The Gospel According to DK Brown

A guest post from Peter Elliot, who has been doing a spot of reading!

Members of this group were kind enough to suggest that I could learn something by reading: “The Future British Surface Fleet, Options for Medium sized navies” by DK Brown, published in 1991.  I have now done so, and these are my reflections.

Before beginning I should state clearly that I am hugely impressed with Brown’s knowledge and grasp of his subject.  Nothing that follows below should be read as adverse criticism of his judgement, integrity or understanding.


It is now twenty-one years since the book was published, and this makes an excellent timeframe for a review.  As Brown was writing the first of the Type 23 Frigates were appearing. As well as discussing them he also considered what the future might hold for the next generation of Destroyers, Amphibs and Aircraft Carriers. The actual solutions adopted for all these ships are now known, and we stand on the threshold of the next design cycle.

At this moment, therefore, we are uniquely well placed to consider what he got right or wrong in his predictions, and what he missed out altogether.

Political Context

At the time of writing Soviet Russia was stillBritain’s major threat. Brown’s writing is strongly coloured by this and the Cold War example is always the first to be mentioned in each section of his discussion.

He wisely avoids detailed predictions of non cold war operations. The outbreak of GW1 was clearly just as much of a surprise to him as it was to the rest of us and he makes no mention of the Balkans,West Africa,AfghanistanorLibya.  He says nothing of the rising economic, political and military strength ofChina,IndiaorBrazil.

What he does do is emphasise the flexibility of a well constructed navy to meet as yet unknown threats. On the whole the experience of the past 20 years has bourn this out. The navy designed in the 1980s to fight the Russians using the lessons of theFalklandshas, with a few exceptions, served us well in the post cold war era. Let us hope the RN we are designing today will be serving us as well in 2032.


Brown is clearly in the camp that sees the frigate fleet at the heart of the future Royal Navy. Their ability to combine Anti-Submarine warfare with peacetime presence tasks at an affordable unit cost makes them his preferred solution for a future fleet.

Unsurprisingly he correctly anticipates the development path of the Type 23 to include a high quality towed array and improvements to other warfare systems. He clearly knew that the RN was getting a good ship and would be able to make the most of it. Although designed for the cold war the T23 has shown itself to be adaptable to a wide variety of tasks, bearing out his views on the general utility of a well designed warship.

Although he nervously anticipates the coming of a ‘peace dividend’ he clearly did not comprehend the scale of the impact it would have on the frigate and destroyer fleets. He bemoans the cut from 50 such vessels to 40, rehearsing the familiar arguments of a fleet cut to the bone and unable to complete its allocated tasks in peace or war. The fact is today that we are producing the same arguments in defence of a surface fleet of just 19 vessels, and would think we had died and gone to heaven if the number were increased back to just 25.

This should give us pause for thought in considering if the frigate fleet really is the swiss army knife of the ocean, and if so whether there is an effective evidence based way of establishing the correct size for it.  Just as we have recently done on the Type 26 thread Brown then ponders what other types of hull could be used instead.


Brown contemplates a stripped down corvette based on the Castle Class, with a helicopter, a gun, and the ability to mount a towed array in wartime. He correctly points out the political risk attached to such a vessel, ie that the ministry would simply replace Frigates with Corvettes 1 for 1 rather than increasing hull numbers back up to the 50 vessels he desires. It is worth considering that if this had happened we might have ended up with a fleet of 19 FF/DD plus 21 Corvettes. Would we be happy with that today? Yes we would. I’m guessing we’d even accept 15 FF/DD and 10 corvettes. And if we reject that path we are likely to end up with 15 FF/DD and no corvettes.

The lesson is that the alternative to diluting the quality of the fleet is simply a smaller fleet. When money is tight there is no ‘status quo’ option.


The SWATH concept clearly made a big impression on Brown. For those unfamiliar with the idea here is the wiki link:

Despite his enthusiasm the SWATH has yet to appear amongst RN warships. The reasons for this are probably tied up with the success of the Type 23. With a reducing fleet we have effectively had a 20 year holiday from Frigate building that is only now approaching its end. There have therefore been no ‘hull slots’ in the fleet available to be filled by a new experimental design.

Brown also admits that both the build and operating costs of a SWATH vessel are likely to come in higher than a conventional warship. The big advantage is in Sea Keeping. A SWATH vessel is more stable and can operate helicopters in conditions that render a conventional frigate impotent. Since Brown’s thinking was dominated by the threat of Soviet submarines in the stormyNorth Atlanticthis advantage looms large. Since 1991 this threat diminished almost to nothing and is only now starting to re-emerge.  As such there was no reason to invest scarce funds in developing the SWATH concept. If the Russians come again, then so may the SWATH.


Over on the Type 26 thread we had a long discussion about how a modified Bay Class or similar vessel might actually be better suited for peacetime presence tasks than a frigate. This is because of the increasing importance of UAV and USV assets and the need to mount numerous small manned boats for counter piracy and counter narcotics operations. If designed correctly such vessels could also be added to the Amphib fleet or tow an array in the event of war.

