Learning Lessons from Libya, ISR and Maritime Land Attack

Reality is depressing and I am even struggling with the motivation to finish the bridging series, even though it’s 90% done. So ignoring the fact that we are poorer than a jobless church mouse yet continue with our fantasy spending plans I thought a fantasy kit post was in order.

A recent Janes Defence Weekly reported on a Royal Navy lessons learned document in which the two major shortcomings were a lack of precision land attack capability and organic unmanned ISR.

Janes quoted Colonel Pierson RM, the Deputy Director of NATO Operations in Libya;

It was evident that the Libya campaign showed the need for precision fires, [perhaps the Lockheed Martin] Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System (GMLRS), from the sea base, deep into enemy littoral territory.

He added that there was a requirement on RN Warships for;

Unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), such as the brilliant live feed, full motion video provided by [Boeing] Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle

Looking at both these lessons learned it is obvious that both these clear gaps in capability are where the Royal Navy has lagged behind many other naval forces.

Incidentally, I note we discussed the issue some time ago, how very bloody clever we all are!

I know I might get accused of sounding like a stuck record but these are the kind of obvious capabilities that get left beyond whilst pursuing a certain large programme, it crowds out investment in moderately priced equipment that delivers huge value in likely operations.

We might also reflect on the cost, especially in comparison with carrier borne or land based fast jet aircraft and Apache helicopters. Whilst not replacing either, the simple fact that we keep getting reminded how much the world population coalesces around coastlines when discussing CVF/JCA is something that cuts both ways.

If we can improve our ability to deliver strike up to a couple of hundred kilometres inland from surface vessels does it reduce the demand for the RAF and RN’s fast jets?

Anyway, onto the post…

Organic ISR

The ability to extend the sensor reach beyond the horizon is of obvious benefit and usually this would be carried out by a frigate or destroyers helicopter but when there is a threat from ground fire helicopters become more difficult to deploy so many solutions exists for deploying sensors (and sometimes weapons) using unmanned systems.

It is depressing to think that the Royal Navy has been so slow to unmanned party, the reasons are of course largely financial but despite testing a number of systems like the Insitu Scan Eagle several years ago nothing has been introduced into service.

One might assume that an unmanned air vehicle operating from a ship must be vertical take off and landing, like a helicopter, but that is not necessarily the case although the emerging VTUAS requirement would seem to dictate a vertical take-off and landing solution.

The initial target date seems to be around the 2020 to 2024 mark, incredible given the range of low cost off the shelf solutions available and obvious need now.

The debate seems to be whether to opt for something that is just used for ISR or a system that offers a greater payload for weapons or even stores. Greater payload generally means shorter endurance and range so there is a balance to be struck. Whilst carriage of larger payloads may be useful, to match the endurance of the smaller ISR systems would mean multiple vehicles, increasing cost and of course, most ships are not overflowing with space.

A few options;

Schiebel Camcopter

Similar to Skeldar, the Camcopter S-100 from Scheibel has an hour longer endurance than Skeldar at 6 hours and can carry a range of sensor and communication payloads weighing 34kg in total. An external fuel tank can also be fitted to extend endurance to 10 hours.

It has also been shown armed with a single Lightweight Multirole Missile from Thales.

Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)
Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)

The Camcopter is in service with the UAE, being introduced in German naval service, has been demonstrated from a French Gowind class offshore patrol vessel and Libya also ordered 4 systems in 2009, wonder where they are now!

Gizmag wrote a good article on the Camcopter, click here, in which they describe the cost of a two air vehicle system complete with control station, payload, ground equipment, logistics package and training to be in the order of $2m

Click here to read the brochure which includes an interesting picture of the Camcopter being used to drop leaflets.

Saab Skeldar

The Saab Skeldar V-200 is the latest version of the Skeldar rotary wing UAV in both land and maritime variants. Although having a much shorter endurance than the ScanEagle the advantages of VTOL and hover in flight are obvious.

Saab have also demonstrated the Skeldar operating from a CB90 which highlights an interesting combination of smaller patrol craft operating at distance from the host vessel and extending their ISTAR reach even further.

The maritime version has a 40kg payload, an endurance of 5 to 7 hours and uses a diesel engine, important for ship safety reasons.

The Skeldar has an interesting ISO Container system that houses the air vehicle, all maintenance equipment and spares and can be configured to have a roof mounted landing and take off platform so the whole system can be easily hosted aboard a variety of vessels and transferred just as easily.


The Northrop Grumman MQ-8B is a mature vertical take off and landing unmanned system with a long development background and proven deployment credentials with US forces. Developed from the Schweizer 333 it is a much larger aircraft than the Camcopter or Skeldar as shown by a comparison of payloads, for short missions the Firescout can lift over 300kg. Normal endurance is between 5 and 8 hours.

Its stub wings also allow the carriage of a variety of missiles such as Hellfire or guided 70mm rockets.

Click here for brochures.


Although still a rotary winged UAV the Boeing Hummingbird is very different from the others and arguably, much more cutting edge. Its unique propulsion system allows the rotor speed to be varied and this provides advantages in altitude and endurance, where it can operate at 15,000 feet for in excess of 20 hours carrying a payload of up to 130kg.

The Hummingbird was tested with the FOliage penetrating REconnaissance, Surveillance, Tracking and Engagement Radar (FORESTER) system, click here for an in depth article, although it had a few problems in Belize

Moving beyond Gorgon Stare is the DARPA sponsored ARGUS-IS project being developed byBAe.

This ambitious programme will create a 1.8 Gigapixel camera system able to cover a 40 km2 area at 15 frames per second from an A160 Hummingbird or Reaper UAV. To process this enormous data volume it will use an airborne processing system to deliver up to 65 windows that users can zoom into or out of on demand. The software makes the difference; its advanced target recognition algorithms provide movement detection and target tracking.

Other payloads might include the ubiquitous EO sensor pod, SAR or multiples of the same.

It is ARGUS that has been in the news recently with a planned deployment to Afghanistan very soon.

If one compares the Hummingbird with the Fire Scout, the former can fly higher and longer but carry less.

Boeing / Insitu Scan Eagle

The ScanEagle has an interesting history, initially introduced in 2001 to assist tuna fishing fleets it has evolved into a mature, low cost, flexible and highly effective family of vehicles and payloads. A few months ago it notched up its half million flying hours milestone.

In Libya the Scan Eagle demonstrated its capabilities and after, Insitu released a press release

“What happened over that period of time, no one expected,” says ScanEagle Detachment Officer in Charge Lt. Nick Townsend. “ScanEagle was locating contacts of interest that no one else could find. After the dust settled, ScanEagle was credited with locating a host of contacts of interest due to its ability to capture superior image quality and to operate covertly at relatively low altitudes.” Captured imagery was delivered from the ship to the task force via secure networked channels provided by the Secure Video Injection system from The Boeing Company, Insitu’s parent company. The UAV-provided, near-real-time video helped enable quick, tactical decisions.

A Scaneagle UAV launched from a Mk V Naval Special Warfare boat off the coast of San Clemente Island
A Scaneagle UAV launched from a Mk V Naval Special Warfare boat off the coast of San Clemente Island

The video below demonstrates just how compact and easy to use the launch and recovery equipment is, incidentally shot from the same USS Mahon that operated the Scan Eagle in Libya.

To reinforce just how compact the Scan Eagle launch mechanism the image below shows one being launched from US Navy Mark V Special Warfare boat.

To see the full specs, loads of video and images click here to go to the Insitu website.

ScanEagle can be upgraded to NightEagle specification only a few hours.

The Scan Eagle is a mature system and has many optional extras and a full range of sensors and supporting payloads in addition to mission planning and image analysis tools. It really is an off the shelf system.


Scan Eagle has a bigger brother, the Integrator that can carry a larger payload yet still use the same launch and recovery method. The Integrator has been selected by the USN and USMC to fulfil the Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS) requirement.

One of the strengths of the Scan Eagle and Integrator is the modular payload bay that has had many systems already integrated; electro optical, infra red and synthetic aperture radar as imaging payloads for example. Other useful payloads include communications relays of various types and an intelligent ships AIS interrogator that matches a received AIS signal with imagery to confirm the identity of a ship.

The 24 hour endurance is certainly impressive but limited to sensor payloads.

Click here for a brochure.

Gazelle and SW-4

These are interesting not only because they are conversions of existing manned helicopters (like many of these rotary UAV’s) but because of their UK connection, which makes them likely contenders for any RN programme.

Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ proposed an unmanned Gazelle and described their solution as ‘short term and low cost’

The unmanned Gazelle would use the control systems of the Northrop MQ-8B Firescout which does kind of beg the question why not just buy the much more mature Firescout in the first place.

Using the Gazelle as a platform makes sense – it’s a proven system with low support and operating costs. We could bring in a capability a lot sooner than the navy currently believes is possible,” he said.

Gazelle Unmanned Concept
Gazelle Unmanned Concept

Speaking at DSEi 2011, Qinetiq’s assistant technical director of avionics, Jeremy Howitt, said;

Qinetiq would be responsible for programme management and integration activities under the proposal, which would also include flight test activities from the West Wales UAV Centre at Aberporth. Unmanning an aircraft is the relatively easy part. The difficult part is providing the multiple levels of redundancy and failure management required that allows you to deliver military effect. We could do an initial demonstration within 12 months, and within the order of £10 million

12 months and ten million quid for a demonstrator, mmm

Given that Gazelle is due out of service soon and the maturity of competing systems it is hard to see the advantages of reinventing the wheel.

At around the same time Agusta Westland (now owners of the Polish helicopter manufacturer PZL-Swidnick) announced a possible conversion of their SW-4 light helicopter.

PZL SW-4 Unmanned concept for the Royal Navy
PZL SW-4 Unmanned concept for the Royal Navy

The first unmanned flight was scheduled for early this year.

Both these were aiming for an endurance of 8 hours depending on the payload weight.

Precision Land Attack

The Future Maritime Fires Concept Phase is due to complete in around mid 2012 so no doubt the lessons from Libya will play a large part in informing the study. With the cancelling of the BAe 155mm TMF project the choice of a naval gun has narrowed but there are also missile and UAV delivered systems worthy of consideration.


Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what his policy is on the replacement of existing warship guns by ones of 155mm; and if he will make a statement on his policy, with special reference to (a) the future frigate fleet and (b) Type 45 destroyers.


Peter Luff (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Defence Equipment, Support and Technology), Defence; Mid Worcestershire, Conservative)

No decision on the calibre of the new Maritime Indirect Fire System (the new naval gun) has yet been made. This will be taken when work to consider the available options under the Future Maritime Fires Concept Phase is complete in around mid-2012.

Future Maritime Indirect Fires project
Maritime Indirect Fires System (MIFS) project
Maritime Indirect Fires (MIFS)
Maritime Indirect Fires (MIFS)

The Maritime Fires Concept, of which the Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) is part, is being delivered in conjunction with the Niteworks Partnership and is expected to be met by a medium calibre gun or MCG. The other part of MFS is the Maritime Indirect Fire Precision Attack (MIFPA) is expected to be delivered using missile systems, potentially Fire Shadow.


The existing 115mm/4.5” Mark 8 Mod 1 gun aboard Royal Navy vessels has its origins in the late sixties and has given excellent service. The HE Extended Range round uses base bleed to propel the round to a maximum range of 27.5km and the existing illumination nature is also still available. In order to maintain a sustained rate of fire of 16-20 rounds per minute and accommodate the more powerful ammunition types the barrel is 62 calibres long. It has seen extensive service including action off the Falkland Islands (8,000 rounds), Iraq and Libya.

As we know though, there is not a large installed base on which to spread development costs of precision, proximity and IR illumination or smoke natures so the open market seems an obvious place to look, especially given the 155mm TMF concept has been cancelled.

There are a number of options but probably only two realistic ones, the BAE 5” Mark 45 and the Oto Melara 127mm Compact and Lightweight.

