Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on whatsapp

LÉ Samuel Beckett

LE Samuel Beckett float out

How about a non UK story but a little closer to home than usual.

The LÈ Samuel Becket is the first of the two Samuel Beckett Class Offshore Patrol Vessels to be commissioned by the Irish Naval Service.

Designed by STX Canada they have been built by Babcock Marine in Appledore, Devon and the Samuel Beccket has now entered service following completion of sea trials.

LÈ Samuel Becket will be operational with immediate effect undertaking a range of duties including fishery protection, search and rescue, anti-pollution and maritime security duties, including vessel boardings. To conduct these operations a crew of 44, plus ten trainee berths, are accommodated to high comfort and habitability standards.

The approx 90 metre, 2256 tonne OPV has autonomous engine rooms and is capable of a top speed of 23 knots, and a range of 6,000 nautical miles at its cruise speed of 15 knots on a single engine. The propulsion system utilises a diesel electric drive system providing a loiter function of up to 6 knots. A comprehensive command, control and communications package is coupled to the main weapon; a 76mm gun, as well as two 20mm cannons and four general purpose machine guns.

The vessel is also equipped with configurable, serviced mission modules, with deck space to operate mission specific equipment, and to act as a mother ship for two fully independent fast pursuit Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats (RIBs). It is designed to provide an operational capability for many years of service in the North Atlantic, its main area of operation.

The cost of the pair, 108 million Euros.

From model to build to float out to service

LE Samuel Beckett model

LE Samuel Beckett build

Click the image below to view William Murphy’s Flickr to a stack of detailed images of the Samuel Beckett

New Irish Navy Ship LÉ Samuel Beckett(P61) Pays Its First Visit To Dublin

Finally, a quartet of videos

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

136 Responses

  1. Interesting to compare with out Rivers and planned Amazonas.

    No flight deck on the Irish ship.

  2. A no-nonsense OPV, and that’s how it should be. No sexy slipways for fast-deploying of RHIBs, CIWS or VLS so it’s affordable and effective.

    The only thing missing imho is a small flight deck; not so much for helicopters but small UAVs. A Scaneagle would be a tremendous asset for a patrol ship as it can detect, identify and track say, (oil) polluting ships or illegal fishing without having to call on land-based MPAs, or to scare off said polluters.
    Scaneagle has proven its practical usefullness and shouldn’t break the bank, especially as many current users are looking for replacements and thus second-hand systems could become available in the near future.

    And leave it to TD to sneak in some (mission) containers in the first picture…!

  3. @TD

    They paid an extra 8 million Euro for weapons systems. So just under 60 million each which seems good value. Not sure we will ever find out how much the 3 new RN OPVs cost as the money is coming from money that would have been paid anyway.

  4. @TD

    A lot of the kit here will COTS and I do not know what the internal compartmentalisation is like in terms of CBRNDC standards. It is very noticeable looking at her that she does not have an air search radar or a flight deck so quite a bit saved there.
    BAE sold the 3 Amazonas to Brazil for £133 million and they came with Scanter radars and Ultras combat management systems as well as a flight deck. So they came in at just over 50 million euros each.
    Of course how much T&T absorbed to allow that to happen is a matter of conjecture.
    The Thais built HTMS Krabi for about 60 million Euro with a flight deck and a 76MM and 2 30MMs with FC and a combat system and an air search radar of course :)

  5. These ships are big enough to have a flight deck, but they have chosen not to do so because apparently they consider their operating environment to rough to justify maintaining the capability. Flight decks, hangars, and helicopters do add cost and are not as effective in adding to the search capability as many might assume, but there are other reasons to have them as well. The USCG uses armed helicopters to chase down drug runners that could outrun the ships. They are very useful in providing over-watch during the conduct of a boarding. And while the design is for peacetime mission, if you get in a serious war, OPVs will find missions too and helicopter facilities provide a ready avenue for employing them usefully.

  6. What a good bit of business for Babcock.

    As others have said, it lacks a flight deck. Really this is a coast guard ‘lite’ vessel, and basically the bare minimum the Irish Defence Force could get away with. Lots of flashy video’s showing sweeping turns and stately cruising speeds because that’s the sum total of its capability.

    STX have been reorganising their divisions over the past year or so, one wonders what effect this might have on build partners like Babcock.

  7. This class (90 meters), may be the evolutionary immediate predecessor of Eastern Shipbuilding’s proposal for the Coast Guards Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), one of three chosen for further development. Apparently it is a development of the New Zealand Protector class OPV (85 meters), which was in turn a development of the Irish Róisín Class (80 meters).

    For those curious about the Offshore Patrol Cutter, there is more information here:
    and here:

  8. “Not gone for the updated 76MM though.”

    It only has an Optronic director anyway.

  9. @ CH

    Yes, part of the reason they are “cheap” is the lack of combat systems, FC radar, air search radar and a flight deck. A good OPV for FP and EEZ duties though.

  10. Well, it’s not meant to take on Sovremenny destroyers. The 76mm is simple, cheap, commonly available and has a huge customer base so you’re not going to run out of spare parts any time soon. The fact that it may be a bit too big is a small near nonexistent problem compared to the advantages above.

    A Quantum Leap in ship design it is not. Pun intended.

    Chuck, the flip side to the coin is that hanger facilities push the cost, manpower needs and ship size up. I agree that it is useful to have an air borne armed scout capable of ranging beyond the mothership, but if the Irish are comfortable with the limited role of the new OPV, who are we to argue? They have their own needs and goals, and those do not involve impressing the TD crowd. :)

  11. @ Observer

    No slur on the 76MM but the difference between what this has and what a STRALES 76MM with a radar and a simple combat system offers is night and day.

  12. I am just in awe of the name, frankly. The Samuel Beckett. I hope they’ve carried the great man’s outlook through into the design.

    “Welcome aboard, sir. Let me show you around. We’re standing on the port side of the ship. The other side of the ship is also the port side. There is no starboard side. We do not know why not. At the bow you can see the turret for the 76mm gun. The turret is fully automated, with a hydraulic loader. It is also full of owls. If we go up this companionway, we will pass the main dustbin, in which the officer of the watch stands. Aft beside the mast is the auxiliary dustbin. And this is the bridge; as the ship is in harbour at the moment, it is occupied only by an old Italian grandmother, but when the ship is at sea, there would also be two mad old tramps, a small child, and a wardrobe full of despair.”

  13. Maybe this is a gd advertisement that ships hulls are cheap be it a fishboat, workboat, offshore vessel or navy hull there all relatively cheap to build. It’s the boxes of black magic were the costs are to be found maybe worth considering when budgeting acquiring capabilities.

  14. Yes, Ireland has a very environment and missions from those of the USCG, but their missions and environment are also far different from those of British OPVs servicing the Overseas Territories frequently far from land based air support.

  15. Interesting that the Republic of Ireland purchase their modest fleet of OPVs from the UK…and yet the SNP insist that the Royal Navy will in future buy even their most sophisticated Warships from their new Republic of Salmondistan.

    GNB :-)

  16. Part of the reason they’re cheap is that they’re designed and built to real commercial standards – in this case Lloyds Special Service Craft Rules. All those rules do is guarantee a certain level of strength, freeboard and some elements of machinery performance and safety.

    They’re significantly different to Lloyds Rules for Naval Ships, which is what the RN specify and contract build against. Those rules include military loads and use considerations in their calculations and plan approvals.

    Appledore is a very nice little yard. I saw the first one in build there nearly two years ago now. However, there is very little in terms of outfit, let alone combat systems on the ships. Good though they are, they’d struggle to outfit blocks efficiently in that shed. Setting systems to work when the outfit berth dries out at lowish tides is also somewhat less than optimal……

    One other thing to consider. Some QEC steelwork has been going through the yard during the Irish build, which means that all the overheads have not landed on one contract, but have been able to be shared across at least two. It does make a difference, as does most of the design engineering team moving to Devonport, where their overheads are spread across a larger cost base as well.

  17. @GNB

    Remind me where we are building the Carrier and will build the T26s if we vote No, then compare that to Southern Irish shipbuilding. Then wind it in.

  18. APATs, no slur taken, if they are comfortable with it, why not? I agree that a “modern” 76mm can be fearsome if outfitted right, but with their modest goals a simple one does the job. Not like they are rolling in money.

