Whatever happened to – the UVX

Remember the UVX?



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51 Responses

  1. What goes around comes around – I have a book on Hybrid Warships (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Hybrid-Warship-Amalgamation-Aircraft/dp/1557503745) which is full of designs on this theme, published in 1991. The idea of proper fighty ships with their own flightdeck goes back almost to the Dreadnoughts though. The strange aberration was the last Invincible class – named ‘through-deck cruisers’ rather than aircraft carriers, but fitted with almost no weapons – no guns, no anti-ship capability, no ship-mounted ASW, just Sea Dart for self protection. Which bit was a cruiser then?

    The Hybrid Warship book is quite interesting though. Lots of explanation of engineering consequences of design choices. And lots of big grey ships with proper gun turrets containing multiple big guns, just like warships are supposed to have.

  2. Are their any images of the ship side on? As it looks like their is a Landing Craft of some sort, in the first bay under the angled deck?

    If it is and you were to remove the Angled Deck, we have a Global Cruiser or the Future T45 replacement.

  3. A very fancy concept, for the Future Surface Combatant if I remember right (the damned project’s name changed how many times?).

    I willing to bet that either or both the navy and MOD looked at it, thought it was clever, but if they even did have the money they most likely couldn’t figure out how to fit in something like that operationally/doctrinally.

    Would it sail as part of a QE class task group? Therefore why need the extra aircraft space if a carrier is nearby?
    Would it deploy on its own? It wouldn’t carry enough aircraft or munitions to deal a sustained punch. Maybe the odd surgical strike, but would it be worth it? It would also need a tanker with it, right? For replenishment, which some might argue is a waste of a good tanker probably not well defended that could be keeping a more useful force supplied.

  4. Does that book have the Missouri configured in the SVX way? Angled flight decks on both sides in the back, the front half unchanged.

    The furthest they went (I think) was to add a UAV launch facility for target acquisition (in NGS mode).

  5. ACC – yes it does – four different designs for the conversion. But there are loads more designs in the book – its quite a chunky book with a couple of hundred pages; no full-page full-colour artists impressions here; mostly the illustrations are line drawings to show general arrangements (as included in Simon’s linked page) allied to quite a lot of text.

  6. Simon 257, yes, that was what I meant (there is a photo of a scale model somewhere on the net). And I would take this trade, 1 for 1 against Zumwalts anytime:
    ” involved removing the rear 16-inch gun turret. In its place would be built an overhanging flight deck and two forward-facing ski jumps that would hurl Marine Corps Harrier jump jets into the air. The ship would carry up to 20 Harriers, as well as a hangar and an aircraft elevator.

    And that’s not all. Nestled between the two ski jumps would be a large field of missile silos, each holding Standard anti-aircraft or Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles.

    The firepower of the battleships—and their destructive range—would have increased substantially. Trading one turret for 20 Harrier jets was a pretty good deal. Add the Tomahawks and their ability to strike with precision at a thousand miles and the improvements looked even better. The resulting warship would have equaled the firepower of a Nimitz-class supercarrier.”

    The manning costs killed the scheme (and Zumwalts started to take their shape). The question is: What are the Navy Reserves for? You could rotate between the ships, and only have a skeleton crew to keep them in running condition in peace time. Men (and reserve sqdrns) you can mobilise, but ships take a long time to come out of the mothballs… as we know from the UK cruisers. The task force sailed and they were left behind, and were then soon scrapped. Command cruisers with four big helos in the back… again taken out of service because of WW2 type manning ratios required.

  7. To me, uneducated in the ways of things that float, it looks a 21st century HMS Fearless or Intrepid. Had they stuck a 4.5″ gun on the Fearless foredeck (something I thought about as a youth) it similarities would be even closer.

    However, I feel that comparing it to the Fearless class highlights some of its shortcomings, no permanent hangers for choppers, no proper runway for V/STOL aircraft to take off.

    Interesting concept, but only looks like half an Assault Ship – I’d prefer the real thing, and then stick a gun on it!

  8. What happened to it? The same thing that happens to all “puff-piece” marketing stuff. It was parked on a shelf.

    The concept in question had nothing to do with FSC and was in essence a BAES attempt to appear at the cutting edge by showcasing something “different”. You only have to look at it to realise it was a summer student placement design project – in other words, it wasn’t “real” chaps.

  9. @ ACC

    At the time of the FI Conflict, Tiger and Blake were both examined and found to be in good condition. So both were brought forward, and they were being readied for recomissioning. When it was realised that it would be over by the time they got there it was stopped. Where they would get the crews from is another question?

    It’s a pity that both ships weren’t fitted with a Sea Dart launcher in place of the 3 inch Gun Turret, when they were converted to Helicopter Carriers.

