World Maritime News – VIDEO: Evolution of Offshore Patrol Vessels

The vessels will include a modified flight deck capable of operating the latest Merlin helicopters, larger stores and more accommodation for embarked troops. They will also be the first ships to be built with a BAE Systems designed, new operating system called Shared Infrastructure, which will be rolled out across the ’s surface fleet over the next ten years.

Shared Infrastructure uses virtual technologies to host and integrate the sensors, weapons and management systems that complex warships require. By replacing multiple large consoles dedicated to specific tasks with a single hardware solution, the amount of spares which are required to be carried onboard is reduced, significantly decreasing through-life costs.

The vessels will include a modified flight deck capable of operating the latest Merlin helicopters, larger stores and more accommodation for embarked troops.

River Class Batch 2
River Class Batch 2

 

Comment

There has been a great deal of speculation and comment about the new RN Offshore Patrol Vessels, most of them moaning about why they don’t have triple 16″ gun turrets and laser beams or why they cost more than similar vessels, similar vessels that did not have to comply with the latest Royal Navy stability, damage control, habitability and specification requirements for example.

The real question though, what colour will be the carpets be?

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Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 8:38 am

“The real question though, what colour will be the carpets be?”

Hmm.. difficult question that needs to be coordinated with the galley on the colour of their food.

BAE seems to be marketing pretty hard on “Shared Architecture” which is a hardly a unique concept. Don’t blame them though, they’re hardly the first company to inflate claims on something common in their products.

Mark
Mark
October 14, 2014 9:37 am

Here’s where it gets a bit hazy to me:

There are currently four RC vessels, and three more are being added – or are they, or does the RN only have a requirement for four vessels of this type, and the rest will be ingloriously sold?

Or is the final fleet going to be seven strong?

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 9:49 am

My money is on “sold”, there really isn’t much of a heavy need for OPVs. There is also a history of selling old ships before they become too much of a burden to maintain.

Though I think Canada is still sore over the Upholders. :)

ChrisM
ChrisM
October 14, 2014 10:20 am

That Merlin looks really big on that little flight deck! Could be some exciting landings if the sea gets a bit bumpy.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 14, 2014 10:32 am

Mark

Not hazy at all. MoD signed an agreement with BAES (the famous TOBA) to provide a guaranteed workload to allow BAES to maintain a core shipbuilding capability across design and build staff. Because the PoW steel work is largely complete, at this point the company needs steelwork to put through its facilities to keep sufficient lofting/drafting staff, shipwrights, platers and welders employed to maintain the overall capability.

The steelwork should have been Type 26. However, because MoD and BAES still have not managed to get a working design, they need something else. That something else cannot impose much design load (because the design teams are all sitting in Filton and Scotstoun trying to work out how to get the T26 right) which means that we have had to get something “off the (BAES) shelf”. Specifically, the last thing they built that was cheap – the Amazonas. Trouble is, that design was built originally to suit the Trinidad and Tobago coastguard and subsequently modified for the Brazilians. To meet RN standards, it’s had to be modified again, but the absolute minimum that they could get away with, to minimise impact on design staff and cost.

So – there is no “requirement” for the ships per se. If we are lucky, they will replace the Rivers which will then be flogged. If we are unlucky, they will replace an unspecified number of T26, particularly if various halfwits keep suggesting that they can be used “globally”, which they can’t – at least not with a helicopter, which makes them essentially useless for anyting other than fishery protection. Unless you are a Pongo and think chasing pirates is what Op Atalanta is all about, or that DIOPS/HADR can be delivered by a ships company of 50 or so.

Hope that clarifies things…..

Mark Mk2
Mark Mk2
October 14, 2014 10:32 am

@Observer,

But how can the older RC OPVs vessels be considered “old” by the time the new ones come online? They were are all only commissioned in the early 2000s. Is that “old”?

The first batch was commissioned between 2003-2007 and the new one will be between 2017-2018.

Mark Mk2
Mark Mk2
October 14, 2014 10:36 am

@Not a Boffin,

Thanks that was an excellent explanation. That makes things very clear.

El Sid
El Sid
October 14, 2014 10:38 am

@Mark
It gets decided in SDSR 2015. The RN will be hoping that the Batch 1 Rivers get sold; the only plausible scenario in which they end up with 7 Rivers is one in which Type 26 is being cut and Rivers are being forced to stand in for frigates.

On the flip side, if Type 26 is being cut then that might mean we’re keeping Trident.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 10:46 am

As I suggested on the ‘Gold Plated Navy’ stream before, why not shift 3x UK River B1 (i.e. excl Clyde) by selling them to MCA for resprayed UK EEZ work? RN gets out of that role. Cost to exercise option to purchase by MoD back in 2012 was £39m. Surely DfT could find c.£35m down the back of the sofa for capex and fund civilian crew operating costs? No loss of UK ‘capability’ in the EEZ function then.

RN River B1 manpower reallocated to new River B2 on overseas deployment – Caribbean, West Africa, Horn of Africa.

Just requires grown up delineation of EEZ role and a little negotiation on interdepartmental budgets. Simples!

Challenger
Challenger
October 14, 2014 11:01 am

Sounds like barring some significant increase in cash and manpower during the SDSR next year the batch 1 Rivers will get sold off or scrapped and these batch 2’s will replace them (if we can’t have anymore vessels we may as well take the opportunity to swap some oldish ones for newer ones).

Even if the resources were going spare it’s very clear these ships have been built purely to bridge the gap in shipbuilding whilst BAE faff around with the T26 design. If they were remotely intended for ‘global’ ops then they would have a hangar and something a bit more powerful than a single 30mm mount.

As others have said it’s hard to see a rationale for keeping them in addition to the older Rivers when they are being built to such a minimalist design, especially if their is a danger of it leading to a reduced T26 order because some ignorant minister thinks anything that floats will do the job!

If the T26 was ring-fenced, the extra money and manpower was available and they were up-to the job of replacing frigates/destroyers on low-end standing commitments then fine, great! Alas that’s clearly not the case.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 14, 2014 11:06 am

Pongo view right on cue…….

You may also be interested in these little fellas..

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/200683/Our_fleet_of_cutters.pdf

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 11:21 am

Mark, “old” in this case is really a matter of perspective. Look at how many people think they’re going to be sold. And if you’re just going to keep a token amount, it does make more sense to keep the newer ships.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 11:50 am

NaB

“……various halfwits keep suggesting that they can be used “globally”, which they can’t – at least not with a helicopter, which makes them essentially useless for anyting other than fishery protection.”

So for reference I quote my response to Repulse at 11.05 on 13/10 on the Gold Plated Navy thread….

“Like you say I think they’ll regret no hangar on River B2 as RHIB boarding party overwatch, fast roping, sharp shooter, OTH reconnaissance and interception of drug runners would all benefit, so not having organic helo seems to hamper a key role.”

So even this non-Pongo agrees that the lack of helicopter facilities on River B2 is a serious problem for ‘global’ roles.

Which means that either we should have commissioned BAES to build 2x stripped down Khareefs for the same money or spent a little more of BAES’s design team time to modify the “modular” Amazonas design to accommodate a small hanger for Wildcat.

Thanks for the condescending link to MCA cutter fleet. I knew that. I just think that MCA not RN should do the job i.e. fisheries currently performed by River B1, which means those assets and crewing should be in DfT’s budget.

mickp
mickp
October 14, 2014 11:55 am

@NAB – and the cutter fleet was updated recently with Protector so there are now five similar vessels all less than 15 years old

From the release:
“HMC Protector is 1 of 5 cutters operated by Border Force to protect UK waters and coastline. They operate 24 hours a day, all year round, responding to intelligence-led information or patrolling high-risk areas. Their primary function is to intercept drug shipments and other restricted or prohibited goods being trafficked by sea. ”

To me, the fisheries work seems closely related to the Border Force work and possibly the only way of keeping the Batch 1 Rivers is to merge fisheries role with Border force and let them take the 3 Rivers to give decent inshore and offshore patrol in times when Border patrol / customs type work is of increased importance. The B2 Rivers can then be retained for RN (very) low level taskings, overseas port calls, training and possibly for some test bed work for future concepts – MHPC / Black Swan perhaps.

Otherwise, B1 rivers are sold and B2 do fisheries, or all are kept and we lose 3-4 T26s, or worst case we lose B1 Rivers and 3-4 T26s.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 12:04 pm

Frazer, if NaB is right on the main reason for these ships is to keep design and steel cutting/welding skills alive, then building only 2 ships may not be sufficient to stretch the time needed before the frigates get off the drawing board. You’re looking at the requirements for these vessels, which is a logical and sensible thing to do, but if NaB is right, then logic and sensibility isn’t exactly the driving criteria for the new OPV, just make-work.

Wonder if it is too late to see if they can take up some sort of civilian work on the side. At least it is some protection against this sort of thing happening in the future.

mickp
mickp
October 14, 2014 12:06 pm

@Pte JF – agree that’s what we should have done as the best gap filler option. I think I have also mentioned the 2 stripped down Khareefs – what I mean is basically the ‘standard’ BAE 100m OPV (on which the Khareef is based) with hanger rather than the 90M Amazonas version (and not a true semi fighty Khareef corvette). However, we are where we are and I do agree with NAB that these current new OPVs are hardly globally deployable as the navy and others tried to sell them as.

Rocket Banana
October 14, 2014 12:17 pm

So what would this TOBA (£6900m) actually deliver over a 30-year period?

A dozen frigates and 3-4 tankers?

A drumbeat of one ship every two years?

The reason I ask/state is that surely this is proof enough that the core military shipbuilding industry should be wholey owned by the tax payer. The foundation for naval defence is delivered and guaranteed through this system rather than lining the pockets of BAES shareholders.

One yard (Portsmouth). One £500m (approx) ship every two years. Guaranteed.

Extra surface fleet building done through proper competition and pocket lining capitalism.

Not A Boffin
Not A Boffin
October 14, 2014 12:23 pm

Pte Frazer – you were not one of the halfwits I was referring to, unless you’ve been in the press suggesting that these ships are globally deployable. Whether you are Pongo or not, the suggeston that these new OPV do APT, Atalanta etc is exactly what a procession of senior pongoes have proposed – hence the comment on pongo view.

What no-one appears to have hauled aboard is that there is/was no requirement for these ships. This is entirely make-work under the TOBA with the objective of spending as little money as is humanly possible, which is why significant mods to Khareef or Amazonas were never an option.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 12:33 pm

NaB, hauled aboard, salted, stowed on ice.

And I did see that there really was no need for these ships, there is no outstanding requirement for an increase in OPVs.

TAS
TAS
October 14, 2014 1:01 pm

Biggest disappointment for the Batch 1 Rivers is the failure to chop them across to the MCM and survey squadrons as lead demonstrators for the MHPC concept. Offboard MCM gear, sidescan sonars, survey motor launch – there was a lot of promise there to enhance an already world leading capability.

Jonathan
Jonathan
October 14, 2014 1:01 pm

You would hope that we retain all of the Rivers for EEZ patrol work, especially in crown dependencies and overseas territory’s ( forward basing, like HMS Clyde ? ). It’s not like we have an over abundance of patrol assets.