    As for the 76mm, truth is, I don’t see many kitted up to the cutting edge of top of the line. Most simply use optronic systems like you mentioned. The poorer countries can’t afford it and the richer ones rather boost their longer ranged missile intercept systems, so the poor gun is in a bit of a Goldilocks situation. Too expensive to go all out for the poorer countries, too limited in high end intercept capability for richer countries to spend on it. Even rich countries have a limited budget. And meaner enemies.

  19. @Observer

    The French and Italians have both gone for it on FREMM and it is not that much more expensive for a huge capability jump.

  20. APATs, try prying “extra money” out from a politician. :P

    I really do like a top end 76mm, especially as a backup to the missile intercept systems. Problem is not capability, it’s the budget like always. Not to mention the old users of 76mm systems see no need to upgrade. Yet. You can expect to see orders coming in for the new systems if regional conflicts heat up, but for now, people are still dragging their heels because the old system is good enough.

  21. @ Observer
    I would see something like a 76MM SR mount with STRALES ammo capability, especially if backed up by a CWIS or a Seahawk Sigma as a credible self defence system at a fraction of the price of a PDMS, especially for a unit that would not normally deploy into an AAW threat zone.

  22. It’s interesting, that Ireland has an OPV fleet. I always thought they would go for something like a MEKO A-200 or something along the lines of the US Coast Guard National Security Cutter.

  23. APATs, same here, it would provide LPDs and the like with a minimal amount of self defence. 76mm SR + your Seahawk would be a very well rounded capability. Trade you the SeaRAM for the CIWS though. CIWS never did impress me, other than the ammo usage count.

    A decent self defence fit I can see would be the 76mm STRALES, 2x Sigmas port and starboard and a single SeaRAM either way forward near the bow or above the helicopter hanger. That should be able to handle a huge range of threats short of a sub, but adding anti-sub would be overkill. :)

  24. Don’t the NZ versions have a hanger also? I still think it will be very poor if our new ones don’t

  25. NAB

    I understand that when specifiying Ocean and the LSD(A)s the difference between RN standards and LLoyds commercial design regs made a big difference. In the case of these Protector Class OPVs what kind of money difference would you think the different spec would make ? Do they honestly make these Irish boats eg out of different steel or use Screwfix for the metalwork compared to the NZ boats; or is the whole design built down to the lower standard ? I can’t make out in my own mind whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing to demand the higher spec

  26. @Nicky
    You could buy 10 Becketts for the price of 1 NSC – that’s why Ireland didn’t buy an NSC…..

  27. @El Sid,
    I was thinking that the Irish Naval service would need something along the lines of either an MEKO A-200 or the Legend class Cutters. They would be able to support the AW-139 they have as well. That’s cause they can deploy on UN mission and support UN operations ashore. I believe the Samuel Beckett Class Offshore Patrol Vessels is the equivalent of the US Coast Guards 210 and 270’s WMEC’s.

  28. Nicky, you mean cruiser or destroyer :) At 4,000 tons, that is destroyer range tonnage. Cruiser by role. The US has a long coastline, which is why they need the endurance for long cruises. For Ireland, to get the most of the capability, you have to sail around the island in circles a few times. Without stopping.

    They do not need that kind of ship nor the bleeding wound that would inflict on their budget. And as for UN participation, that is voluntary, not mandatory, they can opt out or contribute in other ways.

    Case in point, the A200 you wanted is about 50% heavier than the Samuel Beckett and the Legends are almost 100% heavier. You might be comparing the wrong range bracket.

  29. I was thinking that the Irish can get something more like an Endurance class LPD, that they can get. As for upgrading to Frigate navy, I was thinking more along the MEKO A-200 variant such as the Valour Class frigate that South Africa has. Here’s the Specs on the Valour class frigate.

    Here’s the Specs on the MEKO A-200

    Their is a MEKO A-100 they can consider as well

  30. As much as I like the pocket assault ship that is the Endurance, I’ve to ask who is the Irish going to do an amphibious assault on?

    And nicky, you are making a classical mistake of not looking at the country’s needs and just picking the prettiest equipment out there. Ireland needs a local constabulary force, not long range warships nor amphibious assault ships. Just local patrol ships.

  31. Re the OTO its easy to be taken up with STRALES (and why wouldnt you!) but its worth remembering that the basic, simpler, 76/62SR mount, current build, is capable of employing the 3AP gate fused frag rounds. The older SR mounts can take a retrofit kit to enable it as well.

    A 5 sec burst chucking out 10 3″ flak rounds set to burst at optimal range 3 or 4000yds downrange is not an inconsiderable point defence capability in my view!. Plug it in to an EOMS-NG style surveillance/FC sensor and you’ve got a practical local defence suite for really little outlay and, importantly, modest upkeep costs dispensing with the radar units!.

  32. @Nicky
    The most critical data on that article is the date – 5 months before Lehmans went pop. Since the crisis the Irish have had to put any delusions of grandeur to one side for now. You’re conflating two things – back then they had a wishlist of two OPVs and one of something bigger (but still <€100m), a total budget of €180m was mentioned.

    Their navy wanted a "proper" warship to host cocktail parties on and to fly a helicopter off, and also for patrol in weather that could keep the OPVs in port – something like one of the smaller Meko frigates. Their army wanted a troop transport for HA/DR, peacekeeping and so on but weren't bothered about it being built to warship standards – something approaching HMNZS Canterbury. You might scoff at the idea of the Irish deploying overseas but they’re quite into UN and EU humanitarian response stuff. You can imagine that they might have ended up with something like an Absalon or Meko 200 MRV if their economy hadn’t blown up.

  33. @El Sid,
    Which is why I think for the Irish, getting the Endurance class LPD or something along the lines of the HMNZS Canterbury, would suit their Army for UN, EU Humanitarian missions, peacekeeping missions, troop transport and HA/DR missions. It would give the Irish a Role in any Nato or UN battlegroup. Though I still have concerns about the HMNZS Canterbury because of Seakeeping issues, problems with RHIB and landing craft. Which is why I think the Endurance class LPD would favor over the HMNZS Canterbury.

    As for a future Corvette or light frigate, I was thinking more along the Lines of Legend class cutter, Holland class OPV or something along the lines of an Absalon frigate or a MEKO A-100. I know the Irish don’t need a full Multi role frigate, but they can look at something from an OPV to a Light frigate that dose work along the lines of the US Coast Guard. It’s why I think something like a Legend class cutter or Holland class OPV can suit their needs for missions at home and abroad when conducting UN or EU missions. Either the Legend class Cutter or Holland class OPV would give the Irish the capability to deploy overseas or remain on station at home.

    Here’s the Holland class OPV

    I can see the Irish going for something like the Absalon class frigate

    I think for the Irish Navy, their work closely resembles what the US Coast Guard dose. Granted, I think an LPD along the lines of the Endurance class LPD or the HMNZS Canterbury, would give the Irish ARMY sealift capability. The ability to conduct UN/EU missions, peacekeeping missions, troop transport and respond to HA/DR missions.

  34. @ Observer

    The Irish wanted a transport / base ship for their UN adventures. It isn’t about amphibious assault. The worst they were planning for was an administered landing across a friendly beach because of a lack of suitable port facilities.

  35. The Irish don’t do that sort of UN work do they? I thought they got stuck in once there was a “peace” to keep, and then sat there as target practice for both sides?

  36. @ Chris M

    I distinctly said it wasn’t about amphibious assault. An administered landing is military speak basically for going alongside and unloading stuff. They wanted a base ship too. Just as the UK will often have an RFA sitting in port during peace keeping operations.

  37. El Sid, then if they got an Endurance, there goes the budget. :)

    180 million Euros, an Endurance chopped down without automation cost 100 million when they sold it to Thailand, leaving 80 million Euros for 2 OPVs. Don’t think they’re going to meet that budget. Unless they jumped in and got the ships Brunei refused to accept. Those finally went to Indonesia for a steal. Think it was 40 million euros for all 3. Wish them the best of luck with those ships. Not all sailors are superstitious these days, but I can’t help but think that those are ships cursed with bad luck.

  38. @apats – We are building the Carriers in the UK…we will build the T26 in the UK…we are unlikely to build any major Warship in a foreign country. My elected representatives have tried as politely as possible to explain that and been called liars and worse for their trouble…and it seemed to me that the reality of a small country buying an OPV from their much bigger neighbour was an instructive contrast with the unfounded assertion that the UK would “of course” continue to give warship contracts to our much smaller neighbour post-secession…

    Why is that a problem?


