Type 31 Frigate Capabilities

From the history of the Type 31 Frigate page, it’s capabilities can be guessed at, but until designs and finalised and vessels commissioned we can only guess.

Positioning Type 31 GPFF

There is one reason and one reason only the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence have changed from five Non TAS General Purpose Type 26 to five Type 31.

COST

Before cost negotiations have finalised on Type 26 the MoD has decided that the cost of;

FIVE GP TYPE 26 is greater than FIVE TYPE 31

It is as simple as that.

Now this might be somewhat of a simplistic view and accepting running costs may be a significant part of the equation the logical conclusion is that the five Type 31 has to fit inside the cost envelope of five production GP Type 26 or what is the point?

There is also the potential for one drivers being a potential reduction in total frigate numbers due to a slow build rate on the T26 programme.

It is worth a reminder of the MoD’s approach to defining the acquisition of major projects, CADMID

  • Concept
  • Assessment
  • Manufacture
  • In Service
  • Disposal

Following this means that the CADM elements of Type 31 has to be less than the M element for 5 GP Type 26, as the diagram below shows.

Type 31 cost envelope1

Because the type 26 Manufacture phase costs are subject to much arguing discussion between BAE and the MOD, they are not known publicly, despite speculation in the media. There have been some clues in MoD Annual Accounts and the odd unguarded comment from officials that lead to an assumption that it lies somewhere between £500m and £1,000m per vessel but these have so much spread they are meaningless.

In extrapolating the cost envelope for Type 31 GPFF we can make an assumption that it is between £2.5 Billion and £5 billion, and if it is cheaper then it will satisfy the party line that Type 31 GPFF is lower than the cost of a Type 26 but having a better specification than a £130 odd million Batch II River Class OPV.

Although some pre-concept work has been carried out by the Maritime Capability (MARCAP) inside Naval Command Headquarters (NCHQ) what makes this doubly difficult is the ongoing uncertainty on the Manufacture contract for Type 26 AND the National Shipbuilding Strategy, scheduled for publication in 2017.

Jane’s have reported that the expected cost per vessel is £275 million to £375 million, funnily enough, about the same as some of the initial Type 26 figures bandied around in the media.

As covered in the first part of this series, the Royal Navy had implacably set its face against a two tier frigate fleet, indeed, it was widely reported that Admiral Sir Gorge Zambellas would have an ‘allergic reaction’ to anyone mentioning the C word, corvette!

In an interview for Jane’s, he said;

One of the siren calls I completely resist is to try and produce something that is not a credible platform, something that is smaller, cheaper, and less effective. The reason for that is that in the first world that I live in, credible capability could one day be doing counter-piracy operations, the next week it could be in a hot war in the Gulf, and the week after in a hot war somewhere else.

Credibility is a nebulous concept, all we can say for certain is that the Type 31 GPFF will exist on a point between the Batch II River Class OPV and the Type 26 Frigate

Type 31 Spectrum

In the middle, will be trade-offs between capability, cost and quantity.

Despite the undoubted export success of the River Class, the Type 31 is the ‘Great White Hope’ of naval vessel exporting. Despite serious interest in Type 26 from Canada, Australia and Germany, it is assumed Type 26 is not a viable export prospect, but Type 31 will be.

Personally, I think this is fantasy, but time will tell and I may well have to eat/delete my words.

Weight versus Cost

Despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it seems that many in the MoD, Treasury and even the Royal Navy assume a relationship between weight and cost.

This has manifested in a number of comments about Type 31 GPFF being referred to as smaller, lighter and more flexible than Type 26, and therefore cheaper.

This inability to understand, wilful ignorance of, the cost drivers for complex warships is worrying.

After many decades of acquisition transformation the MoD is apparently no closer to being an ‘intelligent customer’ that can challenge our monopoly manufacturer, BAE Systems.

A more flexible and cheaper design may well actually be larger than a Type 26 but evidently, it won’t be.

Mind the Gap

The oldest Type 23 is due out of service in 2023 (HMS Argyle) with the rest following as Type 26 comes into service although the MoD has not published how this may be integrated with Type 31.

The youngest Type 23 has an out of service date of 2035 so changes to those dates accepted, the Type 26 will be a long programme and for many years, the Royal Navy will operate with a mixed type 23 and Type 26/31 fleet.

Ship Out of Service Date
HMS Argyll 2023
HMS Lancaster 2024
HMS Iron Duke 2025
HMS Monmouth 2026
HMS Montrose 2027
HMS Westminster 2028
HMS Northumberland 2029
HMS Richmond 2030
HMS Somerset 2031
HMS Sutherland 2032
HMS Kent 2033
HMS Portland 2034
HMS St Albans 2035

It is now assumed that the First Type 26 will not enter service until 2025, three years after the first planned Type 23 OSD.

Unless Type 31 can make up the pace, or those two Type 23’s can be life extended, a fleet reduction seems difficult to avoid.

Again, this seems to be one of the drivers for T31e.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy will also have to address what comes after Type 31 and Type 26, especially if Type 31 involves construction and investment in English yards.

Given the announcement that the SNP is to seek a second independence referendum, this added complication is unwanted by the Royal Navy.

Early Design Concepts

Early indications are that the Type 31 GPFF will focus on above water capability in a low to medium threat environment meaning only a basic ASW  and self defence capability.

i.e. a Two Tier Fleet

One thing is certain, it will not have the combat capabilities and survivability of Type 26.

This would suggest;

  • A flight deck for Merlin and hangar for Wildcat
  • Medium calibre gun
  • Self defence anti air missiles
  • Small calibre automatic weapons
  • Basic sensors
  • Small craft and UUV/USV handling capability
  • Embarked personnel accommodation
  • Communications interoperability

For reference…

The River Class Batch II OPV

River-Class-Batch-21

and

Type 26 Frigate

Type 26 GCS 01

Whilst the MoD is still engaged with pre-concept work, a few manufacturers have been conducting general positioning activity.

BAE Cutlass

Derived from the Project Khareef Corvette, the Cutlass design is 117m long.

BAE Type 31 Cutlass

The image shows an ARTISAN radar and 5″ main gun, with covered spaces for small craft. Additional improvements include much improved survivability, greater endurance and an ability to be replenished at sea.

BAE Avenger

At a lower price/capability point than Cutlass, the Avenger is more or less and stretched and improved Batch II River Class

BAE Type 31 Avenger

The 111m Avenger is longer and wider than a Batch II River Class OPV that allows for a small hangar and space/launch and recovery systems for a number of small and unmanned craft. The image would also seem to indicate ARTISAN radar and a Mk 45 Mod 4 5″ main gun for naval gunfire support.

BMT Venator 110

The MT Venator concept has been evolving for some time, the latest iteration is the Venator 110.

 

BMT Venator 110 Image 1

Whilst the BAE offerings are clearly derived from existing designs, the Venator 110 seems to be a clean sheet design, or a C3 PLUS, to coin a phrase.

Vital stats include

  • Length (overall) 117m
  • Draught 4.3m
  • Displacement 4,000 tonnes
  • Maximum beam 18m
  • Top speed >25 knots
  • Range >7,000 Nautical Miles at 15 knots
  • Crew size 85 personnel
  • Total accommodation provision 106+18 personnel
  • Side launched RHIBs, with a third large RHIB within a stern ramp facility
  • Flexible mission bay
  • Flight deck and hangar

Additional images

Steller Systems Project Spartan

A small design house, Steller Systems, have also proposed a design call Project Spartan.

The Nodal Modular Physical Architecture approach to the design allows for configurable options. Each node has the ability to accept different systems; for example a customer may wish to have a simple 30 mm Small Calibre Gun system in place of the forward Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), or place a SeaRAM or Phalanx in this position.

Images below;

Table of Contents

BAE Type 31 Cutlass - Copy Introduction
HMS Tyne Type 31 History 
 BMT Venator 110 Image 2 Type 31 Capabilities

 

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489 Comments on "Type 31 Frigate Capabilities"

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TAS

Word on the street is that T26 cost overrun is a result of failures in the design process and shortfalls in the contract specification, leading to costly redesign even at this early stage. What hope for a cost-effective T31?

CED

Every time I read about UK military programs, especially Royal Navy programs. There is two words that always seems to come to mind: “Yes, Minister.”

The only logical reason I can think of for ditching a big capable upgradeable platform like Type 26 and going for, as TD puts it, a half-way house between the River B2 and Type 26 is if we could have something like ten or more of the Type 31s. Quantity, in this instance, would trump individual quality because the RN is certainly struggling to maintain presence and meet commitments, and has no reserve.

But that is not what is being offered.

TD notes that the MoD’s cost equation and, therefore, justification for this spurious project looks like this: cost of 5 x T26 > cost of 5 x T31

I’d much rather have four, or even just three, or… hell… just two more Type 26 than any number of Type 31! Type 31 is just too close to the OPV mission, and not serious enough to pick up the slack of a depleted frigate force.

Type 31 will herald the RN’s entry into the ‘corvette’ club.

If the remaining non-TAS Type 26 are going to be so expensive, then why not just build three of them and strip as much as possible off, the idea being to create UK versions of the Absalon design. That big multimission space at the back that has caused so many headaches and, apparently, resulted in so much design and demonstration cost, would be ideal.

Absalon is basically a globe trotting colonial gunboat with upgrade slots. I would take three of those over 5 ‘corvettes’ that are neither small and cheap enough to use as OPVs, nor big and well enough protected to use as frigates against any halfway serious adversary. The sophistication of off-the-shelf weapons has gone way up in recent decades, and commercial technology is increasingly capable of stepping into that arena, widening the possible threat spectrum, enormously. The sophistication of anything we send in their way has got to equal that threat, and some piddling little corvette with delusions of anti-surface warfare is going to generate some horrible headlines, one day.

Sure, other countries use ‘corvettes’, notably the French. Their doctrine, their commitments are different. And no one really knows how seriously the MN rates the survivability of their various corvettes. That would be a state secret, of course. So you’ve got to wonder: are they are serious warfighting concern? Or are they a bluff/deterrent?

Would Type 31 be anything more than an expensive waste of treasure, blood and reputation to achieve a small grey hull that can’t do much more than defend itself against the odd MANPAD or MG-armed bog hammer, nor “deliver effects ashore” more effectively than an Austal passenger ferry embarking a troop of Royal Marines?

HMArmedForcesReview

If the full order of the Type 26 wasnt placed down, they wouldn’t budge from the 13 frigate number. They promised more frigates in the 2030s (very unwise but what to do) but as pledges go, they can easily be changed before you count to 1.

So in both scenarios, the Royal Navy loses and the the other services especially the RAF are better off.

40 deg south

Jesus wept!
Reading TD’s excellent ‘History’ pieces makes me realise that while the British private sector might have moved beyond the Morris Marina era, the government clearly hasn’t.
NZ will be looking for two (or, touch wood, three) frigates towards the end of the 2020s, but I’s rate our new and highly capable Korean friends as far more likely to pick up the contract than either the T26 or T31, whatever they eventually emerge looking like.
(Shakes head, sips beer, reviews latest footage of All Blacks thumping Australia with grim satisfaction)

Well said, MSR. Corvettes are death traps….. even in calm waters. In heavy seas, they are nearly useless.

johnno

Australia has shortlisted 3 designs for its ANZAC Frigate replacement project of potentially 9 vessels.
The shortlist is:
The Type 26
The Italian version of he FREMM; and
The new Spanish frigate design.
The timescale requires a start around 2020 so a design selection will be made in the next 2 years.
The way the UK is going on the Type 26 isn’t exactly enhancing its prospects.

;

S O

“FIVE TYPE 26 “, not “<".
26 < 31 means lower (smaller) costs for Type 26 than for Type 31.

Besides, cost estimates, expectations, promised, hopes et cetera this early in a military procurement program are clearly not worth paying attention to.

Its a stupid, ill-considered knee-jerk programme concocted on the back of an envelope. It is all the alarming characteristics of the 2010 carrier conversion plan.

Fluffy thoughts@gmail.com
Fluffy thoughts@gmail.com

Compare with the classic Leander-class: Why cannot Type-31 work?

Repulse

The problem is that the decision on design and capability cannot be made in the absence of the fact that the BAE yard needs work to keep it going until the T26 is ready for build and has already been promised the T31 by the old PM. I suspect it’ll need additional work during the build of the first also. In parallel we have the significant manpower issues the RN is experiencing and the expense of keeping the aging T23 going.

I cannot see a single solution based on where we are that will solve the short term needs and give the RN what it needs longer term.

I see a potential “solution” in three parts:
– Short term, scrap 3 GP T23s and stop the Batch 2 River build at the current 3. Instead, build 3 Avenger Class (reusing kit from the T23s including the 114mm guns) and keep the 3 Batch 1 Rivers. The Avengers can be forward based for FIGS, WIGS and APT(S). This would provide BAE with work, relieve manpower issues and should cost @£600mn.
– Increase the T26 order to 10 ASW versions. This is needed to face the increased ASW threat, but also stop the need to over design the ultimate T31 design. Cost @£1.5bn
– Take time (and cash saved) to design a combined Patrol Frigate and global mother ship for the future MCM / Survey capability. This is not necessarily the only platform for these technologies, as cheaper commercial designs / OPVs could also be used I low threat / UK environments, but would be capable of independent global operations and working with the Carrier / Amphibious group. Let’s call it MHPC and base it on an extended Venator 90 design to be built in the late 2020’s by English yards :)

JohnHartley

Well I have said it before, but there should be a big notice on the wall at MoD/Treasury, saying “Do not start a new frigate/destroyer/SSN class, unless you are willing to buy at least ten of them”. Otherwise the R&D costs make even an economical design look expensive.
10 T31 + 10 T26 + 6 upgraded T45, would return the RN surface fleet to a minimum credible capability.
The cry will be “no money”, but if we did this, we might get some T26/T31 exports, as foreign buyers would see the economies of scale and our confidence in these designs.

Chris Mitchell

Hi my opinion is simple remove BA e and department of defense from the equation we cannot afford either, Babcock’s can offer a commercial off the shelf solution as they did for the Irish Navy all it needs is stealth, a hanger for a wildcat and 95 Meter length the Venetor 110 could be a good start

Repulse

@MSR: “Type 31 will herald the RN’s entry into the ‘corvette’ club.” Technically, its re-entry to the Corvette club, as the RN had plenty into the 1950’s. However they were called “sloop-of-war”s, the Black Swan class being a WW2 example.

I actually think a modern “sloop-of-war” has an important place in the RN as a globally deployable (independtly or as part if the CSG) Patrol / Surveillance / MHC mother ship; in fact the old MHPC concept. This is what the T31 should really be.

To act independently it still needs Artisan / Camm, Medium Gun, Lynx hangar plus optional ASuW capability. It could also act as part of an escort group or in Littoral region with an ARG.

What it isn’t and shouldn’t be is a world class ASW ship nor fitted with ground attack strike tubes, that’s the T26 – which is why the RN should aim for 10 T26s first.

