to replace the Albions and Ocean. I am talking two ships here, so to the money counters at the treasury, it looks like a reduction in ship numbers. Who knows, they may be fooled.
    As for the bays, we spend some cash on simple helo hangars, not the tents they have, and we look to replace them with more modern like-for-like designs before they get too old to sell on.

  109. JUles

    @Dan Entwhistle
    I completely agree with all of what you say, in an ideal world, we need something to replace Albions/Bays but it has to be able to do both jobs, or I risk the wrath of “X”, four ships to replace the five, something like the Enduance 160 perhaps or are they a bit on the small side?
    I can’t see the point of a pure LPH anymore, as it’ll be the QE job, an Amphib/Flatop, may as well have a Well deck/dock too, there will be no relpacement for Ocean…
    I still think we need at least three big Well/Dock ships of some kind, they are just too useful even not withstanding Landing stuff on beaches.
    I’m sure though that they could provide a hanger on the Bays, even if it was one of those collapsable jobbies, I actually did not realise how new they are!
    Albion and Bulwark as a “one in one out” fleet are going to be around for a quite a while, it’ll be a case of playing the longer game there I’m afraid…
    I’d at least like to see them replaced with flatties but it’ll be in the 2030’s…

  110. Dan Entwisle

    @ArmChairCivvy It looks like Russia is going down that flawed British route of trying to put their own country of origin’s stamp on a perfectly adequate product. The same way UK Phantoms got Rolls Royce Spey engines, and perfectly good US Built Chinooks ended up having to have UK specific avionics, adding cost and delay for no good reason. Sometimes it works out for the best, sometimes it doesn’t.

    From reading the link, they seem to be handicapping a perfectly good design with taller hangars, ice strengthening and the like. In the end, it’s a commercial hull they have bought which they have to bash and hammer to make it right for them. From reading the link, they sound like they will be at the best OK for the job, at worst a nightmarish mix of a messed about structure, commercially dependent parts – (Don’t Rolls Royce make the propulsion pods?) and Russo/Euro electronics.

    I note that there is an ASuW possibility. I can’t see a modern SSN or SSK having much of a problem with that. With Russian hull mods, and commercial power train, she is going to plod around like a noisy cruise liner, heard by anything that can listen across the whole Med or wherever she will operate.
    That said, a no-doubt useful asset, but it appears Russia wants a something for everything class of ships, rather than just an amphib.

    Will they upset the balance of power in the parts of the world they are planned to operate in? They may raise eyebrows, but I doubt they will raise any white flags in the way a couple of new supercarriers might.
    What they do signify – and NATO, EU, ASEAN et al take note – is that Russia has realised that a numerically strong maritime armed force is something any serious country needs. Yes an Astute could detect and destroy a Russian Mistral in a matter of minutes, but the Astute is only one of seven.

    Ten green bottles, and all that.

  111. Dan Entwisle

    @Jules Yes I think the Endurance class is a bit small. Size does not seem to be a big cost issue these days, (The old saying steel and fresh air are cheap) Why not make them a bit bigger?

    I may sound a bit obsessed, but it really does come down to aircraft capability. The Albions are fine and capable vessels but with a flaw. I have sailed in both as a civvy visitor. I am sure the RN would disagree, but they are in the most basic terms really just modern day versions of Fearless and Intrepid, which in turn were developments from the second world war.

    You are right, they will be around until 2030 something, and though people get upset, I also see it as perfectly OK to have one laid up. It means they last longer.

    Imagine the flexibility these ships would offer if you could carry say 3 Merlin HC3 with you on an operation. Run the aircraft as an embarked flight, rather than just host them. Space to take them to bits if you have to mend them, space to hide them away from bad weather or hot sun.

    Imagine the capability an Albion could offer if it pitched up to conduct something like a Non-combatant evacuation operation with a couple of tooled-up Apache on board to ensure the bad guys kept away long enough to get the refugees to sea and safety.

    With 3 or 4 Lynx/Wildcat on board you could go chasing FACs, or keep an eye on pirates, drugs runners, arms runners, or even giving “swarm” attackers something to think about long enough to keep them in port until whatever job you are engaged in is done.

