OK, OK, Lets Talk about the Type 26

To start with, how about a moody picture of aType 23, HMS Westminster, to set the scene

Royal Navy Frigate


Then ask yourself if this is a proper use of probably the world’s most effective anti-submarine frigate and definitely the world’s most effective anti submarine helicopter.

Royal Navy Piracy Interdiction
Royal Navy Piracy Interdiction
A Royal Navy Merlin Helicopter Provides Cover for Royal Marines 19/10/2009
A Royal Navy Merlin Helicopter Provides Cover for Royal Marines 19/10/2009
Crew members from Royal Navy Frigate HMS Iron Duke boards a drugs smuggling speedboat
Crew members from Royal Navy Frigate HMS Iron Duke boards a drugs smuggling speedboat




Hold that thought!

As with many future programmes, there is a steady drip drip of information, snippets here and there but not really a great deal of solid information. This should be expected, the project is pre main gate and the final design will not be known for some time. I do have a sneaky suspicion that the information is deliberately released in small tantalising pieces to sustain the online ‘marketing buzz’ rather than to inform any serious debate and have long since stopped commenting on every new blurry video or vague interview, will leave that for others.

Discussion on the previous F35 post veered off into Type 26 territory and whilst in general, I quite like thread creep; it seems about right to do a post on the Type 26.

Start from the Beginning

The beginning of the conversation should start with a look at future risks, tasks and high level means of meeting those tasks and addressing those risks.

The Royal Navy has a requirement for major surface combatants in order to contribute to the national security requirement. Now of course, we might have a discussion about what the armed forces as a whole need to do, how they can address UK strategic objectives and indeed, what those strategic objectives are but that is for another discussion.

Are those strategic needs best met by a cross Saudi Arabia gas pipeline, shale gas exploitation in Blackpool or sending a powerful RN task force to the Gulf of whatever it is called these days are interesting conversations, but for the purpose of this post, lets simply assume that we need a broad set of military capabilities and that includes fighty ships.

We have the Type 45 Destroyers which primarily address the area air defence requirement and the Type 23 might be reasonably characterised as being focused on addresses the threat from under the water and on it.

Many acknowledge that the Type 23 (and not forgetting her crew) is the most potent ASW system anywhere in the world so why change a winning mix?

One thing I do find rather frustrating in these discussions is how one sided they can become, many proponents of a ‘stronger navy’ are quick to relegate the Challenger tank to the TA and slash their number despite them being of continued and demonstrable utility in recent operations, or condemning the Tornado as being a Cold War anachronism despite it being used in every conflict to great effect since the end of the Cold War yet holding the Royal Navy at their pre-eminent Cold War position in the world of anti-submarine warfare is taken as a given.

One might suggest that given the Royal Navy has not faced a credible submarine threat (the Santa Fe doesn’t count) for many decades is an indication about the utility of such capabilities. We have devoted vast sums on the anti-submarine mission but if ones asks if continuing to do so is wise, they look at you as if you have just farted in the presence of Her Majesty whilst malleting a baby seal cub.

[Edit: Jonesy (in comments) made a good point about the Argentine Navy San Luis submarine being a credible threat, fair one, as they say]

We must therefore ask with the same level of rigour that they direct at Tornados and Challengers of the Type 23 and ultimately, the Type 26.

What threat would a Type 26 act against?

On this subject I think we need to think not so much about threats today but potential threats over the next twenty to thirty years. We all understand how a small number of Royal Navy submarines effectively neutered the entire Argentine surface fleet in 1982, submarines have a hugely disproportionate effect, in short, are the most effective sea denial weapon in existence.

Given our defence posture is generally of an expeditionary nature, or fighting in other people’s back yards so we don’t have to do so in our own, we need to consider access denial, or enemy forces stopping us going to where we want to.

Mines, submarines and anti-ship missiles launched from land or the near shore are the most effective means of denying access. We already have an effective MCM capability and to counter anti-ship missiles we have a range of offensive and defensive options so submarines should be considered equally.

One thing is certain, the technology of submarines, especially propulsion, is advancing rapidly and this advancing technology is proliferating equally as rapidly so the threat is both real today and increasingly real tomorrow.

Modern SSK’s have extremely low thermal, magnetic and acoustic signatures, using fuel cells and high capacity batteries reduces vibration to almost zero, slow speed propellers that turn at less than 20 revolutions per minute, small size, extremely precise maneuverability that allows them to exploit sea bottom topography and even shipwrecks to hide among and hull shaping and coatings to reduce sonar returns makes them one of the most difficult threats to counter.

I am not actually sure of the threat of modern submarines and the impact of modern technology is truly appreciated by many.

So if the submarine is a serious threat, and it is, then we need to be serious about countering it.

A secondary, but not by much, role for the Type 26 is surface/land attack and in some missions will be its primary role and might be fulfilled in a hostile environment.

Design Philosophy

Quite simply, the Type 23 Frigates are approaching the end of their planned service life but could we extend their life would be my first question.

We see life extension programmes across many defence equipments and we are poorer than a church mouse who has just taken out a payday loan.

We also have many other pulls on the finite defence Pound.

If this is not feasible then fair enough, there may be many engineering, stability, spares availability and operating cost reasons why it makes sense to procure new ships with the latest components and automation systems that reduce manning

We have of course contracted with BAE to carry out the initial design studies for Type 26 so this question of extended the Type 23’s seems moot, but hey, why not?

With the caveat that we don’t actually know what the final design will look like, there are many that accuse the Type 26 of pouring old wine into new bottles, very little innovation and no imagination

Given that we are migrating most of the combat relevant systems from the Type 23, the Type 26 will not be a step change in operating capabilities like the Type 45 was compared to the Type 42, it is an opinion that is easy to find sympathy with.

My opinion on this, as you might anticipate, is that taking this low risk approach makes a lot of sense.

If the MoD is to regain financial credibility and start delivering on what it promises, reducing risk and adopting an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach seems wholly sensible and if the new wine bottle has growth room and low maintenance costs even better.

The second question would be what can be reused from the Type 45 and CVF design and build process.

The idea of a Batch 2 Type 45 sans Sea Viper does have some appeal, maximising commonality and reducing design and operating costs across the RN surface fleet as a whole but I think the time to grasp this opportunity has passed and many make the point that the design of the Type 45 is sub optimal for the ASW mission, so much so that cost and commonality benefits would be outweighed by operational compromise.

Seems reasonable

An ASW optimised Type 45 Batch 2 might actually end up being a new design anyway so we should concentrate on optimising the Type 26 for the mission, not shoehorning that mission into an unsuitable design. We could still take advantage of many of the sub systems in Type 45 and I would expect this to be the norm in any case. If, for example, accommodation or internal communications systems are not common between the two designs then we should be asking why bloody not.

Many benefits accrue from this type of sub system commonality; even having the same deep fat fryers (chips, for the use of) saves money across the fleet maintenance budget.

The final issue to address before we get to the slide rule is to ask that eternally unanswerable question, multi role or specialised?

Although by definition, all modern warships are multi role it has been Royal Navy practice to flex designs towards specialism.

One argument says that in an age of reducing hull numbers we simply cannot afford to have specialists and a single batch of multi role ‘universal escorts’ should be our goal but there is a competing argument that says the exact opposite, instead, we must leverage our technology advantages to the maximum and make each class of ship the very best they can be at their primary role, this means divergent design and specifications.

The Type 45 is a good example of the latter, at the expense of ASW and surface attack they are single mindedly focussed on AAW.

Driving the desire for multi role vessels is the simple fact that for the majority of their time, those primary roles will remain largely unused. The Type 45 might conduct any number of missions for which the Sea Viper and associated systems are totally overkill, thus creating the impression of expensive gold plating. By so called gold plating we pay the penalty in hull numbers and limitations in the ability to deliver the 90% of day to day requirements that are predicated on actually having a hull in any location.

The argument that it is easier for a Type 45 to conduct an anti-piracy mission than it is for an anti-piracy corvette to conduct an area air defence mission is well made but this assumes that we live in a land of unlimited funding.

[Edit: APATS (in comments) corrected this in so much that an anti piracy corvette cannot do the area AAW role at all, not a case of better or worse, another fair point]

It is one of those endless circular arguments but my opinion, for what it is worth, is that it is better to rely on our hard won qualitative advantages even at the expense of lower quantities. This means, in practice, that I would sacrifice quantity for quality to such a degree that it provides a smaller but high end core and enough funding for proper low end capabilities for those 90% of times when we don’t need to hunt submarines or down Mig 29’s.

A two tier fleet in other words with a wide disparity between the two, so no C1 and C2 in old money and no ASW/GP split in the latest Type 26 discussions.

When we actually need it, and one day we will, I want the ASW capabilities of the RN to be tip top, even if that means a lower quantity and accepting the operational and defence planning scale limitations that this results in.

If we look at how a Type 26 might be deployed across a range of standing and contingent commitments it should be obvious that the majority of them will be as singletons and not needing those ASW capabilities or Sea Ceptor. Using the standing tasks to define hull numbers of top end ships seems a poor justification and short sighted.

The top end vessel numbers should be based on realistic operational assumptions where those operations will actually make use of the full breadth of those very expensive capabilities, not on how many times a year we should be using them for smuggling interdiction and disaster relief.

An opposing view is that hull numbers are the most important consideration, capabilities can be sacrificed and the fitted for but not with approach to hoping for future improvements can eventually deliver both quality and quantity.

It is an equally valid approach.

One of my previous suggestions for all three services was the ‘capability plus’ model that sees a wide spectrum of high end capabilities maintained, but crucially at a scale that is appropriate for those high end capabilities and achievable, not the hum drum of day to day ‘less than war’ commitments for which they are gold plated.

It is that well-worn cliché about going to the shops in a Ferrari every day when you only go racing once a decade. I still want the ability to win that race though, but financial reality means I might have to accept trade-offs. So, a small but very hard core surrounded by selected capabilities that provide influence in coalition operations and utility in the most likely kinds of operations we tend to find ourselves in.

The Royal Navy has a unique perspective on what many call gold plating when compared with the proud owners of MEKO’s, FREMM’s etc and that is it has actually learned these lessons the hard way in recent memory, it is this that has driven the uniquely high specification of the Type 45 and should equally drive the same specification of the Type 26 because the likelihood is that the Royal Navy will likely use them in action, and the others won’t.

This may be a harsh viewpoint but still I think valid.

We should therefore have a no compromise attitude to capabilities.

In summary, a top end Type 26 design, optimised for ASW and surface attack, sacrificing numbers if needed in order to fund more numerous but lower end vessels and other capabilities. This lower end, at least for me, does not mean another Type 26 with no Sonar 2087 but a genuinely low end and cheap Ford Transit type vessel, for example, those Black Swan, Venator, SIMSS type concepts we have been discussing.

Therefore, I would like the design of the Type 26 to concentrate laser like on its…


War fighting capabilities


Might have to go outside and have a word with myself now.

And very definitely not how many ISO containers it can carry on its flex deck for humanitarian supplies. (did I really just say that!)


The contract for the Assessment Phase of the Type 26 was for four years at a cost of £127 million. I must admit to having some trouble with the length of time and cost for this, assuming the low ambition and high degree of reuse from the Type 23/45 but if it produces a stable design that enables production to commence at a reasonable cost then who am I to argue!

People might look at other nation’s designs like the SIGMA, MEKO or FREMM for example and wonder why we can’t just buy from them but it is the government’s industrial policy to retain onshore the ability to design and manufacture complex warships with complex weapons.

This means BAE will be designing and building the Type 26 whether anyone likes it or not and because of the advantages of onshore design and build feeding money back into the economy they might not seem as expensive as imagined.

Whether Type 26 will actually find partner nations or overseas customers in such a crowded and well provisioned market is debatable. India and Brazil have been mooted as potential partners rather than simple export customers but instead of the whole ship, I tend to think we should concentrate on the export potential for sub systems like weapons, propulsion, combat management systems, sensors and countermeasures but we will see how the export potential of Type 26 plays out.

We also have the 15 year Terms of Business Agreementwith BAE to consider, the build rate and location might dictate the overall cost, capability and quantity mix.