MoD need to apply lessons learnt from previous projects and number one on that list has to be stop dicking about. Sure you may make one bad decision in 10 but that’s better than no decisions at all. The procrastination doesn’t stop the bad decision, case in point is type 45 propulsion. We could have been building a version of type 26 without the bells and whistles instead of OPV’s. Just make sure they have space/power for future upgrades.

Simon

Not intending to insult, but what exactly do our current FF/DD actually do?

Is it not sensible to build a surveillance platform rather than an escort/warship? In other words build the MQ9 of the oceans rather than another Typhoon?

DavidNiven

Have we not muddied the waters by labeling the Type 31 a ‘Frigate’. We already have a very capable multi mission vessel that has proven itself and has been sent on missions short of war on it’s own, it’s a Bay class.

Would a second batch of Bay’s with a permanent hangar cover the Type 31 mission and allow a slightly larger buy of Type 26?

GL

Its a stupid, ill-considered knee-jerk programme concocted on the back of an envelope. It is all the alarming characteristics of the 2010 carrier conversion plan.

Hopefully it’ll go the same way.

Repulse

@MSR: “Type 31 will herald the RN’s entry into the ‘corvette’ club.” Technically, its re-entry to the Corvette club, as the RN had plenty into the 1950’s. However they were called “sloop-of-war”s, the Black Swan class being a WW2 example.

To act independently it still needs Artisan / Camm, Medium Gun, Lynx hangar plus optional ASuW capability. It could also act as part of an escort group or in Littoral region with an ARG.

Problem is, I define a 1950’s Sloop of War as being the thing that evolved into modern OPVs. That’s what happened to sloops. They were overtaken by the march of technology, and you’ve illustrated that point for me in the second paragraph of the quote: small ships need so much equipment to survive in the modern theatre that you simply can’t do cost-effective and operationally effective globally deployable major warships that can sustain themselves, or that can keep pace with bigger, high value assets as part of a task force in anything other than the most benign weather in anything less than about 5k tons (remember pictures of T22s taking it green in South Atlantic seas as they steamed alongside the carriers? Could a T31 keep up in that weather?).

Anything else is a patrol vessel/coastguard cutter/OPV. The typical characteristics of these are that they are usually gun armed, with a basic surface search and fire control radar. Police boats. Some have hangars; most just have a landing pad; some just a winching zone. None have SAM armaments like CAMM. They closest any get is a platform for a bloke to stand on while he operates a MANPAD (the French Floreals, for example, have such a platform).

There is only one other category, and that’s the Light Frigate of the sort people like Morocco have been buying off the Danes who make those marvellous, scaleable SIGMA designs. The small ones are between 1.5k to 3k and have minimal gun and missile armaments (76mm and one of those horizontal racks of Mistrals that remind me of early machine gun designs), they have a flight deck and maybe a small hangar and perhaps a brace of Exocet. They are corvettes. They never stray far from home and they exist primarily to,fly the flag in peace, and to trip the enemy up in war, giving the homeland time to notice there’s a problem and deploy their serious military assets to counter it.

The RN does not need corvettes because it does not need sacrificial warships whose only virtue is to soak up the enemy’s ammunition. OPVs are fine – we know what to do with those. MCM vessels combined with survey and patrol capabilities are fine – those are clearly defined roles and with no expensive mission creep. Corvettes are neither one thing or the other and they suffer from huge mission creep because things like ASuW missiles, air search radars and the software to run it all costs way more than the platform is inherently worth.

Corvettes are frigates for paupers who can’t afford real ones.

Sloops of War evolved into OPVs just like dinosaurs evolved into birds. They became small and efficient and very good at what they do. You’ll never see a blackbird trying to take down a wildebeast just like you’ll never see an OPV trying to hunt a submarine, or provide NGFS.

Simon

If River B3 is Avenger then you could be right.

Repulse

@MSR: ”Sloops of War evolved into OPVs just like dinosaurs evolved into birds.”

Up to about 5 years ago I’d have agreed with you, outside of Destroyers and Frigates the RN had OPVs, MCMs and Survey Ships.

The world is changing though and the dawn of multirole ship is here, where the base capability of an OPV is fine for low threat environments such as the UK EEZ, but to have a ship operating globally and most likely independently, it needs more. It definately needs more than a River Batch 2 or a Bay Class. Sure, call this a frigate if you want, but unless the government significantly increases the budget expect a globally deployable Navy of less than 25 ships. For me its a modern day “sloop-of-war”, this is what the T31 should be.

Mark

Think everyone needs to relise not matter what pleading and hoping we are not buying anymore than 8 type 26.
The Spanish BAMS vessel was always an interesting vessel for overseas presence.

I do find a number of similarities between the discussions of why this ship needs to be type 26 esq and the arguments by a number of airforce people 10 years ago about why reaper uavs were not relevant to modern combat because they were not survivable.

Mark

I think you can afford both provided you accept there will be a limit on the scale and sustainability of your high end force. I think sdsr tried that scaling the navy at a single carrier group.

I also think the lower end of conflict scale is significantly more important than anytime in a generation and that’s likely to increase from here.

Does the responsibility for dealing with it lie with the military or should the budget and responsibility transferred to another organisation, debatable but to me it should be military.

Julian

Naive beginners question…. I’ve seen a few comments along the lines of “let’s not build the final 2 (hulls 4 & 5) River batch 2s but instead put the money towards the T31 program”. If that were to happen then does that mandate a BAE T31 design (e.g. Cutlass or Avenger) because those Batch 2 Rivers are to fulfill contractual obligations to BAE or could some other design (e.g. BMT Venator 110) be built but on the Clyde with BAE as prime contractor?

Don

Essential elements should be good speed, range, endurance and be big enough with free spaces to allow for upgrading of weapons and sensors through its lifetime. Also space for extra crew to operate any upgrades.
Once they get this right it should be easier to add “Bells and Whistles” as budgets allow and operational demands change.

crj

Many thanks for your work TD, it makes fascinating, though rather depressing, reading. I think perhaps the RN approached this whole program from the wrong angle: they should have asked for a fleet of 20 nuclear powered LO battleships, bristling with rail guns, lasers, and hypersonic missiles. Then they might have been offered 13 T26 as a consolation prize….

I think the only way we will see some value out of the T31 folly is if we can deliver a platform that can actually escort. Any platform can perform presence and maritime security operations, the value is found in a platform that can be a credible escort.

There is a clear shortage of escorts within the Royal Navy, highlighted most plainly here; the T26 will give the Royal Navy only 2.5 sub hunters available to to protect a continuous nuclear deterrent and carrier strike. Looking at the demands we place on the navy 2.5 ASW escorts is clearly not enough, and this is before we have begun to consider our other commitments.

So what does it mean to be a credible escort? I think it needs to have stopping power against all three domains, air, surface, and submarine.

The first two should be easily achievable, we already have some low invasive solutions that could be fitted to any platform enabling the minimum credible AAW and ASuW needed to escort. That would come in the form of CAMM and Artisan, as well as modern deck launched anti ship missiles, such as the NSM.

The next one, ASW is the more difficult one to achieve, but there is huge value to be found by doing so. Consider that 40 nations poses subs, some of them not so stable, some not so west friendly, and the technology is proliferating like never before. Understanding the Argentine and Lybian subs gave the best ASW crews a run for their money really demonstrates the threat.

Subs pose the biggest risk to the freedom of movement to the Royal Navy, and therefore the freedom to best protect the UK’s interests. There is little wonder the other 3 big navies in NATO are building their light frigates with ASW capabilities, so should we.

If we are a nation building a navy to respond to the threats and challenges faced by operating a carrier and nuclear deterrent, they would be built with at least a CAPTAS 2 type sonar, instead of only building one that responds to the fiscal challenges.

This last one could be achievable if it was made a priority, but only one platform above would be capable. The Venator 110 has a stern ramp, and mission bay under the flight deck, a towed sonar could be launched. A simple diesel electric propulsion and Merlin hangar on top and we have the basics of a light ASW frigate.

If we take a snap shot of the four biggest navys within NATO, all of them are building light frigates, and out of them we are the only one building them without ASW capabilities. Are we the ones making a big mistake?

The Venator 110 is the only design on the ‘short list’ that could become a credible escort with;
*A 76mm gun on the front,
*Soft VLS in the missle for CAMM and even Spear,
*A Merlin hangar with deck launched NSM on the roof,
*Finally CAPTAS 2 at the rear.
With that we have a frigate that will be fully capable of the patrol and maritime security tasks around the globe, but equally able to embark some specialist ASW crew and protect the carriers or deterrent.

Its what the Royal Navy needs. Without the ability to escort there is no point in wasting money on complex warship construction. The money would be better spent on a “Bay class with a big gun”, or SSK’s or P8’s or Patria AMV’s

The solution to cheap SSKs cannot be expensive frigates. The US (DARPA) has realised this and are developing the ACTUV unmanned sub hunter. Their aim is to make this deterent for one-tenth the cost of an enemy’s SSK.

Speed: 27 knots
Endurance: 60-90 days

If we funded our own ACTUV program instead of the T-31 it would benefit ASW, MCM, hyrographic survey and have lots of commercial spin-off potential. If export potential is a real priority, this would generate a much greater return on investment than T-31 ever will.

Build the T-26 for its do-everything potential but quietly kill the T-31 by kicking it into the long grass saying it will be built “sometime after T-26”. Then keep all River batch 1+2s in service for low-level duties (counter piracy/narcotics) but give them each a camcopter or scan eagle.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACTUV
comment image

Repulse

@Don: “… and be big enough with free spaces to allow for upgrading of weapons and sensors through its lifetime. Also space for extra crew to operate any upgrades.”

Whilst I agree that this should be a condition for first raters (T45/T23) I think that “space for growth” should not be a key driver in the T31 design. I’d actually go for a cheaper design with a more limited lifespan (say 20 yrs) to not only ensure a future pipeline (build and design), improve speed but also to get the ship ready for build as soon as possible. Also, if this is going to be the UK Export saviour it needs to be able to operate in shallower waters and smaller ports also IMO.

ArmChairCivvy

I already voted the whole of this comment up, but the gist is worth repeating separately:

“If the remaining non-TAS Type 26 are going to be so expensive, then why not just build three of them and strip as much as possible off, the idea being to create UK versions of the Absalon design. That big multimission space at the back that has caused so many headaches and, apparently, resulted in so much design and demonstration cost, would be ideal.

Absalon is basically a globe trotting colonial gunboat with upgrade slots. I would take three of those over 5 ‘corvettes’ that are neither small and cheap enough to use as OPVs, nor big and well enough protected to use as frigates against any halfway serious adversary. The sophistication of off-the-shelf weapons has gone way up in recent decades, and commercial technology is increasingly capable of stepping into that arena, widening the possible threat spectrum, enormously. The sophistication of anything we send in their way has got to equal that threat”

This avenue would also solve the problem of company-sized amphibious raids/ evacuations (would take two of the class to be concentrated into the same area) which with the current amphibs would be tricky to organise anywhere else than in the Med/ the vicinity of the Gulf. All three Bays are gainfully employed and that only leaves the on-duty Albion (overkill, and would probably have to sail from home port, so talking about an impromptu raid/ evacuation becomes very much less so, in reality).

Some thoughts on the leading-in piece:
– I think I have already seen a version of that pasted-in OSD table with the last entry having 2036 against it?

– the comment on understanding cost drivers is certainly valid, but I have an inkling that with a bigger hull size both installed power and through-life fuel costs will go up. No idea how that would play into the overall cost (say, proc being a third of the 100%)?

Don

@repulse you make a very valid point on “space for growth”.

Simon

With 4 x T45 and 8 x T26 we should be able to field an AAW destroyer and two ASW frigates with the carrier. In addition we should also be able to deliver TAPS, FRE and another ship in UK waters for ASW training.

Adding a couple more T45 allows either a AAW training ship or a second AAW destroyer with the carrier group.

When the balloon goes up we should be able to field 4 x T26 and 2-3 x T45 relatively quickly.

To me, this is a highly credible peace-time and war-time task group.

What we need in addition to this is globally deployable presence ships. In my mind they really only need to bob about in the water with a hull sonar and EM/radio receivers. They do however need to field a Wildcat. Above this they should be kitted out to supplement the task force in wartime which means NGFS, ASuW and possibly land strike missiles. They will sit under the cover of a T45 (and carrier) for air defence and sit over the cover of four T26, a couple of SSN, and a squadron of Merlin for sub defence.

What it doesn’t really give us is the ability to defend an ARG in addition to the CBG.

Donald_of_Tokyo

1: I have a question. I could not see “the overwhelming evidence to the contrary” to “assume a relationship between weight and cost”. Are there any good example not following this scale?

“Steal is cheap and air is free” argument is true only if you keep the space vacant. But, I’m afraid MOD/RN is “designing the ship to its size”, refusing to mitigate the requirement lists to fit within the cost. Thus, I do not think Absalon, althouth a good ship as itself, if built in RN standard will be as expensive as their weight scaled.

2: On T31, I still have 2 options in mind.
option-1: build 8 T26ASW and 5 T31, as Venator 110, as shark bait-san saids. I still think this is possible, but waiting for the “requirements list” to show up later to see if it is “feasible” or not.

option-2: build 10 T26ASW and 3 heavy OPV as “Patrol Frigates”, to replace 13 T23s.

The “Patrol Frigate” here is a River B2 extended for 10m (~2400t FL), added with a Wildcat hangar, 20mm CIWS, 7000nm range @15kt, 4-8 SSMs (the same as T23mod) FFBNW, a 3in gun (re-used) and 2x 30mm SeaHawk sigma mounts with LMM (to be added with StarStreak).

# Also pretend “CAMM FFBNW” for export. (by ditching the 7000nm range, it will be doable within the 100m hull, for export).

It is more like a Floreal, with heavily armed Wildcat (LMM/SeaVenom) as the main weapon. No CAMM, no “22m long extension”. Much more River OPV than the Avenger –> less new design-work and as cheap as 140M GBP/hull or less. Less design means “can start NOW = late 2016”, so we can order them “in place of the 2 additional Rivers”. It MUST also be accompanied by stopping 3 T23 LIFEX work. Thus, the money allocated for the 2 Rivers (~200M GBP) and 3 T23 modifications (150-300M GBP, do anyone know?), will provide most of the 3 Patrol Frigates’ cost. It will also solve (in somewhat unhappy style) the manpower crysis of escort crew.

What will these ships do? Accept to use it for Fleet ready escort. Accept to use it for APT-S. Send it to Anti-Pirates operations to show the flag. In real war, use it for plane guard (1 hull) and FRE (1 hull, on home water).

DavidNiven

Admiral Sir Philip Jones,

‘The Type 31 offers the same prospect; but with an additional potential for export orders for the UK from the international market.’

