Great news for UK polar research

Harriet from the NERC press office kindly sent me these high resolution images (click to go large)

Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel
Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel
Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel
Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel
Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel
Proposed NERC/BAS Polar Research Vessel

Paint it grey, what’s not to like?

It would also be an ideal HMS Protector replacement

Read more at the BBC


Commonality anyone?




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Ian Hall
Ian Hall
April 25, 2014 8:42 am

Went on to the BBC website, which reports that British yards would have to compete for the work against yards in the EU* . If of course this was built as a Royal Navy vessel and then leased back on a peppercorn rent this would circumvent the EU rules.

This is something that Salmond and Sturgeon are very keen not to raise -that EU rules require competition , in other words there is no guarantee that the Type 26 vessels would be made in Scotland.

April 25, 2014 8:56 am

Is it just artistic licence or do modern ships no longer require anchors hawsers or the like? If there is a need for mooring paraphernalia then which bit of the shiny sloping nose is the winch bolted to and how does the sailor not slide off the end while trying to throw the lines to the dockside? Or does the lid open up like a car bonnet(hood) to expose greasy winch drums ropes and sailors?

April 25, 2014 9:19 am

Build two of these: one for BAS and another one for the Royal Navy to replace Protector/Endurance as arctic patrol ship.
Or is the difference between the two roles too important to do this?

April 25, 2014 10:21 am

I see the Russians are also interested in firming up their position in the Arctic but in a rather different way , anticipating greater access to the area due to the huge decrease in summer ice levels . They have their whole northern flank to monitor/defend/exploit and have begun also expanding the worlds only nuclear powered icebreaker fleet with the new Viktor Chernomyrdin , a new Russian icebreaker class (the first of 3) for use in the open ocean and importantly for use in opening up the Arctic river system to more freight earlier in the year and keeping them open later.—Putin.html

April 25, 2014 10:25 am

If it is a competition open to all of Europe then a British yard is going to struggle bidding it. The fact is there are European yards that:

a) Have experience building Ice breakers
b) Cheaper

Maybe some sort of joint deal is a possibility or even something similar to the MARS tanker Tide Class deal where the hull was built in South Korea to a British design but outfitting will be here. The South Koreans do have recent experience building an ice breaker, the RV Araron was recently completed for a similar role:

What bugs me is how Alex Salmond will use this for the independence campaign, regardless of the legalities if the contract is given to a foreign yard he will start complaining about a distant Westminster government hurting Scottish ship yards.

Also agree with the above observation that a second hull would be a very suitable replacements for Endurance/Protector. Which begs the question where is the joined up thinking?

April 25, 2014 10:51 am

@WW exactly what I was thinking. Can’t believe Protector does not have a hanger

While we’re at it using economies of scale, another 2 in RFA grey could give decent multipurpose support ships – Atlantic and Eastern

April 25, 2014 11:11 am
Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 11:17 am

At about 12,790 tonnes this is a bigger ship than Dilligence and roughly twice the size of Protector. A lot of the oil industry OSVs that we like to look at are smaller again

This will all impacct on the cost. As @Not a Boffin likes to point out steel may be cheap and air free but subsystems, pipewok, drivelines and other bits and bobs all cost by quantity. Could we justify a whole batch of these ships at large scale size?

Also note the cost: £200m. Wile some of this is probably gucci scientific instruments anything we save by not including them will be spent on gucci military comms and self defence weapons. While this cost compares favourably with the quoted £350m for a Type 26 (beleive it will be more like £500m for an export customer with no equipment ‘pullthrugh’) it should be put against £50m for a ‘bare hull’ OSV or the £100m we have talked of for an updraded ‘military fit’ OSV with hanger, sensors and self defence weapons.

What all this points to is that we could perhaps afford a batch of up to 5 or these big ships. Two in red for Polar science / patrol, one to replace RFA Dilligence, and two in RN Grey for presence / patrol. Given that one of the two will be in the Gulf at all times for MCM that isn’t leaving much.

I can’t see us affording the 10+ hulls that we would need to do Polar Science, Polar Patrol, Afloat Repair, Gulf MCM, and have any over of general patrol, presence, contingency.

So right idea – but probably a bit too big for a batch build.

April 25, 2014 11:45 am

Elliott: why aren’t we ordering three, since we will need to replace both the RRS’s and Protector?

