Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – Navy Command


The entrance into service of two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will mark a huge increase in the capability of the Royal Navy.  At 65,500 tonnes they are easily the largest military vessels to have been built in the UK.

QE Carrier Portsmouth

Two new aircraft carriers will dramatically increase the capability of the Royal Navy.

Under normal circumstances the Navy would operate only one carrier at a time but with judicious planning of the refit and maintenance cycle there is the potential to have both ships available at times of heightened tension and any conflict.

In peacetime the active carrier would operate one Naval Air Squadron of F-35B Lightning II swing-role aircraft specialising in the fleet defence and anti-shipping role.  These would be supplemented by two RAF Squadrons in heightened situations which would specialise in operating against land targets with a secondary anti-shipping role.

If the budget for new aircraft is restricted the second carrier could operate primarily in an ASW or amphibious role with helicopters.  It would still operate one Naval Air Squadron for fleet defence/anti-shipping but otherwise it would have a full complement of up to 30 maritime or attack and transport helicopters.

RFA Argus will reach the end of its life in the early 2020’s and could be replaced by a helicopter carrier such as HMS Ocean which is capable of carrying up to eighteen maritime or transport helicopters and 800 Royal Marines.  It would need to be refitted to be capable of operating as a primary casualty receiving ship.  In peacetime it would also be the aviation training ship.

The greatest threat to the Royal Navy’s major surface vessels comes from missiles, whether they are launched from aircraft, submarines or other warships.  The Sea Ceptor short-range surface-to-air missile has been developed to counter this threat.  Six launchers each equipped with quad packed Sea Ceptor SAMs should be installed on both QE carriers, RFA Ocean and the five major amphibious ships.

The combination of operating the second QE carrier primarily with helicopters and replacing RFA Argus with RFA Ocean would considerably increase the fleet’s maximum helicopter operating capacity.  Advantage of this should be taken by ensuring that as a minimum the option to convert a further eight Merlin HM1s to HM2 standard is taken up.

Naval Command will need to maximise the flexibility of its 38 Merlin maritime helicopters to meet all of its operational requirements.  Every Merlin HM2 is being upgraded to be compatible with the ten new AEW Crowsnest radars so that they can be adapted very quickly to provide advanced early warning radar to the fleet.  In addition each Merlin should be able to carry up to four Sea Venom anti-shipping missiles so that it can also operate in an ASuW role.

Merlin Mk2 Helicopter

The Merlin HMA2 is an extremely versatile helicopter that could operate in ASW, AEW and ASuW roles.

The remaining fleet of seven attack submarines, six destroyers, thirteen frigates and four offshore patrol vessels is sufficient to provide escort for two carrier groups plus one amphibious group and patrol the routes to the Faslane Trident SSBN base but they can only provide a limited anti-submarine capability.  It is not sufficient to cover all of the sea around the UK which can only be done more comprehensively by land based aircraft.

The Royal Navy will also need to maximise the flexibility of its major surface ships.  As part of this all six Type 45 destroyers need to be fitted with twelve additional multi-purpose launchers – eight could be allocated to Harpoon anti-shipping missiles and four to quad packed Sea Ceptor short-range SAMs.  This would both supplement the already impressive air defences of these destroyers and give them a much needed anti-shipping capability.

The most significant new piece of naval equipment to be ordered in the near future is the Type 26 Global Combat Ship that will replace the existing frigate fleet.  All of them would carry 48 Sea Ceptor SAMs, eight TLAM cruise missiles and eight Harpoon anti-shipping missiles.  Eight of these frigates could specialise in an ASW role with a towed array sonar system and be equipped with eight VL-ASROC anti-submarine missiles.  Five others could operate in a general purpose role with eight Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missiles to improve area air defence.

Type 26 Frigate

The Type 26 frigate will be a powerful addition to the surface fleet.

There needs to be a major increase in the order for Sea Ceptor SAMs as well as additional orders of Aster 30 long-range SAMs and TLAM cruise missiles plus a completely new order for the VL-ASROC anti-submarine missile.

Air defences can be further improved by upgrading the Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missile to give it an effective ABM role.

The Royal Navy needs to prioritise training with other European carrier groups – such as the French in the Norwegian Sea and the French, Italians and Spanish in the Mediterranean.

Similarly the Royal Marines and the amphibious group should be prioritising training with French amphibious forces and the Norwegian Army in the north and with French, Italian and Spanish amphibious groups in the Mediterranean.