I’m not sure it matters what colour you paint them or who mans them as long as we can keep the lot without the loss of high end capacity.

Carpets should be rental market brown, so they can have different tenants without changing the decor.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 1:20 pm

NaB

I apologise for being so sensitive. Completely understand that it’s make work under TOBA, which you’ve eloquently stated before. To paraphrase, either we piss the £350m away having the design teams / shipwrights etc…playing Solitaire or darts down the pub or buy something. But ffs buy something useful.

Unfortunately some ‘halfwits’ have now procured us 3x overspec’ed fisheries vessels (Terma Scanter etc…..) or 3x underspec’ed global ‘reassurance’ vessels for low grade standing tasks / diplomacy / Overseas Territory DfiD work.

TD’s been here before, but I wouldn’t have thought it would have taken BAES’s design team much computing time to integrate a telescopic hangar to make the global role a realistic proposition. Like one of these:

http://www.igus.co.uk/wpck/8408/app_vector12_Helicopterhangar

http://indaltech.cwfc.com/products/spokes/02_specializedstructures.htm

Hell, if we have to lose some flight deck space for a Wildcat capable telescopic hangar, rather than have a ‘Merlin capable’ flight deck, that would appear to me to be more useful in the real world and a sensible design compromise.

How often does the RN expect to be landing a Merlin on a River B2 anyway? Where and from where? Culdrose (no SAR role now), so why? The odd training deck landing? QE/T26?!! These aren’t Task Group vessels so that’s absurd.

Halfwits indeed.

monkey
monkey
October 14, 2014 1:42 pm

@Observer
“Shared Architecture”
That means they all share the same ‘head’ :-)

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 1:54 pm

TAS, strong! Get’s my vote over my own MCA transfer proposal.

monkey
monkey
October 14, 2014 1:59 pm

I was looking for a picture of a folding/telescoping hangar I once saw and came across this Chinese company and its products , they make 1:1 inflatable decoys of tanks , FJ , attack helicopters even scud missile launchers !
http://uniforce.en.alibaba.com/productgrouplist-215770399/Vehicle_missile_decoy.html
The Chinese aren’t rearming at all, what they are doing is buying is these so American spy satellites can photograph them so the US Military can point at their evidence and demand more money which the US Government raises by selling US Treasury bonds to the Chinese :-) Soon China will not have to invade the US as it will own it.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 2:08 pm

James, I actually ran this suggestion by NaB a while back and he pointed out that a lot of the market has niche roles which are sewn up tight and any attempt to break in now is going to be costly and painful (actually he probably meant “will not work”. :) ), but why not find some way to do some civilian shipbuilding on the side? This way, you tap into a demand that does not drop off once a certain government contract is finished, and avoid the make work scenario as you get them to do other things until you need them again, even if it is upgrading some 3rd world navy at cost?

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 2:45 pm

Monkey,

Unless the US ‘does an Argentina’. Then they might get some value out of that DoD expenditure! China’s got it’s own worries with its regional banks massively overexposed to a hyperinflated real estate sector.

Observer

Because with TOBA in place, BAES don’t have to look for that work, and they have no incentive to do so. Without TOBA in place BAES would have shut the yards. Think G. Brown 2009 + Clyde yards. Cynicism aside, HMG wanted to maintain naval shipbuilding skills as a strategic asset (rightly imo), so the only way to do this without paying for thin air is to maintain a procurement drumbeat. That requires commitment that politicians play fast and loose with due to budgetary pressures.

Another alternative might have been to build a Wave Batch 2, but with Tide class committed to in 2012 this would be redundant and expensive.

So in principle, given TOBA and clear lack of progress in T26 (ref NaB) then I think the 3 River B2 were the right way to go. Just wish somebody had defined the right role for them and then ensured the spec was fit for purpose,

TAS
TAS
October 14, 2014 3:16 pm

River II plus Merlin Mk 3/4 lilypad = SF counterterrorism takedown at range from UK shores. Of course I’m just waiting for someone to demand we add 2087 and claim it’s a fully functioning sub hunter…

Also, equip with this nice little developer (along with the rest of the fleet) and send the bill to the Home Office: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/darpa-advances-ship-based-male-uav-concept-404737/

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 3:48 pm

“Because with TOBA in place, BAES don’t have to look for that work, and they have no incentive to do so.”

Hence the design and construction of ships you don’t need. Extrapolate into the future post-T-26. What happens then? Will you end up in a continuing cycle of getting ships you don’t need and replacing ships that do not need replacing? How long can it last?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 14, 2014 4:09 pm

Don’t forget that the principal driver behind TOBA was in fact Lord Drayson – on the recommendation of Rand Europe. All recognised that QE was going to require more than the “sustainable” UK shipbuilding capacity for a (relatively) short period, which is why Drayson effectively told the ACA (and specifically BAES and VT) “no ShipCo, no QE contract”. Hence BVT in 2007/2008. VT had already seen the writing on the wall at this point (having been royally shafted on the T45 build), which is why they included a get-out clause, which they exercised as soon as possible.

The question is whether “sustainable” has been defined correctly. I personally think that trying to size your entire industry on an unreliable customer like MoD that will order on the absolute minimum it thinks it can get away with is a recipe for extinction. By the same token, adding the huge corporate mass of BAES does not an agile, low overhead business make. Nationalisation is an equally poor option – you get the inertia of the CS organisation and associated process thrown in – people will either be attracted elsewhere for the bunce (or worse) stay in post for life, which is great for experience, but not so good for succession planning and your overall age profile.

The TOBA was supposed to deliver something like 25 warships (T26 and MHPC) and potentially a handful of auxiliaries over the thirty year term. Whether it does will depend on whether BAES and MoD can get their act together. There was never a chance of Wave 2 because the first versions cost £160M each 15 years ago – you would not get much change out of £300M now Even if there had been steel capacity to build them in the UK, you’d be looking at costing much more than HMG was prepared to commit. The BMT/DSME option was the appropriate one in this case.

How do we fix the current state? There are quite a few people now with experience of building complex ships. We need to retain them and give the juniors below them some more experience. The bit that needs fixing now is the early stage design (one reason why T26 is in trouble – they got to a particular place and then don’t know how to get out of there). In future those lessons need to be rammed home through frequent design competitions with mixed industry/MoD teams, even if they don’t result in a build programme.

In the longer term, we need to lose the BAES overhead and we need to be able to access a market for bespoke ships (the new BAS boat is a classic example, but probably a bit too exotic – ice class). Ships are not built on a production line – “frigate factories” or not. You do get ecomonies of scale in build, but at the expense of your design and design engineering expertise.

However, that means a willingness for UK firms and HMG to be creative with the EU competition directive (as the FR, IT and NL undoubtedly are), or exempt ourselves from it altogether.

Not easy, but no other way forward that I can see that will work.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 4:11 pm

TAS

But in that scenario, the Merlin has to fly from somewhere to the River B2 in order to either load SF personnel embarked on River, or to refuel on River B2. Where’s the Merlin coming from – another asset – in which case probably could do without River B2? Only aids speed of insertion/extraction. OK so Merlin Mk2 could hot refuel and thereby extend ASW mission, but do you think the River will be lurking around enemy subs in a hot war? That would be a nice target for the boat.

I don’t believe there are many scenarios when a section strength (24 = capacity of Merlin Mk4) SF operation would be likely. In such a case I don’t think they’d use a River B2 to get in. Wildcat can carry 2 crew + 6 which I would think would adequately cover most SF scenarios and more importantly fast roping / boarding teams or provide 0.5″ gun overwatch in the real world.

Seems that’s the nice to have capability at the expense of the must have capability i.e. a hangar plus the capability to carry and service Wildcat.

Anyhow maybe the design gurus at BAES could fit a telescopic Wildcat hangar and still maintain a Merlin capable flight deck. Here’s wishing.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 14, 2014 4:26 pm

@PJF

The SF are big fans of the River Mk1 and I have done a few exercises with them. A flight deck merely makes it even better.
Look at a range of 400NM from Culdrose and then imagine a Mk2 River Class conducting Fish on the 200M contour in the SW approaches. The Merlin capable flight deck allows SF via Merlin to stage from that River and intercept a suspect terrorist or drug smuggler at far greater ranges than would be possible otherwise and without having to sail the FRE.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 4:46 pm

Observer

With a planned class of let’s say 12x T26 – if I get my way (!) the 3x River B2’s doing low grade standing task work might obviate the need for a 13th hull – one every 18 months, you’re looking at 18 years build programme i.e. mid-2030’s. The MHPC requirement needs fulfilling at some point probably with a class of 8-12 vessels so that takes you through to c. 2050. By then the T45’s will be shagged so + 10 years by which time F35 might have been sorted but you’ll need a new QE…….and that’s forgetting about slotting in LPHD builds somehow.

That’s what they committed to and that’s what the RN needs. They just need to think that far ahead and get the political commitment for that. OK there may be hiccup’s along the way (as now) due to technical issues, but it’s the political tinkering that’ll screw it up.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 4:56 pm

…12 T-26. You’re really optimistic ain’t you. :)

I bet you’ll get 6. 8 if you caught Parliament on a good day. Or with the maid and with photos to prove it. :P

Mark
Mark
October 14, 2014 5:03 pm

I have to say I do like these vessels and I think TAS suggestion about trailing the survey concepts ect sounds like what we should be doing. The U.S. military has also found a need to deploy its coastguard cutters to various place including the gulf so why we could do similar with these vessels would seem a question worth asking. Not only that but it appears a naval ships we can actually sell to other navy’s which is a rare thing these days.

Ps if we’re gonna have 2 marks commenting it’s gonna get really confusing so could perhaps TD make a indication if he’d prefer one of user to change user name I’m quite happy to of the other Mark want to continue using Mark.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 5:08 pm

…. I dub thee Mark 1 and Mark 2. :)

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 5:08 pm

NaB

I like the thrust of your thesis. Not sure why MoD doesn’t commission more design competitions for proof of concept stuff and use rapid prototyping – BAES use it in aerospace so why not shipbuilding? Just sell it, donate it, put it in a museum, scap it whatever after it’s time is done. Time’s the enemy of overhead control. Nearest we got was probably Triton.

You could add some ‘bespoke’ BAS vessel type workload to my previous list which would go some way to fulfilling Observer’s quest.

Observer
Observer
October 14, 2014 5:17 pm

I have a sister working as an architect. One of the big problems they have is that competitions cost money, both in man hours and design accreditation, so if you had too many competitions or competitors, you end up with the losers unable to recover their costs, after all, there can only be one winner. Unless you are the US with their LCS. This will kill your design industry very fast as they have to spend to have a chance to win, but only a few really do, so the other companies close down from being unable to compete.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 5:38 pm

APATS

As ToC’s link to a Sea King hover refuelling in FI from Clyde shows you wouldn’t actually need to land on the deck for a refuel just have to get to the River B2. With an organic Wildcat capability, as I said, I would think that would cover most likely SF ops whether in Western Approaches or Horn of Africa.

Observer

I’m sure they’ll wiggle out of a commitment to the full 12-13 T26 planned when placing first order……but that’s part of the problem and false economy because the economies of scale can’t be locked in. Without 12ish T26 eventually the RN will be seriously hollowed out service and ridiculously top heavy with QE/PoW.