The Mark 45 Mod 4 from BAE, as used by the US Navy, South Korea, Denmark, Australia and others, is a 5”/127mm system with a 62 calibre barrel and is capable of a rate of fire up to 20 rounds per minute.

The Oto Melara system comes in a Compact form and the newer Lightweight version with a 64 calibre barrel.

In 2010 Babcock and Oto Melara signed a Memorandum of Understanding to offer the Light Weight Medium Calibre Gun System to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for the Type 26 frigate.

To quote the sales blurb;

The Oto Melara 127/64 LW gun is capable of firing up to 35 rounds per minute. The production turret weighs less than 29 tons and the ‘peppered’ muzzle brake with an aluminium shield keeps cost down, improves maintenance and reduces radar cross-section. The gun uses an advanced ammunition handling system, consisting of four revolving drum magazines holding 56 ready-to-fire rounds of more than four different types, allowing flexibility in ammunition selection and a high rate of sustained fire. It is capable of anti-surface and anti-air defence, and area engagement. The new Vulcano ammunition is capable of precision engagement at ranges previously only achievable by missile systems but at a fraction of the cost.

Very impressive.

After many years of very expensive trials the US Extended Range Guided Munition was cancelled, leaving the USN without precision gun launched land attack but Oto Melara have continued to persevere and have introduced the Vulcano range of munitions.

The Vulcano has both an extended range unguided and long range guided nature that is used with the 127mm to deliver rounds out to 120km.

I don’t think it is in service yet though.

There is also of course the mental 155mm Advanced Gun System (AGS) from BAE that will equip the USN DDG-1000 Destroyer but given that we seem unlikely to build a new ship class around the needs of this gun, it’s for interest only.

Guns have several distinct advantages, the ability to fire different natures, apply their effects over a wide area (pin point precision is not always desirable) and to sustain operations over a longer period are just a few of them but missiles generally speaking, at least in this context, can fire at greater ranges and potentially apply a larger warhead with greater precision.


Off the shelf there are surprisingly few options.

The report that sparked this post mentioned GMLRS, the famous 70km sniper.

A maritime MRLS/GMLRS is not a new concept, the US Navy initiated a study into something similar called the Precision Over the horizon Land Attack Rocket (POLAR) that used the MRLS rocket as its base, although the motor was nearly a third larger. This was cancelled in favour of the Land Attack Standard Missile that was also itself, subsequently cancelled.

Navalising a land based system is no trivial task and the principle problem with this idea is managing the corrosive exhaust. Others include maintaining corrosion resistance, re loading and compensating for the ships movement (the guidance system may not be able to cope with a moving launch platform)

There may be simple design rather than scientific research answers to some of these or simply accepting compromises. Instead of reloading at sea, simply accept that it is an alongside task, instead of expensively making everything corrosion resistance design in semi protected components and accept a higher frequency of replacement and instead of creating a complex exhaust gas management system or replacing the propellant design the system so that it can only be fired (not sure what the proper nautical term is) at right angles to the axis of the ship, thus venting the majority into the sea.

Now, none of these might be feasible and there might be other issues but could some of the disadvantages be overcome with compromise?

Not sure.

What is certain is that a naval GMLRS would be invaluable, potent, have some degree of commonality with land forces and be relatively low cost.

What is even more intriguing is that should we be able to integrate a GMLRS launcher aboard an RN vessel open up the possibility of using the same launcher for the 300km BROACH warhead variant, ATACMS, 1 per pod. The Israelis also make the 150km EXTRA rocket that fits two to a G/MLRS pod.

Standing 25km offshore (with that indefinite poise thing) a ship launched ATACMS would be able to attack targets up to 275km inshore.

The images below shows a 300km radius circle.


300km radius, San Carlos Water as centre

There are minimum range and many more thorny issues to consider with ship launched ATACMS/GMLRS but they remain an intriguing prospect.

A more conventional and off the shelf option is the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM3), in service with Norway and Poland.

With a 150km range the NSM weighs 400Kg with a 125kg warhead and can attack a mix of land and surface targets. This would also have the added benefit of being integrated onto the F35 for commonality all round. The Stand Off Land Attack Missile, based on the Harpoon is another option.

Another system that is likely to be a shoe in is the Team Complex Weapons Fire Shadow that is a difficult system to characterise, half missile and half UAV it is called a loitering munition.

Fire Shadow will be deployed to Afghanistan this year. I must admit to being a sceptic on the Fire Shadow in a land environment but in a maritime environment it has many plus points.

If we really want to spend a fortune the CVS401 Perseus concept missile from MBDA will also provide plenty of options, potentially replacing Storm Shadow, cue, an enormous bunfight between the RAF and RN.

We might also consider that our ISR UAV may also be used to deliver precision ground attack at range. The Camcopter has been shown with the Lightweight Multirole Missile and the Fire Scout has also been demonstrated with a wide variety of missiles.

The LMM is now in manufacturing phase and will be deployed on Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters. Arming a UAV with multiple missiles would provide a low yield land attack system.


To summarise, there seems a tremendous variety of military off the shelf equipment that we could take as a base and integrate into UK systems, the UAV into the Watchkeeper infrastructure for example so it does not look to be a compelling case for a UK development.

The need to extend the reach of surface vessels, I carefully avoid the use of the term major combatant because vessels lower down the flightiness ladder can equally benefit, with both ISTAR and attack capabilities is obvious.

We could still deliver improved land attack capabilities without an investment in maritime UAV’s because target identification and guidance can come from other ‘platforms’ but the availability of an organic UAV would greatly enhance the ability of a frigate or destroyer without requiring others or relying on a manned helicopter where it might be difficult to deploy.

The Gazelle and SW-4 unmanned developments from QinetiQ and Agusta Westland look interesting but what do they really bring over and above the Fire Scout, Camcopter or even the Scan Eagle, all of which are available now.

Land attack from surface vessels is a capability area that the Royal Navy is comparatively weak in but this can be addressed without resorting to a mahoosive project. We should not forget, whilst bemoaning the lack of capability in this area, that the RN is one of the few nations able to deliver cruise missiles from submarines, a fearsome capability if there ever was one.

Whilst we might consider cruise missiles as strategic in their effect the ability of the lower cost systems should not be dismissed.

Let us equally not forget how CVF with Apache and in the future JCA will also provide a significant land attack from the sea capability, however costly.

With a relatively modest investment the RN could have a multi layered system of systems (sorry) that can deal with a wide variety of operational needs.

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Ace Rimmer
January 29, 2012 10:37 pm

The unmanned Firescout looks a demon piece of equipment, however, I can’t help thinking that it was developed from what is merely an advanced version of the TH-55 Osage…


….if the RN is to buy something of this ilk I’d rather it was something more advanced and with greater performance, like the Boeing AH-6.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 29, 2012 11:36 pm

“The Skeldar has an interesting ISO Container system that houses the air vehicle, all maintenance equipment and spares and can be configured to have a roof mounted landing and take off platform so the whole system can be easily hosted aboard a variety of vessels and transferred just as easily.” -Sold.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
January 30, 2012 12:13 am

I think a massive consideration should be the ability to fit any system onboard a FF DD sized vessel to complement manned rotary wing aviation rather than replace it.

January 30, 2012 12:26 am

the problem the UK has is the same as many countries in that they can never truly by something “off the shelf” they always have to make changes that end up costing millions. Worse still are the looking into which system we truly need spending millions on just looking at something that in the end can’t be bought because there’s not enough money. I mean sometimes I want to jsut say buy the damn thing already at least them you used the money to get something.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 30, 2012 12:54 am

@ APATS – I once read somewhere that the footprint of a seahawk was 3 Firescouts. So two for a lynx, 4 for a Merlin? A type-23 could have 1 Lynx, 2 Firescouts?

January 30, 2012 12:55 am

the problem with the UAV solution is that they’re only viable in permissive environments. the second you have even a moderately competent foe, you’ll see the loss rate explode.

hell lets be honest, the loss rate in even permissive environments is horrendous and the more capability you build into those systems the more expensive they become negating their main advantage.

the MLRS solution has been banged around since the first gulf war and just doesn’t work. the cannon is nice but puts you within the horizon of shore batteries (whether gun or missile and with a competent foe youre going to get banged)….

which leaves you with only two real options. you can put up your attack helicopters in that non-permissive environment…load them down with hellfire, brimstone or whatever and have them take out your targets or you do it with a fast jet.

yep. we’re back to the carriers if we’re talking out of area operations.

this might seem like a simple, think out the box issue but its anything but. face it gents, the next combat action will probably take place outside the range of land based fighters. get ready for it!

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 30, 2012 1:04 am


Don’t think of it as a complete design, more a general concept.

January 30, 2012 1:08 am

LOL just love the comment about another area in which we are lagging behind! Seriously, please point me to anyone other than the USN that has a rotary wing UAV in anything like regular “in service” use!!

Also which Navy are we so desperately lagging behind in land attack ? I presumed you were not really thinking USN TacTom capabilities ……

January 30, 2012 1:40 am


i think TD is simply trying to lay the foundation for why the UK doesn’t need carriers…but if you’re talking about the navies that the UK currently lags behind then you’re talking the French, Italians, Russians and probably a few more i forgot to mention.

the thing that kills me in this whole debate is that the RAF and i don’t mean to be critical but the RAF doesn’t bring anything unique to an air campaign. the one thing might be the Sentienels but that capability was (is) scrapped. other than that the Typhoons limited ground attack capability makes it a poor performer, the most credible ground support airplane you had was sold to the USMC so unless the enemy is kind enough to be within range of land based air (coalition air at that) then the UK is in a bit of a box.

that’s whats so interesting about the Obama defense budget. he proposes pulling US Army brigades out of Europe but made no mention of closing air bases. that would have been the next smart move. but he refuses to do so even though we’re about to divest ourselves of the Afghanistan nonsense…why do you think?

January 30, 2012 5:04 am

@ Solomon, I don’t think its fair to say the RN is lagging behind the Russians French and Italians. There is allot more to a navy than fixed wing aviation and in the last decade we have completley transfromed and inhanced our amphibious capability, AAW, SSN’s we have alos ehanced a our MCM and ASW capability to a level that no even the USN can match on a per ship basis.

I really don’t understand why the RN does not have a cheap of the shelf capability like the Scan eagle though. However when every last penny has quite rightly gone into providing for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq I suppose it is to some extent understandable.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 30, 2012 7:20 am

@TD: you have managed to construct a circular argument. Since we don’t have carriers, the RN lacks long range precision strike and recce capabilities….so we need to buy a combination of things that mostly exist in Powerpoint format to compensate for our lack of carriers, which by the way, we *so* don’t need?

January 30, 2012 7:40 am

@ soloman ‘the one thing might be the Sentienels but that capability was (is) scrapped.’

Likely to avoid the cuts now.

January 30, 2012 7:57 am

This http://defense-update.com/20111114_unmanned-systems-unveils-the-orca-tip-jet-uav-at-dubai-2012.html could be a contender for the Uav Istar role on ships especially if cold weather operations were required.
I think with a Uav such as about the oto 5″ gun fitted across the fleet we have the full range of land attack cover for any uk operation and would cost a great amount to do this. Should a missile be required possible the nsm from Norway would be my choice.

January 30, 2012 8:21 am

Although not formally announced I think it is a given that the T26s will get the Oto Melara 127 – with trials of Vulcano ammo coming a few years down the track. Also, I think they will get VLS tubes for a naval Storm Shadow type missile even if it’s at the expense of hull numbers.

I do believe that the RN is lagging behind in it’s thinking on UAVs – the potential intelligence and future strike capability of these is likely to be the game changer in 20 years. It could make a light frigate / OPV with hanger space a serious asset.

To me it’s not about the CVF or UAVs – but how many F35s do we need. Pure fantasy, but imagine a QE fully loaded with UAVs…

January 30, 2012 8:23 am

1. Fit Hellfires to RN Lynxs. You get Hellfire attack capability on every ship as per customers operating Sea Hawks.

2. A US-spec (mk41) VLS canister should be able to accommodate a quad-pack of 227 mm MLRS rockets. The Evolved Sea Sparrow which is already quad-packed in a mk41 VLS, is 254 mm in diameter.

