Not Enough Ships

Lord West of Spithead, former First Sea Lord and Labour Peer has criticised the Government for allowing the Royal Navy to shrink to its current size.

We have insufficient escort hulls and we need more. Nineteen is simply insufficient for our nation. The paying off of four Type 22 escorts in the Strategic Defence and Security Review since when £12bn of under spend has been created was a terrible error. The Strategic Defence and Security Review set out how the government was going to secure Britain in an age of uncertainty and central to that was maintaining trade routes and access to resources and protecting UK citizens and trade from terrorism, piracy and unlawful restrictions on freedom of navigation.

Now of course the size of the Royal Navy surface fleet is not something many would disagree with as being too small but if this is the case, can we really afford sending a Type 23 Frigate, one of those precious surface vessels to conduct counter narcotics and disaster relief missions in the Caribbean?

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Is this really the best use of frigate, could we not forward position a patrol vessel, provide a couple of workboats and disaster relief supplies via some other means?

Does the clarion call of not enough ships sound rather hollow when we send frigates to chase drug runners and provide occasional humanitarian support?

In clinging to this kind of deployment the ‘overstretch’ theme is amplified.

There has to be a better way of providing counter narcotics and disaster relief in the area, see my previous post on project Sandy Bottom for further details

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David Bober
David Bober
June 23, 2013 3:06 pm

Nelson said it 215-years ago. “Were I to die at this moment, want of frigates would be found stamped on my heart.”

Peter Elliott
June 23, 2013 3:23 pm

But West is talking about waritme and by sea we are at peace.

Protecting a task group from a serious threat level could easily require 4 Frigates and 2 Destroyers. Plus escorts for Tankers. Plus combat ships depolyed forward of the task group, plus any other urgent wartime activity.

But right now our task group is either in port or training with a maximum of 2 Frigates and 1 Destroyer. Then there are training and work-up and maintenance and so on.

So if we have a fully crewed and ready frigate with no other peactime task allocated why not send it to the Carribean? It can soon come back if the Russians look like invading Scotland or the Iranians march on Istanbul. And the crew will be readier for having been a few months at sea together than if they hadn’t.

Whether an LSD with a hanger, a helo and a couple of smallcraft could do a better job of disaster relief is arguable. But since neither or LPDs nor our LSDs have hangers its actually pretty accademic.

June 23, 2013 3:40 pm

As always, yes and no.

Yes – on the job train in a complex maritime training. Good for morale and recruitment.

No – like sending a sports car when a van is needed.

And as always, DfID should fund a better a ship. Blah. Blah. Etc and so on.

As an alternative using what we have got (well leased) another one of these would be better (or something similar),

A couple of JCBs, a dumper, a 4×4 lorry or two, some Landies etc. Some REME, some RE, some DMS etc. Fly in a couple of those of Puma. And Bob’s your aunty.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 23, 2013 4:25 pm

Given the dire state of the Spanish economy, could we not use the DfID budget to buy 3 F100/Hobart Aegis frigates? Would be handy for RN/RAN joint operations.
Also, I was reading an article on the restoration of the WW1 HM monitor M33 Minerva. It was 177 ft long, 31 ft beam, 6 ft draught. Armed with 2 x 6 inch guns , 1 6 pdr AA gun, 2 Maxim machine guns. Designed to support troops by getting close to shore & venturing up rivers. My fantasy modern version, would have 2 x 155 semi auto canons (Archer?) , 1 x Goalkeeper, 2 x .50 cal HMG.

June 23, 2013 4:59 pm

Ah, Liberal Demotwat logic. Because something has capabilities which are not being used immediately it is therefore expensive and unnecessary. Lets frame this in a more useful way:

1) The opportunity cost: If a frigate was not being used for counter-narctoics work what else would it be doing? is anything actually being lost? Almost certainly no.

2) If not a Frigate, what else: A custom built OPV, perhaps like the Holland class, I hear you say- which would be great until one needed a frigate and instead found there were even less frigates because a portion of the ships budget had been spent on OPVs.

It is best to buy frigates and destroyers and use them as OPVs than to buy OPVs and have even less frigates and destroyers when they actually needed.

June 23, 2013 5:58 pm

Bob – well said !

I am sick or regurgitating the same argument over and over again since this site came into existence – not blaming TD for that by the way !

In the ten years of my RN service during the 80’s and 90’s did we ever go to war with the Soviet Union and fight a second battle of the Atlantic ? No

Did ships designed for that sole purpose manage to retake the Falklands, do Years of Armilla patrol including escorting tanker convoys, do MCM during Iran – Iraq war , do useful roles in GW1 & 2 and goodness knows what else in between including West Indies counyer-narco duties…… hell yes !

June 23, 2013 6:00 pm

I would think that the British would have more frigates and destroyers available. Which is why given the situation in Spain, the Brits should have brought some F-100 frigates for the Falklands and Caribbean duty. Even buying 4 Juan Carlos LHD’s and F-100 frigates would give the brits the capability to have one in home waters, one in the Med, one in Indian ocean and one in the Falklands and Caribbean. The Type 45 destroyers can be split between the places.

June 23, 2013 6:03 pm

TD – you never heard of synthetic training then ?

Your argument is circular – we have few warships, so they should constantly train together, which means they are not available for other tasks, so we should buy more non-warships for these tasks, which means we have few warships as we are spending the available budget on non-warships…………. Oy vay

June 23, 2013 6:11 pm

I think anti-drug patrols are a bit hard to justify. We deploy a frigate to intercept all this traffic in the Caribbean. While in Afghanistan poppy fields are left alone. 600 deaths per year from heroin, 5 deaths per year from terrorism. Of course those deaths from heroin are the tip of an iceberg of suffering, broken lives, police costs, petty crime, enabling other smuggling, medical costs, etc. etc.

EDIT: I think APT(N) is the wrong label.

June 23, 2013 6:22 pm

I think the RFA assets are more suited at such patrols like this, indeed often go along with the RN and often where all the drug runners are transferred to when they catch any.

x touches on a point; if the Netherlands sees the reasoning for a single dedicated surface vessel to be permanently based in the Caribbean despite the tiny enclave they have, why not us? We have as much influence and history in the area as they… DfID paid for, with RFA/RN crews rotating, could work. Non combatant, gives aid, chases go-fasts, gives crews training and flies the flag, without touching your Frigate Fund :D

Of course, that’s just my tiny 2 pennies worth, touches on the “they have one, why not we?” whingeing lol

Rocket Banana
June 23, 2013 6:27 pm

Who cares if there are more deaths from heroin? Our ships should be protecting our trade routes and be positioned to best deal with rising threats in particular areas that may ultimately threaten our import and export.

Having said this. What is it we are protecting with the Caribbean anti-drug patrols? I can only guess that we’re quashing the rise of piracy as drug-runners get forever richer, especially those supported by their home state. Do they still need to learn that trying to ship stuff across the Atlantic is too expensive to bother with?

So, if we end up head-to-head with a rich drug baron (with corrupt Colombian government backing) what do we need? A River class OPV with a 30mm? Or something with a Wildcat, Harpoon and Mk8 gun?

June 23, 2013 6:38 pm

Your argument is circular – we have few warships, so they should constantly train together, which means they are not available for other tasks, so we should buy more non-warships for these tasks, which means we have few warships as we are spending the available budget on non-warships…………. Oy vay

So it doesn’t matter if vessels have day to day operational matters get in the way of training for their primary role?

June 23, 2013 6:51 pm

Simon asks “Who cares if there are more deaths from heroin?”

Drug related crime costs the UK nearly £14 billion per year. The drugs that cross the Caribbean are headed for the US not the UK.

June 23, 2013 6:54 pm

“I think anti-drug patrols are a bit hard to justify. ”

Of course they are hard to justify, the sale and trafficking of narcotics is a criminal not a defence matter. We don’t deploy the army onto the streets of the UK to chase cocaine dealers, so why on earth should we deploy the RN to do the same in the Caribbean, especially when the filthy muck they are likely to capture isn’t even destined for these shores.

As for why the RN need to be in the Caribbean today, I am not sure. We used to have the West Indies Squadron, but that was in the days when we owned most of the place. Then, as we retreated from Empire we went down to the West Indies Guard Ship, still a permanent fixture in my time out there in the 1990s, even though we had but 5 colonies left. More recently the Guard Ship role has been fulfilled by the RFA. So maybe someone decided that we need to keep a permanent presence but we have run out of deployable RFA ships, maybe someone decided it was time we sent out a warship “to show the flag”.

One thing I am certain of if one aspires to a blue water navy then one needs to keep the ships and, especially the crews, working in blue water. So, if we have to send ships to sea to exercise and train I suppose we may as well send them somewhere where they can do some good while they are at it. Mind you HMS Lancaster’s current itinerary does look a bit of a piss-take.

Rocket Banana
June 23, 2013 7:10 pm

“Drug related crime costs the UK nearly £14 billion per year”

Well I guess that’s something for the crime squad ;-) Besides, I’d wager that drugs destined for the US end up in the UK too!

Just imagine how bad it would be if we didn’t interdict the odd shipment and remind these drug lords that they don’t own the trade routes.

Perhaps we should raw in our “force” and go for a proper Coast Guard and stop the final symptom rather than try to address the root cause. Trouble is that this idea is completely counter intuitive to everything we’ve ever learned as humans. Always, always best to “nip it in the bud”… in the long run.

June 23, 2013 7:12 pm

@ Mike

As I sort of said above chasing drug traffickers is great training so from that point of view I don’t mind a frigate going to the West Indies. That is irrespective of the impact it has on the actual drug trade, Anything on top like school building or whatever is just the variety of service life. Should we stop the Army from doing similar in say Kenya? Or the RAF doing the same somewhere in the UK?

If we are going to support former colonies and current overseas territories (population about 100,000) then we should at least do the job properly. That means for me RE, REME, DMS, and the kit to do a proper job all cutting about in a proper ship. And to be honest I don’t care whether it is a RN, RFA, HMAV, or even has a name prefixed with SD. Cargo space, vehicle space, and cranes. And if it has a flight deck all the better but not essential. Lots of examples out there to be Google’d.

As for the Dutch and the Caribbean…………

June 23, 2013 7:18 pm

@ Hurst Llama

Anything that costs the UK £14 billion that isn’t being spent for the good of the country is a defence matter.

Rocket Banana
June 23, 2013 7:18 pm

Excellent vid X

June 23, 2013 7:19 pm

@ Simon

How is protecting our coast nipping anything in the bud?

June 23, 2013 7:26 pm

HNLMS Pelikaan is stationed permanently on the Caribbean.
On top of that, the Dutch most of the time also have a frigate or an OPV in the region.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 23, 2013 7:36 pm

If we are a global trading nation & as we are dependent on imports, then we had better have the means to keep those sea lanes open.