Brown clearly did not foresee the importance that small unmanned units would come to have. The possible need for a large, cheap, mothership design to take up some of the presence work of his 40 surface warships appears not to have featured in his thinking.


This is an area that Brown was almost spot on. He predicts most of the key characteristics of the Type 45 in terms of its size and capabilities. The areas where his thinking does not match up are ones where we would mostly agree with him and not with the existing capability.

His concept for a Very Long Range Destroyer of up to 9,000 tonnes, heavily armed and with the ability to cross the oceans without RFA support is similar to the sort of global cruisers that the T45 should have been, and what we hope they will evolve into with upgrades during their service lives.

In his section of ‘cheap aircraft carriers’ he also discusses a concept for a large destroyer carrying up to 4 helicopters. There is perhaps some cross over between this concept and the mothership mentioned above, although Brown’s concept is based on a combatant RN Warship and not a lightly armed RFA.

Aircraft Carriers

This is one that DK Brown got wrong. Although he had a very clear view of the inadequacy of RN airpower in 1991 his main proposal is simply to replace the Invincible class like for like with three more 20,000 tonne CVLs. There are three big reasons why this is not what we have ended up with: two operational, one political.

Operational lesson number one fromLibya,Sierra Leoneand GW1, GW2 and the Balkans is that naval airpower from a unit of suitable size and capability is a key asset in expeditionary warfare. When I say ‘suitable’ I am including the Nimitz and CDG class Carriers that deployed on some of these operations.

Lesson two, also from GW1, GW2 and the Balkans is that a 20,000 tonne CVL just does not measure up to the task of influencing a major operation on land, especially when the air wing is solely focussed on CAP rather than CAS.

These are the lessons that have driven the requirement for 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers able to deploy a flexible mix of rotary and fixed wing assets for both CAP and CAS. Interestingly Brown clearly grasped the inadequacy of the CVL design as seen through the Cold War prism of supporting the Royal Marines inNorway, but he seems to have been unable to make the jump to predicting the solution.

This is where the political lesson comes in. Brown clearly never saw New Labour coming. The heady cocktail of Liberal Interventionism and Old Labour spending policy, kept afloat on a sea of international debt just wasn’t in the air in 1991. The cancellation of CV01 still loomed large and he just couldn’t conceive of a modern British fleet carrier ever being approved.  The lesson here: the politicians don’t always shaft the armed forces. We must be prepared to look hard at the facts and make the case for what we need, whether we expect it to be approved or not.

Amphibious Fleet

In this case Brown’s prediction was almost spot on. He predicted 2 LPD, 2 LHA and 6 LSL. This was based on the need to send two Royal Marine Commando Groups toNorwayto fight the Russians, but experience has proved our capability adequate for a range of intervention tasks over the last 20 years.

We ended up with a maximum fleet of 2 LPD, 1 LHA and 4 LSD. The subsequent decline of these fleet numbers and the expected loss of HMS Ocean by 2020 mean that the question of the correct Ampib fleet mix is now back on the agenda. Brown questions the value of such a large fleet of ships simply to deliver two RM Commando battle groups. We now find ourselves questioning the value of our reducing fleet of 1 LPD 1 LHA and 3 LSD to land and sustain a single RM Commando group.

Interestingly the likely conclusions are opposite. Brown was prepared to offer up the Amphib fleet for cuts. The unspoken implication being he would prefer to preserve frigate numbers instead. In our recent discussions we have veered the opposite way: seeking cost effective ways to landing and sustain a medium army brigade over the beach, in addition to the light strike forces offered by 3 Commando and 16 AAB. Once more the reason for the difference in approach is political. As a prisoner of hisNorth Atlanticfocus Brown just did not anticipate the number of other peoples wars we would be getting involved with around the globe, and the need for amphibious forces that this would bring.

One other interesting aside is that as early as 1991 Brown was considering whether 4 large amphibious ships with organic air facilities (effectively Juan Carlos LHDs) would provide a better option. He simply observes that the ministry seem to have chosen the LPD / LHA / LSL model without unpacking the relative merits of the two concepts very far.  It would be fascinating to know more of his thinking on this subject – if anyone out there has access to a relevant paper.

Merchant Navy

Clearly aware of the extent to which power projection was reliant on Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT) Brown frequently bemoans the decline of the British registered Merchant Navy. He takes successive governments to task for not doing more to sustain the necessary reservoir of British registered shipping and points out the safety and operational deficiencies of the commercial RoRo chartered to take our armour to GW1.

What he doesn’t do is propose a cost effective solution. We have ended up with an excellent arrangement of 6 Point Class RoRo, designed with military use in mind, able to be hired out on the civilian market when not required.

Like the aircraft carriers above this is perhaps an example of Brown clearly articulating a problem, but not to reaching out that little bit further and propose a possible solution. This seems especially to be the case where the problem touches on political or economic matters, rather than on his core expertise of ship design.