Once we have decided to build the ships we must look at systems and as usual, a complex mix of requirements and trade-offs will need to be considered.

Propulsion, Hull and Engineering

The ASW mission influences the hull design and means of propulsion, the ability to tow a sonar array and carry out ‘sprint and drift’ with a low acoustic signature is essential to anti-submarine warfare. Whether this will continue to be the preferred tactic or off-board meshed sensors carried on UAV’s will become the preferred option in the future might inform discussion, but in the timescales that the Type 26 design must be finalised i.e. now (or even a few months ago), those traditional concepts will still be relevant.

There are many variations on a theme when it comes to propulsion systems and modern developments provide even greater options, LNG and fuel cells anyone?

The Type 45 design required a significant investment in propulsion and power generation and we would be silly not to leverage that investment, even if the electric propulsion system of the Type 45 is not completely suitable for the Type 26. CODLOG stands for Combined Diesel Electric or Gas, the diesel is used to power an electrical generator with the turbine being used to provide increased levels of power for high speed sprinting. The propellers are then driven by electric motors, themselves powered by the diesels or gas turbines through generators.

The Intercooled and Recuperated (ICR) WR-21 is based on RB-211 and Trent technology and is designed to provide high levels of economy at part loads, in comparison with other turbines which are inefficient at anything less than full load. The cost of the WR-21’s and associated machinery was £84 million for all 6 Type 45’s. Click here for a detailed document on integration details for the WR-21, very interesting reading for people like me who don’t have a clue!

By using the Rolls Royce WR-21 turbine, the same as the Type 45, we can provision a simple extension to the recently signed 6 year £20m support contract that uses the Class Output Management approach, or contracting for availability.

The higher power (36kW instead of 25kW) Rolls Royce MT-30 turbine, based on the Trent, will be used in CVF. If we went for the MT-30 then it would equally make sense to combine the support arrangements with CVF.

Either option provides commonality benefits, very neat.

Rolls Royce are developing a more compact variant of the MT-30 and some reports indicate that this combined with 2 MTU diesels will be the preferred option for Type 26, although the final configuration remains unclear, as much of the Type 26 is.

The South African Navy’s A-200 Meko ships have an interesting propulsion concept called CODAG-WARP, this stands for Combined Diesel and Gas – Water jet And Refined Propeller. A pair of 6,000kW MTU diesel engines drive two controllable pitch propellers through a combining gearbox and should high speed be needed, a GE LM 25000 turbine kicks in and powers a waterjet style propulsor. It is quite a simple system and has a reasonable degree of resilience because any one of the diesel engines can power both props. Other configurations might see each diesel only driving one shaft and therefore eliminating the need for a complex gearbox that combines the output from the two engines, reducing complexity and cost even more. Further enhancements to the propulsor/waterjet design such as injecting compressed gas into the flow might offer significant thrust increases without additional power requirements.

Power cells, hybrid diesel/LNG and high performance batteries are rapidly maturing, driven by the need to reduce fuel consumption in large commercial ships. It might be a step to far for the Type 26 but in an all-electric integrated propulsion set up that has the ability to drive conventional fixed or variable pitch propellers, azipods, waterjets or any combination thereof using either LNG/diesel engines, gas turbines, fuel cells or even batteries makes for an interesting proposition. The noise disadvantages of azipods and waterjets might rule them out of a Type 26 design though, with a conventional pair of fixed pitch propellers offering the best solution and whether operating on batteries or zero vibration fuel cells would offer appreciable external noise reduction over any other power source is again, open for debate.

Wartisla have an interesting brochure on naval propulsion including the WARP system mentioned above, click hereto have a read and another on reducing noise here.

Many horses for many courses here but the balancing act between economy, straight out performance and acoustic signature should be skewed to combat performance in its primary ASW role.

This is not to say fuel economy is unimportant and there are many ways of reducing fuel use ranging from hull coatings to transom flaps, specifying energy efficient lighting or low power electronic equipment but these should not be allowed to compromise combat capabilities.

One factor that is inescapable is the rising cost of people so any new design should utilise the maximum level of automation to reduce the number of crew, within the bounds of maintaining sensible levels of resilience and workload. Modern systems also have reduced maintenance requirements and this should also both reduce crew numbers and maintenance cost.

Boat deck, mission deck or flex deck, take your pick. This should be a large component of the design, not I hasten to add, so we can carry humanitarian supplies or go all multi-role, but to accommodate future unmanned surface and sub-surface vessels in support of the primary mission.

Whether this is underneath the flight deck or more central on the superstructure is a detailed point but for the intended role, not sure it makes a great deal of difference either way.

One factor we should expect from a new design is that of signature reduction and/or management. One would imagine a great deal of work will have gone into this aspect of the new design.

Sensors and Systems

Having invested so much money in BAE/QinetiQ ARTISAN Type 997 3D E/F-band radar and other electro optical and ESM systems across the Type 45 and Type 23 it would seem basic common sense to fit them to the Type 26. One might argue the finer points of performance between one radar system or another but the simple fact is, those arguments are moot, click here for a datasheet.

The Thales integrated mast concept is said to provide a number of benefits and I think it would be worthy of serious consideration for the Type 26.

Sonar 2087 is a very high specification Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) fitted to 8 of the Type 23’s. Although it was primarily designed for blue water operation it still has a great deal of utility on the Type 26, despite the increasing trend towards operations in shallower waters.

Sonar 2087
Sonar 2087


Detection in shallow waters is a problem because underwater obstacles might prevent the safe deployment of long towed arrays, fresh/sea water mixes, tidal impacts on water conditions, unpredictable and variable salinity/temperature, reflections from the sea bed and underwater obstacles and even concerns about underwater wildlife may limit the use of low frequency devices. Ambient and directional noise from manmade and natural sources also confuses the overall acoustic picture.

Because of the smaller areas involved accurate sea bed surveys and sediment analysis, sometimes called Rapid Environmental Assessments can be used for ASW. This kind of technology and processes are more often used for survey and mine countermeasures but research continues at a pace and one capability may very well utilise another. We might see the kinds of USV’s now routinely used for covert survey and seabed analysis carried aboard a Type 26 in the future. Other promising research avenues include exploiting so called ‘non-cooperative’ sound sources of opportunity, other ships that just happen to be in the area for example. The returns from these can be passively received into the detection and analysis software, cunning eh.

To cover the shallow water detection requirement active dipping sonars from a Merlin helicopter and hull mounted high frequency sonars seem to be the way to go for the short term although the subject is a fiendishly complex one, real science.

In the future, these higher frequency systems may be operated from unmanned surface vessels or even helicopter type UAV’s with sensor information relayed back to the Type 26 or an airborne Merlin.

The hull mounted Type 2050 sonar on the Type 23’s has a long and complex history but the base product is now part of the Thales UMS 4110 family and utilises much of the processing and display console systems as the CAPTAS 4 or 2087.

There is also potential for small unmanned aircraft able to use thermal, radar or even engine particulate detectors to contribute to the ASW mission and I will cover these in the aviation section, later.

The same Increment F COBLU CESMsystem as installed on the Type 45 would be another desirable equipment fit and the same, or modernised, broad range of communications, electronics and data link equipment as fitted to the Type 45/23 including the recently announced UAT upgrade.

DNA(2) combat management system as fitted to the Type 23’s, yet again, seems an obvious candidate for a simple transfer as long as it can make use of modern, adapted off the shelf, computing equipment.

Most of the sensors on Type 26 will therefore be from existing programmes, either direct transfer of equipment from the Type 23’s or more of the same from other vessels.

There may be opportunities for modest incremental upgrades and a technology refresh, making greater use of modern computing systems for example, but in general, a sensible and evolutionary approach, building upon investments already made.


Countermeasures are not often discussed but are advancing all the time.

There are many military off the shelf systems from Rheinmetall and Terma. The most common is the SeaGnat decoy system which uses what might be described as a mortar to fire a range of IR, Chaff and Active Decoy rounds to confuse and seduce incoming missiles.

Chemring manufacture the NATO Standard Chaff round but also produce a newer range of slightly larger rounds including IRand RFrounds. To support increasingly larger decoy payloads they have also created an oversize round that still uses the 130mm form factor called the Large Payload Carrier.

Type 23 frigates also use the BAe SIRENso again, a straight transfer might be the most appropriate solution.

Instead of using the traditional fixed tube launchers Chemring have recently developed the Centurion trainable launcher that can carry 12 130mm rounds.

The Airborne Systems IDS300 inflatable RF decoy as fitted to Type 45 Destroyers could also be fitted.

Short range protection against torpedoes could be provided by the Ultra Sonar S2170 Sea Sentor Surface Ship Torpedo Defence System that comprises an acoustic passive towed array, towed acoustic countermeasure, single-drum winch, processing cabinet, display consoles, 2 expendable acoustic device launchers and 16 expendable acoustic devices.

It is an impressive system and in already service with the Royal Navy.

Close in Weapons

Beyond the manually aimed automatic weapons a modest upgrade path might include deck mounted remotely aimed medium calibre weapons like the MSI 30mm systems currently fitted to many RN vessels.

MSI Defence has also developed the Seahawk SIGMA, a remote controlled system that mounts a 30mm ATK Bushmaster cannon and a 7 cell launcher for the Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile. It is a compact, relatively low cost mount, already in service (in its basic form without missiles) with the Royal Navy and appropriate in terms of firepower.

MSI Seahawk Sigma 30mm ATK and Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)
MSI Seahawk Sigma 30mm ATK and Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)


Although the effectiveness of the Phalanx CIWS has been called into question, as part of a layered air defence system, combined with countermeasures and the Sea Ceptor it should hopefully provide sufficient protection and easily transferred from the vessels going out of service. It also has an upgrade path to SeaRAM and even future directed energy weapons, using the same basic, non deck penetrating mount.

The latest video snippets on Type 26 show them mounted between the Sea Ceptor missiles and main gun and on the roof of the hangar.

If space can be found for the lightweight Stingray torpedo great, but not sure of it is necessarily a vital system given the range of other weapons available, looks good for Top Trumps though!


The Type 23’s Sea Wolf missiles will start the upgrade path to Sea Ceptor before the Type 26 build process and Sea Ceptor will also be fitted to Type 26.

A number of silo arrangements are possible, using a Sea Ceptor specific design or quad packing in Sylver silos, multiple versions have appeared in the various marketing videos released so far.

Although using them in Sylver silos might make sense from a commonality perspective this would come down to a straight cost comparison, especially given that on a Type 26, the silos will likely be used exclusively for Sea Ceptor.

The simple dedicated silo arrangement might make more sense.

Surface and Land Attack

Surface and land attack should be the main secondary mission for the Type 26.

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.


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 (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.

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

Moving away from the 4.5” Mk8 main gun is attractive but it is not an automatic decision, with barrel wear, maintenance costs, commonality with the Type 45 and ammunition stocks for the Mk8 all be considered before looking at the inducements on offer from others.

Naval Gunfire Support has a great deal of utility and used much more often that many of the more esoteric systems, the Falklands, Iraq and Libya being recent outings; it is much cheaper than using air delivered munitions if circumstances permit and can use a graduated force model where a well aimed smoke or illumination round that signals loud and clear the next one will be of the type that goes bang can influence subsequent activity or neutralise threats both on land and at sea.

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 but how reliable they are now apparently an open question. 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 now 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 Lightweightversion 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 round but Oto Melara have continued to persevere and have introduced the Vulcano range of munitions.

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

The Type 26 doesn’t necessarily need the precision guided ammunition straight away, it would provide a simple upgrade path and despite doubts about the explosive content of guided shells it would still offer a significant upgrade, have the potential to reduce the need (therefore cost) for air delivered precision munitions and allow the Royal Navy to take advantage of a mature user base.


When we discuss missiles for the Type 26 many people automatically assume that it should include Tomahawk and whilst having diversity of launch platform is always ‘a good thing’ it would take up a lot of space and add significant cost as we would need to introduce the US Mk 41 vertical launch silo.

I am not sold on the idea of Tomahawk on Type 26 for that reason.

A post Libya Jane’s 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.

It 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

More on this last one later.