Rocket Banana
June 23, 2013 7:48 pm


“Perhaps we should raw in our “force” and go for a proper Coast Guard and stop the final symptom rather than try to address the root cause. Trouble is that this idea is completely counter intuitive to everything we’ve ever learned as humans. Always, always best to “nip it in the bud”… in the long run.”

Well, lord knows what “raw” is. I think I meant draw ;-) The Coast Guard is sarcastic. I point out that addressing symptoms rather than causes is wrong and we should actually “nip it in the bud” and use proper warships at the root of the problem :-)

June 23, 2013 8:33 pm

If the government want the main areas of uk interest to be the Atlantic, the med/africa and the gulf then this would seem like a worthwhile task. There’s plenty of uk dependencies in the region and plenty to do when there in the fight against drugs so sending a frigate and tanker seems like an appropriate assignment of resources for the North Atlantic task.

June 23, 2013 8:38 pm

“Drug related crime costs the UK nearly £14 billion per year”

God knows how that figure was arrived at but I can say with absolute certainty that any action by the RN/RFA in the interdiction of narcotic trafficking in the Caribbean will not make any noticeable dent in it. Narcotics from Central/South America destined for the UK and Europe, generally travel a different route (these days mainly via West Africa) and in any event make up only a fraction of the UK drug/crime problem ; much more of that comes from heroin, and that comes from Asia – specifically Afghanistan, unless things have changed dramatically since I retired a few years ago.

As for the Cloggies having a ship permanently based out of Curacao, well whoopie do. You, the UK taxpayers, funded OPV’s (crewed by the local plod, because the RN didn’t have the people) to be based permanently in the British Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands to intercept drug traffickers and even provided aeroplanes (crewed by regular RAF types) to spot for them. Unfortunately such was the level of corruption/incompetence that the ‘planes and boats were never allowed to work together and the boats were never maintained so that within a short while they couldn’t go to sea anyway (the BVI boat became the most expensive washing line in the history of British Tax) leaving the RAF maintained ‘planes able to spot suspicious movements but nobody around to do anything about what they saw.

If the US/UK/Europe really want to get serious about stopping drugs then they need to look inward and educate their people. All the time there is demand there will be supply because the profit margins are just so huge. The RN in the Caribbean has no useful part to play in reducing the incidence of drug use or drug related crime in the UK.

June 23, 2013 9:06 pm

This debate is hilarious.

No ship spends all its time training, it has time for other tasks. Even when it is deployed chasing power boats it can be training for other tasks.

June 23, 2013 9:09 pm

If you want to impact the drug trade coming to Britain through the Caribbean, start funding more security at the main airports in the various islands, especially flights headed to the UK and those headed to West Africa.

June 23, 2013 9:10 pm

The Sheffield BOI shows that the vessel whilst on ARMILLA in Jan/Feb 1982 conducted 6 hours of AD exercises (ADEXs) and 12 ours of simulated ADEXs with 5 non-firing Sea Dart engagements.

So out of well over 1200 hours sailing time they spent 18 of them training on their primary mission. Is this about right? I have no idea how much training a RN AAW destroyer would usually conduct if it was not on an operational deployment.

June 23, 2013 9:13 pm

Even when it is deployed chasing power boats it can be training for other tasks.

Not on proper exercises it seems it can’t. Seems to me, and I am ready for a RN type to correct me, that ships on operational taskings that don’t involve their primary mission do the equivalent of a basic level of simulated training rather than working their primary role in a Task Force context. So a bit like a Warrior AI Company training on the wagons a few hours a month rather than conducting AI exercises.

June 23, 2013 9:32 pm


Indeed, as high profile as a frigate patrolling the waters is, I wonder how effective they really are. We should be increasing the support and training/aiding the local law enforcement agencies, but this falls outside defense.

June 23, 2013 10:13 pm

I’m actually leaning towards the side of PE and bob on the ship usage issue. If it makes you feel better TD, think of it as anti-boghammer interception training. There is also something to be said for actual hands on practice in a “live” situation that simulated drills cannot replicate.

Phil, statistics can mislead. They might only have done 18 hours of air defence drills to launch, but there are other stuff that are equally “war”ry they might have done as well, for example, damage control drills, gun practice, round the clock on the job manning of sonar, setting up helo patrols or helo interceptions, boarding drills or even boardings for real etc. So they may not be sitting around drinking tea. We need a more comprehensive breakdown of their time usage before we can say they were doing nuts all.

TD, most of the sims that you seem to want the ship to do are more often done in multi-national level exercises, so until the next exercise comes around, why not?

As for coast guards, if done right, they work. Nothing better than to ruin a pirate’s week than to screw up every interception he tries until he gets tired of losing money and go find a more profitable line of work. Piracy is a business, and if they are not making money, businesses fold.

June 23, 2013 10:31 pm

I never said they were doing nothing. They were doing whatever ARMILLA required in those days. The argument is about the proportions of time spent doing what. In this case 18 hours was spent exercising their primary role, 6 in a realistic way. Now perhaps they didn’t need to do more the BOI says their standards were high in the exercise but it seems clear to me that these type of taskings don’t make it easy to train in primary roles in anything more than the very basics.

June 23, 2013 10:41 pm

@TD & all

I am really with Bob on this. What a hard time a crew must have visiting the Caribbean chasing the odd speed boat with some drug runners…..

Surely all those who joined the forces fancied the idea of going away, often for extended lengths of time to some exotic locations. Well that was the aspiration but reality wasn’t always so cosy…….

To have crews cycling through arduous and challenging tasks through to ‘flying the flag’ & warm water skinny-dipping can’t be such a bad thing. As Bob points out

1. How hard can it be to break off for some training
2. Just what urgent task is needing the frigates and destroyers now? Eh training and that’s it, so also long as training takes place and money is not wasted on ships that couldn’t protect the realm we are heading in the right direction.

The real concern is the lack of task force protection, convoy protection and quite frankly the numbers. As you know I am a massive fan of the MARS SSS design – ideal for cycling through the hurricane season task, but in practice we are still short of escorts. I note on the other thread
Parliamentary answers

“18. Mr Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many destroyers the Royal Navy has on deployment at sea at any one time; and what the equivalent figure was in (a) 2003 and (b) 1993. [159652]

Mr Robathan: The number of Royal Navy units at sea will vary on any given day as they could be deployed on operational tasking, conducting trials or operational sea training in preparation for deployment; they could be alongside for pre-or post-deployment leave; or they could be in refit or undergoing maintenance.

On 11 June this year, there were three Royal Navy destroyers deployed at sea. On 11 June 2003, one destroyer was deployed at sea; and on 11 June 1993, there were three destroyers deployed at sea.”

June 23, 2013 11:10 pm

I would be the first to say lets have 30 frigates and destroyers but being blunt we don’t need them and certainly can’t afford them. If we can supply a CVF and 4 escorts in a coalition campaign that’s a more than fair contribution. Even if we wanted 2 ships for a separate contingency / surface action group / ARG escort at the same time, that to me. on a 3 for 1 basis only requires at most 18 high end escorts. If we really need more ships for “protecting UK citizens and trade from terrorism, piracy and unlawful restrictions on freedom of navigation” then I’d say an OPV design or an RFA will suffice. Personally, recognising our financial position, I’d cut T26 to 9 ‘full fat’ ships and ensure they and the T45s are fully kitted out. Use savings towards MPA, AEW. If finances improve, then maybe add some austere T26s or another design of patrol frigate.

June 24, 2013 1:51 am

TD – it seems you want your cake and eat it too ? All RN ships to be pulled together to train in a large task group, in a complex training environment. Cool, because they do that during FOST sea training, large multi-national task groups normally consisting of German, Dutch, Belgian, Danish and other North Sea allies, but occasionally including any NATO navy including USN, and now the French.

There there is whatever they call the JMC (Joint Maritime Course) these days, which used to be run 3 times per year, but hey, even if its only 1 per year due to cost cutting, it is a major maritime exercise in complex scenarios.

Phil – my experience of Armilla on a Sea Wolf Leander in 8o’s (twice) and T42 in 90’s is that you spend a lot of your time doing the air defence bit for real, tracking Iranian (and back in the day, Iraqi) air and surface units; including spending weeks at a time in defence watches (6 on 6 off) and the occasional “real” hands to action stations in the middle of the night. Being operational in that context is the best training you can get. During the mid 80’s while escorting tanker convoys through the straight we were diverted to hunt a Soviet SSN which the yanks had picked up trailing the Enterprise CBG in the Indian Ocean – warm water ASW training !!

I am not disputing the efficacy of a T23 on counter-narco, if the HMG of the day decides that is what it wants the RN to do, I would rather the RN do it with Frigates that can be used in “combat” than with OPV / SIMMS type ships that can’t when the need arises. OR HMG could decide to fund a Para-military coast guard, or put some SIMMS type ships in the RFA, god forbid we could even have kept a perfectly servicable Bay class by filling it with containers of disaster relief supplies and getting the DIfD to pay…….

I am fairly sure both TD and Phil have in the past been very much along the lines of “soldiers are soldiers” and if a Tanky has to be deployed as Infantry because that’s what COIN in central asia requires, then so be it – so how is this different exactly ? (and apologies in advance to TD and Phil if I am putting words in their mouths.)

June 24, 2013 6:54 am


The point is that such training occurs only periodically anyway. Most training is focussed on core individual tasks and this can be done whilst at sea on other tasks. It can also be done with other navies that happen to be in the vicinity.

This is a complete non-issue. The RN manages training schedules very carefully.

Aussie Johnno
Aussie Johnno
June 24, 2013 6:55 am

X, thanks for the Serco link.
Defence Maritime Services(DMS) which is largely Serco is supplying 2 of these things for RAN submarine support (East/West Coast).
First time I have seen a decent layout drawing,.
By the way, designed in Holland…………. built in Vietnam. Cheap but the limitation with all these Oil Rig Support vessel derived designs is speed, 14 Knots in this case.

June 24, 2013 9:44 am

ith so few frigates it won’t help buying opvs for such roles as we would have to lose more frigates to fund them. if the frigates are not busy else where then by all means send them. however APT(n) should not be seen as a core standing task and if DFID want a ship there in Hurricane season then they can pay for it. DEFRA (or what ever its called now) pay for the three rivers in the fisheries squadron so I don’t see why DFID don’t pay for APT(n) in Hurricane season. That being said I recon a Bay or Albion or almost any if the RFA vessels would be much more useful for APT n

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
June 24, 2013 9:50 am

The Real Question is what do we really need to do and What is nice to do?