Ship Building and Ship Design

The description in this section of the unsustainable state ofBritain’s shipyards in 1991 is a sobering one. Brown clearly saw the impending train wreck of mass closures and lost design skills and it worried him deeply. As this is his core area of expertise he does propose a solution in terms of a centralised design office within the MoD, with control of the whole research, specification and design process for new RN warships. Only construction would then be contracted out to the remaining yards in line with the political and industrial requirements of the time.

We cannot say that his proposal would not have worked. In fact we have ended up with something very similar in terms of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, which seems to be making excellent progress in delivering a complex design on time and (political delays aside) on budget. The workflow is being parcelled out around the county and a single central team is pulling all the strings.  It has been a painful, halting process to get to this point but the design and manufacture of the Type 26 seems set to follow a successful template.

Many of the concepts of Net Present Value and the trade-offs between Capital and Operating costs that Brown called for are now central to Hammond’s MoD and appear to be bringing some sanity to the procurement process. Modular Build is here to stay and Modular Design in terms of VLS for multiple different missile designs is also a core part of how warships work today.

Yards will still close and jobs will still be lost after the QEC programme winds down, but the total loss of design skills and the ability to create complex warships that Brown feared seems likely to be avoided.


DK Brown was clearly a master of the very technical subject of ship design. To this he added a good understanding of government, politics, economics and industry. Although his thinking was dominated by the Cold War he clearly understood the value of flexible designs that could be adapted to a number of possible uses. Where issues extended beyond his core competency of ship design he was better at articulating problems than proposing solutions. This also shows a degree of humility and self knowledge that we should perhaps learn from.

We have however now reached the end of the RN ship design and building cycle which Brown directly foresaw. The next generation of RN warships will inevitably evolve further away from his predictions as more new technologies appear and new operational lessons are learned and world politics evolve even further from the Cold War era.


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June 6, 2012 5:57 pm

Nice article Peter.

The issue of centralised design is something that will be debated for a long while yet I’d imagine.

June 6, 2012 6:52 pm

A very good, interesting article.

I’ve often thought that something along the line of a Hyuga class helicopter carrier would neatly fit the need for a mother-ship/large destroyer/constabulary vessel. Though, perhaps, something not quite as large as a Hyuga. With a similar weapons fit; CAMM and ASROC. It could be a CVL^2.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 6, 2012 7:26 pm

A couple of stretched T45 carrying 4 Merlin (2 ASW, 2 CSAR) would be part of my fantasy fleet. Doing the job Tiger & Blake did in the seventies.

June 6, 2012 7:32 pm

Thanks PE, now I don’t feel as bad as before, for not having read the book.

About this one “As this is his core area of expertise he does propose a solution in terms of a centralised design office within the MoD, with control of the whole research, specification and design process for new RN warships. Only construction would then be contracted out to the remaining yards in line with the political and industrial requirements of the time.

We cannot say that his proposal would not have worked. In fact we have ended up with something very similar in terms of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, which seems to be making excellent progress in delivering a complex design on time and (political delays aside) on budget.”
– it is tempting to compare with the (global) cruise ship industry, themselves large and complicated vessels
– e.g. P&O has retained (built?) a strong internal design capability; thus they can move at lightning speed, to take advantage of the global fluctuations and their impacts on pricing power. So conceptual designs on-going kept abreast with the developments and thinking about business (~doctrine) – and then turned very quickly into real designs, to be bid against

Another thing, maybe not in the book, the quotes I keep seeing might be from articles by him on smaller vessels
– the Danish Flyvevisken Class would seem to be the exact embodiment of DK Brown’s thinking on such vessels (so much time has passed that they are now being retired; but, were the main beneficiaries of the Stanflex swappable capability)

June 6, 2012 7:48 pm

Good summary of his applicability to todays needs Peter.

I too think that centralised design is something to drive forward. In fact, I think it should go deeper and back to an MoD funded design and research facility for land, sea and air. It scares me to think it’s all in the public domain at the mo.

I’m not surprised he got the aircraft carrier bit wrong – if he could foresee the massive jump in logistical footprint from Harrier to F35B he’d have realised we’d have needed 3 (+1 LPH) x 30,000 tonne carriers. It’s then very difficult to get away from bolting two of these together to get better efficiencies in terms of fuel and crew. Perhaps if he’d have known about plans for HMS Ocean or postulated that the Invincible hull was a good starting point for an LPH he would have got there.

As for the amphib fleet… is it possible he was eluding to LSLs like the “Sir” class rather than the substantially larger “Bay” class we now have? Our amphib fleet is perfectly capable of inserting and sustaining two Marine Commandos (in fact I think it could squeeze four for short durations).

Also very interesting to see the priorities as frigates/destroyers, carriers and finally amphibs. I guess this is very much in light of the lack of LHDs, which tend to skew my own priority list (e.g. copters come before jets, but large numbers imply flat-tops, which means a carrier in all but name).