This is a tacit acknowledgement that the Type 26 will not be very exportable for whatever reason, so one of the main drivers for the Type 31 will be it’s exportability. As most major NATO countries build their own surface combatants who are our potential buyers? Whatever they are buying or looking for will pretty much decide what the Type 31 will become. If the final product looks like a very fighty corvette will we really be saving any money?

mickp

@Simon “With 4 x T45 and 8 x T26 we should be able to field an AAW destroyer and two ASW frigates with the carrier. In addition we should also be able to deliver TAPS, FRE and another ship in UK waters for ASW training.

Adding a couple more T45 allows either a AAW training ship or a second AAW destroyer with the carrier group.”

That to me is the crux of this and should be the driver of any so called T31. At a strategic level it has been determined that the key war fighting structure of the RN should be determined by the ability filed a carrier group and secure the CASD – nothing more. That by default needs high end capabilities. I assume that has led to an assessment that those requirements can be met by 6 T45s and 8 TAS T26s. One could challenge that but let’s park it. In peacetime the 6+8 high end provides sufficient numbers to meet our obligations in the Gulf (the only ‘hot’ deployment). After that we only need further hulls to meet peace time / low intensity patrol / standing task commitments. It has been assessed previously that a further 5 FFs was sufficient to meet those requirements although recent times have seen the low end demands stretched with RFAs, Hydro ships, border force cutters all filling the gaps and frankly making us look a bit desperate. So I conclude we need more than 19 hulls and we are not going to get that by trying to turn the T31 into a ‘T26 light’. I personally would go down the lowest cost fastest route to 6 ‘light frigates’ (more appropriately ocean capable patrol vessels). I’d start with B2 River and add a small hanger for embarked (weaponised) wildcat / UAV, medium gun (57 or 76 most likely), couple of 30mm sea hawk sigma mounts, .50 cals and miniguns. I would not go artisan and camm unless we could get a really good deal, I’d just mount a CIWS / SeaRAM on the hanger with decoys. That’s an armament commensurate with a USCG NSC, keep it lean manned. That will do, its utility is endurance, patrol, presence and standing task cover in the event of war. If we need more fighty ships, then that should change the assessments on T26 numbers – at least the T26 line will be open for many years. I would add one extra T26 TAS to the build sort hat leaves me with

6 T45
9T26
6 ‘T31 Avenger type’
5 B3 Rivers

Giving an increase in hulls of 3 from what we have now

jedibeeftrix

@ MSR – “If the remaining non-TAS Type 26 are going to be so expensive, then why not just build three of them and strip as much as possible off, the idea being to create UK versions of the Absalon design. That big multimission space at the back that has caused so many headaches and, apparently, resulted in so much design and demonstration cost, would be ideal.”

T31 only males sense if it delivers a significant uplift in numbers, and even then I would still rather have the above then anything less than: 6x T45 / 9x T26 (ASW) / 6x T31. Anything less sinply isn’t worth it.

mickp

@Donald Of Tokyo – we are very similar on specifications. Armament wise to get the numbers and keep in manning targets, its LCS / NSC territory. Emphasis on simple design, low cost, very decent range / habitations standard and decent sensor fit. That’s more like a ‘Batch 2a’ River possibly than a B3 Avenger. No corvette pretensions and no middle ground fudge – if the RN needs more fighty ships, its more T26.

Steve Coltman

It makes one despair! I think the RN (or rather the UK) needs a decent fleet of Ocean-going patrol vessels like the Dutch Holland class, £100m each or so (probably more if made by BAES) because constabulary duties are (a) important and (b) require numbers. No way can constabulary duties be done by £500m+ warships, there will never be enough. At the same time if we are to protect the carriers and the deterrent etc. from the worst that the Russians can threaten us with we will need warships as good as we can design them. They will inevitably be expensive (FREMM is €600m+) and we will need a certain number of them, more than 2-3 operational at any one time. What we do NOT need is anything in between – too expensive for constabulary duties and not good enough to be anything more than target practice for the Russians. This seems exactly what the T31 is shaping up to be. The government simply will not spend the money needed and because of that they are wasting some of the money they are planning to spend.

S O

@Nathan
“The solution to cheap SSKs cannot be expensive frigates.”
SSKs are not really the problem, SSIs are. The air-independent conventional attack subs.
And those are not cheap (nor were capable SSKs).

Tiny motor yachts with or without crew are no useful answer to SSIs. Any equipment that makes them somewhat capable in ASW will cost EUR 50+ million, since this would be the equipment of an ASW helicopter (dipping sonar, sonobuoys, lightweight torpedoes, radar, ESM etc.).

TAS

Type 26 has been a design farce on the same scale as Astute and Type 45. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Nothing in the T26 design is complicated. The sensors and systems are already in service and proven. The propulsion is mostly COTS/MOTS. The cost explosion has been for what? A ‘mission bay’ that is nothing more than a large compartment with a crane? A complex warship – that will in fact be no more complicated than a Type 23? None of these costs are related to integrating complex systems – because they have already been integrated into the combat system that will operate them. And yet as a result we have already seen massive compromises in design – like no torpedo launch system, either for torpedoes or the new generation of anti-torpedo munitions. I’m sure some ‘maritime design experts’ will appear and tell me it’s all terribly difficult – well experience as an operator tells me it isn’t. Type 26 should have been no more complicated than a refreshed Type 23. It’s a joke.

And on that basis, there is nothing whatsoever to prevent the same cockup with Type 31. None of the design proposals above have any maturity – they exist on Powerpoint and little else. The BAE designs are all modified RIvers/Khareefs, those minor warships with such illustrious design histories. Venator doesn’t even have that advantage. Bringing any of them up to standard – i.e. they don’t overheat in hot climates, they have the right security precautions for the processing of classified data, they have RAS rigs that work, etc – will cost the same amount of money as it did to turn a Type 26 Powerpoint into reality. As incomprehensible as it seems, this is where the costs come from – not the steel, not the engines, not even the weapons but the holistic ability to design a warship, as opposed to a yacht.

The only way I see Type 31 being both a) cheaper and b) an effective warship is to order Type 26 Batch 2. With all the design costs already expended and incorporated into the cost of the first eight hulls, the remaining hulls will be cheaper (especially if we’ve sold a few). Don’t change a single rivet. The entirety of the defence community knows this, and by doing it this way BAE have no excuses. We proved it with Type 45 – six hulls for the price of twelve. I’d bet a lot on a T26 Batch 2 being cheaper than a newly designed T31.

Trying to design again from scratch is an invitation for the defence industry to once again take full advantage of a completely inept naval design office, MOD and Naval procurement.

Donald_of_Tokyo

@TAS
“The only way I see Type 31 being both a) cheaper and b) an effective warship is to order Type 26 Batch 2. ”
I understand your point (although not only the designing, but fitting out the vessels itself is also costy, I think). But, I think it was already taken into account and the answer is No, RN cannot build 5 of them. I think this means
-T31 cost will be very tight, and you need to design it very cheap.
-Or, just accept the decreasing number of escorts, and accept only 10 T26ASW (+3 heavy OPVs) or 8 T26ASW and 3 T26 GP-light(no Mk.41. no S2087, only 24 CAMM, empty mission bay, and so on) with normal OPVs.

ArmChairCivvy

Yep “unless we figure out what we are going to fill them with, not sure they will actually be fitted”
– BMD = something else
– ASuW = they are going to be escorts and the T31s will be the singletons (the latter will need that capability on its own)
– T26 is the ASW specialist so should it need a knee-jerk, last minute ASROC for self-defence, at a close range?

Only land attack would give the justification… and the carriers are for? Strike; and supporting other types of ops when that is not the primary, or has already been done

With hind sight we should have tagged on a few Khareef class to Oman’s order and at 133m each they look like good value and final T31 may not be much of a step up from the Khareef class and without knowing all the design specifics the Khareef looks better than the B2 River Class.

Mark

Should of perhaps just bought fremm asw frigates and saved a few quid. Other than designing and building subs time to let naval ship building slip into history.

ArmChairCivvy

@mark,

Could’t possibly have done that as out 8 sonar sets are better than anybody else’s and we hang onto them for our dear lives (won’t even buy more, but rather determine ship class numbers by the available kit):

French Navy (CAPTAS-4 on FREMM)
Italian Navy (CAPTAS-4 on FREMM)
Royal Malaysian Navy (CAPTAS-2 on SGPV LCS)
Royal Moroccan Navy (CAPTAS-4 on FREMM)
Royal Norwegian Navy (CAPTAS-2 on NNF)
Royal Saudi Navy (CAPTAS-2 on F4000)
UAE Navy (CAPTAS-2 on Abu Dhabi)
UK Royal Navy (CAPTAS-4 on T23)

CAPTAS-4 selected by the US Navy for ADM contract on LCS programme.

Pacman27

There are several problems identified by this article and at the risk of banging on – the cost of these assets is overly inflated as it is a total cost of life cost rather than an asset cost. It should therefore be no surprise that the costs explode. put simply a highly capable peer platform (choose from FREMM, Iver Huitfeldt, Absolon, Meko etc…) come in around the £450- 650m mark fully loaded. so we have benchmark costs for the type 26 asset cost. FOr the Type 31 I would benchmark against the South African Mendi class or the new Israeli SAAR class or even the USN freedom class, which are costed around the £200-300m mark – fully loaded. All are capable assets and are useful.

the Meko builds for the SAN seem particularly well specified and with improved Radar, Sonar and CEC could be extremely effective as a pack, they are also not that small at 121m and 4000tonnes.

I would personally like to see a 30 year plan to purchase 1 T26 per annum (based on the Iver Huitfeldt cost/design platform) and lock in the industry in batches of ten over 3 tranches. this will take political will and an organisational capable of budgeting effectively, which does not seem possible where the MOD is concerned.

If we concentrate on the single hull form (T26 or T31) then I would propose we then direct our resources into more flexible assets that can provide an assymetric capability. For this purpose I would purchase a large fleet (600+) of safe boats Mark VI and CB90’s.

The article has once again identified major weaknesses in our procurement and decision making capabilities (just as it did with FRES but we really need to start getting a grip of this.

If the UK cannot fund a £1bn annual surface build programme for our navy out of its budget then we should really just give up.

40 deg south

David Niven and others have pointed put that a key driver for the Type 31 appears to be ‘exportability’. This ignores the fact that T26 has been shortlisted (along with the Italian FREMM and an upgraded Navantia design) for Australia’s ANZAC replacement programme. That will be for 9 locally-built hulls, outfitted to a high standard.

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/naval/2016/04/18/bae-fincantieri-and-navantia-ships-australian-shortlist/83177512/

If BAE/MoD were serious about exports, perhaps they could stop faffing about with powerpoint and actually complete the T26 design and release a construction timetable. UK Plc appears to be ignoring an ‘actual’ export opportunity (of IT and expensive fittings) in favour of some vague hope of future customers. Or has Australia already indicated T26 doesn’t have a chance? You could hardly blame them.

Gunbuster's

So the T26 is literally back on the drawing board (CAD display for you none-dinosaurs) and the T31 only exists as a Powerpoint.
Looking at the T31 graphics I do despair.
The RN has spent many years developing hull forms that have a reduced radar cross section. Sloping upperdecks, covered boat bays, enclosed quaterdecks and focsle’s and on a the Venerator BAe do all these things but somehow leave a RAS point cutout right in the middle of the ship , inline with the machinery uptakes, to act as the biggest radar reflector ever !
If they cannot get that right on a concept drawing what hope is there for the rest of the design?

The Other Chris

@TD

Re Mk-41 contents: Almost certainly to be fitted and I’d wager to carry a handful of RUM-139C’s.

“Our billion pound anti-submarine ships have no torpedoes” is the kind of headline guaranteed to be run by our tabloids and is easily avoided via straight-forward FMS.

Julian

@4DegS – “This ignores the fact that T26 has been shortlisted (along with the Italian FREMM and an upgraded Navantia design) for Australia’s ANZAC replacement programme. That will be for 9 locally-built hulls, outfitted to a high standard.”

@Gunbuster’s – “So the T26 is literally back on the drawing board (CAD display for you none-dinosaurs)…”

Might the two be related? Perhaps now the RAN bid has turned real it has been discovered that some of the changes required for the RAN bid (e.g. all-Mk41 forward silo instead of 24 CAMM soft-launch + 24 MK41 which I’m guessing might be a RAN requirement plus perhaps some MK41 where the rear CAMM silo is on the RN version) aren’t simply drop-ins but require more significant structural changes to accommodate. In that case I can see why BAE might not want to fork-off a structurally different hull for the RAN units but instead adapt the foundation T26 RN design to accommodate the RAN mods more cleanly.

I’m not saying it’s a good situation to be in but it did just occur to me as a possible explanation as to why, after all this time, T26 design is still not declared anything like complete.

Shades

IIRC, the “T26 design is 60% complete” comment came from the MOD contract negotiator at the select committee session in July, didn’t it? If so, he went on to expand on that comment by saying that the remaining design work related to wiring and pipes etc (sorry can’t remember the technical terms), rather than superstructure/weapons fit etc. He also indicated he hoped to wrap up contract negotiations and make an announcement around the time of the NSS in October. Well-founded skepticism aside, do we have any other basis for thinking the design is back to the drawing board?

Also, we’ve got 7 years until the first T23 OSD. Surely, even if we allow 2 years to build it and 3 years of sea trial/commissioning, that still gives us plenty of time?

Not a Boffin

As one of the maritime design “experts” that TAS refers to – as expected I’ll say it is all terribly difficult, particularly for proper surface combatants in the DD/FF class. That said, “difficult” is a relative not absolute concept and where T26 has got to is way beyond any realistic “difficulty” technically, but actually reflects the organisational construct and expertise that has been applied to it. There are two factors at work here – the design of the ship and its eventual output and the reaction to the cost of it.

The issues with the design of the ship primarily stem from the major reconfiguration of the design about four years ago, maybe a little longer. That “major” reconfiguration was done to solve a couple of problems – one to do with modularity and one to do with primary role, the latter driven very much by the operator community. However, because of the design process applied – and the consequent sunk costs – the design team were constrained in how much of the design they could rearrange. Part of that was because the operator community had signed off on particular aspects of the arrangement and would not allow those elements to change to give a better overall design. This was compounded by an organisational structure where no-one appeared to be effectively in charge and able to direct the solution and by a cost model that precluded certain technical options which might have given a better balance. The result is that there may be some certification issues with the ship and when coupled with the cost (which is largely driven by the build programme adopted, rather than any specific equipment fits or size) has led to the big game of chicken.

What should have happened at that time was a more fundamental redesign of the ship, with more freedom to get an optimal arrangement. Trouble was that too much detail had been worked up and too many people were working on more detail to just turn them off for a year or so. This is the problem in applying a cast of thousands too early in the process. You have to get the fundamentals right, which is where – unfortunately – the NDP (and subsequently BAE teams) have been lacking. Teams it should be said that included a significant RN operator and engineering contribution. It is far from a bunch of serpents and industry bods. This early stage bit is crucial. If you get it wrong here (wrong being not understanding and allowing for the issues likely to arise as detail matures), then it costs – big time. Early stage design is not something done anywhere else in the life of a ship, although major conversions (eg 1950 Victorious) come close and if you don’t have people who know how to do it, you struggle.