  39. Twecky

    I haven’t seen the Class notation for Protector, so can’t really comment on that. However, the differences in rules applied can and does make a big difference throughout the ship. Take structural loading – Ocean and the LSD(A) were built to the Rules for Commercial ships which basically means they’re built to sea loadings (global and local) with some factor of safety on top, the vehicle and aircraft decks are designed to take the required vehicle and helicopter wheel loads. That doesn’t mean as some have suggested that the structure is cr@p – far from it, it will be perfectly safe for intended use.

    Special Service Craft Rules tend to be for smaller or higher speed craft where application of the Commercial Rules would either lead to too heavy a hull or underestimate loadings from high-speed operation. It just means they’re designed for a different part of the envelope. Rules for Naval Ships are just another extension of that philosophy – the structural loads applied consider military derived loads as well.

    Does it mean they need different steel? Sometimes, yes – either from a pure strength PoV, or a balance between strength and weight, or even a balance between strength, weight and toughness (in the metallurgical sense). All these tend to need the use of appropriate welding procedures (not necessarily new, but sometimes you need to develop and prove new ones), NDE regimes (at the steelworks and in the yard) and so on. All of which incurs additional material and labour cost.

    Where you really start to pay though, is when you start looking at systems, from main machinery, through auxiliaries (lub oil, SW cooling, HP air, etc etc) and electrical generation and distribution. Rules for Special Service Craft tend to ask for a bit more in terms of safety and reversionary modes, equipment specification etc and Naval Rules even more so. That’s generally where you get your extra cost and that’s before you start adding in combat system stuff.

    Those Irish ships are basically built to safely go into the Atlantic and inspect fishing vessels. They’ve got a gun, but frankly if anyone shot back with more than an DshK, they’d be in trouble.

    You pays your money etc….

  40. @GNB

    Shall I quote you.
    “yet the SNP insist that the Royal Navy will in future buy even their most sophisticated Warships from their new Republic of Salmondistan.”

    A very mature and well constructed argument. The simple fact is that regardless of the vote, the Carriers will have to be finished North of the Border and we had better sort out what we do with T26 if it is a yes vote, other wise we will spend the budget for 3 developing a place to build them.
    Would I rather have 13 built in an I Scotland instead of 10 in the RUK. Hell Yes.

    Elected representatives can say what they like but without any plans they are just as bad as Salmond and his cronies.

  41. @Observer,
    Which is why I think the Irish, should have gotten the Endurance class LPD that Thailand got or something along the lines of the Absalon-class support ship. It would give them a Sea base for them to operate from for their UN missions, EU mission. They can use it to transport troops or conduct HA/DR missions.

    I’ve also called for the Irish to look at getting either the Legend class cutters or Holland class OPV. They can use them to protect at home or be used to conduct UN missions or EU missions abroad. It can also be their command and control ship as well. The Irish can use a ship such as the Legend class cutter or Holland class OPV for UN/ EU missions abroad.

  42. @apats – The Carriers will be finished on the Clyde; the T26 will be built in the UK…which might be the Clyde, but won’t if Scotland secedes from the Union; my irritation is with Salmond and the SNP insisting on the basis of no evidence that RN warships will be built in a foreign country because it suits their purposes…and calling Ministers of the Crown liars and bullies for telling the people of Scotland the truth…I think that is a dishonest way to approach the destruction of an immensely successful 300-year old UK that I happen to both live in and value.

    And I’m not happy to see my taxes spent building warships for my Country’s Navy in a foreign land, and I’m pretty confident that will be the general view south of the border

    I’m happy to withdraw the Salmondistan crack, however… :-)

    But beyond that, what’s the problem?


  43. Nicky, possible, though you have to understand that the Irish Naval Service does not have a history of long deployments. Port calls, yes, but not stationed long term offshore from country X. Such a high profile stance is also counter to their track record of low key contributions. I can’t see them changing a mindset that fast. Equipment is just the tool for expression for how people think.

    As for the ships you mentioned, I already pointed out that they are 50%+ larger than the biggest unit the Irish Naval Service has ever fielded. The 2,200 ton Beckett is already the largest unit they have employed in their entire history and you want it bigger? I am fond of the Endurance, and would recommend it for landing battalion sized forces, as equipment, but usage is much much more than “I have it = capability”. It involves training, mindset, concept of usage, integration with other parts of your armed forces etc. And it’s almost 300% larger than their biggest unit (sure, on paper it is 6,500 tons, but in the bad old days, MINDEF has a habit of lowballing their declared capabilities. Properly stocked, it actually clocks 8,000 +/- tons).

    And don’t forget manpower needs too. Current Irish service ships have a crew complement of 50+/-. All your recommendations double the manpower needs, which means you end up with almost 1/2 of the current number of ships crewed. Ships with no crew = floating chunk of metal.

  44. @GNB

    “The Carriers will be finished on the Clyde;”

    Go and look at where Rosyth is on a map, it aint on the Clyde :)

    I totally agree that T26 should not be built on the Clyde in the event of a yes vote but it is pretty easy to call ministers liars when the head of BAE says he will build them where it is commercially viable and then announces a hige project to modernise Clyde construction facilities.

    The Ministers look stupid declaring something will not happen whilst every indication suggests there is no alternative and my point about numbers vs build location stands as it will for most serving personnel. we would rather get 13 Clyde built T26 than 8 or 9 Pompey built ones.

  45. Er, APATs, GNB, think there are a lot of better things to argue about than the virtues of a politician. :)

  46. @GNB

    Spam monster ate my reply :( Rosyth is not on the Clyde. The head of |BAE i sending signals that make Ministers look like liars I am afraid with his announcement of investment on the Clyde and no laternative.

    serving RN personnel would in all probability have 13 Clyde built T26 than 10 Pompey ones.

  47. @Observer – Carriers, for example? :-) And I have a feeling we might well be arguing about the EU elsewhere in the building…that’s even worse! :-(

  48. @apats – I stand corrected on the geography for which my thanks – but on the politics I do not believe that any UK Government would permanently sub-contract the construction of RN Warships to a foreign country (even if the RN want them to)…any more than they will give up CASD as some in the SNP clearly hope…which means that the means to do both those things will need to be reconstructed south of the new border, and the taxpayer might as well be presented with the bill early enough to blame those responsible for the break-up…I quite frankly anticipate a pretty ugly mood emerging in the aftermath of that event on both sides of the border, not least because of the practical implications of these sorts of issues. :-(

    As for BAE, they will invest where their main customer expects them to – hence three random OPVs that will keep things ticking over until after the referendum.


  49. @GNB

    It would not be permanently but if it costs x hundred million to create somewhere to build them South of the Border then that is Y less T26 frigates we get.

    The lack of detailed planning and alternatives is frankly embarrassing and amateur. There would be very little ill feeling as defence is rarely even a top 10 issue and the deterrent is not popular. The people would simply blame the Politicians and life would continue.

  50. @apats…the T26 Contract will certainly run for long enough to make it impossible to re-establish a warship industry south of the border after it is over…which means if it is to be done at all, it will need to be done straight away…why do you believe that after hanging on to that capacity at great cost and for many years the UK Government – ANY UK Government will just hand it over to a foreign Country? And why are you so certain that all will be sweetness and light post-secession? Are you not the same @apats who suggested that if we pulled out of the EU we would be punished? Why is this any different?

    The CASD is a rather different issue, but as no successful UK Government has ever run on a nuclear disarmament ticket…and the only one that tried crashed and burned so badly that they were out of office for fourteen years, and were all but un-recognisable as the same party once re-elected I am also at a loss as to why you believe it would be no big deal to be forced to abandon it at the behest of a Country that had just told us to piss off?

  51. @GNB

    Well I am a realist and i see that the Eu has the ability to replicate everything we provide whilst the useless politicians bluster about warships, announce extra facilities in Scotland and shut Portsmouth. it is pretty simple mate. I also never ever suggested any sort of bad feeling between people in Europe so do not try and put words in my mouth.

    ref CASD, do you really believe that it was anything to do with Nuclear weapons that made the Labour Government of the time undetectable? Not even close they had plenty of other far more important policies.

    I serve and I accept that Defence does not make top 5, often not top 10 things that affect voting and Nuclear weapon split opinion anyway so as a vote winner, negligible.

    To most it simply does not matter, those that have suffered with what we get, realise that.

  52. @GNB

    Take 3

    I replied again but yet again got spam eaten and I finally give up with having to do everything 4 times on this site.