Pity the US DoD cancelled the Non-Line-of-Sight Missile program. Maybe the UK can co-develop an equivalent by utilising the Israeli Spike-NLOS as a base. Plenty of export customers.

January 30, 2012 8:41 am

i think its far from clear the royal navy could best the french navy on an even battlefield.
Against a combined french/italian navy?

Mcm is nice, but without the rest to back it up, its blood spilt in someone elses war.

much the same applies, these are all very nice, but for what?
When i suggest sitting off the coast plinking economicaly valuable targets, i’m accused of war crimes…

Given the carriers are basicaly built and paid for, god help me, surely growlers and hawkeyes are the most cost effective istar platforms?

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
January 30, 2012 8:57 am

This post has rapped together 2 issues, ISR and land attack. They are two seperate things. Equipping ships with a reasonably low cost, low impact UAV to prevent the ships helicopter being blown out of the sky at a bad moment is a GOOD idea which can be done cheaply and now.
The truth is if you can fix a target there are generally enough assets around in Western led operations to hit it.
The problem is when we try and arm the UAV’s, that invariably makes them larger, more expensive and painful (atleast cost wise) to lose. It also increases ship impact.
KISS principle please!

January 30, 2012 9:57 am

Regarding Vulcano, the first variant of the ER round (Vulcano is a family of at least 3 ammunitions: unguided, 70+ Km, IR guided, 70+ Km, GPS [with, tomorrow, Semi Active Laser too] guided round to 120 Km), the unguided 70 km one, has been ordered by the Italian navy in the 2012 planning round. I don’t know how many rounds were ordered, but it’s a step forwards in the right direction.

Funding was also provided for the Vulcano 76 mm development for the ubiquitous 76 mm Strales/Super Rapido medium gun, and following Libya France is reconsidering its options: a share of the next FREMM frigates being built could swap the 76 mm for the 127/64 Lightweight. They talked to Oto already, and the ship can readily take the larger gun.

The 76mm Strales is of course the FREMM’s CIWS, but i guess the french could do without it. Actually, they could put a 76 Strales on top of the hangar like on the italian FREMMs, but i doubt they want to spend the money.

Navalizing the GMLRS is an idea that tickled the fantasy of many: the option is still technically included for the Type 26 (or was until November) and Germany originally wanted it on the F125 frigate along with the 155 mm gun.
Both went to hell, though, and there’s no telling how much it could cost.

Collaboration with the Royal Artillery could be an option: the RA wanted the ATACMS too, but it was removed from the IFPA list in PR11.
A GMLRS with tri-mode warhead and range extended to over 100 Km was also already trialed.
A GMLRS box with the long-range rocket and ATACMS would sure be a great addition.

On ISR and drones, I do not share this great love of the Fire Scout. For all its merits, the US Army let it go and the Navy does not like it that much and is investing to develop and buy the larger MQ-8C instead, turning a Bell 407 helicopter into a drone.

France is experimenting with a Little Bird.

Fire Scout seems to be turning old when still new.

“A US-spec (mk41) VLS canister should be able to accommodate a quad-pack of 227 mm MLRS rockets.”

That leaves the not trivial task (and cost) of converting the MLRS rocket for vertical launch…

January 30, 2012 10:03 am

“To me it’s not about the CVF or UAVs – but how many F35s do we need. Pure fantasy, but imagine a QE fully loaded with UAVs…”

A good mix would be one squadron of 14 F35C for the more complex tasks, including air defence and policing, and then strike drones.
But it’s still a bit early now.

The US Navy plans to add 4/6 UCAS-D drones to each carrier wing post 2018. That will be real interesting.
The X47B should have carrier trials in 2013 (same year as the F35C, going to be an important year for naval aviation, whatever you think of it) and Air to Air refuelling trials in 2014.

Very serious stuff, especially since the software for automated carrier landing and for automated air refuelling have both been already flight trialed and validated on modified F18s. Promising.

January 30, 2012 10:10 am

“so that it can only be fired (not sure what the proper nautical term is) at right angles”

Um. On the beam…..

January 30, 2012 10:13 am

Sol said “i think TD is simply trying to lay the foundation for why the UK doesn’t need carriers”

Then surely this is an argument against all expeditionary air warfare even land?

You’ve got to stop seeing Charlie behind every bush amigo.

January 30, 2012 10:16 am

one minor problem with uavs, isnt it a very noisey broadcast?
Not the sort of thing you want off a carrier

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 30, 2012 10:39 am

RE: Jet-tip rotors/Orca. Jet-tip rotors has one big benefit – simplicity – and one big negative – uses up to three times the fuel.

January 30, 2012 10:44 am

Why not? It’s not as if a carrier doesn’t talk with it’s CAP.

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 30, 2012 10:54 am

@Observer: I think what @DominicJ was referring to was the bandwidth requirements for UAV’s, which tend to be around 10mbit/sec, whereas Link16 say is 128kbit/sec plus voice traffic. Can’t imagine the average pilot could make up the difference, however many sea stories they are relating :-)

January 30, 2012 11:26 am

Aussie has a point. I’m also of the opinion that we’re trying to make our UAVs do too many things at once, turning them into jack of all trades, but master of none.

While the air forces and navies are having fun with UAVs, my prediction is that the biggest winner in the UAV grab is the army. UAVs are cheap enough and light enough that it is possible to get such assets down to company or idealy platoon level. Imagine aerial surveillance not being fed to high command but actually to platoon or even section leaders. Close range firefights could be so much safer knowing where the enemy is moving, allowing you to set up ambushes in advance or even advance scouting in front of a section’s route of advance, or even for marking enemy support weapons for elimination by motar.

January 30, 2012 11:27 am


the UK has one of the most technologically advanced navy in the world, but as currently constructed its a sea denial force. that might meet the needs of the UK but it does not contribute to the free flow of commerce.

To all.

someone wrote that they believe that the UK could take on the French and Italian navies and win. i disagree, the Astute’s could make it hard for them but until the UK has credible at sea airpower, it just can’t compete.

which brings me to this. what happened to the European defense force? i heard about rapid reaction brigades and such but nothing on the sea side in a unified way. is it under consideration? and if it is then that might be the way to go.

i believe that it will lead to further defense cuts on the part of all nations and extreme specialization on the part of member countries (if they hide behind the force as providing for their nations defense) but it might work.

how would the UK respond to such an idea in the naval sphere? would it continue to try and build a balanced force or would it use this as the mythical fig?? it would lead to an additional loss of prestige if followed but it would save money.

January 30, 2012 11:28 am


The also have big benefits in icing conditions. This is an issue for all uavs but as with manned flight helicopters are particularly susceptible to problems with icing.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 30, 2012 11:57 am

@ Mark – True. I like the jet-tip rotor concept but the big problem is always going to be the fuel comsumption.

Also, what effect does the jet-tips have on the aircrafts IR image?

Ace Rimmer
January 30, 2012 12:05 pm

TD, I was just having a think about the rotary UAV as I read your comment, from a maritime point of view I was wondering why we have to have rotary at all, given the cost, complexity and flight control problems, as well as the ability to absorb AAA. Has anyone considered an amphibious UAV that can be recovered aboard ship by crane. In the days when the world was black and white and somewhat grainy, and battleships ruled the oceans, every capital ship with an ounce of self-respect had a small complement of sea-planes for observation and shifting admirals/stores. Landing in sea, stormy seas aside, appears less hazardous than a rolling deck.

TD, re: UAV size, the Firescout seems to be at the largest practical size, but I’d go for a higher performance envelope. You’d never send a TH-55 Osage over enemy territory with a couple of bods on board, so why send an expensive and technically sensitive UAV to do the same? Food for thought.

…kipper already in the smoker!

Ace Rimmer
January 30, 2012 12:20 pm

Gareth, jet-tips on your rotors would light you up like a beacon in IR, however you don’t need an anti-torque tail rotor which saves weight and reduces complexity.

I read the link for the Orca and had to chuckle when it said ‘the orca employs a revolutionary jet tip propulsion’ (or words to that effect), revolutionary my a*se, Sud-Ouest tested back in the 50/60’s using a gas-turbine as an air compressor. I believe the only reason it didn’t take the world by storm was because it was a lot noisier than the conventional helicopters at the time and deemed uncommercial for a light utility aircraft.


A different Gareth
A different Gareth
January 30, 2012 2:39 pm

RE: tip jets. Compound gyrocopter like the Fairey Rotodyne but smaller might be a good compromise. Would a Hermes 450 sized vehicle be too small?

Ace Rimmer
January 30, 2012 3:10 pm

A different Gareth, if you dropped the jet tips, what you’d effectively have is an autogyro with the prop providing the thrust and the benefit of not having a fat bloke seated up front. Simpler than a chopper, relatively quiet and can land on a sixpence (albeit a slightly stretched one).

Sounds good to me!

January 30, 2012 4:28 pm

Totally aside, I see the FLAADS(M)/CAMM/whatever has its new name – Sea Ceptor (http://navynews.co.uk/archive/news/item/3441).

Guns – Oto Melara’s 127 Lightweight is the only viable option, especially with its Vulcano ammunition. Ignoring all the positive weapon characteristics, this round is in advanced testing for the Italians and is a joint collaboration with the Dutch, who are extremely interested in the Vulcano. Extended range WITHOUT rocket assistance, GPS guidance, a future IR-guided variant for anti ship duties, the effective fire from one gun will be orders of magnitude less than an equivalent air-delivered bomb or missile. The US attempt to develop a guided round is a fiasco – just Google BTERM, Excalibur, ERGM, ERM, etc. This is the best open-source document I could find, updated Nov last year:


Naval gunfire support is one of the single most effective weapons systems out there, being far more enduring than any air cover and much, much harder to defeat. With the advent of precision guidance NGS has significantly extended its footprint inshore and is a better option than bastardising some Army rocket system which has a single purpose. NGS could reduce the need for air delivered munitions by a considerable percentage, meaning that fewer but more expensive air weapons can be saved for hard targets of high significance. As we found out in Libya, a single starshell can silence a battery of guns and neutralise vehicles with the threat of imminent morale-shattering artillery fire. Air power cannot do that without exposing the crew to danger, if at all. But Heaven forbid we should learn something from the past impact of NGS in littoral warfare.

The Italians are way ahead of the US on this. Buy OTO Melara.

January 30, 2012 5:06 pm

“Oto Melara’s 127 Lightweight is the only viable option, especially with its Vulcano ammunition. Ignoring all the positive weapon characteristics, this round is in advanced testing for the Italians and is a joint collaboration with the Dutch, who are extremely interested in the Vulcano.”

And may i add Germany, too. They ordered 5 127/64 guns for the F125 in a 70 millions deal and are interested in Vulcano.
The fifth gun is for the “land frigate” they are building on land for training the crews: a concept that the RN has been partially adopting but that the F125 brings further onwards.
They are replicating on land nearly the whole frigate to enable training, to help with their plan of send the four F125 frigates away for 2 years at a time, rotating crews by air every 4 months or so. Also with the help of the land-training frigate, they expect a 24 hours time for changing crews.

Would greatly enhance availability of on-task Type 26 if the RN could adopt a similar approach.

Anyway, back to the original point: i was a big supporter of the 155 mm MK8, but since that train is apparently gone for good, the best solution is by far the 127/64 LW.

January 30, 2012 5:36 pm

@ gabby ‘F125 frigates away for 2 years at a time, rotating crews by air every 4 months or so.’

The navy did and still do this anyway, don’t they? Rotate most of the personnel onboard around when they are away, is this just expanding to doing the whole crew in a oner?