TAS is absolutely correct that there should be minimal CS integration activity required – although there will always be some. There will be more marine systems integration – particularly for the PMS and similar, driven partly by the reduced manning element, but these should not be beyond the wit of man, particularly given the levels of PMS integration on QEC.

However, all that aside, the basic issue with T26 is now less to do with design and the technical elements of the ship than cost/budgeting and political will. The cost is being seen as being driven by size, when in fact it’s the industrial construct and its underlying assumptions that is the main factor. That cost and the potential certification issues (the design process failures that TAS refers to) have led to the uncertainty as to VFM, which is why the GPFF has been invented. There remains this rather strange assumption that there’s a huge export market for UK build ships which will magically fix the Clyde workload problem. It won’t – even with GPFF – and we should stop kidding ourselves that it will. Might get one or two hulls extra, but that’s it.

I also happen to agree with TAS that GPFF should be a T26 derivative, with no artificial size constraints (cos you won’t get a significant change anyway!). But – and it’s a big but – subsequent surface combatants should never again be designed for long build periods – the assumption that you get these economies of scale through some sort of production run is nonsense. Smaller classes – NOT batches – with common equipment components wherever possible is how you square the trade-off between keeping logistics costs down while maintaining early stage design expertise. That also means that new GPFF designs should be progressed, but in a sensible timeframe, with the objective (as per SDSR) of augmenting T26 and also hitting the target market of FFG7/M-class/MEKOs that will need replacing over the next twenty years, which is where your couple of export hulls might materialise from.

The Other Nick

The Type 26 grew like topsy due to mission creep to include a 385 sq. metre mission bay, a flight deck sized for the 100 ft long Chinook, 24 Mk41 VLS cells using another 26 sq. metres, the automated ammunition handling system for the Mk45 5″/62 gun which must use a large volume of space as does the accommodation for 208 personnel with the resultant displacement of 8,000 mt FL ship.
My thoughts if Type 31 does go forward it should be a single purpose dedicated ASW frigate to replace the Type 23 with no mission bay, no Mk41 VLS cells, no automated ammunition handling system for the Mk45 gun and a flight deck sized for the 75 ft Merlin and say accommodation for a crew of 100? You would fit the type 2087 sonar from the Type 23, Sea Ceptor, the Mk45 5″/62 gun which is less than half the price currently paying for the automated version fitted in the Type 26 to keep commonality. Wish list would include tethered UAV’s as France and US developing and the ability to launch 324mm and 533mm torpedoes as on the new Italian PPA frigates for when helicopter offline and room for deck launched Harpoon/NSM/LRASM. You could keep the same propulsion system and combat system developed and paid for by the Type 26 though see no major savings on systems, presume looking at a displacement of 5,500 mt FL. The Type 31 would be cheaper than the Type 26, though not by a order of magnitude, but it would be a first rate ASW frigate to protect the carriers. The Type 26 would be re-classified as destroyers with hopefully a load out of LRSAM’s to fulfil the C2/C3 role.
I see no point in wasting money on the second rates Cutlass, Avenger and Venator which would be of very limited use against the Chinese or Russians.

Julian

How depressing.

Out of interest, are we (the UK) especially prone to these T45/Astute/T26 type of design and/or build/budget debacles or are they reasonably common in other countries and it’s just that we (at least civilians like me) tend to focus on and hear more about our own issues?

I agree with that thinking @TON.

It is clear the T26 has grown beyond an ASW specialist and into a multi mission beast, which should develop into an excellent capability for the Royal Navy. However the program has grown into something that is almost undeliverable, as witnessed by all the recent sticking points.

A different approach is clearly needed for the T31, perhaps one could be found by building a light frigate with laser focus on ASW. With a more refined and focused scope could a program be created that is actually deliverable within a decade? and bring a much needed capability boost to the Royal Navy?

An ASW focused Venator 110 seems the best outcome for the T31 project. The Venator design specifies a stern ramp for a RHIB, so there must be a ‘mission bay’ below the flight deck. The Italian PPA, also has a ramp and ‘mission bay’ under the flight deck, and they also include the capability for a towed array in there, should we be following this approach?

comment image

So the Italians have a light frigate, 16.5m wide and manage to fit a stern ramp, towed array, and torpedo tubes under the flight deck.

There is no reason the Venator design couldn’t do the same and become a pocket multi-role frigate. A Sonar, USV and torpedos could and should be packed in under the flight deck, and give the platform a shred of credibility. The Independence class also takes a similar approach.

The base Venator concept looks well suited as a patrol frigate, adding a sonar under the flight deck would give the Royal Navy a multipurpose patrol frigate, that can also can embark some specialist crew and re-role into an anti-submarine escort.

That would be highly valuable to the Royal Navy, and should hopefully be more deliverable than the T26 project.

A friend of Mr Gladstone
A friend of Mr Gladstone

A lurker wonders how these developments in Thailand where BAE seems to be supporting a further River Class build will impact on the design process for Type 31.
https://thaimilitaryandasianregion.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/bae-to-support-construction-of-second-thai-patrol-vessel/

David Stephen

The first Type 26 is not really needed until 2028 when Argyll goes out of service. So we should use this opportunity to replace the 5 GP Type 23s. Surely this is sensible and the discussion is only what those GP ships should actually be. Money is obviously a huge factor. None of the ships listed above are perfect but the Cutlass is not to far from what I would hope for. The high end ASW & AAW numbers are stuck at 14 for a while, we can hope to eventually reach 18 by adding a 9th Type 26 at the end of the build and then replacing the 6 Type 45s with 9 Type ?. So these ships should not attempt to fill high end escort slots 15-18. The roles these ships should be used in are APTS, Nato Task Forces 150 &151, escort of RFA assets in a combat scenario, NGFS as part of an amphibious operation. They would be good for singleton deployments and showing the flag but their most important role would still be as an escort in a combat situation, protecting another ship from attack. With this in mind they would require an Artisan 3D radar and 24 CAAM for AAW, a 4.5 inch gun for NGFS, and 2 x deck mounted quad box launchers for 8 SSMs (Harpoon block 3 or NSM). Lots has been said about lack of ASW capability offered and I agree but there is a lot of room between zero ASW and Type 26 level ASW. The GP ships don’t need the super quite hull form and engines or the TAS. Even without those we can give them a robust ASW capability without breaking the bank. The ships will have a hanger and flight deck for a Wildcat ASW helicopter, add a type 2050 bow mounted sonar, 5 of which are already available from the first 5 Type 23s we replace. Also fit a MK 41 VLS (tactical length only) for ASROC. If the ships can search for subs with sonar or drive them off (active) or engage with ASROC or Wildcat then that would be a perfectly acceptable level of ASW for a GP ship. Add 2 DS30mm and 2 11m RHIB and you have a dam good little ship. Keep costs low as possible with crew of 75-100 and all diesel engines. Range is a requirement speed is not. A RAS station is also critical. The only additional weapons beyond what Cutlass already offers are not that expensive. £20 million per ship covers the MK41 and the ASROC to fill them and the sonars are already there, well 5 out of 6 needed. Oh yeah we should build 6. from 2018-2023, then Type 26. We would need to start building the first Type 26 alongside the last Type 31 and have the delivery of those 9 by 2024-2032/34, then cycle on to replacement of Type 45. As Daring can go to early 2040s it gives us a window to slip in extra 3 hulls then replace the 6 existing destroyers at the already planned time. This gets us to 18 high end escorts (eventually) with the 6 GP ships as additional. Building the Type 31 first and releasing more crew will help to fully man both POW & maybe both LPDs.

The Other Chris

@Shark Bait

“That “major” reconfiguration was done to solve a couple of problems…
– NAB”

You’re hitting on the design element change that NAB refers to above: The moving of the “mission deck” with stern ramp and other assemblies higher up to (IIRC – please correct if wrong) accommodate the TAS.

Not a Boffin

No, the T26 was always going to carry a S2087 under the flightdeck. The mission bay moved for another reason, one I suspect the Italian design SB posted won’t have considered.

This perhaps highlights the point I was trying to make. With the T26 growing beyond an ASW specialist into a multi-mission combatant, it has many different, and often conflicting performance requirements, which is making the project undeliverable.

My point is this; by applying ‘laser focus’ on a single task, ASW for example, can we reduce the performance conflicts and create a more refined scope and deliverable program?

In this instance are the are the performance compromises, such as the Italian design, more acceptable, in return for actually delivering some hulls in the water?

Also the Italian design is clearly not for CAPTAS-4, more likley the smaller CAPTAS-2.

comment image

Are the Americans not developing a more compact CAPTAS-4 for the LCS? Perhaps something we should watch and consider for a future with the T31.

Could a Venator 110 with a CAPTAS-2 (or even 4), under the flight deck where the stern ramp is now, become a credible escort for the Royal Navy?

Not a Boffin

The T26 has always had a multi-mission focus as well – even back to the first FSC iterations in 1999. There isn’t really a problem in accommodating a mission bay and the ASW capability elements in the same ship – provided that you’re not artificially constrained by other factors. Remember that the cost is the issue here, not the size, even if there are those who can’t understand that.

is the cost an issue because of trying to do too much from one platform creating conflicting performance requirements?

Whenever I read back over the history of the T26/FSC project I do so with despair, we are completely unable to design a project that is deliverable. It makes me wander if we are too exacting, too focused on a 100% solution first time around. I compare specifically to the LCS which is not perfect, but it is in production, in service, and now with operating experience they are fixing the shortcomings. The danish take a similar approach too.

Is that a better approach to the RN trying to optimize everything at day one? It is acceptable to recognize the platform will need continuous development after the in service date? can the RN afford that approach?

Not a Boffin

The cost is an issue because it’s high – very little to do with the ship or its performance. A huge chunk of the cost is build labour which is a product of the build duration and the number of people charging against each ship while in build. That number is driven not by the size of the ship, but by the industrial requirement placed on BAE by a combination of the ToBA (somewhat counter-intuitively) and the assumption on number of ships and build rate – the famous “drumbeat”.

The build labour has little if anything to do with the size of the ship – not that this stops people believing that it is……..

The Other Nick

shark bait, the new Italian PPA light frigate specs seen quoted as loa 143m, wl 133m, beam 16.5m, draught 5.2m, full load displacement 5,950 mt, would assume for a ship of those dimensions it would have no trouble accommodating CAPTAS-4.
Re. the USN LCS has a maximum permissible mission payload limited to 105 mt so the chosen ASW system, the LM multi-function towed array and the CAPTAS-4 were over the limit, contracts were issued in 2015 to three companies to bring the weight down, if memory correct they were aiming for 20% reduction, one target presumably the CAPTAS-4 on-board handling winch system.

dmereifield

@SB

Would a ASW focussed T31 be of any value without having the expensive acoustically quiet hull and engines? In terms of escorting CVF and supporting/protecting the CAS?

El Sid

@sharkbait. Stern ramps are great for GP type functions – but putting a great big hole near the waterline is not great for survivability, which is quite important for bluewater fighty functions.

USN aren’t using a straight CAPTAS 4, they’re mating the CAPTAS pinger to their existing towed array from the Burkes. Which involves a big government software project (no worries…) and has been mentioned, they’re struggling to get the weight down for the modular version. One reason why the focus is more on a permanent installation on the later ones. Also an LCS is never going to be as quiet as a T26 is intended to be.

First LCS was launched a decade ago next month, didn’t go on patrol until 2013 and even now there’s only been a handful of deployments and in most cases they’ve broken down. The modules are hopelessly behind schedule – admittedly they were unlucky in the way they came up against sequestration at just the wrong time, but the first attempt at ASW was junked, MCM has been one long flustercuck, surface warfare still isn’t up to speed.

ArmChairCivvy

” the first attempt at ASW was junked, MCM has been one long flustercuck, surface warfare still isn’t up to speed” and
how’s the NLOS, or the next thing, coming, as for influencing a company’s sphere of influence (on shore; littoral being both sides of the waterline)?

@dmereifield,

Yes, I think there would still be value in it.

We would have to make do without the “acoustically quiet hull”, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering the Americans, French or Italians too much. It would be very reasonable equip the T31 with exactly the same diesel electric drive as the T26 for some silent cruising. Also T31 equipped VDS would be working in tandem with a T26, so considering all that do you see added value? it would form part of a highly capable system IMO.

The Royal Navy does need more ASW vessels, highlighted most plainly here; the T26 will give the Royal Navy only 2.5 sub hunters available to to protect a continuous nuclear deterrent and carrier strike. Looking at the demands we place on the navy 2.5 ASW escorts is clearly not enough, and this is before we have begun to consider our other commitments.

Also consider that 40 nations poses subs, some of them not so stable, some not so west friendly, and the technology is proliferating like never before. Understanding the Argentine and Lybian subs gave the best ASW crews a run for their money really demonstrates the threat. Subs pose the biggest risk to the freedom of movement to the Royal Navy, and therefore the freedom to best protect the UK’s interests. There is little wonder the other 3 big navies in NATO are building their light frigates with ASW capabilities, so should we.

An ASW T31 certainly couldn’t replace the T31, but could it complement it? and could it boost the RN’s ability to deter subs?

Finally with the T26 we have a large multi-mission, global combat ship, but if it is continually tied to the carriers, or the UK continental shelf, it cannot exercise those long ranged multi-mission capabilities very often. An ASW capable T31 could release a T26 from its escort duties, allowing it to act as an independent global combat ship. In that respect, could the T31 actually make the T26 better?

@El Sid,

The LCS clearly has its issues, but they do have a plan to work through them now. But despite its issues it it is much better than any of the Royal Navy’s future surface combatants because it actually exists. They have actually delivered something, and for the first item in along time the USN’s fleet is growing.

The LCS is sound in concept, but flawed in execution, if they can work through the flaws they may still end up with valuable platforms, and lots of them.

From an outsider perspective we seem way too focused on tweaking the design, they seemed way too focused on getting hulls in the water quickly. There must be a Goldilocks zone in the middle, one that acknowledges some challenges remain going into the build, and develops a plan to address them through life. Some one needs to study what works well from each approach and produce a development model that can hit the “Goldilocks zone”.

Ron5

“The LCS is sound in concept”

You’ll struggle to find many that share that point of view including the USN who are busily trying to change the original concept to something useful.