Bear in mind that it’ll be a 18-20 year build programme, £6bn or so – yes I know that’s £500m a pop – spread over 4 parliamentary cycles and typically 3 economic cycles.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 14, 2014 5:49 pm

@PJF

HIFR is nowhere near as efficient as “land on rotors running refuel” :) Or shutting down and refuelling and re briefing. Sorting kit etc. The actual instances where you are going to need an organic helicopter given these ships tasking (and the availability of airframes) is minimal.
Another advantage that the B2 gives you with Merlin and an SF/CT capability is that once you get the team out there then it may well be the best to use the organic Rhib capability and support from the Ship to conduct the boarding, in which case a Merlin is going to have carried far more operators and kit out than a Wildcat.
As NAB pointed out there is far more to actually having an ability to host an organic rotary wing asset than a telescopic hangar, the addition of which without the Air Weapons Mag, Engineering Kit and manuals etc would be of minimal use and see very little usage.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 5:54 pm

Observer

Yes I’m quite familiar with the architectural world. Most of the time the competitors self-fund until either shortlisted or selected – so private risk which is why they choose their fights carefully – prestige aside.

Maybe NaB was suggesting creating, say, 2 mixed teams from MoD/BMT/BAES etc design resources that go ‘head-to-head’. Might generate some lateral thinking without a win-lose scenario. After winning design is picked the losers jump ‘ship’ (pardon pun) i.e. reintegrate to work on refinement of detailed design / design engineering or taking lessons learned forward into of first of class.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 6:18 pm

APATS

From earlier in the post my thesis is that River B2 should fulfil the low grade standing tasks / diplomacy / BOT / humanitarian relief roles in places like Caribbean, West Africa and Horn of Africa thus relieving the escorts of some pressure. And to complete the thesis, River B1 and UK fisheries taken on by MCA, thus relieving the RN of the political problem of having 3 too many hulls therefore no longer needing 3 T26.

In order to do this effectively, however, there’s a design flaw in River B2 – lack of the ability to carry and service a helicopter.

You don’t need Sea Skua, FASGW (L) or (H), Sting Ray for these roles – just the Wildcats’s Seaspray, EOD and a 0.5″ gun with the ability to drop some embarked RM’s down a rope. So no Air Weapons Mag required. Spares I grant you but put them in one of the vaunted ISO containers if no room can be found internally.

Just don’t see the need for large scale boarding ops in UK waters to be conducted from River B2. That’s a solution looking for a problem imo. If the threat exists or emerged a bigger asset would be found asap and used.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 14, 2014 7:00 pm

@PJF

Disagree on so many different levels. These vessels are not designed to deploy to West Africa or the Caribbean. For one thing, the minute you do that then scratch a T26, secondly they are not suitable and thirdly you get one task max or have to forward deploy and rotate crews.
You do realise you can have the flight deck or ISO containers not both? So spares becomes an issue as does engineering space as it is a telescopic hangar. Maintaining an organic Helicopter during a deployment is far more complex than using a telescopic hangar as a shelter for a couple of days.
I remember the issues Bulwark had in 2006 with the inflatable hangar and a huge flight deck that never got wet and more storage space than you could shake a shitty stick at.
I am not talking about large scale boarding Ops I am talking about SF using River B2 as a CT platform as they are in Uk waters already and they do and have worked extensively with B1. I have personally done final SAS BT work ups, Exercise Black Rain and a real time unannounced maritime CT exercise during my time on a River B1. They like the space, they bring their own comms, Close inshore they can embark their own Rhibs(which you cannot on a DD/FF). The boats and boat teams on board are generally better swept up than on a DD/FF. Being able to deploy by Merlin merely expands what is already a well rehearsed and very much approved solution.

Dewey
Dewey
October 14, 2014 8:10 pm

@PFJ & TAS

Re: “OK so Merlin Mk2 could hot refuel and thereby extend ASW mission, but do you think the River will be lurking around enemy subs in a hot war?”

As we don’t currently have any fixed wing ASW might River B2 be useful for peacetime ops to extend the range of Merlin pingers clearing the way for the bombers in/out of Faslane? Having flight-deck and refuelling equipped OPV’s available would release a frigate/destroyer for other tasking.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
October 14, 2014 8:14 pm

@ APATS

Surely these vessels are highly suitable for a Caribbean deployment(originally designed for Trinidad and Tobago), as long as there is an appropriate support setup, which I believe exists.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 14, 2014 8:20 pm

@ET

I could deploy a yacht to the Caribbean but it would not be any use at the tasking required once it arrived. The OPV would be fines as a T&T CG vessel but less suited to act as a host to a USCG LEDET team on anti drugs operations and carry out disaster relief. Simply not big enough to carry enough personnel to operate at the tempo required or conduct any Disaster relief Ops or carry disaster relief stores etc etc.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 8:42 pm

APATS

B2 for B1 on a like for like basis is an admittedly moderately improved capability but nevertheless a solution hoisted on non-problem by delays to T26 and TOBA.

Whereas imo Caribbean, West Africa, piracy surveillance & interdiction in Horn of Africa = problem requiring a cost effective solution. Rather than chucking overspec’ed high end assets at them under the cloak of training benefits, when role training for those assets is better done on Joint Warrior / Cougar / Gulf ops etc.. Transiting Suez and spending time away from primary op in Gulf is just that. Yes if need be less time at sea for those escorts, but this might ease the alleged manning and maintenance challenges for the escorts and could help retention by improving shore leave time.

As I’ve said, all I think it requires is redeploying River B2 on these tasks and making MCA responsible for fisheries EEZ in UK waters using B1 to supplement their cutters. That’s more or less operating cost and hull neutral for the RN to appease the Treasury mandarins. DfT might have to dig a little though and you’ll notice that the big assumption is that they recognise that the B1’s filled a gap they don’t provide.

If River B1 are so valuable to SF for training or the odd real world op then I can’t think why they couldn’t still have access to them. As you describe they seem pretty self reliant when aboard.

However, there is the matter of a hangar for the roles I suggest for River B2. I was getting a little facetious about the ISO container…please ref my earlier comment about the now passed over alternative of 2 stripped down Khareefs with a proper hangar. Maybe these 90m B2 could actually fit a permanent hangar (with non-Merlin capable flight deck). Don’t know. These 3 vessels – overspec’ed for the prime fisheries role and underspec’ed (no hangar + facilities) for much else are neither one nor the other.

The problem this country has got itself into, is a linear thinking establishment culture wanting to maintain the status quo at all costs in a quick sand political world and rapid defence industry inflation.

I’m accusing the guys involved in defining the same role for and procuring these B2 of that. Just because they were hamstrung by TOBA doesn’t mean that defining a value added role and specifying the required design elements in a fairly adaptable design should have been beyond the wit of someone.

The RN should be more confident that with QE/PoW and the current geopolitical situation they have a good case for 12x T26 (eventually, if not all ‘ordered’ on day 1), rather than seeing any alternative as a threat to T26. I don’ think that’s delusional unless SDSR15 decides we should retrench from a lot of our aspirations, treaties & commitments. In which case probably no need for QE/PoW.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 14, 2014 8:51 pm

@PJF

I have explained why these vessels are not suitable for the roles you describe. Can do little more than that. Slight difference in having an RN crew support an SF Op and having a civilian crew.
There is a lot more than a little matter of a hangar for the roles you suggest. Which would have required a more radical redesign and extra money.
I do not get where you decide that the addition of a hangar and extra 4kts of speed makes these vessels over specced for FP? It would probably have been more expensive to build the older non flight deck design and would certainly have been more expensive to build a design capable of properly hosting an organic rotary wing asset on a deployment and making the vessels themselves suitable for the role.

Anyway I give up being the realist in a fantasy costs and capabilities game.

monkey
monkey
October 14, 2014 8:54 pm

small ship @ 925 tons
Length: 62.5 m
Beam: 10.1 m
Draught: 3.51 m
Speed: 16 knots
Range: 3,500 nautical miles
Complement: 85 (more than double the original design complement)
Seem familiar ? The converted whaler design that became the famous Flower class was rushed into service as an emergency cheap to build escort. Being allocated to one was every enlisted mans nightmare due to their poor sea-handling characteristics and almost non existent accommodation as in there was none for anyone below officer rank.The Rivers come wartime will embark a much larger crew than the present minimum complement each with their own bunk and just a few sharing each cabin. Hot bunking crewmen working watch on watch to man the weapons systems that will be bolted down to every available square inch of deck will be the order of the day. The present accommodation standards and regulations which are aimed at peacetime retention and recruitment will go out the port hole once a shot is fired in anger. At least we are putting something in the water prior to hostilities to iron out the bugs but could we nowadays build almost 300 of them in just a few short years?

El Sid
El Sid
October 14, 2014 9:05 pm

Worth remembering that the tradeoff for ToBA is that HMG gets to offload onto BVT/BAE liabilities under the Yellow Book currently worth over £500m. The Yellow Book being the rules governing no-bid contracts dating back to the days of CVA-01/TSR-2 and which leave HMG on the hook for much of the redundancy costs on such contracts should the MoD decide to cancel things on a whim. Not that the MoD would ever do such a thing.

I think there’s scope for a halfway house on the whole nationalisation/privatisation thing, which allows a spirit of private enterprise whilst reducing the amount of cash “leaking” out of government. I’d like to have seen HMG scoop up all the yards, but then immediately sale-and-leaseback the property to the Crown Estates or (preferably) a consortium of “Civil Service” pension funds (who can get a mortgage for the deal from the BoE at giltish rates). The long-term aim for the asset-light operating company would be an employee buyout leading to a LLP or similar. You’d get there by selling a majority 51% stake to the staff in a similar fashion to housing associations – net of the long-term pension liabilities the net cost wouldn’t be huge, in fact you might just give it to them for free or fund a purchase with a loan, which would be backed by a ToBA-style guarantee of work.

Mark
Mark
October 14, 2014 9:31 pm

“for one thing, the minute you do that then scratch a T26, ”

The above is the reason the RN will not accept these vessels as acceptable for any tasking outside UK waters. There’s a power play going on at the top of the UK military we have seen it in several lectures, the first sea Lord has made his case on what he thinks of vessels of a lesser capability the former chief of defence staff has made his pitch for opvs, But what ever they decide the man from the treasury with present a fate accompli come sdsr 15 and it won’t be pretty.

lala
lala
October 14, 2014 9:59 pm

Pte. James Frazer
October 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm

As I’ve said, all I think it requires is redeploying River B2 on these tasks and making MCA responsible for fisheries EEZ in UK waters using B1 to supplement their cutters.

Eh, what Mca cutters?
The MCA don’t have the staff to run there existing boats!

The Other Chris
October 15, 2014 5:42 am

What’s the minutiae of the deal with L’Adroit (Gowind) and is that an attainable/desirable approach?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 15, 2014 9:31 am

TOC, perhaps you mean the “export promotion” world tour deal?

The builder continues to own (carry the debt for) the vessel, the navy mans it (good training, too) and sails it around the world to show off the features/ operability to potetial customer navies.
Win-win?