January 30, 2012 5:44 pm

We don’t do this in the RN with the exception of the Gulf based minehunters and the survey squadron. Rotating the crew is not favoured in the RN because the crew coherence and teamwork built up in pre-deployment training would be lost be constantly bringing in new faces. The RN trialled crew swapping a few years ago and found it lowered unit effectiveness. Less of an issue in lower intensity ops (survey) and manageable with the MCM fraternity (smaller numbers who can pre-train in the UK), but not currently practical for FF/DD.

Gabriele, cheers for that, had forgotten ze Germans also had a hand in.

January 30, 2012 6:10 pm

Thanks sr, reason i asked was I remember doing a course with some navy bods and he was saying that he was being flown out to Turkey to meet his ship and quite a few of them did that along the route the ship took. This would have been around 2006/7, about right time frame?

Rupert Fiennes
Rupert Fiennes
January 30, 2012 6:15 pm

@ SomewhatRemoved: surely NGS requires ships to move a little close to shore? I know the Oto 5 inch can go to 120 km, but the bang from this must be fairly small!

There probably is a gap for something simple GMRLS-like that can fit in a VL and range out to 100-150 km, rather than TLAM. I suppose GMRLS would be the ideal :-)

January 30, 2012 6:41 pm

@ Topman

That would be trickle drafting. Though 95 odd per cent (approximately give or take before some pedant chimes up) of a ship’s company stay with her through out a deployment there are always bods coming or going for a variety of reason.

January 30, 2012 6:48 pm

@ x Righto, seemed to be a few more than that from what he said, but tbh I didn’t really press him on it, it was an AT course ;-). Maybe part of the trial SR mentioned?
While there are some navy types on here at the moment, could anyone tell me what is/was ‘Top masting’ ?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 30, 2012 7:16 pm

@ A different Gareth – a composite autogyro UAV like the gyrodyne would be very interesting; jet-tip rotors fired up for take-off and landing, becomes an autogyro in flight. VTOL but faster/more efficient in flight.

January 30, 2012 7:46 pm

In what scenario is maritime land attack necessary for national defence? They can’t hit your from their coastline if you cannot hit them from yours.

This naval land attack thing seems to be about Iran + Falklands all over again, and both scenarios don’t justify major military expenses with their severity * probability (expectation value).

Naval land attack is one of the luxuries for a military that can easily be left out in favour of saving taxpayer’s money.

Hint: You probably don’t need it if you weren’t overrun by foreign hordes when you didn’t have it.

January 30, 2012 7:48 pm

TopMast was a drafting scheme brought in the early 2000s that seemed to be the living embodiment of the oft quoted “That’s life in the blue suit – if you can’t take a joke you shouldn’t have joined.”

January 30, 2012 8:36 pm

@Gabriele – I agree that in the order of 14 F35 ls is enough. Although it does seem too early to make such a key decision, the fact is that it is likely to be 10 years plus before we can field more, by which time UAV technology will be in a whole new generation of development.

January 30, 2012 8:53 pm

“We don’t do this in the RN with the exception of the Gulf based minehunters and the survey squadron. Rotating the crew is not favoured in the RN because the crew coherence and teamwork built up in pre-deployment training would be lost be constantly bringing in new faces. The RN trialled crew swapping a few years ago and found it lowered unit effectiveness. Less of an issue in lower intensity ops (survey) and manageable with the MCM fraternity (smaller numbers who can pre-train in the UK), but not currently practical for FF/DD.”

Correct, but Germany is thinking about basically pulling into a friendly port for a day, disembark crew 1, and embark crew 2. Whole.
The F125 has roughly the same crew size projected for Type 26.

Now a Type 23 will set sail, be away for six/seven months, and return.

Wouldn’t it be possible to do like Germany in future, deploying the ship with a crew for six months, then fly in another crew to, say, Bahrain. Crew 1 flies back to Britain, crew 2 takes possession of the ship.
In a 2 years period the ship would never see the UK’s ports, but the crew would be changed every 6 months or so, so for the personnel it would be the same.

And since the crew changes whole, there are no issues given by getting the new faces worked in.
Crew trains (in simulators ashore, the “land ship” mentioned earlier, at least for the best part) and then deploys whole.
This is the F125 approach, with the ship undergoing maintenance/upgrades at her return after 2 years away.
I think it would be beneficial for the overstretched RN to get the most out of the few hulls available.

January 30, 2012 10:16 pm

TOPMAST – TOmorrow’s Personnel MAnagement System – Today! This was the initiative that brought in the Squad System, where each ship was in theory manned to 110%. The extra 10% was shore based and would use the time to undergo professional development or take owed leave. In theory this allowed ships to manage their presonnel more effectively. However, this was tainted by the fact that TOPMAST was a response to a huge slash in shore based billets, in order to civilianise shore posts, reduce costs and fill skill shortages at sea. Squad manning was ineffective largely because the now-civilianised shore posts hid the medical margin, those personnel on long term downgrades who could not or would not be removed from the Service. The squad system was made to work by merging the various 10% squads into single class-specific squads, so we now have the Portsmouth Type 23 Squad, the Type 45 squad, etc.

Gabriele, if only it was so simple we would probably have done it by now! In theory it should work, as we proved with the MCM fraternity, but experience has so far shown that in the larger and more complex hulls the management challenges are significant and it is still preferable to work up and deploy one hull at a time. Simulator training is all well and good for individual skills and teams, but whole ship training will require a simulator sufficiently complex and realistic that you might as well build a real ship. It would be like asking a driver to qualify and be safe on the roads having only practised in a simulator – would you trust them on the road? That’s hugely simplified, but I can only assure you that replacing practical training with synthetic training is not yet viable nor are we desperate enough to go down that route yet.

Rupert, NGS – yes the payload is small compared to a 1000 pounder or a GMLRS and yes we have to go close inshore. Couple of returns for you – so far the real winner from Libya (apart from the RN of course!) is Brimstone – small, accurate and with minimal collateral damage as a result of that accuracy and small warhead. Big bombs are designed to bust bunkers (and other heavy targets), small bombs come to the fore in these conflicts where it is not necessarily state on state. Look at the US and the development of the Small Diameter Bomb, and their predeliction for mounting Hellfire on anything that moves. Plus when faced with the asymmetic threat, the more shots the better so maximise the number of rounds for your money. 4.5″ can be devastating at close range (self defence) but it can also go long (troop support) and if we replace it with a longer ranged precision shell, the options really open up for precision strike, anti-vehicle and effective suppressing fire at ranges up to 120km inland (less 5-10km offshore, hardly a dent really). BUT while 4.5 is accurate, it is not precise, so currently not good enough for collateral damage requirements (i.e. zero) – it is a troop support weapon when used in the land role. A ship is inherently mobile, can range up and down the coast at will (unless there is serious opposition, in which case there are tactics and weapons to defend ourselves), and ships can be sustained at range by the RFA. That’s why I believe it is such good value for money – it gives you options.

And SO, I guess NGS isn’t valid for national defence but then neither are nuclear submarines, frigates or aircraft carriers. Iran manages quite happily with hundreds of RIB’s, jetskis, speedboats and cheap missiles for its national defence, and we’re all taking them seriously now, aren’t we?

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
January 30, 2012 10:17 pm

Gabrielle, that is what we do with the MCMVs in the Gulf. The problem is ownership, the first ever swap saw none of the 4 involved, 2 in Faslane and 2 in Bahrain fit to go to sea. The 2 in Faslane were both found to be out of date for safe to breathe certificates for the air compressors used to charge breathing aparatus. The chart outfits were a mess and the crypto accounts in one case had just been put in a safe and locked.
Took a while to sort out and eneded up with the procedure being a Squadron led inspection a month before the handover followed by a FOST visit immediately afterwards.
I say good luck to the Germans and I hope they have spoken to the RN MCM community for advice.

January 30, 2012 10:19 pm

@ SomeWhat re T23 Squad

Oh yes that explains that rather odd cap tally I have seen on occasion around HMNB whose exact wording I can’t remember.

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 30, 2012 10:38 pm

I know this is fantasy fleets, but if we ever have some batch 2 T45, I hope they have a hangar big enough for 2 Merlin. One ASW, the other CSAR. Having a CSAR Merlin on a T45 would allow extraction of UK civilians/special forces/downed pilots, etc.

January 30, 2012 10:49 pm

@ John H re T45

It is a shame that T45 wasn’t designed with dual hangers. Like you say it gives options. A spare hanger could be used for UAVs too. One of the ideas I have floated here before is a fixed (folding) wing sea plane UAV. Plenty of space for a crane to get it over the side. The space needed for a MERLIN means such a UAV could be quite a sizeable beasty.

January 30, 2012 11:19 pm

“Simulator training is all well and good for individual skills and teams, but whole ship training will require a simulator sufficiently complex and realistic that you might as well build a real ship. It would be like asking a driver to qualify and be safe on the roads having only practised in a simulator – would you trust them on the road? That’s hugely simplified, but I can only assure you that replacing practical training with synthetic training is not yet viable nor are we desperate enough to go down that route yet.”

I understand the hesitations, and i note that the Germans are, effectively, building more than a simulator, but apparently a F125 on land, inclusive of main gun, small caliber guns, RWS turrets and everything else. So you can say they are almost effectively “building a real ship” for training of the crews pre-deployment!

Will be interesting to see how it works with them, for sure. And i continue to think that it is something to think about. If we always shy away from challenges and cry to get more ships, we do not go very far away. Other approaches to increasing ship availability have to be pursued.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
January 30, 2012 11:23 pm

@ Gabrielle, swapping the whole Ship Company is to me less effective at maximising sea days and efficiency than the 3 watch manning cycle. This is done succesfully on survey ships and the UK based River Class OPVs.

January 31, 2012 4:52 am

@ Solomon – I think it’s really silly to talk about the British and French Navy’s in a fight. I think it’s really silly to consider in a peer or peer engagement in a blue water environment fixed wing aviation having much of an impact. It will probably last for 1 minute and 30 seconds more than Surface ASW platforms. Just a question of how long the SSN’s take to reload.
In terms of EU naval cooperation. There is currently a EU naval task force set up of Somalia but there are no firm plans for Europe to jointly operate naval assets other than vague suggestions that the UK and France would harmonize maintenance periods of their carriers so one was available at all times.
Personally I see close European cooperation coordinated with NATO to be our best long term option. I would like to see the UK take the lead in the Naval sphere providing fixed wing aviation and amphibious assault capabilities to supplement those provided by the USA however I know it’s nothing more than a wet dream.

January 31, 2012 7:17 am

@apats, some of that sounds like people not used to doing proper handover/takeover rather than a poor idea. I’m no expert but it sounds like decent idea to me.

January 31, 2012 7:36 am


lets say it were possible. where would the other navies fit into the scheme? what would Italy contribute? Spain? Netherlands? no dog in the fight just curious. defense spending is going down in many but a few countries. surprisingly in the US, we’re just reverting back to pre-war levels so it isn’t in base terms a cut…but more is to come i’m sure.

also, what’s your visibility on Poland and Romania. they appear to be getting some good things done, at least on the military level.

January 31, 2012 8:05 am

“Why did the German navy trial MONARC?”

The turret was effectively for free, since our artillery branch has shrunk well below the almost 200 x PzH 2000 size.
The better question is why the K130 corvettes had such a (published, not necessarily real) emphasis on land attack (first with the later cancelled Polyphem, now with land attack mode of RBS 15 Mk.3). The answer in this case is likely that the navy wanted new hulls badly (bureaucratic self-interest) and attempted just about every imaginable requirement as justification (the corvettes are gold-plated decoys).

January 31, 2012 9:27 am

I know the USN tried a similar manning systems on their FFGs and things went south pretty bad because there is no ownership as has been said.

January 31, 2012 10:18 am

I think there is two issues with the vessels. I am ignorant on almost everything Navy but I think this is an example of isomorphism and so I can use my Army experiences.

I think that some of the reasons why multi crewed ships go downhill is because of poor leadership and grip. There is no excuse for routine housekeeping tasks to not be done and no excuse for good handovers not to be done. These problems can be nipped in the bud and I am sure they are in the minority in our Senior Service.