Pacman27

@NAB

Given that drumbeat and size of order is important, should we not consider a single hull type (say T31 size) that can be built to replace our current fleets of T45’s, T23’s, MCM and Offshore Patrol fleets to build a fleet of 50 vessels over 25 years (with a 25 year lifespan that is then replaced on a like for like basis). All should have CEC capability and be configured for standing task instead of being multi mission. If we went for 50 common hulls that are then configured for their primary role as follows 13 AAW, 13 ASW, 13 MCM. And 13 GP. All vessels should have at least an Artisan radar, 32 Mk41 tubes and a type CAPTAS2 sonar capability as a mininum standard and be heavily armed. The hanger should be able to accommodate a merlin but will probably use a wildcat as std. AAW class should have Sampson, ASW class – CAPTAS 4/sonar 2087 and MCM class Atlas or similar.

Given that we have sunk £1.5bn into T26 it seems ridiculous to start on a new class – but rather to build a volume of vessels that ensure this cost is absorbed across a volume of vehicles (£30m per vessel if 50 are ordered – £200m if only 8 are ordered ). Perhaps we should stop looking for a massive vessel that supposedly does everything brilliantly to a larger fleet of smaller (but still large) vessels that can communicate with each other and do most things well and specialise as necessary.

The above will require a significant crew reduction over current manning, but the number of hulls are relatively static overall and it is a rebalancing acros the fleet to a more consistent platform that is required.

Mark

Type 31 should not be specialised in asw or aaw that’s what type 26 and type 45 are for and it should not be escorting aircraft carriers that’s what type 26 and type 45 are for. First sea Lord has already stated numbers are sufficient to support a carrier group and casd.

40 countries may have submarines but the statement fails to say half are in NATO or five powers defence agreement with the U.K. Of the remain 20 most have significant defence economic and political ties to the uk. Leaving about 8-10 foes of which only Russia and China have any scale beyond about 3 and with many of questionable operational capability.

ArmChairCivvy

That
“40 countries may have submarines but the statement fails to say half are in NATO or five powers defence agreement with the U.K. Of the remain 20 most have significant defence economic and political ties to the uk. Leaving about 8-10 foes of which only Russia and China have any scale beyond about 3 and with many of questionable operational capability.”
is a hard hitting one.

So, the operational scenarios for the use of T26 vs T31 are…

dmereifield

@SB

It seems sound to me. But I am a lay person from civvy street…
I had been thinking for a while that it seems that the T31 cannot likely be a multi mission platform since it needs to be cheap, and as AAW is covered by the T45, perhaps the T31 could focus on ASW (if indeed a non quiet vessel can still be a useful ASW platform). Therefore, could it not be feasible to produce a cheap platform such as Avenger (or preferably Cutlass) and modify the design for captas 2/4 – incorporating as much as possible from the T23s (4.5″ gun, hull sonar, radar etc) plus CAMM? Assuming that this platform would cost ca. £250-300million (?, pure guestimate) we would be able to purchase maybe 8 (assuming that there is £2.5 billion available; subtracting current T26 budget of £8 billion from the prior budget of £11.5 billion and leaving a billion off to be conservative). Or we could buy 5 and use the remaining funds to increase the T26 order to 9.

This is of course all very speculative so I’d be happy to hear why this might or might not be a) feasible, and b) a reasonable idea.

@Mark
Genuine questions:
If the T31 should not be ASW (or indeed AAW) and not be escorting CVF, what should it be (sidestepping the fact that we shouldn’t be having it in the first place, but given the reality that we are going to have it)?
Can we design and build something capable of operating as a singleton in the low budget available?
If so, what specifications and capabilities should it have, and are the current designs proposed (BAE x 2 and the V110) an adequate basis for such a ship?

Thanks

Repulse

@NaB: “Smaller classes – NOT batches – with common equipment components wherever possible is how you square the trade-off between keeping logistics costs down while maintaining early stage design expertise.”

What is the optimal class size in your view? Looking at recent / planned builds we have 16 (T23), 8 (T26), 6 (T45) and 5 (T31).

Could it be that part of the problem is that the RN is keeping their ships too long, and should be planning on a 20yr basis rather than 30yrs, which could also remove “future proofing” costs?

Mark

ACC

Type 26 is a high end combat vessel to deal with high end Submarine warfare were we deploy a carrier group to conduct offensive military operations.. Type 31 is not such a vessel.

dmereifield

The many countless tasks the RN engages in around the global that add to our national security but are short of warfighting. For example protection of an eez, intelligence gathering, prevention of intentional damage through sabotage, subversion, or terrorism, illegal movement of people’s,counter narcotics, humanitarian aid to name but a few.

dmereifield

Mark

I thought these types of tasks are what we plan to use the new 5 rivers for (except perhaps the humanitarian aid where a larger vessel may be required)? If we only need 14 high end fighting vessels (plus the CVFs, astutes, amphibious assault ships etc) they shouldn’t bother building what looks to be a fake frigate and should just build a few more rivers (possibly with hangars). In so doing there would surely be sufficient funds to increase the T26 order by 2 or 3

This bears repeating.

… subsequent surface combatants should never again be designed for long build periods – the assumption that you get these economies of scale through some sort of production run is nonsense. Smaller classes – NOT batches – with common equipment components wherever possible is how you square the trade-off between keeping logistics costs down while maintaining early stage design expertise. Not a Boffin, today at 11:30am

The gist is that if you want to retain complex warship design capability… or any warship design capability at all, for that matter… then you should not build a single design for a generation or more on the basis that this will be good for industry because of some mythical thing the MoD calls a ‘drumbeat’ but which, in the real world, has never existed and never will.

If you build T26 for the next 25 years, you will be right back to square one and make yet another complete cock-up of the next design because you won’t have the people, the processes or an institutional understanding across all departments, politicians included, of how these things are done.

To be good at something you need to practice, practice, practice. And you don’t get enough practice if you only do it once in a lifetime.

A single hull type RN is an RN who will have to go shopping at Hyundai Heavy Industries when their last single hull type ships finally wear out.

And that’s before you even consider the danger of block obsolescence!

On the subject of 20:20 hindsight, which seems to be developing in this conversation, yes indeed, an ASW-focused 4-5k ton Type 31 with CAMM, Merlin, CAPTAS-4 and the acoustic profile of a T23 would have been an excellent idea for a follow-on from a big, multi-mission but non-ASW specialised T26. That would, in fact, be exactly what T26 was supposed to be all along! A replacement T23 with technology pull-through to reduce costs, and some modest enhancements over the original design (like software and things like CAMM). In fact, it really should have been planned that way from the start. And if it had, we’d be building a dozen T31 today, and T26 would still be another decade away, and that would probably have been a good thing because it would mean the RN was supplied with all the fundamentals before it started getting into the 8k ton global cruiser game.

But no. Instead we’re looking at the vital ASW mission being diluted by the presence of a big multi-mission space that will either never get used because the ship is always screening the deterrent, or escorting something, or will be used instead of practising that vital and perishable skill that is sub-hunting. I suspect the latter is the case, because every time you get that big array wet, it costs money (more money than launching a RHIB or a USV out of a multi-missoin bay, which looks way more sexy to journalists than pale-faced operators hunkered over their ASW consoles).

So, by combining multi-function with a key specialism, the RN has guaranteed the death of that specialism. Who is going to sign up to hunt submarines from a sub-chaser that never chases subs? What kind of a lame career option will that start looking like in a few years time?

And thus, we won’t just run out of the number of ASW platforms we need to do the job, we’ll also run out of the people to do it!

40 deg south

http://adbr.com.au/bae-systems-ramps-up-quest-for-sea-5000/

BAE’s man in Australia gamely argues that having the design not finished is actually a good thing for Australia. At least I think that’s what he is saying. Julian made a similar comment somewhere upstream in this thread.

In any case, BAE seem to think they are still a contender for SEA5000.

pacman27

@MSR

I do not agree that smaller classes are the way to go, as I think there is a middle way which is to standardise on a single type of hull (ie: Small frigate of a meko A200 style) and then refine or alter every 10 years. The problem about industry is that they need some sort of commitment and volume after that they really want minimum changes, or they want the customer to pay for changing their minds. As we have seen with the carriers change has added significant cost at a time where cost seems to be the primary driver.

So batching is the way to go – however as part of the strategic shipbuilding plan we should know what we are going to build across our surface combat, submarine, support and small vessel fleet and seek common platforms and higher volume.

We can’t have it all and a balance must be found that gets us the amount of hulls required (and I do not believe that 19 escorts are enough – especially as under armed as ours are) with an equipment layout that meets requirements.

I assume we would all be happy if our escort fleet comprised solely of A. Burkes and as for Meko’s they have 20 years + of export success and innovation. We don’t have to redesign constantly but we should if something is worth it.

Challenger

The Japanese seem to do the whole multiple but small classes of surface vessels with common equipment thing well, albeit on a much larger scale.

Don

The Type 31 should be ASW specialist with CAMM that’s what RN need . ASuW missiles are not needed. These can be delivered by Wildcat or F35 without putting ship or crew in danger. Why get into an ASuw missile fight if you have aircraft .
However as this is for export, the export market seems to be for a cheap as chips gunboat . So the RN could end up with a gunboat they don’t need or want and cannot afford to waste crew on .

Shades

it seems that we have a fundamental need for at least 3 ASW ships on operations at any time – one for trident and two to protect a carrier task group. I agree with some other posters (most recently MSR and Don) that T26 seems way over-qualified for this role.

Is it too late to change? Can’t we look at a fleet of maybe 9 small ASW specialists (equipped with quiet hulls, the most powerful towed array and for self defence) (e.g. T31); and maybe 6 Global Combat Ships (e.g. T26), with all that T26 currently has but no quiet hull and potential smaller TAS.

This would give us – operationally at any one time – 3 ASW ships for the core task outlined above and 2 GCS for independent cruising, missile strike, small amphibious assaults and all the other glamorous jobs it’s capable of East of Suez etc?

There’s no doubt a thousand reasons why that’s all wrong, though, as I’m completely unqualified to comment. So apologies if this is wasting everyone’s time.

Repulse

The problem was in my view to sell the T26 in light of the “peace dividend” and uncertainty around the CVFs, it had to be more than just a ASW ship and became the “Global Cruiser”. Whilst a smaller ASW class may now look attractive, I think most of the cost has already incurred and the cheapest way would to build more T26 with the any unnecessary parts left as “fitted but not with”.

@ Mark, of those submarine operators, 11 are with NATO, 10 are dependable allies and 18 could swing either way in a conflict.

The threat is real and it is growing. It wont take much for some SSK’s to restrict the freedom of movment of the Royal Navy, stopping them from going where they want, and doing what they want to best suport the interests of the UK.

The 1SL may well say we have enough ASW frigates, and if he can explain how 2.5 available platforms are enough to support a continuous deterrent and carrier strike, as well as FRE and TAPS, I’ll drop the case. However I strongly suggest he couldn’t do that, and it is in fact a case of looking grateful with what you’re given, or that promotion will be swiftly taken away!

The Australians are awake to the threat, if they stick to the plan they will have 3 available ASW frigates, and they don’t have the huge task of protecting a nuclear deterrent.

The french, who probably have similar needs to us, will soon have 13 ASW frigates. The Americans are awake to the threat and are now upping ASW capabilities fleet wide.

The French, Americans and Italians are all adding ASW to their light frigate programmes. Why are we the odd ones out? are we going to sit here in arrogance pretending we know best? or are we going to realise that once we scratch below the surface we don’t have the equipment to support our shiney new carrier and nukes?

ASW should be part of the T31.

If it cant deter subs, it cant escort.

If it cant escort, what is the point of it existing?

pacman27

@Repulse

I agree with your analysis that we should build as many hulls as possible of T26 over the next 10 years and then switch to a smaller vessel or continue building more if they are deemed successful. As with the Absolon and Huitfeldt’s we can fill in the gaps as we go along as long as it is designed for full spectrum. I also see the T26 as the long term successor to the T45 with different radars etc.

As per my earlier figures anything less than 30 T26 and the design costs are crippling. I do not disagree with many of the comments on this post but price is definitely linked to volume and we should look to standardise the whole surface fleet on a handful of hulls – if this means all are ships have quiet hulls then that is good in my opinion, also good for maintenance costs where we seem to have problems as well.

@dmereifield that does sound reasonable to me.

A very basic patrol frigate a heart, with just CAMM and some deck launched missiles, but equipped with one specialist bit of kit at the back to enable it to escort.

I don’t think we could ever expect the T31 to have AAW capabilities beyond self defence, the physical and performance requirement are far to high to pack into a patrol frigate. There is no such a pressing need for more AAW detroyers either. With the current set we are guaranteed to sustain 2 T45’s next to a carrier if required.

We however cannot guarantee 2 T26’s next to the carrier, leading me to believe there is an ASW gap that could be filled by the T31. It clearly wont be as high performance as the T26, but it will be a close second, and working in tandem with the T26 is should be a capable system.

There are some comprises, the biggest I think would be the lack of endurance, that would be ok within the carrier group and its dedicated logistics chain, but it would become difficult to support on solo tasks. I suppose it will have to do lots of port visits. Also a big deal is poor growth margins, which is difficult to get around, would we just have to accept a shorter life than what we have got out of the T23?

At the end of the day it looks as though we will be building a little patrol frigate with no specialist capabilities what so ever and it costing around £300m

Wouldn’t it be much more valuable to spend and additional £50m to equip it with a VDS on back and create something with a credible, high end escorting capability?

Not a Boffin

T22/23(R), FE, FSC, C1 and now T26 always had to be “sold” as more than ASW ships. Not least because in the minds of many in MB, the submarine threat had “gone away”. No-one was ever in the business of selling global cruisers and no-one sensible applies the term to T26 – those who do are having the same issues in failing to understand the size drivers as the VSO and SCS who can’t understand why the ships are any bigger than a T23. Any “uncertainty” about CVF didn’t come into it either.

Put simply – you would struggle to justify the very concept of a surface ship escort in MB back in the day. Ivan and his Red banner Northern fleet had packed up and gone home and the policy bods were supremely uninterested in SSK no matter how many times they were told horror stories. That meant you couldn’t just ask for another 23 (as it was originally) ASW ships. You had to explain how and why they also earned their keep worldwide – which btw was both valid and remains so today. The original RM came up with a useful graph which noted that the ships would spend 90% of their lives not warfighting and therefore relatively cheap enhancements to the ships to enable these ops would be very valuable.

That remains the case. People witter on about Chinook capable decks, but when you compare the landing area (or more precisely, length) required to that for a Merlin, the difference is about 5m tops. One might argue that the modular space is on the large side, but that’s largely driven by the boat size people want to use. All of this still reflects the issue that people are hung up on the size.

The problem is the price – which is driven substantially by the industrial construct rather than size, but its far easier for people to point at the size and say “of course”, rather than dig down to what the drivers actually are.

In answer to your earlier questions, I’d certainly not want to see classes bigger than 6 (or 8 at the very extreme) – assuming a fleet size similar to the current one. More important is the design interval – much more than 8-10 years between doing the basic design for successive classes and you lose expertise fast. Of those naval archs who were on the original FSC team early stage team, only one is still with the MoD and hasn’t been near surface ships in a dozen years or more. Those who were on the subsequent iterations in the mid-noughties are either outside as contractors or off doing other things with their lives. The picture is even worse for MEs.