    Hypothetically, if funds were made available for another 4 large Warships for BMD. What would the RN go for, four more T45’s or something new altogether?

  10. I miss the year 2000 being the future. By now we should all be living on the Moon and driving(?) flying cars.

  11. Could these be more money from MoD on top of the £140M they’ve spent in T26 assessment phase?

    Or are they asking subbies to design and supply equipment for them.

    Oh the intrigue….

  12. @Simon257

    Tiger and Blake needed something like a crew of 850 each! This is in an 11,000 ton cruiser at a time when the brand new 20,000 ton Invincible’s only needed 650, so yeah i have no idea where they would have found that extra manpower from, especially when the shore establishments had already been hollowed out to get Intrepid to sea.

    I remember hearing they looked at Bulwark as well to see if she could be recommissioned in time but she was already too far gone to be of any use. Mind you a few Type 81 frigates were brought out of mothballs to cover some standing commitments for a couple of years despite being 30 years old and positively knackered!

    Tiger and Blake actually went from being good looking, rakish cruisers to bloody ugly ducklings after their helicopter conversion so no big loss!

  13. @Simon 257

    Not sure we would build the T45 design again – becuase of the powertrain issues if nothing else.

    In your scenario I would build somthing looking very like a T45 but with a single MT30 and a couple of big diesels in the back to be common with QEC and T26.

  14. Were designs like this and that trimaran honest attempts to try something different or a canny way of shepherding the MoD towards more conventional designs?

    How well stabilised would a ship that size be? I can imagine the UVX rolling too much to be of use to aircraft other than helicopters. If you abandoned any plans to launch aircraft the extra deck space could come in handy though?

    To be entirely silly the deck could extend further forward (like RV Triton but without the outriggers) and be something to hang a torpedo net off…

  15. I think these ships were a bit before their time,

    I’ve read alot of the for / against arguments for the usn super carriers, it seems to me when ucav systems are more tired and tested from super carriers, and the fords (at $14 bn each!) seem a bit too expensive, we’ll see a ratio of 2:1 for the usn (ucav carriers : fords), with the fords coming down to about 6 hulls.

    Don’t see them coming to the rn though, at least not until the qe’s have served their time :(


  16. @Simon 257 – Unless I could get an extra CVF (to ensure one available at all times) I’d be looking at getting a land attack capacity aboard the existing T45 and buying more SSN.

    And a goodly supply of TLAM… :-)


  17. @Roders, I agree with you (welcome, nice to have people to agree with!).

    “the fords (at $14 bn each!) seem a bit too expensive, we’ll see a ratio of 2:1 for the usn (ucav carriers : fords), with the fords coming down to about 6 hulls.”

    You can build this picture up (assuming the construction delay only relates to the first of the class) from the drum beat for the Fords, and the timing of the regional bomber. The bomber force (once the B1 goes… it has gone twice already, and is still there) will be so light on numbers that the regional bomber and its unmanned ‘mate’ will be crucial for the Pacific theatre (and where are all the carriers headed to? And where does this ferocity of the Presidential Office NOT TO cut carrier numbers now come from?). From the delay of that USAF asset. Why has the carrier-launched UCAV always been “painted as ” a sub-scale demonstrator only”? Because it is not to be a battle asset (weapons carrier) but that “mate” to the inter-continentally ranged Regional Bomber
    … what region is it that is defined by the space between continents (the Pacific Region?)

  18. @ GNB

    With you all the way with the 3rd CVF.

    I think that the concept is ok. Though it would be better if it lent towards a Rotary UAV.
    If you could carry say 12 Fire Scouts or something similar. Armed with APKWS
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Precision_Kill_Weapon_System or even better a Navalised Brimestone. A Fire Scout can carry 8 APKWS, 12 Fire Scouts can will give you 96 Missiles. You could easily defend yourself against a swarm attack. Even better you could do the same to the would be attacker! It’s just a thought!

  19. Looks like we have a list of really nice modular systems – a turreted big gun, uav launcher – pretty neat.
    But then the UVX puts an impossibly expensive hull around it and we can afford 0.02 of a hull.

    Why not think the opposite, have a modular hull (example below) and have loads of hulls – and mount some of these neat (but modular) systems on each and move as an “hunting pack” of 12 or more. With the right mix of systems and sensors, a very survivable naval battlegroup that can take on all comers.


  20. ST – using nothing more technical than aesthetics, I like the mini-Moskva (first of your 1960 never-builts) better than the UVX. The wildly wide flightdeck of UVX is just wrong. For example, how would you park UVX by the dockside? Once the flightdeck was alongside there would still be 40ft of sea between hull and dock – a very long very twangy very scary gangplank…

  21. @ Chris – agreed (although the second one is my favourite). Most designs/proposals I’ve seen for hybrid/aircapabale small ships have either the flight deck aft or a full “through” deck, with the hangar either “on deck” or beneath the flight deck.