Do we need a Frigate in the Carribean doing Counter Narcotics? Not really it’s more an FCO piece to reassure Commonwealth Nations in the Region. The US and it’s wealth of assets is much better placed to deal with this problem and it’s on their doorstep so to speak. It’s the very definition of a Token Effort. Having a PCRS like RFA Argus out there, is valuable especially in hurricane season, it’s good for helicopter Flights and Medical Teams to get experience dealing with these mass casualty type events and disaster relief. But an FF/DD? Less so, as it’s contribution is much lower to any Natural Disaster.

Do we or should we have patrol Ships patrolling our own Waters and EEZ? Couldn’t a properly Equipped UK CoastGuard do this? Why do we have a Mine Hunter on “Fish Patrol”?

We need an Expeditionary Base, much like Bahrain, with the 5th Fleet. I would suggest OMAN would be a good base. We waste 2 months of a 6 month Deployment simply getting to the Gulf Region. Longer Deployments, but with a proper 3 week furlough to allow Ship’s Company to fly home (Port Watch, S’bd Watch).

We have plenty of FF/DD’s if the Government just cuts down the number of tasks. I would say we need more redundancy, and more FF/DD’s (No less then 30 IMO ) with 10 DD’s and 20 FF’s. Having a situation where a Navigational error (ala NOTTINGHAM) could write off over 5% of your FF/DD Fleet is frankly ridiculous.

Rocket Banana
June 24, 2013 10:52 am


What about Diego Garcia as the expeditionary base? Natural harbour. Airport.

June 24, 2013 10:52 am

I agree with Mickp and the argument that we really only need 18 high-end frigates and destroyers to provide 1 each in the Gulf, 1 as a FRE and the other 3 as task-group escorts (and actually used as such on lengthy deployments).

The Falklands wouldn’t need an expensive escort hull on constant patrol if it had a sufficient garrison and a more potent clutch of Typhoon’s (what constitutes sufficient and potent is another argument). In place of a frigate or destroyer id like to see Clyde head home to head up the fisheries group and 2 slightly larger and better equipped (probably of the River-Krabi variant) OPV’s to work together down south in the same permanently based, rotational crew manner. And at the end of the day a surprise visit from an SSN to the region every few years would surely remind the Argentinians what the situation is!

As for drug running in the Caribbean, well it’s easy to argue that doing something about it isn’t a necessity, but just because we don’t have to contribute does not mean it isn’t worth doing at all. You could similarly argue that it’s the job of security forces and other government bodies outside of the armed forces, but again that doesn’t alter the fact that the armed forces, or specifically the Royal Navy is best placed to provide the UK’s contribution. Add to that the need for the UK to provide support to it’s overseas territories (5 island groups with over 100,000 people) and flying the flag in the way the French and Dutch do in a more stable and effective way and it’s clear to me that some kind of permanent presence is a valid approach. Whether it’s cheap OPV’s, corvettes, RFA’s or a combination and whether it’s solely MOD funded or part funded out of the aid budget and/or the foreign office is another more complex argument that comes down to economic viability and platform suitability.

I think piracy is something that tends to come and go and the situation in the Indian Ocean is being increasingly handled by private security teams on board the ships under threat. Sure it’s worth providing a RN vessel if it’s required so the UK does it’s bit but whether or not we should be investing in dedicated low-end platforms (what do we do with them when the threat eventually subsides?) or just allocating a pre-existing vessel (probably at the expense of another commitment) as we do now is a tricky question to answer.

All in all what most strikes me is the need to look at each commitment as a different problem in a largely unique set of circumstances. The answers to each demand on the RN surface force are complex and divergent, the real danger is in trying to answer multiple questions with 1 across the board decision. Saying that the problem would be solved simply by purchasing 6 cheap corvettes, or using current and/or additional RFA’s or a load of OPV’s or some other solution is too easy a solution and doesn’t effectively address the various issues at hand.

Rocket Banana
June 24, 2013 11:59 am

I think this post is TD being sneaky and looking for another angle on the SDSR analysis. Basically we’re already asking “what is it we really need?”

So, with this in mind…

MI5 Biggest Threats

This lists…

1. Terrorism
2. Cyber Espionage (including satellite data infiltration)
3. WMD Proliferation

…as the top threats. Which concurs with the National Security Strategy (page 28).

We therefore need to undermine the ability for the above threats to happen and one of the main ways we can do this is to undermine any mechanisms for funding. This means stopping illicit trade in slaves, guns, drugs, sex and rock-n-roll. This would need (and this is very debatable) an ability to interdict these movements using direct/hard military force or covertly inserted sabotage teams.

This nicely has an effect on stopping point 3 directly.

There are plenty of other angles on all this but I’ve promised myself not to post comments that are too long. Suffice to say I’m more for frigates and a proper spy-network/special-forces than frigates and OPVs.

June 24, 2013 1:29 pm

Not read all comments yet.
But the UK should purchase two more River class Batch 2 OPVs, and forward deploy one in the Caribbean and the other in Sierra Leone, which is having real problems with illegal fishing. The River class only cost about £30-£35 million each, and it would provide work for the shipyards until construction of the Type 26s gets underway. The only problem with the Batch 2 River class is they don’t have a hanger. The cost of forward positioning the OPVs should be paid from the DIFD budget.

June 24, 2013 5:47 pm

The patrol task is maintained the because there 6 British Overseas Territories in the region interdicting drug traffic and aiding other law enforcement are subsidiary tasks. Remember it isn’t just the islands here but their EEZs too. Aid to Commonwealth states and any diplomatic or political gains are an extra benefit. Hurricane relief is also a subsidiary task (well to HMG, well the F&CO, I am not sure they are the same….). My dig about DfID was to do with budget and not responsibility when it comes to the BOT. It seems that HMG would rather give billions to those who would rather not British than spend some millions on those who want to British.

That patrol tasks can be conducted by a variety of ships is due to the high utility value of ships; unlike say a tank or SPG. Ships unlike say an infantry battalion are self-deploying. Our escorts may have first class capabilities but fundamentally their main role is to move across the ocean to surveil what is happening and act; the technical term for that is a patrol. The RN is built to fight wars not to be colonial coast guard. Luckily a force that is configured for the former task can carry out the latter task. Being able to derive a lot from one platform means greater value for the tax payer’s pound too. Perhaps we can send the RAC to Third World to use tanks as tractors? No. Sadly an escort doesn’t help much with hurricane relief beyond supplying a willing crew and a helicopter. If HMG cared there would be a suitable ship out there like the HNLMS Pelikaan or a French BATRAL-class loaded up with kit But HMG, the F&CO, isn’t too bothered so there. If you look post WW2 the F&CO have tried their hardest to disinvest the UK of every possession not attached to the UK mainland. The French operate 28 light frigates, OPV, and patrol craft. We have 4 OPV, the P2000s, and the 2 Scimiatar class. So TD is right we don’t have enough ships as we appear to be missing several classes of OPV and patrol craft. Luckily the maritime security situation is such that we can send a frigate to do APT(N) and know that our HVU are defended somewhat by our allies (read the USN.) If it wasn’t APT(N) would be dropped. One final thought using an oiler or a stores ships is as much a waste as using T45 or T23.

Training has been mentioned. For site that goes doolally at the idea of swarm attacks I thought you would all be for our escort crews operating in shoal waters dotted with islands with high traffic ranging from fishing boats to cruise liners? Further considering how much long duration peacekeeping operations are admired here I thought crews honing their bordings skills and learning to deal with Third Worlders would be welcomed too? Exercises are all well good but they are artificial. The best training is real world experience.

As much as I would like to see the RN gain a class of ships like BAM I can’t see it happening. And I wouldn’t want it to happen if it meant losing T26. The hole that can be plugged and needs to be plugged is hurricane relief. And it wouldn’t cost much for HMG to charter a vessel or add it on to the Serco Denholm contract or do something. I should imagine post-Afghanistan the RE would jump at the training opportunity. Then again some here would perhaps find that troubling, you know a part of an armed service using it skills and expensive equipment in peacetime. Perish the thought. The RN will continue to be deployed world wide when the majority Army is back in the Super Garrisons stamping about, shouting, and painting coal black.

PS: I think this whole thread was really TD trying to be funny, not in the sense of causing laughter or amusement…………..

June 24, 2013 7:14 pm

RFA Fort George laid up in Liverpool. Perfect for the Caribbean, big flight deck. massive hanger. Permanent deployment, local crew, helicopter, CB90 on davits, detachment of marines, job done. T23 free to do something else all at a fraction of the running cost.

Bugger just checked sold to the Turkish scrapyard! Would have been nice.

June 24, 2013 7:42 pm

Too big. The ship we should have used we flogged to the Brazilians…….

A left field suggestion………

£90 million a copy, 15000nm at 14kts, and those hangars are sized for Puma. We would need two.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 24, 2013 7:59 pm

We have just agreed a budget cut with treasury, we are using the ships we should be using because there is no money to buy extra ones.
A T23 can rerole the T26 we dont get because we used the money for something else cannot.
That is real life given current budget constraints.

Chuck Hill
June 25, 2013 2:01 am

An element of this discussion is the utility of an intermediate ship type (armed OPVs). Over at my blog we recently had an exchange prompted by a report that the French are planning a replacement for their Floreal Class. As the wold’s largest operator of these intermediate types the USCG has an interest

H_K on June 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm said: Edit

Is it a cutter? Is it a frigate? No, it’s a mish-mash!

What’s the point of these half- naval, half-coast guard designs? They make my head spin… NSC, Holland-class, Floreal, now these. Way too much gold-plated naval equipment for a coast guard/anti-piracy role, but not enough to be truly useful in a shooting war, even up against your local third-world rust-bucket navy…
Reply ↓

My response on June 22, 2013 at 11:21 pm:

As to what they might do in war time, I have addressed it in some detail here

I think your question has two parts
1. Isn’t something like the River class good enough? To which I think the answer is both have a place.
2. If you are going to build something that looks like a frigate, why not build a frigate. Use it for law Enforcement in peacetime and you also have a fully capable frigate in wartime. Here I think the answer is maybe.

Mostly the upgrade relative to something like the River class,, is in its ability to deal with recalcitrant merchant and fishing ships vessels while surviving in a low, but not no threat environment.. Normally a heavy machinegun is enough, but if they were controlled by truly determined terrorists, attempting to smuggle arms to an insurgent group, or acting as a naval auxiliary, the River’s armament might not be enough, in fact it might be out gunned. I’m not convinced that the Coast Guard ships are armed well enough for this task. The French ships are better equipped, having both a larger caliber gun that fires a much heavier shell with greater penetrating power, 32 pounds vs 6 for the 57mm, and Exocet, although I think there is a better and cheaper alternative to cruise missiles.