I think the original duration was quite short (1 or 2 years) but it may have been extended – someone else might know?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 15, 2014 10:07 am

“for one thing, the minute you do that then scratch a T26”

You’ll probably loose at least one anyway because we have had to buy these three vessels due to the T26 design not being ready. Probably best to try and make the most of them.

@PJF

You could operate a Schiebel Camcopter S-100 from them and I think you can arm them with if you really wanted.

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 15, 2014 11:26 am

Mark

Yes….this procurement has all the hallmarks of a stitch up between RN (whose conops won’t countenance any general tasking, however limited in scope, being done by anything other than a high end escort, because they’re desperate to get the 13x T26) and BAES (who are desperate to build 13 x T26). As I’ve tried to argue I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive – maybe 12 rather than 13 T26. So looks like the procurement guys got bounced into this deal under TOBA without considering from first principles (i) reasonable alternative conops; (ii) requirement to fulfil the 80% normal role scenario rather than every contingency role scenario; and (iii) specs of vessels required for ‘normal’ role scenario

APATS

And yes my thesis is fantasy because the specs are defined and the deal’s done, so unless a permanent hangar / stores space can be engineered at this stage or later in an expensive conversion (or a telescopic hangar is adequate), and the RN want that (which plainly you don’t) the ship, as they say, has sailed. But it could have been a better reality, that’s the missed opportunity imo. BAES has enough modular / customisable design concepts available, which have been recently delivered elsewhere, that could have been tailored to be more deployable than the design shown. I refer to points made above to Mark.

I know you’re towing the party line (btw, ‘I have no dog in this fight’) but, as your response to ET shows, there’s simply no institutional open mindedness or consideration of the 80% rule. How big’s a USCG LEDET team? 11? The information released on River B2 states accommodation for 60 with crew of 34 i.e. 26 excess. So a Wildcat flight (in my fantasy) + 12 RM; or Wildcat flight + USCG LEDET team? The Amazonas has accommodation for 80, so I guess RN habitation standards came in. Or maybe another reason, eh, like being unable to sustain the tempo in a 20% scenario?

In a disaster relief scenario, a River B2 (with my fantasy helo) could be on the scene providing assessment and control, just like a T23. Clearly with a max complement of 60 rather than 180-200 matelots there’s less grunt power, but hopefully reasonable water making capacity. Anyhow, a T23/T26 is not the answer to disaster relief, a C17 / A400M / Bay Class is.

Lala

Selective quote as shortly after, I say “DfT might have to dig a little though….”. The proposal to transfer to MCA was only a sop to all those concerned that low mileage B1 are toast because Treasury won’t agree to increased RN hull count (I think we can all agree that we don’t need 6x River in UK waters), and RN don’t want to risk T26 numbers so will sacrifice B1. Just thought rather than selling them for peanuts to someone e.g. Baltics, we might be a little more creative and take a longer view. If all of those assumptions are wrong and RN can keep them, great I’ll be one of those cheering!

TAS
TAS
October 15, 2014 11:44 am

“Whereas imo Caribbean, West Africa, piracy surveillance & interdiction in Horn of Africa = problem requiring a cost effective solution”

Yup. Completely agree. Cost effective solution to be provided by the countries responsible for those parts of the world and the commercial sector. This is NOT a military task.

Deploying a fish boat to the Caribbean is a poor excuse to waste resources we can scarcely afford. As I find myself having to repeat frequently, the RN does counter-piracy and counter-narcotics as additional tasks, not principal tasks. The assets used for these tasks are pre-positioned for contingency, not to do the job of local coastguards.

monkey
monkey
October 15, 2014 11:50 am

@Pvte Frasier
We are more likely to give them to friends in Adriatic than the Baltic as I don’t think the River class is ice strengthened. I am with you on your 80% scenario and support for 60 whilst only need a crew of 34,probably much less in reality. Come push to shove more capable vessels will have their hands full and the Rivers will step up and fulfill the roles you mentioned ,although not easily. I believe the B2 are specd the way they are deliberately to maximise the chances of getting as many T26 in the water as possible , the RN and BAES are very much in this together to their mutual advantage.

Observer
Observer
October 15, 2014 12:11 pm

James, my bets are still on you getting only 6-8. :)

Look at the T-45, how many were planned? How many did you finally end up with? Besides, I suspect that these will be deployed in tandem with a T-45 to cover their respective roles so it would make sense that the numbers would be about equal.

Be honest, when was the last time your military got the full planned amount of anything long term?

RobMD
RobMD
October 15, 2014 12:25 pm

@ Pvte Frazer

Your thoughts are virtually the same as mine. The proposed ships are completely pointless. Whilst understanding the need to build something for contractual & job creation/retention reasons, the RN is desperately short of hulls so why not build something useful to potter around the Caribbean or off the cost of Somalia freeing up 23’s & 45’s which are patently unsuited to the task. I know the navy is scared to have anything too capable at this stage in case it impacts on the Type 26’s but common-sense must prevail. No-one in their right mind can claim that an OPV or 3 can replace a frigate for serious escort/war duties & 18 major vessels (6 + 12 probably) must be the minimum required. The US navy is shrinking rapidly & I won’t want to rely on France or Germany for help. I would have like to have seen a small number of Kockums FLEX patrol vessels built. Initially armed with just a 57mm gum & a couple of miniguns (so as not to confuse the MOD into thinking it’s a proper ship) but with a helicopter hangar & lots of space for containers, ribs & special forces. Torpedo tubes & containerised AA missiles could be easily fitted later if required. Pretty good endurance, low manning requirements & stealthy. I’m sure we could have got at least 4 for £300million. Additional vessels could subsequently replace MCV’s & survey ships with a genuinely useful multi-role platform.

If as it appears we are stuck with the batch 2 Rivers then I agree that they need to be made useful. A 57mm gun on the front & a telescopic hangar for a Wildcat, or ideally a small cheaper alternative like the AW109 (which can also be used for carrier-based SAR & training), would be sensible. A 30/35mm popgun is pointless for anything other than very lightly armed pirates & a landing pad for a Merlin – why? We don’t have many & these are going to be used on the carriers/RFA’s/Type 23’s. There’s probably not even enough to put on the 45’s. We are unlikely to use the Rivers in an AS role even if a real fighting war broke out.

The Other Chris
October 15, 2014 12:32 pm

Does CVF count?

Observer
Observer
October 15, 2014 12:35 pm

Got me there Chris. :)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 15, 2014 1:59 pm

TAS put it best here :

“As I find myself having to repeat frequently, the RN does counter-piracy and counter-narcotics as additional tasks, not principal tasks. The assets used for these tasks are pre-positioned for contingency, not to do the job of local coastguards.”

I had another go on the “Gold Plated Navy” thread –

“This just proves why Perce’s idea of forward presence is a disaster waiting to happen. The killer with these things is that if they’re on Atalanta or APT and something kicks off they’re actually a liability. Too small to contribute to anyone’s task group and bring no capability anyway. Unable to defend themselves against any sort of threat.

Worst case is you get HMS Cornwall all over again, but this time it’s not the RIB it’s the whole ship”

There is clearly a part of the idea of “contingency” that many don’t understand. Perhaps RobMD could explain why T23 and/or T45 are patently unsuited to Op Atalanta or APT?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 2:11 pm

@ NAB/TAS

You guys need to remember that actual knowledge of tasking priorities, manpower requirements to sustain operational tempo garnered by having deployed on the tasking mentioned or indeed the physical requirements for something like the support of an organic rotary wing asset are not important. They are actually an illustration that there is “there’s simply no institutional open mindedness or consideration of the 80% rule”. :)

I am going to stop trying to contribute a dose of reality based on experience and just let them get on with it I think.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 15, 2014 3:13 pm

So are we to understand that the main gripe appears to be either that the PR output does not reflect the whole truth, or that the APT ship gets a trip to the nice Caribbean, in between the delights of Southlant, the hurricane season and the odd run ashore in Mayport or similar?

In which case surely the Reds camps in Akrotiri, APC in Deci and regular exercises in Kenya must be flagrant excesses that could be better done in Lossie, Lossie and (now) Leuchars surely? (I’m being facetious here).

“Of course, we might also ask a few questions on that position, a contingency against what/who/where, and what impact the presence of said FF/DD on the the source of problem would have”. Not on this type of website you won’t. However, have a little think (for example) what might happen if this or something similar

https://strausscenter.org/hormuz/tanker-war.html

happened again? Would you want a unit worked up in theatre with a wealth of local information and operating guidance generated over (literally) decades, able to join a coalition quickly? Or would you want to see what happened to commodity rates while the world waited for “someone” to generate a force and deploy it several thousand miles?

Which unit do you think might be closest to Southlant if an overt presence was required? Or a threat to W African offshore platforms? Or the nice people in Venezuela deciding to go random? It is not necessarily the RN on its own that is going to respond to the problem, but you either bring a useful capability, or stand outside until someone asks you if you’re there to pick up the dirty plates. Useful capability tends to mean maintaining an institutional knowledge of things like RF atmospherics, sonar performance, traffic patterns in theatre – it isn’t just hardware. Which incidentally is why people don’t tend to whinge about Deci APC, RedFlag, Fincastle (when we still entered overtly) , Brunei, Kenya, BATUS, Belize (if we still have the school there).

It is only the willfully ignorant with eyes on a budget slice that keep parrotting the “pirate-chasing/smuggler shooting” with £1Bn destroyer lines, once that has been explained and hauled aboard.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 15, 2014 4:36 pm

So it IS all about PR and the Caribbean then……;)

The Other Chris
October 15, 2014 4:45 pm

Careful, I almost sprayed my tea out of my nose!

Mark
Mark
October 15, 2014 4:48 pm

In the future, the Chief of the Naval Staff and I have a vision for a Navy which procures ships differently allowing us to have more, not fewer platforms.

We must resist the pressure that has shrunk the number of platforms. Clearly that will mean rethinking the Navy, including examining the case for ships that may have a limited role in general war. But this is not new ¬¬¬- remember the corvette over the ages – and is similar to the utility of light and heavy land forces, tailored to task. And in so doing we will ensure seamanship skills and leadership qualities, so much in demand by our friends and allies, flourish into the long term.

https://www.rusi.org/events/past/ref:E5097A2CAA2229/

The speech by CDS a little less than 2 years ago, are we suggesting the senior heads of the armed forces are not aware of why have ships,deployed around the world?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 5:44 pm

@TD

What you seem totally unable to grasp is that tasking are decided by HMG not the RN. So make all the snide little comments you want about “wanting 8 and getting 4 and adjusting taskings” but we either have enough assets to conduct the tasks required or we do not.
Previous reviews have see cuts that have been able to be absorbed by cutting our contributions to NATO SNMG taskings. Go below 19 and it will be interesting to see what would have to go because it would be far more visible.

Whilst the Army and RAF will struggle to meet contingency or war tasking, any further RN cuts would actually see us unable to conduct HMG mandated peace time tasks.

