RN OPV’s – what do “patrol” vessels do?

A GUEST POST FROM LONG TIME TD CONTRIBUTOR, JED

There has been a lot written in recent threads about the Chief of the Defence Staff’s speech and his comments about more vessels for the RN.  Much of the commentary on this site has interpreted these comments as “less expensive ‘warships’ e.g. T26 and more patrol vessels for ‘peace time’ tasking”.

This may or may not be what the CDS meant, replacing some T26 Frigates with other,  “low end” types of vessels, or it may not. However a lot of the conversation in the comment threads has been on what the UK could do to build up the number of hulls by buying smaller, cheaper, simpler vessels such as River Class / Clyde Class, the Spanish BAM or the Dutch Holland classes.

However what would we require such vessels to do, what could they manage to do based on their capabilities ?

The current  tasking of the existing “patrol squadron”

Much has been written on TD over the last few years that echoes the sensationalist press, you know the comments, the ones about what a waste it is to use multi-billion dollar warships to chase pirates……….

What do the current OPV fleet do in the RN ? Well the River class page of the RN website sums it up like this (http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/The-Fleet/Ships/Patrol-and-Minehunters/River-Class) :

“HMS Tyne, Mersey and Severn…….. working at least 275 days a year at sea enforcing British and European fisheries law. The ships send two-person teams to inspect fishing vessels to make sure they have the right nets, the right log books and the right licences.”

So, that’s the old Fisheries Protection Squadron then. Only 3 of them, 4 if you include the FI patrol ship HMS Clyde,  but still, hardly surprising we don’t use them for Caribbean anti-drug tasking etc, we just don’t have enough of them.

The tasking – strategic concerns: the Defence planning assumptions

The seven Military Tasks from the 2010 SDSR are:

  • defending the UK and its Overseas Territories
  • providing strategic intelligence
  • providing nuclear deterrence
  • supporting civil emergency organisations in times of crisis
  • defending our interests by projecting power strategically and through expeditionary interventions
  • providing a defence contribution to UK influence
  • providing security for stabilisation.

I would say the obvious ones for OPV’s are the last two, plus supporting UK civil emergency organizations, and maybe, just a maybe mind you, playing a role in the broadly scoped “defending the UK and its Overseas Territories” – although personally I struggle to see what the role might be exactly.

So, if we buy extra OPV’s instead of Frigates (because lets be honest, it’s not going to be extra OPV’s as well as Frigates is it), what exactly is it we expect them to do ?

Please note, I am focusing on what I consider to be a reasonable label i.e. Ocean Patrol Vessel. You could call it a “Patrol Ship” if you want, but I really don’t understand the “small ships mafia” use of terms like:

Corvette: Wikipedia says up to 100m and 2,750 tonnes defines a “modern” Corvette, but it also notes heavy armament. To me this is a type of ship utilized by coastal navies that don’t need ocean going Frigates, but what to put 8 or more SSM on a small hull, with a small helo, and point defence missile system, i.e. in TD nomenclature it’s more “fighty” than an OPV. Lets use the German Braunschweig class as an example, built for use primarily in the Baltic, they have a range of 4,000 NM at 15Kts, but an endurance of only 7 days.

Sloop: Boy do I hate this particular label, but the great Wiki tells us in “modern” usage (e.g. RN pre-WWII) it referred to a vessel in between a Corvette and a Frigate. I cant really think of a real world modern, current example, however regular TD commentor’s sometimes even use the more bizarre “Sloop-of-war” – whatever that means !

The requirements

What exactly then, do we want our OPV to be able to do ? Well based on historical usage in the RN, and the sort of things that often get mentioned here in the comments threads, the bread and butter work for such a vessel would be “constabulary operations” also known as MSO, or Maritime Security Operations.

The great Wiki even has a definition for MSO: “Maritime security operations (MSO) are the actions of modern naval forces to “combat sea–based terrorism and other illegal activities, such as hijacking, piracy, and slavery, also known as human trafficking.”[1] Ships assigned to such operations may also assist seafaring vessels in distress. These activities are part of an overall category of activities which fall short of open warfare called military operations other than war (MOOTW).”

To this list we could add, general anti-smuggling (such as arms, prohibited technology etc) and the EEZ patrol and fisheries protection type missions.

The major commonalities of all these roles are based around the need to board suspect vessels, in order to do this we must be able to:

  • Receive Intel, detect and identify the suspect vessel(s)
  • Intercept it (or them)
  • Stop it (or them)
  • Visit (peaceful) / Board (against resistance)
  • Subdue resistance and Search
  • Arrest and detain crew or others
  • Dispose (sink / tow / put onboard a prize crew)

This is what the USN calls Visit Board Search and Seizure or VBSS operations (again Wiki has a page on this too ! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visit,_board,_search,_and_seizure)

From this list of functional requirements, we can build anther list of what capabilities we need in order to meet those requirements

  • Communications to receive and disseminate intel
  • Sensors to detect and identify surface vessels
  • Capability to force a vessel to stop (weapons systems ?)
  • Ability  to catch “go fast” suspects ( by going fast yourself, carrying fast small boats, or helicopters)
  • Ability to board suspects vessels

We now have potential tasking, the functional requirements, and capabilities required in order to specify the size and shape of vessel required. However we must look at additional factors too:

  • What kind of sea keeping capabilities do we require ?
  • What range and endurance capabilities ?
  • What are the cost constraints ?
  • Are there other design factors (e.g. the desire to use the same hull for hydrographic survey ships, or MCM Vessels ?)

Also, we might ask ourselves what kind of vessels we want to intercept ? Modern merchant dashes around the oceans with quite a pace, modern Very Large Container Ships and Very Large Crude Carriers (big tankers) can have “cruise” speeds of over 20kts, so if your OPV is to have a large patrol area, it must have a pretty quick sprint speed in order to get an intercept on a fast moving merchant vessel.

Of course it will never be able to go fast enough to catch a drug runner in his “go fast” speed boat (think Miami Vice), so our OPV will also need to carry and deploy it’s own “go fasts” e.g. 11m RHIBs.

As for stopping a suspect vessel, well that opens a whole other dimension for argument. Personally I have to admit the RN actually seems to have got it right with sticking with the old 40mm Bofors on the Island and Castle Class OPV’s of yester-year,  and the 30mm on the modern Rivers. I know the rest of the world, and it’s dog seems to have universally adopted the OTO Melara 76mm Super Rapid in one form or another, but I can’t really see how it’s of any use on an ocean going patrol vessel for MSO type tasks, as opposed to a coastal Corvette.  The shells from a 76mm Super Rapid are NOT going to punch enough holes in a mahooosive container ship to sink it, nor are they going to stop a big tanker before terrorists smash it into an oil terminal or something.  Sure you can shoot at the bridge and even the engineering spaces, but to be honest you can do that with a 30mm too.

Now some will answer that we can add all the bells and whistles, and use the ubiquitous 76mm in its most modern form, with guided ammo for both anti-missile and even NGS roles.  Well we could, but that requires a command system, much better radar for the anti-air/anti-missile mode,  maybe a fire control radar, at least a good Electro Optical “director” for target tracking etc  so we are pushing up the costs on our OPV here, but for what purpose ? To give our OPV a “war role” – seriously?

Actually, what might make our OPV at least a little bit “fighty” is its aviation capability. If it has a hangar and flight deck big enough for a Lynx Wildcat, AND a big old “air weapons magazine” then it could carry Stingray ASW torpedoes, depth charges, and eventually Son-of-SeaSkua etc. But to be honest, Wildcat delivered Stingray’s are no use with out a good bow mounted active / passive sonar capability, and adding this pushes up the cost again……….

So what else can we use it for ?

Well there is all the obvious stuff, all the non-core war fighting stuff that I got involved in on just about every RN vessel I served on, like search and rescue, assisting merchant shipping in trouble (including fire fighting, and marine engineering assistance), disaster response.  Except of course on a 2,500 tonne broad-beamed Leander Class Frigate there were around 250 of us from which to find shore parties to help in disaster response, whereas a River Class has a crew of 30 (and berths for 20 more).