    I never suggested that there would be ill feeling betwen any people merely Politicians.

    The Nuclear detterent was not even in the top 10 reasons the government you allude to was non electable and that was during the cold war.

  53. If this continues, I won’t be surprised if the UK had to give up the nuclear deterrent. Expensive items, split over many people, becomes bearable, but if people keep opting out, sooner or later, it might end up unaffordable to the remainder.

    Not that Scottish Independence is a foregone conclusion. Let us just wait for September shall we?

  54. @apats – I’m still waiting for you to explain why after paying over the odds for half-a-century to keep a UK warship industry and retaining CASD often in the face of vocal (if not necessarily very numerous) opposition any UK Government would just give up both without a murmur because something around 10% of population/GDP (and associated costs) opted out…I know perfectly well the range of issues involved in the 1983 Election because I was in my middle twenties at the time, and working in an environment that brought me into very regular contact with some of the Authors of the “longest suicide note in history”…and I can assure you that in the light of events the previous year all aspects of Defence were very much a live issue, albeit amongst many others…

    @Observer – it’s only 10% and the jury is still out on the net contributor/net recipient discussion…not in my view a deal-breaker in the face of a rapidly growing economy tipped by some to overtake Germany in twenty or thirty years…the growth being mainly in London and the South East, not Scotland…


    GNBin my

  55. @ Observer

    Back in 2006/7 the INS were looking at a ship with a budget of about 90 Euros for moving military kit and to aid in humanitarian missions. And yes it would have been bigger than anything else they had had before.

    Just because they hadn’t had a big ship before didn’t mean they couldn’t have seen the need for such a vessel and then gone to purchase one.

    Of course the crash put paid to that idea. But who knows in the future?

  56. I think people are getting a bit carried away with the marginal cost of moving T26 construction to rUK.

    BAE are already planning to spend money on new facilities for T26, and such facilities would not start construction until after the referendum. From memory the options are either a £100m refresh of Scotstoun + Govan, or £200m on a new single site at Scotstoun. Option 2 is the preferred option as it leads to more efficiency and savings down the line, the unions want to keep Govan open.

    But if it’s going to cost £200m for effectively a new yard at Scotstoun – and that’s already in the budget – then it’s hard to see that the marginal cost of a new yard at Pompey is going to be in the £billions that people are implying. Yes it will obviously be more expensive than the Scotstoun option, people will need to be relocated and so on, but we’re talking more like the odd set of Artisan/2087 rather than cutting the T26 buy down to 9 hulls.

  57. @ El Sid

    if it costs £200 million to update a site that is already capable of building Frigates, how much do you think it takes to create one because Portsmouth cannot at the moment?
    5 or 600 million is very likely and that is 2 or 2.5 T26 at least.

  58. And there’s the rub that baffles any independent shipbuilder that has looked at this.

    The shipbuilding hall at Portsmouth was specifically designed to build T45, so to suggest it cannot build frigates does not make sense and is not supported by any assessment of its floor loading or dimensions. The big units for QEC are heavier than the largest frigate you could think of and the dimensions of the original hall (since extended) and the adjacent 14 dock are more than adequate.

    Now, if you look at Scotstoun – it struggled to build Daring, which is why all the other ships were built in Govan. In fact Govan and Scotstoun as currently set up are interdependent to build large frigates (which are what T26 is). One might argue that staying on the Clyde would allow you to build the odd 20000 tonner using the Govan slip, but I’d wager you could do the same in Pompey using C or D lock as a building dock and floating out large modules as we’ve done for QE and T45 and the French have done for Mistral.

    Not being privy to what BAES and the MoD have been bandying around it’s difficult to know what the assumptions are. The thing that really doesn’t ring true is the cost-effectiveness argument. It is simply not possible for the overheads in a combined site like the Clyde using two yards for build only, to be lower than those for a single site like Portsmouth that does build and support on the same site. Likewise, its difficult to believe that a relatively new facility that was designed to build DD/FF can be sufficiently less efficient than the Clyde to merit closure AND a £300M investment in a brand new Clyde facility. The logic just does not add up.

    I wonder whether like has been compared with like? The elements of the T45 that were built in Pompey were primarily the “difficult” steel bits with lots of curvature and not much outfit. Similarly, the bits of QE have primarily been stern section and the forwardmost large block (excluding the bow) – again more curvature than perhaps applicable to the other blocks. This might lead a simple comparison of manhours per tonne of steel to conclude that the Portsmouth facility was less efficient, when in fact relative efficiency would depend on a more balanced comparison of throughput. I could have believed an analysis suggesting that build expertise was resident on the Clyde and not in Portsmouth, but that’s no longer true and has not been for about 10 years (not the farcical 500 obviously!).

    It doesn’t matter so much now, because the decision has been made, but it is extremely difficult to conclude anything other than a Clyde mafia (look where most of BAES Marine head shed originate from) stitch-up.

    One other thing. It would most definitely cost substantially less to modify Portsmouth to more than close any efficiency gap than it will to remodel Scotstoun. The only major risk being what might lurk in 3 Basin if you decided to go that way, but given some of the more ambitious plans to improve the support infrastructure that are floating around that might be on the cards anyway.

    Don’t know where the £500-600M figure comes from APATS, but I’d be very sceptical of it. And even more sceptical that it would get you 2-2.5 T26. One and a bit if you’re lucky at the minute I suspect……..

  59. @NAB

    Well maybe you should have a word with HMG and BAE because they are the ones telling us Pompey cannot do what you claim it can.

  60. The biggest issue with Pompey is staffing both shipbuild and support, the Clyde doesn’t have this issue as they don’t have support.

    Also look at all the dates for starting the Clyde upgrade.

    In my opinion El Sid is pretty spot on.

    (could talk on this for hours but might get me in hot water :p)

  61. I still think we should have built a patrol ship class based on the RV Triton trimaran.

  62. @ NaB

    So are you saying that T26 will be nearly as expensive as FREMM even with the hand-me-down systems?

  63. APATS – I suspect you’ll find HMG and BAE are being a little economical with the truth for convenience. If you go back to the VT move from Woolston and the set up of the ship factory it was designed around building the second T45 – Dauntless was to be lead ship of the Portsmouth build, until BAES suddenly found economies in building all 12 (at the time) on the Clyde, with VT building the bow units and masts. Shades of things to come, but it did not affect the capacity of the facility. I forget the exact weight of QEC block LB02, but she’s a biggun – of the order of 10000te.

    The only issue in build for Pompey is getting units into the water from the shipbuild hall. That’s usually done with a barge – Woolston or a bigger one for some of the units. The only possible issue is getting the ship hull off the barge and floating, which is basically an issue of maintained depth. A barge of the sort of dimensions required to fit a T26 and fit through the locks will lift about 4500 te for every metre of draft. If you figure a non-seagoing barge of that type would need about 4 metres depth for structural reasons and that a “light” DD/FF would float at about 5m draft, you’re looking at 10-11m of maintained depth, which we both know Portsmouth has in spades, without even considering the extra you can get off the tides. People have suggested that its vastly more expensive than the Clyde launch, but I find that a bit hard to believe. to offset the barge elements of the launch, you get calculation of berth declivity and application of that to all the internal datums while building, drag chains and launch calcs and the embuggerance of building on an outside berth. Not a multi-million pound difference per hull, I’d suggest.

    Tom has a point – getting enough bodies to service both build and support might be an issue in Pompey, but doesn’t appear to have been so far. Imagine how much emptier the Southampton and Bristol flights to Glasgow would be if the NCHQ and ships staff could just trot over from Tracey Island or Nelson. Portsmouth isn’t within striking distance of Aberdeen and the Oil & Gas wage bonanza as well, which affects retention in Glasgow. I’ve posted to this effect before, but basically no-one in BAE or HMG wanted to be the one to end shipbuilding on the Clyde. Wee Eck and his referendum just added to the complication.

    X – As far as I’m aware, SMC isn’t closing – far from it. However, there is nothing there you might want for a build – which you don’t need in any case. As for FREMM, you might think that – I couldn’t possibly comment. Any cost model that works on ship weight is always going to struggle with accurately accounting for adding on legacy combat system items, not to mention dealing with a ship of the alleged weight of T26.

    It’s also worth noting that last time I looked (admittedly some time ago) FREMM had rather short legs and wasn’t all that in terms of capability.