    It seems to be out of fashion to give warships big refits/conversions along the lines of the Leanders, Tigers, and carriers of old. It comes down to cost, but does it really have to be that expensive to integrate a steel box fuel systems, and magazines into the Albions? I know they are a different kind of ship in many ways, but commercial ship operators think nothing of cutting their expensive hulls in two, adding bits, or slicing off superstructure to add new decks. If you can shove a cruise ship into a Polish dry dock and get the work done in 3 months, why not take an Albion there to get the work done?

    I know the answer, or answers from political to practical, but with a navy that is as tight on cash and hull numbers as the RN is, I think it really is time to stop being precious about things, look to how we achieve what we need in the best possible way.

    I have no idea of costs, but would not two Albion Class LPDs with proper helo facilities be more useful than 3 new OPVs that are due to start building soon? Again I know the answer to that and have views on keeping shipyards busy for the sake of it, but that’s for a different thread.

  112. Jules

    Ho again Dan, it’s sort the way I see it too and partly why I pitched the Endurance, to be honest, I see em as not just assisting Landings but doing all kinds of other stuff as well, ASW,Evac,Humanitarian, Pirate Bashing and Minehunting, using Helo’s etc. I’d take four endurances but will never get em, if we get a like for like with Albion and Bulwark in the 2030 timeframe, we’ll have to think ourselves lucky…
    In the meantime they could at least try to put a hanger on em, again one of those telescoping jobbies would do, they do have a fair bit of mech/tech facilities on board do they not?

  113. Peter Elliott

    The point about ASW is well made. The original job the Invincibles were designed for was as ASW motherships. We’ve now lost that capability to put a dedicated ASW group to sea. If we’re going to have a pair of British designed LHD after 2030 then to me it makes sense to design a hull and propulsion quiet enough so that, amongst other tasks, we have the ability to send a group ghosting around the northern approaches to keep the Russian skippers honest, or clear a big sweep of ocean 200 miles ahead of a Carrier centred Task Group.

  114. Dan Entwisle

    @Peter Elliott I seem to recall the beefed-up version of Ocean offered by Swan Hunter was more warship like.

    Sadly it was a long time ago, and I only saw the proposals briefly but she would have been capable of more than 20Knots that Ocean is, her power train was that of a warship rather than a commercial ship and she would have been quieter and more suited to other roles. I think but can’t be certain that is was some sort of COGAG Spey arrangement, like a modern Invincible but without the massive gearboxes.

    I wish someone would find the plans and put them online. I’d love to have my memory refreshed.

  115. Dan Entwisle

    Jules Yes there would be a lot of engineering work to put proper support for helos into the ships. I can not be that hard to do though.

    Cost would be an obstacle, coupled with the British military way of wanting the very best, rather than something that is good enough, but not gold plated.

  116. Jules

    I’d have dipping sonar on the Wildcats too, hmm 2030, Wildcat mk1 OOSD?
    Kidding!
    This has been tossed about more than the entire Leander fleet during the Cod Wars!
    Thing is a big ship with a dock and a flat deck, offer a great deal of utility, for well, erm doing stuff!
    Can’t help but think we could get some under the guise of the Multi Role Support Ship monicker but we’d be into, who what and where on crewing again and what could be sacrificed to do it, Personally I’d like to get some form of MRSS and get shot of Albion and Bulwark but it’s just not on the cards.
    Until around 2030 that is…
    Crew wise, if they were lightly manned like Mistral, you could just about crew four of em with the 650 lads and lassies off Albion and Bulwark but if you wanted to land an Air group on there then your struggling again.
    We’d need Kit though…
    An Amphib Assault Helicopter Airgroup
    An ASW HelicopterGroup
    A Minehunting USV/Floaty/Helicopter Group
    and a Hospital/Evac Set up
    These would board for the appropriate task in hand, they could also work up and down on the Carriers when appropriate too…
    could all the Heli kit be combined?

  117. Peter Elliott

    It would be nice to think that with all the experience, good and bad, from designing the Albions, T45, QEC and T26 under our belts we would do a better job next time round than we did with Ocean which was very much an experimental design and procurement process.