However, playing devils advocate, lets say we have a stretched River / Clyde of 90m, say 2000 tonnes, flight deck and Wildcat capable hanger, 2 x 11m RHIBS,  capable of “sprinting” at 21Kts and slightly greater range than the Clyde,  say 8,500NM at 12 Kts; with 3 x 30mm (Fwd, and Port and Stbd mid-ships) plus min-guns etc.  Comms and sensors same as Clyde.  Lets also say BAE Systems Surface Ships can build them at reasonable cost in Portsmouth.

Great :)

Now can someone please tell me what use these ships are for those military tasks from the Defence Planning Assumptions:

  • Defending the UK and its Overseas Territories
  • providing a defence contribution to UK influence
  • providing security for stabilisation.

Good enough for Caribbean anti-drug ops, Mediterranean anti-people smuggling, and Somali piracy ops. Good enough for EEZ patrol.  I get that. Basically its a  Coast Guard vessel, doing Coast Guard roles, but on a global scale, deploying where needed rather than working in the home waters, 200NM EEZ.

However who do we think we are going to “impress” as part of providing a defence contribution to UK influence, if we turn up in one of these ? Sure there are other elements to influence, like working alongside and training with local navies, but we don’t need this class of vessel to do that, we could use something even cheaper and simpler, deployed and supported by a “mothership” – oh yes, I went there !

Our OPV can stop and search, but what other tasking can it undertake in a security stabilization role ? It might be able to carry full platoon of Marines, but with say 8 each in the two RHIBS, and 4 squashed into the back of the Wildcat, it can’t deploy them all in one wave.

For those who want to make it more fighty, stretch it a bit more, and turn into an RN version of the Omani Khareef with 76mm, 8 x Harpoon and 8 x SeaCeptor in place of the VL Mica, do you really think we would get enough of them to make it worth while instead of 5 General Purpose T26 ?

I remain unconvinced about the worth of these vessels.

I will do a part 2 with some ideas for “thinking big” but in the meanwhile, I want the “small ship mafia”, the Black Swan and Khareef advocates to come up with some well thought out and logical arguments as to how these vessels would actually add capability to the RN in the context of their interpretation of the CDS recent comments.

 

 

 

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Pete
Pete
January 5, 2013 12:28 am

I thought the idea was to use a Khareef type ship to do the petty tasks of dealing with pirates and drug traffickers while leaving the ‘proper’ ships to do the real work?

With fewer and fewer ships in the Royal Navy can we really afford to be sending frigates to chase 6 men in a rowing boat?

Chuck Hill
January 5, 2013 2:57 am

First I would say, using frigates and destroyers to do counter-piracy makes perfect sense if the ships had nothing better to do. Warships and their crews need to operate to learn their craft and operating in a multinational task force is good experience, even if the OP FOR is Somoli teenagers in a crudely made skiff.

I also agree that the 76 mm is little more effective at forcibly stopping a ship than the 30 mm. I talked about that here: http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2011/03/14/what-does-it-take-to-sink-a-ship/

Having been in the Coast Guard I do see some wartime uses for OPVs. From my perspective the proposed MHPC sounds like an OPV with wartime utility. I put some thought into what OPVs (in this case USCG cutters) might do in wartime in a two part series

http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/01/01/what-might-coast-guard-cutters-do-in-wartime-part-1-navy-shortfalls-2/
http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/02/10/what-might-coast-guard-cutters-do-in-wartime-part-2-coast-guard-roles/

Our cutters tend to be much more “fighty” than the River class, more lightly armed than the Khareef but with better endurance and seakeeping.

Thoughts on how OPVs might be “fitted for but not with”: http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/06/27/opc-design-for-wartime-build-for-peacetime/

Some thoughts on weapons for our cutters here:

http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/05/04/alternate-weapons-for-new-large-cutters/

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 7:15 am

Jed,

Thanks for the post. I am not a member of any “small ship mafia” but I do belive that we need to examine all options.

I will pick you up on a few points though.

The vessel you end up describing is certainly not what I have been looking at. it would be cheap, probably about 60 million but not really useful.

The whole issue is dependent upon tasking.

You talk about intercepting and stopping merchant vessels. Well you track them with AIS, a small UAV like scan eagle or organic helo for IS and boarding by helo or Rhib. perhaps you could tell me when and where we are stopping large container ships and tankers in open Ocean?
You cannot search these type of vessels at sea and you need a diversion Port (a lesson learnt from Libya).

Now some will answer that we can add all the bells and whistles, and use the ubiquitous 76mm in its most modern form, with guided ammo for both anti-missile and even NGS roles. Well we could, but that requires a command system, much better radar for the anti-air/anti-missile mode, maybe a fire control radar, at least a good Electro Optical “director” for target tracking etc so we are pushing up the costs on our OPV here, but for what purpose ? To give our OPV a “war role” – seriously?

The 76MM super rapid mount takes cueing from a command system and an EOD. I have maintained all along that the OPV/Corvette should have a C3 system and if you look at such vessels around the world they do have for a 76MM. The DART rounds are guided by an additional RF tracker which can be added to existing super rapid mounts as part of the new shield.

An air weapons mag is hardly the biggest space onboard a Ship, certainly not on a T23. I have never suggested carrying or dropping stingray or depth charges but they could. ASW is all about maintaining the “weapons train” once you are in contact. The unit in contact will control the targeting and release of the weapon carrier which in a TG or group of ships is often not their own helo.

So my argument is that if we are going to look at BAE designs then surely the starting point should be the design of HTMS Krabi which allegedly the Thais built for 36 million???

Now she does 24kts has a 76MM, THALES TACTICOS Command system. Hangar and flightdeck are Lynx capable. ( allegedly, hangar looks small to me but plenty of space back aft.)

So amends to design would be to ensure that the hangar can take a Wild Cat and a scan eagle. look at the range, add a citadel, upgrade the 76MM super rapid to STRALES and swap the 2 30MM MSI mounts for 3 SEAHAWK SIGMA.

I now have a vessel that is better suited to Constabulary ops in the NAG, Anti piracy ops in the GOA, chasing drug smugglers in the Caribbean (would send an RFA for hurricane season) and I would suggest could take on non TAPS FRE roles and operate in the FI.

If we built 8 or 9 for the price of 3 GP t26 and they took over 1 of the E of Suez taskings you are immediately FF/DD availability neutral. Every other Deployment they do instead of an FF/DD wins you 6 or 7 months of FF/DD availability.

Repulse
January 5, 2013 8:45 am

Jed, interesting post. The CDS comments to me can be summed up as “I do not have enough assets to do everything the Politicians ask for, and when I do I do not have a broad enough array of asset capabilities to assign the appropriate response”. In terms of the RN this results in the worlds most sophisticated AAW ship chasing pirates.

Rather than focusing on how patrol vessels add to the 3 Defence Planning Assumptions highlighted I feel we should be focusing on the impact to these by having our world class assets tied up in this way.

I come to understand that replacing a third of the DD/FF fleet for cheaper and smaller vessels is not the way to go for the RN, but I still firmly believe replacing one T26 for 4 patrol vessels now would give the CDS more options and improve the overall ability to meet the Defence Planning Assumptions by freeing up more expensive assets.

As the technology matures, the platform concepts of the MHPCs (and Black Swans) will become more relevant and the RN should be at forefront of this. As the assets being carried by these platforms become more capable then perhaps the DD/FF vs multi role vessel can be reassessed.

Repulse
January 5, 2013 8:51 am

Btw, I have no problem with the stretched River class you describe, though extra hanger space for a Merlin (or Lynx plus UAV) would be nice. :)

John Hartley
John Hartley
January 5, 2013 9:31 am

I have a RN Warships book from 1987 by Paul Beaver. We stiil had a few Type 12 Rothesey Class frigates then. 2800 ton full displacement, 30 kt, 4.5″ turret, Seacat,2x 20mm, Limbo, Wasp helicopter. A modern version with automation to reduce crew numbers, might be good. So 114mm recycled gun, Seaceptor, 2x 30mm, Stingray Torps,Wildcat helicopter.

WiseApe
January 5, 2013 9:43 am

Nice part one TD, looking forward to part two.