  64. @NaB – So a political decision then? Perhaps one intended to head off the SNP? And which could be reversed if Scotland secedes, allowing RN warships to continue to be built in the UK as they have been for a very long time…especially if final decisions have been kicked a few months down the road by that rather unexpected OPV order?

    I actually wonder if this might have been thought about a little more than we have been led to believe…and a more interesting question might be what Scotland will do for the two frigates I believe the SNP prospectus calls for…


  65. @ NAB

    I don’t follow this stuff half as closely as I used and I had already joined the dots, if I have others must have too because I am not the sharpest tool in the box. When we have discussed T26 in the past I often end up saying we should just have bought FREMM even with its short legs and found other work for BAE design team. 8 hulls is a p*ss take of the first order.

    As for Marchwood I know there is nothing there and I am not shy about my views on an amphibious British Army. What I am saying is post a yes vote up north then there is site close to Portsmouth that could be used for such work if it was needed. To be honest I am not sure why they haven’t built ships in Southampton before…….um…….wait one…….

  66. This is all pretty much Greek to me, but I’d like to point out that NAB’s comments on these matters seem quite magisterial to me. As far as I knew until reading through, building ships was about having a big enough stretch of concrete next to some sufficiently deep water, and a workforce.

    The one thing I do know a little about is politics, as I find myself chatting to the snakes every week or so. The Scots are not going away, and if they did, no English politician is going to allow english/Welsh/Northern Irish frigates to be built in Scotland. Given that the Welsh and Northern Irish have no BAE Systems ship building yards, that means in England.

    From a business perspective, after the T26s are built, how many orders will Scotland get from any other country that needs a boat? It seems doomed, boat building in Scotland, apart from a few more years. They need to do something a bit different if they want to survive.

  67. The Italian FREMM’s range is only 800nm down on T23, not a show stopper surely?

  68. On the flip side, no matter how expensive the cost to move, it is also a long term solution. Sure, you worry about the “Global Combat Ship” for now, but what about the future where maybe you’ll have the Type-50 or Type-30? Much better to take your bitter medicine now rather than put future developments at risk. If (big if) Scotland went independent, I can safely say that they do not have the interests of England at heart and will most likely be looking out for number one. I won’t be surprised if they charged either a tariff or set a high minimum wage for any future ship construction you would do there. All governments need money, and giving them a monopoly is pretty much a license to gouge you.

    The shipyards building frigates isn’t really a bad idea, but it’s too limited in scope. The separation of civilian and military shipbuilding is a much bigger problem. With limited military sales, a pure military shipyard is doomed to a cycle of feast and famine, which isn’t exactly the best way to retain skills, especially one related to a once a generation ship type change. They should really reconsider the policy and allow military shipyards to build civilian vessels, and more importantly, design new shipyards with the capability of building container vessels, tankers and LNG carriers, maybe even all the way up to oil rigs if the market demand is good. It’s going to be painfully expensive to add in so much added capacity, but breaking the famine cycle once you finish building the once a generation military ships is extremely important or by the time the next cycle of ship replacement programs come, you’d find all your workers and ship designers gone to greener pastures just to survive.

    My information on the policy is a bit old though, not sure if they changed it already. Anyone with more up to date information on the military/civilian separation? Still ongoing or changed long time ago?

  69. A 3rd option if Scotland go independent BAE may just sell off its surface warships division you could have them built in France/Spain or Korea then and fitted out in Portsmouth.

  70. There is no policy separating military and commercial build in the UK and has not been for well over twenty years. You are quite correct that a policy of sizing your shipbuilding capacity to your forecast military build is barking, but that is exactly what we have done. The solution is not to point your yards at anything and everything, but rather to target specific jobs / projects / niche types and go for that. It’s what the Norwegians do (well) and they have the singular advantage that they’re not in the EU and therefore don’t have to compete everything.

    Mark – no. Fitting out is not something you do once the warship is built. The MARS tankers can do that because the UK-specific bits that are anything like classified are essentially bolt-on. You can’t do that with real warships, where the classified stuff starts with the structure and the bits of kit are fitted as the blocks are built up..

  71. Would there be any point in trying to retain warship building in Portsmouth if Scotland were to vote for independence?

    It seems to be a struggle for the little Royal Navy to create enough demand for the ship and boat yards as it is. If the UK shrinks, and the Navy shrinks further as a consequence, would that be time to call it a day and just put the hull orders out to international tender?

  72. NaB, I do see your point in specialization, but if you niche too much, when demand for that product drops, you end up facing a recession. The added advantage in diversification is that if a particular field suffers a downturn, the other products can prop up the ailing one temporarily, buying you time to decide to continue or find something else to specialize in instead of heading straight for receivership.

    The best case for this is to find a middle ground of specialization in some niches, but not all of them.

    But warships cannot be your sole specialization. There are not enough ship orders worldwide to sustain your capability until the next round of shipbuilding in 40-50 years from now. Your designers and workforce need to do something else in the time period.

  73. @Mark – BAE might well sell their Scottish facilities (if they can find a customer)…but they will do so to finance relocation of sensitive activities back on to UK soil…they are a multi-national defence business, listed on the London Stock Exchange and with an HQ in that City…and the UK connexion is critical in retaining the access that they have to the US defence market. They build warships in Scotland because it suits their key customer (HMG) that they should do so…if it doesn’t suit that customer, they will stop doing it…and no doubt get considerable taxpayer support for any relocations or new facilities that might be required.

    They are a UK Company with a warship building facility in Scotland, and like many such they get much more revenue from the rest of the UK than from that particular site…they will move.

    Likewise much of the Scottish financial services industry who will need to be in the UK to get UK guarantees to back their products and protect their customers…just by way of example the Financial Services Compensation Scheme guarantees that if a UK Bank goes bust, every depositor can get up to £85,000 back…which means that any currently “Scottish” Bank with a lot of customers elsewhere in the UK (Like Lloyds) will need to remain under UK regulation to maintain that offer…and in these days of money laundering regulation that won’t just mean a Brass Plate on Threadneedle Street. Newcastle will do well however… :-)


  74. Observer

    I don’t think you got my point. Warship building is not the specialisation I was referring to. That’s where we are now and it’s the road to extinction. However, western European yards simply cannot compete in the global market as “build anything” yards – the Chinese, Koreans, Singaporeans and now Vietnamese eat them for breakfast.

    What you have to do is identify either a product line or a customer that you can serve and serve well. The latter approach is what the Norwegians do, which is greatly helped by them not being in the EU and having an oil industry “mafia”. The first approach is exemplified by yards like Fincantieri (cruise ships), Flensburger (RoRo ships) and possibly Odense (containerships). Odense also had a bit of the tame customer element about them, as they primarily served Maersk and yes, when Maersk upped sticks, that was the end of Odense. It happens and there’s very little you can do about it.

    Yards building warships can’t efficiently build cargo ships. The contrast between the two types is that cargo ships basically require extremely efficient steel facilities (largely panel lines) and paint/coating shops, because that’s what most of it is. Warships require good steel facilities (primarily in terms of rolling / bending machines) but primarily very good outfitting capabilities, because that’s what most of the content is. Your workforce can’t be multi-skilled to that degree because the steel trades won’t wear the pink ovies the sparkies like, the sparkies couldn’t bear to wear the caps the welders like and the fitters wouldn’t know whose toolbags to carry……..

    If you want to sustain the workforce, you have to pick ships that need both skillsets at the right proportion. The sweet spot tends to be specialist vessels for the offshore industry and survey companies. Offshore construction vessels, dive support vessels, ROV or Multi-Purpose vessels, oceanographic survey ships. That’s what the Noggies do and do well, noting of course that they rarely build their own “large” warships now and that not being in the EU frees them from the competition directive.

    The new BAS boat that’s been bandied around would be ideal for a UK yard. It would be difficult as we haven’t built anything like it since James Clark Ross in 1991. Built by Swan Hunter which was a successful mixed yard, but under-capitalised compared to the UK competition at the time, which is why it went under in 93. Some of the people who built that ship are still around, primarily with Babcocks and ThreeQuaysBCP on the design side and some of the production lads on QEC. Trouble is its a government contract which will be up for grabs across the EU and trying to compete with Fincantieri, Merwede and potentially wider with the Koreans or Noggies will not be easy – particularly with the BAE mgmt. overhead structure.

    But if there is a future for the UK build industry – and there’d better be because if you don’t build you lose your competent design critical mass about 15-20 years later – it’s doing those sorts of ships.