I may just have to buy the book ;-)

June 6, 2012 8:00 pm

“published in 1991”
Good article, an interesting read and rather reflective of what’s changed since 1991, so much change in technology, economics, threats and events since then, interesting how her got some of it right.

I am curious, was the book publiched after the Gulf I? Sort of the beggining of the step-change in RN ops.

June 6, 2012 8:09 pm
The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 6, 2012 8:31 pm


Great series of books. Highly recommended.

@BertramPantyshield and Hartley

DK Brown discusses the costs between an LHD and a helicopter pad with hangar. The conclusion is if you only need a few helicopters, the stretched T45 approach is cheaper, though not necessarily as flexible/capable.

June 6, 2012 8:50 pm

The central design issues is what I’ve never understood about BAE. Surely the whole point of them consuming other yards was that they could pool all of that design expertise into one building, instead of each yard having it’s own design teams as (I think) Not A Boffin said they have.

Very odd.

June 7, 2012 5:45 am

Surely the central question of design is going to hinge on whether the future UAV fleet is going to be fixed wing or rotor based?

If fixed wing has compelling advantages then the Hyuga is the future?

If rotary then the improved sea keeping of a ship build over its keel wins out?

(all of the above invalidated if lasers or rail guns take off in a hurry)

June 7, 2012 6:11 am

An interesting topic in itself “if lasers or rail guns take off in a hurry”
– USN says 4 years for the former
– independent bloggers (always unclear on what basis) say 15 years for the latter?

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 7, 2012 7:36 am

On the Tactical life website there is an item on a BAE laser being fitted to USN 25mm mounts to disable pirate/suicide boats.

June 7, 2012 8:14 am

Lasers suffer from massive dispersion in our mucky atmosphere – can’t see them being used for anything other than very short-range shots… CIWS at a push?

Now, plasma cannons – that’s a different matter ;-)

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 9:45 am

@ Peter – an excellent summary of the book, which as you may have guessed from my many quotes and name-dropping is a favourite of mine.

June 7, 2012 10:08 am

@ Simon re weather and LASER

No. A beam of light from say a torch and even one of those laser pointers are different. Yes photons going in the same direction, but the nature of the behaviour of the light, and by light I mean the actual photons, is different. Do some googling, it will explain it better. :)

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 10:09 am

CATOBAR or Rotor aren’t the only choice of UAV:

– Pegasus style rotating hot and cold nozzles
– PCB style rotating hot nozzles
– LiftSystem style LiftFan cold exhaust plus turbojet hot exhaust
– Turbine driven LiftFan cold exhaust only (think ducted LiftFan V-22)
– Tiltrotors

Not to mention any fixed wings that can:

– Rocket launch (VLS?)
– Alternative Catapult/Recovery (more like Scan Eagle)

Without a pilot we can put the airframes through much more punishing take-off and landing manoeuvres provided the airframe (or spares + maintenance crews) can handle it.

This is assuming of course that we don’t develop LEMV style Cloudbases for launching BAE/Dassault UCAVs (British variants designated as “Angels”) under the orders of a Lt. Green…

June 7, 2012 10:28 am


how so on the lasers not being weather affected? Seems counter-intuitive to me. Not sure where to start with the Google either to get to your proposition: the first hit I turn up rather supports my existing view:

Abstract : The Air Force is investigating the use of imaging laser radar systems as autonomous guidance systems on future precision guided munitions. The Air Force’s Wright Laboratory is currently testing a 1.06 micron wavelength laser radar (ladar) at Eglin Air Force Base. Since laser radiation can be susceptible to propagation problems through weather, quantitative understanding of these effects is important to the development of this weapon system. Ladar image degradation, in the form of target dropouts and false returns, was evaluated in various weather conditions. Statistical analysis of the images presented expected degrees of degradation according to visibility and rain fall rate. Apparent system noise masked much of the ladar response to weather. It accounted for a dropout percentage of a maximum of 12% of the target, and a false return percentage up to 1 % of the area viewed. Visibility generally less than 2 kilometers, and rain rates greater than 4 millimeters per hour were required to generate dropouts and false returns from the ladar above the system noise level. Heavy rain with rates up to 6.8 inches per hour, and thick fog with visibility down to 200 meters caused the highest percentages of dropouts and false returns. Image degradation showed a generally exponential relation to visibility and those graphs were fitted with best-guess exponential curves. However, dropouts and false returns indicated a strong linear correlation with rain rate. For the heaviest rain, correlation coefficients of 0.91 and 0.90, respectfully, were computed. Best fit linear functions were fitted to the rain rate data.


But, I would not have thought you would put any wrong info onto TD, so maybe I’m missing something.


Cloudbases are going to be very useful, if (if) and when airships as a genre get some take-up. I recall from the WATCHKEEPER programme that takeoffs were the single most challenging and costly aspect of a UAV system. Dropping it out of an airship as a launch method solves multiple problems for smaller UAVs, landing can be elsewhere.