The comments came thick and fast on this issue and, as usual, we tended to find ourselves arguing (politely of course) at cross purposes, as everyone had their own interpretation of what Gen. Richards was on about, what type of vessel (patrol boats or pocket-frigates), tasks, budgets and so on.

On previous threads I have consistently argued against further cuts in the number of DD/FFs. As APATS and others keep reminding us, it’s all about the tasks.

Now one thing which struck me particularly clearly about Gen. Richards’ speech was that he was certainly not arguing in favour of a reduction in tasks, either for the RN or the forces generally. Further, a combination of factors leads me to believe that not only are tasks not going to be reduced or merely maintained, they’ll likely increase in the future. A 6/13 DD/FF split looks “bare minimum” to me, but of course I’m no expert. I do know that a system with no redundancy in it will not long survive. Warships are unavailable for all sorts of reasons, and that’s before people start shooting holes in them.

I very much hope that what Gen. Richards was on about was extending the run of T26 or, second best option, ensuring all 13 get built then introducing a new class; smaller, less “fighty” in TD parlance, something which can undertake the constabulary roles you outline above; or, third best, more Rivers.

I’m all in favour of more hulls, just not instead of the ones we’ll need in a shooting match. Or to prevent one starting.

“I remain unconvinced about the worth of these vessels.” – about sums it up for me, too.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 5, 2013 9:43 am

Thanks Jed, even though I like all of these vessels at times, like you,I have had trouble seeing which aspect/ use we are discussing.

Two bits from the comments that I particularly agree with:

From Chuck “Our cutters tend to be much more “fighty” than the River class, more lightly armed than the Khareef but with better endurance and seakeeping.”
– excellent design parameters for the first rough copy
– that “virtual” ship could then be matched to existing designs, to better understand the trade-offs

From APATS “If we built 8 or 9 for the price of 3 GP t26 and they took over 1 of the E of Suez taskings you are immediately FF/DD availability neutral. “

Repulse
January 5, 2013 10:25 am

The Bertholf National Security Cutters are $641 mn each. If more funds are available then the conversation changes but unless the CDS is proposing to move money from elsewhere in the MOD budget or willing to sacrifice something on the “white board” then something has to give from the equipment budget and to cover the running / manpower costs . Can’t see the overall MOD budget getting an increase for a while…

Phil
January 5, 2013 10:28 am

Seems to me what you really need to make such ships more versatile is good sea keeping (which I believe is relatively cheap to do), a helicopter hanger, 1-2 small boats, a C3 centre and good sensors – not Sampson or anything like that but good decent all weather night and day optics and a basic fire control system to control any gun over 30mm and above. I imagine most of the cost would come from the C3 and the sensors. What bangy things it has seems less important than being able to see whats going on.

Simon
January 5, 2013 10:30 am

Jed,

I’m going to have to disagree with a couple of your points in order to agree wholeheartedly with much of what you’re driving at…

“Wildcat delivered Stingray’s are no use with out a good bow mounted active / passive sonar”

Surely you don’t need a sonar at all if you’re launching a wake homing torp at a ship from the air.

“…full platoon of Marines, but with say 8 each in the two RHIBS, and 4 squashed into the back of the Wildcat, it can’t deploy them all in one wave…”

Squish and squash a bit more and they’ll fit ;-)

Other than that, what your are describing is a 100m trawler with a Wildcat and two RHIBs (I’d still bolt an L118 to the bow ;-)). That’s all that is needed to do the kind of work that is needed. Simply put you have air superiority from the Wildcat which will outgun anything other than a very rich drug runner.

The ship should have absolutely no sensors or guided weapons – they come from the Wildcat (which can be re-used in war on other ships).

The biggest problem with these kinds of vessels is that they’ll need a crew of about 20, an aircrew of 10 and a boarding party of up to 30. If you don’t have the boarding party on board at all times it’s of very little use and certainly not formidable enough to worry a pirate or drug-runner. So that’s 60 souls so about £60m to pay for the duration of the life of the ship. I’d therefore go for a budget of the same for the ship >>> BAM.

LouisB
LouisB
January 5, 2013 10:35 am

Regarding armament for ‘patrol’ vessels. I is fair to say that most shell plating of large merchant vessels is around 12mm/20 mm in thickness. Rounds to the bridge area would probably make steering the vessel impossible. Most if not all commercial ships only have secondary steering from the tiller flat nd I would imagine rounds at sea level to the stern of the vessel would negate manual steering and would probably damage the hydraulic control system, so making the ship none navigable. Small cannon rounds managed to pierce the hull shell plating of a vessel that I sailed on during the Iraq/Iran war.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 10:39 am

The ship should have absolutely no sensors or guided weapons – they come from the Wildcat (which can be re-used in war on other ships).

What about flying hours, maintenance, cre rest etc for you Wild Cat? You would be lucky to get a surface seach at dawn and dusk for 2 hours 5 days a week.

WiseApe
January 5, 2013 11:26 am

– Apologies, just noticed this is your post not one of TD’s. Still agree though.

Never blog before your first coffee :-)

x
x
January 5, 2013 11:43 am

This a knot or two quicker with Typhoon RWS 30mm (backup by a mandraulic mount in the same calibre or at least something bigger than 12.7),

http://en.mercopress.com/data/cache/noticias/27086/0x0/d-castle.jpg

It is more a question of what OPV’s can’t do…

Um. Ice strengthening and a big monitor too would be nice.

I like the Rivers just think they should all have had flight decks. Even if you can’t land on gives a nice clear area to winch from to.

rec
rec
January 5, 2013 11:53 am

I think the main pupose of a Khareef or Holland class would be as follows: 1) To allow additional hulls so that seamanship skills, officer skills and a promotion path can still happen in what is too small a navy. 2) To free high end escourts for proper training and routine so that the crews and ships are sharper. 3)To provide training. 4)war role, my guess would be mcmv with remotes, and general close to shore protection, and narrow seas combat. Peace time just 4 area UK, Gibralter/caribbean/anti piracy/sea training

I would use the same argument to justify 4 -6 ssks bought of the shelf from Sweeden or Germany.

Numbers: I think to loose one type 26 for 4 -6 Holland/Khareefs would be acceptable.

Better still, justify additional spending not just to give the RN extra hulls, but to boost jobs in the engineering sector (steel etc.). I think the threat to shipbuilding at Portsmouth can be used as a leaver for additional hulls for the RN.

or order an extra 2 type 26s and bring that order forward to a) keep Portsmouth open and b)2 actual ships (1GP and 1 ASW) in the water doing things will make the Type 26 more sellable then nice cgi pictures.

WiseApe
January 5, 2013 12:06 pm

” I think to loose one type 26 for 4 -6 Holland/Khareefs would be acceptable” – So do I but you’d be lucky to get 3 at most. The hulls may be cheap but the systems you put in it aren’t. E.G. a Wildcat costs about £26million, so 6 = £156million. Want a radar? Fire control? All adds up doesn’t it?

px
px
January 5, 2013 12:17 pm

Jed,

Thank you for writing this piece, its both an interesting and exciting issue. First some quotes from former RN analyts

A quote to begin with on the why (from Defencemanagement.com – http://www.defencemanagement.com/feature_story.asp?id=19646)

“Even though we continue to sit on the UN Security Council and rely upon Italian national debt to keep us in the G8, the diplomatic future of the UK is not encouraging. We all now accept Great Britain and today’s Royal Navy no longer rule the waves but too few realise our growing weakness in defence and, in particular, maritime defence costs and will cost this nation dearly. For many decades we have been a country of diplomatic influence and clout; a transatlantic power broker, who when words failed was not afraid to use force to intervene around the world. From the South Atlantic, West Africa, the Middle East to the mountains of Central Asia we have possessed a Royal Navy which could respond effectively across the full spectrum of defence and diplomatic missions. That hard-won ability and focused, operational excellence has been squandered on the altar of CVF, and for what? At best a hollow platform we cannot afford to operate effectively for a perfidious Royal Air Force which continues to out-manoeuvre the Naval Staff at every turn on the issue of carrier based air power or for a vulnerable platform which we cannot defend without additional escorts from other countries.