As for the second question, I have asked this myself, but there are rationale for this decision. Personnel are the greatest cost of operating these ships. By not equipping the ships with sophisticated weapons and sensors, there is both the initial savings of not buying the equipment and there is recurring savings in manning and maintenance costs.

This may be the right decision if you cannot meet both your defense and law enforcement needs with full blown warships.

It was also the right decision if you never go to war.

The value of the ships increases if they are upgradable in the case of either a predictable or long term conflict in that they can be equipped with the latest systems when they are needed. I’m not sure the Coast Guard has planned for this.

The Coast Guard’s reason for avoiding the extra expense of additional weapons and sensors (“to do the Navy’s mission”) is obvious even if it may be sub-optimizing relative to the nation’s needs.

This is a question of balance and the ability to predict the future. Incorporating adaptability is a hedge against making the wrong decision in the near term.
As to a ship that might be “fitted for but not with” its wartime systems.

As a final note, even a patrol vessel as small as 3,000 tons could be designed to hangar and support two 11ton ASW helicopters. If it also has supporting storage and magazine space, adding a Multi-Funtion Towed Array can provide a very useful capability for war time. Three of them working together could give a sub fits.

I would also love to see a 5″ gun installed so that they could more reliably stop larger ships and they could also be used as NSFS specialists.

June 25, 2013 8:01 am

Chuck, I have always insisted that a torpedo makes a wonderful coup de grace weapon. Nice to know I’m not the only one. I suspect that in times of war, the most common use of anti-ship missiles and guns would actually be the degradation of enemy firepower to the point where he becomes ineffective and is forced to withdraw, or to cripple him badly enough to get a ship close in for a final torpedo shot.

As for OPVs, depending on how far you want them to range, I think a 500 ton might be sufficient to do the job. 25mm main gun, 2 GPMG or 25mm secondaries, one central triple mount torpedo tube or 2 twin mounts left and right, one helo. Something like a throwback to the old torpedo gunboat days + a helo. Should be more than sufficient to meet most low intensity threats.

June 25, 2013 10:02 am

@Challenger and others

The RN is in theory moving into a new era with CVF and we seem to be bumbling on with like for like replacement without a proper reassessment of needs / tasks

If we were starting from scratch with a fleet built around 2 carrier groups (one always active), I’d be suggesting 9-12 high end dual purpose escorts (AAW, ASW and ASuW), ie an Arleigh Burke equivalent, to prove 2-4 per carrier group and 0-2 for other high threat tasking (eg Gulf). Then 9-12 GP escorts with TAS option (not all equipped, perhaps 8 sets), self defence AAW, Harpoon equivalent and decent main gun for NGFS (closer to T23 or OHP equivalent than a T26). Finally 9-12 second raters / large OPVs, gun armament only with bolt on CAMM / Harpoon if needed – 2 based in FI, 1 in Gib, 2 in WI and rest in UK (I’m thinking BAM type)

However, we are not there and have the T45s that are largely single purpose and the T26s that have GP elements but no area AAW. We also have the mythical GP T26 that I’m not sure will be much cheaper than the full fat ASW one

So to compromise, build 9-12 full T26s. 12 gives us the 18 high end escorts but I’d drop to as low as 15 (9 full T26s) if we could agree FRE did not have to be high end – giving 1 T45 and 2 T26 per carrier group and a T45 / T26 combo for other high end tasking. As to the second raters whether they are GP T26s (fitted for but not with virtually everything except a 5″ gun, 2/3 smaller guns and a helo) or an alternative, more second rate, design come down purely to cost / numbers in my view. I’d be aiming to squeeze 6 to 9 out giving a modest increase in fleet numbers and a more balanced capability. Bring Clyde home as Challenger says and have 2 dedicated permanently based FI OPVs. finally a completely fresh look at UK EEZ patrol, looking at coast guard, border agency, fisheries obligations and whether one organisation can do these with the back up of a number of tooled up RN patrol vessels.

June 25, 2013 10:12 am

If you accept that under current limitations any increase in surface ship numbers would have to be at the expense of some T26 (as in the oft spoken problem about gaining say 6 corvettes that are only useful for constabulary work in place of 3 high-end frigates that are useful everywhere) and if you also accept that the RN needs as many T26 as it can get it’s hands on then the position is clear. It’s a case of real additional investment to spend on ships or it’s about making the best of what we have now and are likely to get in the future.

Assuming their was some extra money to play with I agree with what people have been saying about those middle ground, moderately expensive corvettes and light frigates. They are a false economy by being too elaborate for minor, everyday constabulary tasks and yet nowhere near well equipped to be of any real use in a high threat situation.

I’m not sure how useful any very cheap OPV’s would be, with the exception of the Falklands where I firmly believe that 2 slightly larger and up-gunned patrol ships would suffice in place of a high-end destroyer or frigate.

I think that although far from ideal the Caribbean can be furnished with an auxiliary stocked up by a helicopter, lots of disaster relief stuff a couple of small boats on davits and a boarding team. It would be nice to get a dedicated ship some-day, but as ever it’s the question of money and spending priorities.

Aside from that I think the priority has to be the provision of the T26. 12 fully equipped hulls would have to come first with any hypothetical (mythical) extra cash being spent on diet versions, similar to the T21 in terms of weapons fit with a minimal number of Sea Ceptor, main gun and a helicopter, with the obvious advantage being that they would be cheaper hulls, fine for simple standing commitments and have a degree of usefulness in a higher threat scenario but also fitted for but not with everything else with the ability to up-gun them fairly cheaply and rapidly if it were ever required.

June 25, 2013 10:48 am


I put my last post up at the same time as yours so I didn’t get a chance to read and reply!

I think we seem to broadly agree on what shape and forms the RN should have taken but also what the reality of the situation is and how they could/should make best use of what they have and will have in the future.

That means deciding how many high-end escorts are needed (in my view 18) and ring-fencing them as a priority, then if some modest extra funds were ever available pursuing a cheaper ship to fill out overall fleet numbers. A slight difference between our views seems to be that whilst you would be more pragmatic on what form this other class would take (based on costs and capabilities) I am of the firm view that utilising the pre-existing T26 design and producing a slimmed down, simpler (but future proofed) version would be the way to go.

I also can’t agree enough that a full overlook of the UK’s EEZ and how it should be policed in the future, with either one civilian agency or multiple and with or without RN involvement, needs to occur.

June 25, 2013 11:06 am

A lot depends on what the ‘GP’ version of the T26 is. I thought the current plan was 8 ASW and 5 GP. I think what you are saying is that lose the distinction and just build say 12 full ones, with saving on 13th funding full kit on all the others and perhaps helping find a bit of money to do the 2 OPVs for FI, which I agree with.

Your T26 diet is I assume lighter than a GP version in the sense the hull may be the same but some of the machinery could be lower spec as well as the weapons fit?

If absolute hull numbers is more important then I was saying drop to 9 full T26s and may be get 6 diet ones on top of that, but I then have to try and justify what the others will be used for

Back to the original point and my first response, rather than 19 not being enough, I think we could cope with at most 18 high end escorts. Other than sorting the FI with a couple of OPVs and perhaps restructuring of our EEZ patrols, in these austere times can we justify more money on escorts? MPA and AEW would be higher up my list.

June 25, 2013 11:16 am


I think we are in broad agreement! I would settle on

18 high end

Cheaper ones to top up if and when we can afford, and need (I take your point on T26 diet – I’ve no strong views, should by that stage be able to screw BAE down on price!)

2 upgraded OPVs for FI

Sort out EEZ situation

Just amphibs, Subs and RFAs to sort…..

June 25, 2013 11:30 am


Yeah my plan would be to lose the current T26 varaints and build 12 full spec ones.

The diet T26 would indeed be the same hull but with a lot of the kit taken out or swapped for cheaper alternatives, although with a main gun, helicopter and some Sea Ceptor I think they would still have a use in being able to take on secondary escort roles in wartime and free up the fully kitted frigates for the actual fighting.

This is all hypothetical though, based on my desire to see the fleet back up-to 24 hulls (which I personally see as the number which it shouldn’t have dropped below) by using a mythical and modest increase in the surface ship budget.

In the real world I agree that using the money saved from the 13th T26 on fully kitting the other 12 and getting a couple of slightly more capable (but still pretty cheap) OPV’s to release a frigate/destroyer from the Falklands standing commitment is the most realistic way to go.

And as you say AEW, MPA and a whole host of other things are more important than getting extra surface ships into service and deserve more attention as a result.

Rocket Banana
June 25, 2013 11:48 am


Wouldn’t the main weapon in these low threat situations simply be Wildcat (well, really Sting Ray).

This means you simply need a ship with decent enough sea keeping, range and speed to police the areas you need. The only armament it really needs is a hangar, flight deck and a gun that can “out gun” anything that can be easily fitted to a “trader’s” or “pirate’s” boat.

Perhaps a single Phalanx or Seahawk Sigma would be enough and provide limited air defence?


Hull: £20m ???
CIWS: £20m – transferrable elsewhere in war.
Copter: £30m – reusable elsewhere in war.

Basically it’s a lengthened River class. 2500t? 3MW diesel + 16MW turbine for 28 knots? or just a 7MW diesel for around 20 knots.

June 25, 2013 11:54 am

Apologies if this has been discussed here earlier (quick scan suggests not).

when airline companies like Boeing design their airliners, they are sort of modular. Pointy bit with cockpit in it, tapered bit at the back with fin & tailplane, wings with engines, central fuselage with wing roots and landing gear. For the rest of the aircraft, common tubular sections are used in various quantities to make the right length.

Wouldn’t it be entirely possible to design a common hull along the same lines? Pointy bit, blunt bit and standard U-shaped sections to be fitted inbetween to make the right length? The distributed build technique used on T45 and QE/POW already chop the hull into sections to be joined when relatively complete, so creating a set of pre-fab hull sections is no impossibility. You might also consider whether the sections should be designed with functional roles built in – an air-defence section, gun turret section, hangar & workshops section, ops room section, engines section etc. Thus if you want the Gucci Global Combat Ship you use lots of modules and a long slender ship (oh very Royal Navy) pops out of the yard, but if you want a patrol ship it only gets a couple of modules appropriate to role and becomes quite short and robust.

Not that you’d be able to take the patrol boat into the yard on a Friday to have the extra modules inserted ready for ASW duties on the Monday, but at least when new ships are needed there wouldn’t be decades of design work before unique sets of metalwork are ready to be ordered.

I expect the answer will be SIDS (Ships Is Different, See?) but on the grounds that T42 Batch 3 was extended (or reverted to its proper original length, depending on your viewpoint) from the Batch1/2 design, it really ought to be possible.

The result is that the one design which encompasses all desired modules would be paid for once, thereafter the numbers of frigates or destroyers or patrol ships or corvettes or cruisers(!) would be adjustable without huge contractual penalties providing no module was under construction that has no hull to go to.

