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North Sea Infrastructure – Defence Applications?

Offshore barge

On one of the recent open threads, the subject of decommissioned North Sea oil and gas infrastructure came up, and if there were any defence applications for any of it.

An interesting subject that is worth a post of its own.

The decommissioning process is going to be a massive, multi-billion Pound activity with some novel engineering; current ideas seem to focus on complete removal, or, at a pinch, using some of it for carbon capture or offshore wind.


The Royal Academy of Engineering produced a very good report with all the background you could want, click here to read, but briefly, there are about 600 installations that will need decommissioning in some manner.

Click the image for a full-screen map of them all.

FireShot Capture -  - http___www.offshore-mag.com_content_dam_offshore_print-articles_Volume 73


There are many different types of platform and the visible platform is like the proverbial tip of the iceberg, much more exists on the sea bed, as illustrated by the image below.

Gas ops


The question was, are there any defence applications?

A few ideas;

  • Training facility for special forces
  • Radar or sonar platform
  • MCM range
  • Submarine rescue test area
  • An ideal place to put a certain Able Seaman (that was a joke by the way)
  • Instrumented test range far away from land
  • Search and rescue helicopter refuelling station
  • or perhaps somewhere to put migrants awaiting processing (another joke by the way, just in case you were wondering)

Or is the whole notion bonkers?

Some of the facilities are single platforms, some will likely be complexes of multiple platforms.


I don’t know why, but Ekofisk (image above) reminds me of the WWII Maunsell Forts, like Red Sands below, in much shallower water of course.



And just in case you were wondering about the weather, have a spot of Rod Stewart

Or a video without the musical backing!




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71 Responses

  1. What about a 21st Century version, of the 1939 Chain Home Radar Sites complete with Missile Defensive/Offensive systems. Or an Off-Shore V/Stol Platform for Rapid Responds Aerial Threats…

  2. An 127/64 gun mounted on one of the Brent Delta platform redundant legs firing 127mm Vulcano rounds could reach and therefore cover the gap between the leg and the nearest landfall 120km away in Shetlands direction and reach not much outside Norways territorial waters the other. A gun mount on two legs and an ARTISAN mast 140m above sea level with a hundred Mk41 strike length silos would cover the gap nicely and dare I say it cheaper than a 247-365 T45 presence. So interesting info on the removal of the top section of the Brent Delta top platform due shortly can be found in pdf format easily on google by Shell themselves but at 2 MB to big for here.

  3. Interesting TD,

    If we produced a platform with all the capabilities of a frigate, would it be worth loosing a T26 to have a permanent presence in the North Sea which could be used as a training hosting/training platform as well as 24/7/365 surveillance.

  4. Interesting that folk are suggesting losing ships to pay for these platforms. As static controllers of North Sea airspace and surface, it’s actually the function of RAF stations and squadrons that they’d replace.

  5. @NaB

    So how many Tornado’s/Typhoon’s would it take , existing ARTISAN set , new VSL , new 127/64 x 2 , accommodation block and helipad assuming identical manpower , 6 Tonkas/Tiffies? A fair exchange ? ( my logic each gun = 1 plane, moving ARTISAN from test site = 1 plane , Mk41’s = 2 planes , accommodation = 1 plane @ 50m each gives £300m or in Navy terms 30% of a T45 .

    I propose another at Rockall to cover the UK-Iceland gap. Maybe get Shell drag Brent Charlie’s base there.

  6. What do the Norwegians do about protection of their platforms, the RN these days is too high and mighty to bother with the North Sea.

  7. Any time you want to outline the current threat to our N Sea platforms, please go right ahead.

  8. @monkey, interesting idea but given we can barely man / support our land bases and existing ships then unlikely to gain traction.

    I’m not for trading surface fleet hull numbers for anything but I see the French have committed to capping FREMM at 6 ASW plus 2 enhanced AAW and then looking at a new class of 5 ‘mid sized frigates’ to maintain a 15 ship high end fleet (although if the Lafayettes are enhanced and still around, they’ll arguably have 20). Is that where we may head perhaps on T26 – 8-10 and 6 of ‘something else’?

  9. Any competent, well-heeled enemy is going to have the capability to take out this kind of fixed infrastructure pretty much at will. Then again the same is true for our airfields and the rest of our minimal defence infrastructure, so pehaps this isn’t such a bad idea after all.