Power projection without a robust landing force is an empty threat. Shock and Awe did not win the Iraq war. In its wake it left a bloody counter-insurgency campaign which the coalition lost. One operational carrier can only achieve so much defence diplomacy or regional engagement. Only having one operational carrier means you have to be incredibly risk-averse in its employment or be prepared to create a political storm of epic proportions if it is lost to enemy action. The CVF decision was wrong in 1998 and, because of Whitehall incompetence and Portsmouth ego, continues to distort the recovery of Britain’s armed forces in the wake of SDSR. Enough of trading ill-conceived tabloid headlines, can we please sort out the future Royal Navy and Britain’s maritime security needs with some careful consideration and realistic planning? After all, those who threaten our national maritime security will not be countered by a single show-boat on exercise in the Wash, but they will be by a gunboat, deployed to their back yard, and some fighting spirit.”

and the what (from back in 2010)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/03/30/frigates_wag_the_dog/print.html

The Royal Navy has decided to spend £127m to answer the question: “What should the next generation of frigates be like?” This is disappointing, as the real question is “do we actually need any more frigates?” and the answer is very likely “No, or not in their present form, anyway.”

Officially the navy, commissioning BAE Systems to start looking into the new ships’ design, says it isn’t looking for frigates but for a “Type 26 Combat Ship”. But the Type 26 will replace Type 22 and 23 frigates, and indeed nobody is really pretending it is anything else.
Today’s Type 23 frigate. Credit: Royal Navy

This is a frigate.

“You simply cannot have an effective Navy without capable frigates, and the Type 26 combat ship will form the future backbone of the Royal Navy’s surface combatant force, alongside the new Type 45 destroyers,” said the First Sea Lord last week, announcing the deal.

So yes, the Type 26 will be a frigate. That is to say, it will be a surface warship which isn’t equipped with a high-powered fleet air defence system like the Type 45 destroyers. (Or rather, as the Type 45s will be at some time in the future when their buggy PAAMS/Sea-Viper missiles are actually ready for installation. The first two 45s are in naval service already, but almost entirely unarmed.)

A frigate carries only close-quarter air defences, intended to offer some minimal hope of survival should enemy air strikes get through the fleet’s fighter screen and destroyer-mounted missile shield. It cannot, then, offer useful protection to other ships against air attack.

Rather, its main job – if it can really be said to have one – is hunting submarines. However, this is actually done almost entirely by the frigate’s helicopter*. Anti-submarine helicopters can be (and often are) operated at sea in larger numbers and much more cheaply aboard fleet-auxiliary vessels, so it’s hard to see why you would bother buying expensive frigates for this purpose.

Merchantman v frigate combat ship? Merchantman wins, probably

Apart from sub-hunting, a frigate also has surface-to-surface missiles – probably Harpoons like today’s ships, certainly if BAE’s concept pics are anything to go by. These can be used to attack other ships far away below the horizon if the frigate has a good idea of their location; there is also a version with limited land-attack capability.

But eight Harpoons isn’t an amount of punch you would need a several-thousand-ton ship with a crew in three figures to carry. Eight Harpoons would call for a fast-attack boat, or a corvette at best. And frankly, given that you’re going to need aircraft to find or confirm the far-away targets to begin with, it makes more sense to deliver the munitions by air as well. Carrier jets are a much more sensible option here than frigates: helicopters can also carry powerful air-to-surface weapons.

In general, in a hypothetical battle between a Type 26 combat ship and an unarmed enemy merchant ship carrying several helicopters to the 26’s single one, the merchant ship will probably win as it can keep aircraft flying round the clock. The merchant ship can also do a better job at hunting subs, for the same reason.

The Type 26s will “support land operations”, the navy says. By this they mean it will be able to carry a small number of troops, and its helicopter – though usually it will be one designed primarily for antisubmarine work – will be able to fly over land. The ship will also be able to bombard targets ashore with its medium-calibre gun turret.
Type 26 ‘combat ship’ concept from BAE Systems

This, however, is a combat ship. Quite different

Again, though, a fleet auxiliary merchantman comes out ahead. It can carry many more troops, plus vehicles and supplies for them and several helicopters to the frigate’s one. Inshore gun bombardment isn’t a big deal: the frigate makes a superb target for any enemy shore-based batteries, which are likely to significantly outrange and out-punch it if they exist, and furthermore it has only enough shells for about ten minutes’ firing.
What would a real ‘combat ship’ designed for combat look like?

All in all, for just about any job likely or unlikely, a fleet auxiliary with a helicopter deck and aircraft suited to the task would be better, as well as being much cheaper. A proper carrier, able to operate jets as well as helicopters, would be far and away better still. A frequent justification for frigates and destroyers is that you need them to protect carriers, but the fact of the matter is that carriers can protect themselves on their own far better than the escort ships can.

And then a carrier or a fleet auxiliary actually can support operations ashore usefully, too, unlike a frigate.

Given that the Royal Navy is struggling desperately to afford carriers right now – and will then struggle to afford aircraft to fly from them – the decision to spend £127m on a new frigate design right now seems frankly bizarre. And this is only the first of two such designs, we are told by BAE.

None of this is to say that there might not be a place for some surface warships other than full-blown carriers in the Royal Navy of the future. A rational navy would probably buy something very like a fleet-auxiliary helicopter ship, with provision made for proper Tomahawk cruise missiles to be installed as well if required.

Such a vessel, working with a radar helicopter above, would be able to sweep the seas of Type 26s and their like before they ever came near. It would be able to cruise-missile shore targets from far out in the offing with impunity. It would be able to sweep pirates from vast swathes of ocean using quickly reacting helicopter-carried boarding parties of marines, or put ashore (and support) a worthwhile little landing force. Equipped with Merlin anti-sub helicopters, it would hunt subs very well indeed should there be any to hunt.

And it would almost certainly cost less than a Type 26 too. That actually would be a “combat ship”, if you like.

But it wouldn’t offer a viable career path for a naval officer who wasn’t an aviator or a marine – as most of today’s Royal Naval officers are not.

Nor would ships like that offer any opportunities for British industry. They would be basically merchant ships with flight decks bolted on and fittings for Tomahawks. British shipyards can’t build floating steel boxes at prices to compete with yards abroad: they need to have sonars and radars and guns and missiles and complexity built into the design so as to justify a huge price markup.
Type 26 isn’t the kind of ship the Navy needs to use: It’s the kind of ship that BAE Systems needs to make

In fact, the only kind of ship that BAE Systems’ UK yards and factories might be able to make and sell is a Type 26 or something very like it. And people might buy it: Blighty isn’t the only country saddled with a hidebound naval hierarchy whose ideas on force structure are still largely formed by the fleets of World War II. Plus, lots of other countries simply have no access to things like Tomahawks and proper maritime aircraft.

So, fine – let British shipyards sell their overpriced, obsolete frigates to other navies if they can; and let the Royal Navy buy proper kit.

Whoa there! That’s not how it goes. If BAE Systems wants to make something, it gets its development costs covered by the MoD: those are the rules. Indeed, everyone concerned admits that the Type 26 project is as much about keeping BAE’s yards and design offices open as it is about getting some ships.

“Type 26 is a key component in sustaining a surface warship capability in UK industry,” says BAE’s surface-warship chief Alan Johnston.

“Programmes like the Type 26 … also sustain the industry that supports them,” adds Defence secretary Bob Ainsworth. “These commitments will protect the long-term future of the maritime industry … The commitments the MOD has made will protect skills and employment, and preserve the industrial capability.”

Or in other words we need to have some frigates so as to avoid closing our frigate yards, so that we will be able to have even more frigates in future. Tail wags dog: ice-cream licks itself.

Business as usual, then, in the UK military-industrial complex. ®
Bootnote

*The frigate’s medium-frequency active sonar can only find a sub at ranges so close that the sub will already have torpedoed the ship before it is detected – it is basically useless. Some RN frigates now have longer-ranging low frequency active sonar, but it still makes more sense to mount such kit on copters which can move about much faster and can’t be torpedoed.”