Wouldn’t that answer the ‘how many of what sort’ ship arguments?

Rocket Banana
June 25, 2013 12:28 pm


I love the idea but think it’s not quite as flexible as one would hope.

Bow: with or without gun – not optional – length 30m.
SAM: optional – length 20m.
Bridge: with or without radar mast – not optional – length 20m.
Hangar: optional – length 20m.
Stern: flight deck – not optional – length 30m.

So a length of 80-120m.

What would the beam be? 16m? …or narrower to better suit the 80m version?

It isn’t going to cost an awful lot more to simply build the 120m hull and have a tin shed hangar, space for the radar mast and a hole for the SAM. Plus you’ll have to organise for all the electrics and plumbing to be designed so that they too are modular. This means a common interface at each join which means a pre-defined location for passageways, cables, etc. So for example we can’t have a passageway down the middle of the SAM silo so can’t have it down the middle anywhere.

You end up with the “lowest common denominator” or “triple coincidence of wants” problem.

I’m sure someone does it though ;-)

Rocket Banana
June 25, 2013 12:42 pm

Oddly, whilst digging around for figures I remembered HMS Echo. A very pretty ship.

I noticed the fact that there are two echo class working back-to-back on 18-month deployments but there are three crews (1.5 per ship) that work on rotation.

Can this concept not be applied to our escorts?

June 25, 2013 1:13 pm

I would agree 12 high end type 26s, and for OPV, I would go for 6 Hollands, 2 bought of the shelf ( as 2 are up for sale) 2 built in Holland, and 2 built in uk at Camel laird (expand English shipbuilding just in case Scotland goes independent), and 2 Rivers built at portsmouth. (we are paying BAE £250 million a year not to build ships, so why not use the money to build them). In addition Sea Hercules as the MPA stopgap for a decade (convert RAF ones at marshalls, this would allow the C130J fleet to be kept large enought with some for MPA role and some for special forces role). In an ideal world 6 SSK would not go amis.

June 25, 2013 1:16 pm

Simon – As I understand the conventional thinking is that the multi-crewed ships is fine for auxiliaries (Survey, MCM, Patrol, etc) but isn’t as suitable for proper war canoes that normally more complicated to operate (and fight) and require greater cohesion among the the larger crew. Things like FOST, etc would be alot more difficult with a crew where a third of them (ala the Echos) are off ship at any one time).

One option is to do what the SSBN force do and have 2 complete crews per ship, that take turns manning the ship. The USN are planning this for the LCSs and the Germans with their F125 frigates.

Applying this to escort fleet is possible but requires alot of work to maintain that unit cohesion and co-ordination between the 2 crews.

El Sid
El Sid
June 25, 2013 2:24 pm

The plan for LCS is to use 3 crews and 2 ships to generate 1 ship on station, as opposed to the traditional 3 crews and 3 ships for one deployed – it’s not 2 crews per ship. We’ll have to see how that works out – LCS has an advantage over traditional warships in that many of the complicated bits are in modules so if say the sonar is playing up they can ship in another ASW module and send the LCS off to sea whilst they fiddle with the broken sonar on land, in effect the modules make it 2.something ships per 3 crews.

3:2:1 manning does require significant investment in systems reliability though, and there are issues with eg crew feeling their have less ownership of a ship, so may slack on maintenance.

SIDS. :-) Whilst you can plug cruise liners and the like, it gets difficult for “performance” hulls like warships because the length/beam ratio is one of the most important factors affecting things like drag and seakeeping, and it’s quite easy to bugger things up completely. But broadly you seem to be advocating a more MEKO-like modular approach – which is exactly what we’re doing with T26….

June 25, 2013 3:23 pm

ElSid – ref performance of hulls – I recall back in the 70s or 80s a big hydrodynamic study was undertaken to determine if long graceful narrow beam hulls had better seakeeping qualities that short fat ones. After a lot of theory and model trials in high-tech hydrodynamic tanks, the academics determined short & fat hulls were more stable, more resilient, even more efficient for a given internal volume. With the prospect of the loss of their elegant stiletto-shaped warships that plough majestically through the oceans, to be replaced with utilitarian tug-boat look-alikes, the RN and naval Architects closed ranks, declared the tests had major flaws and proclaimed the conclusions therefore were completely wrong. End of discussion.

June 25, 2013 3:42 pm

Might need Google translate to read this, but the Italian navy, just as cash strapped as ours, but still with a carrier plus Harriers and at some stage F35Bs is going through a similar thought process. They seem to going for the Light Frigate route. This is on top of having 2 Horizon and 10 FREMM.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 25, 2013 4:27 pm

Chris – you’ll be talking about the endless shenanigans instigated by Thornycroft Giles & Associates and their small band of cheerleaders, which rumbled on for about 5 years.

I have the final report of the Warship Hull Design Inquiry (ISBN 0 11 7726001 if you’re interested, published in 1988) on my shelves. It was conducted by Lloyds Register who were commissioned by the SoS for Defence to ensure independence from MoD. Strangely enough, the conclusions of that report differ substantially from what you have written above. The “academics” you refer to were I suspect the “Hill-Norton Committee” who published a report in 1986 which suggested that the short fat ship had significant advantages. Unfortunately, (and I quote from the final report) “As the Committee itself made clear, it had no access to classified information and no qualified staff or support and this limited the extent of the evaluation that it was able to make”.

The Lloyds Register inquiry had access to a wide range of independent experts as well as both MoD and TGA and took around 15 months reviewing all the arguments, data and commissioning more trials. Let me quote from their “Firm Conclusion of the Inquiry”, which says :

” We have made a very thorough assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the S90 hulllform and the associated Sirius design concept for the purposes of meeting NSR7069 for an anti-submarine warfare frigate. Arising from this assessment, the inquiry can find no reason to disagree with the MoDs preference for the T23.”

It also goes on to say that “we have consistently throughout our investigations, assigned every reasonable benefit of doubt to the Sirius concept” and later that “Our adverse view with respect to the Sirius design concept must therefore be considered as the most optimistic view with respect to teh suitability of such a design for the current ASW frigate requirement.”

In less measured terms, it was b0llocks.

June 25, 2013 4:46 pm

NaB – I bow to your much more informed knowledge. Mine stems from dim and distant memories of TV reports and the odd report in Jane’s and the like.

But there are many ways to make good progress through the deep blue briny; it is recognized that submarines can sprint faster than similar displacement surface ships (surface effects?) and so SWATH designs should be very fast; in the 90s a prototype wave-piercer was produced here in the UK (as the name says it hammers through waves rather than bouncing on the tops of them and in theory goes faster) which the MOD took on for trials but I last saw it looking very unused round the back of a shed at RMCS. Sometimes you are left wondering whether the design of warships is influenced by the desired image rather more than would be considered scientific…

June 25, 2013 5:01 pm


The Italians will be down to one ‘harrier carrier’ and a very small clutch of F35 sooner rather than later and are also likely to get no more than 6 FREMM into service.

Yes they will have a fair few small patrol boats and OPV’s around but they can never really compensate for the lack of high-end vessels. Plus the Italian Navy has far more of a focused regional presence than the RN which is largely focused on expeditionary power projection…..they are two very different kettles of fish.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 25, 2013 5:16 pm

Horses for courses. Boats don’t produce wave drag below a certain depth, hence their resistance is primarily wetted surface related. SWATHS will produce surface wave systems, so “normal” rules apply and they aren’t superfast, far from it. What SWATHS do provide is low motions, because of the small waterplane area element in SWATH, but that also means they don’t carry load particularly easily. In general SWATHs are far from fast, unless you shove in heaps of power, which is difficult because of limited access.

Is this the wave-piercer you’re thinking of?

Good for what it does, not necessarly scaleable.

Don’t confuse “scientific” with “high-performance in one regime”. Monohulls work because they do the vast majority of things well. All these other forms (Trimarans, Pentamarans, PACSCATS, SES, ACV, foils, SWATHs etc) all have their niche advantages, but can be utterly dependent on lightweight materials that don’t scale or are required only to have short endurance etc, etc. Or, as with many of the multihulls, their construction cost is higher than the monohull for little commensurate gain.

June 25, 2013 6:05 pm

NaB – again your knowledge exceeds my hearsay. Its a good job I don’t design hulls. As for the wave piercer, it looks about right but the prototype I saw was UK designed where the one in the link would appear to be a US version. I have looked for the thing but can’t find a web reference. Back in 2008 or so it was featured on the BBC’s local South Today program, which is how I recognised what it was when I found it in real life.

Out of interest, page 20 of this corporate mag might be of interest:, and this bonkers design too:

June 25, 2013 6:25 pm

Re: “If we were starting from scratch with a fleet built around 2 carrier groups (one always active)…” Jumping the gun a bit, but this is a very likely outcome of the SDSR 2015. Also, it is likely that once the T26 production is complete a project to replace the T45 will be underway.

T45s armed with Harpoon and additional VLS in the space already available will make them first class in every aspect except ASW. Sailing shotgun for a CVF doesn’t naturally lend itself to this role anyway. So 6 T45 + 8 T26 (optmised for both AAW and ASW) would be enough to support the 2 RFTGs IMO.

Thiis combined with 3 RM battlegroups, MARS (Tankers plus SSSs), 2 Albions, 2 CVFs, 3 Bays, 4 Points plus F35B purple squadrons gives the UK a more than decent amphibious expeditionary capability.

So, what else is really needed??

SSNs to cover the boomers, RFTGs and limited strike / ISR.

Rivers, inshore patrol boats plus MPA for EEZ patrolling.

Humanitarian support ship for the Caribbean or research ship for the Antarctic – both unarmed and seasonal requirements and could be funded by the international aid budget?

You could argue we need a frigate in the Gulf, but looking at Iran’s capabilities is it the right tool for the job? Outside of a full scale conflict (which needs the RFTG as part of an alliance) at best it needs to be able to detect mines, combat / avoid swarm attacks and detect / avoid attack from miniature subs. Is it firepower or speed / sensors that is needed?

Although I have argued for more OPVs in the past I have come to think that these are not needed. What the RN really needs are fast / stealthy surveillance frigates who are able to support modules and have good endurance. If you look at the threat list the need for good / in-situ intelligence. These need to be numerous and therefore relatively cheap (hence my L’adroit post recently). These are the true MHPC replacements.

June 25, 2013 6:29 pm

I missed a few MCMs for the RFTG, but these are likely to be modular capabilities in the future probably deplyed from a Bay or T26.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 25, 2013 6:49 pm

Chris. Were you thinking of the Damen Sea Axe? The blurb I have is from 2009. The designs they had varied from 33 to 50 m, but they were thinking of looking at bigger designs.