  10. Interesting that the first thing the dark blue boat people see, is a way to get at the RAF’s budget.

    Yes by all means, let’s cut an offensive weapons system, so the navy can scale back it’s defensive responsibility.

    Personally, I like the Idea of sticking a couple of nice long-range guns on with associated radar, and CIWS (and air-to surface). The RM can garrison it as well as operate it as a training facility.

    It wouldn’t be a panacea, but it would provide another layer.

    ….Couldn’t see it being an accompanied posting though…

  11. Light Blue and Green were more than happy to cut ships for static defences, so you can call it even.

    Sheesh, our Services really do see shadows lurking in every corner don’t they? No wonder you folk have such a silo’d mentality.

  12. Yep they do- I’m a civvy, albeit in the aviation industry… and TBH, I’ve seen a lot from the boat people about how everything is the fault of the RAF, and there’s no need for them, etc, etc.

    …And when did the RAF or the Army advocate cutting ships? I’ve never heard or read any member of the RAF or Army argue for a cut in warships…Far from it…the army are desperately concerned about the reduction in proper amphibious ships…all to so the Navy can field two carriers! Without the aeroplanes to put on them!

    …Unless…Oh that’s right, RAF squadrons!… I wonder how many FAA squadrons were manned by RAF aircrew on loan, over the years.

  13. Inability to read the posts at the start of the thread (all advocating losing ships) as well, clearly.

  14. This is an off-topic question but prompted by the RAF-RN tribalism shown here. Has anybody considered a Goshawk/Combat Hawk option for the QE carriers, given the expected limited number of F35s to be procured and catapult issues? Is it even feasible?

  15. barbarossa, NaB is right in that such oversight for the seas is the responsibility of the RAF and their radar stations, not the RN. His point was that they were looking at the wrong service to cut if they were out for budget cuts.

  16. What a ridiculous comment. Our N Sea platforms sit under an air surveillance umbrella as do the Norgies. Response to a threat is by air and by sea but unless you are suggesting that we should have a surface platform off every field then you are talking nonsense. As NAB states, what is the threat?
    A bit like saying the army is too high and mighty to bother with Bridlington.

  17. Interesting thing about TD, the amount of people “in the know” and ex-service tends to mean that careless posts get run over pretty hard. :)

    Poor barbarossa.

  18. @ Observer
    No, the surface threat from the North Sea is the responsibility of the RN-

    Equally, during the cold war the rn would have placed an AD destroyer in the north sea as a radar picquet. David Niven is talking about replacing that requirement, with a fixed installation.

    And as monkey tried to work out how many aircraft the RAF should lose, in order to place a gun battery, anti-air battery and associated radar…. So using the air defence budget to pay for surface defence…

    You’ll also notice that I suggested the RM could man such a fixed installation….

    So no, There wasn’t an inability to read upthread post’s, nor is there a particular RAF bias….There is, however, a certain amount of irritation… Because yet again we hear ‘grab the RAF budget’ opined from the dk-blue contingent, rather than the more apposite ‘We need a bigger defence budget’.

    I say again…I haven’t heard, or read, any green or lt-blue demands for naval reductions to pay for FRES, or MPA
    ….Apart from some of the commentators on this august site- and I don’t think they count…

    We need to emulate the organisation called ’38 degrees’- they’re a really effective campaigning/lobbying group that facilitate email campaigns- they mainly deal with social and health issues- they placed health at the front of the general election, by just getting lots of people to email prospective candidates and asking them questions.

    ….If you want defence to have the importance it deserves, you need to shout louder…in the public domain, not just on this site.

  19. Barbarossa, do you have any evidence that shows that the QRF for the North Sea is an RN responsibility? IIRC, the QRF used are Typhoons from the RAF and surveillance is by RAF radar stations and formerly RAF AEW.

    Shouting is good. Shouting the wrong thing unfortunately costs credibility (I’m putting it politely, there are other nastier phrases that can be used) which means it works against your goals when you get discredited.

  20. I think everyone knows we are not going to get a 1 for 1 replacement for the Type 23 with the Type 26, especially considering the unit cost figures being banded about coupled with the need to still balance the national books.

    So we will have a few spare systems available from the T23 that are decommissioned and not replaced to transfer to such a platform. This would give us a capability to use the platform as both a surveillance and provide real time training in an unfriendly environment for ASW aircrews, and system operators etc. Who knows maybe it could allow us to buy a few more Merlins to use Crowsnest from the same platform.