Contentious stuff – and we will now get both CVF. But in this situation do we have a choice to do something other than T26?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 5, 2013 12:21 pm

As in “What about flying hours, maintenance, cre rest etc for you Wild Cat? You would be lucky to get a surface seach at dawn and dusk for 2 hours 5 days a week” a helo cannot be the main means of getting the job done, but rather the means to up the capability of the ship by boarding it when the task is [expected to be]a bit over mere patrolling and presence
– in the Future of the RN series we did the break even between having a full-fat frigate at sea (in days) and a helo (admittedly a heavier type, but so was the ship) in the air (in hours)
– it is not a good trade-off, when not absolutely called for (and then, there is no substitute for it)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 12:32 pm

px,,

Not Lewis Page!

He never even did PWO course or a complement job on anything other than an MCMV. Yet he feels free to talk about MF hull sonar without any mention of its effectiveness in shallow water where LOFAS is far less use. He then makes a comment about putting LOFAS on helos ignoring the fact that you cannot maintain a screen with airborne assets only as they have to hover to dip not to mention the size of the arrays they would need and the 24 hour coverage. The ability to listen passively etc. He writes good stuff on some subjects but he uses this credibility to push his agenda on other subjects as if he is an expert IMHO.

Simon
January 5, 2013 12:40 pm

APATS,

“What about flying hours, maintenance, cre rest etc for you Wild Cat? You would be lucky to get a surface seach at dawn and dusk for 2 hours 5 days a week.”

I’d have hoped for at least double that!

However, I get your point, which means loads more expense on shipboard sensors, which can’t be offdecked to a more useful hull when needed. That makes the whole idea pointless, or at least a huge waste of money, IMO.

On a similar note my interpretation of the requirements is not for area surveillance, more along the lines of “please come and help” what the local nation’s MPA assets have identified.

px
px
January 5, 2013 12:40 pm

APATS,

I’ll defer to your expert judgement! I’m playing devil’s advocate again..

But I do think we might need to be planning for a mdular future – the technology is probably not suffiicently mature – but more hulls and flexi-systems that can be reconfigured to the task must be the way forward.

Perhaps T26 is the stepping stone – but would be nice to get some modular ships – cheap and plenty – and systems for the roles envisaged, and use these to test ourt concepts that can take the unmanned future systems into full-fat warfighting.

One way to deal with smaller budgets is to spend them wisely on step changes in doctrine and technology. One way to de-risk that, it to begin to use these concepts on hulls designed for lower capability tasks.

x
x
January 5, 2013 12:44 pm

Friends never let friends quote Lewis Page.

px
px
January 5, 2013 12:44 pm

The first guy is David Mugridge, do you know of him? I can’t remember who suggested buying a couple of mistral type LPDs -and the Black Swans seem to be no more than frigate sized LPDs – and more UAVs, Wildcat and reconfiguring those Merlins not slated for upgrade as ASc.

px
px
January 5, 2013 12:50 pm

@Simon

I think situational awareness is the key now though – hence RN wanting to use UAVs in East Africa… soem sort of 24/7 surveillance is what wins wars. It keeps you a safe distance and alows you to target before they even know you are there – espeically when the oppostion is hard to discern from the flow of ongoing civvy life. It can also be networked in with other systems so give every unit that facility – so in an SF support or even a flod relief mission would be a massive force multiplier.

x
x
January 5, 2013 12:51 pm

That Lewis Page line has been used here a couple of times. It’s funny.

px
px
January 5, 2013 12:51 pm

@x i’ll bear that in mind ;)

Simon
January 5, 2013 1:32 pm

px,

“…24/7 surveillance is what wins wars. It keeps you a safe distance and alows you to target before they even know you are there…”

I utterly agree, but what you’ve done there is upgrade the patrol vessel to a warship. And with that comes the increase in cost and the fact that you now have a frigate.

Basically, as Jed seems to imply, these pirate, smuggler, drug-lord hunters are not warships and would unlikely ever be used as such (other than for a diversionary tactic).

I only agree with the “identify” in Jed’s line: “Sensors to detect and identify surface vessels”. Detection is too costly without high mounted radars (which still have a very small radar horizon) or an entire flight of copters (which are expensive to keep airborne).

px
px
January 5, 2013 1:45 pm

@Simon,

“I utterly agree, but what you’ve done there is upgrade the patrol vessel to a warship. And with that comes the increase in cost and the fact that you now have a frigate.”

UAVs – scan eagle is cheap and can be redployed to vessles as the arrive and leave theatre -saving on system costs. I think in thiese operations – suveillance would be first requiremnt. Its not a reactive mission, remember – most merchants in these regions carry on-board private security details for that – its a find, track and interdiict mission – indeed its can also be a shore intervention in collaboration with regional forces and SF.

I

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 1:51 pm

Simon,

I do not think we can aim for 24 hour coverage from an OPV but a few Scan eagle kits sapped between the vessels actually on ops at the cost of a few million pounds would give a good ISR capability.

In the GOA the sensor data from numerous platforms is fused together to task units so vessels are receiving data from far more than their own organic deployable or fixed sensors.

px
px
January 5, 2013 1:52 pm

On OPV, I would not go for a single role vessel – I would look for something that is a cheap as a convesntionla OPV, but which could have a war fighting role by operating Merlin, and even a modular towed array, for ASW, UAVs, Wildcat and SSM modules (Fire Shadow Naval – with a soft launch facility anyone?), and modular some close proectection (laser CIWS), at a future date.

Main spec for the OPV mission –

1. ability to operate Merlin, Wildcat
1.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 5, 2013 1:53 pm

Great article Jed.

For me it boils down to obeying the 2:1 frigate/destroyer rule for large operations in support of the ATFG, i.e. 2x T45 plus 4x 26 (deployed).

In addition, the need to accept the maximal case of a FI 2.0 where all available amphibs and carriers are mustered over six months in order to drop 3Cdo on a beach (plus friends following), i.e. 4x T45 and 8x T26 (deployed).

With due respect to APATS and his notion of sufficiently capable minor warships freeing up frigate hours on standing tasks, I could possibly see that ratio dropping to 3:2 for frigates/destroyers, i.e. 6x T45 and 9x T26 (total).

But in my eyes that would have to bring at least 9x minor warships capable of taking on three standing tasks (including forward deployed), in order for it to be worthwhile. This basically leaves the bulk of AAW/ASW escorts for punitive interventions by HMG.

Two points:
1. I remain to be convinced that sufficiently capable warships could be procured at a 3:1 ratio in preference to T26 alternatives
2. I remain unconvinced that six deployed T26 (i.e. 9x total) is sufficient for a scenario where we muster all available ampbibs and carriers in order to put 3Cdo on a beach (plus friends following).

Given that, my preference is either for:
a) 12x T26 ASW (total – with the full kit), and 0x Corvettes
b) 9x T26 ASW (total – not 8x ASW as currently planned), and 9x Corvettes

If either of those is not achievable, then I’d choose to stick with the current plan (8x ASW + 5x GP T26), than bugger about with high-risk alternatives that will knacker the maximal ambition of naval power projection:

Putting 3Cdo on a beach (plus friends following), with sufficient support to successfully prosecute a minor war.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 1:56 pm

Another interesting question is “where are your OPVs going to operate?” This affects the decisions made in 2 ways.

1) If you plan to have them far far away from home, you might want to get frigates or destroyers instead due to their endurence. The Israeli Sa’ar corvettes have a serious punch, but pays for it with a rumoured deployability of 5 days only.

2) Depending on their area of planned operations, a certain amount of fudge can be done with their weapons. If you’re planning to deploy them in Europe, you don’t really need to load them to the gills with weapons, the threat environment is not that serious. In comparison, Asian and Gulf states tend to have OPVs that make you wonder if their idea of ship design was to float an arsenal. Side by side comparison of European OPVs vs the rest of the world’s do give you a feeling that European OPVs are way underarmed, but that is the effect of their area of operations.

px, a converted container vessel may add a lot of capabilities to a fleet, but as the Atlantic Conveyer showed, it can’t take a lot of damage, and have minimal defences against being shot at. A frigate may bring less, but it has a much much higher chance of surviving if someone does shoot at them.

The 76mm isn’t for smugglers, though it does work wonders to scare the crap out of people. It’s for someone else’s OPV when they come harass you because you were “intruding in their territorial waters.” :)

px
px
January 5, 2013 1:59 pm

oops

2. mission deck for RHIBS although i’d prefer CB90s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzfqxmHpxfU – but also for mulitple UAVs
3. Ability to take modular acconodation for the C3I, SF support and training missions.