The Other Chris
October 15, 2014 6:27 pm

Why’s eight popped up in recent “sources reveal” stories lately? It’s clearly the number of towed arrays being switched from T23, for the benefit of those reading who may not already know, but where’s the source of this latest T26 numbers drop noise?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 15, 2014 6:55 pm

MoD has been an early adopter of crowd sourcing – even though one would not expect it as an approach for strategic communications, to spread the rationale for various expensive things (capabilities and capacities).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 15, 2014 7:09 pm

‘that tasking are decided by HMG not the RN’

Surely they don’t dictate what vessel to use? as long as it fulfills certain taskings do they care?

‘RFA Wave Knight assists in another multi-million pound drug bust in Caribbean’
http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2014/february/24/140224-wave-knight-drugs-bust

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 7:13 pm

@TD

What I am trying (unsuccessfully) to point out to you is that we are at a stage where for the first time we would be unable to conduct current peace time tasking in an era where it has been expanding. In 1998 we had 35 FF/DDs and pretty much very few extra tasks. We contributed to STANFORLANT and STANFORMED but we had enough escorts for tasks.
Contributions to NATO tasks dropped off as hull numbers did but the core contributions in the N Atlantic/Caribbean, S Atlantic/FI and The Gulf/E of Suez all of which are UK tasking maintained and indeed the Gulf tasking expanded to the point where we have 2 or 3 RFAs 2 FF/DDs 4 MCMVs and a Battle Staff out there pretty much 365/24/7.
Further cuts would for the first time ever see the RN unable to meet UK core peace time commitments in an era where they are expanding not contracting.

So your assumption of “mandated peace time tasks will be adjusted and the world will keep on turning” is certainly not based on any form of precedent. We have never ever been in a situation where we have had to say, sorry but if you do that we cannot conduct UK core peacetime tasks, Now HMG might decide to cut those tasks but you are guessing and if they do then that is their prerogative because it would be a FP based decision and the armed forces are apolitical and an instrument of foreign policy. (of course we all know that bloody Politicians are only interested in their Bank Accounts and re-election :( )

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 7:25 pm

@DN

“Surely they don’t dictate what vessel to use? as long as it fulfills certain taskings do they care?”

As long as it fulfills certain capabilities and a wave Class tanker can host a USCG LEDET team and their MH60 or an RN Merlin, as well as an RN team to man the defensive armament. It can also carry a serious amount of disaster relief equipment. It should be telling that we can more easily offer up a modern double hulled tanker than an FF/DD though.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 15, 2014 7:39 pm

‘It should be telling that we can more easily offer up a modern double hulled tanker than an FF/DD though’

Probably, but to be honest I think with these new OPV’s you’ve lost at least one of your T26. Especially after all the party conferences where every party pledged support for the NHS with either a small amount of extra money and ring fencing, although we still need to find cuts to reduce the defecit. I think the Navy are going to lose some escorts (ie t26) considering how new the OPV’s will be and the publicity about them being able to deploy overseas, no politician is going to want to be seen pissing £350m away. I think the Army will lose more manpower IMHO.

Getting F35 and crowsnest for the carriers will be seen as more important after the money spent on them plus the RAF will probably be able to justify either keeping the Tonka’s longer or accelerating Typhoon integration and improvements with all the IS stuff that will still be going on. Amongst of other spending needs.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 15, 2014 7:42 pm

Let’s try some zero-based budgeting: what would happen if we did not provide the Caribean patrol?

That number is the value of it (taking the presumably negative sign in front of the number away). Now we have a budget what not to exceed, but somehow we should also weight the benefits as some of them are externalities from the point of view of UK tax payers (or subjects,more broadly).

How about gifting two of the Rivers, one to T&T, and maybe Jamaica could rise to the task of manning the other one. Done and dusted, and much cheaper. Maybe second some staff, for coaching more than training. At least for a couple of years to begin with.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 7:47 pm

@DN

” no politician is going to want to be seen pissing £350m away. I think the Army will lose more manpower IMHO”

The secret is to demonstrate that they have not pissed away £350M. They would have had to pay X hundred million anyway but have spent Y, so you replace the B1 Rivers with the B2 Rivers and sell the B1 Rivers for Z. All of a sudden you have 3 brand new improved River Class OPVs and you have only spent Y minus X and Z to do so :) Bargain.

@ ACC

There are 5 BOTS in the region, some of them are quite significant, should we entrust them to T&T and Jamaica?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 15, 2014 7:57 pm

@APATS

‘sell the B1 Rivers for Z’

Maybe, if you can get some buyers. I think this SDR is going to be another hard slog of negotiating to be honest, if we keep what we’ve got and planned I’d be happily surprised, except army Wildcat, that can go :-)

Rocket Banana
October 15, 2014 8:01 pm

I still think the original plan was better than this silly 13 x T26.

10 C1, 8 C2 and a score or so of C3.

Looks like the Rivers have picked up some of the C3 roles… Hopefully the rivers do not set the precedent for the Black Swan type of MPHC tasking that the C3s were supposed to do. I’d much prefer the Black Swan sloop.

So, if I could choose sensibly I think the following would be acceptable…

6 x T45 (as is)
8 x T26-ASW
2 x T26-AAW (because we really should have got 8 x T45 as an absolute minimum)
7 x River (it seems we have to have these anyway)
17 x Black Swan MPHC

Also seems more sensible given the current ASW “destroyers” we seem to be building. Let’s just bite the bullet and order 8 of the biggies, correct a mis-procurement of too few T45 by supplementing the T45s with two extra AAW optimised (Artisan + 16 x Aster30 as a bit of a world showcase), and get the numbers in the 3000t MPHC sloop.

El Sid
El Sid
October 15, 2014 8:01 pm

There’s been some duplication over on the “Gold-Plated Navy” thread – I guess it makes sense to centralise here, some of the following was written before I’d seen this thread and then had to pause, so apologies for any repetition. It was original when I wrote it! :-)

We mentioned the Wildcat hangar over there. I wasn’t thinking of a full-fat Wildcat with full set of weapons, ideally just guns firing the same ammo as the OPV (30mm or 7.62mm), but I suppose one might stretch to .50 cal. The idea would be more full-fat OPV rather than light frigate – accept a reduced range of say 4000nm in return for some AVCAT, lose some hotel accommodation for stores, that kind of thing. And one could explore what a Camcopter or similar could bring to the OPV role – obviously it’s less capable than a Wildcat full of green death, but it would not be unuseful and a combined Camcopter/RIB kennel would perhaps be more of an appropriate size than a Wildcat telescopic hangar. Here’s an example of an MQ-8B being used to quietly gather evidence of a drugs rendezvous before a LEDET moved in (by boat presumably if the Perry had two MQ-8B on board) http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=52461

Obviously, we’re stuck with the vanilla “fisheries” Batch 2 for now. But according to the polls we are 7 months away from Prime Minister Miliband leading a minority Labour government that needs to bribe UKIP, SNP and the LibDems with bread and circuses to keep them in power, against a background of an intransigent deficit and North Sea taxes down from £10.872bn in 2011/12 to a likely ~£3bn/year. Think about it.

So when the SDSR comes out in just over a year’s time, Forth will be 13 months into a 28-month build schedule (so hull complete but not fitted out?), Medway will be 7 months in (hull half complete?) and Trent not yet started. Now there’s no particular reason to believe the “£350m” cost of the T26 and obviously cancelling hulls will not affect R&D costs, but lets say £500m gets saved by cancelling two T26 in the SDSR (as well as releasing manpower to bulk up Ocean‘s crew to fill PoW and man River B2). Ed Balls says “Here’s £75m (or whatever) to bodge something more fighty onto the three new Rivers, we’ll take the £425m thank you very much – and look everybody, we’ve increased the strength of the RN by one ship!”.

So what would you do? The first thing to say is that we’re only talking about three ships (and potentially replacing two frigates). Assuming a traditional (and mythical) 18-month cycle of 6 months refit/workup/deployment that translates to 1 enduring overseas deployment and 1 ship’s worth of continuous training in home waters(-ish). So the whole “Rivers can’t go to Somalia” thing is a straw man, we’re looking at 1 ship’s worth of deployment (or replacing 0.67 ship’s-worth) which doesn’t have to be something as demanding as hanging out off Yemen.

Obviously you’d only operate a River under friendly air cover, you’re not going to be sending it off into the wide blue yonder for independent ops – and the difficulties of sustaining an onboard helicopter means you’d probably be near a land base with helicopters. The Caribbean is one such place – even if it’s the USAF that provides air cover. Obviously the summer jaunt needs a “big ship” for HA/DR during the hurricane season – but would a River be sufficient in the winter/spring? If so that’s half your 1 ship’s worth of deployment taken care of. I seem to remember that Largs Bay got sent from the UK when the Haiti earthquake happened in February 2010.

TAPS is perhaps another task where a modified River could help out, I’m thinking of a sonar tug like the original plan for the T23 or Leander TA, with helicopters/MPAs coming from land should they encounter anything. Obviously it would need some of that post-SDSR “£75m” spending on fitting CAPTAS 2 or Nano – maybe not as good as full 2087, maybe not enough for tricky waters like Oman – but good enough for sanitising the route out from Faslane? So that begs a question – would CAPTAS 2 fit? Or even a full 2087 set? (a dedicated Faslane vessel could sacrifice a lot of fuel/stores for useful stuff, in the manner of a true “corvette”) Salmond could perhaps be placated if it was renamed the Scottish Guard Ship? (heck, it might be good PR to rename TAPS that anyway) Mind you, I’m still not convinced we’ll need to sanitise the Clyde after the V boats retire….

The Aussies are going to use a 90m ship for aviation training – again that’s something where an unmodified Batch 2 (Forth?) would be equivalent, and free up more expensive ships for other tasks.

I’m not saying any of this is desirable, and I know some of these tasks present valuable training opportunities. I’m just trying to scope out the trade space when Ed Balls comes knocking and says he wants £425m from the surface fleet in a year’s time.

Mark
Mark
October 15, 2014 8:03 pm

If one wanted to be harsh you could say that the navy are being a bit rich complaining about escort numbers now. I mean they knew what the standing peace time tasks were yet we have had several past first sea lords saying how they sacrificed escort numbers to pay for aircraft carriers and the current one is almost boasting about telling the pm to buy more escorts to maximise an investment in carriers due to the foresight of previous officers in post in ordering carriers ahead of escorts. Those same politicians may just turn round and say you can have your frigates as the peacetime tasks stay but the Turkish tugs will be at Roysth as soon as the ink is dry.

El Sid
El Sid
October 15, 2014 8:10 pm

@APATS
We have never ever been in a situation where we have had to say, sorry but if you do that we cannot conduct UK core peacetime tasks,

Didn’t FRE get gapped in the aftermath of Ellamy?

Now HMG might decide to cut those tasks but you are guessing and if they do then that is their prerogative because it would be a FP based decision and the armed forces are apolitical and an instrument of foreign policy.

If only the bit of HMG ministering to defence had some mechanism in the near future to review its strategy for defence and security…

Rocket Banana
October 15, 2014 8:21 pm

El Sid,

Rivers as UK waters TAS tugs sounds like a good idea. Especially if you include APATS’s copter lillypadding to get extra reach.

I’m just not sure if it will work in all weathers and sea states.

The thing to remember is that 4 ships maintains one on task and one in home waters. 16 big escorts therefore gives us the ability to sail the RFTG with 2 x AAW and 2 x ASW escorts… supplemented when time allows.