(Don’t start me on the “Arsenal Airship” concept – the very idea that once air superiority has been achieved, you could have a 90 metre long unmanned airship up for over 3 weeks, equipped with over 100 ready-to-drop Fire Shadow loitering munitions, and a full C4ISTAR suite, ready to cover an entire Libya sized country in less than 4 hours to any point is just too much)

June 7, 2012 10:42 am


Don’t worry about the airship- it will crash.

They allways crash.

Even TOP GEAR crashed one.

June 7, 2012 10:43 am


Coherent light is indeed different, but it still suffers from refraction through the tiny droplets of water that make up a large proportion of low-level atmosphere – not to mention the absorption of energy and diffraction of photons at the quantum level.

We’ve had the technology to build and power lasers for decades. The only place I see them of use is in space or high atmosphere dog fighting on jets (where we have a power generation problem).

However, as with everything: where there’s a will, there’s a way ;-)

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 10:54 am

Recipe for a High Altitude Laser Gunship (HALG)


1 x F-35B
1 x Solid State Laser and associated equipment
1 x Generator


Take your F-35B and carve out the LiftFan from the LiftFan Bay. Carefully connect your generator to the low pressure spool on the F135 engine. Stuff your solid state laser into the rest of the bay, smearing on generous amounts of focussing arrays ventrally and dorsally together with copious protective covers.

Decorate as you please: Flame effects and Cadillac winglets earn extra points.

Power your generator from the 17,000 shaft horsepower available from the F135 spool configuration and cook your target to taste.

June 7, 2012 11:23 am

@X and Simon

Don’t forget the inverse square law of energy loss through thermal radiation as well, in addition to all the other atmospheric effects mentioned.


Er… just to get it straight, your engines are powering the laser. So what’s keeping the plane in the air? :P


Loiter time would be incredible. Time taken to get there might be a pain though, but it might be a managable one, after all, during the days of LTA, they still got to where they were going faster than land transport. Hmm… a cargo variant where after unloading can be converted to a gunship? Logistics and firepower.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 11:31 am

DK Brown’s thoughts on small carriers:
“The very large uptakes and downtakes of the gas turbine seriously obstruct the hangar and lead to a big island in the Invincibles. Nuclear power might be the best technical choice but, as noted aboce, will probably be ruled out on political grounds. Diesel-electric propulsion will be more expensive to procure than gas turbines but this would be offset by lower fuel consumption and smaller uptakes, and the engines could be dispersed to reduce vulnerability.

By the time the replacement CVS enter service, there should be a number of fighter aircraft available which could make a conventional take-off and be able to land on a ship of about 20,000 tons. An alternative would be much higher performance development of the VSTOL Harrier. In either case, a flight deck length of 220m with a ramp seems desirable (1). On about 20,000 tons, such a ship could carry eight advanced fighters (European Fighter Aircraft or F-18A derivatives), three AEW helicopters (EH-101s) and nine ASW helicopters (also EH-101s).

Rolling take-off with a ramp would not permit simultaneous landing and take-off, but with such a small aircraft complement, this should not present any serious operational difficulties. Two centreline lifts would be provided as the ship would be too small for side lifts.

Operationally, the fighters would be able to destroy shadowers, to disrupt small attacking formations and to launch strikes against lightly defended targets on sea or land. The helicopters would have similar, but updated, capability to that of the early Merlins.”

(1) : A.R. Hamilton & J.M. Crawford, Supersonic STOL A/C Carrier, University College Postgraduate Design Study (London 1987). My thanks are due to the Professor of Naval Architecture for permission to use this report.

Copied and pasted from:

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 11:36 am


Effectively you attach the generator to the shaft of the turbine in the same way the LiftFan is currently attached in the F-35B. The Lightening II needs both fan and exhaust in order to hover.

Basically it’s a drive shaft plus hot exhaust system as-is.

Quick napkin-maths: 17,000 horsepower gives the potential for up to 12MW of energy. You’d need to account for generator efficiency (85% upwards), however the biggest problem would be counter-torque.

This drag is equivalent to the current drawn, so 1MW of potential power generation would reduce shaft horsepower by 1,000-2,000, probably taking the aircraft subsonic while operating the Laser.

@Gareth Jones

Interesting. Reminds me of the Sea Control Ship reports.

June 7, 2012 11:37 am

@ James

Light, the propagation of any wave, will always be affected by the medium through which it passes. Surely that is a given and doesn’t need to be said explicitly?

As Simon said coherent light is different. The degree of excitement and the frequencies of the light (it’s position on the electromagnetic spectrum) will to some degree mitigate the affects of larger molecules in the path’s stream or at the terminus (the target). That is to say highly excited photons are smaller and have more energy than a water molecule or indeed single atoms of nitrogen or oxygen. Photons are displaced due to quantum effects but the stream will maintain its initial character; the power of the stream will be reduced (and that can be mitigated by more power unsurprisingly) The nature of the object at the terminus or target will have some bearing on the stream behaviour; we all know a mirror reflects light.