It should also be able to handle remote droggie and MCM packages using UUVs and USVs down the line…

This would get us into a new world of naval warfare… and we dont need to buy all of the systems to make these ships useful at once.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 2:01 pm

Hope you got them plug and play capable to a central console or every time you re-role, you’ve to gut your ship’s electronics. Not a good idea.

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:02 pm

gun is pointless, ecept for close prection, these ships don’t ‘chase’ anyone, not should they roisk getting closeinshore in harms way – thats what offboard systems are for – Fire Shadow can be onloaded if they have to do some killing – and LMM on Wildcat and a few Javalin/fifties on the CB90s will be mucxh more effective.

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:03 pm

@observer

Not so – yes plug and play – a central networked archetichture is aready becoming a reality on armoured vehicles, as it is in civvy life.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 2:10 pm

Armoured vehicles for a single role is one thing, changing controls for a surface vessel to a sub to a UAV is a totally different thing. You’re even changing the basic environment the drone is working in.

“gun is pointless, ecept for close prection”

This is a nonsensical statement. That gun is your only means of attack/defence left after you have flushed your missile racks at the enemy. Most ships don’t carry missile reloads. They also double as your secondary mid range air defence.

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:11 pm

A wildcat with son-of-sea skua or Fire Shadow will be much more effective at dealing with someone else’s OPV – especially if you have UAV surveillance. Kill it before it even knows you are there.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 2:14 pm

px, a lot of ship borne air defence outrange your helo missiles. And to get in that close to use it, you have to enter his detection range too. It’s a 2 way street.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 2:26 pm

Jedibeeftrix,

I think we need to look at the infamous defence Planning Assumptions.

The new Defence Planning Assumptions envisage that the Armed Forces in the future will be sized and shaped to conduct:

an enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level (up to 6,500 personnel) with maritime and air support as required, while also conducting:
one non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel), and
one non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel);
or alternatively:

three non-enduring operations if we were not already engaged in an enduring operation;
or:

for a limited time, and with sufficient warning, committing all our effort to a one-off intervention of up to three brigades, with maritime and air support (around 30,000, two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003).

Nowhere does it say that we should retain the ability to conduct a Division sized potentially opposed amphibous assualt 7,000NM away.

If you then read through the SDSR it looks the readiness of forces and clearly indicates that the second Carrier will be in extended readiness. What we would have initially amphib capability wise is
“the Royal Marines, whose 3 Commando Brigade will provide one key element of our high readiness Response Force. They will be able to land and sustain a commando group of up to 1,800 personnel from the sea from a helicopter platform and protective vehicles, logistics and command and control support from specialist ships, including landing and command ship. It would allow us to conduct an operation such as Sierra Leone in 2000”

I think what I am getting at is that we cannot tailor our forces to fight a Falklands 2.
1. We would be bloody careless to lose it. The Argentinian forces are in rag order.
2. Any campaign to retake it would be fought differently given modern weapon systems and by the time a second CVF appeared on the scene the threat environment would either be minimal or we would be going home with our tails between our legs.
3. Any warning of a build up would be far better and more quickly countered by the deployment of another 8 or so FJs along with the spearhead Battalion and a couple of SSNs than activating a second Carrier.
4. If the rest of South America got involved we do not have a credible military response.

To answer your 2 specific points.

1. 1. I remain to be convinced that sufficiently capable warships could be procured at a 3:1 ratio in preference to T26 alternatives
This depends upoin the tasking that they are given, we can certainly get 3 for 1 T26 vessels that are more suited to constabulary ops and routine security patrols or even chasing bloody pirates. they will not however be able to hunt submarines or provide naval fires in support of land ops or area air defence.

2. I remain unconvinced that 6x T26 (Deployed) is sufficient for a scenario where we muster all available ampbibs and carriers in order to put 3Cdo on a beach (plus friends following).

If you only have 1 T26 deployed instead of 2 or 3 then you should be able to muster more at short notice than you would otherwise. certainly enough to provide the escorts for a single CBG and the amphibs to put the 1,800 men ashore that the SDSR wants.

It is however a fascinating debate. I just do not think HMG sees 2 CBG with the escorts required to take both into a hostile multi threat environment without anny Allies as a prospect realsitic enough to skew planning for.

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:33 pm

And the great thing is, you don’t have to have systems integrated onto every ship, or limit the ships capability to some pre-planned packages – you do your threat assessemnt and kit the ship for mission – or fly them out in a C-17 if you need them in a hurry. and development of new systems can be ongoing

On range they have to be global, but that is emminently possilbe if you don’t go for the coast defence mini-frigate design.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 2:33 pm

px,

We are trying to save money and a 76MM brick is a lot cheaper than a fire shadow or Javelin missile. Most boardings are actually conducted within visual range of the “mother ship” Also whilst fire shadow is probably fantastic in a land environment where teh enemy does not routinely deploy SAMS and radar. in the maritime environment it is a slow low moving target. That is maybe why nobody ahs bought the maritime version yet. It would be useful for land attack but not against a Ship with even a PDMS capability.

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:46 pm

If your enemy OPV has air defence its goona we close-in or shart range – if it out ranges son-of-sea skua use ship launched Fire Shadow (if you have it (or serveral) up and loitering you can kill in an instant)… If he has harpon or the like, he’ll need to find you to launch. so you stay out of radar range and kill him before he can see you – you can ship CAMM if he has HELO.

Of course if that kind of threat is around you will nkow long before your deployment unless your threat assessment is a cluster.. so you know what to ship.

In reality these vessles will be used in regions with no substantial conventional air or surface, or subsurface threat, but lots of assymetrical threats. so the first mission modules are likely to be to help you gain situational awareness, combat fast attack craft and deploy boarding parties, SF and UAVs, plus some self defence against FAC. Accomodation for C3I and training missions will also be needed.

For me that is Wildcat or Merlin (depending how much lift you deem necessary and how cpaable the surface threat via FACs is), one or two scan eagles or the like, a couple of RHIBS or a RHIB and a CB70, and accomodation modules with a communications suite datalinked to SF, and provsion to accomodate whatever support or training you are providing to rergional forces.

x
x
January 5, 2013 2:46 pm

@ APATS

Methinks when those islands are mentioned commentators are talking about a level of capability not another round of Argie-Bargie,

DPA is custard. It smells very, um, khaki.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
January 5, 2013 2:49 pm

Nice article – a much appreciated analysis and explanation.

Whilst we could replace 1 type-26 with 3 global coastguard ships, (pirates, for the hunting of,) we don’t actually have a requirement for a global coastguard ship.
Adding the required sensors to the ships, so that it can do the tasks we have an actual requirement for, massively drives up the cost, such that you cannot get 3 for the price of fully (but still modestly) featured warship.

I also agree that the nomenclature of ships is very unclear these days. Anyone got a good idea on what to do about it? (I guess this site could create some formal definitions, which once published, could then be mentioned on wikipedia, citing this site. “Wikisynthesis”, I believe it is called.)

px
px
January 5, 2013 2:53 pm

Gun – takes up lots of space and displcement, carries precious little ammuntion, put the platform in danger from counter-battery when in use, has short range and does very little damage compared to precision guided munitions – and has a major impact on design modalities, limiting waht lese you can do with the platform.

Waste of sauce. Need something much more capable to justify sacrificing that much space and cash.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 2:54 pm

X,

Methinks when those islands are mentioned commentators are talking about a level of capability not another round of Argie-Bargie,

With some of them I am not so sure :)

My answer to them would still stand though, HMG do not beleive that we have to scale the RN to provide escorts for 2 seperate full sized Tgs to enter and operate in a high multi threat environment without Allied support.

MW
Whilst we could replace 1 type-26 with 3 global coastguard ships, (pirates, for the hunting of,) we don’t actually have a requirement for a global coastguard ship.
Adding the required sensors to the ships, so that it can do the tasks we have an actual requirement for, massively drives up the cost, such that you cannot get 3 for the price of fully (but still modestly) featured warship.