Complimenting a large calibre main gun could be the Harpoon missiles transferred from the Type 23’s or even a purchase of the Naval Strike Missile from Kongsberg. This will also be integrated onto the F35 so commonality benefits could be realised if we chose to purchase it for the F35’s, unlikely, but it is an option.

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.

I tend to think that Fireshadow makes a lot more sense in a maritime environment than it does on land.

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 bun fight between the RAF and RN.

The latest video from BAE seems to have deleted the Harpoon missile fit from previous incarnations but if a simple empty space for future missile armament like that found on the Absalon be incorporated into the Type 26 design it would provide a simple means of improving the attack capability of the Type 26.



If we do end up upgrading to the 127mm gun from Oto Melara we have the potential for precision engagement out to 70km with a potential to extend that to 120km although sacrificing explosive content. The Fire Shadow again provides a measure of precision engagement out to about 150km at a low cost and the NSM to the same range but with different utility for different targets and a higher cost.

It could be argued that this is enough and integration of either the NSM or FireShadow would not present insurmountable problems because they are both compact and relatively lightweight.

I still like the concept of a maritime version of GMLRS/ATACMS as mentioned by Col Pierson RM, above, for precision fire out to 300km with a large payload but this seems a remote possibility and we wouldn’t want to be pissing on Storm Shadow/CVF/JCA’s chips now would we?

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.

300km, or 160nm circles are below, just as a random illustration of range, don’t read too much into the centre of the circles, they are just examples.







What was that about 90% of the world’s population living within 10 miles of the coast again?

A single podded launcher able to launch 70/150/300km precision land attack weapons would offer a genuine step change in capabilities and although I tend to avoid predicting development costs, it would not seem to be hugely expensive because they would be in lightweight sealed canisters, reuse completely existing rockets with only the engineering challenges of moderate stabilisation and exhaust management issues to resolve.

There may be simple design rather than engineering answers to some of these or simply accepting compromises. Instead of reloading at sea, accept that it is an alongside task, instead of expensively making everything corrosion resistant, 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 at right angles to the axis of the ship thus facilitating exhaust management.

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.

IMI also make the 150km EXTRA rocket that fits two to a G/MLRS pod or the 180km DELILAH.

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

The pictures below (I think) are of the Chinese Navy and Romanian Navy having a dabble with the concept.

Rockets at Sea Rockets at Sea



If I could choose one development item for the Type 26, this would be it.

Not going to happen though, is it?

Over the horizon targeting does not necessarily have to be organic to the ship although that would be extremely useful, will cover it in the next section.


If the design could accommodate a hangar for two Merlin’s that should be a no brainer, of course, a compromise design for a Wildcat and Merlin or a Wildcat and couple of unmanned aircraft might be equally flexible but all things being equal, the larger the hangar the better.

Helicopters and UAV’s provide the full range of utility, ISR and offensive capabilities.

Merlin HM2 will be the normal embarked helicopter but Wildcat or other types might be carried as needed.

Retaining the Type 45’s ability to accommodate a Chinook on the flight deck should be retained.

Merlin HM2 is an incredibly powerful system and perfectly suited to the ASW mission but it might be equally sensible not to carry any at all and use the space for Wildcat, retaining flexibility is the key.

Stingray lightweight torpedoes and the Lightweight Multirole Missile plus automatic weapons complete the armament for the Type 26

A few different configurations have been shown for the LMM on Wildcat, either 5 or 7 tube launchers.

Wildcat Helicopter
Wildcat Helicopter
Wildcat Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile LMM
Wildcat Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile LMM

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 surface 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 and the Type 26 will be no exception

A few options from the sweet shop;

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.

Gizmag wrote a good article last year on the Camcopter 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.

The Camcopter is in service with the UAE, being introduced into 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!

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.

One was lost over Libya though.

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 by BAe.

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.

The compact launch and recovery equipment is reportedly very easy to use.

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.

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

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 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 certain sensor payloads.

Click here for a brochure.

Two payloads that will be of particular interest in the ASW role are the Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and diesel engine particulate detector.

Using these in combination with the hull and helicopter based systems would seem to cover all the bases for deep and shallow water ASW.

Gazelle and SW4

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.

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 is scheduled for ‘this year’

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


The Type 23 is probably at the end the growth curve so it is good to see the emerging conceptual Type 26 designs having growth provision. It is not just about empty space but ensuring power systems can accommodate extra load, using blown fibre, making sure computing systems can exploit improvements in commercial advances and many other factors.

Within the lifespan of the Type 26 we may well see the emergence of off board unmanned air, surface and sub-surface vehicles that use mesh network technology, creating an all seeing mosaic from multiple micro sensors. Merlin might be used to control a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles, each carrying half a dozen sonobouys and an engine particulate detector.

Type 26 must be in a position to exploit these emerging technologies.

Growth potential might actually be the single most compelling argument for Type 26.

Numbers and Wider Context

This is the golden question.

Given my arguments above for a ‘hard as woodpecker lips’ central core that is only used for the full on fighty stuff I would settle for reduced numbers as long as a few things happened.

First, a fundamental re-appraisal of the RN’s standing tasks, how they are provisioned and a realisation that you can’t get two pints out of an egg cup. A reduced in number and reduced in length (for Type 26 and Type 45) deployments will equally reduce separated service times and aid retention whilst still providing opportunities for career progression and variety on other platforms. I do not want more pressure on RN personnel, I don’t find longer harmony guidelines something to brag about and when the you know what hits the fan I want RN personnel equipped with the very best and at the peak of their training efficiency, however infrequently it might happen.

Second, we really do invest in quality on a continual basis and that includes high intensity, realistic training at a scale and in groups of vessels that provides maximum benefit against the primary role, fighting and winning. This means a singleton deployment of a Type 26 on tasks such as anti-piracy, as useful as they are for defence diplomacy and training and a variety of other things, would be the exception. When a Type 26 deploys, it should generally go mob handed with other vessels and fully tooled up in the expectations that things will cut up rough. That means no anti piracy, smuggling or humanitarian assistance missions as a means of justifying numbers, these are for others nations and other RN/RFA ships.

Third, in accepting sacrifices in numbers there must be a pay-off in terms of provisioning other capabilities such as UAV’s, investment in ASW research and development and the creation of a second tier fleet of Black Swans, Venators or SIMSS, more investment in MCM and amphibious ship to shore capabilities that can do the majority of so called ‘peace time taskings’ and address capability shortfalls that seem to be continually identified in lesson learned document after lesson learned document.

Much like my thoughts on needing fewer fast jets and more ISR/SH/AT, this is in the same vein, it is not a smash and grab on ones services budget to assist another, simply a re-appraisal of how best that same budget can be used. Type 26 is not just a like for like replacement and should not be thought of thus, despite what the those crusty old Admirals and Think Tanks would have you believe, muttering about Nelsons heart and the want of frigates, we need to think a little more seriously about things these days because we don’t have the cash to do otherwise.

Now I accept that this is unlikely to happen and hey, it’s only the internet but I thought I would be a little bit provocative because the sensible posts don’t seem to attract much discussion :)

We want eight and we won’t wait, how about 6 Type 26 instead?

Has anyone spit out their cornflakes yet?


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May 22, 2012 1:27 pm

Does anybody know the precise dimensions of the F35b’s internal weapons bay? :)

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 22, 2012 1:41 pm


Interesting article, possibly a bit too detailed to be taken in at a single sitting although noboby will ever be able to accuse you of skimping on the detail.

However a couple of points to ponder –

Do you have detail on the ongoing T23 upgrade programme?
Ships / kit / timing / costs?

Do you have detail on the costs of the GT buy for the T45 class?
The figure you give of £84mill for the class is new to me and seems a bit low?

With your suggestion of going to 6 do you have any thoughts on what would replace the 2 ASW and the 5 GP hulls of the current T23 roster?

Is the Merlin the most appropriate platform for helo ASW?
I ask because it is not a successful civil platform and it is a bit big / expensive / servicing unfriendly?

Do you have any extra info on Naval 155mm developments?
Looking for some understanding where the land version is going, its cost base and what needs to be sorted before it gets its feet wet?

Stephen C
Stephen C
May 22, 2012 2:14 pm

In terms of hull numbers, one thing that I’ve been running through my head is the importance of our European allies in the event of a Libya or Lebanon (’06) crisis.
We think of escort numbers in terms of how many we need to do things by ourselves. Would increasing our ties with the Dutch and French to joint-force composition task groups be the way to go, despite public scepticism on Europe in general? The UK-Netherlands Landing Force could be made more formalised within the EU Battlegroup concept, and expanded to naval assets. There’s a lot to this that I might not have thought through, but how does this sound?
The EU NAVFOR off Somalia is centred around a French heli-carrier and it’s own national escorts, enhanced by willing EU partners; potential source for inspiration/confidence?

As for 6 T45s and 6 T26s for 2 CVs, 2 LHDs, and multiple auxillaries; you know, I hate the looks of that roster, but it is close to the composition of the Spanish fleet. Now I grant that they have less standing commitments, but their escort units are meant to be dedicated to task group protection/multi-national contribution.
I know little of the details regarding Spain, but if it works for them strategically, could we follow suit except with the addition of numurous low-end (but high diplomatic) impact vessels? We sure as hell can afford it more than Spain can at the moment in fairness!

May 22, 2012 2:23 pm

unless we are talking about a 8000 tonne through desk cruiser embarking two merlin asw then my short answer is: not less than twelve.

i am led to undrstand that a single asw frigate cannot provide area defense for a task group, therefore we need two, and thus double the number of t45’s planned.

the thirteenth can be thrown in the 1.4b MHCP pot to buy a few more black swans.

May 22, 2012 2:32 pm

Good Post as usual TD.

As Russia has announced recently, that it is going to rebuild their submarine fleet. Whilst other Nations are also building up their Sub Fleets. I don’t think that cutting UK ASW hulls is a good idea. A Minimum of 10 ASW T26’s might be enough. Whilst 15+ Black Swan Sloops or equivalent for the boring Colonial Policing and MCM/Surveying Roles.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 22, 2012 2:34 pm


– Re: Does anybody know the precise dimensions of the F35b’s internal weapons bay?

NSM is said to fit inside the F-35B internal bay. Length 3.95m. The bay’s are not a perfect box.

May 22, 2012 2:34 pm

Great read (really long…) :)

One important point I think relates to the ship’s engine systems and future adaptability. In this regard, a full-electric system is definitely the way to go. This is, I think, my favorite part of the T45 – huge amounts of room for future adaptability in terms of more powerful sensors, computers, and other systems. Although I realize that carrying over the T45 power systems to a smaller T26 isn’t feasible, I still think that a full-electric system is the only feasible way to go if you want any reasonable adaptability for the future.

Now, if only we could convince the USN to build more DDG-1000, instead of their hair-brained Burke Flight III plans…

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 22, 2012 2:40 pm
May 22, 2012 2:41 pm

@ Jedibeeftrix re Merlin numbers

Absalon has space for 2 on 6500t.

Brown did a sketch for 6000t design to carry 4.

I don’t understand the problem young sir.


Not for nothing is Merlin known as the Flying Frigate; it is freakin’ awesome. The only downer is that the RN doesn’t see the need for it carry an ASM unlike out Italian friends. I would happily scrap two T26 if it meant another 2 squadrons of ASW Merlin (plus ASM). True sea control asset.


Thank you kind sir. ;)

El Sid
El Sid
May 22, 2012 2:48 pm

By the time you’ve added all your toys, you’re going to need a lot of space topsides. And as you go through your list I kept thinking “Hmm – that could go in a VLS tube…and that….and that”. VTOL ISR? There’s a VLS drone for that. Fire Shadow? Fits SYLVER or Mk41. Tomahawk – ditto, would obviously need some integration work with SYLVER but would be cheaper than stuffing Storm Shadow into A50. Stingray? Bit short-ranged on its own for modern use, but if it was in an ASROC package… Sea Ceptor – quad packable. I could wait until T26 Batch II though.

On fixed wing drones – don’t forget the RQ-7 Shadow with Shadow Hawk munitions which the USN has flown from ships – it uses a similar rail launcher to Fire Shadow etc.

