The three examples are simply to show the potential span of solution, from dirt cheap and limited to super flexible and more expensive. None of these are the definitive article and I make no claims of being a naval architect, so they are just a few ideas and no more.
Are they actually feasible from a design and engineering perspective, again, I really don’t know.
Hopefully though, they are a reasonable starting point for a conversation.
Whether they are applicable for the UK, again, I make no real claims apart from them perhaps having a nod to future mine countermeasures, survey and other replacement and development budgets. It is not based on the premise of expensive frigates fighting pirates or any other spurious assumption that often drives conversations about cheaper fighting ships. I want the Royal Navy’s fighting ships to be, in some regards, ‘re-assuringly expensive’, because this means they can overmatch opponents whilst remaining survivable against the numerous threats they would face in a high intensity combat operation. But we face difficult budget times ahead, and some compromise may be the only way to maintain surface ship numbers, not ideal, who likes to compromise after all?
I would say though, that we do seem to have got ourselves into a position where unless there is a fully formed and articulated requirement, nothing happens.
The negativity for concepts like Black Swan or Venator that is often seen really is depressing, the concepts might be non-starters, they might be an idea looking for a requirement, but that is entirely the point.
The idea is a simple one, trying to square the circle of defence inflation > budget increases because at the risk of being a bore, more money isn’t happening short of a major deterioration of the security environment.
Whilst holding out for more money we might reflect on something that was also just an idea. Professor Charles Inglis had an idea for a portable military bridge in 1908, despite no requirement from the Army he would eventually go on to design the various iterations of the Inglis Bridge, without which the Bailey Bridge would simply not have happened.
I don’t claim this concept is a good idea, I don’t claim that it fits any specific requirement but as I am at pains to repeatedly point out, dismissing things is all well and good, as long as people are OK with the idea of a reducing fleet because of our complete and utter failure in containing cost growth in major equipment.
A year or two ago I was roundly pilloried by many for suggesting the RN would not in a million years get 13 Type 26, oh no I was assured, Type 26 is low risk, it will be only £350 million each, we will get 13. So here we are in 2016, let’s just say somewhat less than 13 type 26, an unspecified number of HMS Jam Tomorrow and shit load of Offshore Patrol Vessels we don’t actually need because they are not actually much use.
I think Ray Mabus was on to something, Bad Santa certainly was.
Over to you in the comments, be kind!