Mike Scan eagle as a system is a few million pounds. None of our FFs have it at the moment. The only difference in sensors between a 130 million pound OPV that I have laid out and a T23/T26 is the height of the radar on the mast.

px,
Gun – takes up lots of space and displcement, carries precious little ammuntion, put the platform in danger from counter-battery when in use, has short range and does very little damage compared to precision guided munitions – and has a major impact on design modalities, limiting waht lese you can do with the platform.

Waste of sauce. Need something much more capable to justify sacrificing that much space and cash

Something like a super rapid 76Mm takes up far less space than a VLS system, is far cheaper than using a single shot fire shadow and can be used for a multitude of tasks from warning shots, shot across the bow, non disabling fire, disabling fire etc. All before we use it as deadly force. It plays a crucial role in what we like to call “reasonable escalation of force” and of course ROE. it is also very useful.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 2:56 pm

px, the Yanks are doing that now with the LCS. Their final evaluation? There are only 2 ports out of Europe and the US that can do a module swap. Bahrain and Singapore. Your “in theatre” swapping is a pipe dream.

It’s definately not plug and play, each drone has a different control system and station, you have to rip out the old one and reinstall the new before it can even be used, which is also why the module swap for the LCS is now said to take days instead of hours.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
January 5, 2013 3:02 pm

@ APATS – “I think what I am getting at is that we cannot tailor our forces to fight a Falklands 2.”

I deserve to have the DPA thrown in my face, i have made mention of them often enough myself, but I really am not referring to a re-run of the Falklands when I talk of:

“the maximal ambition of naval power projection: Putting 3Cdo on a beach (plus friends following), with sufficient support to successfully prosecute a minor war.”

I fully understand that under ‘normal’ jogging the ATFG (never sure of the exact acronym), will use roughly half of 3Cdo and roughly half of the amphibs (the half that isn’t in extended readiness).

That said, the SDSR and the attendant DPA were explicitly crafted under the assumptions of the available equipment of the day, and that did not include a second aircraft carrier. Well, now we’ll have two, even if we are not manning them independently as separate CBG groups.

Now, I of course accept that the ATFG will (in future) include one (of two CVF, one (of two LPD’s), and one to two (of three) LSD’s, all I am suggesting is that we will end up with a total capability divisible by a factor of two, with one half in-role while the other is stood down.

That represents a significant – and very valuable – latent resource, that we should not be unable to use in time of need because we lack sufficient escorts to protect that number of HVA’s.

In much the same way the: “committing all our effort to a one-off intervention of up to three brigades, with maritime and air support (around 30,000)” represents our maximal effort, all I am suggesting is that should we take six months to arrange a FI 2.0 scale effort of:

1x CVF
1x CVF (light crewed as a spare deck)
2x LPD
3x LSD
1x LPH

Carrying the [bulk] of 3Cdo in overload.

Along with:
5x Points
Xx Number of STUFT

Carrying a heavy Reaction brigade.

That we are not unable to provide an escort force sufficient to the challenge.

That maximal effort is not defined in the SDSR as a GW type intervention, it merely notes it will compose of 30,000 troops which is “two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003”, and clearly it has been overtaken by events given that we (will) have the second carrier.

A statement of intent, no? :)

@ X – “Methinks when those islands are mentioned commentators are talking about a level of capability not another round of Argie-Bargie,”

Indeed.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:03 pm

Sloop-of-war was originally a 12 gun “light frigate” specifically to combat armed merchants, privateers.

Evolved into “colonial sloops”, which policed the empire.

The original Black Swans were a high-end colonial sloop with a wartime convoy escort mission… The Flowers of WW1 were seen as fleet minsweeping ‘sloops’ originally.

I think the idea is a multi-role vessel that can flex from peacetime OPV, MCM etc. missions to warfighting.

Frigate was a ‘cruiser’ (28-44 guns), with global reach but but not a ship of the line “64 guns plus”

Corvette was a French term for something like a sloop (I think sloop casme to us via the Dutch)

Of course it was WW2 that brought in the plethora of terms…

Sloops were in existence, but Corvette and Frigate were brought our of retirement for small and medium sized ASW escorts in RN parlance. Us of course used destroyer-escort for this category – and to confuse this further the RN invesnted Escort-Destroyer, for the Hunts and refitted WW1 vintage destroyers used for convoy duties.

Messy…

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 3:05 pm

px, you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. All your bells and whistles missile systems are ONE SHOTs. The gun is the only thing you have that has a multi-shot capability.

As for damage, do you even know what the rate of fire is on those things? And that they are using explosive shells? Or the fact that 72 rounds of ready ammo on the carrosel takes up less space than a single missile?

You’re just rapsodizing about the latest tech toys like the Yanks are doing. Toys are one thing. Working weapons fit is another.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 3:08 pm

jedibeeftrix

Where are we going to send that on our own that requires full escort groups for a hot multi threat environment? We sent more troops to the Gulf but with hardly any actual escorting done other than a single ship for chokepoints, a task we were forced to use a Frigate for at every choke point despite the threat being assymetric.
The far most likely deployment of 30k troops would be taht the equipment goes by sea lift to a Port, the majority of troops fly in and mate with the equipment. The Amphib force deploys and poses in thaetre if there is a suitable coast line.

As for “will” have the second carrier, well I will belive it when I see it unfortunately. I think it will be at 90 days notice with an operational carrier handover every 3 years. :(

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 3:14 pm

To be honest, I forsee the carrier sailing in circles just offshore of the Home Islands for very very long periods of time. Years in fact.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:16 pm

@Observer..

No need to get personal, we are all friends here ;)

One shot that hits is a lot better than 72 that fall short or miss.

RoF is good for close-in defence – what is the range of one of those dinky 76mm things?

I think Fire Sdhadow is around 50NM, each munition can loiter for 5 hours at range

However I think their might be osmething wrong with it, as it seems to have gone off the boil as was not deployed to Afghan as planned.

Still there are plenty of precsion systems one could box onto a flexible design to do a lot more damage at range.

I thikn naval gunfore can be useful – 127mm on T26 is definately the way to go – but on these designs – not enough on-the right-target bang for buck.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
January 5, 2013 3:18 pm

RE “Nowhere does it say that we should retain the ability to conduct a Division sized *potentially opposed* amphibous assualt 7,000NM away.

If you then read through the SDSR it looks the readiness of forces and clearly indicates that *the second Carrier will be in extended readiness*. ”

On those ** rated bits
– how about, an initial *potentially opposed* BG sized landing, with a bge/ division to follow?
– how about the next SDSR having the two rotating and doing away with any *extended* part of the readiness?

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:18 pm

also – one would carry more than one Fire Shadow!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 3:25 pm

px,

We are talking about an OPV to cover lower scale standing taskings and free up FF/DD hulls and you want to fit silos of siper expensive one shot precsiion weapons that take loads of space and remove the extremely useful gun.
As I have already pointed out this has not only cost and space implications but also can be easily tracked and shot down by a Naval SAM system and is bloody useless for gradual escalation of force and ROE profiles that we have to utilise in constabulary ops.

also – one would carry more than one Fire Shadow!

They are 12 feet long so wont take up much space then.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:26 pm

@ Observer,

Agreed on LCS – but the septics will over cook it. If one can containerise the systems for watchkeeper on land, one can certianly have a containerised kit out for something like a basic scan eagle, if you have a platform to accept the modules.

As I say situational awarness is where it is at – you casn have all the ‘bells and whistles’, in the form of organic guns and missiles, you like, but in reality you need to know where your enemy is and kill him long before he knows where you are. This can be done – is being done in Af-Pak now – Sun Tzu and all that.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:32 pm

@APATS – no, I don’t want to fit them all for war fighting – remember i’m talking about modiular design – this stuff is not organic. But I want a platform that can also be used for warfighting. In my post of 13:52 – 13:59 I set out what the OPV mission fit might look like.

If we buy OPVs its a one trick pony. If we embrace the futre and get someting like a Black Swan, then we have a platform that can do many things in the future – whatever the strategic circumstances.

Not LCS, but a UK solution to a multi-mission ship with both low-end and high-end potential. Initially kitted for low-end, but evoled over time.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 3:34 pm

px, the problem is not with scaneagle, last reports are that the system works well. Problem is that if you want to fast swap systems, your UAV controls are going to be running your USV and UUVs as well, and THAT is an entirely different kettle of fish.