We spend way too much time fiddling with tiny “a bit here, a bit there” contracts, often due to political and budget constraints, then wonder why our materiel cost so much and is so diverse and expensive to support.

I we combine the RRS and Protector contracts with a largely common vessel, we could declare it’s a naval requirement and mandate UK yards too….

Dangerous Dave
Dangerous Dave
April 25, 2014 11:56 am

@Monkey: Needless to say, that should be worrying the Norwegians and Finns quite a bit . . .

Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 12:17 pm

I agree there would be an economy of scale in ordering the 3 red ships as a batch. And given the age and size of RFA Dilligence and the fact that its fully ice strengthened I would actually stretch the batch to 4.

What I probably wouldn’t do is order ships this size for MCM motherships. I’d either order them to this general layout but smaller. Or if big ships are the way to go I’d order more multi-role LSDs to supplement / replace the Bay Class.

As for UK consturtion I’m not so sure. I can see the strategic need for complex warship construction in the UK. But not for these sorts of support vessels which lots of people all over the world do very well, and can be bought or hired on the open market without political ramifications. I’m happy for BMT or whoever to do the design / spec and then purchase them from whoever can build them to the standard we need for the lowest cost.

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 12:31 pm

Given the UK approach to Blue Water, having access to vessels of this type for our “White Water” fleet of this size – or, at a minimum, this capability if this specific ship example is just too big for RN/RFA needs – isn’t inside the realm of outrageous thinking.

# The Arctic and Antarctic are “warming up” in more ways than the literal sense;

# We have actual territories to protect in the Antarctic region and its vicinity;

# We have NATO Allies that we have committed towards within the Arctic region and its vicinity.

If the UK is to remain a “High End” Armed Forces, then we *must* continue to develop our ability to operate in these regions, militarily.

We’ve debated for a long time about multi-purpose hulls to ship payloads between. Whether these payloads be StanFlex or ISO or “Fitted for not with” (i.e. empty space and allowance for deck penetrations) is detail. It’s the approach that’s important.

The Armed Forces are committing to retain High-end capabilities over quantities of Low-end capability. That’s our doctrine. A reduced number of these types of hulls fits the “go anywhere, do anything” mould we’re currently in.

If we need the MCM modules and operating crew that are currently on-board the HMS Lady Ennis deployed in the Arctic to be redeployed to the Mediterranean for example, but we need HMS Lady Ennis herself to remain in the Arctic, then we can either:

# Redeploy the MCM modules and crew to either a shore base on the warmer water coastline;

# or load them aboard the RFA Even More Diligent currently deployed in the Med (who happens to be of the same base class of vessel as HMS Lady Ennis);

# or ask the American’s if they have room on the locally present USS Famous Historical Figure and if they would be happy to host the expertise;

# or decide HMS Lady Ennis really has to be redeployed to the Med herself after all, all things now considered.

Flexibility, as @TD says.

Options, options, options.

If we can manage to do something with what we have, then we do it. It’s the British Armed Forces Way.

But we need the options and Low-end capability’s do not give you as many by their very nature.

As mentioned, size of vessel, payloads, crewing, costs, drumbeat, manufacturing. It’s all detail to general approach.

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 12:50 pm

As an aside, Britain must constantly infuriate “The Other Guy” by regularly popping up where they don’t really want us to be. Arctic, South China Sea, Mali. Purely because we’ve always got something in our bag of tricks that we can use to get there and operate with.

This is a Good Thing™.

We couldn’t necessarily do that with hordes of OPV’s instead of a dozen High-end frigates, or A400M’s, or… or… or something cool, modern and useful for the Army too.

April 25, 2014 1:16 pm

The UK does not have a shipyard or design team experienced in this type of vessel. In Europe two groups come to mind, STX Europe and their subsidiary Arctech Helsinki (the latter is half owned by the Russians) and the Germany group Nordic Yards (fully owned by a Russian entrepreneur). The latter yard has not built an ice breaker for some time now, but they were once part of the STX group and appear to still have access to STX’s ice technology.

If BAS could come up with a design then no doubt there are plenty of yards in Poland, Germany, Romania and Ukraine who could build such a ship.

STX Europe has built a large ice breaking research ship for South Africa, the SA Agulhas II a few years back. That ship is about the same size as the proposed UK vessel.