    The question is, are their any platforms available in the location/locations we would require for coverage? and if not would the cost vs benefit be worth acquiring or moving one to those locations?
    Or would we better off throwing some money into the ACTUV (ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) and Triton pot?

  21. @Barbarossa

    The surface threat is indeed an RN responsibility and is indeed covered. We have op intel of any transiting vessels and put together with threat states an appropriate response is made. NB. That may not always be a surface combatant.


    I assume ASW was a typo?

  22. I can’t see much use for most of the infrastructure, tbh, other than maybe 2 or 3 SAR helo refuelling bases mid-N/Sea, NE and W of Orkney/Shetland and the instrumented test range. Oh, nearly forgot, maybe Porton Down could use a remote one to test new germs on Sepp Blatter.

  23. A few thoughts about using old oil rigs of defence purposes –

    One thing to remember about these platforms is that the ones being decommissioned were built in the seventies and eighties. I work in the offshore industry – for years I was ad hoc moving from rig to rig and have visited a fair percentage of the fixed platforms. One thing you soon learn is rust and corrosion are common place, it’s a constant battle to keep things running.

    Coupled with this several companies are cutting back on maintenance as a cost saving measure, which means if it’s not safety critical or essential of the production and export of the crude then it’s has a lower priority. This is especially common on those rigs being rundown before being decommissioned. So converting the rig to another use would have to take into account the costs of repairing this damage to the infrastructure of the rig.

    Other things to take into account is most rigs depend on the gas from the produced crude for power generation, the diesel storage tanks are only good enough for five – ten days on hotel loads.

    Getting the diesel, food and on some rigs even water all have to be offloaded from supply boats which it can be delayed by a week or more in bad weather, cranes normally only operate when the wind is less than 30kts and a low sea state, not sure of the limit of that though.

  24. If any of this turns out to be viable and cost-effective, then I think it would be worth doing as it would capture the imagination of those in the public more used to X factor than defence issues. Many on here advocate better use of publicity for promoting defence and it’s certainly something that appeals to politicians. Plus, Thunderbirds are Go again, so rename a platform as Tracy Island.

  25. Just to clarify – this thread started with people suggesting cutting FF/DD to pay for these platforms. I pointed out that the role of these proposed platforms is surface and air surveillance and defence, which for the North Sea is primarily an RAF role. So – that is a suggestion that the RN budget be reduced (or at least used) to pay for something that is largely the responsibility of another service. I’m only pointing out that if you’re going to add to our fixed AD and surface defences, that cost lies largely in another service…..

    As NS Chris points out, it ain’t going to be anywhere as simple as people assume when they’re festooning what are essentially bare steel platforms with VLS, radar and the like. You really don’t get a huge amount of capability (or indeed increased surveillance coverage) with fixed installations.

    Barbarossa quite rightly points out that a zero-sum approach is only going to please the bean-counters. Problem is that the bean counters have already made up their minds, so the default is no increase in funds (if we’re lucky) which means by definition, a new capability comes at the expense of someone else’s – which is why this isn’t worth looking at.

    However, a couple of the wilder assertions need countering. The Army could not give two fifths of 3% of a flying f8ck about the amphibious capability, as evidenced by the withdrawal/disestablishment of units assigned to 3Cdo bde and the continued shrinkage /tx to Reserve of 17P&M. The only noises the army have made “in support” of the RN is the need more surface ships plea, which is actually aimed at more but far simpler ships, to free up money in the EP to buy vehicles. Fine for Perce, not fine for Jack.

    Then we’ve got the continuing myth about inability of the FAA to man its squadrons. By this of course people mean fixed wing squadrons, because funnily enough the accusation is never levelled against the rotorheads. There is no disputing that at times the FAA has had RAF aircrew rounding out the numbers. However, that needs some context to understand why and it is far from a permanent situation. People always burble on about Ark IV and how 892/809 and even 849 had a percentage of light blue aircrew. The reason for that is fairly simple – once CVA01 had been cancelled, the FW branch was run down, with training squadrons combined with the RAF and manpower reduced. Why join (or stay in) the FAA if you know the squadrons are closing and the cabs transferring to the RAF in the late 70s? So that covers off Ark IV.