In answer to your original question – I think the T26 is the right answer over SLEPing the T23. The current hulls are being stretched way beyond their intended purpose as TA tugs, all the systems have been upgraded but now it’s the hull that’s the problem. Better handling for small boats and UUVs is at the top of the list, and accommodation for Marines/SBS is becoming increasingly important.

Kinda off-topic but you did mention AIS in passing – Galrahn on ID posted this fantastic talk from one of the guys behind Google Maps on their take on information warfare using consumer technology. I hadn’t heard that for a couple of $m they’ve launched a couple of small satellites that can track AIS across the globe – would be very handy for pirates. The bit on mapping the ocean bottom has unfortunately been redacted but you can imagine the possibilities there. The stuff about virtual reconstructions of buildings based solely on people’s holiday snaps is just…cool. Well, well worth an hour of your time.


May 22, 2012 2:50 pm


Solid piece of work again. One thing did leap out:

“One might suggest that given the Royal Navy has not faced a credible submarine threat (the Santa Fe doesn’t count) for many decades is an indication about the utility of such capabilities”

Santa Fe does not count indeed, but, the San Luis most definitely did. Just as our Fleet subs gave their surface units an insurmountable problem that one little German SSK had us hopping about torpedoing hapless marine mammals left right and centre. The initial conviction that Shiny Sheff had been torpedoed was indication of the clear unease at our inability to localise and deal decisively with that threat caused in the Fleet.

Back in the day everything ASW was blue water, deep sound channels, thermoclines and towed-array envy. SSK’s sneaking round bumping rocks in the littoral were generally Scandinavian and intended for anti-invasion defence i.e torpedoing Soviet LST’s!. No-one paid a lot of attention as no one was really interested in working out how to defeat that kind of threat….we didnt drive the Sov LSTs!.

Until it turned out we had to. Then the Scandinavians laughed mightily and told us we should have listened to them in the first place!. Everyone else suddenly caught on to the idea of listening to the Scandinavians talk about littoral sub ops. The upshot of that work hangs off the back of the T23’s and will port across to the 26’s.

ASW is still very relevant, in fact, it is moreso now as many states, some with a fair degree of antipathy towards us, have cottoned on to the fact they can get just as much deterrent effect, on an aggressor, with relatively cheap sea denial as opposed to relatively expensive sea control!. Dropping below 8 2087 ships I dont think we want to do and if we can augment that in the littoral with ASW-USV (or similar) off the non-2087 T26’s or off the tier-2 hull so much the better!.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 22, 2012 2:51 pm

First of all, a very thorough post and an enjoyable read. I agree with the majority of your conclusions but have a few points as per usual.

1. It is not easier for a T45 to do piracy than a Corvette. The is better at Piracy and can do area air defence. The Corvette can do piracy but cannot do area air defence. So you do not get area air defence without the 45 and for the piracy to be done by a Corvette you must buy both or accept the capability loss. This is nicely swept up later in your post.

2. Some of the standing tasks we have such as ATP(S)/FIGs and the standing commitment in the Gulf are FF/DD type tasks for a reason. Could we have them done by less capable “war fighters”? For if we were to accept going down to 8 fully booted and spurred (T26), I will return to my ideas on that separately. In order to gain 8-10 Smaller vessels for the rest of the T26 budget then these smaller vessels have to be capable of completing the tasks and free up our escorts to concentrate on escort duties, operating in company and maintaining a high degree of readiness in core war fighting roles.

a. If we decided to say bugger the Argies sensitivities and upgrade the FI defences by giving airfield defence to the RAF regt and cycling a larger number of Army assets through for “training purposes” then we could potentially accept the loss of the FF/DD presence. Especially if it was replaced with 2 of the new “tier 2” vessels (had to call them something). The design would have to be capable of operating in SA conditions.
b. The problem with the Gulf unit is more difficult to resolve and with our reduced escort numbers I do not want to tie down any to provide this presence. Here again the solution may be tot think outside the box. Speak to the US to see how much of our presence is flag waving and how much capability based support to 5th Fleet. The MCMVs definitely offer a different capability but does an FF/DD? If that is the case we could forward base another 2 of our “tier 2 assets in Bahrain in order to show our continued support.

Realising I have already forward deployed 4 out of my 8-10 then why not in for a penny in for a pound and send 2 to the Caribbean and a 3rd to bahrain allowing them to also cover anti piracy.

As these “tier 2” vessels are coming out of the T26 budget they should not affect the River class and with Clyde returned to the Uk she could either supplement the FPS or be used for patrolling coastal waters. The remaining 1-3 “tier 2” vessels would be retained in the UK for training.

Have just realised that I do not have enough to allow ships companies to rotate back to a UK based vessel every 6 months so manning will require some careful consideration.

Anyway my initial thoughts on how we “may” be able to cope with less top end assets.

May 22, 2012 2:58 pm

Lots of missile and gun options there, but if the primary mission is anti-submarine, what of the anti-sub weapons? Are depth charges and whatever ASW Merlins drop still the right answer, so not considered further?

Another thought: at what point does a guided torpedo turn itself into more of a USV with a warhead, doing a lot of its’ own acquisition, loitering, etc? Sort of like an underwater Fire Shadow.

May 22, 2012 3:06 pm

…that would be a recoverable underwater Fire Shadow, if the target disappears or the enemy sub doesn’t arrive in the preset ambush position. Couple of packed air bags to get it to the surface, collected by a SAR helicopter, refuelled / reprogrammed back on board. Can’t be wasting money these days with expending weapons unnecessarily.

Peter Elliott
May 22, 2012 3:09 pm

If we follow TD’s logic that the T26 should be desinged around its blue water escort role then the logic of purchasing 6 * 8,000T 4 Merlin cruisers seems pretty powerful. Four of them at high readiness would make a twin centred Carrier / ARG feel pretty secure.

But: it is worth remembering that part of the ASW role is also snooping around sea lochs and litterols hunting down sneaky SSK. For that a smaller shallower draught vessel is probably required. On balance I would therefore settle for 10 twin-merlin Frigates, allowing 6 with the task group, including detatched reconaissance in the litterol.

Both solutions with the provisos as given by TD that we spend the balance of the budget on some progression in terms of strike missiles and Scan Eagle for the T26, and half a dozen big flexible gunboats to fulfil the balance of the standing tasks.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 22, 2012 3:10 pm

X @ 14.41

When it comes to the Merlin and its “wow” factor, how much is the airframe and how much is the ASW sensor load?

When comparing the Puma upgrade and some new Merlins with regards to the best way to spend £340mill of taxpayers hard cash I was struck by the fact that the Merlin was a very good airframe but that quality had not converted itself into civil sales and the Super Duper Puma was a very capable aircraft that was up to date and still selling in a manner that the Merlin could only dream of.

Merlin vs Puma Mk 4 / Caracal, Civet Cat?

If the issue is payload then electronics are going down in weight.
A modern version o the ASW warload would be a lot lighter than the original design.

If the issue is performance then what element is causing the problem – range / ceiling / time on station?

Nothing against the Merlin, just a case that it is not an efficient platform in its current state. I do wonder why a twin engine version has never seen the light of day – anything to do with the NH90?

Just what was the size and performance of the original Sea King?
Twin engined Merlin?

Consequently I see the need for Tier / Level 1 Helo ASW capability just a case that we should try and make it more efficient / affordable.

Peter Elliott
May 22, 2012 3:26 pm

The end point of the ‘big is beautiful’ development path would be a split between the blue water cruisers (12,000T, 4 Merlin, Sampson & Viper) and the inshore frigates (3,000T, 1 Merlin, Artisan & Ceptor).

Given our budgetry position and the fact we have already got T45 then a flexible fleet of twin-merlin frigates is perhaps better value.

May 22, 2012 3:26 pm

@ X – Its 17 inches shorter than the A or C I think. It won’t carry the NSM internally.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 22, 2012 3:35 pm

FBOT, Merlin is just a bigger beast. It has a 290Nm range advantage over super Puma and ist Max take of weight is 3,000kh higher. A tier 1 ASW helo would be something like the Lynx Helos with a dipping sonar used by the Dutch.

May 22, 2012 4:18 pm

APATS said “It is not easier for a T45 to do piracy than a Corvette.”

Say again station. I didn’t quite get what you said and the more I read it the more confused I got.

@ TD

Your minions just bite so quickly I can’t help myself. :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 22, 2012 4:28 pm

X, I missed out the type 45 in the next sentence. what I was driving is that it is wrong to say “The argument that it is easier for a Type 45 to conduct an anti-piracy mission than it is for an anti-piracy corvette to conduct an area air defence mission is well made but this assumes that we live in a land of unlimited funding, as not only can the 45 do piracy better than a Corvette, the Corvette cannot do Area air defence at all. So the options are use 45 for both accepting that 1 hull cannot be in 2 places. Buy both or buy the Corvette or even 2 but lose the area air defence capability.
What i explored later was whether I thought we could for the same money as T26 move to a 2 tier escort/tier 2 fleet.

May 22, 2012 5:24 pm

How much “intelligence” can you build into a torpedo / Underwater autonomous vehicle these days? What sort of sensors work underwater? Would it be possible to preload from onboard a frigate a 3-D underwater box for an unmanned vehicle to go to, then look for an enemy sub itself using onboard active sonar, finding it and going in for the kill?

Just musing. Couple together a longish endurance motor (6 hours) and some onboard sonar / intelligence and would that be a big step up in anti-submarine weaponry? A sort of combo underwater UCAV and loitering munition, with onboard ISTAR.

May 22, 2012 5:49 pm


Thank you. You see I have no problem with T23 or T45 doing police work. We use Tornado because that is all we have and get we value from the platform and that is seen a good thing. Use an escort for something other than its intended role and it is a stick with which to beat to the navy. During the Libyan affair how many Typhoons rescued Westerners and then went on to do their primary role? None. Those RN units East of Suez are self-deployed at strategic distances. They have high endurance. The ship is a high utility platform. What if we had an Army unit in Somalia? As well as the infantry it would need cooks to mechanics etc. no different than a ship’s company really. But the Army would need help getting into theatre and support to maintain itself most of coming from the sea.

And if we could afford 36 or so of the “sloops of war” what would the first rate ships do with time. Exercise endlessly for a war that may never come? Would they be paddling around the Indian Ocean waiting for Iran to play silly buggers? Is there any difference really between a T23 chasing down a surface contact on an anti-piracy mission and a Typhoon on QRA doing an air intercept? How many Bears have the QRA Typhoons shot down? None and that isn’t the point. Both of these expensive platforms are doing in peace what they would do in war. As I have said several times these less than war missions for RN ships are “productive training”. If we must talk about costs Typhoon dwarves T26 by some margin; but which platform has the greater utility?

May 22, 2012 6:08 pm


“As I have said several times these less than war missions for RN ships are “productive training”
Ditto for the RAF as well.

I am not sure why people are debating T26; as some belive it should be like for like and used as the T23 or more specialised.
The only ‘specialised’ vessle the RN has – and I really mean a ‘one trick poney’ then its only SSBN.
The system we use re frigates doing other ops than hunting phantom U boats, currently works and has gone well, especially when you look at the training it does for the crews, why cant it continue when a similar number of ’26s replaces them? But I’m not Navy minded enough to be sure on the matter.

May 22, 2012 6:24 pm

@ Mike

Well I was going for a pro-RAF stance by comparing QRA to pirate-bashing.

Nobody is saying lets run QRA with Hawk or Gulfstream are they? No.

Having the right platform is important.

Did I hear somebody at the back mention Snatch Landies?

May 22, 2012 6:25 pm


RE “NSM is said to fit inside the F-35B internal bay. Length 3.95m”
– Oz and Norway, the two that have shown interest, will be flying “A”s

May 22, 2012 6:42 pm


Without wishing to apear thick.

I would like you to clear up something. Are you clear you are saying if push comes to shove, when the chips are down, etc etc.

Given the lack of cash, you would rather have 6 realy top of the tree ASW AND NOTHING ELSE, in the way of OPV ‘Colonial sloop’ SIMMS etc etc?

In know the ‘we must afford 12’ etc crowd are out in force, but I just want to be clear that’s what you are saying, if we can’t afford 12 + and some colonial sloops (god I hate that name).