What surprises me about the BAS design is that it adopts the current fashion for all the accommodation up front, the worst place on a ship for humans in a rough sea.

BAS has two ships at the moment, the RRS James Clark Ross with the accommodation in the middle and the RRS Ernest Shackleton with the accommodation all up front. Having followed the blogs from these two ships, a few years ago, the James Clark Ross is the better ship to be in during rough seas. With the Ernest Shackleton taking to one’s bed is the only practical solution, with a large bucket.

The SA Agulhas II has its accommodation in the centre of the ship, a much better design.

April 25, 2014 1:45 pm

Wont this ship lead to HMS Protector getting cut? If this new boat can get everywhere the BAS need it, and there is a Falklands guardship knocking about for patrolling what is Protector for? Wouldn’t another Bay type ship be more useful for the RN?

Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 1:55 pm

I was starting to ponder that question. Anyone like to answer: what is HMS Protector actully for?

I think the short answer may be: symbolism. i.e. to exercise soverignty without carrying weapons in what is an internationl DMZ. She’s also presumably been very useful in supporting the scientific community down there.

But if 2 large modern RSS can meet the scientifc need what does that actually leave for Protector to do?

If the symbolic soverignty of having an RN ship down there is really necessary, then let’s rebadge the second big new RSS ship as an HMS. Job done. (But I bet the Treasury would find a way to pocket the saving)

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 2:14 pm


“HMS Protector is the Royal Navy’s ‘Swiss Army Knife’ – red, versatile, and always there when you need her.

Protector will continue to provide a sovereign and reassuring presence in the United Kingdom’s largest Overseas Territory – the British Antarctic Territory. She will help deliver the United Kingdom’s commitments under the Antarctic Treaty, support science programmes and ensure that expeditions and vessels are meeting their international environmental obligations.

The Ice Patrol Ship is the embodiment of the Royal Navy’s global reach, operational flexibility and the Service’s ability to sustain operations wherever and whenever that presence is required.”


A patrol ship that can go where some of our other warships can’t.

April 25, 2014 2:17 pm

Peter Elliot writes: What I probably wouldn’t do is order ships this size for MCM motherships. I’d either order them to this general layout but smaller.

Which is clearly good sense and ‘this general layout but smaller’ is how you get to the KV Svalbard. This being based on an Aker yards design that the Canadians recently purchased, to develop their own hull off, for the princely sum of $5m!. For us we reduce the ice strengthening…bringing down overall displacemnt…fiddle with the work deck/flight deck ratio a bit and increase the boat bays to accommodate the same davits that are fitted on HMS Protector. The rest is essentially a question of appropriate fitout.

Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 2:33 pm


Its not armed though is it? So would be no actual use if anyone else’s navy broke the treaty by militarising the area. And no use to the RN outside the Antarctic either, for the same reason.

Antarctica is a funny set up. And I would say more suited to a coastguard presence than an RN one. But historically that’s what we’ve got. If we decide in future to go from 3 red ships to 2 then the second RSS is probably a politically easier cut to make.

April 25, 2014 2:38 pm

As mentioned, 1 shiny new polar research vessel is good, better even if a UK firm gets to build part/all of it.

Protector was built in 2001, so one might think that by 2020 it might be looking a bit worse for wear. Still, spend another 200 million on a militarised PRV or militarise another ‘Protector’ for 50-60 million.

Too big for MHPC and not enough utility to replace the Bay’s.

Question for all though…

Given existing advances and future prospects for UUV’s in MCM, is MoD waiting to see how this field develops before looking at designs for MHPC/MCM?

How long can the existing fleet be run for? Sandown’s look good for another ten years, but the Hunt’s are early to mid-80’s builds.

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 2:40 pm

Article 1. How long to ship in a Wildcat with Sea Skua and a complement of Royal Marines?

Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 2:51 pm


Fair enough. Especially if ‘missiles in a box’ also come along in due course.


I think thats exactly what they are doing. And its a sensible plan. Develop the ‘modules’ first. Then work out the right utility platfrom to carry them. Much better plan than the Cousins have been following with LCS. It will be a gradual transition of course. And if the overall plan is to have fewer dedicated hulls then the first few Hunts could go OOS without direct replacement.

Peter Elliott
April 25, 2014 3:06 pm


Although the Canadians seem to be making a right meal out of ‘adapting’ the design. Presumably for domestic industrial reasons.