June 25, 2013 6:50 pm

Whilst even I appreciate submarines are not ships, I would concur there are too few of them.

If the rule of three applies to SSNs, and not sure it does, then I would have thought 9 was a minimum with 3 available at once – 1 for task group, 1 UK EEZ, 1 other overseas deployment

SSNs are a real differentiator for us and (assuming the Astute problems are teething in nature)a national industrial strength. I think we should press forward on Astute gaining economies of scale and incremental improvements rather than stop at 7, take a break for successor and then start all over again with a new class. Keep the line hot with Batch 2 possibly with some VLS. Where’s the money? Cancel FRES for one.

Rocket Banana
June 25, 2013 6:59 pm

I work on the assumption that 7 Astute is because the 3-for-1 is not quite enough to guarantee two. Essentially the 7th Astute and 13th Frigate are contingencies. Just like us embarking 7 SHAR and 7 ASW copters on Invincible much of the time (6 is not quite comfortable enough).

So we should have 2 Astute, 2 T45 and 4 T26 sustained on an enduring operation.

All of these have to go back to port to be replenished with missiles and torpedoes.

The carriers, LPDs, LSDs and other RFAs don’t have to be replenished quite so often (damned if I know how CVF gets more bombs, must have very deep magazines) so should just about manage to keep one or two on station for a while.


June 25, 2013 7:01 pm

I can’t pick many holes in that fleet, save for upping the SSN fleet as I note above

I like the L’Adroit concept as a modern, flexible OPV – more eyes and ears than high intensity fighty. Perhaps future River repalcement. I think the Archers should become entirely training vessels and a more dedicated inshore patrol vessel should be added to the fleet

The only extra OPVs I would argue for at present is to provide great cover to the FI and its EEZ. A subtle rebalancing of force down there, eg rotating battalion, extra Typhoons dramaticall reduces the already low risk of ever having ot size the amphib fleet to land a full brigade

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 25, 2013 7:01 pm

Re the Damen Sea Axe. Just been on the interweb. 50 m version of the Sea Axe patrol ship sold to Cape Verde. Looks butch. Would be ideal for Sea Spear. There is also a 67 m version. The illustration was for a superyacht to carry the toys including a 5 ton helicopter.

June 25, 2013 7:07 pm

So, we come back to a modular light frigate? Hell, simply give DAMEN the MHPC budget, buy a couple of Sigmas and 4207s. If britishness or the lack of it is a problem, buy licenses and build domestic.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
June 25, 2013 7:16 pm

The more I read this thread, the more I look forward to the “SIMMS Revisited” Article promised by the Boss…we provide big locally based utility ships in the Caribbean, Gibraltar (to show the flag in the Mediterranean and West Africa), and the FI (ice-strengthened)…and work closely with the BOT Authorities to provide OPVs and take care of HM’s EEZs…as well as providing high tech ISTAR (geeks in tin sheds here and there)…and making a more regular show of our ability reinforce most places flying a variant of the Union Jack …fast jets in hours…and big sleek warships in days…especially where the neighbours are hostile, unstable or inclined to crime…

All for the three crews/two ships model…and possibly the use of local/RFA crewing.

All for sharing cost with the small but often rich BOTs, and with relevant non-defence budgets…

All for consolidating UK based patrol assets into one RN Squadron carrying paying passengers from HMRC/ Immigration/Fisheries/law enforcers generally…and I would also make Mine Hunting a predominantly RNVR Task…we need a high level of expertise, but have ample time to build up capacity as a serious crisis unfolds…

That should allow enough high end escorts to keep a Carrier/Amphibious Warfare Group at sea most of the time…and a handful to spare for tasks in genuinely dangerous places…of course I am on record as wanting a third CVF to ensure that, but that idea has been revisited times many…and my essential point is for us to maintain as many big ocean-going warships or utility vessels as we can because patrol tasks are offered on a shared cost basis, and are well-integrated with the local offer (which we can support and to some extent supervise)


June 25, 2013 7:31 pm

JohnH – no definitely not the Sea Axe. The machine I remember was something like 35m long, a small cabin aft of midships, and very big engines hiding in its rump. Planform was almost triangular from the rear sloping pointy prow to the wide flat transom that was I’m guessing the widest bit of the boat at maybe 4m. The windscreen, the TV report pointed out, was not only steeply raked backwards but also thick armoured glass, necessary to withstand the impacts of seawater and floating debris as it punched through waves at over 30kt. Something like that, anyway. It was a proper beast and very exciting to watch, but once MOD got their hands on it all publicity stopped.

Rocket Banana
June 25, 2013 7:58 pm

L’Adroit (Gowind) makes the River class look positively prehistoric!

June 25, 2013 8:41 pm

@MickP: agree with more SSNs, I still think 8 was more than possible even in the current budget constraints with proper mgt.

I have to be honest my thoughts are more along the lines of L’adroit / RV Trident than SIMMs – not sure of the need for large / slow moving ships for the RN.

Chuck Hill
June 25, 2013 8:57 pm

@Simon June 25, 2013 at 11:48 am, “Chuck, Wouldn’t the main weapon in these low threat situations simply be Wildcat (well, really Sting Ray).

“This means you simply need a ship with decent enough sea keeping, range and speed to police the areas you need. The only armament it really needs is a hangar, flight deck and a gun that can “out gun” anything that can be easily fitted to a “trader’s” or “pirate’s” boat.

“Perhaps a single Phalanx or Seahawk Sigma would be enough and provide limited air defence?

“So: Hull: £20m ??? CIWS: £20m – transferrable elsewhere in war. Copter: £30m – reusable elsewhere in war.

“Basically it’s a lengthened River class. 2500t? 3MW diesel + 16MW turbine for 28 knots? or just a 7MW diesel for around 20 knots.

Agree helicopter is the most important feature, and better two than one. Not sure we can assume helicopter will be adequate without backup system. Situations likely to develop quickly during VBSS operation rather than at great distance. Do think own ship should keep at least 4,000 yards away from target vessel if there is a possibility the target will offer resistance to remain outside the effective range of most improvised weapons the target vessel may carry, such as machine guns, RPGs, Wire guided anti-tank weapons, recoiless rifles, or anti-tank guns.

Would really like to see some testing of 20 to 40 mm guns against medium to large ships to see how effective they are. Until I see positive results I will continue to campaign for light weight torpedoes with a propeller destroying anti-surface mode as the best way to stop larger ships without resorting to very large and expensive systems. It the OPV were equipped with something like Phalanx, Mk38 mod2 or Seahawk and torpedoes, I think it could handle all its peacetime missions. It would be good to have a 5” for a number of reasons, and they don’t really cost that much. It would give these ships a real wartime mission too. Do you really want to divert your Type 45 or Type 26 from their AAW and ASW tasking to do NGFS?

I’d like to see at least 24 knots (and you can do that with diesels) so after adding systems they could escort amphibs and escort or intercept virtually all merchant ships. (Think your cost for the hull is way too low.)

@ Chris June 25, 2013 at 11:54 am Re modular hulls. Closest thing out there now is the Damen SIGMA Class Corvette/light frigates:

June 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm
“ElSid – ref performance of hulls – I recall back in the 70s or 80s a big hydrodynamic study was undertaken to determine if long graceful narrow beam hulls had better seakeeping qualities that short fat ones. After a lot of theory and model trials in high-tech hydrodynamic tanks, the academics determined short & fat hulls were more stable, more resilient, even more efficient for a given internal volume. With the prospect of the loss of their elegant stiletto-shaped warships that plough majestically through the oceans, to be replaced with utilitarian tug-boat look-alikes, the RN and naval Architects closed ranks, declared the tests had major flaws and proclaimed the conclusions therefore were completely wrong. End of discussion.”

Certainly true for moderate speeds, up to approx 25 knots for the size ships we are looking at. That is why Coast Guard Cutters tend to be relatively beamy. It is a trade off between wetted surface (chubby is better) and wave making (long is better). but since even warships spend most of their time under 20 knots, maximum speed has become less important, and it is relatively easy to generate additional horsepower by boosting with gas turbines for those few occasions when you need really high speed, I think the broader beamed ships make sense for many applications.

June 25, 2013 9:39 pm


‘I work on the assumption that 7 Astute is because the 3-for-1 is not quite enough to guarantee two’

Although I agree that 7 Astute’s should be able to broadly guarantee 2 boats on active deployment at any time I don’t think that’s necessarily the reason why a 7th boat is on order.

I am under the strong impression that back in 2010 during the SDSR the MOD would have much preferred to have stopped the Astute programme at 6 boats and thus have saved a chunk of cash but couldn’t for the simple reason that 7 boats are what’s needed to keep production at Barrow on a steady drumbeat through the current orders and onto the successor SSBN class.

It’s the same old story about safeguarding skills and jobs. Production has already been slowed at considerable cost instead of building an 8th Astute and the RN is presumably pretty relieved that they couldn’t do the same with the 7th. Stretching out orders and injecting money into BAE for nothing in return is frankly a ridiculous way of handling procurement and doing business.

June 25, 2013 10:06 pm

@ Chuck “Do you really want to divert your Type 45 or Type 26 from their AAW and ASW tasking to do NGFS?”

That’s where I’d got to with any ‘lite’ frigate. Put a 5″ on and it immediately has a real war role of NGFS. If you put a 57 or 75mm on it becomes more token. That said, I’d have a 5″ up front, a 57mm at the rear and 30mm on each beam. I don’t like all the over-reliance on all your main weapons up front

June 25, 2013 11:10 pm

“Put a 5″ on and it immediately has a real war role of NGFS”

And thus your patrol vessel becomes another frigate in equipment if not in name. :)

Which means this whole topic just went in a full circle.

Chuck Hill
June 25, 2013 11:24 pm

I did a little fantasy fleet thinking, but grounded in reality. ( Looking at minimum peacetime equipment and possible upgrades for wartime. My fully upgunned 2500 to 3500 ton OPV, equipped for war would have:

H-60 11 tons
UAS (weight unknown, but estimate an estimate probably on the high side) 4 tons
Mk 38 mod 2 25 mm guns (x2) (estimate on the high side) 3 tons
AN/SQR-20 Multi-Function Towed Array (MFTA)(Thales CAPTAS 4) 20.6 tons
Mk 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) (two triple and 12 torpedoes) 5.2 tons
CIWS (2) (Phalanx, SeaRAM, or Mk 49 RAM launcher, probably Mk 49 fwd, SeaRAM aft) 14 tons
5″/62 Mk45 33 tons
Mk 57 or Strike length Mk 41 Guided Missile Vertical Launch Systems (8 cells) 33.6 tons

Total 124.4 tons

June 25, 2013 11:46 pm

@Observer – the irony of that is not lost on me, although I did call it a ‘lite’ frigate

Of course, if money ever did come free and lite frigates were required due to commitments, we’d have quite a few 4.5″ sitting about coming off the T23s and possibly the T45s, that would make a decent main gun on the opv / corvette / light frigate

Chuck Hill
June 26, 2013 1:13 am

@Observer June 25, 2013 at 11:10 pm ““Put a 5″ on and it immediately has a real war role of NGFS”
And thus your patrol vessel becomes another frigate in equipment if not in name. :)
Which means this whole topic just went in a full circle.”