  75. Sounds like Portsmouth should be mothballed as a warship building yard. I know the skills are in the people but I fear every time a shipyard is closed it is should for residential development and lost forever.

  76. Thinking a bit more about this would the treasury be willing to part finance an upgrade to Portsmouth or even a brand new yard elsewhere, from out side of the MOD budget, to retain the tax revenue from the industry, just think of all the income tax and VAT they will lose if they continued to build in Scotland.

  77. NaB, didn’t consider the external factors and competition, you’re right.

  78. I do wonder if there will be a lot of leaks in the run up to September, for example about how BAe are being asked to quote on upgrading Portsmouth, or how a survey team is looking at Plymouth/Falmouth/wherever as a new sub base.
    Whatever the cost (and you have to worry that the Treasury would slice it off the T26 budget with a throwaway “surely you don’t need so many now…”) I just can not see the T26s being built in an independent Scottish yard. I think a split would cause a lot of caustic anti-Scottish feeling amongst the English meaning that it would be a VERY ‘brave’ (and probably suicidal) government that would leave the contract there.

  79. @ Mark

    ref fitting out and classification, other countries manage it, indeed some build abroad. The actual number of classified compartments and structures on a warship would disappoint most people.
    The Danes, Norwegians,Russians and Australians seem to make it work and it is infinitely achievable.

  80. @RT
    “As far as I knew until reading through, building ships was about having a big enough stretch of concrete next to some sufficiently deep water, and a workforce.”
    This you will still find in existence at Barrow , although most attention is on the Sub shed the site is actually huge with much of the ‘concrete’ still in place.(Google earth it). I worked on the site as a subcontractor performing NDT back in the 80’s when many ships were present for construction/refit. For instance HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion and HMS Invincible were built there and as the skill set for the Astute’s is on site and could be expanded so this is another option for BAE. A rundown area in need of jobs, a politicians dream. (no offence Barrow).

  81. It does of course depend on what you mean by classified – in one sense there are only between two and six “classified” compartments on a RN DD/FF. In another sense, most drawings (structures, systems and compartments) are classified to one degree or another. But that isn’t the point – with warship build, equipment (some of it quite sensitive) goes in the ship from the off – you can’t just put it in when you get to the UK.

    Of the navies listed above – all but the Danes were buying an off-the-shelf foreign design from its country of origin, so there is little to hide and I believe I’m correct in saying that the Danes only had bits of the Absalom steel work (ie sub units) fabricated in Poland, not outfitted blocks. The Aussies had no choice in any case as none of their facilities were capable of building something the size of LHD – all their other ships have been Aussie built, although the Air Warfare Destroyer (essentially a Navantia design) is a bit of a nightmare build project. More to do with skills atrophying than anything else, but then again BAE are involved so an obvious story there.

    It is entirely possible to buy foreign designs built abroad. It is much more difficult to build a UK design abroad. It is barking to try and build a UK warship hull abroad and then try to fit the “combat system equipment” in the UK.

    There is a significant body of opinion in MoD as a whole and NCHQ in particular that wants to “punish” BAES for a range of perceived transgressions from Astute, through T45 to the carriers and T26. However, those lining up to punish conveniently forget that BAES has the whip hand only because MoD not only handed it to them, but bent over and passed the Vaseline as well. Right up until the decision to build all T45 on the Clyde, MoD had some vestige of competition (which actually worked quite well in T23 build), but it destroyed that entirely when it forced the creation of BVT – albeit pushing at an open door when VT saw the way the wind was blowing.

    BAES are far from blameless – it is incomprehensible what added value 300 people in Filton have given T26 in the last three years – but MoD have deskilled themselves to the point where they are largely incapable of calling BAE out on this. One example – a particular class of in-service HM war canoes has a procedure for using the diesel driven emergency fire pumps which involves sampling the discharge side before directing at a fire. The reason they sample it is to ensure that (due to a system design defect) they’re not spraying F76 under pressure at the fire, which would be unfortunate. Generally, when you need those pumps, it tends to be an emergency, so how is that acceptable?

    Bad design or incompetent design acceptance, or both? The same issues apply to T26, which is why current estimates for the design displacement at end of life are approaching twice that of a T23. Ever so slightly removed from the “5500te” official figure. Can you imagine what that might do to a weight-based cost forecast? Particularly for a “cost-capped” programme.

    It is highly likely that these sorts of issues are actually endemic worldwide – lord knows the US has enough problems with LPD17, LHA, LCS and DDG1000 – it’s just that we don’t get the same visibility of reporting. What is actually happening is atrophying of the “western” skills base through lack of investment in people and frankly godawful management in MoD/DoD and industry. Offshore build will not ameliorate the problem – it will make it worse, although it might appear to offer a cheaper solution in the near term.

  82. …ameliorate…

    Wow! I’m impressed.

    I must say that from where I saw it all happen the government is almost entirely to blame for the monopolies they’ve created. It’s bad enough with little or no competition in the marketplace but when one adds the sheer greed of a PLC to the equation there’s only one way it will ultimately go.

  83. I know there’s a “special relationship”, the UK does outsource considerable sensitive work.

    The Common Missile Compartment is predominantly UK funded. We’re supplying the cash, the Americans the expertise.

  84. @ Nab

    The Danes had the blocks for the Iver Huitfeld class constructed in Lithuania and Estonia and then towed to Odense. The Norgies FFs were not an off the shelf design but rather a design for them done by a company not from Norway.
    We need to be able to think outside the BAE/UK box.

  85. @Not a Boffin,

    “Your workforce can’t be multi-skilled to that degree because the steel trades won’t wear the pink ovies the sparkies like, the sparkies couldn’t bear to wear the caps the welders like and the fitters wouldn’t know whose toolbags to carry……”

    Bloody brilliant….and that leaves aside the really thorny issue of who’s turn it is to make the tea and fetch the sandwiches.

  86. NAB, Simon – ref “the government is almost entirely to blame for the monopolies they’ve created” – no argument from me.

    I rail constantly against the huge level of bureaucracy that has to be serviced by companies trying to supply MOD. There is no willingness to create a lighter structure to deal with smaller businesses and absolutely no interest in cooperative effort. Because there is a one size to fit all, and because there are huge corporations packed with experts to field, the process has moulded itself around big corporate interaction with expectation that hundreds of MOD people can deal in parallel with hundreds of corporate people daily on any major project. I suppose it makes the MOD organisation feel more important if it deals with (buzzword bingo alert) “World Class” organizations and not ordinary industry. So yes the useless process has spawned a pretty ugly environment of monopolistic corporations. Any small or medium sized organization that gets its head over the parapet with an MOD order is likely to have BAE stood on their doorstep making them an offer they can’t refuse…

    You have to wonder at what point the highly lauded Competitive Procurement ceases to have competition because of the tiny number of bidders they are prepared to deal with? And indeed with a customer that will only deal with the same major competitors for every major project, the spectre of potential cartel arrangements can’t be far away.

  87. The Danish blocks were largely unoutfitted steel – what we’d call sub units in the UK. Most of what Odense appears to have outsourced is the complex curvature stuff that is difficult to do in light scantling steel in any case, but you’re right in that it was the Huitfelds and done in the Baltic states. This is what they supplied…..

    You save yourself a few thousand manhours in steelwork, but lose some of that in the lack of pre-outfitting when you start to weld the sub units into blocks. The vast majority of the cost is in block construction, outfitting and commissioning which stayed in Denmark.

    The Fridtjoft Nansens are a derivative of the F100 design, as is the Australian AWD. Not a new design, but a Noggie-specific modification, a bit like the MEKOs used to be. Nothing wrong with it, but not a Norwegian design build overseas either.

    Don’t for one minute think that I’m suggesting we just suck up the current BAES status quo. Far from it – the way BAES build ships (as partly evidenced by the Clyde stitch-up) is not sustainable. But neither is offshoring. If you’re in NCHQ you’ll be aware of the “Freedom of Action” initiative being developed in the MARCAP shop. The intent of that initiative is absolutely clear to all who have seen it. The problem is that the very comprehensive methodology developed by those nice people at Dstl relies entirely on those applying it being able to understand the longer-term and all-round consequences of what they’re doing. If they don’t – a short term FoA decision will have very long term consequences, primarily for MoD – and guess what, the people developing it don’t have that knowledge and with the greatest respect to the guys in NCHQ, neither do they. That is part of what Simon Lister is trying to do with re-skilling and project Faraday. At one level it’s making sure the RN engineering branch reverses the trend towards “open training and support manual, if too difficult or missing ring OEM” engineering support. At another level it’s trying to ensure that a sufficient depth of talent is there is the engineering branches with wide domain knowledge to help support longer term decisions. That tends to mean knowing more about all aspects of design, build and support rather than being a 22/23/42/CVS engineer. Losing the PNO organisation in the 90s was a major body blow and the Arsey-Nancies are (with one or two honourable exceptions) in general a social club, rather than the cadre of real engineers they were 40 years ago. That’s part of what needs fixing, but that means you have to be able to expose them to continuous life in the design and build process. The NDP was an attempt at that, but will probably fail in its current form. Half the MoD guys walk straight into BAES/BES/RR or Thales in any case.