Four long-range tasks could be APT(S), APT(N), and two EoS. All of these go through a lot of other interesting places.

Another 16 MPHC would allow a similar number to be deployed with the task force and on standing tasks that do not require serious force or numbers (e.g. recce/intel). If these always travel in pairs then maybe the Rivers can make up 6-7 of their numbers. Without an embarked copter however, they’re a bit useless for anything other than home waters policing.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 15, 2014 8:26 pm

@ El sid

“But according to the polls we are 7 months away from Prime Minister Miliband leading a minority Labour government that needs to bribe UKIP, SNP and the LibDems with bread and circuses to keep them in power,”

UK polling report relentlessly forecasts an actual labour majority as does political betting.com

“So what would you do? The first thing to say is that we’re only talking about three ships (and potentially replacing two frigates). Assuming a traditional (and mythical) 18-month cycle of 6 months refit/workup/deployment that translates to 1 enduring overseas deployment and 1 ship’s worth of continuous training in home waters(-ish). So the whole “Rivers can’t go to Somalia” thing is a straw man, we’re looking at 1 ship’s worth of deployment (or replacing 0.67 ship’s-worth) which doesn’t have to be something as demanding as hanging out off Yemen.”

Would you like to post what you think the availability cycle is please? Fascinated to see.

“Obviously the summer jaunt needs a “big ship” for HA/DR during the hurricane season – but would a River be sufficient in the winter/spring? If so that’s half your 1 ship’s worth of deployment taken care of. I seem to remember that Largs Bay got sent from the UK when the Haiti earthquake happened in February 2010.”

Imagine sending an LSD with a dock and huge storage space to help in disaster relief. Can you make a River do proper drug interdiction?

“TAPS is perhaps another task where a modified River could help out, I’m thinking of a sonar tug like the original plan for the T23 or Leander TA, with helicopters/MPAs coming from land should they encounter anything. Obviously it would need some of that post-SDSR “£75m” spending on fitting CAPTAS 2 or Nano – maybe not as good as full 2087, maybe not enough for tricky waters like Oman – but good enough for sanitising the route out from Faslane”

They used to hae a song about TAPS it went like this “rolling rolling rolling rolling towed array patrolling fuck those fucking Russian cunts” yet you seem to think an OPV could just land a helo onboard somewhere in the North Atlantic.

The route from Faslane is handled by MCMVs and the sea bed is pretty well known.

The Ozzie buy is subtlyu different in shape and purpose to our new 90m OPVs and id still deeply unpopular with their aircrew.

TAS
TAS
October 15, 2014 8:32 pm

TD, dear chap, I respect your views tremendously and will keep a watching brief on this site for a while to come, notwithstanding the utterly barking and pointless fantasy waffle that goes on on occasion.

However, to suggest the RN has a STRATCOM failing because we do not inform the wider public of our motivations and intent is a little disingenuous. Frankly, and with the greatest of respect, the musings of the interested few online mean the square root of naff all to anyone in the military or government. The information might not be TS or even Official, but that doesn’t mean we should divert time and effort broadcasting it to the masses.

We do lots of stuff for very good reason. Some of us do our best to educate and inform here, but we take it as close to the line as we dare and stop. The future of defence strategy, including SDSR2015, will remain a government issue and not one for wider public debate – but where I and others can add value rest assured we will.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
October 15, 2014 9:52 pm

@ admin – “However, the Middle East will be of declining importance for the UK in terms of energy in the next couple of decades as US/Canadian LNG starts getting exported in quantity and we only get about 4% of our crude from Saudi Arabia.”

There is more too it than just oil:

https://www.academia.edu/3789868/European_British_and_French_geostrategy_in_the_Indo-Pacific

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
October 15, 2014 11:50 pm

Just a thought, but in circumstances where the political class claim that their first responsibility when in office is the Defence of the Realm…but then cheerfully “take peace dividends” – “gap capabilities” – and so on ad infinitum…with the cheerful acquiescence of the taxpayer…but to the apparently genuine concern of the better informed (or recently retired)…it may just be that the Defence Establishment are not fighting their corner for adequate resources as effectively as they might.

After all, the NHS seem to lever the “Nurses are Angels” trope into something akin to a religious faith with an ever rising budget, in the face of pretty clear evidence that it can be a callous bureaucratic monstrosity…surely something a bit better can be achieved with “all Service Personnel are Heroes”, given halfway decent communications people?

It might even be possible to start by making sure that the genuinely interested and concerned…perhaps to be found in places like thoughtful Defence orientated Blogs…are well informed and “on message” when in conversation with those less interested, and reserve their wilder flights of fancy for the back bar down the Think Defence Tavern. As the SNP just demonstrated, that kind of approach can be very effective…more so if the case people make here and there in daily life is soundly based…

Just a thought, as I say. :-)

GNB

Chuck Hill
October 15, 2014 11:52 pm

It can’t be said that these ships cannot deploy globally when even smaller US Coast Guard ships do it. So do the Spanish with the only slightly larger BAM as do the French with the smaller L’Adroit. And of course the less capable HMS Clyde spends most of its time in the South Atlantic.

On the other hand, there is good reason to be specific about what they can do when they get there.

The UK has a huge EEZ and it appears, much of it seldom sees a patrol vessel.

As to whether the River B2 could be used for drug enforcement in the Caribbean, I don’t think there is any doubt. They could embark a Coast Guard LEDET. They could cooperate with Coast Guard land based MPA. It would not be much of a stretch for them to deploy with Scan Eagle.

Vessels like this do have wartime roles, just as Coast Guard Cutters do: http://chuckhillscgblog.net/2012/02/10/what-might-coast-guard-cutters-do-in-wartime-part-2-coast-guard-roles/

El Sid
El Sid
October 16, 2014 1:38 am

@APatS
UK polling report relentlessly forecasts an actual labour majority as does political betting.com

The traditional models are not coping very well with the collapse of the 2-party system. UKPR are currently forecasting a 12-seat Labour majority on the basis of [SNP+UKIP+Greens+Plaid] getting just 10 seats, the same as they got in 2010 which is just bonkers. Just take the SNP – they took 6 seats last time with 20% of the vote in Scotland, Labour had 41 seats with 42%. Since then the Nats thrashed Labour at Holyrood 2011 and outpolled them in this year’s Euro elections, then of course had the great surge of support during the indyref, particularly in Labour strongholds like Glasgow. Given that the SNP now has more members than the LibDems, I think it’s inevitable that they will do very well next May as they’re just at the tipping point under FPTP where a few more votes give a lot more seats, they could easily take another 20 seats or more, mostly off Labour. Then of course there’s the UKIP factor – it’s not clear how well they will sustain their current surge (18% in the latest YouGov compared to a pretty steady 12% earlier in the year), it probably won’t bring them too many seats but it will still be more than in 2010. The LibDem experience means that most minor parties will probably steer clear of a formal coalition, a minority government is more likely in my view.

PoliticalBetting doesn’t have a corporate view as such, but they take great heed of what the bookies say. Current Betfair odds imply 50%/27%/22% chance of no/Labour/Tory majority, and 55%/45% Labour/Tory most seats. Ladbrokes imply a 73% chance that Ed Balls will be the next Chancellor – obviously that includes a chance of Tory win that leaves Osborne in charge until the subsequent election, although the whisper seems to be that he fancies the Foreign Office which will be where the action is with EU negotiations.

Hence why I say the most likely outcome at the moment looks like a minority Labour government.

I’m just trying to kick around some ideas on how to plan for Ed Balls wanting a pound of flesh. Just sticking your head in the sand and pretending it won’t happen is no kind of plan. There’s some in the RN who think that the 5 GP frigates could be replaced by OPVs – perhaps you could talk to the guy who wrote this, he must have had some idea how it could be made to work?
19 hulls is not difficult to justify. far more difficult to justify any cuts. Though possibly easier to look at 8 ASW 26 and 6 T45 supported by 10 OPVs bought for the same money as 5 GP 26.

I’m well aware that the Rivers manage outstanding availability in the fisheries role, I was assuming Batch 2 manage less when on tours away from home and was thinking more of the complex vessels they were replacing. Assuming 6/6/6 was just for ease of argument with three ships, I know the reality is bumping up ever closer to an average of 220 away days/year….

Imagine sending an LSD with a dock and huge storage space to help in disaster relief.

My point was – since it was winter we didn’t have a “HADR” ship on station. Which supports the idea that we could get away with something less HADR-y for the winter tour.

Look at a range of 400NM from Culdrose and then imagine a Mk2 River Class conducting Fish on the 200M contour in the SW approaches. The Merlin capable flight deck allows SF via Merlin to stage from that River and intercept a suspect terrorist or drug smuggler at far greater ranges than would be possible otherwise and without having to sail the FRE….

you seem to think an OPV could just land a helo onboard somewhere in the North Atlantic.

I can’t think where I got the idea that you could land a helo on a Batch 2 River in the North Atlantic from… :-)

You really don’t help yourself when you go from one extreme to the other like that, when the reality is a shade of grey in between. Yes I know it’s bouncier up north (although Clyde sees worse down south) – but even a T23 can’t operate helicopters in all conditions up there. So it’s about accepting a percentage of the capability and deciding whether it’s worth the tradeoff. It’s the kind of trade you have to make when your procurement budget for all surface ships is less than two frigates-worth per year. Either you persuade that nice Mr Osborne/Balls to give you more money, make your “frigates” cheaper, or do less.

I’d agree with @TD that the MoD’s STRATCOM ain’t great when it comes to justifying why Osborne/Balls should give them more money – which means they’re stuck with options 2 & 3. I know it’s much easier in the US, where defense (sic) has the kind of holy status that we reserve for the NHS but they do seem to do a much better job of justifying their existence. If the MoD can’t explain themselves to the taxpayers, then why should the poor sods hand over £1250/year/household? It’s not about the detail so much as the big picture stuff, basic accountability and an understanding that money doesn’t just come from the magic money tree (QE aside…).

I think there’s a particular problem with the way that so much of the MoD – particularly their upper echelons have become concentrated in a fairly small corner of southern England and they just aren’t very good at communicating with people north of the M4. (yes I know there are military pockets elsewhere, but conversely there’s huge swathes with relatively little “big ticket” MoD activity, the TA doesn’t count) It’s like an extreme version of the way the Tories have lost much of their base in the provinces, it’s difficult for them to talk to people outside their clique.

El Sid
El Sid
October 16, 2014 1:40 am

@TD
However, the Middle East will be of declining importance for the UK in terms of energy in the next couple of decades as US/Canadian LNG starts getting exported in quantity and we only get about 4% of our crude from Saudi Arabia.

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but you shouldn’t get _too_ excited about North American LNG exports. There was a huge amount of hype about it about 18 months ago when US had a warm winter, we had a cold winter, and Japan closed down all its nukes after Fukushima and was sucking up all the LNG on the world market. Since it costs about $5-6 to make LNG and transport it, people got excited about US gas at $2.50 and UK gas at $10. Now that US gas is $4 and UK gas is $7 suddenly there’s a lot less interest. Once you start importing a little LNG from the US that gap will close up further and make new LNG plants uneconomic. So the best guess is that only about 25% of the LNG plants applied for will actually get built.