In effect is it’s Simms or ASW the Simms goes?

I happen to think that the modern SSK is the a genuine maritime threat. Rather more than some of the apparantly deadly surface ships.

May 22, 2012 6:52 pm


funny how times change. Back in ’88 Snatch Landies were considered the dog’s b*llocks in the Province. However, they still had that totally crap West Midlands British car industry feel to them. I was coming back from a prisoner escort duty from the Crumlin Road gaol and doing all of about 50 mph in one and the f*cking bonnet – with mounted spare tyre – decided to open with the wind and insert itself into the cab. Spooked me and Drives quite a lot. Another occasion, the sodding gear lever (aluminium?) broke off right down in the central tunnel and the only solution was to hammer a London screwdriver into the remnants with a rifle butt, select one gear only and drive around in second gear until we got back to base and the REME’s could set to for repairs.

May 22, 2012 6:52 pm

@ x

‘Nobody is saying lets run QRA with Hawk or Gulfstream are they? No’

Having seen some comments on here, I wouldn’t be too sure about that ;)

May 22, 2012 7:13 pm


We ought to look at that in particular QRA by Dasault Falcon etc.

May 22, 2012 7:15 pm

@ Topman

I know. It was probably me too………

May 22, 2012 7:17 pm

@ James

I own a Lightweight. I know I wouldn’t want my life to depend on a Solihull special in bandit country.

May 22, 2012 7:36 pm

I don’t see how we can reduce the frigate numbers to get money for a third tier unless we reduce the numbers of RFA vessles.

We need second-rate “escorts” (frigates) for the 12-13 RFA vessels because they are unarmed but take part in war fighting. (first-rate here is the T45+Astute combo used to escort the capital ships).

Now, if you’re talking about replacing River, Hunt and Sandown with a “third-rate” ship (which would be a useless escort), I’m all ears… in fact, I was, on the other thread, re the Black Swan.

May 22, 2012 7:39 pm

Re the SeaCeptor video…
A range of 500 miles ???? For sure, they meant something like “covers an area of 500 square miles”.

May 22, 2012 7:40 pm


I’m currently considering blurdging some spons on one of these:


Ditch the sub-teen cash-extractors for a day and go for a spin with the main squeeze.

It will have to be called “Moggie”, but not include some of the rather garish Kevin style roundels, bullet holes or shark’s mouths painted on that the company offer. Thinking of deep metallic blue with a red nose, cream leather seats. Build your own here: http://www.morgan3wheeler.co.uk/sportcreate.html

May 22, 2012 7:50 pm

TD – to the crux of the matter – numbers ! As alluded to by Jedibeeftrix – what exactly to you think you want to protect from the enemy submarines ?

1. Single large task force (combined CVF and Amphibs) plus a single international choke point ?

2. 2 task groups, an international choke point and the approaches to a friendly port ?

It makes a big difference. 6 x T45 is NOT enough to adequately protect 2 seperate tasks groups, for example an Amphibious group and a CVF and it’s accompanying AOR – don’t believe the MoD(N) bollocks about how much better the technology is !

So, no – I am afraid 6 super-duper ASW T26 is not enough, even if you only want to protect a single large combined task group.

#1 – Refit / long maintenance period / dry dock
#2 – Training post refit / long maintenance – with FOST and for arguements sake not worked up enough when your “balloon goes up”
#3,4,5 – fully worked up and deployed with single large task force. 3 ASW ships with active-passive tails allows you to deploy at distance from main body in a blue water environment in order to get the best from passive towed array, also spreads the Merlin’s around.
#6 – for arguments sake is on South Atlantic patrol.

3 in my experience, and I was not a “TAS Ape” (Sonar specialist) is not enough. With no TT on the T45, and allegedely a less than brilliant sonar to guide it’s Lynx/Wildcat to a drop point, where is our inner layer ? Additional Merlin’s on the carrier ?

Now what if we have to split our forces and this is not a NATO / Coalition operation ?

Lets admit that if we have 8 sets of T2087 we may as well have a minimum of 8 ships to pull them, that provides at least a little slack past your 6 ?

Also, why load them up with land attack capabilities if ASW is so important ? Simply add the additional 16 strike length Sylver to the T45 and buy enough SCALP-N to fill them up – giving T26 nothing more than a highly useful OTO Lightweight 64 Cal 127mm (with a big magazine).

Does SIMMS / Black Swan / BMT Venator have a littoral (shallow water) ASW role ?

OR HOWABOUT we turn that around – why not use SIMMS as a T2087 ‘tug’ with a Lynx for local engagement, while making the T26 a 2 x Merlin carrying “inner layer” (active pinger), with a rocket delivered torpedo, and 120mm automatic mortars as depth charge throwers…….. and the capability to take on some of your additional land attack elements …. ? Mmmmmmm’ SIMMS would need to be fitted for (but not with) at least SeaRAM if not CAMMS though – so negative financial impact there.

May 22, 2012 7:51 pm

@TD: Very comprehensive post – thanks!

The point I would like to raise is that I believe that the T26 is actually turning out to be the wrong vessel. Why are we using our first rate escorts to chase and hunt subs?

We would be better off trying to seperate the first rate Global Combat Ship concept from the main ASW RN role in my view. For the GCS role build a second batch of 6 GP T45’s which are have a larger hanger, ASuW missiles, 127mm Oto Melara and a half decent hull sonar and upgrade the first batch when the funds come available.

The ASW role should be covered by:

– Extending the life of the 8, 2087 T23’s to the end of 2030’s. Use the parts from the other 5 to keep them going if possible. Some of the Leander class friates were over 40 years before they got decommissioned. Then replace with simplier like for like further down the track (a modified Black Swan II perhaps?).
– Buy another one or two Astutes… Recent reports of the RN (Astute class) vs USN (Virgin class) were very impressive.
– Merlins carried from the QE class (it’s got space ;))
– As you say look at UUVs and even mini subs in the longer term.

I would even go as far as saying that we need a small (<500t) mid shore patrol vessel with sonar to assist in ASW in litterol environments.

Any money left over should be used to buy more Black Swans / Venators…

paul g
May 22, 2012 7:58 pm

turkey has announced that the T26 is not for them as an export customer. Mind you if you read what they wanted to do (ie stick all their kit in it, many design changes) not too bad an announcement.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 22, 2012 8:15 pm

Turkey is after an air defence frigate, they want to use the SM2 missile but mate it with a Turkish phased array radar (CAFRAD) and combat system (GEMESIS). Lockheed martin want to sell them a Aegis/Spy system utilising SM3 but this would see the Turkish companies that have developed CAFRAD and GENESIS lose out massively.
Could never see T26 being a goer here.

May 22, 2012 8:16 pm

Dear Repulse – that’s Virginia class matey, as in the state, I don’t think the USN has a Virgin class – at least the USN nurses who looked after me once left me with that impression :-)

As for: “Some of the Leander class friates were over 40 years before they got decommissioned.”

Oh yes, I know I served on one – not fun, “two wrongs don’t make a right” as in, just cause we did it then, doesnt mean we should do it now !

Peter Elliott
May 22, 2012 8:35 pm

An interesting point raised here:

“Why are we using our first rate escorts to chase and hunt subs?”

Present policy seems to be that Frigate + Merlin = universal tool for all our anti-submarine needs. No doubt it does a very decent job. It seems however that there are at least three different sorts of task:

1. Litterol sub hunting

Which could be done by a smaller vessel.

2. Blue water defence – ie proetction of a task group

Which could be done by a combination of modified T45 & Astute.

3. Blue water offence – ie actively locating and hunting SSx

Which could be done by MPAs and Astutes.

As suggests in an extreme scenario we could theoretically get by without any Frigates at all – which is what the USN appears to be trying to do.

Issues with such a plan are (a) how to transit the small coastal sub-hunter across the open ocean to where its needed. A Frigate can just go there even in bad weather. (b) We don’t have any MPAs or enough Astutes to do offensive sub hunting that way (c) T45 batch 1 has poor Anti-Submarine warfare characteristics and it would be an expensive bodge job to try and change them.

Given that lot it looks like we are pretty committed to building frigates – but let’s not give up on regenerating our other anti submarine capabilities too.

May 22, 2012 8:59 pm

A good piece very thought provoking. I have to say i think the type 26 looks right for the roles we want it to take and should over time be the sole surface combatant. I also like the street fighter/black swan/simss vessels idea of multiple smaller vessels come together to for a total capability by the sum of its parts. The ratio of 1 type 26 or 4 smaller vessels is a gd one but i can see the capability creep adding slowly but surely little bits to the smaller vessels ect.

Type 26 size and capability we probably need to support the alternating high/low task group in a high threat area and the fleet ready escort and the falklands tasking not sure how many this is.

The smaller vessels could support all other tasking as a group of 4 vessels to each task again dont know how many this would be also need to take into account training ect. In this i do like the black swan concept but worry if we have enough helicopter or the ability to buy the uav systems to adequately balance this out. the armaments looks about right would change the 30mm for a 57mm.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 22, 2012 8:59 pm

How effective are our Trafalgars and Astutes in ASW roles?

May 22, 2012 9:09 pm


Very good.

@ Jed re serving……

In, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, in, and not on. :) ;)

May 22, 2012 9:17 pm

, my bad on the “Virgin” class – my phone is struggling to handle the size of this thread…

@PE, not trying to get rid of frigates, just not sure why the RN wants to make them into all seeing and dancing multi role cruisers with Tomahawk etc.

A 3-4000t ship can give good sea handling and global presence as the T23 does now. 12 upgraded T45s and 8 T23s (minus Harpoon) alongside a significant number of Black Swans / Venators / SIMMs would be a good well balanced fleet.

May 22, 2012 9:26 pm

Just thinking about it, could we not order more Bays/Albions to use as the second tier vessels to cover some of the less serious fighty tasks?

May 22, 2012 9:35 pm

As a non scientific way to illustrate my point above:

Gin palace cruise –
1x t45
2x t26

Arg deployment –
2x t45
4x t26

Oh no, the islands that must remain unnamed –
2x cvf
2x wave
3x mars
2x lpd
3x lsd
3x astute
4x t45
8x t26

You would need half the escorts to provide a suitable screen away from the main group in a high threat environment!

That leaves one t45 in deep refit and another doing something else terribly essential, double those numbers for t26.

How do we cope with just six as currently envisaged?

May 22, 2012 10:00 pm


It is indeed “on”, not “in” for those of us who remain convinced that the Captain cannot be trusted, the sea is an unnatural place, and who seek accommodation well above the waterline. Such was the strength of my feeling on this that the Andrew very graciously converted the Chart room on Bristol (yes, “on” as it was above the waterline) into my cabin for 3 months, having previously tried to foist me off in some electrically lit hellhole about as far underwater as Davey Jones’ locker.

May 22, 2012 10:15 pm

Good post, I agree with most of what was said.

This isn’t about competing budgets or service rivalry, this is a fundamental look at what the RN actually wants and needs from it’s surface fleet, keeping in mind how tight money is these days.

As TD said it’s no good admirals and historians talking about Nelson’s frigates. It’s equally not useful (actually downright lazy and damaging) to simply want to replace a class of ships 1 for 1 without actually looking at the contextual situation (money, threat, capabilities).

It seems really obvious to me that the best way to get the most from the surface fleet is to have a 2-tier balance with no middle ground.

So yeah a group of ultra sophisticated and platforms that have specialisation but also enough general-purpose usefulness to justify the cost and allow them to steam in-to dangerous environments with enough capability to go the distance.

Match this with a group of ultra simple and cheap platforms (Black Swan, Khareef, whatever).

The only thing I disagree on is numbers.

6 Type 45 together with 6 Type 26 is too small an amount for any kind of serious fighting.

I personally think something between 8 and 10 Type 26 is about right. Surely a drop of either 3 or 5 ships would put either enough or mostly enough money aside for a low-end purchase?

Then couple that with 2 additional and discounted Type 45s (not sure if that’s possible, but assuming it is) and we get a high-end fleet of 16-18, which sounds about right to me.

Fill that number out with 10 corvettes and we are back to a healthy number not seen for many years.