But if it is not fully fitted for war and cost half as much to buy and run as a type 26 frigate, it is really a different animal. The French do call these frigates. Perhaps these are not the right answer for the UK, but they are a very different alternative from an analytical point of view.

June 26, 2013 2:03 am

And if money ever did come free, you could have an ASW and AAW destroyer off a common T45 hull and consign frigates to the dustbin. :) Hey, might as well dream big.

June 26, 2013 2:26 am

Chuck, considering that sometimes the territory needed to be policed is rather small, think there might be another way to play the game? The use of small radar picket boats linked to an airfield where the ships act as birddogs for ground based helos? I base this off the thought that a helipad on a boat in areas where rough seas are common might not allow for round the clock flight operations. If the problem is minor, the pickets can handle it, if it is too big for them, call the helos or even an all up airstrike?

Advantages would be:

1) Lack of maintainence crew and flight crew on the PV allows for smaller size and more endurance
2) There would be no need for each ship to have their own flight engineers and supply stores, reducing logitics load and manpower throughout the whole organization.
3) You can have bigger and more capable helos on call than what can be carried on ship, for example, in disaster response, your SAR helo can be a Chinook instead of a Merlin/Seahawk, greater capacity for survivors etc. Or a tanker out to ram something? You can get dedicated anti-tank AHs out to deal with the problem, which provides a certain comfortable safety margin.

Cons would be:

1) Response time.
2) You need a really intergrated force or screwups are going to happen.

The US can’t do this of course, the area is too big, but for small countries, it might work

Chuck Hill
June 26, 2013 5:51 am

@Observer June 26, 2013 at 2:26 am
Re using shore based helicopters vice ship based. I assume the River Class OPVs are supported by shore based aircraft.

The UK has about 2,627,651 sq miles of EEZ. Only 298,718 (11.4%) of that is in the Northeastern Atlantic, around European islands. Outside of Europe and the Falklands, apparently most of these areas do not have a ship continuously underway that shore based search aircraft could support. (Not to say there are not reasons to have government helicopters stationed there even if there is no ship to support. The USCG’s aircraft, of course, do SAR as well as law enforcement.) ( The Falklands really should probably have some MPA if they don’t have AEW that could also provide maritime surveillance.)

Fixed wing are much better as search than helicopters, In the Coast Guard, normally the fixed wing MPA (C-130s, HC-144s, or Navy P-3s) locate the vessels we are interested in.

June 26, 2013 7:17 am

I really do not buy the argument that if you add more weapon / sensor capability to a patrol vessel you end up with something that costs as much as a frigate with half the capability. Sure the USN LCS program is a cock up, but that’s because of the amount of new kit and poor management. The French and Italians habe proved with numerous dsigns that this is possible. It annoys me that the UK doesn’t apply it’s innovative skills in this area as it’s the bigger growth area – something more than an OPV but not the cost of a frigate.

I like what the RV Triton design offered even at it’s size (2/3rds the planned follow on design). It did lack certain features such as a hanger and also was slower and shorter legged than what I think is needed, but neither are insurmountable issues. It’s stability lends itself to positioning sensors high up in the mast and the design is also reasonably stealthy with a small crew. It could also carry containerised naval systems.

What would I do to pimp it? Add 2 Bofors 57mm guns (one fore and one aft) for self defence, decoys / ECM capabilities and space for a future 16 tube VLS (if ever needed). Let’s go and build some!

June 26, 2013 7:23 am

@Observer,a common first rate platform that covers the RNs AAW and ASW requirements is the only way to go in my view. Even the USN has realised this – frigates are really what I describe above.

John Hartley
John Hartley
June 26, 2013 7:58 am

Repulse. I have rambled before on the need for a “Womble” simple cheap frigate. Say a stetched HMS Clyde with recycled weapons to keep it cheap. So 4.5 gun + 30 mm Goalkeeper. Perhaps torp tubes if there are some spare. Plus Sea Spear using old Brimstone stocks.

Rocket Banana
June 26, 2013 8:13 am


“Do you really want to divert your Type 45 or Type 26 from their AAW and ASW tasking to do NGFS?”

Interesting you should ask… What’s the point in the main gun on them if you don’t?

“Would really like to see some testing of 20 to 40 mm guns against medium to large ships to see how effective they are”

I’d guess not very effective at all. Might slice the superstructure up though, but anyone with brains would put their “command” lower down?

“Think your cost for the hull is way too low”

Does anyone know how much the River Class cost to build (we bought them outright for £40m the other day)?

I just doubled the amount we paid on the premise that they’re just chunks of steel with an engine. Remember I did not fit many systems to my hulls basing nearly all of the capability in Wildcat. 2d radar would be nice though. No idea about the cost of these. Scanter rings a bell.

“…Total 124.4 tons”

Chuck, that’s not an OPV, that’s a frigate!

PS: The Legend Class has got to be one of the prettiest ships out there. Can we have some of them for much, much, much less money please ;-)


Argghh. It’s simply not worth it to safeguard skills. They’re never safeguarded anyway. People can leave. That’s my money they’re wasting. I think Chris said the other day that he was of the impression that the MoD has become just like every other Western business in that it need to “cover its back” from lawsuits. It will be held accountable for this in the future and heads will roll. So I’m 50/50 on Chris’s view and what you say. Both make sense.

June 26, 2013 8:34 am

@JH: I have also previously on OPVs and it’s a common theme. What I am saying is that an OPV is no longer, I believe, the right solution for the RN. Yes, it works for EEZ protection, but does it make sense / a difference elsewhere when other nations already have this capability? I say ISR and stealthy patrol is what is needed, not a pimped container ship.

June 26, 2013 9:33 am

I’m going to go back to the original title NOT ENOUGH SHIPS.

If I were putting a Carrier group and an Amphibious group together I would be thinking I need the following.


X1 Astute

If the situation required X2 carriers you can double that.

What puzzles me is that the support ships, and offensive operations / neutralisation of threats would surely require additional Astutes, frigates and destroyers. Do the RFA ships head back to port for resupply without an escort? If we have an amphibious group then given the ‘closer to shore nature’ and the ‘RFA assignment’ of the Bays etc. then surely they too need an Astute, ADD and ASW FG as protection. It can’t be the same bunch as for the CBG – that wouldn’t be left alone, nor allowed that close inshore.

What if the reason for the operation was ‘vital shipping’ needed to be escorted? Do we then have the escorts? What about existing commitments? Our own British Isles? EEZs of BOT?

Is there still a need to be able to carry out early-warning / surveillance or deterrent operations? I am thinking like the subs lining up as a barrier between Argentina and our task force. Or maybe, deterring other “interested” (but maybe not neutral) parties snooping around or breaking embargoes.

The reason for the Royal Navy is to defend, protect and deter. Yes, offensive operations need to be catered for too. Frankly we lack the numbers.

OPVs etc don’t cut it with me. I would be expecting 30 main warships and 10 submarines. then we can maybe handle the lack of availability. I’d love to know what we achieved during WWII. I can’t believe it was 1 in 3. WWII was different, they had cruisers, a concept designed to enable the ship to be self reliant for operations. We design specialised, but interdependent warships nowadays.

Comments welcome, I accept that the carrier’s aircraft should mitigate some of the issues I raise, and that the Frigates do meet my Cruiser concept (although not if they are fitted for but not with).

My point is the real worry is the lack of MPA and high end warships. Fitted for but not with is an issue too, but I suspect UORs could and would result in speedy remedies as required.

Until we have MPA and (to be gapped) AEW/Crowsnest debating whether the Knight’s horse should be ploughing the field seems insignificant when the Knight’s armour has been sold off and not replaced.

June 26, 2013 10:19 am


“Interesting you should ask… What’s the point in the main gun on them if you don’t?”

To shoot up other ships that wandered too close.

“anyone with brains would put their “command” lower down?”

Chuck is Coastguard, not USN, his main field of worry are terrorist hijacked tankers converted to floating bombs, not a citadel equiped destroyer.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 26, 2013 10:39 am

If NGFS is becoming an issue, with the Navy’s small number of specialised AAW & ASW ships, is it necessary to think about a couple of dedicated NGFS ships?

If you can stick three 5″ guns on a single ship, you’ll have the guns and magazines of three vessels in one hull and without pulling your AAW & ASW ships from their tasks.
Two of those, and you’ve saved yourself the cost of four frigates and their crews. But obviously other systems lose out to the space used for the guns -maybe can’t hangar a Merlin, or cover the ship with VLS- is that worthwhile?

June 26, 2013 10:50 am

BB, the SC21 arsenal ship redux? :)

I did love the concept.

If you went with a pure gun platform, I suspect you could get away with a larger calibre gun than a 5″.

14″ maybe? :P The stress calculations would be facinating to know.

June 26, 2013 11:38 am

I don’t think guns are really the answer for NGS anymore. They impose a large penalty for space and the ratio of weight to bang is poor. Despite the likes of Volcano, the range is usually fairly poor too. The likes of Hoplite look a lot better

June 26, 2013 11:48 am

@Opinion3: “I’m going to go back to the original title NOT ENOUGH SHIPS.” It always goes back to enough ships for what, and what kind of ships do you need…

Rocket Banana
June 26, 2013 1:03 pm

Peacetime Groups:


QE, MARS, T45 and 2 T26, Astute, 2 Para
PoW, MARS, T45 and 2 T26, Astute, 3 Para


Albion, Bay, MARS, T45 and 2 T26, Astute, 40 Cdo
Bulwark, Bay, MARS, T45 and 2 T26, Astute, 42 Cdo
Ocean, Bay, WAVE, T45 and 2 T26, Astute, 45 Cdo

Argus, WAVE, T45 and 2 T26, Astute

Just musing.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 26, 2013 2:26 pm

Hi, Observer. I mentioned a 5″ gun because that has been speculated for the T26. So no unique ammo or development. With just a couple of specialised ships, having a fairly one dimensional raison d’être, I don’t think you’d want to be spending billions on new technology.

More guided weapons is fine, Wf, at least against key structures and vehicles. But it’s not realistic to expect to target every individual, or cost-effective to then fire a £500,000 missile at him. We retain unguided artillery and mortars, and isn’t there still a need for volume fire? There’s no volume fire if you can only spare a single frigate for the task; it’s a little better if the single ship has a battery of guns and their additional magazines.