For the RN I’d be prepared to let the domestic industrial benefits go for the saving of buying OTS and getting it built as cheap as possible.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 25, 2014 3:50 pm

It’s not MHC, because basically it isn’t fast enough. I suspect her maximum speed will be of the order of 15 knots, which isn’t going to get you deployability – a key requirement for MHC. She’s also way too big at 12500te. Which means you’ll be burning a lot of fuel to get that big ship places at sub-optimal speed.

We’re not ordering more of them because while NERC/BIS may have money, MoD doesn’t. So calling them military and building a batch ain’t an option. Likewise no new Endurance / Protector.

Tedgo has correctly identified the likely suspects for build. It’s a shame because were we able to tell the EU to foxtrot oscar, it would be a good example of the sort of niche build project that is needed to keep UK shipbuilding alive in the longer term. The last time we did something similar was JCR in 1990-92. Not a simple ship by any means and arguably one reason why Swan Hunter went to the wall in 1993 – overruns on construction and sorting the propulsion system ate cash the company didn’t have.

In answer to the question when will MHC arrive? Not before the back end of the next decade. The Unmanned capability is planned to live aboard the Hunts, which have more space to accommodate them than the Sandowns.

April 25, 2014 5:29 pm

@ ChrisM re FIGS

There are treaty considerations.

April 25, 2014 6:52 pm

Agree with NaB, interesting but not the MHPC the RN needs. Could see a similar design replacing Diligence and Protector, but its just not the priority at the moment. We need a design that is cheaper (built in numbers), faster (and hence smaller) and can do the P bit.

Chuck Hill
April 25, 2014 7:05 pm

The US National Science Foundation has had built and chartered some similar ships, all smaller
Under construction:

The USCG operates an Icebreaker built specifically to support scientific efforts that is a bit larger than the ship the UK plans:

Rocket Banana
April 25, 2014 7:45 pm

I love the way they’ve written “SCIENCE” on the side in order to make us all believe it is not a military ship. The trouble is that they’ve painted it the colour of hell and fitted cannons to the tune of a broadside of 33… and six up front!

This is all based on some very detailed analysis of the shape of some windows (rectangular) and the shape of other “stealth” windows which are obviously cannons. ;-)

April 25, 2014 7:57 pm

The navy have made it clear they don’t what opv or any derivative of under armed frigates. Too small no requirement it be stated here many times they want 13 type 26 and they will fight tooth and nail to get them a rerun of carrier wars. Capability over numbers no matter what.

So I see it going like this we’ll spend quite a bit of money looking at unmanned mcmv and shallow water survey stuff operate it off existing ships until perfected by this stage 8 type26 will be in the fleet then this will be incorporated into there mission bays the option will be but replace the mine hunter and survey vessels with a smaller simpler ship or you can have the final 5 type 26. Only hms Scott will soldier on.

April 25, 2014 9:13 pm


I think your right about the Navys desire for T26. However if you can get 4 vessels cheaper than a T26 to cover our standing anti piracy etc ops then this will free up the rest of the fleet.

4-6 of these to cover standing tasking s would be amazing!

April 26, 2014 3:55 am

well its a lovely ship and defiantly down the lines of what we are looking for in MHPC I think at £200 million a pop its too expensive for the MHPC. The real money part of MHPC should go into the sensors and UUV’s and oil industry OSV’s are coming in sub £100 million and more than able to do the job. Ice strengthen hulls for MHPC would be a nice to have but quite far down my list of essentials.

April 26, 2014 6:13 am

A question for NaB or someone more in the know, has the P from MHPC now been quietly dropped? I see MHC referred to more and more.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
April 26, 2014 9:32 am

Yes. Ever since the three Amazonas knock-offs were confirmed.

April 26, 2014 10:02 am

Thanks, so does that mean we are expecting to keep the 3 in addition to the 4 we have already?

Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 10:14 am

@Mark – very likely, although I’d add in also the likelihood of deploying that MCM kit on the new patrol ships, current and future RFA ships, and in an emergency when all other hulls are tasked out maybe a short term charter of a couple of civi OSV. And at the end of the day if it works isn’t that the right thing to do? Renting kit that is readily available on the market can be the most financially efficient way to proceed if its only needed once in a blue moon.

