A guest post by Repulse…
I’ve just finished reading the excellent “Night Action” by Captain Peter Dickens which tells the story of his experiences in WWII as a MBT Flotilla commander. In my view it is a good example of the challenges faced in both developing the right equipment and establishing effective tactics in what was a crucial arena of the war.
In the pre-war period the Admiralty had neglected this area and had focused funds on larger ships, in the mistaken thought that a light craft capability could be easily rebuilt in an emergency. The reality was that it took 3 years, half way through the war, to get to the position where the RN could effectively compete in this area with equipment such as the Fairmile D “Dog Boat” MGBs.
A brief look at sea depths around the world show that the key areas of conflict (Persian Gulf, Mediterranean, South China Sea and even the Baltic Sea) partially, if not completely, fall into the shallow water (Littoral zone) category. Additionally, recent “incursions” from our Russian friends off the coast of Scotland / grand standing in the English Channel and by the Spanish in the waters off Gibraltar, demonstrate that this area is not just about global power projection.
With the SDSR coming up, and the focus once more on large units which are optimised for deep sea operations such as the Global Combat Ship, is history repeating itself?
With the expected output from the MHPC programme and modular MCM (instead of specialist small ships), it seems likely that deep water navy frontline requirement for the RN will result in a fleet of approximately 30 vessels, being made up of a mixture of T45s, T26s, OPVs and specialist hydrographic/ice patrol ships. But what are the plans for the shallow water fleet?
There have been many discussions on whether the RMs will get the CB90 to replace the slow LCVP Mk5, but this has gone very quiet recently. Also, with recent engine refits to the P2000s it seems that the RN is content keeping the current small fleet staying as is. But is this enough?
For a bit of New Year fun, whilst we work up to and recover from our hangovers, I would like to pose the following question – “Should the RN be looking at a new class of light craft? If so, what are the key requirements?”
Some food for thought…