As for shorter lives, great theory, right up until the point you go to the Treasury and ask for money for new ships. The answer to the question “can’t you just refit them?” needs to be “No” – or “Yes but it will cost much more than new build”. Unfortunately, the answer is usually “yes – but it will still cost a lot and we’ll suffer lots of unquantifiable things like reduced capability, availability and operational restrictions”, to which the answer from HMT is “jolly good – as long as it costs less we’re happy, crack on”. See T23 and 18 year planned lives vs 36 year actual lives for details……..

@Shades, I agree with that logic.

I does seem that we need 3 ships to cover those tasks, but what about FRE and TAPS? and then how to we cover then with only 2.5 available T26? another capability gap?

I think it is clearly too late to change. The T26 must continue to be our excellent sub hinter, and multipurpose global combat ship.

Along side that we should also build our patrol frigate (T31) to also have sub hunting capabilities. Its unlikely we would reach the T26’s capabilities, but would it be possible to create a close second tier? would that lead to a nice balanced system?

“A top tier ASW escort and global combat ship”
working along side
“A second tier ASW escort and local patrol frigate”

Not a Boffin

Pacman. Your “design” figures are gash. Of the £1.5Bn, a very substantial amount is large equipment items for the first three ships. Then there’s some shore-based test facilities and a few other things that don’t constitute “design” activity. I’d be very surprised if the “hull” design activity cost more than £50M. With maybe double that on the marine systems.

Nor are common hulls and planned programmes a panacea. See what happened to Draysons Maritime Industrial Strategy and the associated ToBA. What has gone wrong with that is that circumstances and budgets change (they always do) and a bunch of relatively inexperienced people are trying to understand what their options are – informed by another bunch of relatively inexperienced people.

If you can explain where the costs lie in hullform design and what their magnitude might be – not just by repeating headline figures from TDs article, you might get some traction.

Shades

@shark bait, yes on that basis 3 ASW ships starts to look inadequate, let alone the 2.5 T26 that are currently on the cards!

If it’s too late to make the T26 slightly less amazing, I agree a respectable (if not top tier) ASW capability for T31 would surely be needed to meet those tasks and the growing submarine threat highlighted in other comments.

The Other Nick

My understanding as why you need a quiet hull for effective ASW with a T31.
With any sonar the R&D aimed at improving the array signal-to-noise ratio and noise reduction for signal enhancement. With a towed array the longer the array the more you can improve resolution and to reject the ships noise by being as far away from the ship as possible, if you have a noisy hull you need longer and longer towed arrays to keep the same sensitivity besides the major problems with handling the longer array. Longer arrays allow for narrower beams, which makes it more accurate to locate submarines and reject noise.
The new generation submarines are more difficult to detect especially the diesel-electric with the new technology batteries and can stay submerged for as long as two weeks.
To exemplify the threat created by the new generation quiet submarines the USN developed the Low-Frequency Active sonar (SURTASS LFA) to cover 80% of the world’s oceans to replace the passive SURTASS towed array sonars. The active LFA work at frequencies in the range of 100 to 1000 Hz and have been quoted as using a massive 235 decibels plus, no wonder last month the California federal court ruled the USN submarine hunts too disturbing for marine wildlife.The LFA sonar is to deploy aboard USN T-AGOS ocean-surveillance ships.

http://www.stripes.com/news/navy/navy-s-submarine-hunts-too-disturbing-for-marine-wildlife-california-federal-court-rules-1.420000

Shades

@NAB, correct me if I’m wrong but I think you’ve said before that one of the main cost issues with the T26 build is for the man hours on the Clyde.

If I’m understanding correctly, as the MoD is the Clyde’s only customer and the T26 is the only ship being built there, then basically, if we want to keep it open, the price of the T26 build is basically going to be the cost of keeping the shipyard open and manned for the period of the build (plus materials/components and X% profits for BAE).

As we’re stretching out the build time to keep the shipbuilders busy for longer, doesn’t that mean the cost of building the ship increases in proportion? So the build cost for building a T26 every 2 years would be (very roughly) twice the cost of building a T26 every year, because one T26 would then have to support the yard’s costs for 2 years rather than one year?

Not a Boffin

Doesn’t work quite like that, but close enough for the purposes of this debate. Which is why single customer yards – particularly when the customer is averse to making decisions and hamstrung by his treasurer – are rarely a good idea.

pacman27

@NAB – accepted.

Common hulls may not be a panacea – but I am a big believer in commonality as it can be a real game changer if applied properly. The key question for me is where does all the money go then if not into the actual building of these assets. Other countries (Denmark, Holland and Norway to name but a few) seem able to build great ships within a cost envelope, but Britain does not seem able to do this.

I would personally like to split the fleet into small surface and escorts with the Safeboats Mk6 being the small surface vessel of choice and the T26 or T31 our only escort going forward. Either way we already run a mixed fleet, but I suspect no one will complain if our whole RFA fleet is built on the Aegir Design or we had an escort fleet of Burkes, so common platforms can work but they need to be refined as necessary. The Meko A200 design seems light years ahead of the T31 designs and river batch 2 being built/proposed and I just don’t see why we would build something worse than South Africa and Algeria currently have in service.

All very disappointing – no matter what the final design is – it has to be better than these nations and if we cannot build a better class then really we should not build and buy from abroad. I care more about the lives of our forces than I do about building in Britain, but why we can’t buy the design from B&V or another design agency and then refine.

Seems to me that the RN has to change the way it operates and accept change.

Paul Padley

Don’t suppose anyone knows what design Babcock has submitted, a lengthened Samuel Becket with a heli deck and a hanger perhaps?

Not a Boffin

Hang on TD – you’ve just added another £200M to your own figures! You’re also failing to mention the fourth partner in this tale of woe – the denizens of No 11, who it has to be said are far from blameless in the “failure” to bring in the project. There is a self-sustaining cycle of indecision permeating all of this.

Pacman – Denmark and Norway are unfortunate examples. One bankrupted it’s only shipyard (they won’t be building any follow-ons, ever) and had to spend naval ops money to get their ships working, the other got Navantia to do their design, largely based on the F100. Damen will struggle to do a real surface combatant again (Holland and Sigma are lower capability despite what the shiny shiny bits look like in the brochure).

I’d also love to see how an AEGIR design can meet all the RFA requirements – please do elaborate how it can be anything other than a tanker…..

Not a Boffin

I don’t disagree and it gives me no pleasure at all to see some of my worst fears realised. One day when the dust has settled, it will be interesting to do a little estimate of how much money was actually nugatory work caused by indecision – or by doing too much detail too soon and how much of that was due to inappropriate interventions.

I think, it’s fair to say that however bad the UK construct appears, some of that will be an unfair comparison because the c0ck-ups elsewhere will not have the same proximity or open-source slow-mo car-crash info that we have here. I dare say that it will never be as bad as what is happening over the pond – or down under. Even the Boxheads are struggling – witness their interest in T26.

It’s a two front war. Industry is so risk-averse after previous government delays / indecision that they try to justify everything to the n-th detail (loudly encouraged by HMT) only to discover that in doing so they incur huge costs (which HMT/MoD then query) to the point that they forget how else to do things and can’t play competitively elsewhere in the industry. Government on the other hand having induced much of the overhead, then decide they don’t like the price and start comparing it (often erroneously) with other programmes. Huitfeld is a great example. Good looking ships on paper, attractive price, but dig a bit deeper and you discover a significant chunk of the costs were hidden, it bankrupted the shipyard and can’t be repeated. That’s the point I keep trying to make about consolidation. It works theoretically, but you will eventually end up with a monolith that is little more than a Europe-wide nationalised industry, where eventually the same skill fade will occur. As an example, can you actually imagine EADS/Airbus/whatever its called this week doing a Eurofighter programme again? Not knocking the cab, just worth reminding ourselves how much it cost, how long it took from gestation to fruition and all the calamities on the way. In hindsight, would doing a UK-only programme have been a better option?

None of this is easy or cheap. Apart from buying an APC/IFV though. Any halfwit could do that….oh, wait.

El Sid

@NAB I’ve talked to Danes on the business side and they’re adamant that Odense more than wiped their face on warship building – the trouble was that building warships was a pimple on Maersk’s backside, the closure of Odense was all to do with what was happening in the container world.

@pacman27 You’re obsessing over ships all looking the same, but that’s not where the savings are to be found, and ships looking the same causes you real problems because you lose the experience in design. Preserving design teams is as important as minimising the costs, cos without active design teams you have no industry, or at least you have one that struggles like we did to build the first Astute. The logistics savings are in eg having MT30 powering everything from carriers to Zumwalts to frigates, or using the same HVAC system. The ships don’t need to look the same. Odense worked because Maersk were paying the wages of the design team for the 90% of the time that they weren’t needed to build warships.

The warning signs are already there for the Burke successor – the USN have benefited from a long, stable production line for the Burkes, but it does mean they’ve not designed many conventional complex warships in a long time, and Burke Flight III has kicked the can further down the road. Still, they’ve started on the journey and at least they have a name for it now. The Future Surface Combatant – what could possibly go wrong?

The Other Nick

TD, not defending the RN/MoD/BAE Systems and Treasury on cost of the Type 26 but the only similar frigate comparison can find is the future German MKS180, very ROM as no detailed breakdown available for either ship as to what’s included and excluded . Their budget for four ships is 4 billion euros, approx. £3.4 billion, £850 million ea., so for three ships ballpark of £2,550 million to compare to the £1.7 billion funded to date for three Type26s. Not sure if meaningful comparison but the only one could find.

McZ

A couple of observations:

(1) The requirement for T26 developed into a put-all-eggs-into-a-pricey-basket solution, showing all the current toys of different foreign designs. It has failed to come up with a clear solution to a very basic problem: replacing ASW- and GP-escorts instead of being a 13-ship class of ill-conceived and half-assed motherships. The whole process seems to be flawed; the first and foremost requirement should be to get hulls in the water, in time.

(2) BAEs design department seems to have lost its Mojo; it has been secured by a billion or so of thin hot air funding (which is even cheaper than steel, ask the treasury!), instead of hardening in the cold export competition. We should forget – like BAE is silently doing – about exports for T26. Even if there are foreign countries requiring high-end-escorts lacking design knowledge, the state-owned Spanish and French yards will outbid any private sector alternative because of a pressing need to secure jobs, even if they earn not a single dime on it (in fact, we will see Rafale setting the precedent for selling for a loss).

(3) The RN is facing a grim escort and manpower shortage right know, which was already relevant off Libya. It will grow worse in the 2020s (anybody here who believes in the official lifecycle of those hard-worked early T23s? Anybody here wanting to convince me on the operating cost of old vessels?).

(4) With T26 far away from being orderable, the solution to the problem can only be a interim MOTS solution, which can be secured for comparatively low cost and effort. So my bet goes for BAE Avenger, which is major enhancement of River II and can take over an commitments made; it is capable to use CAMM, Harpoon/successor, small craft, helo, UAV/UUV/USV, maybe even CAPTAS-2 or the re-packaged LCS-CAPTAS-4, torpedo launchers, aso… We could have 4 in the water by 2020, for the cost of a single T-26 or half the cost of those precious powerpoints made in the last decade. I honestly cannot get, how grown-up people can even debate the need.

(5) The idea to use a Bay-class with a gun is not effective, IMO. The vessels are too large and will eat into the operations budget. Also, I smell mission creep we cannot afford, and once again producing a single-point-of-failure solution.

(6) Now I hear the “we don’t need corvettes/sloops” crowd crying. Of course we do, the only question is if we can afford a hi/lo mix, and if lo-vessels lessen/obliterating the need for or thwarting the affordability of hi-vessels. The discussion is moot, as we have debated it here to death in the past. IMO, no escort in the current RN is “hi” enough to survive a single Club-missile-hit; the larger the vessel, the better it stays afloat; but it will be a mission kill anyways.

(7) Any idea of a conventional peer conflict with Russia and China without the strategic environment NATO and FPDA is offering to us is pure wishful thinking. The UK on its own is not capable for such a conflict.

Repulse

@NaB: ”In answer to your earlier questions, I’d certainly not want to see classes bigger than 6 (or 8 at the very extreme) – assuming a fleet size similar to the current one. More important is the design interval – much more than 8-10 years between doing the basic design for successive classes and you lose expertise fast.”

I can accept this approach. This means that if we accept the 8 hulls per class every ten years, then if BAE is going to be our sole complex warship builder (which in my opinion it has to be given the facts), then the Government needs tobaccept either a first rate fleet of 16 ships with a 20yr lifespan (probable post 2015 SDSR position IMO) or 24 ships with a 30yr lifespan (pre 2010 SDSR).

The fact is that whilst the T26 design is attractive for design, anyone interested will want to build them locally, so it doesn’t impact the facts above.

The real export opportunity in my view remains a specialist MHPC warship. But this is also separate from the BAE drumbeat IMO.

Repulse

I’ve never really understood the aversion to a hi/lo mix for the RN. I’d prefer to call it a (hi/mid/lo) balanced fleet which I think until recently was always part of the RN DNA. Neither has the RN always had “the best ships in the world”, but has always done well on superior training, tactics and numbers.

Mark

SB

The French are buying 8 asw fremm frigates not sure where the 13 comes from. Australia are looking at China and configuring according. As for asw it’s not just 8 type 26 frigates its nuclear submarines, merlin helicopters and p8 aircraft asw for a country the size we are is covered. We operate in coalitions which further enhances numbers of asw assets. AsW is a threat but it is limited in quantity and quality. If you were wanting to limit the navy’s movement simply use mines at strategic points.

MikeKiloPapa

@El SId

Wrt Odense Steel Shipyard ……they actually lost money on both of the Absalons , broke even on Iver Huitfeldt and made a respectable profit on the last two frigates.
But you are absolutely right about warship building being a mere footnote in Odense’s operations……..they had i fact been in the red more or less since the turn of the millennium. Despite being one of the most automated and efficient yards in Europe they just couldn’t compete with the low wages of Korean/Chinese shipbuilders.

The decision to close down the yard had really already been made back then in the early 2000’s . It was kept alive for purely sentimental reasons by the owner , the very patriotic Mr Mærsk McKinney Møller. As soon as he stepped down as chairman of the board in 2009 the decision was promptly made final and the yard began closing down. The last ship delivered was HDMS Niels Juel in 2012.

@NAB

” had to spend naval ops money to get their ships working”

We didn,t “have” to…..it was a deliberate decision, planned right from the start. It was the only way to get 3 large 6500 tonnes frigates past the Danish government (and public) …..if they had known the real cost of these ships they would NEVER have been approved.
(the last time the RDN asked for new surface combatants in the late seventies they wanted two 3-4000 tonnes frigates …….what they got was 3 useless 1000 tonnes corvettes. The navy learned their lesson)

Pacman27

@NAB

I don’t think we are as far away from each other as perhaps you do.