And the Middle East will still matter. It’s not about the oil we physically get from there, the fungibility of oil means that the price we pay for all our oil is affected by what happens in the Gulf. Same with the US – even at the height of shale production in a few years time, current forecasts suggest they will still be importing a net 4-5 million barrels per day (mostly from Mexico and Canada). If something happens in the Gulf and oil goes to $200, do you think the Mexicans and Canadians will be happy to sell to the US at $80? No, they will sell to the world market at $200, and if the US wants the oil, that’s the price they will have to pay. Likewise US producers will want to sell at $200 on the world market rather than $80 domestically. So the US price will tend towards the $200 caused by disruption at Hormuz. (I’m simplifying horribly here, but you get the gist).

we import about 40% of our crude oil from Africa (mostly Nigeria and Algeria)

Be careful of reading straight from the EIA – that’s 41% of imports of crude – but we could get by without any of that 41%, we import 1 million barrels/day of crude but export about 600kbpd, and that’s before you get onto refined products.

Observer
Observer
October 16, 2014 5:54 am

On a similar note to the original topic of the thread, which I think we passed a few pages back… :)

http://www.janes.com/article/44437/rno-names-first-al-ofouq-patrol-vessel
http://www.janes.com/article/43338/st-marine-launches-third-omani-patrol-vessel

From the statistics, it’s very close to the new Rivers, so you can say that it isn’t that the new Rivers are under-equipped, but that OPVs for patrol functions and not for war are more or less generally equipped that way.

It could be (and most probably is) that both the ships differ internally drastically, but in a (very) rough comparison, the Al’ofuq is about 900 tons lighter (or that they are using unladen weight vs loaded) but in return has only 15 days of endurance vs the 30+ of the Rivers. Rough guessimate (and I know NaB and APATs, it is very, very rough), can we say that one day of endurance needs about 60 tons of support? Or about one ton per person per day?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 16, 2014 6:02 am

Yes, we should RE “There are 5 BOTS in the region, some of them are quite significant, should we entrust them to T&T and Jamaica?”

Any trouble beyond hurricanes and volcano eruptions, we can do another “Anguilla” which is purely a variable cost, ince in 50 years – or more seldom.

@TAS, there have been many comments on the StratCom already, so in a nut shell, the link between a voting democracy and defence policy/ the means for it is the size and the composition of the whole budget. The previous Sdsr was partly behind closed doors for the real decisions (artificial haste, to justify doing it in that way?), and I sure hope something has been learned and the process will be run better this time. If the rationale for a certain type of policy is not elaborated and then communicated, then the means made available will suffer accordingly… I am tempted to add: justifiably.

Repulse
October 16, 2014 6:05 am

@Chuck: “Vessels like this do have wartime roles” – absolutely correct! Even providing cover for a single convoy would stretch the RN today. If the flag went up, I think we would all be surprised how pimped even our current OPVs would be. The RN’s strength should be in depth – meaning a mixed fleet.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
October 16, 2014 7:07 am

“Jedi, good link and an interesting document but I could not find one reference to Shale”

Hi Admin, I really wasn’t referring to oil or shale at all in the context of the UK’s energy dependence, more the wider importance of the med-gulf-indianocean corridor to all parties, and how important it is for the global stability we have such a vested interest in.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 16, 2014 9:01 am

@ El Sid

You sound like the Yes voters who said exactly the same thing and then the Polls were correct. They will evolve but they really have thought of this stuff.

“My point was – since it was winter we didn’t have a “HADR” ship on station. Which supports the idea that we could get away with something less HADR-y for the winter tour.

Look at a range of 400NM from Culdrose and then imagine a Mk2 River Class conducting Fish on the 200M contour in the SW approaches. The Merlin capable flight deck allows SF via Merlin to stage from that River and intercept a suspect terrorist or drug smuggler at far greater ranges than would be possible otherwise and without having to sail the FRE….

you seem to think an OPV could just land a helo onboard somewhere in the North Atlantic.

I can’t think where I got the idea that you could land a helo on a Batch 2 River in the North Atlantic from… :-)

You really don’t help yourself when you go from one extreme to the other like that, when the reality is a shade of grey in between. Yes I know it’s bouncier up north (although Clyde sees worse down south) – but even a T23 can’t operate helicopters in all conditions up there. So it’s about accepting a percentage of the capability and deciding whether it’s worth the tradeoff. It’s the kind of trade you have to make when your procurement budget for all surface ships is less than two frigates-worth per year. Either you persuade that nice Mr Osborne/Balls to give you more money, make your “frigates” cheaper, or do less.”

I really do not help myself when I presume a level of knowledge and experience about the differences between a one off launch and recover which is the primary mission vs operating a cab in a TAS role. Obviously I presumed and you do not have.

Jonathan
Jonathan
October 16, 2014 9:41 am

The debate on what a navy is “for” and the balance of high end war fighting capacity vs peace time roles is not new. The OPV vs Frigate question and the role of the navy in activity other that fighting wars such as chasing drug dealers is just the latest iteration of a very long argument.

Some of the greatest impact has come from the “peace time” RN and ships with no particular war fighting ability. Things that come to mind include the preventative squadron and it’s 70 year campaign to destroy the west African slave trade,(using mainly small ships),the age of exploration ( Endeavour and it’s crew helped sculpt history) and 19th century gun boat diplomacy which protected and developed free trade.

All of these peace time ” victories” happened under the umbrella of a powerful high end fleet.
Which to my mind shows a successful navy ( and the 19th C RN was a most successful navy) needs to be open about all the jobs it does ( even if you don’t like doing them and they are not your “proper” role) and then get funding for the right tools for each job. Being incongruent about your roles to protect one facet of your capacity above another leads to trouble in the end.

Another thing the 19th century (early to mid) navy was good at doing was selling itself to the “masses”‘, in an age ( arguably totalitarian) where the average member of the British public had no real power, little education or access to media the RN still understood its great asses was the support of a “Navy mad” population. Pandering to and developing this as an asset to be used.

It would seem strange that,in a nation with an accountable government, universal suffrage, universal education ( well in principle) and a generally politically savy population with access to 21c total media coverage. We have an RN establishment that does not seem to think taking time to fully inform the public of its vision, strategy, mission, roles and capacity is something it needs to or should do.

As for public involvement in the SDSR, maybe the MOD and services should be asking the public to think about and develop the debate on what ‘ the masses”consider to be the key requirements for the defence our nation. We may then have a voting population that understands defence and may be a bit more willing to vote for politicians that support a cogent defence policy that does not involve constant cuts.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
October 16, 2014 9:44 am

We seem to be moving slightly off track here. However, to summarise :

Some believe that more OPV-like vessels would increase hull numbers for the RN, allowing “more appropriate” ships for things like APT, but not really able to define why using DD/FF is inappropriate.

Others suspect that the likely outcome of such an approach would be the same number of hulls but with lesser overall capability, quite simply because the pollies will not discrimiate in capability and more importantly because we we can’t man more hulls without a budget uplift There is a shortage of engineers in the mob at the minute (and the RAF for that matter, don’t know about RE/REME), which means that you’d be unable to fill the seagoing billets for more hulls – there would be a bigger overall requirement because the departments don’t scale linearly. That is the principal reason behind the change to 9 months deployments to APT and Atalanta, which is the only way Fleet can meet the core peacetime tasking that APATS referred to earlier. Whether the enhanced leave packages and guaranteed intervalk between deployments that are promised are credible with jack will be seen in due course.

We have been down the lower capability / higher numbers route before with T41, T61, T14 (and to a degree T81). They didn’t last then and a modern equivalent wouldn’t last now for exactly the same reason.

Peter Elliott
October 16, 2014 10:06 am

Very pertinant point about the resource constraint:

There is actually no shortage of capital for ship building. Within the overall constraint of one BAE operated yard we could have as few big and complex or as many small and simple ships built as we like.

The constraint is trained manpower, both in terms of budget and in term of recruitment and retention. It is the operating budget that is actually the key constraint on the RN becuase it introduces recurring, open ended pensionable costs which is what really scares the Treasury witless.

As such for me the fewer, larger more capable ships will win the business case every time because of their inherently better overhead efficiency really does allow you to do more with less across the full spectrum of threat scenarios.

Observer
Observer
October 16, 2014 11:17 am

Maybe we are all working at this the wrong way round, we’re looking at the equipment, then looking for things that it can do, which while the modus operandi for peacetime deployment of high end warships, isn’t actually good for estimating numbers/type needed.

Might we get a rough list of what tasks are the RN asked to do frequently/plan for and their location? It’s easy to say “protect the BOT” but the situation is seriously different for the Falklands vs Trinidad vs Gibraltar, so an exact location might be good.

mickp
mickp
October 16, 2014 12:10 pm

As an aside on my favourite topic, I note the video CGIs of the batch 2 rivers do have 3 30mm cannons, but two get ditched for the final spec and photo. At least there is upgrade potential

Its hard to see a right answer to all this, lots of differing views all with pros and cons.

I feel certain the initial type 26 buy will be capped at no more than 10 and most likely 8 vessels. Whether that will mean an immediate retirement of older T23s when the new OPVs come on line I don’t know. So say 14 high end vessels and a variety of RFA / OPV / MCM vessels. If we accept our sole wartime deployment is a decently escorted CVF battle group with attendant RFAs, and the ability to surge another group or at least rotate for an enduring conflict then 14 DD/FF will be enough. If its a sole UK tasking (e.g. FI or some sort of UK citizen evacuation) then there are unlikely to need a fleet of convoy escort ships. If its a joint tasking or a major conflict then there are many other FFs in Nato that could be tasked to convoy work. If we need to be even more brutal on the RN budget, I think the Albions would be early retired (or one and the other kept in ER). I would replace the Albions with something no bigger than a T26 derived Absolon type vessel or at most a smaller ‘self defending’ dock ship of the type delivered to the Algerian Navy. Leave the Bays as heavy lift in the RFA. I would also push Successor back even if it means a short term drop to 3 V boats. As a counter, gap fill at Barrow with 2 extra improved Astutes, help fund MPA, manning, helo gaps, and both CVFs active. We work out what we need for likely conflicts and then do what we can with that in terms of standing tasks in peacetime. The OPVS (or a B3 thereof), are decent vessels and would give some depth to the fleet. Its easy to say they can’t be used for X, Y, Z but I think we need to be more innovative about what a 90m platform can be adapted to do (dare I say in a Black Swan sort of way but not quite as radical). My only fantasy addition would be 3 SSKs for the reasons I have set out before. Times are tough, defence needs are possibly closer to home at the moment. They key in my view is the need to keep hot lines open – major FF, OPV type vessel and SSNs and go for evolutionary development rather than result in class obsolescence or the future need to gap fill. It would take time but at least there is contingency also to ramp up output if more threats emerge.

monkey
monkey
October 16, 2014 12:29 pm

@El Sid
On Gas lets not forget our friends in the other East , Russia who cut off a lot of gas in the winters of 2006 and 2009. At present Europe overall relies on Russia for 30% of its Natural gas but that’s an average much of the old Warsaw pact countries have a much higher dependence, 100% in some cases. This potential strangle hold on Europe by Russia needs to be offset some how as well as dependence on ME gas and oil supplies. I think the US gov will heavily encourage those LNG terminals to be built to assist Europe and its allies on a strategic level so that when the US goes to the bargaining table with Russia over what to do about China it has the deck stacked in its favour. The US is also going to allow the export of raw crude oil ,something it banned in the early 70’s , as well which will also strengthen its position and weakening Russia’s who relies on Gas, Oil and Coal exports for 60% of the total state income.
I MAY of mentioned this before but we need to get fracking !

monkey
monkey
October 16, 2014 12:45 pm

@TD
On the BOT’s Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Cayman, Anguilla and Monserrat they will all ways have a special place in all our politicians hearts as that is where they stash their ill gotten filthy lucre :-) Everyone was ‘shocked’ when it turned out Cyprus had 10x its GDP on deposit with its banks but that ratio is well above 10000x for these BOT’s.