Well that’s my 2 pennies worth thrown in!

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
May 22, 2012 10:39 pm

It has been announced that as a result of PR12 the RN is scrapping all plans to fit CEC to the T-45 and T-26. So in all probability the T-26 is going to be a T-23 Block II, solving space issues and not much else. Is this a bad thing? well in reality NO.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 22, 2012 10:59 pm

@x Re: ASW SSN

Compared to T23? Worth expanding the Astute fleet for ASW duties? Send a fox to catch a fox?

May 22, 2012 11:04 pm

Regarding the rifle armament, is it at all possible to have a twin (treble even) 5′ turret? Previous engagements have shown just one rifle too unreliable for continuous bombardment. Itbalso provides better anilti-ship capability.

Brian Black
Brian Black
May 22, 2012 11:20 pm

I don’t see the need for T26 to be an ASW destroyer, fitted for but not with all sorts of land attack gubbins. Money spent designing that into T26 could be spent realising the potential of T45. Keep the T26 as a straight forward ASW frigate – which might make it worthwhile looking at extending the eight T23 instead.
If we need a GP vessel, with land attack and anti-surface capability, then perhaps a GP T45 would be better – a batchII T45 but with double hangar and dumbed down air defence. I’m convinced the five proposed GP T26 are just BAe’s product demonstration models anyway.

El Sid
El Sid
May 23, 2012 12:37 am

I see now how cockups like the Astute grounding happen. This trend towards jointery means that all the useful bits of warships are being decked out in Laura Ashley for visitors who fancy themselves as Leonardo DiCaprio.

The problem with your loitering torpedo is ….well, that’s sort of how they work already. The trouble is that you’re working in water, so you end up trading speed for endurance and not getting hugely much of either. If Fire Shadow loiters 4-5 miles away from a target then it’s not really a problem, start a torpedo 4-5 miles from its target and it may well make the difference between a hit and a miss. You might only get 5-10 miles range at 50kts, or 20 miles cruising at 35kts. As an aside, this latter fact is one reason for the popularity of gas turbines, something like a T23 can outrun a torpedo on cruise, whereas you’d get a bit wet in an Absalon. So really you only want a torpedo out there using up limited battery life/fuel if it’s got a real target to go after. And for that you need “heavy” ASW sensors, which in RN language means 2087 and Merlin.

May 23, 2012 2:00 am

@ TD – I agree with your high low balance. However given NATO commitments not to mention the finer points of ASW I don’t see 6 as a feasible number. That being said the navy obviously feel that 8 ASW escort’s is what it needs. I would say build the 8 ASW and switch the budget for the other 5 GP into MHPC.
Given our tiny budget we really need to examine all standing tasks. If vessels cost up to £ 1 billion and we need three to have one on task we have to be careful about the rational for having those standing task’s. Swaping the budget for the 5 GP versions into the MHPC might give us a total MHPC fleet of 16. Forward basing these in 2’s with crews than can be rotated by air seems like a more affordable solution.
For the islands that shall not be named we may have to think about increasing the army and air force presence there. However if we are going to star oil extraction then arguably we need to do that anyway.
@ X – I agree that if they don’t have any training to do and it does not leave us at a strategic disadvantage there is no issue with a T23 or T45 chasing down pirates. That being said with escort numbers cut to the bone we need to keep a number of them back for in home waters ready to form a task force or take on an urgent requirement.

May 23, 2012 2:16 am

The comment about Nelson makes me laugh. Nelson was not asking for more high end ASW platforms but rather a larger number of cheaper smaller vessels that could be in more places at once.
I think if Nelson was afloat today he would favor more MHPC and less ASW.

May 23, 2012 3:00 am

@ Le Boss a La TD,

I was sitting around looking at alternative “cheap” vessels that could be used for the lower intensity operations, and it turns out the Bays and the Albions just happen to be bloody good value for money, even considering the possibility of conversions of ‘for sale’ civvy tankers.

Come complete with plenty of space for helicopters, well decks for launching whatever bonkers arse small boat combinations people come up with, cheap on the running costs and have utility still in a full on dust up.

May 23, 2012 3:53 am

@ Chris B – I like the idea of the Bay’s but I think we need a hanger on them. Something more than just an extendable temporary job. Also need some way to have a covered work area for Mission modules. A little bit more fire power than a GPMG would be nice as well. That being said when you have 16,000 (t) to play with adding in stuff is pretty easy.

The Bay’s have to go down as one of the best success stories of recent MOD procurment. Even though they have not as yet been used for their primary mission they have been of great utility and if it was not for having them we would have been in a much worse position over the last few years than we have been.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 6:08 am

I hate to be the voice of reason but in the real world we need to get the capability from the T26 budget. So 3.25 billion is the top line. if we go for 8 T26 ASW role and ensure they come in on budget that leaves 1.25 Billion for a suplementary class of Ships to take up less “warry” roles. Alternatively we build 13 T26 and muddle along as we are.

So to get 10 we need to come in at 125 million.

May 23, 2012 6:39 am

The question is, is the T26 designed to be a first rate warship or not.

If it is a first rater then our budget is such that it needs to stay close to what is protecting (ARG, Carrier group etc). From a ASW force you need a wide area screen to stop subs before they get too close. Therefore, in my view we cannot afford to have the T26 as the primary ASW asset. If it’s not an ASW platform, then what is it, and what does it give that a modified T45 cannot do better? Also, I do not really get a mission bay on a first rater – second rater yes as it is more expendable and can get closer to shore, or a Bay etc of course.

If the T26, is in reality a gold plated second rater the RN really is fucked.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 7:11 am

On the Bay/RFA theme, for those not aware, RFA Fort Victoria has been in the news relatively recently demonstrating her continued worth in the anti piracy role:


Also on the civilian/military crossover theme, the USA’s refitted HSV-X1 Joint Venture [1] can be found ferrying in the Irish Sea as the renamed Manannan [2] together with the ship that HMNZS Canterbury [3] was based on [4].

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSV-X1_Joint_Venture
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSC_Manannan
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMNZS_Canterbury_(L421)
[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Ben-my-Chree

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 7:28 am

Repulse, when was the last time you designed a screen? All sorts of thing need to be taken into account. The threat and limiting lines of submerged approach vs MLA. Will it pop up for a visual look. what range and type are its weapon systems? Does it need to get inside the outer screen. If it goes for a visual look prior to attack what do we know about its night optics. Its sonar capabilities. is it a multi threat environment?
How many assets do we have? How many helos can we put them as dipper in the likely “look zone” ahead of the force if we expect it to pop up. Are we up against an SSN so do we need to protect against a trailer?

The frigates are generally pushed further out from the TG covering the limiting line of submerged approach. Spacing is calculated using a formula based on type of sonar, water conditions, coverage and overlap required. Inside of these Frigates we will have the air defence units. We may have another frigate covering the rear if we believe there is a threat. Helos will also be assigned sectors or dip randomly in a look zone ahead of the force.
It is an integrated screen and talk of first and second raters etc is not part of the calculation. You protect the HVU, the further out you move from the HVU the greater the space you have to patrol so the actual outer limits of the sector screen are based on the ability of the threat to actually target the HVU will almost always be shorter than the max range of the weapons they possess.

May 23, 2012 7:59 am

So, PR12 has confirmed the top line figure at £ 3.25bn

If MHPC still stands (even if not confirmed at the same level of “strength”) at 1.4 bn, I wonder if anyone can advise on the rough cost of the specialist mine hunting modules (consumables/expendebles, like the one-shot part of the SeaFox systems coming in at some reasonable ratio per deployable system)?

We would then have (3.25 + 1.4)bn minus (say, a dozen)times X = budget available and the constraint to optimising the hull mix
– it is only the M(ine) and H(ydrological)that are the exclusive preserve of the new class and the rest of the functions are overlapping, even though perhaps not quality-wise
– the requirements consolidation contract for MHPC, over one year and let to Frazer-Nash, ran to its end early this year, if memory serves

May 23, 2012 8:05 am


can you post something mentally land-based on your Pin Board? Something like this? http://www.militarypictures.info/misc/light-strike.jpg.html I suspect the platform cost is quite reasonable for that one, and in terms of strategic effect, probably on a pair with several QEC. Also, sod the SF, that thing has FRES SV written all over it. Just need an AGL.

Otherwise, it is all getting depressingly Andrew on the blog, over the last couple of weeks. :(

May 23, 2012 9:05 am

@ James re Depressing Andrew


Would you like some pictures of some Soviet tanks to get off on? :) ;)

May 23, 2012 9:10 am

How much is 2087?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 9:18 am

X, About 20 million a set.

Peter Elliott
May 23, 2012 9:18 am

A couple of modified Bays with hangers and capacity for up to 4 medium helos each would certainly have a wartime role.

It would go some way to alleviate the lack of a propper LPH after Ocean goes – both increasing the rotary aircraft capacity of the taskforce and allowing the duty QEC to lurk a bit further offshore.

And in peacetime perfectly adequate for mothership and presence duites of all kinds.

Peter Elliott
May 23, 2012 9:25 am

The other point to re-emphasise is that *if* we can manage to afford Astute batch 2 and/or a small number of half decent MPAs *then* the number of ASuW frigates required will go down. We only think we need so many frigates beacuase we have robbed those other capabilities so heavily.

The ability to sweep the Clyde approaches, sanitise ahead of the taskforce, fix the enemny sub location or track and kill their subs with ours as they leave port will mean less requirement for screening and picketing by surface units.

May 23, 2012 9:32 am

Just to defend the “loitering torpedo” idea: There’s no reason why the loiter can’t be done by umbilical – shedding its uplink to the mothership when commanded to attack.

Difficult to warrant the purchase of more Bays though isn’t it – mud on face and all that ;-)

Can someone explain what would escort the supply line(s) if you dropped T26 numbers?

I don’t think a frigate is a first-rate warship – it’s an escort. T45 is our first-rate ship and paired with Astute makes a T26 look like, well, £250m quids worth against £1.6b! Our frigates therefore need to be designed as “escorts” i.e. ships that provide defense for another higher value/utility ship. This means we can skimp on offensive capability (no land attack missiles, etc). I really don’t understand the “slipping” of T26 into being a first-rate attack vessel.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 9:46 am

Simon, we talk an awful lot about supply line but why? What is the threat to them? After an initial deployment what will we continue to deploy and what will the enemy be able to do to them? A lot of people seem to write as if we are going to engage in a Ww2 style 5 year conflict with convoys etc. We tend to deploy engage and return. Fuel can be sourced locally in almost all occasions and weapons carried on RFAs or flown out to close in theater. I suggest that any conflict that lasts long enough and is of sufficient intensity to both require a resupply and see a substantial threat to that resupply would see us in a position where the budget is less of a consideration.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 9:50 am

On the topic of land and surface vessel attack, options are looking a little light going forward, at least at the moment.

Any more detailed news on what the plans are in that area for the fleet?


– Upgrading T45 Sylver launcher from A50 to A70?
– Fitting additional M41/A70 cells forward on T45?
– Transfer of Harpoon or confirmation of M41/A70 near funnel on T26?
– By A70/M41 I’m assuming TLAM for land attack.
– Other than transferring Harpoon what other realistic ASM’s are likely to be equipped on T26?

Oh, and what do the Sylver/M41 reloading procedures involve? Are these normally handled on-ship at sea from stores or is there Auxiliary involvement on all reloads?

May 23, 2012 9:50 am


how many wheel nuts on a T-62 road wheel, and which has 15 and which 16, so illustrating Soviet and East German forces? Are the T-72s Sagger-equipped indicating the enemy’s main effort axis? If you see 3 radio antennae on a BRDM are you looking at the Combat Recce Patrol of a Motor Rifle Division or the command post of of Brigade within a Tank Division? Within 3rd Shock Army, is the Guards Motor Rifle Regiment composed of identifiable Asiatic faces?

All good recce questions.

That’s enough recce porn, circa 80s.

May 23, 2012 9:53 am

Quick point; not sure where TD found that video of Sea Ceptor, but that looks like an entirely different weapon to the CAMM-M. The graphics look a bit dodgy too…

May 23, 2012 9:54 am

I’m still not sold on the numbers.