@TED – I think it all depends on the relative importance of peacetime tasks vs wartime surge. We regularly hear that we don’t have enough hulls for sustained peacetime tasks. But by focusing on the high end we actually do have enough combat hulls to surge 2 Task Groups to sea in a short term screaming wartime emgency.

If we traded those combat ships away in exchange for easing the peacetime presence tasking we could easily come to regret it when the shooting starts. The RN’s primary purpose is to wage war. And I’m quite glad they haven’t forgotten that yet.

April 26, 2014 10:57 am

@PeterElliot: Understand the focus on the high end war fighting capability, but:

– What happens when you need to exercise the 2 surge RFTGs and your assets are spread over the globe?
– The is great utility in minor warships that can be upgraded more easily than commercial vessels.
– The constant drive for fewer high spec ships ignores the benefits of numbers, are we going to ultimately end up with a single “death star”?

What in my view is the crucial bit is that the RFTG will be the main UK expeditionary war fighting surface unit. What is the optimal structure for this? Could it be with technologies such as CEC and minor warships carrying VLS capabilities coupledwith major warshops for example is better than having fewer all singing and dancing ships?

April 26, 2014 11:48 am

@ Repulse

I agree, a quick back of fag packet calculation of crew requirements , after reading that the patrol part has been removed from the MHPC requirement and that the 3 Amazonas plus existing Rivers will fulfill the role.

(these calcs are based on a requirement of a 3:1 crew ratio for all vessels, except the Echo class which uses a two thirds constant ratio of 48 on board on 24 on shore at all times)

River class x3 compliment 30 = 90 x 3 = 270
Clyde 38 x 3 = 114
Hunt class x 8 46 = 368 x 3 = 1104
Sandown class x 7 41 = 287 x 3 = 861
Echo class x 2 (2/3 rotation) 70 = 140

Total manning 2489 for 21 vessels

Compared to newer modular designs such as the FLEX patrol.

Compliment up to 55 with lean manning of 15+ dependent on mission.
So at maximum manning of 17 vessels (as the Hunt class are no longer as capable I have assumed a replacement with 4 vessels for the current class of 8 ) the manpower requirement would be 2805.

Although this is 316 more than current levels the newer patrol ships would not be manned by 55 personnel on a constant basis, they are also more flexible in their employment as opposed to our current fleet.,d.ZWU

April 26, 2014 12:25 pm


Completely with you maybe should have phrased it better. My point would be if you have 4 of these doing standing tasks you don’t need 4 T26 doing them. If you can have 2-3 of these for one T26 you may lose 2 T26 from buying these but you gain 2 that aren’t carrying out the standing tasks.

Same with T45. Use these as low end hulls to put SBS and Wildcat on to play the ocean based game of cops and robbers and leave T45, T23/26 and everything else to exercise for real war fighting.

Peter Elliott
April 26, 2014 12:36 pm

“minor warships that can be upgraded more easily than commercial vessels.”

With the shift towards modulatiry and platform agnostic systems the principal requirements for upgradability would seem to be size, space and installed power. Hired commercial vessels could easily have more of these commodities than minor warships.

And the point about RTFG is that it has no optimum structure. Like all Task Groups it is configured according to task. And whether your add on ships are commercial STUFT or upgraded minor warships the determining factor will be how many genuine combat ships there are available to protect them, command them, feed them with targeting information etc.

Which is why I think the RN is quite right to prioritise Combat Ships while investing in platform agnostic systems that could – in extemis – be installed on hired civillian vessels.

April 26, 2014 6:31 pm

Coming into this late, but I share x’s enthusiasm for the Agulhas2 design, moon pool and “35-ton main crane and three 10-ton general cargo cranes, all of which can also be used to lower scientific equipment and vehicles on ice. When heavy loads are being lifted, a heeling tank is used to balance the vessel. S. A. Agulhas II is the first ship of her kind to be allowed to carry both passengers and fuel, such as polar diesel, Jet A helicopter fuel and petrol, as cargo.[4]

S. A. Agulhas II has a hangar and helideck capable of serving two Atlas Oryx or Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma helicopters. She also has two fast rescue craft” typo there, must have meant interdiction?

And the same design, but smaller (that PE wants for MCM mothership) has been delivered to Namibia fisheries protection… Wiki, I think, has the cost of it, too, with other specs.