  22. Could we see an enlarged version, say 20,000t to support amphibious operations in the littoral? A navalised predator / reaper would be able to provide real time ISTAR, (plus close air support) and it could be a lily pad for Merlin’s operating in a casevac role to refuel… Just an idea, I don’t know that much about these sort of things :)

    A few of these could remove the need for the extra cvf as discussed, leaving a lot of the shipyards open for other builds.


  23. “no anti-ship capability, no ship-mounted ASW, just Sea Dart for self protection”

    Sea Dart had substantial anti-ship capability. It was capable of turning a DDG into a wreck by knocking out its precious combat systems.

  24. Chris said “no anti-ship capability, no ship-mounted ASW, just Sea Dart for self protection”

    The Invicibles had T2016 sonar sets. Their main weapons were their aircraft. ASW Sea King to prosecute submarines. Sea Harrier back in the day had Sea Eagle too; a lot more flexibility than having AShM sitting in silos.

    They had rather a lot of capability for a cruiser. But as an aircraft carrier not so much when compared with the USN.

    Perhaps the 80’s RN surface ship capability looked a lob sided because T42 was anaemic? If T42 had been built to the one hoped for designs (BIII hull, SeaWolf, Exocet, etc.) or something the size of T82 had been built instead then the Invincibles wouldn’t have been so different. Of course the RN passing them off as aircraft carriers for PR didn’t do much to aid understanding their purpose. They are/were definitely more heavy cruisers than light carriers.

  25. Looking at that ship makes me recall a few comments by the Director of Naval Gunnery regarding the proposal to finish the Lion class Battleships in WW2 as hybrid Aircraft carriers with 2 16 inch turrets forward and a flight deck on back, and I think much the same comments apply now as then.

    “The functions and requirements of carriers and of surface gun platforms are entirely incompatible …the conceptions of these designs …is evidently the result of an unresolved contest between a conscious acceptance of aircraft and a subconscious desire for a 1914 Fleet …these abortions are the results of a psychological maladjustment. The necessary readjustments should result from a proper re-analysis of the whole question, what would be a balanced fleet in 1945, 1950 or 1955?”

    I think if you strike “1945, 1950 or 1955” and replace with “2025, 2030 or 2035” then it holds fairly well true.

  26. @TD – Just to be clear, is this officially the Fantasy Fleet thread? :D

    As X said, CVS was alot more capable than it looked, but imagine a modern equivalent with, say 24, strike length VLS in place of the Sea Dart launcher. Mix and match TLAM/Aster 30/LRASM/Quad-packed Sea Ceptor. With Sampson if we’re flush. Add a mix of Merlin ASW and Wildcat with the next gen Sea Skua replacements. A mini EMALS and wires for UAVs.

    I may have to lie down for a bit.

  27. x – I bow to your better knowledge. I thought all the sonar was on the whirlybirds. I was aware the ships were defined as primarily ASW assets (the S in CVSG standing for ‘anti-Submarine’ in a wonderfully dyslexic abbreviation I understand) for which the presence of Sea Harrier FRS seemed marginally random…

  28. CVS had the radars and missiles to conduct area air defence, not self protection. By virtue of the height of the 1022 and 996 antennae, they could see a lot further than the escorts. It’s also not the first time we have conceived of larger platforms defending smaller ones – the original concept for the Fort class was two Sea Wolf trackers and a 32 round silo to protect the Type 23! Have a look in aerial photos – the silo is in the RAS control island in the middle. Never fitted though.

  29. @ Chris

    With those great big propellers and fat hull pushing all that water I am not sure how much use T2016 (quite an advanced system for the time) was……


    but it demonstrates that with the design I would say they started off more in a cruiser mindset more than a carrier one. If you think of SHAR more as a missile carrier than an aeroplane as an out layer, then Sea Dart, etc you had a very capable system. Of course SHAR could do more, but it wasn’t an F14 with a bushel of Phoenix.

    Can’t remember if SeaWolf was supposed to be fitted at some stage.

    And even if SHAR hadn’t been procured then Sea King could have carried Exocet for surface work.

    The lack of AEW is even understandable given that their main job if the balloon had gone up was to screen USN CBG, they would have been on the edge of E2 range. Though I don’t suppose that would have been optimal against sea skimmers.

    All good fun.

  30. Now that is fascinating

    Did we ever consider putting SAMPSON on CVF, wonder what the angles and distances calculations look like from CVF compared to Type 45 :)

  31. And me without my copy of Nories Tables. Type 45 mast height 30m, CVF 47m. That’s going to make quite a difference.

  32. @ TAS Nories? You will be telling me you always worked out sunset manually next :)

    30M gives a radar horizon of about 14NM whilst 47M gives one of about 17.