I am not against having a design team producing designs constantly, if the costs of running this dept are fairly stable. Likewise I have no real issue in building classes of 10 which I believe is the minimum cost effective run.

I do however believe that we need to look at the management of the whole fleet and be very realistic about where we spend our money and how and understand how some of our stakeholders (inc HMT) think.

I believe we should have a surface fleet build budget of £1b per annum and for this I would expect 2 escorts (£800m), 0.8 RFA (150m) and 12 small vessels (£50m) (which would be a combination of vessels similar to Safeboats Mk6 and CB90 as well as the PAC24’s).

As for the Aegir – The design already incorporates a tanker as well as solid stores and if you look at the Damen Karel Doorman design it is remarkably similar in size and looks and I am sure BMT could facilitate this – therefore providing a single hull for the majority of the RFA capability (Although not all) In fairness even if they didn’t it isn’t as if the Bays were expensive but we should aim to standardise these platforms and spend the money on differentiation in our warfighting fleet.

TBH I am not sure how survivable a T45 or T26/T23 is against anything approaching a peer – I am actually very concerned about the limitations of these vessels even against a SAAR, Khareef or Meko A200 never mind a couple of these and given the price differential I would rather have 3 or 4 MEko’s than 1 T26. I realise that this may be unpopular but that’s where I am.

Pacman27

@el Sid
I believe the design team from Odense are available for hire and it seems to me a wasted opportunity to not even consult them.

I know the RN have seen both the FREMM, Absolon and Huitfeldt and should have a view on these very capable ships, it seems to me that we should look at what is out in the market and build something better based upon our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in each of these designs.

DavidNiven

@McZ

The idea to use a Bay-class with a gun is not effective, IMO. The vessels are too large and will eat into the operations budget.

The average running cost per class of River Class is £20 million, Type 22 is £130.9 million, Type 23 is £313.8 million based on the expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Defence in 2009-10

The average annual running cost of a Bay class ship, based on the expenditure incurred by the department in 2009-10, is approximately £17 million.

http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2010/11/parliamentary-answers-november-25-2010/

So a Bay class is £3 million a year less than a River to run, even if you added some extra bits (as long as you don’t go stupid) of kit they would probably still be a lot less to run than a light frigate with pretty much the same capability for what it would be used for 90% of the time. Coupled with the space available both on the deck and below it’s uses are pretty much only limited by your ability to think outside of the box when used in support of the high end fleet.

We do not neccesarily need to use a Bay class a smaller design could be used, but I think the basic premise of a vessel with a large clear flight deck with space below (especially if you could transfer aircraft from the flight deck to the lower deck) with whatever gun you want upfront provides a much more versatile vessel than a type 31 would.

Mark

DN

I would point out that parliamentary answers indicates the river class costs 20m per year is 4 ships where as it 17m per ship for a bay. So you actually get 4 rivers for the cost of a bay.

3 rivers batch 2 variants operating in conjunction with a RFA mother ship maybe a interesting mix.

DavidNiven

@Mark

My bad, miss read the beginning of the sentence!

El Sid

@MKP Thanks, I hadn’t remembered that kind of detail on what had been said. But just to make it clear for anyone who wants to bring up the costs of the Absalons again – the shipyard making a loss on them means that their construction was subsidised by Maersk.

@Pacman27 I know the RN have seen both the FREMM, Absolon and Huitfeldt and should have a view on these very capable ships, it seems to me that we should look at what is out in the market and build something better based upon our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t in each of these designs.

Has it occurred to you that yes, the RN took a look at FREMM, Absolon and Huitfeldt – and came up with T26. We don’t want something that is “better” against a mythical Death Star standard, we want ships that are best-for-us given our constraints of budget and other factors.

As for the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, this week we’ve had another review announced of all the problems on the Ford (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-29/pentagon-weapons-buyer-orders-review-of-new-carrier-s-troubles ), LCS-1 has a diesel engine damaged by seawater after a seal went, the various problems with LCS-2 mean it looks like it’s going to be used for little more than module testing, LCS-3 has just recovered from combining gear problems, LCS-4 has just broken down 3 days out of Pearl Harbor on her way to Singapore for the first trimaran deployment, LCS-5 had software problems last year that caused a complete propulsion shutdown so that she had to be towed home. And none of them have a full operating module yet.

As for Australia, try SEA 1390, the Perry upgrade project.
The unofficial view : http://web.archive.org/web/20080311102949/http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,22996048-952,00.html
The official view : http://navalinstitute.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/headmark-130.pdf#page=5 (still not great…)

@TD Specific question on Largs Bay was £9.5m for one specific year – trouble is that those kind of annual costs vary depending on deployment patterns and timing of refits etc.

HMArmedForcesReview

@Mark, The french will have 8 ASW FREMM, and they are just beginning a renovation program for the Lafayette class stealth frigates, which will include a VDS. They are introducing the capability now which will then be transferred to their FTI light frigate. That will leave them with 13 “front line” surface combatants capable of ASW.

The French also have MPA and Helos, but they will never buy the kind of persistence a frigate with VDS affords. They seem to be taking a much more robust approach to ASW than we do.

It makes me wonder, what is the difficulty attaching a VDS to out patrol frigate? The American LCS, the French FTI and Italian PPA will all have the ability. Why are we aiming for such a low capability platform? is it right to design a problem that only responds to fiscal challenges? or should we also be building one that responds to strategic challenges?

Its clear what the difficulty is, its not the lack of threat, is the unwillingness to apply funds to properly address the threats. An ASW light frigate may cost 20% more, but if it is 100% more capable is that still a valuable choice?

Not a Boffin

MKP – thanks. that was my understanding and what I was (poorly) trying to convey. RDN was always going to do the CS items.

Pacman – the AEGIR is a tanker, pure and simple. The solid stores you refer to are a couple of hundred tonnes of provision for stores and vittles – not the thousands of tonnes (or more precisely tens of thousands of cubic metres) of myriad stores (including large amounts of munitions) that solid stores ships are required to provide for carriers and amphibs. Karel Doorman is a long way away from that and she’s also significantly different in arrangements. Suggesting something is a common hull because its about the same size is not helping your argument.

@HMArmedForcesReview, thats not an escort task. Thats a maritime security task.

Any platform is capable of, maritime security, maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, they do not require high performance platforms, it would be a huge waste to invest in a complex warship just to perform these tasks.

What advantage does a complex war ship have in the above situations?

If that is the kind of task we want the T31 to do a “Bay class with a big gun” and a well dock full of CB90, would be more more capable, and much more cost effective.

There is no reason to plough loads of resources into complex warship construction for maritime security tasks like this. Much better to use a simple platform and invest the savings into platforms with credible war time capability, such as more SSK’s, P8’s or MIV’s,

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

Well what a lot of posts. Will need to read through them all but a couple of points. Firstly will everyone stop doing the whole 8 provides 2.5-3 argument. that is only applicable to standing tasking on a continuous rotational basis and not to the planning and generation of something like a carrier deployment where the maintenance and work up schedule of the assigned escorts can be tailored to provide the required availability.

Also a whole host of figures being flung about for planned and proposed units. Italian light weight Frigates which are still proposals. Proposed La Fayette updates, proposed costs for SAAR 6, or using 2007 costs for Valour Class frigates to justify how many we could buy. despite the fact that as I and others have pointed out on numerous occasions they are not suitable for the sort of global tasking we conduct. The day our operational zones lie in the channel and the North sea we could look at missile Corvettes but until they do we would be wasting time and money.

For that reason even Type 31 cannot be smaller than the current Type 23 hull in order to be useful.

@APATS The 2.5 available frigates is a reasonable argument.

Speech by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas;

“We made what, in retrospect, was a quite extraordinary decision to define a highly ambitious future for the Royal Navy, based around 3 core capabilities of Continuous At Sea Deterrent and Carrier Strike, together with Amphibious Readiness.”

The Royal Navy has set its self the challenge of delivering three core capabilities;
*”Continuous At-Sea-Deterrent”
*”Continuous Carrier Capability”
*”Continuous Amphibious Readiness”

These are continuous capabilities, standing tasking if you like, so we cannot consider surge conditions. The Royal Navy needs to build a force structure that can sustain these capabilities long term. The availability we can expect to sustain is 2.5 – 3 ASW frigates, which is simply not enough.

Zambellas is correct, highly ambitious indeed! It looks like they will have plenty of shiny headline kit, but not the structure to support them operationally long term.

An effective force is one we can place anywhere, and sustain that force to protect the interests of the UK.

We would never consider a nuclear deterrent that we couldn’t sustain, why do we treat our conventional deterrent differently?

Quotes;
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/first-sea-lord-speech-on-sdsr-2015-and-the-royal-navy
http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2015/september/15/150915-1sl-speech-to-rusi

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Shark Bait

The 2.5 ASW frigates is an argument based on a mistaken premise and misreading of the intent behind the speech you quote.

“Speech by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas;

“We made what, in retrospect, was a quite extraordinary decision to define a highly ambitious future for the Royal Navy, based around 3 core capabilities of Continuous At Sea Deterrent and Carrier Strike, together with Amphibious Readiness.”

The Royal Navy has set its self the challenge of delivering three core capabilities;
*”Continuous At-Sea-Deterrent”
*”Continuous Carrier Capability”
*”Continuous Amphibious Readiness”

These are continuous capabilities, standing tasking if you like, so we cannot consider surge conditions. The Royal Navy needs to build a force structure that can sustain these capabilities long term. The availability we can expect to sustain is 2.5 – 3 ASW frigates, which is simply not enough.

Zambellas is correct, highly ambitious indeed! It looks like they will have plenty of shiny headline kit, but not the structure to support them operationally long term.

An effective force is one we can place anywhere, and sustain that force to protect the interests of the UK.

We would never consider a nuclear deterrent that we couldn’t sustain, why do we treat our conventional deterrent differently?”

Sorry but you are confusing tt sea with continuous capability. what he is actually meaning is that we will always have a carrier in operation and will bring the second one online before the first goes into planned maintenance. Very different from a standing task requiring a ship on task worked up and on station.

I understand the difference. I maintain there is no point in continuous carrier strike availability without the continuous availability of escorts.

We already cannot fulfill our standing commitments, the carriers will just place more demand on a stretched escort fleet. Finding the availability to protect a 100% at sea deterrent, and 66% at sea carrier will be extremely tight with just 2.5 available ASW frigates. That is going to place unnecessary operational constraints on the Royal Navy, harming its ability to go where it wants and do whats needed to protect the UK’s interests.

This is all before we’ve considered NATO commitments, FRE, and TAPS.

It is clearly not a sustainable force structure, elements are going to have to be dropped and gapped all over the place, which I hope we can agree is not what we should be aspiring to.

5 Light frigates equipped with a VDS would bring some much needed relief to the over stretched ASW fleet, bringing us close to 4.5 available ASW frigates. That is a modest investment, to give the Royal Navy greater operational flexibility, and the escort availability so project power more freely. Surely that is a very valuable asset?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Shark bait

You clearly do not fully understand the difference. whilst we will have a Carrier “available” 365 24/7 it will follow a very firm program which allows the tailoring of escorts programs work ups and maintenance to maximise availability. In the case of a genuine emergency the things like leave and maintenance plans disappear, we put 2 DGs back into Westminster in 2003 as we had no time to wait for the replacements in order to deploy for Ops. I am also not sure which bit of thin air you grabbed 66% at sea carriers from?

Protecting CASD involves TAPS, a duty now almost exclusively place onto a ship that has just returned from deployment these days. FRE and TAPs frequently double banked but again often covered by units that have just returned or just about to deploy.

So once again we would have the ability to actually cover 3 permanent tasks with 8 type 26 but the other 5 are not unavailable as you seem to think and we are very unlikely to use T26 on 3 standing tasks so the 2.5 figure is plain wrong. 8 is far from ideal but a full understanding of how we work around it and the actual deployment and readiness profiles makes it less scary.

The 66% at sea figure comes from a 9 month deployment occurring every 2 and a bit years for each carrier.

I understand the other 5 are still present, but are likley just back from a 9 month deployment, and cannot be sent off to sustain a force in the middle east again for example. If we want a sustainable force the well being of our service personnel is clearly very important. The only reasonable thing we can do here is assign the crews building up to a deployment to FRE.

We have to work with a deployment availability of 1/3, some suggest 2/5 if things are working well.

I do have and understanding of how we work, and all signs point to and escort fleet under a lot of pressure, pressure that clearly is not sustainable. Skipping, gapping and doubling up are unfortunately common place. I think it is reasonable to ask for a little more than a patrol frigate, to relieve the stress placed on the escort fleet.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Sharkbait

“I understand the other 5 are still present, but are likley just back from a 9 month deployment, and cannot be sent off to sustain a force in the middle east again for example. If we want a sustainable force the well being of our service personnel is clearly very important. We have to work with a deployment availability of 1/3, some suggest 2/5 if things are working well.

The 66% at sea figure comes from a 9 month deployment occurring every 2 and a bit years for each carrier.

I do have and understanding of how we work, and all signs point to and escort fleet under a lot of pressure, pressure that clearly is not sustainable. Skipping, gapping and doubling up are unfortunately common place. I think it is reasonable to ask for a little more than a patrol frigate, to relieve the stress placed on the escort fleet.”

Perhaps 1 or 2 of them may just be back from a 9 month deployment but as we are going down to 1 FF/DD in the Gulf and the current NATO tasking is not certain to still be in force, The South Atlantic will be OPV covered and the Caribbean by OPV/RFA with any med tasking a mixy blob then 1 is the max that is likely to be returning from a 9 monther and even then they can be oncall for TAPS. Throw T45 into the mix for Gulf/NATO and we see that actually we are unlikely to have more than 1. As I have already pointed out in a true emergency then leave and non essential maintenance goes out the window.

The carrier deployments will be carefully planned and we will see the operational carrier deploy for 6-8 months in an 18 month cycle giving us a figure closer to 50% time at sea. So we see we do have slightly more than 2.5 ASW escorts available for deployments. the 1/3 to 2/5 ratio is for permanent tasks and was first explained in detail on here by me. what skews your figures are the tasks that are not going to be Ff/Dd covered, the planning of carrier deployments and the reduction of 1 escort in the Gulf.

Then we need to look at how many escorts are actually required for a routine deployment. CDG never had more than 4 during her time in the Gulf and only 2 of them were ever French. The UK T23 was ASWC, the US CVN generally had 1 Tico 2 Arleigh burke and the T45 during her time in the Gulf. A US CBG fragments after their STROG tst with the carrier retaining on the Tico in company until Suez. even then her escorts number normally only 3 until she meets up with 6th Fleet assets in the GOA before her SOH in.