June 26, 2013 3:06 pm

@Brian Black: I agree there is a need for volume fire, although to declare a 500 million FF as a cheap platform for single unguided gun might be a bit much. But I think a DD/FF cannot provide the sort of fire support an amphibious landing might require using guns: there are not enough and big enough tubes, and if there were, they couldn’t do their main jobs as well. Having a proportion of VLS with something like GMLRS/Hoplite would allow several DD/FF to concentrate fire while doing their main job over the horizon, and would arrive within a very short period.

I’m on record as saying that 76mm Oto Malera would be ideal as a replacement for the 4.5. Much more compact to allow for more VLS tubes, rapid rate of fire to deal with missiles and Boghammers.

June 26, 2013 3:47 pm

What I find the most striking aspect of the whole RN surface ship debate is the fact that one solution for multiple problems never really seems the way to go, different tasks are often best handled with quite different approaches instead of an across the board commitment to buy a clutch of OPV’s or half a dozen corvettes, more frigates or a few big auxiliary looking hulls.

It seems to me that the only commitments that require genuinely high-end escorts ships on an enduring basis are the Gulf and fielding some form of carrier/amphibious task-group. Provide the minimum acceptable number of ships to the task-group (1 T45 and 2 T23/26), 1 of each heading up our force in the Gulf and throw in 1 additional ship as a FRE/reserve unit and it brings me to the conclusion that 18 high-end ships to provide 6 for the enduring tasks in peacetime is an acceptable (minimum) number to go for.

The Falklands and Caribbean commitments are unavoidable as long as we have overseas territories and large EEZs that require presence and protection. The only question is how they are best served?

With The Falklands I keep coming back to the conclusion that if the MOD does decide to build 2 new OPV’s in Portsmouth to keep the shipyard ticking over then it would be best to base them on a previous River/Krabi design, give them a couple more guns so they look as well as act the part and have them work together patrolling down south. The advantages of this as I see it are that 2 ships would be able to provide far more active patrol time than 1, they would have the size and endurance sufficient to provide an enduring presence to the scattered settlements on the islands, also provide assistance in patrolling the EEZ and at the end of the day not cost so much that it’s a real drain on resources. The other key links to a 2 new OPV’s plan would be allowing Clyde to return to the UK and head up the fisheries squadron and relieving the wider RN of a standing commitment previously filled by a destroyer/frigate. The threat level from Argentina no longer justifies the use of a high-end, specialised ship on constant patrol. The main thing the British South Atlantic territories need is presence, not fire-power. Plus at the end of the day Typhoon’s, a substantial garrison and the threat of SSN’s is in my view more than enough to remind everyone who’s boss and deal with a threat if it ever emerges.

The Caribbean clearly needs the sort of large merchant vessel with lots of humanitarian aid, helicopter flight-deck and hangar, facilities for a boarding team and small boats on davits that the majority of people tout. Would buying an actual merchant ship and converting it in the way Argus and Diligence were be a cost effective solution? After all the only ‘fighty’ bits the ship needs for the role is Royal Marine’s and helicopters. Forward basing it somewhere and rotating crews makes a lot of sense to me so that the ship could provide an almost all year round presence. In terms of paying for it I really think that if it’s pitched properly then the Foreign Office and the aid budget can be made to contribute.

So essentially it seems to me that going with 18 high-end ships (with 12 fully kitted T26) and then in a very modest way buying 2 OPV’s and 1 large ex merchant ship could pretty much take care of all of the RN’s commitments, solving the majority of it’s problems without the huge investment that people often fear.

June 26, 2013 3:55 pm

If (and it’s a big if) their was sufficient money or justification for extra surface ships then id much prefer to look into what I think me and others have called ‘diet’ versions of the T26.

I’ll be very interested to see how stable the costs of the T26 are once production gets under way and curious to find out how cheap a basic hull without all of the expensive bits might become.

I can never really warm to the idea of purchasing small clutches of completely different light surveillance frigates or corvettes in order to boost surface ship numbers. Id rather at least try and stick to the basic hull design that we know will be in production and end up with closely compatible variants on the same class, which would both future-proof even the lightest most under-armed ships for potential upgrades if it were ever required and surely keep the through life support costs down as opposed to having different classes that each require their own supply chains and maintenance frameworks.

June 26, 2013 4:10 pm

The first of the Khareef class corvettes was handed over to the Royal Navy of Oman today.
See here:

Would 3 of these be useful to the RN to cover incidents such as Gibraltar, Somali anti-piracy and Caribbean patrol? Suitably configured with as much radar, sensors etc as T23/T45 compared to the Oman specification.
Assuming a cost of £120m could the Mod find the cash since otherwise the shipyards may run short of work and under the contract the Mod would still have to make a payment to BAE.
Would it be worth sacrificing 1 GP T26 to get 3 of these corvettes?

June 26, 2013 4:18 pm

All our escorts are general purpose. Even if the T45 isn’t as rounded as De Zeven Provinciën et al when it comes to ASW. Even the T41. T61, and T12, which were single purpose ships, had general capability. The only single purpose escort the RN built (post-WW2) the T14 was canned because it was too specialised.

Rocket Banana
June 26, 2013 4:35 pm


“One the other side of the coin, there is a need for your everyday ships, those that do your common or garden maritime security roles and mincing around the West Indies whoring it up in every port”

Rather like Hawk then?

A trainer that provides valuable experience?

The trouble is I don’t really see the ships you are talking about as miltary. Perhaps they should be part of the RFA fleet? As I suggested earlier, they become potent when you add a Wildcat (or Merlin, or Apache) but generally they “mince” about the place with a megaphone and a nice stiff stick (oo-er).

Perhaps as has been intimated we should have a ship, with a main gun, a couple of GPMGs on either side and a copter at the rear. NOTHING ELSE!.. other than what is needed for a ship to exist at sea for a while.

It’s essentially a floating tank (MBT) unless it has it’s embarked Wildcat in which case it’s way more potent.

Froude implies this would have to be 100m long to go 18 knots efficiently. This is certainly enough for a gun, control room, hangar and up/down-takes. However is it fast enough for the jobs of pursuing a Princess 64?

June 26, 2013 5:55 pm

@TD: The question is for me, how many “every day” roles do we have? As discussed, the Caribbean disaster support ship, Antarctic support ship and even the anti-piracy support ship in the Indian ocean ocean could easily be fulfilled with existing RFA platforms or off the shelf commercial designs. As two of these roles are seasonal then 3 ships would probably cover the lot.

Every day EEZ patrolling could be done with the existing River OPVs and a slightly larger class of small patrol boats when combined with MPA.

With 14 escorts and modern technology, 5 should be available at any one time. Ensuring that each Escort has similar capabilities mean that you care less which ones are available. 5 in peacetime means one west and one east of the Suez, 2 with the RFTG plus 1 FRE. When the shit hits the fan the ratios go out of the window and you suck in another 3-4 to add to the RFTG.

So, assuming MCM ultimately becomes containerised, the other role in town is presence and intel. Sir H, did a great article a while ago about the importance of providing global assets that regional countries didn’t have; from memory the example was the T45 doing a far east tour. Okay, we cannot afford more of these so “high tech” surveillance frigates to me is a good affordable alternative not simple vessels that overall add little value IMO.

June 26, 2013 6:03 pm

Problem with missile based artillery is that the rocket itself is huge and what happens is that whatever is in your VLS is what you got and that is it. Basically a one shot system before you need to sail back home for reloading. Shells tend to be a lot smaller so they can be packed in fair amounts at the cost of range and guidance. IIRC a 76mm gun has a 32 round carousel that is about the same size as a single Harpoon. 32 shots vs 1.

So it is more a case of either a heavy first hit or a long duration sustained bombardment.

This is what happens when you try to stuff everything into an OPV. :)

No helo though, that is being corrected in the next generation of ships. On a 40 year life cycle, these guys only have about 10 more years to retirement, and the next generation replacement is expected to be a 1,200 ton ship

Chuck Hill
June 26, 2013 8:36 pm

@Simon June 26, 2013 at 8:13 am, “Chuck, “Do you really want to divert your Type 45 or Type 26 from their AAW and ASW tasking to do NGFS?” Interesting you should ask… What’s the point in the main gun on them if you don’t?

—-You can get away with it sometimes, but when you are in position to do NSFS you are probably not in position to protect the CV or other high value units.

Re 20 to 40 mm guns “I’d guess not very effective at all. Might slice the superstructure up though, but anyone with brains would put their “command” lower down?”

—I also feel they would not be very effective.

Total 124.4 ton”, “Chuck, that’s not an OPV, that’s a frigate!”

—It is not a frigate until it is equipped with those systems, until then, it is an OPV with much lower operating costs, but if there is an extended conflict it can be upgraded to a frigate much more quickly than a new frigate could be built.

The real great savings comparing an OPV and a Frigate is the crew cost. Most warships spend their entire life without being engaged in war. They train and patrol while their installed systems become obsolete. By building an upgradable hull without many of the installed systems required to make it a frigate, you can provide presence at much lower costs. The question is, will you have time to upgrade because either there will be a period of increased tensions prior to hostilities or the conflict will go on for a long enough period for the ship to be upgraded during the conflict and still make a useful contribution.

June 27, 2013 6:18 am

The Triton research program cost £13mn in 1997, with inflation plus adding a hanger – guesstimate of £30mn for the base hull. Built in volume (12+) could be £50mn per unit inc sensors plus weapons (57mm guns).

Rocket Banana
June 27, 2013 6:49 am


“Most warships spend their entire life without being engaged in war. They train and patrol while their installed systems become obsolete. By building an upgradable hull without many of the installed systems required to make it a frigate, you can provide presence at much lower costs…”

That sums it up nicely :-)

So as long as there is time to “upgrade” when war looms we’re okay. My version of “upgrade” is shove a Wildcat on the back. Perhaps is can also include fitting a 2087, CIWS, Harpoon, etc – none of which we will have procured in order to save money in the first place!

I suppose the only angle is that we shove a load of semi-obsolete systems onto these hulls and try and get the last bit of use out of them in war.

June 27, 2013 7:09 am

@Simon & @Chuck

Fitted for but not with eh? I think I tried to sell the MARS SSS on this basis in a recent posting on another thread. It wouldn’t make a good ASW hull but for remote drone operations and heliborne stuff the size would be truly handy.

Any fit-out should be easier as space, power and flexibility would be superior to a smaller hull. In the meantime it would be truly useful for resupply, amphib training, and ‘International Development’ stuff.

July 3, 2013 2:27 pm

Interesting article on page 38 of the upgrading of the Bays using ex Type 22 kit.