The scenario analyses have been developed to show the minimum number of warships, submarines, aircraft and helicopters required to fulfil each task and this has informed Option 1 below.  Both Options 1 and 2 are based on the same personnel requirements as Future Force 2020.  Each additional Option offers enhanced capabilities but at extra cost and increased numbers of personnel.  These Naval Options are designed to be consistent with the respective Air Force Options.

Naval Option 1


  • 4 Trident SSBNs
  • 2 QE carriers – one carrying mostly F-35Bs and one carrying mostly helicopters
  • 64 F-35Bs in 4 Squadrons – 2 fleet air defence/anti-shipping and 2 CAS/SEAD/land strike
  • RFA Ocean as a helicopter carrier/training ship/primary casualty receiving ship
  • 2 amphibious transport docks
  • 3 landing ships
  • 8 Wildcat AH1s in 1 Marines Squadron
  • 25 Merlin HC4s in 2 Squadrons
  • 7 Astute attack submarines
  • 6 Type 45 destroyers
  • 13 Type 23 being replaced by Type 26 frigates
  • 4 offshore patrol vessels
  • 38 Merlin HMA2s in 4 Squadrons and
  • 28 Wildcat HMA2s in 2 Squadrons.

Significant extra costs are involved with refitting RFA Ocean and upgrading an additional 8 Merlin HMA2s.

Naval Option 2

As Option 1, but with the ability to operate 6 F-35B Squadrons between both QE class aircraft carriers.

Naval Command would commission a new 25,000 tonne helicopter carrier (LHD), similar to the French Mistral or Spanish Juan Carlos (to replace RFA Argus instead of refurbishing HMS Ocean) and upgrading 8 Merlin HMA2s.

Naval Option 3

In addition to Option 2, the Royal Navy could retain the use of the three River class 1 offshore patrol vessels.  In peacetime the River 1s would solely operate in UK waters but this would free up the larger River 2s to operate in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea and so relieve the destroyer/frigate force.  To maximise the effectiveness of the helicopter fleet Naval Command could upgrade a further two additional Merlin HMA2s.

This Option would require ordering a new helicopter carrier and upgrading 10 Merlin HMA2s.

Naval Option 4

As Option 3, but instead of retaining the River 1 OPVs the Royal Navy could refit and then retain three of the existing Type 23 frigates.  As there is definitely some spare helicopter capacity Naval Command could enhance its capabilities by establishing a fifth Merlin HMA2 Squadron and ordering ten new Merlin HMA2s.

This Option would require ordering a new helicopter carrier and 8 new Merlin HMA2s while refitting three Type 23 frigates as well as upgrading 10 Merlin HMA2s.



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The rest of the series

1 – Introduction

2 – Defence of the UK

3 – Other Sovereign Territories

4 – NATO

5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

7 – Global Intervention

8 – Land Command 2025; Appendix 1 – Army 2025

9 – Naval Command 2025; Appendix 2 – Royal Navy 2025

10 – Air Command 2025; Appendix 3 – RAF 2025

11 – Conclusion – The Options for Change; Appendix 4 – An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25

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October 6, 2015 9:22 pm

Nice post!

I agree with the desirability of putting some Sea Ceptor on QE & PoW, even if it’s just for piece of mind.

When it comes to the T45 we could already quad pack a LOT of Sea Ceptor into the current silo’s in place of the Aster 15 if we chose to, although 12 extra launchers, primarily for LRASM when Harpoon is eventually retired sometime in the 2020’s but also able to accommodate Tomahawk or the equivalent would be nice.

Similarly a dedicated Ocean replacement would be great and i can certainly see a requirement for such a vessel, but it’s just not going to happen in the direct sense. Rolling an Ocean & Argus replacement into 1 ship (utilized as a primary casualty receiving and aviation training ship in peacetime and bringing a helo carrier element in wartime) is an attractive proposition. The use of force elements like MARS SSS with their potentially large flight-decks and hangars for Amphibious support and the possible replacement of the Albion’s with a couple of large LHD’s (clearly what the RN would like to do) in the 2030’s are other factors which should be taken into consideration.

Who know’s if those 8 HM1’s in storage are actually in any condition to be upgraded anymore, but i can’t disagree with the need for more Merlin’s to share the strain the fleet is going to be under.

October 7, 2015 1:34 am
Reply to  Challenger

quad packing Sea Ceptors–I wrote about that before.