    That’s why offshoring is a certain path to being even more captive in design, combat system and build than we are now. There’s very definitely a “gizzit” element when people see a FREMM or a Huitfeld or a Holland and look at our 18 year life T23s now, not to mention the groans when T45s ME systems are raised again. Part of that is very definitely BAES, but part of it is also the MoD and the processes and interference involved.

    Fixing it will require MoD to stand up to BAES, but in order to do so, it has to be able to make decisions and judgements quickly that will stand up to commercial and technical scrutiny. That means being able to intelligently query BAES on programme cost at a detailed level with knowledge of what can be done elsewhere, not throwaway statements on offshoring that can be immediately countered by a “job-loss” political campaign or using “specialist” contractors whose methodology actually needs BAES supplied cost metrics to work.

  88. @ NAB

    The more often that BAE and the procurement guys deliver less numbers at more cost and dubious capability then there is going to be even more shouting of “gizzit” from those that have to take these tools and actually do the job with them.
    They care about capability and numbers and reliability because at the end of the day it is not the procurement team or BAE or Shabby wood desk jockeys that are putting their lives on the line using what is being provided.

  89. I won’t disagree with the sentiment at all. But I will add this – attempting to backheel the numbers and cost on “the procurement guys and BAES” ignores one of the more frequent issues that arises, specifically the inability of the NCHQ (and MoD DECs before them) to justify what they want and articulate the requirement and spec.

    That’s not the case with T26/FSC – that requirement is essentially unchanged since 1999 and has been victim to a shortage of money / pecking order wrt Perce and the TELIC/HERRICK ops. However, there are a number of other cases where the question “we want a replacement for HMS X,Y,Z”, when met with the question “why – and how well do you want it to do that job” is answered with “errr… we just want another one”. Sometimes “another one of the same” is the right answer, but if you can’t justify why its there, you won’t get it past the Treasury and MoD scrutineers. That isn’t the fault of the “procurement guys”, its a Staff fault within the RN – and is just as culpable for cost increases (programme delay never made anything cheaper) as anything else.

    Offshoring won’t fix that issue either.

  90. NaB,

    …it will require MoD to stand up to BAES, but in order to do so, it has to be able to make decisions and judgements quickly that will stand up to commercial and technical scrutiny…

    I’m not entirely sure that’s correct.

    The MoD simply cannot stand up to BAES. We police the African coast for piracy and bomb the b’jesus out of various nations for harboring criminals that SPECTRE would be happy to recruit but seem utterly incapable of seeing that BAES hold us over a barrel, guilty completely of the final letter of SPECTRE.

    I accept that it might be six of one and half-a-dozen of the other with respect to changing goalposts but that doesn’t change the simple fact that we can’t go to company 2 or 3 to ask for a re-quote.

    Can you (for example) explain how a fixed price contract for 2 x CVF at £3.9b ends up with us paying £6.2b? At what point did someone waste £2.3b? A two-year delay cannot (for anyone that has the faintest grasp of reality) cost the taxpayer the £1.56b that BAE claim. It’s all back-handers, balls-ups, and back-slapping.

    Shambolic mess!

  91. The very specific issue with “off-shoring” to Scotland if they become independent – which is in part where this discussion started – is that, as I understand it, whilst ever we are both in the EU we cannot do a sweetheart deal with them and exclude other EU States from the competition…whereas we can decide to build certain items like warships at home “for strategic reasons”. Not sure how those rules affect us offering contracts to non-EU states, but my guess is that there are restrictions of some sort…perhaps someone out there can advise?

    Different again if we leave, but at that point I would have thought we might well be making nice with others in the wider world (like the various cousins large and small)…not least because if we end up out and an independent Scotland in there will be a bloody big fence on the border, and all kinds of other unintended consequences in respect of trade…and indeed everything else you can think of.

    By a marvellous irony, if Scotland secede the rest of the UK are more likely to leave the EU which can then move swiftly towards “ever closer union”; leaving us might well leave the Scots as a province answering to the Berlin/Brussels Axis…

    There’s got to be an airport novel in there somewhere. :-)

  92. @ NaB

    What you are saying is we are up Poo Creek without a paddle. Well we would be if the projects to build the canoe and paddle were on time, on budget…………

    I think what gets me is that we live in age where there are supposedly a mass of advanced tools for everything from engineering to management to make things happen quicker. We live in age supposedly of short term contracts and freedom of movement for labour yet we are still talking about and concerned with quietly rightly retention, skills, etc. If HMG would to put out a tender for an 8×8 tomorrow we would see 4 virtually identical vehicles from 4 consortia made up from a group of roughly 12 or so of the same (usual suspects) companies. Probably all offering very similar support contrasts that over the life vehicle accounting for inflation, waste and inefficiencies, and unknowns will probably even out to much the same; especially if you factor in all the money it takes to hold a tendering process. And as a consideration the the taxpayer and the soldier would probably be a long way down the list. What a mess. What a state to be in.

  93. x – ref 8x8s all the same – don’t you go putting my designs in that bunch – they do not look like the others currently marketed, the soldier is at the top of the priority list, the taxpayer a close second…

  94. @ Chris

    Do you work for any of those big 12 I mentioned? No? Well then you silly sausage. :)

    I note BAE have re-jigged their RG-3x series again.

  95. x – No I don’t work for any of those. Silly? Well yes from the viewpoint of bank balance, but I doubt any of them would have allowed me to create designs quite so fine – there would have been lots of “Can you use this legacy system here” and “Just take this old design and make it look modern” and “Well that idea is far too risky/costly” and “You can’t do it that way; if you could everybody else would have done it already” etc.

  96. @ Chris

    What you have to remember is we live in Windows-VHS-“Ford Focus”-“group-think” world when it comes to tech. innovation doesn’t always win out; actually innovation is something to be avoided at all costs. Even though the i-word is one of the first words out of the mouths of those wanting work done. Quickly followed by the c-word, cheap. There is even a difference between innovation and good design as you know; but the latter often get confused for the former.

  97. x – completely agree.

    Innovation just because its possible is not a sound path to take. There needs to be solid reasoning behind new ways of doing things – real benefits. In the AFV world that’s stuff like better protection for the weight, better fuel economy, higher mobility, more internal volume for a given size vehicle etc.

    People often assume because modern life has a lot of new clever stuff in it, that somehow we are cleverer than our ancestors. On average I suggest the opposite is true. In days where shops weren’t filled with every conceivable gadget for every conceivable task, people needed to be able to create tools for themselves, and use them, and fix them, and understand why they needed to use them and so on. There may not have been as much advanced technology per household, but the householder knew how the technology worked and how to keep it working. Ever tried to understand the workings of your smartphone? Or tried to fix it? These days we are moving towards being dumb users, not interested in the technology behind the gadget at all.

    So. Understanding those who walked before us had to work out solutions from first principles rather than just doing what the competitor does, I spend a lot of time looking back at earlier designs of AFVs to see what really clever stuff had been done and since set aside. As a result, some of my designs have an ‘old fashioned’ look about them, but that’s not an issue – the physics of blast fronts and ballistics has not changed over the years (although the creation/delivery of those events has moved a little).

    Some of my design is innovation, some is reuse of the really bright designs of years past. The rest is (I hope) good engineering that makes a successful vehicle. I know there are many experts that would look at them and mutter that the designs were wrong and didn’t look right and ought to look modern like every other clone; that’s only to be expected in these days of dumb consumerism. I expect there were as many experts that scoffed at Issigonis’s design for the funny little Mini, or Camm, Hooker and Hooper’s weird idea for a jet aircraft that could stand on its own thrust like legs. The world is full of experts with opinions….