The other reasons are maintenance issues that fall outside the scope of one crews deployment. When the pressure is on to perform, or to deploy or to conduct operations and succeed, there is a tendency to ignore what can be put off for tomorrow’s crew. A penny-wise pound foolish attitude certainly but when you are on operations the safety of the ship there and then will obviously trump longer maintenance issues, especially when these will not effect the performance of the current crew. And then the next crew come along and this repeats itself until very big things start to go south.

Vehicle fleets are different. Far less complex and REME seem to be very strict on calling kit back for their regular services etc but then I imagine this is down to the fact that we have more than 19 Jackals and it doesn’t take 12 months and a hundred million to recondition and service one.

With a good crew and a less demanding deployment cycle then it’s probably less of an issue. But the less demanding deployment cycle becomes more and more wishful thinking.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 31, 2012 12:00 pm

RE: Crew changes. Would a ship of the class stationed in home waters help? New crew would train up on this vessel before transfering to the forward deployed vessel. For the ownership problem, do we have enough personel for two crews per ship, like a SSBN Blue crew/Gold crew split? (is it blue/gold in RN or USN? Showing my civviness here…)

January 31, 2012 12:55 pm

Taken some time for me to get onto this thread, but
– no wonder LM is not too keen to integrate the next version of NSM (JSM) onto “their” plane (F-35)
– the LM guy in the video describes the lowest down of the three missiles as their experimental program and the characteristics almost exactly match “With a 150km range the NSM weighs 400Kg with a 125kg warhead and can attack a mix of land and surface targets”
– just that the Norwegian competitor can be either air or ship (or shore)launched

January 31, 2012 1:39 pm

Further on the small & cheap argument, specifically the TD/ Sol comments “Your point about adding more cost/complexity into UAV’s whilst not addressing loss rates is interesting, as you say, negating the low cost disposable argument.”
– I would very much back Sol’s comments, including the loss rates going through the roof (sky?)if the scenario changes even a bit towards a “peer” adversory
– the ultimate is the (disposable)targeting drones fired through the Russian Smerch system, just like they fire the rockets (admittedly, 300mm is more accommodating for getting that done). The other thing is of course that we don’t have any system, of any diameter, on the ships now

January 31, 2012 2:00 pm

RE “Gabriele, cheers for that, had forgotten ze Germans also had a hand in.”
– even though the Dutch part-funded the development, they in the end scuppered their own introduction into service of the OTO/Vulcano, so I believe (budget cuts; not any problems)
– we would then be the 2nd export customer (which I am all for)

January 31, 2012 3:03 pm

I don’t know where else to post this. The new video for CAAMS/See Ceptor is here. http://bfbs.com/news/uk/mod-unveils-supersonic-missile-system-54418.html

What ship is is shown firing from. Looks very different from the most recent type 26 renderings.

January 31, 2012 3:15 pm

If you can get one for $2m and fit it aboard the ship without compromising operating a proper Lynx I’m sold. But those conversions just make me wonder why not take along a Lynx…

January 31, 2012 3:50 pm

In 2009 the us air force had purchased around 190 predators and 30 reapers with 70 crashes during its operation history which comes to quite a nice bill. And that was mainly due to weather operator error or equipment failure.

January 31, 2012 3:51 pm

@ Gareth J

Port and starboard crews.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 31, 2012 4:04 pm

@ JS123 – Its the proposed BMT Ventor, a suggestion for the old C3 concept:


Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
January 31, 2012 4:09 pm

@ x – Thank you. I thought it was a different term.

January 31, 2012 4:41 pm

“What ship is is shown firing from. Looks very different from the most recent type 26 renderings.”

That’s the Venator, a BMT design offered for the C3 requirement, now MHPC requirement, for the replacement of the minesweepers.
Nothing to do with Type 26.

Regarding F125 frigates, some more data i’ve dug up:

24 months mission duration
5000 hours at sea per year (208 days)
21 days endurance between replenishment (Type 26 60 days[!])
Range 4000 naval miles (Type 26 7000 nm)
Crew (110 + 70 berths [50 for troops, 20 for aviation complement])(Type 26 130 + 36 for troops) to be changed every 4 months, with the change complete within a 48 hours period.
Scheduled depot maintenance every 60 months

The training will happen in several different ashore bases, apparently, with each base focused on a particular system of the ship and thus a particular part of the crew, i’m guessing.
They have ordered even working guns, up to the 127 mm, for the on-land training facility.

The RN is working to open an on-land RAS training facility including mock-up of the RAS stations of a Type 23 and of a Type 45; and we have all heard of the Type 45 (and 23, if i’ve understood correctly) training center.

Now i wonder if it is really so absurd to think that at least a part of the Type 26 fleet, given proper training facilities on land and a certain number of excess crews, could be used in a similar way to the F125.
Not saying it is easy and simple, but that it is worth a thought, for sure.

January 31, 2012 4:52 pm

Also note that the same approach Germany is taking with the U212 submarines too! Submarine stays deployed, crews rotate. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20100604/DEFSECT04/6040307/Germany-Retires-6-Of-Its-10-Submarines

January 31, 2012 5:29 pm

In a 1960s paper the late Vice Admiral Louis le Bailly discussed the RN moving to a regimental system divorcing manpower from platforms. He also proposed once giving the FAA to the RM.

January 31, 2012 5:52 pm

Gabby, the full sentence is ” submarine stays deployed, crews rotate, and maintainance gets neglected.” This is going to tempt some people into deploying for so long equipment starts to fail. Ships have to be maintained periodically in a shipyard, even if it’s for something so simple as cleaning the hull of barnacles or replacing the anti-anodizing plates.

Ace Rimmer
January 31, 2012 5:55 pm

Gareth. thanks for the link, the Gull36 looks the dogs cajones.

Mark, re: Predator and Reaper crashes, the US Air Force has a policy of using trained pilots to fly them hence the high crash rate. In stark contrast, I believe the US Army on the other hand utilises an automated landing system and non-pilot trained operator, and has a significantly lower loss rate.

January 31, 2012 6:15 pm

@ AR have you got a link for that? Thanks.

January 31, 2012 6:17 pm


Up until recently the us army uavs have been quite small more Large model aeroplane type size. Reaper is at fast jet size too very different beasts but still gd for the inter service piloting banter. Weather has been the biggest issue Particularly ice and those sometimes pesky satellite connections. You could buy 2 dozen king aer surveillance a/c for the price of the lost a/c and probably man them with fewer people.

Ace Rimmer
January 31, 2012 8:06 pm

Mark, I used to work on BN Islanders and they used to have a pneumatic rubber boot on the wing leading edges, heater boots on the props etc for de-icing, there’s no rreal eason why these can’t be put on the larger UAV’s, apart from weight and power issues. Given the cost of the larger UAV’s perhaps it’s time to consider proper anti-icing. I’m with you on the KingAir…..would they come with Hellfires?

Topman, here’s the link….


January 31, 2012 9:46 pm

Ace rimmer

Power issue is a problem as is tai space and complexity/servicing issues (Eg cost )also do you fly with it on all the time which has its own issues but other methods are on these to a limited extent these have more glider like wing which means light and reasonably narrow, flying in IFR conditions poses problems also from a situational point of view. I’d fit a couple of brimstone to a king aer but I’d be happier calling up some fast air or apache.

February 1, 2012 1:05 am

@ Solomon – You raise a good point. Other than the UK and France there is little to be contributed by other EU nations in terms of major naval units which is one of the reassons I would like to see the Uk focus on this area. It gives us the ability to maintain the best soverign capability while adding maximum suport to EU operations. Eastern European nations have allot to offer but very little in the naval sphere.

All Politicians are the same
All Politicians are the same
February 1, 2012 4:54 am

@Gabby Clyde is contracted to provide 282 days at aea ayear with a CLS contract. The 3 watch manning on the other rivers provides 308(i seem to remeber)sea days a year. The Germans really belive that a Ships company that has beeen trained on land at seperate locations can take over a Frigate in 48 hours and sail he safely and operationally. Sorry it just isnt going to happen. German ships fail FOST having already done the German equivelant before arriving.
A 4 month cycle from arriving onboard to leaving again is never going to reach anywhere near an operational capability.

February 1, 2012 7:31 am

What EU operations? Anti-piracy “task forces” of dubious utility would seem to be the only sort they can safely undertake :-(

February 1, 2012 8:06 am

@ WF – If you want a few frigates to sail around in a circle and chase some dinggies then the EU task force is great but I don’t see it ever doing naything else. Why its even there when the same Nations contribute to a NATO task force doing the same thing is beyond me. However the EU’s total lack of naval capability could be an oppertunity for the UK if we have decided to pin our future flag on EU cooperation for power projection then surely concentrating much of our efforts on the main area Europe is lacking in would give us the biggest advantage. I know its not going to happen but I can still dream.

February 1, 2012 8:32 am

,,, total lack of naval capability?

“SM-3 could be integrated on a SMART-L/APAR platform, providing non-AEGIS ships a viable missile defense capability. Germany and the Netherlands have seven frigates that utilize the SMART-L/APAR system, and Denmark will add three more by 2013. Norway and Spain operate AEGIS frigates. France, Italy and the United Kingdom have large surface combatants with the S1850 radar, which is a variant of the SMART-L.”
– these are all world-class ships
– not counting mini-carriers or amphibs, just from the above sub-class the total will be 15, to begin with UK’s North Sea neighbours. That is, in service by 2013 and Germany is adding the F125 expeditionary ships rather sooner than later, which I would also tend to slot above the T26s (first one in 2023?)

February 1, 2012 10:34 am

@ acc – I see allot of frigates on that list but not much else. The eu is light years away from being able to deploy major us type taskforces a few lhd or lpd and one cvn is completely insufficient for out of area power projection even on a fi 1982 type basis. I think an eu with 4 cv’s and 4 lhd’s should be a minimal goal for the next decade.

February 1, 2012 10:55 am

“@ Solomon – You raise a good point. Other than the UK and France there is little to be contributed by other EU nations in terms of major naval units”

How do you define “major”? Norway, Spain have AEGIS destroyers, Germany + Italy + France + Netherlands have effective AAW frigates, Germany and others have world-class AIP SSKs, Italy and Spain have small carriers.

Now compare that with the rest of the world and you will find no non-allied counterforce. Japan is friendly, PLAN is still obsolete, Indian navy is largely obsolete, USN is allied, Russian navy has extremely questionable readiness and is obsolete.

Against whom should we build our fleets? Martians?

February 1, 2012 11:45 am

@ so I agree there are some good individual units. However being able to project power not against a navy but against a land based opponent is well outside the eu’s current capability not enough carriers or amphibs to take on the task. Considering the eu accounts for 25% of world military spending this seems silly to me. I agree that no one other than the us has a better capability but I still feel the eu should be able to do more and I think the uk should be central to providing those capabilities.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 1, 2012 11:57 am

@ martin – “However the EU’s total lack of naval capability could be an oppertunity for the UK if we have decided to pin our future flag on EU cooperation for power projection then surely concentrating much of our efforts on the main area Europe is lacking in would give us the biggest advantage. ” – Agree but this also includes ISR, AAR, air and sea transport, essentially what we rely on from the US, as well as “major” naval units.

February 1, 2012 12:05 pm

Maybe it’s just the wrong time for it. With most nations tightening their belts, it may not be the best time to go spending. Waiting for the economy to get better before buying might be the best (and only) solution for now.

February 1, 2012 12:35 pm

Hi GJ,

Yes, I agree to this “Agree but this also includes ISR, AAR, air and sea transport, essentially what we rely on from the US, as well as “major” naval units”

By implication it means (rhyming to Observer’s comment) that we should “draft in” the plentiful frigate fleet, forego T26 and concentrate on the carrier/ amphib fleet, to provide not only a sea denial, but also a power projection capability (if and when needed, the “if and when” disappearing in most circumstances through the deterrence provided by the mere fact that the capability exists)

February 1, 2012 5:37 pm

“The Germans really belive that a Ships company that has beeen trained on land at seperate locations can take over a Frigate in 48 hours and sail he safely and operationally. Sorry it just isnt going to happen. German ships fail FOST having already done the German equivelant before arriving.
A 4 month cycle from arriving onboard to leaving again is never going to reach anywhere near an operational capability.”