So in summary, given the number and nature of the tasks that are likely to be undertaken, the deployment profiles and utilisation of other assets, it will not be difficult to create a program that covers TAPS, standing commitments and makes available 3 ASW escorts for the deploying CBG (though only 2 may be required if NATO allies are involved). then factor in the presence of the FF/DD already in somewhere like the Gulf. the fact we would be filling a US Carrier gap if we were in the Gulf so as CTF 50 would have 5th fleet CRUDES assets available and it looks far less scary.

In the vent of an emergency deployment to a high threat zone then not only would all our assets that can sail be made available but the chances are extremely high we would be going as part of NATO and the one thing that European NATO countries are not short of is escorts.

For me T31 should be as capable as we can make it but this should be GP driven and not ASW as the noise reduction, propulsion requirements etc would drive up the cost to a horrible extent again. What does T31 need IMHO to cover things like Med migrant stuff, routine NATO flag flying etc. It needs a decent range, so efficient propulsion, decent hull size. It needs a gun but this could be something like 76MM STRALES, it needs at least self defence AAW capability this is easy, 36 Sea Ceptor (hopefully ER), it needs a CIWS, take your pick of what is available at the time, it needs something smaller than 76MM so a couple of 30 or 40Mm remote weapon stations. it needs an AsuW capability (pick 8 box launched ASuW missiles of choice and fit and integrate) it needs a proper ESM and EW fit. it needs a radar capable of allowing Sea Ceptor to operate and a command system. It needs aviation facilities (Merlin or wildcat only capable, cost and design may drive. It probably also needs a hull sonar. How big does this make the design when you add in habitability and survivability?

MikeKiloPapa

@ El Sid

“the shipyard making a loss on them means that their construction was subsidised by Maersk.”

No not really…..The Absalons were built on a fixed cost contract. OSS lost money because they made several mistakes during construction and had to redo or rectify a lot of work(mostly on Absalon herself). But the cost to the RDN and the danish taxpayer remained the same.

It is perhaps worth mentioning that , unlike what seems to be the case with the T26 in the UK, the Flexible Support Ship project was put out to competitive tender , with 3 (Danish) yards ultimately bidding. Now OSS might well have low-balled its bid (rumor has it that Maersk himself was adamant that “he” , as in OSS , would win the order…..Mr Møller was very fond of the navy) . So you might call it a small gift or a favor, but subsidizing it is not.

Enough about danish ships!….i broadly agree with NAB that our ships and shipbuilding experience is not applicable or relevant to the UK.

Wrt T26 i have a question though……When doing business with an industry giant enjoying a de facto monopoly, like BAE systems is, how do you ensure that you get a reasonable deal ? …..What kind of leverage or bargaining chip does the RN/MOD have in negotiations with BAE ?

Repulse

Just a clarification point, I thought France is only buying 6 FREMM in ASW configuration?

@Repulse

8 FREMM in ASW, with the last 2 enhanced for AAW to replace the two Cassard class air defense frigates, but will retain the same ASW capabilities as the previous 6.

French military planning is crystal clear compared to ours!

@APATS

6 months in an 18 month cycle gives the same at sea time as I suggested previous ((6/18)*2 = 66%). To sustain that force we require 4 ASW frigates.

To sustain CASD mixed with TAPS we require 3 ASW frigates.

That is the ASW fleet used up before anything else is considered. Whats more we are consuming the availability of our big impressive multi mission frigates for a single specialist task.

Yes the French sailed with 2 AAW escorts, 2 ASW escorts a Sub, and an auxiliary, which is a structure we should attempt to replicate. Two of those escorts where provided by NATO members, again something we should attempt to replicate, which can be used to give the fleet a little more deployment flexibility. However we absolutely must retain the ability to put together our own independent force of 2 AAW escorts and 2 ASW escorts at short notice. That is the only way we can truly protect the UK interests.

I don’t think it is wise to be intrinsically depend on other nations, especially with tighter European military integration they will be too busy bickering about their own conflicting national interests to actually act upon anything. We must retain full independent capability.

There is then ARG, Kippon, APTs and NATO commitments to fulfill. An ASW equipped patrol frigate could either perform there duties, or release a T26 from escort duties. The T26 is arguably much better suited to these tasks with its multi mission flexibility and endurance.

What credible capability does your “CAMM and a Gun” light frigate contribute? what purpose does it have outside of piece time patrols? Equipping the Royal Navy like that is the equivalent of having 50% of the RAF jet fleet consisting of Hawks equipped with ASRAMM. People would be pissed if that happened, but to do a similar thing to the RN is ok?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Sharkbait

“@APATS

6 months in an 18 month cycle gives the same at sea time as I suggested previous ((6/18)*2 = 66%). To sustain that force we require 4 ASW frigates.

To sustain CASD mixed with TAPS we require 3 ASW frigates.

That is the ASW fleet used up before anything else is considered. Whats more we are consuming the availability of our big impressive multi mission frigates for a single specialist task.

Yes the French sailed with 2 AAW escorts, 2 ASW escorts a Sub, and an auxiliary, which is a structure we should attempt to replicate. Two of those escorts where provided by NATO members, again something we should attempt to replicate, which can be used to give the fleet a little more deployment flexibility. However we absolutely must retain the ability to put together our own independent force of 2 AAW escorts and 2 ASW escorts at short notice. That is the only way we can truly protect the UK interests.

I don’t think it is wise to be intrinsically depend on other nations, especially with tighter European military integration they will be too busy bickering about their own conflicting national interests to actually act upon anything. We must retain full independent capability.

There is then ARG, Kippon, APTs and NATO commitments to fulfill. An ASW equipped patrol frigate could either perform there duties, or release a T26 from escort duties. The T26 is arguably much better suited to these tasks with its multi mission flexibility and endurance.”

We are not going to have 2 deploying carriers in 18 months. only one is going to be fully manned and deployable. it will deploy once in an 18 month cycle perhaps twice in a 24 month cycle. we have neither the manpower nor the air assets to routinely run both.

Wrong about CASD and TAPS we can easily sustain with the recently deployed, soon to be deployed friagte from another task, is what we do just now.

We will have the capability to deploy with 2 ASW and 2 AAW escorts. The French never really had two proper air defenders with CDG. we provided 1 of the ASW assets, at one point there was 1 French escort, 2 Germans and 1 T23.

Nothing to do with being intrinsically reliant, it is to do with being realistic.

The ARG is going to be soaked up into the CBG deployments or into a separate cycle, we already send only 1 escort with the cougar, the French send the other and they rarely deploy into a hostile environment, though cougar will go to the gulf this year but funnily enough will be supported by 5th fleet (realistic again).

Kipeon will be down to 1 Ff/DD easily contained within 45/23/26 planning. NATO may or may not be covered and the 31 as i laid out would fit in easily to a NATO group. APTs are gapped south and the FI will be OPV work and APT(N) will continue to alternate between OPV/RFA.

@Repulse

The 2 French FREDA AAW frigates are basically FREMM with an improved version of Herakles. They swap out the 16 Sylver 70 cells and 16 Sylver 43 cells for 32 Sylver 50 cells so can have 32 Aster 30 instead of 16 aster 15 and 16 Scalp. Wonder if there was just no room to swap the Sylver 43 cells for 50 and retain the 70 which would have given much greater flexibility.

You are suggesting covering CASD, TAPS and FRE with crews and ships that are suppose to be resting, maintaining or training. Granted they can pick up a bit of slack, but too much is placing yet more pressure on an already busy escort fleet. Its simply not a sustainable option, either training, or maintenance or crew welfare will not be properly fulfilled and things will begin to fall apart. We are already seeing signals of this today.

I though between us we have highlighted an escort fleet in very high demand, leaving crews and equipment under a lot of pressure to meet these demands. The T31 must have some credible escorting capabilities to begin to release some of that pressure, leading to a more agile, flexible and sustainable escort fleet.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@Shark Bait

“You are suggesting covering CASD, TAPS and FRE with crews and ships that are suppose to be resting, maintaining or training. Granted they can pick up a bit of slack, but too much is placing yet more pressure on an already busy escort fleet. Its simply not a sustainable option, either training, or maintenance or crew welfare will not be properly fulfilled and things will begin to fall apart. We are already seeing signals of this today.

I though between us we have highlighted an escort fleet in very high demand, leaving crews and equipment under a lot of pressure to meet these demands. The T31 must have some credible escorting capabilities to begin to release some of that pressure, leading to a more agile, flexible and sustainable escort fleet.”

Perhaps you you could explain what this mythical ASW CASD task actually involves? TAPS supports CASD and is at x notice to move, as is FRE. They have no requirement to be at sea nor fully manned at immediate notice alongside. They are units tasked to cover those duties at x notice to sail. The increased deployments of 9 months making the actual physical handover of assets, as well as the decrease in Ff/DD standing tasks makes these “at notice” duties far easier to manage.

t31 as i laid out would provide a credible GK, ASuW shooter, and GP escort.

An ASW frigate is needed to support the CASD, ensuring there is a sterile environment along our continental shelf to guarantee safe passage between the Clyde and the open ocean. Without that there is a gaping hole in system which nullifies the whole CASD concept. Its a task an ASW patrol frigate would be very well suited to, furthermore it releases a T26 to perform the long ranged multi mission deployments it is well suited to.

What is a GP escort? No one has yet managed to explain this, it always boils down to an escort that is just plain terrible at escorting.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Shark Bait

“An ASW frigate is needed to support the CASD, ensuring there is a sterile environment along our continental shelf to guarantee safe passage between the Clyde and the open ocean. Without that there is a gaping hole in system which nullifies the whole CASD concept. Its a task an ASW patrol frigate would be very well suited to, furthermore it releases a T26 to perform the long ranged multi mission deployments it is well suited to.”

Are you suggesting we currently attempt to search our whole continental shelf with an ASW frigate before we sail the deterrent ;)? or even worse we should set the sort of pattern that would incur as well as taking so long to search that sort of area? You know that one SSBN does not leave patrol until the other is on it hence the CASD piece. We do track locations of potentially hostile submarines but the best defence of the SSBN is that it is hard to find as soon as it is clear of the North Channel.

As for what is a GP escort that is not specialised as an air defender or a specialist ASW asset. So it can provide AAW defence to itself and an asset that it sits close to but not engage aircraft at long range. It can also provide ASW escort in an active screen configuration but is not designed for passive towed array op. it can act as a surface shooter and has an organic rotary wing asset. So like our non tail T23, the German F125 and numerous nations MEKO 200 and A200 variants.

Are you suggesting we don’t need to protect our deterrent from hostile subs? Are you suggesting we don’t need a presence in the GIUK gap?

So a GP escort provides AAW defence to itself? and act as a surface shooter by using a helicopter? That something that every platform can do, even the tide class tankers have a magazine for helicopter weaponry. Without a towed array it is almost useless a finding subs.

What value is that GP frigate adding to a task group?

A GP escort can’t find subs, can’t stop missiles, and cant provide a greater ASuW capability than even our Auxiliary tankers. Where is the value in a platform like that?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Shark Bait

“So a GP escort provides AAW defence to itself? and act as a surface shooter by using a helicopter? That something that every platform can do, even the tide class tankers have a magazine for helicopter weaponry. Without a towed array it is almost useless a finding subs.

Negative, A GP escort that can provide AAW defence to an HVU as a goal keeper or with Sea Ceptor as a close in escort (further out if ER becomes a reality). Do you know how a screen works? The Frigates form the outer area where the missiles and any FBA have to overfly thus making better use of their generally shorter range SAM capability. The spacing of the screen is based on sonar conditions with an active policy in place. often with the required SOA it is totally unsuited to Towed array ops. Also you intersperse different sonar type to avoid interference, so non towed array ops ships are anything but useless. Next you put your air defenders inside the outer layer, they can utilise their longer ranged SAMS and be inside the ASW screen. finally you have the HVU which can have another FF close in to protect against pop ups and leakers. if you had read what i said about Gp escorts you would have seen I said nothing about having to use a helo for AsuW, both my T31 configuration and the examples have ASuW missiles onboard.

That is how escorting actually works!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Shark Bait

“Are you suggesting we don’t need to protect our deterrent from hostile subs? Are you suggesting we don’t need a presence in the GIUK gap?”

I am telling you that its ability to avoid detection is the SSBN best protection, we do not even know where it is, the CO has a choice of patrol areas. We definitely do not buzz around near it. I am also telling you we have no permanent presence in the GIUK gap. As NATO we monitor Russian submarines and track and respond as required.

The Boss said “so show the money” …..

So the Navy dont want no steeeeinkin’ Corvettes, and the Government doesnt want to spend what is required for “proper” warships in the required (?) numbers. Is this not really a failture on the “corporate greed’ front with BAe and the politcal front with “jobs for UK ship yeards” being the real problems ? If you commit to a defence industrial strategy, and want to use defence of the realm to subsidize uneconomic industries such as ship building for ships over a certain size and complexity because you have decided that the ‘skilz’ involved are strategic, then suck it up and put your frakkin money where your policy mouth is HMG ! If you want maximum “bang for buck” then ditch BAe, let BMT or the Danes do the design, build the hulls in Romanian or Korean yards and fit them out with your sensitive electronics in Pompi or Guzz. How many of TD’s “ships that are not a frigate” of the smaller variety based on civvy hulls could have been had for the price of the River B2’s – 2 more, 3 more ? Would such simpler vessels not suffice for pulling drowning refugees out of the Med, or for launching RHIBS full of Underwater Knife Fighters (TM) to intercept maritime terrorists ?

Question for all – for a non-Towed Array, non-Merlin carrying ASW capability, that might often be deployed in shallower water, and as we dont have ASROC, how about:

1. Full size SpearFish wire guided torpedos launched from your GP escort – they are pretty big so we might not fit many onboard

2. Is a 120mm mortar round with a suitable fuze big enough to use as a depth charge ? Thinking NEMO or AMOS throwing them out at a reasonable rate of fire might be OK in shallower waters ??

The Other Chris

Soupe du jour is more likely to lead to a Merlin-capable flight deck (if not hangar) and RUM-139C from a VLS solution.

Unless it can escort there is no point investing in a complex warship, instead much better value would be realized through a “Bay type large multi purpose vessel”

How is a GP escort going to guide a SpearFish torpedo? wont it just be shooting in the dark?

The Other Chris – I dont see any of the designs suggested in this article with “strike length” MK41 required for VL-ASROC, just CAMM cells.

By the way, just thinking of this “Corvettes” thing – the low end BAe Son-of-River might be a corvette, but the Venator 110 is longer, wider and heavier than my first ship, which was a “Broad Beamed” Leander Class Frigate (not Corvette). It also carries more kit, can sail further and has a smaller crew…. ooh the advances of modern technology !

Donald_of_Tokyo

@TD

> Anyway, I quite like DN’s idea of turning Type 31 in a smaller Bay type large multi purpose vessel

Built with what damage control standard? If you do it like a “frigate”, it will cost the same as T26 (maybe 30% cheaper, by omitting “super-quiet hull” for ASW), I’m afraid. Bay’s standard shall be much “worse” than Floreal-class, I guess… It is RFA vessel.

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