As for all your Fire Shadow/Wildcat/SAMs, I’ve to ask you one thing. You designing an OPV or a destroyer?

Range of a 76mm is 30km. Sea skua is quoted as 25km.

And you don’t have to tell me about situational awareness, I do C4I. But I also know that it is not the be all and end all. You only win when you get something that goes boom into the target or make him run away, and that is where your suggestions fall short.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:36 pm

as for fire shadow – they have a lightweight launcher – can be fired from the flight deck – you could certainly stow a few on the mission deck if you were doing a fire upport mission from a 3,500t Black Swan.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:39 pm

As i say – I want a platform that could be both OPV or destoryer – not one that is hard wired to be one or the other. As for UUVs and USVs – unlikely one plastform would carry all of them simultaneously. The concept – even in full warfighting mode – wouls have say one in ASW mode, one in MCM mode, one with fires and one in surveillance mode – for example.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:41 pm

And as TD pointed out – maybe the answer is not fast swap just now, although one hopes it can be possible – but between refits.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 3:42 pm

Px,

As I say situational awarness is where it is at – you casn have all the ‘bells and whistles’, in the form of organic guns and missiles, you like, but in reality you need to know where your enemy is and kill him long before he knows where you are. This can be done – is being done in Af-Pak now – Sun Tzu and all that.

It is being done with UAVS against an opponent with neither the ability to detect or engage them. In constabulary type roles I am a big fan of a UAV as it provided excellent capabilities.

Against a ship with a decent radar and a missile system the UAV would need to stay outside the engagement range but could still possibly fulfill a surveilance role.
Something like a fire shadow as a naval atatck asset would not be any good against even a moderately capable CIWS or PDMS that are designed to hit pop up supersonic sea skimming missles never mind 160kt 12 foot long alraedy tracked targets.

Modular syems will eventually be fantastic and any OPV should be able to operate a UAV and have space for a couple of containers, allowing a decompression chamber, or mobile met team, or maybe even a some form of towed array but for the really complex stuff lets wait until MHPC. All that any OPVs built before then have to be able to do is be capable enough and cheap enough to free up frigates from low end tasking.

As for UUVs and USVs – unlikely one plastform would carry all of them simultaneously. The concept – even in full warfighting mode – wouls have say one in ASW mode, one in MCM mode, one with fires and one in surveillance mode – for example.

So if we lose one we take a big hit on that area and we need at least 3 of them to do what 1 FF/DD can do?
I must admit my ideal of a form of modular fit out runs with each ship maintaing core capabilities but being able to introduce something more specialised if required.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 3:42 pm

px. 4-8. That is probably the limit. And you know one thing interesting about these “loitering” systems? They have to be human supervised. You launch them, you have to have one human a piece watching them to all the time make sure their little electronic brains don’t decide that an oil tanker is an enemy carrier. And these control systems take up space and weight.

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 3:47 pm

Actually APATS, I see nothing wrong with fitting a radar and a 4 pack of Harpoons on an OPV and using them in an FAC role in a pinch. You don’t really need to even fit the Harpoons all the time, “for but not with” would work well on a low end OPV.

px
px
January 5, 2013 3:54 pm

@APATS

Some drones are easy to detect, but stealth technology means that UAVs will be present in high threat conflicts, without a doubt. One of their great advantages is that they can be deplyed into a high thrrat environment and take greater risks. Sure you might loose a few, such as the sneitnel over Iran, but Senitnel is stealthy, I’m sure many more have got back in one piece.

I think imagining them as only suited for low threat environments is not where doctrine is going.

And as you said earlier, these OPV fit-outs are for a low thrreat environment.

The Paks have lots of F-16s. They have not managed to get a Predator yet.

px
px
January 5, 2013 4:03 pm

@observer

How would the OPV provide over the horizon targetting for the Harpoons?

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
January 5, 2013 4:07 pm

Refering also the the recent article on OPV cost drivers, it concludes two things drive most of the cost:
(1) Equipment. Sensors, C3, then weapons.
(2) Speed. Looking more deeply, that is mostly installed power; whilst volume has an effect, and beam is cheaper than length, that is not a major source of cost.

I also note that a lot of the propsals for the MHPC end up with it being armed and equipped comparable the type-21’s:
– MCG.
– The cheapest available self defence AAM, which is CAMM these days.
– Helicopter and hanger.

The Amazons were a wonderful cheap patrol frigate – that then got retired early because they had no space for upgrades.
So, not quite such good value for money after all.

So, what I’d really like looked at, is the cost of a massively de-fitted type-26. That is: take the baseline for the GP version, and rip out hardware until you get it down to the equipment fit equivalent to the old type-21’s.
– No Artisan.
– Cheapest MCG we can get.
– The only missiles being CAMM, and not many of them. 2 batteries of 12 as a baseline.
– Remove all the gas turbines, make it diesel only.
– Either no permenantly allocated helicopter, or a cheaper one. (It is a base to which a helo could deply to, in response to events, rather than a 24/7/52 helo capability.)

As per the earlier article on the cost drives of OPVs, keeping the volume, and hull, of the type-26 should not be expensive.
But doing so (obviously) allows it to receive through-life upgrades all the way to the high-end type-26, e.g. if one of the 13 “complete” type-26 sweeps a mine (once).

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 4:08 pm

px, you don’t. You work under your own IAD net to equalise.

And as for the Pred, oh yes they have.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
January 5, 2013 4:11 pm

Px,

What you have to remember is a Ship with a search radar is the very equivelant of what drones are programmed to avoid in the land environment. Ships radars and ops rooms are designed to compile the air and surface picture around them. So a drone flying within the detection threshhold of an sea based air search radar has a much higher chance of being detected. Of course some drones are stealthy and if you read my posts again you will see I am all infavour of using them for ISTAR purposes.
Without being disparaging to Pakistan, their Inetgrated air defence Network for what it is worth is pointing towards India and not looking for Predator drones in the Tribal North.
What I was pointing out is that something like a fire shadow loitering munition has virtually no chance of penetrating the Defences of even a moderately equipped ship.

And as you said earlier, these OPV fit-outs are for a low thrreat environment

Precisely why we do not need to spend millions on a loitering precsion munition when a 76MM super rapid STRALES will do everything we want it to and more at a fraction of the price and the space.

MW

We do not know how much CAMM will cost and without Artisan you cannot TI the missile in the first place. Also by changing the propulsion we need to go back and do some redesign and alter loads of internals.

How would the OPV provide over the horizon targetting for the Harpoons?

Organic helo, MPA, submarine, sattelite, same as a T23 does but hopefully with the option of a UAV as well.

px
px
January 5, 2013 4:15 pm

so who is providing the IAD net – in say Kenya?

you might be right on Pak ;)

Observer
Observer
January 5, 2013 4:19 pm

If your OPV is in Kenya, you bloody well better be Kenyan.

px
px
January 5, 2013 4:24 pm

Hehe…

So to summarize, I think a larger modular vessel – of the small LPD or SIMMS style – that could test out some of these systems and provide a good “mother ship” for the CT, counter-pircacy, support to regional forces, disaster response mission – using offboard systems such as helo and fast boats over a ‘ship chasing’ doctrine would be preferable over a mini-frigate or OPV sole purpse design.

px
px
January 5, 2013 4:25 pm

and the mission we are talking about will be in East Africa, Indian Ocean, Gulf and Gulf of Guinea, not UK waters.

WiseApe
January 5, 2013 4:30 pm

@px – ” I want a platform that could be both OPV or destoryer” – I think this is why you got the dreaded LCS letters thrown at you; like the yanks you are being too ambitious, trying to cram too many tasks into one platform.

@Mike Wheatley – “So, what I’d really like looked at, is the cost of a massively de-fitted type-26” – Yes, pretty much what I had in mind when I suggested extending the run on T26. No reason to stop at 13 hulls then look to design/build another one, when all you want is something that can deploy remote MCM vehicles, a marine detachment with RHIBs, a helo and/or UAVs, with some medium guns and perhaps (fitted for but not with?) a SAM system.

Your point about upgradeability is well made.

All Politicians are the Same