    Then you get the RAF pilots who fought (excellently) on Corporate – usually personified by David Morgan (who later transferred to the RN btw). Thing is, far from being rammed with them, 800/801 and 809 when it stood up, probably had half a dozen RAF aircrew in total, from a total of 30-odd. Again, not surprising when you figure out that the nominal AE of a SHAR squadron was 5 cabs, for which you needed 8-9 pilots, so funny old thing, we weren’t training hordes of new aircrew that would allow the squadrons to stand up 15 crew at the drop of a hat. Suddenly asking the training squadron – 899 – to furnish that was never going to work.

    Funnily enough – after Corporate, when the squadrons were upped to 8-9 cabs and 899 used to run 12, crewing was never a problem – not least because people had seen that the capability was now valued again. I dealt with the South side at Yeovilton for a bit in the late nineties and there was never an issue with aircrew manning. It was only when JFH stood up that problems started to re-emerge – partly from the move from Somerset to Rutland and partly when the 1* command of 3 (maritime) group was disestablished and the whole lot subsumed into 1 group. Once the SHAR went, all of a sudden the navy was painted as not being able to man its own squadrons. In fact, what was happening was an issue with “qualification” where the air force refused to accept the RN AWI qualification as equivalent to the QFI required to declare on operational squadron. Lots of complicated detail and politics which sounds like excuses, but had a real practical effect. Bottom line – when the FAA FW is told it has a secure future and is allowed to get on with it, manning is not an issue and never has been with the exception of the circumstances above.

  26. You cannot defend the North Sea without air bases in northern Norway. You cannot close the GIUK-area to submarines without having mobile killer platforms.

    If we play “fantasy defence”, then I guess it’s easier to have airstrips on Svalbard, Jan Mayen or Bear Island. Also perfect places for forward-defence through ABM-missile sites or V-22 or AW-609 VSTOL-ASW-aircraft (which is the logical next step anyway). Or something like the SBX-1 missile-defence radar platform.

  27. @NC Chris

    This article was prompted by an article posted on the Open Thread of Shell decommissioning Brent Delta using the ship Pioneering Spirit to lift of the steel 24,000t top section in one piece leaving behind the three reinforced concrete legs for later removal. It was suggested due to the almost exactly mid North Sea location blocking entry from Russian incursion that reusing the legs with a new small accommodation block, radar mast (140m) ,a block of 48 VSL with Aster 15 missiles (range 1.7-30 km)

    Aster 30 missiles (range 3-120 km , and a brace of 127/64 with 120km range Oto Merla Vulcano rounds would provide 247 365 cover for a crew of a few dozen . The ARTISAN system would dominate the gap providing instant attack to surface or air threats. Who pays ? Does it matter as its you and me in the end as tax payers.

  28. Serious comment time;

    Welcome to North Sea Chris and welcome back to Senex and Beady.

    North Sea Chris makes a good point about condition and power. On condition, not sure there is anything you could do other than be selective based on surveys. How many platforms are there with concrete bases, are they in better nick? Power, windmills and batteries, job done.

    On the whole general scheme of things and back to the question, not sure there is much of a benefit with going fighty and basing sensors and missiles on them but it is an interesting thought exercise.

    Where I think there might be some benefit is for training and ranges. They do represent a somewhat unique environment above and below water and in future wars over resources it is not hard to imagine environments containing energy infrastructure being subject to conflict and so having a handful could be valuable.

    Apart from that, how about a secret CIA/MI6 interrogation base?

  29. NaB

    On the Army v Amphibious thing, agree to some extent but then does the Navy or RAF give two tosses about the state of the Challenger fleet?

    If you look at what was actually settled with regards to Army 2020 the reality is a liitle different to the impression you give.

    24 Amphibious Regiment RE, after a bit of jiggery pokery stayed at the same level with 131(V) and 59 squadrons. So in regards of engineering support to 3CDO, keeping pre SDSR levels with a reduction in other areas of 3CDO actually means the amphibious engineer capability proportionally is higher. If you look at other areas where the RE reduced, like wide and wet gap crossing, I would say the Army actually give the amphibious capability priority over the heavy metal. If you compare 3CDO to 16AAB in terms of RE, it is about the same.

    The 509 ports STRE also remained

    With 17 P&M and its paired reserve, 165 Port and Enabling. 165 still has 232, 265 and 266 port squadrons although there has been some consolidation of out stationed troops. 17 P&M did lose one of its three port squadrons but that was because the the RCL’s went out of service, did the RN and RM mount a defence of those and offer up support, mmm, kind of doubt it.

    338 Troop RLC were retained in their petroleum support role for the Commando Logistics Regiment, which is still, pretty well supported by the Army.