Observer
Observer
October 16, 2014 1:05 pm

monkey, statistics are funny things, they can say whatever you want them to say. :)

For example, if someone’s GDP is low, it’s easy to get huge multiples of figures. 10,000 x of $1 = 10,000, but while 10,000x gives the impression that it is more than 10x, 10x $10,000 = 100,000. Which one is higher? The 10x one or the 10,000x one?

El Sid
El Sid
October 16, 2014 1:22 pm

@monkey
Trouble is that an LNG export plant is a multi-$bn investment, you don’t build one just on the off-chance that things might kick off in Russia no matter how much “encouragement” the US government gives. An import plant is much more affordable, and the likes of Lithuania are building them to buy from the spot market. However there’s a finite window between Russia being so unhappy that she will stop gas exports, and Russia being so unhappy that she’s firing missiles at LNG tankers or attacking the pipelines between LNG terminal and consumers, so it’s not a panacea.

For the Eastern European countries you’ve got a choice –
pay $7.50-10 to Russia and try not to piss off Russia
pay $7.50-10 to Russia, build an LNG import terminal and take your chances on the spot market (currently $14, but would be much more in a crisis, went over $20 after Fukushima)
sign an LNG contract for spot US price + $6 for 20 years. You can see why people got excited when US prices spiked below $2.50, currently they’re about $4 but would likely go to $5-6 once LNG exports start

So you can see it’s not a completely ridiculous idea, but it’s better to just not piss off Russia.

The US is also going to allow the export of raw crude oil ,something it banned in the early 70’s , as well which will also strengthen its position and weakening Russia’s

Not really. There’s been a lot of nonsense talked about US exports by learned commentators in the media. All the forecasts see the US remaining a net importer for the foreseeable future, so exporting 1 million barrels from Texas just means they have to import 1 million barrels into New York. It makes sense to do that because the US refineries have spent a fortune upgrading to cope with “difficult”, sludgy crudes like the ones from tarsands. Which are much cheaper, so the advanced refineries make more money by buying the cheap crudes and leaving the “easy” crudes to trade for high prices on the world market.

we need to get fracking !

Just so long as you are doing it for energy security reasons rather than to make UK gas cheaper, because it’s unlikely to do the latter. And as long as you accept it’s not going to happen in the Weald.

monkey
monkey
October 16, 2014 3:12 pm

@El Sid
“as long as you accept it’s not going to happen in the Weald”
Far to pretty an area indeed for that to happen especially if you live there :-)
My reason for the drive on fracking would be purely strategic ,as you say the LNG infrastructure is very easy to damage, you just have to ask when will somebody target something like the Qatari facilities as a demonstration of the worlds vulnerability to the present system. They export over 4 trillion cubic feet per year from a port area the size of Guildford.
In terms of the US gov pushing exports to destabilize Russia’s income stream ,as I say it is an implied threat to use at the negotiating table when discussing China. Russia is vulnerable to direct attack from China with a lot a stake i.e. all that is Siberia where Russia’s income comes from is just to the north of the huge Chinese Russian border , whilst America has the Pacific Ocean in the way and with the worlds largest navy . For the US to get Russia to play ball it will need everything it can use if it wants Russian help to contain China.
15 applications have been submitted to build LNG plants in the US so far which all built would provide the capacity of over 8 trillion cubic feet per year (obviously the majority will not be built) . As you say funding them will be difficult and needs to be offset by confirmed long term export contracts to provide the repayments , operating costs and of course profit. Quite a lot of contracts have been signed though which is providing some impetus but we still need, that is Europe, to complete the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment

Pte. James Frazer
Pte. James Frazer
October 16, 2014 5:04 pm

To all the RN / MoD / BAES spin doctors,

To pursue TD’s points about message here are the quotes:

MoD:

“The vessels, which will be used by the Royal Navy to undertake various tasks in support of UK interests both at home and abroad.”

BAES:

“The OPVs will be globally deployable and capable of ocean patrol with a range of 5,000 nautical miles and a maximum speed of 24 knots.”

But had the honest message been that the RN has absolutely no intention of deploying these assets abroad because that would call into question the need for high end escorts to perform prosaic standing tasks, and instead been a sanitised version of:

“River Class is indispensable for bobbing around the UK training (i) UK SF’s in boarding ops and (ii) high flying junior command officers, plus the occasional media knockout drug running yacht interdiction in the Western Approaches and unreported (un-newsworthy) measurement of Spanish trawler fishing nets, goodwill visits to Liverpool and ensuring the Russians haven’t misappropriated Forties or Rockall”…….the unbelievers might have understood the mission. But not the benefit of a marginally improved like for like replacement.

The mis-spin has opened up the can of worms regarding sending high end escorts to practise boarding ops, build hospitals and the like when that diverts time from primary missions of honing ASW, AsuW, AAW, convoy / task group protection skills. No? Can’t see other than navigation, interoperability training (which seems well practised elsewhere) and ship handling how the skills are transferable, but I’m sure someone will correct me.

The more I think about this the more I think that, nobbled by TOBA, 2x 100m stripped down Khareefs (including Wildcat hangar + servicing, spec’ed for enough sprint speed if that’s fundamental, and surveillance kit rather than fightiness) for West Africa, Caribbean, Atalanta (not Kipion – that still done by DD/FF) would have been a better and more honest way to go….save for paranoia over T26 numbers perhaps. I’ve said elsewhere I think there’s a good case for 12 eventually. That case should be made.

WWIII is not going to kick off in any of those regions and disaster relief surge in support would be done by whichever other high end assets are closest (ref Philippines) with RAF getting the medical kit / food in pdq with Bay / Argus chugging along behind.

The politicians can still ‘sell’ defence to the taxpayer as being a ‘force for good’ and value for money etc..without shagging out the high end escorts and their crews. For clarity, I’m not suggesting that a FF/DD will never go on a world cruise again, if that is to be an argument used for using those on mundane standing tasks, for recruitment and retention.

Observer
Observer
October 16, 2014 5:47 pm

James, welcome to life. It sucks and stupid things happen. You’ll get used to it soon. :)

Personally, I think naval “low end” ships are a bit of a neither here nor there solution. They are too weak to be used as warships, yet are too expensive for basic piracy/interdiction duties. A single converted police cabin cruiser or speedboat costs less than USD$300,000 and if you recruit locally as “police” you leave the larger Naval manning pool untouched. I’m a big supporter of letting local forces take care of local problems, saves you the trouble of having to haul a ship across “5,000 nautical miles” unless it is for training or a surge in capability is needed for some reason or another.

BTW James, you might want to consider the fact that the 3 OPVs or your 2 corvettes take up the manning of a single Type-26 frigate, so the more small craft you have, the more stretched your manning pool gets.

Edit: Correction, a single Khareef at 100 crew already takes up the crew of a single Type-26 frigate (~120)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 16, 2014 5:53 pm

@ Observer

They not only take up the same manpower but they require more of the expensive manpower. So more charge qualified Engineers, more Navigators and if you up arm more PWO s and weapons specialists and technicians. More Commanding Officers etc, add a helo and it gets even worse.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
October 16, 2014 6:05 pm

The choice of design between Amazonas and Khareef may have more to do with what state the two export projects were in when the idea was first floated, and also the cost of the two projects.

Observer
Observer
October 16, 2014 6:11 pm

APATS that’s true.

James, to put it in even more simpler terms, as an example, how many Captains do you need for a Type-45/26 etc? One? And if you got 3 OPVs, how many Captains do you need? 3? Then your cheaper OPVs are cranking up your manpower costs because you need more staff with the higher qualifications. You’ll end up with a lot of Chiefs, fewer Indians.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 16, 2014 6:39 pm

@Observer

I don’t think it’s as simple as that, yes you would need 3 captains and the 3 crews of engine tech’s but you still only have half ( at least) the manpower of the lower level trades which you would be saving on, plus for the build cost you could probably afford a Lynx for each of the vessels you have procured with savings in running costs allowing you to find the extra pilots etc.

It may not be as simple as what I’ve just said because obviously I have not got figures to go off but simple logic dictates they are going to be less expensive with a cheaper acquisition cost coupled with a smaller crew (and therefore employment costs) and running costs.

The magnitude of the saving is up for debate but the fact that you would save money surely cannot be.

Mickp
Mickp
October 16, 2014 6:39 pm

@Observer, there is the counter argument of giving more career opportunities which may improve retention and skills. Could always put some desk chiefs back to sea

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 16, 2014 6:57 pm

@DN

Myself and Observer were talking about the cost of 3 vs the cost of 1 Frigate, not 1 for 1 and some of the positions that would need duplication involve personnel who have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to train.
The through life manning costs of 3 up armed OPVs will be significantly higher than that of 1 FF. Fact :)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
October 16, 2014 7:15 pm

@APATS

I understand that, It’s just not as cut and dry as it looks. 3 OPV’s maybe significantly higher than 1 FF, although we are purchasing 3 for the predicted price of one type 26, but that also probably means 2 OPV’s would be either cheaper or equal depends if you want to lose an FF for the OPV’s?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 16, 2014 7:25 pm

@DN

“3 OPV’s maybe significantly higher than 1 FF, although we are purchasing 3 for the predicted price of one type 26, but that also probably means 2 OPV’s would be either cheaper or equal depends if you want to lose an FF for the OPV’s?”

1 MCMV would be cheaper as well. The point is and it is a point worth being made that manpower costs involve more than just adding up the numbers involved. Simply saying that 3 OPV/Corvettes use only the same amount of manpower as 1 FF/DD is ignoring the complexities, requirements and costs of manning a ship which are very much cut and dried.

The Other Chris
October 16, 2014 7:44 pm

TD wrote: “…strategic impact of US/Canadian shale will be far reaching and the UK’s strategic gaze will start to shift with it…”

Ice Breaker (and/or decent Ice Class) hulls for MHPC replacements. Truly “go anywhere” platform vessels!

;)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 16, 2014 7:48 pm

@TD

Unfortunately the sort of personnel you talk about can fill the less expensive positions only. Weapon systems are weapon systems, Dgs are DGs, rocks are rocks and command requires a CO whether a Ship is swanning around the channel, conducting disaster relief or fighting a war. The personnel still have to have the required qualifications and have completed the correct courses. As for contractors, do you really think that could possibly be cheaper?

All Politicians are the Same