Must read on…

April 26, 2014 7:16 pm

OK, just to add to the initial comment:

“The design of the Namibian fisheries research vessel will be able to implement much of the technology used in an icebreaker intended for research purposes ordered by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, explains STX Rauma Shipyard’s Director….”

From another source:
” 62.4 metres long and 14.3 metres wide. In the design of the research vessel, special attention has been paid to the ship’s technology, serviceability and low maintenance costs, STX said. (…) a dynamic positioning system which enables it to operate in any African sea, during all weather conditions during all seasons, with no restrictions. She will provide accommodation for 44 crew members and ( research …typo) personnel.

April 26, 2014 7:20 pm

Is that lip service, a vessel just over 60 m long could have kept up with the Falklands Task Force (the same sea !) with the winter pushing in?

April 26, 2014 11:14 pm

‘so does that mean we are expecting to keep the 3 in addition to the 4 we have already?’

Would be great, but sadly i’m assuming the 3 new River/Amazonas variant ships will simply replace the older Rivers, with Clyde soldiering on. With new OPV’s in service in 2017 and good for 20-30 years that leaves MHPC minus the P. I don’t personally have a big problem with that seen as OPV’s should remain dirt cheap and will continue to be pretty important in terms of providing continuous low level presence in certain roles. It would be nice to have a fleet of 6 rather than 4 but even that modest increase seems wishful thinking.

We know the Hunt’s and Sandown’s will receive incremental upgrades and new remote controlled kit up until 2028 when a replacement will be required. I guess the only question remaining is whether the mine-hunter/survey ship replacement capability comes hull shaped or solely a containerized set-up deployed from other platforms or a combination of the both.

April 27, 2014 10:51 am

@PE: “And the point about RTFG is that it has no optimum structure. Like all Task Groups it is configured according to task.” I don’t have a problem in seeing a RFTG as a flexible structure, but in reality there has to be some planning assumptions made to it’s likely configuration and setup given certain scenarios. I am obviously a cynic, but the RFTG was really just a way of replacing the CBG and ARG into a single group as the money wasn’t there (and you could argue requirement also) to support separate entities.

However, it is very likely that a single RFTG would be configured as either a CBG, ARG, Hybrid (for lower threat scenarios) or a Humanitarian Aid task group. At the extreme we would be running two CBGs or two ARGs in parallel, or more likely one as a CBG and the other as an ARG.

My question is, what is the optimal equipment requirements for these (given the UK’s desire for a global role and limited funds)? If these really are the sharp end of the UK’s naval surface spear, then how do we get maximum punch for our pound? Do we look at surface units in isolation or the group as a whole?

April 27, 2014 11:16 am

@Challenger: Taking into account NaB’s comments on dropping the P from MHPC, If over the next 20 years we will be moving to MHC capabilities based on a combination of larger (but smaller in number) specialist ships and modular units based on other platforms, then there will have to be a transition to realign the fleet. This transition should start (in my view) in the next few years as the technology continues to mature.

As others have said already, the current MCMs have at times also been used patrolling, so to discount that requirement completely beyond the current 4 OPVs would not be correct.

When talking about the original MHPC requirements, it was probably to replace the following 22 ships:
– 8 Hunt Class MCMs
– 7 Sandown Class MCMs
– 3 River Class
– 1 Extended River Class (HMS Clyde)
– 2 Echo Class
– 1 HMS Scott
– 1 Ice Patrol Ship

If the Hunts are big enough to mature the MCM modular kit, then would it make sense to start with the transition of the Sandown Class?

I obviously want to see a retention in the number of vessels, so in the longer term, I would push for the following replacement mix:

– 8 x OPVs
– 8 x 500t OSVs (to replace the Hunts)
– 6 x Larger “Ice Hardened” Motherships (even along the lines of the ship in this thread) which would contain the bulky survey kit.

In short, I would be pushing for adding the 3 OPVs (and trying to get another) whilst decommissioning a similar number of the Sandown Class.

Peter Elliott
April 27, 2014 11:27 am

Depending on how many ships are actually crocked at a given moment I think we could in theory configure 2 sovereign task groups for a short period with our current force level of 19 Combat Ships. It would screw our standing tasks and our force generation for the following year but it could be done. The point about preparing for contingency is that occasionally a contingency comes along and you have to get all the toys out of the box and use them for their intended purpose. It really depends on how urgent the emergency is. And if you’re prepared to gamble on finishing it in 4 months and then getting off the sea entirely while your men and equipments recover.