They are designing land training and the ship itself to make it possible, and i don’t think they are necessarily bound to fail.
But, by the way, i would have built the F125 training center all in one place, honestly, not in 5 or six different locations. I would have built a ship-shaped (literally) training center.

As to the 4 months tour, yes, it is too short. Six would do perfectly well.
But again, you are automatically assuming they are just plain wrong. Might be, might not be. Everyone has its own approach.

If you ask the americans, for example, they will tell you that soldiers have to stay deployed for a full year, not 6 months, to get results on the field, and deploy again after 2 years.

February 1, 2012 7:49 pm

Personally I would build ships which could carry 100+ troops and merge the amphibious and frigate roles into one class. Heavy lift could come from Bay / JSS / Point class RFAs. If you assume 13 T26s will cost 6bn plus 1bn to replace the Albions you could probably buy 16 Absalon type vessels and another 3 T45s…

A different Gareth
A different Gareth
February 1, 2012 10:04 pm

Ace Rimmer,

With regards to UAVs:

How would you launch the autogyro?

The Carter Copter compound aircraft stores energy in its rotor using small weights at the tips which allows it to spin the rotor up and then ‘jump’ for takeoff and have some control over landing too.

Tip jets in particular would allow for controlled VTOL.

A fanwing is another possibility but I’ve no idea if it has the kind of performance needed.

There is also the Bell Eagle Eye tiltrotor UAV. The US Coast Guard intended to buy 45 of them, not sure if they still do. Whatever the range of it you could perhaps get a bit more by having wings on the outside of the rotors that tilt as well.

Ace Rimmer
February 1, 2012 10:33 pm

A Different Gareth, re: autogyro launching on ship, in addition to steaming into wind, I was thinking somekind of power-drive from the ship, similar to an F1 engine starter. This ‘could’ give the rotors enough power to lift off the ship. I’m sure a company called Benson invented an autogyro complete with floats to tow behind speed boats.

February 1, 2012 11:57 pm

About the F125 and its two-crew system; I doubt it. To me, it looks like a PR bluff. It’s highly likely that the second crew will be cut to save expenses and to extend the lifetime of the ship (cruising as much as planned would consume much fuel and wear out the ship faster than F122s were worn out + double crew costs).

The second crew makes little sense from a mobilisation potential point of view as well – you can train crews more quickly than get a new ship from political intent to fully equipped & in service.

February 2, 2012 12:01 am

Maybe our military spending is in large part indeed defence spending? Defence necessitates no naval land attack.

Furthermore, why should we have the capability? Because the U.S. has it? Hardly, that’s rather a reason against mirroring it.
Because it’s possible? Taxpayer wealth is too valuable for that. The military is not about satisfying mil fanboi dreams, it’s about providing a service to the people as a whole.

Furthermore, NO country in the world and NO alliance in the world exceeds EU land attack and naval capability save for the US.

Nobody can save them from allocating too many of their (and lended) resources on unnecessary military capabilities, and there’s no reason to copy their behaviour.

February 2, 2012 1:15 am

@ SO advocating a defence budget that can do nothing other than defend your own borders is just plain silly. In the modern world no country is an island. We are all heavily interconnected and inter dependent. The EU and especially Germany relies on imports of energy and raw materials from across the world. There is more to security than simply holding back the third shock army. The EU spends around $250 billion per year on defence. Even just putting 10% of the budget towards expeditionary Naval Warfare could give the EU a solid capability to deploy air and land units any where in the world where its interest were threatened. The increasing view in many EU nations seems to be to cut defence back and just simply let the USA take the strain. However we do not live in a safe world. We need defence. Yes I agree that the USA has taken things too far and it has proven that this is unaffordable. However the EU is going too far in the opposite direction.

February 2, 2012 1:52 am

Martin, join the rest of the world. Most defence budgets ARE self-defence budgets, only some countries have the luxury, and yes, it was a luxury, of expeditionary forces.

February 2, 2012 6:55 am

Back to one of the original topics of the thread, proper NGS (with emphasis for “gunfire” as against missile systems) is one of the most globally neglected and cost-effective means of fire support during any coastal operations. And it’s an issue where progress was (apparently) being made until Deck Chairs, 2010 Edition came out. Since there are fitful signs of reconsideration for some of SDSR’s most bluntly stupid decisions (walkback towards P8 wrt a working MPA force, a possible reprieve for Sentinel thanks to Lybia) it would be good with the passage of another year or so to head back to MoD and say, “look, lads, we need an honest accounting on the 155mm program. That way we know whether to move ahead with it again or buy OtoMelara 127s, since SDSR took a whole nine months to become irrelevant in the global security environment.” It’s one of the more important things the current fleet could do for itself. And I like the suggestion upthread (x, was it you, or Repulse?) for a T45 Batch 2 based more on forward support (land attack, NGS, etc.) with two hangars. There’s a number of ships (as most here know, I think) with a big/little hangar arrangement, so pop your UAVs in the latter and go to it.

While I’m thinking of it, there are several different and seemingly concurrent reports that T45 has spare space (unallocated, hot-bunking, not sure which) for about 60 green death as it is. On one of those “Batch 2” types you could make sure that runs to about 60-80, some mix of higher-end FSRT and underwater ninjas. Otherwise my own belief is don’t penny-packet land combatants on shipboard (marine riflemen as a security detachment is a different matter.) Better to concentrate them for the widest possible range of effects. And on that note,

Gareth J. and ACC,

Wotcher: and to ACC @ 1235 above, *this*. The US won’t have its “thousand ship navy,” the modern-day Athenian League suggested early this decade, thanks to a combination of bustling would-be rivals, budgetary decay, and bad choices in the intervening years. But the RN could absolutely be a blue-water leader for a multi-party European security arrangement. Concentrate on the high-low, on low-end MCM/patrol assets that have more high-seas endurance than their (non-French) European counterparts, and on the high end of carrier and amphibious groups, and a real capacity for punching in a coastal bridgehead with a robust brigade. (In the rest of Europe, only Italy is building up any real capacity to do that under varying degrees of fire — France can do colonial policing over-the-shore but only if it’s basically unopposed — and the growing Italian capability is limited by 1) its politicians’ huge and historic loss aversion and 2) the Mediterranean basin, where they can use the “unsinkable carrier” of Italy itself to supply air-superiority cover.) For that matter, if you really want to supply “capability plus” like that and help kick-start British shipbuilding that isn’t just warships, yachts, and oilfield support, work on military sealift capacity, which could “dual-key” for British or allied units. Yes the Danes and Dutch have bits and pieces thanks to their more robust shipyards, but those are good targets for budget cuts. British sealift lets you “operationalise” the Army once it’s out of Germany, offers a major tool to allies that may lack it (and might pay in frigate cover in return) and gets you a hell of a lot more all round than T26.

February 2, 2012 7:01 am

Just to be clear on that last bit, I don’t mean more LPDs, etc., I mean augmentation of the RFA with something more like the Points, or a return to the naval equivalent of the Americans’ Civil Reserve Air Fleet, ships that really do have steady civilian work more than RFA, but are readily available for emergency duty and configured for it. Should have a core that’s RFA, however, concentrated on prepositioning or fast lift of gear. And in case that sounds like thread-jacking what are they going to need as they Mexeflote their goods to the beach? Gun cover just in case, and eyes in the sky to watch out for small boat attacks or ATGMs pointed at those barges from the bushes ….

February 2, 2012 9:06 am

“Furthermore, NO country in the world and NO alliance in the world exceeds EU land attack and naval capability save for the US.”

Victory isnt relative
A comparison of expeditionary forces isnt relevent, you have to compare your expeditionary force against the full military of the other guy.

The EU’s mighty expeditionary force couldnt topple Gadaffi, mouthed platitudes over the genocide in Sudan (Never again?) and refuses to even discuss Syria.

Imagine the Israelies lost it and went full on ethnic cleansing, theres bugger all the EU could do beyond whine to the UN, which can pass all the resolutions it wants, only the US has ther capability to enforce them.

But SO *doesnt* advocate that. The German Army could happily invade france or poland or denmark or austria.

But due to a quirk of geography, the UK’s (and US’s) defence is amply maintained by a bit of AWACS, a bit of MPA, and half a dozen fighter squadrons.
If we “just” want defence, then we can abolish the army and the surface fleet, along with the bits of the airforce not directly involved with shooting down enemy aircraft or sub hunting.

The British army does not exist to defend the home islands and to my knowledge, no land force has ever successfuly defended these islands.

February 2, 2012 9:11 am

“Furthermore, NO country in the world and NO alliance in the world exceeds EU land attack and naval capability save for the US.”

There’s no country with greater land attack and naval capability than the 27 separate EU countries. Er. Except one. Probably two really.

Oh dear.

February 2, 2012 12:24 pm

@JS, think there has been various mentions of a T45 batch 2 having space for two Merlins – I’m definately on favour of that. I’m also in favour of the RFA taking the amphibious role.

As far as I can see it, any future “amphibous assault” would be done mainly by helicopter over the horizon. These could be flown from either a LHD, LPH, CVF, escort, RFA or even a cruise liner…

If the falklands is a scenario, would you prefer an Albion with a T26, or 4 Absalon equivalents?

February 2, 2012 3:47 pm

“@ SO advocating a defence budget that can do nothing other than defend your own borders is just plain silly. In the modern world no country is an island. We are all heavily interconnected and inter dependent. The EU and especially Germany relies on imports of energy and raw materials from across the world.”

Turn it into a thought of collective defence and remember the stunning failure of the ’37-’45 Japanese to secure their access to raw materials the military way in comparison to their pacifist post-war strategy and you’ll see my point.

There’s usually no question that interventions and the threat thereof are providing net value by securing the world for our activities (trade, for example).

It’s a childish notion. Just think of the Strait of Hormuz; much of the Iranian effort there is a reaction to the lingering threat from the U.S..
What would have happened if the U.S. had never began plaiyng great war games in the Persian Gulf?
Iran might have been a somewhat authoritarian republic for about 55 years by now.

What would have happened if the CIA did overthrow Iran’s government, but the USN did not intervene during the 1980’S as it did? The despicable aggressor Saddam Hussein would have lost the war during the mid-80’s, and the region would have self-healed.

What if both happened, but OIF did not? Hussein would probably have been swept away by Arab spring, U.S. would have 4,000 KIA and ten thousands of maimed WIA less and would have saved USD 1-3 trillion war expenses.

Even the showpiece of recent major commodity related interventions was a string of gross failures.

February 3, 2012 12:24 am

Rupert Fiennes two sopts above,

Like Commander Data in a sombrero, I reject your reality and substitute my own ;-) (Sorry, my inner scifi nerd couldn’t help itself.)

The squadron of Absalons have NGS aplenty, but not as much air-defence capability as I’d like if they’re helping guard RFAs further offshore (or themselves), and have to dock somewhere to offload anything heavier than Supacats and personal gear. The Albion/T26 combo is another reason why the Type 26 “Global Combat Ship” must die in a fire. It sucks the oxygen out of precious financial resources that could be much better spent in other ways, and mostly because (pace anti-carrier folk, IXION above all) the Admiralty have a much, much, much bigger frigate fetish than they do a carrier fetish. I’d rather have the RFA ‘phib reserve you describe, led by a Juan Carlos/Canberra LHD, protected by Type 23s with more new kit aboard and T45s (including that pair of land-attack-added models, and all with new guns), and screening for mines and small boats by a long-endurance MCM replacement. (In case I wasn’t obvious, the LHD, T45s, and a kick start to MCM replacement would come out of the T26 budget, and help get British military shipbuilding through the rough towards a proper next-generation, single class replacement for T23/T45.)