I have no doubt that with the Type 26 quality over quantity is the way to go. I want to see a properly capable, high-end ship that primarily slots in-to amphibious and carrier groups.

However 6 seems just too low. The cost is supposed to be between £250m and £350m (though how many people really think it will stay in budget). So surely that means if the numbers go down by 3 we save somewhere in excess of £750m, and if we cut 5 we save a billion!

I think there is some kind of compromise to be had in this. I think 6 is too low a number to justify the programme. However 8 or 10 ships I find more acceptable, plus the savings would probably be enough to plough back in-to a low-end cheap ship.

May 23, 2012 9:55 am

James has solved the TA recruitment problems for good http://www.militarypictures.info/misc/light-strike.jpg.html

RE PE’s “A couple of modified Bays with hangers and capacity for up to 4 medium helos”
– can’t remember now which thread had Jed’s shipbucket drawing of a mix of a Bay and the Dutch JSS; should come pretty close?

May 23, 2012 9:56 am

Simon, re umbilicals and trying to preserve battery power.

Let no-one suggest a T26 with some form (mini-well dock or davits) of launching 4 remotely controlled RHIBS each with a torpedo mounted, ready for launch. Controllable out to about 30 miles, small little data link back to mother, targeting data included. Four of those station keeping 20 nm off a frigate is going to give an enemy sub 4 x the problem. After dropping off the torp, the RHIB heads for home.

(I always liked the parable of the writing in space competition. The Americans spent $1 million on developing a special biro that wrote upside down in zero gravity, the Russians bought some pencils)

May 23, 2012 9:59 am

RE “Oh, and what do the Sylver/M41 reloading procedures involve? Are these normally handled on-ship at sea from stores or is there Auxiliary involvement on all reloads?”
– or, is it a port call that is required!?

May 23, 2012 10:01 am


Without a supply line we cannot sustain the “enduring” operation as defined/implied in the SDSR.

How do you land a battalion of tanks without Bay operating a supply line? Okay, two can shift 48, but in the initial wave I’d guess they’d be carrying other vehicles.

Even if you extrapolate and assume we’d only be doing this if we’re part of a bigger force (e.g. NATO) we’d still need to defend the tiny part of the supply line that we’re providing.

“…any conflict that lasts long enough and is of sufficient intensity to both require a resupply and see a substantial threat to that resupply would see us in a position where the budget is less of a consideration”

I see what you’re saying but… 1982. And besides it’s not like you just run down to the shops to pick up a couple more Bay, T26 and Astute is it? How long would it take to build them in an emergency? 6-months???

May 23, 2012 10:07 am


Didn’t the original TOW missiles have wire guidance? What were their ranges? Surely we can provide power to a UUV and get data back? I’d have thought at least to the horizon… Not sure we even need the RHIBs!

Love the “space biro” analogy :-)

May 23, 2012 10:07 am


A frigate can be whatever you want it to be, just like any other ship. Why should a type be defined by it’s past role? The term destroyer is a good example of a name that was first applied to a small/fast escort but now means a large, guided missile, high-end platform.

I would also say that although costs of different classes do often reflect capability that isn’t the end of the story. If we end up with a ship that costs around £350m it doesn’t automatically mean it’s useless in high-end roles and should be relegated to 2nd rate tasking.

The Type 45 coming in at over a billion pounds a pop wasn’t a good thing, it’s not a case of ‘the more you spend the more you get’. Type 45 was an example of starting from scratch and essentially in AAW terms reinventing the wheel! Type 26 will be cheaper because it utilises pre existing tech and takes an all round smarter approach to design and procurement.

May 23, 2012 10:12 am

@ Peter Elliott
Problem with Astute Batch 2 is that we can’t squeeze anything past Astute 8 into Barrow without further delaying the Trident Successor which I don’t think can wait any longer. If we wait until after the build of Trident Successor then it might be post 2035 until we see Astute 9 well after the entire T23 fleet is out of service.

Does anyone know how the 2087 sonar is affected by the towing ship’s acoustic signature. Is a high level of noise reduction required to operate it. If it is it makes the MHPC/Black Swan towing a 2087 a none starter.

May 23, 2012 10:13 am


it’s slightly a response to El Sid’s observation that loitering torps sort of already do that, but only for 10 minutes. OK. Let’s take the cost out of a loitering UUV. Make it a RHIB – unmanned, but if we are really tight on cash manned – and sling a Mk 48 Torp on the side. Now that really has got 6 hours of endurance, maybe even 10 if there are bacon butties and a flask of coffee loaded onboard. Send out 4 of them in a box around the frigate. Small datalink so the RHIB has some idea of the contacts the frigate is prosecuting. The RHIB may be noticeable to the submarine, but is not going to be so interesting as the frigate itself. Fire order, 4 torpedoes in the water, and the submarine has got a hell of a job to escape.

May 23, 2012 10:15 am

Apologies to FBOT,

Looks like we only have 7 of the 8 2087 sets in the water, as per January:
“HMS Kent, one of the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) most advanced Type 23 frigates, has been fitted with Thales UK’s Sonar 2087 system as part of a multi-million pound upgrade to her systems and operational capability. Kent now becomes the seventh Type 23 frigate to be upgraded with the Sonar 2087 system.
HMS Kent will emerge as one of the most capable anti-submarine warfare frigates in the world…”
Having entered dry dock in November 2010, Kent has now left the dockyard fresh from a comprehensive upgrade to her systems and equipment, and sailed under the famous Forth Bridges to begin her sea trials.
The ship has benefitted from a £24m overhaul of her hull, upper deck and complex weapons systems.”

Which Duke is now having its refit?
– assume the 8th is for that one, if not for testing and training
– these overhauls have been £10-24m a piece; There is no mention of the radar & SeaCeptor, so another round forthcoming?

May 23, 2012 10:16 am

To me the wide range in the figures
“overhauls have been £10-24m a piece”
suggests that the condition of the (getting-old)T23 hulls is quite variable?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 10:20 am

Simon, In 2003 we managed to deploy plenty of armour overseas. We utilised the point class and STUFT shipping and port facilities. i cannot envisage a scenario that you seem to be describing with Bay class doing relays to pick up tanks to offload over the beach. We shared the escort duties with the US but these things build up and Donald Cook who was initially doing STROG escorts was in the Gulf in time to fire TLAM on H hour.

How often did we even have to resupply in the Falklands whilst the Argentineans presented a threat?

How many nations can present a threat to resupply shipping outside the immediate AOR that would not be neutralised very quickly in a conflict.

The most likely scenario would be a terrorist style attack in a choke point in which case the “tier 2” escorts would be good enough.

The build up to an enduring conflict would see enough time for ships to at least begin to built.
I am sorry but being realistic about budgets, a mythical “enduring conflict” requiring continual heavy equipment to be put over the beach against an opponent capable of interdicting supply lines without any noticeable political change to allow build up of forces and change in posture should be files alongside repel Martian invasion plan and not used as a justification to have more escorts in a tight military budget.

May 23, 2012 10:21 am


I suppose you can call something that sails underwater and launches nuclear missiles a “frigate” if you like. But there is usually a reason why things are called what they are. A frigate is (at least to my mind) a mid sized escort with most of it’s weapons on a single deck.

My real point is that our wonderful ASW frigates are still no match for a destroyer and attack sub combo for both offensive and defensive tasks. They’re just good value for money – not too big and expensive to procure and run, and therefore suit the multi-role niche.

Perhaps this is the reason that the T26 is being called the Global Combat Ship, rather than the Next Generation Frigate?

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 10:25 am

TD @ 1.20

My question on upgrades and contracts related to the situation now –

T2087 – ongoing / supply contract sorted / fitting to the hulls uncertain.
I think the first boat has been upgraded but I do not know the current situation regarding the other 7.

CMS – Not sure if this is going to be upgraded, therefore the question.

Artisan – supply contract sorted / timing and numbers unknown – is it 8 or 13?

CAMM – again development and supply contract has been sorted – timings and numbers unknown.

An Other / Odds and Ends – not sure if there is anything else.

Consequently any info on this would be appreciated.

May 23, 2012 10:26 am


Is that all? I knew there weren’t much (in terms of kit, I know we spend billions here each day) but I didn’t think they were that cheap. So we are talking to get 4 additional sets £80million about a weeks “fighting” in Afghanistan. FFS that is nothing. It is about one F35. Just under half of a one C17. Wow. When I read that Black Swan document I nearly fell off my chair when the author wrote he wanted £65million per hull, built to commercial standards, and his criteria was that low most of the world’s commercial operators would have laughed their cotton socks off. But that £80million takes the biscuit. As I am fond of saying we choose not to have this equipment cost has little to do with the issue. (I know cost does have something to do with it. But you all know what I am saying.)

@ James

All good stuff. Just so you know I do know there was more to your job than shooting stuff and a bit of map reading. Your comment sounded like a paragraph out of that book so beloved by wargamers “First Clash”. And know I am not I a wargamer…… :)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 10:26 am

James, interesting but my thoughts would be small UAVs, rotary wing that can loft a single torpedo into the air and drop it where we want quickly and undetectably. How many could we fit in a Merlin Hangar? especially if we had twin hangars with a Merlin in other.

May 23, 2012 10:28 am


“…being realistic about budgets, a mythical “enduring conflict” requiring continual heavy equipment … not used as a justification to have more escorts in a tight military budget.

I’d have thought it’s almost exactly the opposite. It’s the perfect justification to make sure we have as many “effective” escorts as we can afford rather than waste resources on ships that have little military significance and whose role can be done by the coastguard.

Coast Guard Sloop?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 10:31 am

X, 20 Million was based on the procuremnet cost that I could find for the project, I am not sure if that includes the consoles installed with the system or how much they may be now.

May 23, 2012 10:32 am

no not know Sorry.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 10:35 am

ACC @ 10.15

Thanks for the info.
One further question, what is the servicing / refit schedule of the T23?

In dock every year – weeks
In dock for a refit every 5 years – months
In dock for an major upgrade – every 10 or 15 years – year +

Is this close to the truth?
Do you have ready info on the 8 hulls chosen – youngest / best?
HMS Kent – £24 mill + the cost of a T2087 set – starting to get expensive.
I hope the job of swapping out this unit from Kent to a new T26 hull is a bit cheaper.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 10:38 am

Simon, we do not have a coastguard. I am in two minds but if the choice is between 13 T26, 8 of which will be 2087 ASW equipped and 5 will not be and 8 ASW escorts and 10 corvettes/OPVs which can do Caribbean deployments, FIGS, chase Pirates and cruise around the Gulf and do choke point escort duties for deploying STUFT ships it is close.
Remember we are looking at different ways to spend the T26 budget. Would be interesting to look at what 120 million pound actually buys before dismissing them out of hand as insignificant.
We need to use defence planning assumptions to make our case and we all know that an “enduring conflict” will be maritime only during the theatre entry stage. After that any maritime contribution will be in the main power projection.

May 23, 2012 10:39 am


I do agree with you’re point that broadly speaking we all agree on what a frigate is, and it isn’t a sub!

In my previous post I was essentially dancing around my main focus which was that there is a clear choice when looking at surface fleet numbers and capability, given our lack of cash and the low number of hulls in water. If you agree that a 2-tier system is the way to go then it has to be high-end and low-end. I think it would be seriously wrong to allow a medium capability vessel to slip in-to the force mix.

However I do accept that there is a rational balance to be had. We can’t relentless pursue the advancement of capability on the Type 26 regardless of cost. We should of course have a ceiling height in the Type 26 budget, but we should also strive to get as much high-end capability out of that as possible.

I think that if the latest specifications on the programme are followed we should end up with a very capable and useful ship. Essentially an evolution of the Type 23 in being ASW specific but also general purpose enough to provide that all important defence in depth.

May 23, 2012 10:44 am


“…if the choice is between 13 T26, 8 of which will be 2087 ASW equipped and 5 will not be and 8 ASW escorts and 10 corvettes/OPVs which can do…”

I agree, as long as the 10 corvettes can actually do “escort” duties and don’t just end up being ships with just GPMGs and some RHIBs. I’m not sure the Black Swan Sloop (etc) was enough to provide escort cover.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 10:50 am

– Re: Reloading procedures for a VLS (e.g. Sylver/M41)

I’ve not found much, the DCNS brochure lists a reload time of <90 minutes per 8 cell module on the Sylver:


No mention if this can be replenished while underway (UNREP), with the assistance of an Auxiliary or only at port. Nor can I find mention of additional stores or magazines on board.