The only think I can see that would prevent us from fielding 2 Groups for, say, an all out 4 month operation, is if the supply lines were long and the threat required every supply ship or convoy to be escorted. That would soak up the resource that could otherwise go to the second Group.

April 27, 2014 9:49 pm

For what it’s worth i think a credible RFTG should consist of 1x CVF, 1x LPD, 2x LSD (which means getting the 3rd Bay away from mother-ship duties in the Gulf), 1x T45 & 2x T26, with assorted RFA’s tagging along and an SSN semi attached to the group. Plus of course a RM battle-group embarked and a sizable clutch of helo’s in support.

That’s a force level which the RFTG has often come close to replicating over the last 3 years with the glaring holes only being CVF & T45, with T45 being understandable if we consider the complications of replacing a class and all of the work-up stuff that’s involved.

2 RFTG’s (1 carrier focused, 1 amphibious) would be great but i just can’t see how either the RN could manage this in it’s current size and condition or whether separate groups are really justifiable.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 27, 2014 9:59 pm

@ Challenger

So 3 escorts for 6 or 7 HVU? Fine for a peace time cruise but totally inadequate for any realistic threat.

April 27, 2014 10:24 pm


Well i was talking about a day to day peacetime force mix, with things being scaled up to match the threat if/when it arises.

3 escorts (1 T45/2 T26) seems in my opinion to be the minimum credible force the RN can assign to the RFTG without seriously messing up the rest of it’s standing commitments, but obviously any actual high-threat scenario with a chance of some real ‘war-fighting’ would see the normal pace and composition of standing ops thrown to the wind and all effort made to reinforce the RFTG up-to appropriate levels.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
April 27, 2014 10:39 pm


I would consider getting 1 CVF, 1 LPD and 2LSD and required RFA together to already put a serious dent in day to day to day ops. The LSDs are very busy in the Gulf and the LPD should be at the centre of an ATG whilst RFA support for that level of commitment would be high.
The beauty of calling something a RTG is that it is like a TAG (Tailored Air Group) totally dependent upon circumstances and requirements.
As I posted on a different thread we should be able to support a CV or Amphib based RTG whilst maintaining standing commitments and both if we suspend them after current deployments. We will and should rarely deploy them together for numerous tactical and strategic reasons. The first one being that you ideally should use the CBG to clear the way for the ABG. A couple of points however.
1. Any incident is quite likely to occur in a standing task area so units in theatre can be incorporated.
2. We can extend the standing task units by a considerable time to allow deployment of their supposed reliefs in support of an RFTG.

So a CBG or an ATG at sea with a carrier and 2 RFA or an LPD and LSD and 2 RFA escorted by 3 or 4 T26 and 2 T45 should be infinitely achievable.

April 27, 2014 10:45 pm

I quite like your proposed MHPC force mix.

We can obviously play around with numbers but in principle i agree with the mix of OPV’s, a class of smaller vessels to replace some of the mine-hunters and a class of larger ice strengthened ones which could act as mother-ships, conduct survey work and take over from HMS Protector all in one.

The Sandown’s are younger but you always hear how the Hunt’s are far more capable and have undoubtedly had a fair amount of money put into keeping them up-to date. So yeah i’d happily see the former bow out first with the new remote controlled mine-hunting equipment being gradually put on the latter, ready to be cross-decked onto new ships from around 2028 on-wards.

Like the idea of spreading the costs through multiple years and 2-3 complimentary but separate programs, much friendlier with the bean counters as apposed to a £1.4 billion acquisition all in 1 push.

I agree with withdrawing (gradually) the Sandown’s sooner rather than later and using the manpower for the new OPV’s in principle, but with the new remote controlled mine-hunting capabilities still in the early stages of service i’d worry about the impact it could have on the RN’s ability in this area.

It would be great though to renew and slightly expand the OPV fleet in the next few years and have essentially MHC instead of MHPC first getting the new kit sorted and then looking at what hull/hulls are needed later on.

This whole set-up can still be complimentary without being the rigidly uniform class and highly modular concept C3 and then MHPC originally set out to be.