I didn’t know how much Simon knew about LASERs. I didn’t want him think it was just a bright light. In future I will assume every body knows about Gausian beams etc. etc. :)

June 7, 2012 11:46 am


I had a brief love affair with lasers many moons ago.

I really wanted to push the idea of the plasma cannon – which interestingly is what a very high-powered laser would probably end up being as the energy simply annihilates the air it passes through – all we then need to do is knock a few electrons out to charge the plasma and accelerate the air mass with some big magnets – supergun and railgun rendered obsolete!

Or just stick to bullets ;-)

June 7, 2012 11:50 am


Sorry, think you’ll need a lot more power than that to develop a practical pulse laser. And that against guys with missiles that would skewer you even before you can see them. They can reach you, you can’t reach them is a very crappy situation to be in.

June 7, 2012 11:55 am

Gareth Jones,

Seems as though Mr DK Brown was still in the escort carrier mindset rather than strike and CAS, although the latter might be better achieved by attack copter (Apache/Lynx/Wildcat/etc).

He’s also missed a trick with the light 20,000 tonne hull not being able to carry much in the way of aviation fuel to operate these “eight EFA” jets for any useful time period.

Invincible was perfect when she embarked Sea King and Sea Harrier (5-days at full tilt). As soon as Merlin and Harrier II came along her fuel supply became limited (4-days at full tilt). V22 and F35B make things even worse (3-days at full tilt). Hence the removal of the well deck on America.

June 7, 2012 11:56 am


Gaussian functions just describes the frequency distribution of light in a bell curve, which in coherent light, also scales to intensity, it’s not a beam type, but a beam description.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 7, 2012 11:59 am

I do get tired of hearing about what DK Brown wrote in the ’90s. It’s a long time ago and many things have moved on since then.

The most important thing about Brown, as far as I’m concerned, is that his thinking was off at a tangent from the established mindset of the time – of just churning out more conventional destroyers and frigates. And that should at least be an inspiration to the decision makers today; not that destroyers and frigates aren’t necessary, but a bit of imagination and lateral thinking is required if we are to meet our future national needs.

June 7, 2012 11:59 am


How would the missile hit him? The laser that The Other Chris has put on his jet is basically a CIWS system!

He then just needs to move in pretty damn close to fire off a few burst of EM energy up the tail pipe. Just as well the F35 is a highly agile jet fighter that can stand up to the best that Russia/China has to offer :-(

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 12:00 pm


This is simply for power generation, and does not include build-up options such as capacitors. Effective power ranges for military purposes themselves start in the 150kW+ range at any rates. We have more than enough power available on a Fast Jet to run the lights of a small town.

The problem is not the power generation though, which is comparatively easy, but in miniaturising the device itself to fit within the Bay at a reasonable weight.

June 7, 2012 12:00 pm


For now, guess we have to stick to firing Tokamark electromagnetically charged shells containing plasma. :)


That and ranges (km, not power) for burn through type lasers are seriously crap.

Long time since my Physics classes, did triple sciences (Phy/Chem/Bio) in Uni before spec-ing into Bio.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 12:01 pm

@ TOC – essentially the same idea,and the original thinking behind the invincible class = helos for ASW (and AEW) with enough fighters to chase of shadowers and disrupt naval bomber formations. As DK Brown foresaw all any action taking place within the North Sea (or on the level of the Azores to increase the flight time for soviet bombers and make their refueling aircraft vulnerable) the RAF had the main air superiority role.

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 12:05 pm

his idea for a future 6000 ton “destroyer” from “Future British Surface Fleet” published 1991:

“The primary role of a 6000-tonne destrover would be to lead ASW operations with its four large helicopters and to command and control a force including older frigates and corvettes as well as maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) arid SSXs. It should have the capability to defend itself and sliips in company against air attack, using FAAMS.7 At 6000 tonnes, such a vessel can be designed as a double-ended ship able to move and fight, at least to some extent, after a single hit.

The design is dominated by the big hangar. The cheapest solution is to have the hangar forward with a rear door giving access to a flight deck aft (somewhat similar to that shown on page 134). This is awkward in practice, involving a lot of helicopter movements. and the flight deck tends to be shifted too far aft as the design progresses, particularly when the arrangement of weapons is considered. The preferred arrangement is the mini carrier, shown in figure 9 1.

Aircraft operators rightiv object to arrangements which are
dependent on a single lift. whose failure might put all the aircraft out of action. Figure 9 1 is a compromise: there is only one lift but rear doors to the hangar give access to an alternative landing spot on the quarter deck which can be used. at least in favourable weather. It is likelv that three helicopters would be sufficient to ensure one on station at all times, but a reduction in numbers would not affect ship cost significantly. The fourth helicopter offers a good chance that one will be available at all times, and also makes it easier to rotate helicopters with the corvettes for maintenance.