RFA should definitely take the lion’s share for amphibious ops and for what the American military, in its usual graceless way, calls Logistics Over The Shore, for bigger and more sustainable forces. What I hope amphibious assault will look like is a “Spanish Inquisition” approach (as in nobody expects), a deliberately erratic mix of helo/tiltrotor assault, fast hovercraft from OTH, “beach-jumper” style dummy feints, small warship raids, even paratroopers. All so you can hovercraft/Mexeflote in the gear for a proper-sized Army force.

February 3, 2012 12:26 am


Oh, and since We’re Getting Them Anyway, a touch of actual air cover off a carrier deck would be nice :)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 3, 2012 1:02 am

RE: Amphibious lift. What if every one of our “frigates” could also carry and deploy a battalion(?) of troops?

Cross a Type 23 and an Endurance class LST?

February 3, 2012 2:25 am

An Endurance is about 2/3 the size of a carrier. Pretty big frigate. :)

February 3, 2012 3:53 am

@ SO – So you position is we should simply sit in fortress Europe and not give a f**k about the rest of the world. The German default position essentially.

What about 1991. If we had not intervened we could have seen Sadam Controlling 40% of the world oil supplies. What then?
What if Saudi Arabia is swept up by some form of Jihadist revolution intent on spreading the revolution right across the Middle East. What Then? I could come up with a dozen other scenarios that would require military intervention. We maintain our military as an insurance policy against bad things and bad people of which there are many in the world. However most are kept in check by the certain knowledge that if they get out of check too much and threaten our security and interest we have the ability to stop them. If all we have are self defence forces un able to leave home then I think you would see a much more dangerous world. Not to mention you would leave a gaping vacuum that China is only too happy to fill. Not sure if you have every tried to speak Chinese but believe me its allot harder to learn than English.

February 3, 2012 3:57 am

@ Jack Staff – the T26 is almost a like for like replacement for the T23 now. It’s been scaled down massively to projected unit cost of GBP 250 million. The T23’s it will replace will be 35 years old. Those ships ain’t going to be able to run any longer than that.

February 3, 2012 6:46 am


They don’t need to run longer than the 35-38 year range. And what the RN desperately, desperately does *not* need is a “like for like replacement for the T23.” I’ll cover that bit first:

– T26 was originally a kitbash of several errant ideas: we didn’t build enough T45s so we need something like them but without the highly effective AAW radar; we need a “me-too” mission bay frigate that’s too much warship to be a (post)colonial sealane cruiser like F125 or Absalon; and because we (Admirals of today) grew up in the post-1967 Cold War fleet, frigates are what we know best
– Though it has indeed been scaled down, both its specs and its costs will creep up again if MoD lets itself be suckered by the Treasury yet again and re-run frigates “fitted for but not with” (unlike T23s which are really coming into their own with Sonar 2087 and CAMM properly installed) will be all RN gets
– Most of the design principles and tech fit for T26 are of the moment — if there weren’t carriers under build in the incredible shrinking shipyard sector you could start turning them out next year. Based on that, if there are any meaningful leaps forward in draughtsmanship (making x-bow hulls, pentamarans, cheaper thorium reactors for major warships, etc. actually work properly) or weapons tech between now and the early/mid-2020s, these ships could be obsolescent within a few years of their launch.

So, why not hold on to world-class, rapidly maturing frigates for as long as they can reasonably float and start in then, a bit later than planned, on a next-generation single class “line ship” in place of T23 and T45? Both BMT’s blue-sky F5 “frigate” design (frigate my hairy left one, it’s a 21st century light battleship) and the BAe UVX come to mind but there are surely others. Don’t faff about with T26, make it a “Global Combat Ship” export model like the MEKOs.

What do you get instead?

– Sell the Albions and get DFiD buy-in (plus the Albions’ proceeds) to build a fourth Bay and keep the yards busy when CVF starts to run down
– Further to that, move towards selling the three oldest T23s (the one in line after that, HMS Montrose, is scheduled to decomission in 2026. Push her on for two extra years to 2028, then start the replacement cycle. That’s sixteen years to get a program for a F5/UVX-style replacement in gear.)

What do you get with the pool of funds for T26 instead, or a large chunk of it?
– Get Sonar 2087 on all ten surviving T23s.
– Buy a Canberra-class model LHD to replace the Albions and Ocean: it has a smaller ship’s crew than a single Albion, can carry more helos than Ocean, and can carry damn near as many troops and as much lane space as all three (Albions & Ocean) put together.
– Buy 2-3 “Batch 2” T45 with VLS silos added for land attack, a feck-off gun up front, and a twin hangar

Then move apace with a Hunt/River long-endurance MCM replacement. The RN needs to go “high-low” in an Atlantic world where the US Navy has mostly vacated outside the Caribbean (other than the Arctic submarines.) As ACC pointed out so well upthread, there are several potential partners who can supply excellent GP frigates where needed, SSKs likewise, and both the Dutch and Danes now have very good “pocket” AAW destroyers under sail or getting there (the LCFs and Iver Huitfeldts.) Concentrate on proper patrol/MCM/presence ships (TD’s SIMSS or the dear old BMT Venator would do very well) and carrier/amphib groups.

The besetting sin of T26 is that it does none of those things, just like the whole “C-number” program and not building T45, on its lovely huge keel with spare room aboard, with VDS, all of which is just a repeat of the planning process that gave us Types 42, 22, and 21 at the start of the Seventies. Not an original thought in the room when, for practical reasons in a world that’s already changed fast from “we were always at war with Afghanistan, or was that Oceania?” a year or so ago, to have some original thoughts.

February 3, 2012 6:51 am

Sorry, that last clause should read “it’s time to have some original thoughts.” It’s late even on Pacific Standard…

And, though we disagree on the matter, thanks for the prod to get those thoughts out (semi)coherently.

February 3, 2012 7:14 am

Ref: Sven,

Though he doesn’t know everything, he is quite genuinely immensely knowledgeable and thorough even when he’s got arguments grounded in historical or technical detail wrong, which is not all that often. But he is precisely who he is — deeply rooted in German philosophy with its steely and intellectually detailed iron consistency in arguing from a set of first principles, and a thoughtful son of a place that was at one point run by the Nazis with far too much public consent (just to relate from my own experience, most of my American relations/in-laws are white Southern liberals/leftists who get to live with the legacies of two centuries of plantations plus Jim Crow.) What this position fails to appreciate — other than that, as a technical matter war can be about many other things a society or polity finds important besides classical battle on the (mostly eastern) European plains — is that there can be multiple bad actors in a strategic environment. In other words, just because the American right’s model for throwing its weight around in foolish pursuit of gain doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of other bad actors with their own agendas out there, whose actions must be hedged against. Having looked at the problem from British, American, and Canadian vantage points at various points in my wandering life, I think he’s mostly right about American policy choices in the M.E. But this does not mean that Iran, Pakistan, Israel, Turkey, Iraq, and (back in its pre-Sadat/Mubarak days and maybe again) Egypt haven’t all been perfectly capable of fcuking the region up, with global ripple effects, just as Martin said.

One related thing (a one-paragraph threadjack): I suspect we’re headed into a period of regionalized “cold wars.” I mean one each in the Pacific Rim (Korea to the Spratlys), the Middle East, possibly a decentralized one (disaffected publics v. all comers) in N. Africa. The one in the Americas is more complex but has very deep roots, although at least there seems to be a bastion line along Canada’s southern border for now. From Argentina to the States, via even the Mexican cartels, it’s a fight between the enterprising bastard feudalists who were one main ingredient in founding all those American nations, and the tory-conservative and liberal/left idealists who were the other big ingredient. (The latter are stumbling towards a strange-bedfellows alliance.) There as in N. Africa I’d say it’s internal conflict, though the links jump countries(unfettered rent-collecting and creation of legal/illegal cartel fiefdoms in the Americas, population pressures and political radicalization in the Maghreb.) In the M.E./Pac Rim it’s happening as the regions slowly go “locally” nuclear. Plenty to insure against indeed.

February 3, 2012 8:26 am

: I agree with a lot of what you say – never been convinced by the T26. The one thing I would question is the real need for a LHD – I feel whatever this could offer can be served by the CVFs and Bays. A few Absalon types though would allow for close to shore ‘hot’ ops (including shore bombardment etc) without risking your capital T45 / T46 vessels.

February 3, 2012 8:57 am

“Turn it into a thought of collective defence and remember the stunning failure of the ’37-’45 Japanese to secure their access to raw materials the military way in comparison to their pacifist post-war strategy and you’ll see my point.”

Japans “stunning failure” is rather Americas stunning success.
Japan went to war because the US was breaking treaties over access to resources.
The US/Europe seized them first, and then denied Japan access to them. Japan then went to war.

Its lack of resources crippled its war effort.

February 3, 2012 12:55 pm

In this MoD paper ON UAV’s under the Maritime Requirement part mentions Tactical Maritime UAS Concept Capability Demonstrator that was suppose to be demonstrated late last year? Does anyone know anything of this?


February 3, 2012 1:08 pm

Jack staff , I to am no longer convinced by t26. The original plan for a meety destroyer / light cruiser has been watered down so much that we now end up with yet another medium asw platform just so we can get a few more hulls in the water. A high low mix would be best giving combat power as well as a larger total number of hulls. Admirals who grew up on frigates are just as bad as air chiefs who grew up on tornados.

February 3, 2012 1:31 pm

Dominic, that was wrong. Once Japan secured it’s “Co-prosperity Sphere” it had all the resources it needed.

Problem was it had a defensive mindset and turned to the defence once their regional goals were secured.

You in politics you say?

February 3, 2012 1:33 pm


Interesting piece on the Type 26. However, I think you missed the mark by some margin. It’s about the right ship for the right job.

Type 26 is exactly what it’s number suggests, a replacement for the Type 23, as the 23 was a replacement for the Type 21 and the Leanders before them. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Type 45’s, and the Type 42’s which preceded them, and the County class and Daring class before them. The lineage is a clue here – two utterly different and separate roles. It is true we haven’t and will not receive enough of the Type 45 destroyers. However, T26 is going to carry, as has been envisaged for many years, only a point defence missile system. It cannot defend other assets from air attack unless it is in the line of fire, but it is not meant to. It is a general purpose combatant, deliberately and intentionally a jack of all trades and a master of none. So nobody has even raised the possibility that it could sub in for Type 45.

You suggest waiting to see if new developments will render a conventional hull useless. Such a delay will mean the Type 23 will be out of service before you ever bring in a replacement – and hey presto we have lost 13 hulls. 13 hulls which could have been out doing the job they have always done, providing persistent presence and influence with a limited capability which, if exceeded, will need a larger battlegroup anyway. Escorted by Type 45’s. Type 23 was designed for open ocean, hence why the hull is basically a scaled up tuna boat in hydrodynamic design. And please don’t tell me that a nuclear powered or pentahulled escort is a realistic possibility in any but the deepest of fantasy chatrooms.

Sonar 2087 – brilliant at finding submarines in the open ocean. Cock all use in the littoral. An FF with LFAS is pinging away in an environment swamped with noise and with a jagged, reverberating seabed looking for a small, silent SSK. If we are going to go sub hunting in the littoral, we need MPA’s, dipping helicopters, high definition surface search radars and better optics, because the only way you are going to find an SSK is to catch him snorting or fly over the top and see him underwater. So wasting money fitting it to every ship will deny half the fleet a decent gym for little or no advantage.