    29 RA, did lose a battery but you could argue this could be offset by the good news on the Type 26 gun. It also retained 148 battery.

    Yes 3CDO lost its Rifles but I never thought that was a serious thing anyway and hardly an impediment.

    I actually think, especially in comparison with other capabilities that were hammered, that the Army gave 3CDO and other port/amphibious stuff a much higher priority than you perceive, the facts on establishment would tend to support that view.

    To be honest, I don’t think the RN has a big thing for amphibious either, no Ocean replacement, one of the LPD’s on the bench, an LSD(A) sold to Oz, 3CDO thinned out in SDSR, 2 of the 6 Points off the books and any notion of fast landing craft or heavier hovercraft a dim and distant aspiration that will never be realised. And furthermore, taking the RAF’s Merlins out of JHC and onto ships actually denies the Army of mobility, a greater impact than losing a battery of light guns and a single port troop.

    Glass houses and all that

  30. The RN or RAF are highly unlikely to even think about CH2 numbers, I would not expect them to. I’m merely countering the assertion that “the army are desperately concerned about the reduction in proper amphibious ships…all to so the Navy can field two carriers”. There is zero evidence to support that statement – in any of its suppositions. I wasn’t suggesting that the army should have been (concerned) either. As we both know, the amphibious capability is an enabler (via beach head or port securing) for the few occasions when the army may be likely to deploy at any sort of scale vs an actual opponent. Quite what you expected the RN/RM to do wrt the RCL is beyond me. Pay for a new programme, when the assets themselves are used primarily for follow-on (army) forces and can only be transported on HL shipping?

    You can argue (I nearly said spin but that would be unfair) the figures any way you like. Bottom line, in the zero-sum game that was SDSR2010 and its aftermath, the army did it’s best to protect it’s perceived core structure. “Jiggery-pokery” with 24 Regt RE (and 29 Cdo and 148 Bty – lots of angst there) is probably the best description of the outcome. Yes we (the UK) retained lots of AR units but I suspect a number of them (particularly those around SMC) were retained when someone explained exactly what would happen the next time the UK and its army wanted to go anywhere distant and support themselves, if SMC and its units had been closed down. Kind of hard to justify a High-readiness force structure if you can’t actually launch it from somewhere and offload it at the other end.

    Not army-bashing at all here. All perfectly understandable from a Land PoV. Just pointing out that Perce being distraught at the “reduction” in amphibious shipping is somewhat less than likely.

  31. It’s not spin NaB, you made the claim that the Army doesn’t care about amphibious and port operations as evidenced by Army 2020 changes to 17PM and the bits of the Army that support 3CDO.

    I can’t say whether you are right or wrong, but we can both look at the reality of Army 2020 as it stands today.

    Regardless of the fighting that went before it, or even desire, the simple fact is, the Army’s support to amphibious and port operations remains largely unchanged, which I think is pretty noteworthy when compared to two things;

    1. The decimation of its heavy armour and artillery forces
    2. The significant reductions by the naval service in those said same amphibious capabilities

    Is that spin, maybe, maybe not. It might actually be a fact, you never know!

    One your last point, I absolutely agree, the Army is not ‘distraught’, which I think is the main point you wanted to make.

    Is that an agreement?


  32. I was thinking, isn’t there a standard Orbat for your military formations? In that case, how badly did all this cutting and pasting and UORs butcher the “standard” formation?

  33. NaB,

    And the Phantom and buccaneer crews? I know a dozen ex-RAF pilots that did a loan tour (not an exchange) in either ‘tooms or Buccs in FAA squadrons, I also know an ex-FAA pilot, now a senior captain, that served on a FAA squadron, for number of years, that was manned in part by RAF aircrew.

    However, Your point about giving people some career certainty is well-made.

    ….I stand by my assertion over the rn’s attitude to amphibious operations- A recent interview by CDre Clapp, has re-inforced my belief.

  34. Excellent, let’s break out the Pusser’s and talk about Russian submarines approaching the coast, restarting Blackjack production and the announced Leopard 2 replacement.

  35. ‘As static controllers of North Sea airspace and surface, it’s actually the function of RAF stations and squadrons that they’d replace.’

    Then would it be worth losing a couple of MPA’s for the platform?


    Why would it be a typo?

  36. …add russian warships littering (& anchoring) in Scottish estuaries… Bears running down the channel etc, etc….