  33. I recall seeing original pictures of the Invincible design in the 9170s with Exocet launchers up front next to the sea dart – was that the plan? If so in the original plan they would have been highly capable cruisers although in fairness they did adapt very well to being ‘make do carriers’ . The three of them were money very well spent I feel

  34. APATS,

    If you used NAVPAC you’re a cheating swine. I bet you thought a Battenburg was a cake too…

    Smiley face.

  35. @mickp

    I suspect like the Type 42’s the Invincible’s went through earlier designs that featured more cruiser like stuff such as Exocet before money got too tight (same thing happened with the idea of giving both classes Sea Wolf post Falklands until they realised how expensive it would be), the mid-late 70s sound like a particularly tough time for both British shipbuilding and the RN.

    Plus they clearly shifted from being ‘helicopter cruisers’ to small carriers on the quiet as the ship design matured and the Harrier started to show it’s potential. Nick Child’s book ‘The Age of Invincible’ is a good read on this subject.

  36. @mickp

    P.S One particularly amusing snippet i remember about the RN in the 1970s is that the service was asked to estimate how many Sea Dart capable vessels it would need to take on the Soviet forces in the North Atlantic as part of a full on ‘shooting war’ and they replied with something like 30!

  37. @Challenger, thanks – I’m sure I have an old artist impression of Invincible with Exocet somewhere. Will have a look

    Probably correct re Sea Dart capable ships in the 70s!

  38. Definitely a cool design, but I’m sure if we got this it would have been at the expense of QE.
    I’m not convinced about the maturity of UAS either – it would be a high risk move, as their utility in a high-intensity EW setting hasn’t really been demonstrated. Maybe in a few years.
    On another note I saw this interesting concept for an arsenal/AD ship based on the San Antonio class for the USN:

  39. “Ironically, one of the most maligned and dismissed components of the current Fleet already has the fundamental attributes needed to meet tomorrow’s challenges. Amphibious ships are the prototypes for future surface combatants. Their design essentials make them perfect carriers of unmanned systems. Amphibious ships by design provide strong interfaces to the air, surface, and subsurface domains.

    The new combatants would actually be “carriers,” but rather than carrying aircraft, they would carry an array of unmanned systems. A balanced Fleet would have a mix of small, medium, and large unmanned carrier combatants to cover the range of Fleet functions. One near-term option would be to truncate production of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and replace both the LCS and the Dock Landing Ship (LSD) with a common hull displacing around 10,000 tons.

    That small amphib would have a flight deck capable of handling all naval rotorcraft and a well-deck that could accommodate current ship-to-shore connectors, as well as future unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles. Building 60 of these combatants would provide significant strategic flexibility to the Fleet, allowing ships performing LCS missions to be easily sortied as amphibs in support of a large amphibious mission, should the need arise. Those ships would be the utility infielders of the Fleet, providing a tremendous platform for engagement missions and humanitarian-assistance/disaster-relief response at one end and amphibious operations and sea control at the other.

    This sort of mission flexibility should be considered a key design attribute for any future combatant. In addition, numbers count in two important ways. First, more ships allow the Fleet to operate forward in more places. Second, more numerous, smaller vessels provide a resilient and survivable high-low mix”.

  40. @ArmChairCivvy

    “The question is: What are the Navy Reserves for?”

    Good question, whenever a debate comes up about keeping a particular vessel in mothballs to be restored to service in an emergency using the reserves it sounds rather nice but falls foul of a few problems.

    In the end a modern warship is not like you grandfathers, they are highly complex systems of system that require specific training for each class. A warship built in the 1950’s was mechanically little different from one built in the 1930’s beyond a few detail areas. There was also little mechanical difference across fleet and moving sailors/reservists from one vessel to another was a practical idea.

    Each class built now is full of unique technologies and systems that vary from class to class requiring a unique training stream for each one and the associated systems. Keeping reservists trained on all types would be an almost overwhelming and highly costly exercise. Remember when we retired the Type-22 Batch 3, there were many calls to keep them in mothballs with the possibility of reactivation using reserves in an emergency. Problem was the unique training stream for that class of vessel had been stopped meaning a rapid skill fade of people able to support those vessels. The navy isn’t going to keep training people in a vessel it doesn’t use. Add to that the upkeep of the hulls and their specialised systems and it is an utter non-starter these days. As I said before fifty years ago vessels were simpler and far less unique making mothballing a reasonable idea.

    So back to “The question is: What are the Navy Reserves for?”, well specialised skills that the navy would like to keep hold of based upon the prior investment in the “Person”. If you have someone who has a career in the navy as an electronic warfare or acoustics specialist that is someone the Navy would be keen to keep on retainer through the reserves so as not to lose those skills. Much the same in the Army and RAF as well.

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