Can anyone else enlighten us?

May 23, 2012 10:54 am


I think you’ll end up with needing the “corvettes” to do max 18knots, 8000nm at 15knots, embark a Wildcat and carry Sea Ceptor.

Would these really end up any cheaper than T26 GP?

Bottom line is 8 x T26 ASW and 5+ of any other effective escort is enough.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
May 23, 2012 11:02 am

Simon, note my choice of words, “choke point escorts”. Which would be a tertiary duty for them as only required possibly in a war role where the main threat would be a terrorist type FIAC attack. in this case supplementing the ships weapions fit with RM Javelin teams would make a massive difference.

Other wise they are about presence. So maybe a slightly more war like version of the Kiwis Protector with a 76MM gun two remote 30MMs and mounts for a couple of 50 cals. A helo hangar and if the budget stretched a RAM launcher.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 11:02 am


The case study hull for the mothership platform in the Black Swan concept listed an 18knot maximum speed in order to engage in Fleet activities.

Not sure I’d want to run the engines that hard just to keep up though. Less of an issue with electric motors if the generators would otherwise be idling at that power output.

I’d prefer @TD’s X-Bow, .B.’s Bay class or @x’s Fast Sea Hull as the platform though.

– Re: Mud on the face with purchasing more Bays. One trait that Mr. Hammond has demonstrated is not worrying too much about political face when performing a U-Turn. If the need, recommendations and the funds were there, I get the impression that the idea of purchasing more wouldn’t be a problem, assuming it isn’t too late for production?

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 11:11 am

All PATS @ 10.31

Have you been to Damascus lately?
The possibility of you becoming a fan of the Colonial Sloop suggests that you have.

Have a look at the RSN Endurance, that is the closest existing vessel to my thoughts on a cheap hull to pack the batting for the RN.
Size – 141m x 21m x 5m’ish / 8-9K tons full load / well deck can take 2 x LCUs / pretty upmarket sensor and systems fit out.

My thoughts are that this provides a good reference point to start from – great picture of the Endurance up close to the Enterprise – one for the Trekkies amongst the TD crowd to savour. It is this context that my ideas for a low cost escort should be appraised. The Colonial Sloop would come in varying widths / CSAs – 23m / 25m / 27m.

Base ship set up for Patrol role would be 148m x 23m x 5-6m / 11K tons full load / 18 MW for 22+ knots.
WD – 400m2 / FD – 1200m2 / Hangar – 300m2.

Looking at a sensor / systems suite in keeping with the fit out of HMS Clyde + 2nd hand sonar.
Looking at £45-50mill for the navigable hull / civil systems £10-15mill for the warload.
Looking at a charity shop 4.5″ / refurbed VP CIWS / 30-40mm turret / basic decoy suite / RM support section carry on AAW + A/T missiles.

NGS with 2 x 155mm pieces would be 160m x 25m x 5-6m / 13K tons full load approx / 24 MW for 22+ knots.
WD – 440m2 / FD – 1400m2 / Hangar – 360m2
Looking at £55-60mill for the navigable hull / civil systems + £20-25mill for the warload.
Proper CMS / better NBC citadel / better air radar / parking sensor quality hull sonar.

The next big step here would be a small scale CAMM installation – 32 tubes – and what level of radar / CMS would be required.
On the option list would be a 16 cell Mk41 at £8mill and a VLRS system if I could get one or two to fall of the back of a fast moving Army lorry.

May 23, 2012 11:15 am


I guess there’s no reason we can’t use man portable missiles for both anti-ship and anti-air should the need arise.

The Other Chris,

You know I like the Bays :-) I’d have a total of six each capable of operating an entire ASW squadron of Merlin (6) – hangar for two-three, etc. The second batch would also have a lift from flight deck to vehicle deck assuming the vehicle deck is high enough for copters.

Basically you end up replacing Argus with ASW + Hospital ships… which can also be pretty effective assault ships.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 11:15 am

TOC @ 11.02

The Black Swan concept is pretty close to an in joke.

It is so bad that I am going to offer my services to them so that they understand the concept, they understand the history of the original and why it failed and they understand the real lessons and how they can be applied now.

Never send a stoat to do a weasels work.

May 23, 2012 11:18 am


Endurance Class – absolutely excellent ship! How much did they cost?

May 23, 2012 11:18 am


A corvette with a Wildcat, Sea Ceptor and some guns shouldn’t cost the same as a GP Type 26. If it does then something has gone seriously wrong.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 11:21 am


Hangar deck filled full of containers!


I’m unfamiliar with the failings of the original Black Swan but would love to know more, especially on how the lessons could be applied now.

Would it be possible for you take a few minutes to expand please?

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 11:25 am

Simon @ 11.08

Latest ship – single hull export order – is going out the door for £90-100mill.

Includes some LCVPs / upmarket – relative – sensor + system fit out / training and support / profit margin for the builder and the designer.
Given its naval heritage and it’s lack of PSV / AHTS heritage I think the design could be thrifted down to Colonial Sloop numbers.

May 23, 2012 11:37 am


“A corvette with a Wildcat, Sea Ceptor and some guns shouldn’t cost the same as a GP Type 26. If it does then something has gone seriously wrong.”

Really? I suppose I was really thinking about the hull. I guess you could leave the GT out of the T26-GP ships (assuming the diesels can get it to cruise at 18 knots).

So are we saying that T26 (hull and powertrain) are likely to be £250m? If so does anyone have any idea how it adds up to so much?

May 23, 2012 11:38 am


So if we do what APATS suggests (8 x T26 ASW + others) – I make that £1.25b we can spend on Endurance class –> 12 of the blighters!

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
May 23, 2012 11:43 am

The cost in 2008 was 100 million built in Singapore. The problem we have is an agreement with BAE to build ships here and the Govts insistence on not building warships aboroad! Would love a couple if not 10 because want some OPV/Corvette to be a bit smaller and go places these cannot but for reasons above am afraid it would be a non starter.

May 23, 2012 11:48 am


Seriously, we have an agreement to build all our warships here in the UK?

So given that the nearest thing we can compare is Bay at £250m in todays money (ish) we’re paying somewhat of a premium to BAe. I’m assuming the cost of weapons if offset by the increased cost of propulsion on Bay and that the increased size of Bay is not going to alter the price significantly.

Perhaps we should just rent them out from the RSN? That might get us out of the “arrangement” (or stranglehold) with BAe.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 11:48 am

Would be useful to find out how much money makes it back into the UK economy when we do build equipment here (salaries, taxes, supplier chains such as stationary/lunches/buses/etc).

Does the supply chain in military contracts respond similarly to the Nissan estimates of four local supply chain jobs [1] required per single construction job?

How much would that offset the apparent cost advantage of building abroad (e.g. MARS)?

How much cost difference would we still left with and is that an acceptable premium to maintaining sovereign design and construction capacity?

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17266087

May 23, 2012 11:52 am

The Other Chris,

I think we should build all simple, mass producible hulls wherever is ultimately cheaper (including all your offsets).

We should retain sovereign design and construction for the technological edge (T45, T26, Astute). Trouble is, we don’t do that anyway. Most of the systems that actually make the majority of the things we have work well are European (e.g. MBDA).

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 11:55 am

TOC @ 11.21

It was the RN’s full on escort ship of the late 30s.
The sloop concept had been upgraded / gold plated over time from its humble WW1 MIne sweeper beginnings.

The BS turned up with 3 dual 4″ mountings / top quality ASW outfit / RN design standards / 2 year build cycle and steam turbines.
My understanding is that steam turbine capacity was the big bottleneck in RN ship production along with modern DP gun mounts.
Consequently the BS and the later Mod BS were very resource intensive.

However they were produced throughout the war but could never generate the numbers of escorts required.
Then comes reality, war experience, the Flower component set and potential starvation.
Out of this comes the River / Loch / Bay frigates that do the job in the numbers that were required.

So we build Tier 1 Mod BSs while churning out loads of Tier 2 Frigates.
All with TE engines / 2 x single 4″ guns / merchant standard hulls / ever improving ASW kit and then AAW kit.

The 2nd EG starts out as all Mod BS hulls – sort of RN All Stars ASW team.
However as some are damaged, one was sunk, move on to other gigs they are replaced by Lochs.
As a certain Russian mentalist once said – Quantity has a quality all of its own.

Now turning to the big picture in the late 30s RN build plan.
Look at the constraints that were placed on the other RN late 30s escort – Hunt class – thrifted the steam turbine plant to the extent that the hull was reduced to a beam of 29′ to meet the speed target and they fell over in the dock when fitting out.

Adding the two elements together – what was wrong with RN policy –

The BS were too expensive and complex for the job they had to do.
No work was done in the design space until it was too late and they had to steal a commercial whale catcher hull to get guns on the water.

The Hunts were a good idea but they were thrifted to virtual irrelevance – anti E boat patrols was just about their level.
If they had used design re-use and a proper RCA of the issues and challenges they faced then they could have used the I class hull or the new J class hull as a start and just installed 50-60% of the power to generate a long legged fleet escort that was more labour and resource efficient compared to the fleet destroyers then in build, which was a real ocean player rather than the Med / North Sea gunboat that actually turned up.

The lessons we can learn today?

RN build costs are too high.
We do not have enough hulls in the water.
Very narrow perspective on ship roles and capabilities.
Design is very project based leading to a jobs worth design culture.
Not enough humility and thirst for knowledge in the current officer cohort.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
May 23, 2012 11:57 am

Simon the Bay class cost 100 million each as well, had we bought all 6 unit cost would have been closer to 90 million.

May 23, 2012 12:00 pm


1. RN build costs are too high. BAe monopoly.
2. We do not have enough hulls in the water. Because of 1.
3. Very narrow perspective on ship roles and capabilities. Because of 1 and 2.
4. Design is very project based leading to a jobs worth design culture. No investment in education and long-term strategy..
5. Not enough humility and thirst for knowledge in the current officer cohort. Same as 4?.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
May 23, 2012 12:10 pm

FBOT, Am not going to get into it with you merely to say we are not going to fight WW2 again. On the narrow perspective on roles and Ships, how can a GP Frigate that in 2 years may be in active contact with a submarine, catch drug smugglers in the Caribbean, conduct disaster relief in the Caribbean. chase Pirates off Somalia, host a UK trade delegation in Dubai, contribute to a NATO reaction force and escort an HVU be considered a narrow perspective?

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
May 23, 2012 12:21 pm

All PATS @ 12.10

Area AAW – That will be the T45 then.
TLAM – That will be the Astute then.
Even though a Mk41 VLS tube costs £500K we will not put any on a surface ship.
Albion class – The only LPD in existence that does not have helo facilities.
ASuW – That will be the Astute then if Harpoon won’t do or the ship is a T45.

The RN today is a bunch of one club golfers.
They are so bad and demarcation so rigid that Red Robbo must be the 2nd Sea Lord.
The drive to be a small but perfectly formed USN is killing the RN.
Who cares about numbers when we can play Top NATO Trumps with our Mk1 Thick Colonial Cousins.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
May 23, 2012 12:29 pm

@FBOT 11:55

Appreciate you spending the time to provide your perspective, thank you.

May 23, 2012 12:32 pm

I have been wondering for a while if we could get Hyundai Heavy Industries to build us some patrol frigates on the back on the Incheon. Bit short legged, and underweight I know, but with CODOD propulsion, stripped back iMast sensor fit, a 76mm gun, a couple of 30mm guns, aviation facilities for a Wildcat, fitted for but not with Phalanx 30mm and CAMM it looks like a cheap patrol vessel

May 23, 2012 12:38 pm


Have you seen a frigate in re-fit? I don’t just mean pictures but actually seen one in the metal? Been on the dry dock wall and had a good shufty? They are basically stripped clean and rebuilt. It isn’t a lick of paint and an oil change.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same