    Specifically by using common, already supported, main power units, such as MT30 and Wartsila Diesels, we could get a quiet, reliable propulsion system without incurring undue additional cost.

  118. The Other Chris

    Would be interesting to locate details on the Swan Hunter design for HMS Ocean and compare with hindsight ahead of any new LPH(R) program.

    (Still up for fitting a well dock to back of a third QEC… any takers?)

  119. a

    Still up for fitting a well dock to back of a third QEC… any takers?

    Well, I’m not doing anything next week. And I’ve got a power drill, which will probably be useful.

  120. Jules

    Tried but can’t, give up!
    There that should see to it that someone finds em in the next ten minutes!

  121. Not a Boffin

    The Swan Hunter LPH design had no such thing as gas turbines without the gearboxes!

    The “military features” of SH design were all about having the command spaces, system reversion modes, shock protection, logistic support and access policy in the ship, rather than whatever commerical specification pump / valve / strainer / transformer / HVAC unit was ina chinese catalogue (the Kvaerner Govan/VSEL approach).

    All the Swan Hunter design information (for all military ships) was bought by VSEL from the receiver in late 1993 IIRC, so you won’t be seeing any of that, should it still exist.

  122. Dan Entwisle

    @Not a Boffin Of course I did not mean it did not have gearboxes. Just not the massive David Brown reduction boxes fitted into the Invincibles. CP propellers would have seen to that, but I guess you really knew what I meant.

    A shame those plans will never see the light of day. Can you recall anything else about the design? I ask, because this was the “make or break” ship for Swan Hunter, that broke it – along with a bad business model and a lack of political will to help the firm which was understandable.

  123. Not a Boffin

    I rather think you’ll find that it was 132 ship which “broke” the yard – significant loss on a £40M contract. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the business model, just a lack of cash to see it through the lean spell having lost the fourth batch of T23 to Yarrow, which is why everything hinged on LPH.

  124. Dan Entwisle

    @Not a Boffin What was 132 ship? I’m not up on my Swans ship build numbers. Was this James Clarke Ross or George?

    I do think they had a flawed business model. No business should just have one customer, which with the exception of the odd specialist ship like Ross, and Cable ships, Swans did. Relying just on the MOD was never going to work long term with ship orders dwindling.

    Such a shame, as in my view they were the boys when it came to ship building. I visited the last frigate – Richmond – just as she left the yard. The experience and quality workmanship that went into her was outstanding. I recall a zero defect on delivery title. Just look how they got Lusty ready.

    I feel it was the government of the day which let Swans down. Interesting now when the MOD only has one frim that can build warships for them that the create work by ordering three OPVs that lets face it are not really needed. They keep the sheds and slipways at Scotstoun busy.

    The government let Swans die. Which in a world of business is the way it goes. Look at Rover cars as another example. It does stick in my throat a bit that today’s government is happy to prop up a commercial enterprise by ordering ships more of less for the sake of it.

    The Dutch bloke’s attempt to resurrect the yard on the Tyne was a valliant effort, but by that time Swans was little more than a shiprepairer. A lot of contractors were needed to build the two final ships. The Mod should not have given Swans lead contractor status. A sad end to a proud industry the day I saw them low Lyme Bay away incomplete.

  125. Not a Boffin

    132 was JCR.

    Swans didn’t just rely on HMG. At the time we were bidding for a number of overseas contracts at least one of which we would have got had the yard not been in receivership (perceived risk to delivery). We were the only true “mixed” yard in the country, able to build both merchant ships and warships. Biggest building slip as well. That said, perfectly valid tactic by VSEL to knock out the competition.

    Jaap Kroese on the other hand was a clown. Bought the infrastructure of the yard after it had finally closed essentially at auction and (reputedly) wouldn’t employ anyone who had previously worked there. His Swan Hunter were the lead contractor on the Bay-class partly because they were hooked up with Schelde and partly because the MoD IPT weren’t able to recognise that what they had bought was essentially a concept design rather than something ready for build. It takes quite a bit to make BAES look competent, but they really didn’t have to work very hard to expose the information and competence gap.

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