  98. @ Chris

    You won’t get me discounting the achievements of our forebears, I find those who do tend to be arrogant and bit simple in their view of the world; even if they think otherwise and dress up their musings in academic speak. Take for example those anti-gun Americans (and others) who said those who drafted the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment were writing only about muskets. Look at the sources the Philadelphia Convention called on, and then say those gentlemen had no grasp of the trajectory of history.

    I used to work in IT and I haven’t seen anything new for a decade or more. Improvements in what we have in hardware terms yes, but new paradigms not a one. Same with software too. Most of what is regarded these days as innovation in IT is actually the application of increasingly powerful hardware being available at cheaper prices. And yes dumb users are proliferating. We should be in an age of IT fluency, yet we aren’t even in an age of IT mass literacy.

  99. Well it seems I’m the only Irishman n here so here goes.

    The 2 new OPV’s were specifically requested/designed to accommodate UAV’s that been one of the requirements the NS has held firm to since the project started.

    Also there are a couple of R&D projects in the pipeline for the 2 OPV’s the most interesting being the “sail”, they are currently manufacturing a sail for both propulsion (you’ve seen those around, hauling cargo ships) and as a sensor platform, basically there will be optics/radar mounted on the sail itself to improve the SA for the OPV…

    late 2016/early 2017 is when they are hoping to fit it for the test phase.

  100. Banner, what happened to the UAVs? Shouldn’t they be in service by now considering that you can get them off the shelf?

  101. Well the honest answer is that they don’t think there is a mature system for their needs yet….it’s one thing flying off a ship in the nice calm Gulf, quite another doing it in piss poor weather in the North Atlantic like the NS would be doing regularly.

    The NS couldn’t afford to be losing UAV’s on every patrol like the USN could. We never did find the Orbiter UAV we lost in Africa…

    plus it’s a toss up between a fixed wing Vs rotary wing UAV.
    Fixed wings have more service experience total but some of the new heavier weight small rotary ones like the SAAB Tanan 300 are getting a second look.

  102. NaB, if the weather is as feisty as Banner suggests, deck area is the least of the problems :)

    More important questions would be how to stop a light weight object from being blown miles off course and how to recover it without having the vehicle kiss the deck nose first. The second, you can winch down. The first? That’s a trickier problem…

    Adverse weather conditions is one of the key areas where I think people overlook and oversell UAVs, unless you go really big like the US did with theirs.

  103. @ NAB

    “Going to be interesting finding deck area to recover them on though”

    modify that container thing in the first picture so the top acts as a mini helipad with lift :) and the rest as a hangar.

  104. “modify that container thing in the first picture so the top acts as a mini helipad with lift :) and the rest as a hangar.”

    Those containers are actually removable to give you a UAV flight area.

    Earlier on people were talking about an “amphibious type ship” and why little old us would need it…well we’ve had Battalion sized groups operating every where from Somalia,Liberia, East Timor to Chad….on a couple of occasions we’ve had to borrow or make do with landing kit and vehicles over beaches and destroyed port facilities.

    In Liberia we used an OPV to haul a couple of vehicles down for the initial group operating there.

  105. @Banner Man

    I realise that they are removable but remove them and you have to find a separate storage area for both the UAV and the support equipment. My idea maximises the use of the space.

  106. Anyone has any idea how much it would cost to charter an airliner for a single hop? The LPD buy is at 100 million pounds, I’m sort of interested in knowing how much lift is that if you shipped by commercial air instead.

  107. The “amhib” was conceived to be an enhanced patrol vessel, basically it would have a capability to haul kit/vehicles around and deploy them but also it could do the regular patrol duties like the other OPV’s.

    Something like an Absalon but smaller and with no missiles……

  108. As another Irishman I’ll join in, in terms of the UAV from what I heard from one of the engineers that was part of the team, it’s mainly down to a combination of money and waiting for the pace of change in UAV’s to slow (he was talking about netting for catching so at least at some point I’d guess that they were leaning towards Scanealge or something along those lines. The Navy already has a view container units for use, a decompression chamber for the diving section and an ROV unit from their NIMEC partners.

    In terms of sea state conditions however, the West Coast wave height has been increasing for the last decade plus (which is why they went up to the 90m hull) and has hit 25m+ waves at the ocean buoys that we have out there, during the winter storms this year the South coast had 20-25m waves as well, with one of the P50’s recording 20+m during one of it’s patrols.

    Regarding pricing from what I understand the Government got a payment plan agreement with Babcock so it’s not a one off payment but spread out for about 5 years I think.

    And perhaps the best news is there’s suggestions that the option for the third OPV will be taken up, with the suggestion from the Daíl Defence committee chair that it’s likely before Christmas, this will tie into when Joyce is nearing completion and after the budget.

    The last point regarding the EPV hull/s, it’s still on the plan, but the new White Paper due that might change. The drivers are a combination of operating out at the edge of the extended EEZ, combined with the Army wanting to be able to lift a about 400 with equipment (at the moment we hire a Car transporter for it). The former CO of the Navy has become the first navy member of the General staff so I’d expect him to be driving for it.

    And with respect lets cut out the fantasy fleet stuff, Ireland isn’t buying anything like frigates, or even those rejected Brunei corvettes there’s zero need/budget/support for them, and with the demand to replace virtually the entire fleet it’s not on any agenda.

  109. @jonesy

    I could just image that trying to operate in the mid Atlantic, it’s patrol first, sealift second at the moment. Besides it’s too wide for the Cobh graving dock and that’s where the navy prefers to do the maintenance.

  110. @Observer The Navy/Army want it for transporting the equipment (MOWAG’s, Patrol vehicles, base facilities) and I think there was suggestion of having medical facilities on board). There’s also the Long Range Patrol demands for the extreme west operations.

  111. Don’t know if anyone will read this but the option for the third ship has just been taken up with an in service date of 2016, so a 1 for 1 replacement for the Aoife class.

  112. Grats, looks like you can put off worrying about that for another 30 years or so.

  113. @ Observer,

    It’s 35 years under the current replacement schedule but next up is the EPV question for replacing the Eithne and then what replaces the Peacocks (which still sitting in Dock over the asbestos issue).

  114. sparky

    Congratulations. Excellent news for the INS, particularly given economic circumstances. Just found the release here, prompted by your post. I’m still surprised that with an extra 5m over NZ’s Protector class, they haven’t made room for a helicopter.

    RNZN should track down the guy who persuaded the politicians to take up the option, and make him an offer he can’t refuse! There has been a recent suggestion that NZ could buy for a third OPV, but no one expects our govt to find the cash. INS clearly has powers of persuasion that NZ lacks.

    Any word on a name for the third vessel – I’m backing a toss-up between WB Yeats and Maeve Binchy?

  115. Well sparky, it does help my credibility to be seen as able to guess the procurement/replacement schedule without looking at it. :) It shows that at least I’m somewhere in the ballpark when it comes to my guesses.

  116. @ 40 deg South

    I think in terms of the helicopter, it’s a combination of the bad blood between the navy and the air corps over the Eithne, along with some rational issues. None of the airframes that the Air Corps has are maritime rated, with no plans for new ones any time soon (unless they crash them again) and plenty of demands for the ones that we have at the moment (Army duties, normal air corps operations, aid to civilian power jobs (fire fighting, medical flights etc)), the Navy also has an extremely poor view on the Mauritian variant with the helicopter deck, and the fact that the sea states are pretty awful in winter. The “EPV” that’s been on the long finger is meant to handle that for long range operations, but I’d bet now that nobody will hear anything about that until the White Paper is done.

    In terms of convincing people, the former Commodore has plenty of the credit, he tied the navy into the Maritime college as well to support that and commercial developments and R&D and has now been promoted onto the General Staff (first time an Navy officer has been on the staff), that tied with the fact they gave the Taoiseach a sail in one of the older ships a few years back must have underlined the difference between the ships. There’s also the fact that the contract suited us this time and the money was set aside. It makes sense though, 2 of the Aoife’s have suffered issues with hull fatigue already and that would only have got worse, it will eliminate the 40mm demand, and since the Peacocks aren’t really capable of West Coast patrols means that the navy still has enough ships for that.

    In terms of the name, there’s already moaning in the papers from some of our “artists” over the change so who knows how it will play out.

  117. Maybe the next OPV will get another artistic name like “PATRICK KAVANAGH” as a name..personally i think “BRAM STOKER’..would send a message to the spanish maurders…far more sensible i think 1916 patriot names will be next,!!

Comments are closed.