  37. Barbarossa – was there a bit about Ark IV and 809/892NAS that you didn’t understand?

    OK. The Phantoms (FG1 / F4K) since you ask were operated by 767 and 892 NAS, 767 being the training squadron which shut down in 1972.

    The Buccaneers were 809NAS, with 736NAS as their training squadron, which again shut down in 1972 or thereabouts. The common factor in both was that 1972 was the year Eagle decommissioned and the RN f/w contingent were down to ain air group for Ark. Unsurprisingly, the RN crews now manning 892 and 809 trained with their RAF counterparts who had many more squadrons in service.

    As explained in the earlier post, you’re not going to retain or train more aircrew than you need, so fairly obviously in the six years (72-78) this situation covered the RAF guys came aboard Ark and did very well by all accounts. But – and it’s a big but – not because the RN had any difficulty manning their squadrons when they had a secure future, but because the f/w component was being run down. Alles Klar?

    And please make your mind up. Your original assertion was that the Army was desperately concerned about reduction in amphibious shipping. Now you’re saying it’s the RN attitude to amphibious operations.

  38. I think it’s both, clearly, in a time of priorities, amphibious ops aren’t it

    The RN is drawing its resource bubble around Successor, T26 and carrier Strike

    The Army is doing likewise around trying to rebuild its vehicle fleet, retain combined arms manoeuvre and maintaining mass

    Ports and beaches will fall through those cracks, obviously, I think it is obvious that this happened in the last SDSR and will continue to do so in the next one

  39. Don’t confuse procurement with capability. Right now Carrier Strike, Successor and T26 are the highest priority items in the RN procurement list.

    But – standfast Ocean – the amphibious fleet was totally recapitalised within the last fifteen years. We ceded Largs Bay (and many are regretting that now) in the SDSR, but retained the rest of the ships. Yes – one LPD in R8/9, but that’s actually no different to how we’ve operated since the mid-80s. The Bde is largely intact and CHF will be back to something like its former self by 2020 or thereabouts.

    If you look at the RN doctrinal blurb, the three core capabilities are still Carrier Strike, Amphibiosity and the SSN. Just as they have been since BR1806 first came out in the 90s.

    Doesn’t mean things aren’t falling through the cracks, but I’d say we’re a long way from giving up on the capability.

  40. ASW stands for “Anti Submarine Warfare” even a tiny bit of knowledge identifies that this cannot be done from a static platform.

  41. A “Testing Area” might be a good idea as well. If your going to Test New Naval Systems, your going to want to test them in Worse Environment’s possible. And the North Sea, sure “Fit’s That Bill”…

  42. @APATS

    ‘ASW stands for “Anti Submarine Warfare” even a tiny bit of knowledge identifies that this cannot be done from a static platform.’

    In both my posts I used the term ‘training’ even someone with the tinniest bit of knowledge in the use of the English language would have noted that it has a significant bearing to the thrust of the comment posted. I also included systems operators etc so would I would have have presumed that would have been understood to mean aircraft handlers, air traffic controllers etc.

  43. “If your going to Test New Naval Systems, your going to want to test them in Worse Environment’s possible. And the North Sea, sure “Fit’s That Bill”…”

    Except that a major portion of testing usually requires consideration of ship motion and flexure and high power EM environments, which are unlikely to be present on a static platform.

    We used to have an ACMI range in the southern N Sea in the good old days. Closed down a long time ago IIRC, when Ivan went away.

  44. I understand that Ivan what’s to get into the Aircraft Carrier business, maybe he’ll decide to comeback. You never know what’s on Ivan’s mind, these day’s do you…

  45. Actually, you sort of do… he has his own priorities and logic, not that he is illogical. Hell, even ISIS has their own logic, convoluted as it is and self destructive as it is. The only ones who you simply cannot predict are madmen and if they were, they won’t have gotten power in the first place, no one would understand them.

    The Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX-1) is a floating, self-propelled, mobile active electronically scanned array early-warning radar station.

    An oil rig with a radar station on it, so it can be done.

    What about a platform with all the kit off a type 45 destroyer on it?
    Long range AA platform basically.

  47. There’s only going to be one SBX and it’s not because the rig is more expensive…

  48. BMD / AAW platform makes sense to me, would be less so if we had more T45s, but we don’t and the ones we do need to be part of the CBGs.

  49. sorry but what’s a BMD and a CBG?
    Everyone’s using there TLAs (Three-letter acronym) today.