Admiral Metcalf. in his “Revolution at Sea” called for a bridge ‘no larger than a 747 cockpit” and this has been provided as a crow’s nest on the forward mack. Both masts are to starboard, leaving an unobstructed flight deck. Since this is long enough for Harrier take-offs, a ski jump is provided. It is not intended that the destroyer should be capable of operating Harriers, but there may be occasions when a refuelling platform, some considerable distance from
the carrier, is valuable, and the destroyer would fulfil this role.

The combination of a big hangar and a long flight deck raises
the same problems which were apparent in World War II aircraft carriers. If tlie hangar sides and flight deck take the main load, there will be a major discontinuity in the depth of the hull girder at the ends of the hangar, which would lead to failure under the whipping loads due to an under-keel explosion. On the other hand, the deeper section amidships could be of value under the same loading. I lie alternative would be to support a flight deck on steel portal frames with GRP cladding on the sides. More detailed analysis of the design is necessary before a firm conclusion can be reached.

The hangar, flight deck and quarterdeck are open, making the
ship very adaptable to other roles such as troop carrying or disaster relief. The open quarterdeck could carry small landing craft, inflatables or vehicles. One or more helicopters could be landed to provide space for troops or evacuees in the hangar.”

Copied and pasted from:

June 7, 2012 12:06 pm


Now you’re talking – balls of magnetic confined plasma.

I’ll just make a quick call to the chaps at J.E.T. to see if they can make their equipment a bit smaller – hee, hee ;-)

June 7, 2012 12:14 pm

Gareth Jones,

“…The cheapest solution is to have the hangar forward with a rear door giving access to a flight deck aft (somewhat similar to that shown on page 134). This is awkward in practice, involving a lot of helicopter movements…”

That’s why a bigger ship is better. With enough beam (say 30m at flight deck level) you can park two folded next to two ready to go with a further two in the hangar forward. In fact with a 30m beam you’re probably going to be 180m long so you may as well go for 100m of flight deck (3 spots) with 3 ready, 3 parked/folded and 3-4 in the hangar.

What I/we have just designed is a ship that can operate 10 Merlin (6 ASW and 4 AEW) – along with Asters in the bow and Sampson on the top you have a fully fledged sea control ship.

Others here have also had this idea. Trouble is you need to carry a lot of AVCAT to maintain AEW/ASW operations for any reasonable time period and you end up going back to a towed array and a Merlin on a couple of frigates with T45 failing to bring AEW – my pet hate about the design.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 12:23 pm


MTHEL has proven effective at 20km with Artillery and Mortar rounds. It’s believed to be in the 150kW range.

With the HELLADS offspring’s showing possibilities in the size and weight areas as well I don’t think we’re far off aircraft mountings.

Bottom line, power isn’t an issue. Cost and size is. Chemical generators are much cheaper than an F135 which is why the US Army are more interested in those.

The US Navy are interested as their ships engines can generate more than enough power, they’re happy looking at Liquid state lasers as that’s where a lot of research has been performed.

The USAF have Turbofans and Turbojets available in small packages, and the potential for air-cooling that brings continuous fire solid state into play, instead of pulse operations.

Remember your house is likely being powered by a gas turbine right now. Industrial 60 and MT30 are derivatives from the Trent turbofan as an example.

Also worth mentioning that even continuous fire beams have an element of pulsing as that has benefits with energy coupling at the target.


I love the idea of plasma rounds, however the deflection of momentum from a magnetic field is severe. You could generate a magnetic field around an aircraft or vehicle powerful enough top deflect an un-encased round using today’s generators and coils. No reason why you couldn’t investigate the potential for plasma inside a round however.

Raise shields!

June 7, 2012 12:33 pm

@ Observer

Thank you. I just picked a term at random. Being naval minded the word Gaussian is one I like. I am going to resort to Wikipedia for speed,

“In optics, a Gaussian beam is a beam of electromagnetic radiation whose transverse electric field and intensity (irradiance) distributions are well approximated by Gaussian functions. Many lasers emit beams that approximate a Gaussian profile, in which case the laser is said to be operating on the fundamental transverse mode, or “TEM00 mode” of the laser’s optical resonator. When refracted by a lens, a Gaussian beam is transformed into another Gaussian beam (characterized by a different set of parameters), which explains why it is a convenient, widespread model in laser optics.”

@ Simon

Back in my day the ultimate weapon was the “tachyon funnel”……….

June 7, 2012 12:42 pm

The Other Chris,

Not sure what is meant by “deflection of momentum”?

With respect to your feeble shields (ha, ha, ha, Mr Kirk) I’d remix the electrons accelerated the other way with the protons from a dual exit cyclotron, add a few anti-neutrinos on the way out* to produce neutrons with a net charge of zero.

*okay, this bit is a little difficult.

June 7, 2012 12:44 pm


That makes you about 1-2 years older than me.

I’ll build one of those funnels tonight when I get home – a bit of Cherenkov radiation and a couple of lasers should do the trick!

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 12:49 pm


Heh heh. I’m getting carried away. As you can probably tell, I love me some engineering.