All of this and more means that for at least the next 50 years, all we need is a large-ish hull, efficient, with good seakeeping qualities. Type 26 at 5400t pretty much ticks that box. It needs space, so new weapons systems, as they are developed, can be installed and the old swapped out without fuss. It needs a centralised command system capable of operating said weapons and sensors. It needs a mast and other physical structures to hold aloft radars and a wet bit to mount sonars of various design (unless we are going to suddenly invent Star-Trek-style sensors in the next few years). It needs a big deck for big helicopters – Chinook is the biggest thing we’ll be flying for years to come. It needs space for a variety of boats and modular payloads, embarked for specialist missions. It needs to be able to go anywhere and support persistent, low-medium intensity ops in the littoral environment. And it needs to be able to look after itself. Type 26 meets all those requirements – and to cost, because we have run out of money. And in doing so, by being flexible and adaptable, it makes it highly exportable as well, because all sorts of national systems can be bolted on where the space and flexibility allows.

As deeply exciting and erotic as large guns and VLS silos and Type 45 might be, just how much have they been used over the last few decades since they were invented COMPARED TO the amount of sea hours put in by little old frigates steaming up and down the waterways of the world? The right ship for the right task.

February 3, 2012 1:38 pm

Multihulls. If you remember, we built one to see if it was a good idea. It wasn’t, so we’re not building any. RV Triton. Nobody else in the world apart from the US operate multihull combatants, and I’m not convinced even they’ve got it right.

February 3, 2012 1:42 pm

Wonder what they saw in the trimaran LCS…

February 3, 2012 2:15 pm

“Dominic, that was wrong. Once Japan secured it’s “Co-prosperity Sphere” it had all the resources it needed.”

And when did Japan secure its co-prosperity sphere exactly?

Before or after it bombed pearl harbour?

It attacked the Dutch East Indies AFTER pearl harbour because it was without a source of oil.

Pearl Harbour was simply an attempt to force the US to back off long for them to create a defendable resource rich empire.

Or certainly, that was my understanding of matters anyway.

February 3, 2012 2:17 pm

The thing about oil and interventions is that by now the U.S. could have cut its oil demand through efficiency gains and substitutes enough at about the costs of the 1980’s-2002 involvement in the Persian Gulf area. The total U.S: crude oil imports from the Persian Gulf area are only a fraction of the USN’s budget.

OIF added so much to the price tag that the whole interventionism became totally uneconomical.

Russia’s gas and oil trade shows another important lesson: It’s not just the consumer who’s dependent, but also the supplier.
In fact, the ones with the greatest interest to keep trade online should be the exporters – and they are the ones who can deal with troubles most efficiently. They need no amphibious ships and aircraft carriers. Some concrete and stuff suffices to build barracks and runways instead.

It’s a losing proposition to try to enforce raw materials import security through military power. Look at what happened to Japan when it attempted to secure its crude oil imports from Dutch Southeast Asia; its navy was the second-strongest and in many details the best, but they still failed miserably,, almost suicidably.

The way to go is to
* diversify sources,
* increase efficiency,
* keep an eye on substitutes,
* preventively drive up prices through taxes if you want the harden an industrial sector against raw material price shocks and to
* invest into the effectiveness of international order through law.

Especially the latter suffers a lot when individual nations send their ships bullying foreign nations – from 1864 Nagasaki to 1982 Sirte and more. It suffers even more if said ships bombard foreign countries with cruise missiles without the political risk of some KIA for the responsible government.

@”Somewhat removed”; the Norwegians use multi-hull fast attack craft and minesweepers.

February 3, 2012 2:20 pm

@SomewhatRemoved: I’m not convinced by the case for Type 26. If all we need is a largeish hull that has potential, why not just carry on building Type 45’s, perhaps minus one of it’s air search radars? We’re not really in the position to be designing two seperate classes of large warships, not even the USN is planning to.

BTW, those VLS silos have had some serious use with TLAM :-)

February 3, 2012 2:41 pm

Yes, the Norwegians use small multihulls for operations in inshore waters at high speed and to provide a stable, low-signature hull for minehunting. But both are massively limited on internal space and limited to brown water ops alone; as TD points out multihulls do not do well in open seas. Chinese have catamarans too; same argument. I’m not convinced by trimarans, but then again I’m not convinced by LCS either – too small, too expensive.

We could build more T45’s but that’s a very big hull. I will always support the mantra of steel is cheap, air is free, but unless you are going to have a viable use for that space then there is no need to add it in. I don’t see many 400-seat buses, do you? Besides, T45’s hull was designed specifically for one purpose – to hold the MFR as high as possible. It’s not necessarily an efficient nor a quiet hull. So along with the steel/air argument we should cut our cloth to fit.

Finally – we’re broke. There is no more money. Where are all those TLAM’s going to come from? The UK economy, let alone Europe’s, is not going to pick up in the next few years (decades?) so again, cut your cloth to fit. But I do understand that VLS is a terribly exciting thing to have, and T26 is strongly rumoured to have a large space assigned for a strike length VLS complex, even if in UK service it will just be a better gym than the towed array winchwell.

February 3, 2012 2:49 pm

Cheers TD – I’ll pass.

February 3, 2012 3:01 pm

“why not just carry on building Type 45′s”

Why indeed.
I must admit, I really dont get why not.
Strip out PAAMS and its cheap as chips.
Easy enough room for a proper sub hunter, a general purpose jack of all trades, or even a fast green death deployer.

February 3, 2012 3:01 pm

@SomewhatRemoved: no harm in having a VLS complex. It’s probably cheaper than even a multi-function launcher when you factor in life cycle costs, and very flexible.

If dipping sonars are the best way of hunting SSK’s in the littorals, how about say 6 small helicopter UAV’s with sonars rather than a Lynx or Merlin? One pair could be up at all times, able to stalk continuously without having to reel in and risk losing the target

My primary reason for continuing to use the T45 design was merely to save the cost of developing another. Once BAE start, there’s no stopping them :-(

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 3, 2012 3:06 pm

Well, if you insist…

DK Brown was quite a fan of SWATH:
” SWATH stand for Small Waterplane Area, Twin Hull. Such vessels have two deeply submerged cylindrical hulls connected by narrow struts to a platform well above the water surface. The submerged hulls are little affected by most waves which leave the platform level, dry, and undisturbed. In the most severe seas, the SWATH will follow the wave surface with motions still much less vigorous than those of a conventional ship.

In waves, the SWATH will be able to maintain speed better than a conventional ship and because it is much steadier, it is able to operate sensors, weapons, and helicopters when others cannot…The US experimental SWATH, Kaimolino. of only 200 tonnes, has shown seakeeping comparable with that of a 2500-tonne monohull sailing in company. Technically. SWATH is a well-proven concept.”

February 3, 2012 3:11 pm


On your last sentence, too right. It’s why we need a Royal Dockyards setup for surface naval building (Babcock do not too awfully so far on subs, we’ll judge by further Astutes.) Old-school nationalisation was a destructive pile of pants (and I say that as a lefty :) but it’s not clear BAe isn’t a worse, privatised version of the same thing now.


I’d get Canberra/JC LHD because it gives you an amphibious CP that doesn’t risk a QE-class too close in, lets said QE concentrate on fast air and ISTAR and drone decoys (per the UAV thread), can load out close to 60% of the SDSR’s 1800-strong ARG in one hull and has more lane space for vehicles and kit than any LHD not marked “US Navy” — *and* the well deck to put it ashore. All, even if you have a large British workshare in fitting out and BAe standard cost overruns, for the same or a little less than one first-run T45. Plus it keeps the one “pure” carrier, one LHD, one swing-role carrier complement in RN service for rotation.


Thanks (no really, for most of it at least) for the detailed opposing argument. I really am going to get back to it but I’m ducking pressures of work just to write this, so it’ll be 4-5 hours. Not trying to ignore.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
February 3, 2012 3:12 pm

Nice pic of a SWATH concept from 1985:


February 3, 2012 4:16 pm

wf, I see your point. In theory the hull is designed, the niggles worked out and it should be an easy build. But I strongly suspect that the hull is not optimised for acoustic stealth nor is the powerplant; it is after all designed for speed over stealth. Fuel economy also comes into play – one of the great advantages of the Type 23 is it’s tremendous range. Plus I still believe the T45 powerplant is a massive fudge, with the two prime movers in different compartments because they too big to fit in side by side, hence we now have two propshafts of different lengths. IEP has evolved since then, so I would argue that it is worthwhile investing in a new hull and powertrain. Also worth considering is the fact that the T45 IEP design is not geared towards flexible propulsion options, whereas T26 apparently has the scope for buyers to specify gas turbines, diesels or a mix.

February 3, 2012 4:17 pm

Just to add to that, one option they were studying along with the trimaran concept was the use of Azipods, combining electric drive, fuel economy and high manoeuvrability. Sadly this seems to have been dropped from the proposals.

February 3, 2012 9:03 pm

@JS: Perhaps rather than a LHD we could just buy another another CVF… :)

Having a single high end escort design makes perfect sense – maybe we cannot afford additional T45s now, but if planned, executed properly and in enough numbers a general purpose T46 makes perfect sense especially if its delayed until mid 2020’s. What would have been the unit price for a T45 be if spread over a total class of 19 vessels?

In the meantime, we should focus on the MHPC, or even better a MHPC / Absalon hybrid.

February 3, 2012 9:12 pm

Catching up…
but just saw a Stanhope interview excerpt RE Martin’s
“Those ships ain’t going to be able to run any longer than that” putting the replacement cycle from 2023 to 2036″
– but how many, that’s the question

February 3, 2012 9:21 pm

@ Repulse

We should just scrap T26 and buy the design of the Danish Iver Huitfeldt class. Fit it with Artisan, SeaCeptor, and the Oto Melar 127mm. Keeping the ASW fit out and Millennium(s). Faster than Abaslon so good for fleet work too and without gas turbine complications.

February 3, 2012 9:32 pm


More money spent on ships whose roles are already filled?

February 3, 2012 9:50 pm

I don’t know what you are driving at…

So I will guess! :)

T45 is too valuable to waste on the gun line. Even if that gun line is a lot further out thanks to modern ammunition.

There is nothing that T26 will give us that IH doesn’t already do. The design exists. It is a CODAD; diesels are cheaper than GTs. Artisan is available. SeaCeptor is near. The gun is proven. 19 escorts isn’t enough.

February 3, 2012 10:41 pm


Except the Danes get that gd value by having the hulls fabricated in estonia and Lithuania which is not uk government policy.

February 3, 2012 11:01 pm

@ Mark

Don’t care! ;) BAE screws us over with the development costs. They are re-inventing the wheel again with T26. I said buy the design not have the Danes et al build them. I didn’t mention the price. Then again if the Danes have the hull blocks built abroad and it works why shouldn’t BAE do the same as long British (English?) yards get all the high end work.

February 3, 2012 11:27 pm

Development costs are tiny for type26 hull. And BAE doesnt get to decide where it can build warships its government policy to use UK yards only for warships. And it government meddling that drives costs up more than the contractors who ever they may be.

February 3, 2012 11:42 pm

I bet by the time BAE are finished it will be a billion. Um. I will be kind I bet it will approach the cost of at least one hull.

I know HMG decides where the work goes, but it is still BAE building the ship. Should I have said if Odense Staalskibsværft have the hull blocks built abroad and it works why shouldn’t BAE do the same? BTW I can just about spell Dane I can’t spell Odense Staalskibsvtyrasdjhg……..

It is odd that we live in country where we have factories and warehouses staffed nearly entirely by East Europeans who send a high proportion of their wages home so money leaves the country, our major ship building centre was to become a foreign country even though they have their government ships built abroad, and yet the idea of having work done abroad in those East European countries is damn near treasonous.

Angus McLellan
Angus McLellan
February 4, 2012 12:07 am

Wouldn’t a major advantage of the Huitfeldt design be that BAE needn’t be involved in the hulls at all? The only BAE yard that’s critical to the RN is Barrow and there’s an adequate workflow planned to keep that open for a long time to come. A&P or Cammell Laird, among others, could fabricate Huitfeldt sections and Babcock could do that and the final assembly too.

February 4, 2012 1:01 am

Given that we’d have to replace almost all of the systems (missiles, radar, sonar etc, the expensive stuff) would it not just make as much sense to build Type 26 here, especially if we can flog some units abroad?