  50. Ballistic Missile Defence and Carrier Battle Group. Basically the THADS and Carriers.

  51. Could the rigs provide lillypad-like services for Merlin to provide ASW prosecution following detection by Triton or similar? I’m not sure what the relative distances between rigs actually are but they seem to cover a fair area.

    Maybe this is what David Niven was suggesting?

  52. North Sea isn’t that large, helicopters can operate from shore fairly easily. If you really need a lillypad at sea chances are there’s a working rig, support vessel or frigate (inc. allies) in the vicinity. Next batch of Rivers may be in the area too.

  53. ToC,

    Wouldn’t we need to keep two Merlin harassing a sub?
    Isn’t the effective range (for a 4-hour hunt) a mere 50nm?

    I agree however that there may be working rigs and/or other ships, but surely keeping some of the old rigs operational, that happen to be strategically distributed, could be of value.

  54. If Merlins are in the area isn’t that what their T23/T26/T45 working in parallel is for?

    Regardless, I’m sure four hours at 50nm is just one combination available for a mission, with or without the probe on the front.

  55. You would have to have a lot of activity to justify manning some oil rigs as refueling points. Who’s going to man and maint them all? I’m not sure anyone has ever run such a system. I don’t count the odd few refuelling stops either.

  56. I’m more worried about the testimony that the rigs take a lot of beating deployed. If you get that much equipment damage, it might not be worthwhile at all, you’ll be constantly refurbishing the rigs. Not to mention their strategic effectiveness is marginal, if you are using them as anti-sub platforms, all the subs have to do is go around them, the maritime surveillance picture can be patched together from a combination of surface, air and land based radar platforms, so what they can give isn’t really much.

  57. Could another use for the rigs be service points for unmanned anti-submarine underwater/surface drones , assuming they ever happen . Being in central in the North Sea any range issues ( think mid Atlantic gap WW2) could be covered . Shore based units from around Europe’s shores will inevitably at first have limited range and a refueling , rearming , servicing base would free up a hull. The offshore industry uses rigs for servicing of their Unmanned Underwater inspection vessels already so little to learn there. Just an idea.

  58. And we already have that data, oil rig companies have been doing it way longer with a lot more units than the military. Not much to gain there.

  59. Folks here seem to want to create a bunch of static frigates and destroyers; but don’t all the weapons, sensors, and sailors to operate them account for the greater bulk of the cost of a warship? So what would you achieve?

    You don’t save any money. You’re still paying for all the systems, you’re still paying for all the crew. It can’t go anywhere, but it still has engines to power all the toys. And now you have to buy a bunch of support vessels and helicopters to service and supply the platforms too.

    If you wanted a BMD platform, or whatever, that didn’t need to keep up with a Navy task group, why wouldn’t you use a cheaper and more practical long-endurance commercially available hull rather than a rusty old oil rig? You could then drive it back to the dockyard for maintenance and supply much more easily. It could be repositioned easily, including moving it completely out of area as required – next month you might prefer your sensor/defence platform to be parked in the eastern Med rather than the North Sea.

    As much as I’d love to taunt NAB with the idea of slashing the number of T26, and replacing them with Army-manned oil rigs, I just can’t see the practical benefits of folks’ ideas.

  60. Agree with you Brian, but I think as an interesting under and above sea level training and development environment, one or two would be a very valuable addition to the estate

  61. “As much as I’d love to taunt NAB with the idea of slashing the number of T26, and replacing them with Army-manned oil rigs”

    Never happen. You can’t fit a big enough drill square on a platform……..

  62. The oil companies have a lot of kit attached to their rigs to facilitate deep diving , saturation and tri-mix , do we already share these facilities? My Dad was qualified diver in the RN as part of his job . I distinctly remember him taking me and my brothers to a Portsmouth Navy day where he went into a big glass tank in the old school brass hard hat suit , 40+ years ago but still clear. He did his initial qualification in Preston docks with zero visibility had him losing his grip on the guide rope in the tide and being dragged back to do it all again. Assembling / dismantling various bits of kit in a pollution filled dock in the winter he said was his most challenging experience. As TD says we need to practice securing and making safe offshore structures so why not have one of our own , either in situ or removed to a inshore location.

  63. I’m not advocating losing any surface combatants, I merely asked/stated would it be worth losing a T26 for? As we all know there will be no funding bonanza for the MOD in the foreseeable future so undoubtedly we will need to cut back else where to fund such a platform.

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