Deflection of momentum. What I mean is the plasma is pretty lightweight in terms of mass and pretty heavily charged. It doesn’t take much of a field to deflect it from its path.


But did Avon really sell them out? Was he actually stood over Blake’s body defending it in those last frames? I need to know!

June 7, 2012 12:53 pm

The Other Chris,

I wasn’t going to waft some plasma towards you – you were going to get it at 95% of the speed of light :-) Plenty of kinetic energy to overcome the charge. You’ll need (at least) a couple if di-lithium chambers to generate enough shield power to deflect that.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
June 7, 2012 12:55 pm

Some recoil!

June 7, 2012 1:06 pm

The Other Chris,

That’s the beauty of a cyclotron… no recoil.

June 7, 2012 1:57 pm

I am much, much older. Heck I remember back when we used to discuss whether those peskie Romans would ever invade….

June 7, 2012 2:37 pm

I’m feeling my age… In my days, there was only Ruby Crystal, Xenon Arc and Neon lasers. Getting fancy nowadays.

June 7, 2012 3:31 pm

I agree the old Corvette issue with the RN is problematic, on one hand a global corvette would be a handy way of cheaply flying the flag but the fear of the treasury replacing one for one frigates with Corvettes is there.

I also think the navies thinking about Corvettes is coloured by their experience the Type 21 that was crowded and woefully underarmed (actually in some respects comically underarmed in respect of the two Bofors and Sea Cat!) They also had a crew barely smaller then the type 23. Apparently the crews liked them as they had nice accommodation (designed by a woman).

Then again it is interesting to compare the Type 21 with the modern Milgem class from Turkey. Looking at the Milgem the long promised advances in automation. It has a similar (and at some speeds greater) range it displaces less 2,300 vs 3,360 (strengthened), has a smaller crew 96 vs 177, a hanger and flight deck big enough to accomodate a Seahawk. It also has a very comprehensive armament and sensor suite including SMART-S, 1x 76mm cannon, 2 x 12.7mmm STAMP gun platforms, 8 x Harpoon, 21 x RAM RIM116 and 2 x MK32 triple launchers for NK46 Torpedo.

UK PLc is perfectly capable of manufacturing this kind of vessel (and has recently) but the RN is terrified of loosing its first tier warships.

June 7, 2012 6:21 pm

X said: “Heck I remember back when we used to discuss whether those peskie Romans would ever invade…….”

Classic ! You old git ! I am obviously younger than you as I just remember “what the Romans did for us….. schools, aqueducts, cruxification…..

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 6:41 pm

@ Simon – This I think is from another DK Brown book and was part of the development which lead to the Invincible class; I think it was supposed to dsplace 12,500 tons but I will have to check that:

RE: High Tech weapons. Can’t beat the plasma torpedo and cloaking field combo…

June 7, 2012 6:43 pm

Actually I remember discussing whether it was worth getting down from the trees. Well we didn’t discuss it we just grunted and gesticulated a bit. All I will say is we might not have discovered fire at the time, but we weren’t that dumb that we bought a “ladder system” of BAE….

June 7, 2012 6:48 pm


Romulan. :P

June 7, 2012 7:57 pm


You know this is coming… some thought the trees were a bad idea, and that no one should have left the oceans :-)

Oh, I remember the days with brimstone raining down from the local volcano and me and my mates playing “guess the algae” in the primordial pools.

June 7, 2012 8:02 pm

Gareth Jones,

Is this 12,500 tonner the one that has all the copter shuffling going on – certainly looks like it.

Missed a trick with that design too – a through hangar, allowing a single spot on the bow too!

It’s easy with the benefit of hindsight to pick fault (sorry, I have nothing but respect for the chaps that write these kinds of books) but at least they’re imaginitive, unlike the things we see farmed out nowadays.

June 7, 2012 8:32 pm
June 7, 2012 9:16 pm


Err, yes, Garibaldi and I guess Chakri Naruebet.

I’ve always liked the Italian Garibaldi. Always looks so neat. Any idea how much AVCAT she packs?

Gareth Jones
Gareth Jones
June 7, 2012 9:30 pm

Hmmmm…. How much did the Garibaldi cost? Take away the cost of operating Harriers (probably too small to operate F-35B)… VLS CAMM instead of Apside… new Type 26? I’ll take 12 ;p

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 10, 2012 9:33 am

2 things.
Telegraph has an item that CEC has been dropped for the T45, even though £45 million has already been spent.
Military Technology,issue 7, 2010, has a press release from General Atomics. It had completed testing of an advanced thermal energy storage device needed to make directed energy weapons viable.
Googling patents for my better GPMG project, I came accross 3 US patents relating to electrothermal-chemical/hybrid rail guns.
Its easy to denounce ray guns as sci fi, but the technology is slowly getting there.

June 10, 2012 12:43 pm

John, ray guns or rail guns?

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 10, 2012 4:26 pm

both. Rail gun & directed energy weapons seem to be making slow, steady progress.