October 7, 2015 1:39 am

I understand the Sea Ceptor ( which is also being fitted to Canadian and NZ refitted frigates) is not so much a ‘short range’ when it can go to 25km.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
October 7, 2015 3:02 am

There is also an extended range Sea Ceptor in development for export, that almost double the range but can use the same launcher.

I fully agree that the Queen Elizabeth Class should be equipped with a number of Sea Ceptors The current weapons fit of Phalanx and light auto cannon is woefully inadequate. This is important as unless solely allocated to the role, we will not have sufficient hulls to form 2 Carrier Groups but rather a single group with 1 or 2 Carriers. The level of manning is going to drive the ability of the RN to deploy in strength at short notice. Under current plans it is really putting all its eggs into the CVBG game and is going to be stretched to fulfil is other obligations with combat platforms, instead having to continue to deploy auxiliary platforms to fill the holes.

The funding of an additional third aviation platform is simply not viable. Bringing the carriers and T-26 into service and fitting them out properly is going to absorb all the funding available given the already stated programmes for the Army (MIV, MRV(P), AH-64E, Challenger upgrade/replacement) and RAF (MPA, Typhoon mods., F-35B).

October 7, 2015 8:41 am

The superstructure of QE is too large for Sea Ceptor to clear to give a 360 coverage.
You will have to mount them within the towers this is not possible with the MK41 launchers you are suggesting, they are simply too big.

There are some pretty obvious issues firing missiles out as aviation assets come in.
Not to mention all the manoeuvring, decoys and the like. If an attack were to get through.

AAW destroyers at a distance from a carrier have always provided air defence for a reason; it provides a safe zone for air operations, without risking your air assets at a crucial point. T45 goes as far as to actually CONTROL the entire air picture for a carrier to preserve this zone.

Don’t get me wrong I quite liked you piece, I wish it could be.

I personally feel though that a few more T26 GP variant would probably go further providing many of the advantages you’re after here. Plus fleet flexibility and resilience after the loss of 6 T45.


stephen duckworth
October 7, 2015 9:23 am

I like this post a lot. On the subject of CAMM on board IIRC APATS stated during a discussion on the difficulty of fleet detection by satellites that CVN often sail well away from the main battle group so would the lack of RAM and ESSM such as being fitted to the new Gerald Ford’s restrict the QE class from operating in such a manner?

October 7, 2015 9:37 am

Also agree on CAMM for QNLZ – will probably come along at refit.

October 7, 2015 10:33 am

I would hope QEs defences are updated during its life. As a simpler minimum than Sea Ceptor, Phalanx could be supplemented / replaced by Sea Ram mounts for point defence

October 7, 2015 11:14 am

Lots to like but on one point…

“The most significant new piece of naval equipment to be ordered in the near future is the Type 26 Global Combat Ship … Five … could operate in a general purpose role with eight Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missiles to improve area air defence.”

As I understand it, the Aster 30 idea might not be practical unless you mean they would only ever be accompanied by a T45. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere from someone who sounded as if they knew what they were talking about, maybe even on this site, that the Artisan 997 doesn’t have the refresh rate to be able to hold a fast-moving track at the range required for Aster 30 and that Sampson or equivalent is needed. Unless there is a radar around capable of making full use of Aster 30 there isn’t much point adding them to the missile load.

One option I’ve sometimes wondered about is upgrading the radars on the QE carriers to Sampson (wasn’t that an option once, presumably dropped for cost reasons?) so that the air-defence part of the carrier group could include ships that were serving solely as launch platforms for the longer range air defence missiles. That would open up the opportunity for an Aster 30 equipped T26 to serve that role or maybe something even cheaper, essentially a floating launch platform and little else to only be deployed with the carrier group which would help free up the few T45s that we do have for other operations if required. It could also add extra capability into the carrier group air defence in times/places of extreme danger by working alongside a T45 at far lower cost than having a second T45 assigned. That combination of Sampson-equipped carrier + T45 + dumb-missile-platform would also put two Sampson radars into the group so avoid the single point of failure in a carrier + singe T45 setup where an issue with the T45 Sampson radar essentially relegates all the Aster 30s to Aster 15s (if what I read about radar capabilities with Aster 30 is correct).

October 7, 2015 11:41 am

some points…

politicians oft quote we have a “£160 billion equipment plan” yet the notion of making use of the 8 Merlin HM1[we already own] to provide the core of the Crowsnest capability [rather than ask an already stretched ASW fleet to role-on a kit that would benefit from specialists] is not seen as a logical solution. I hope SDSR recognises the folly of this.

It seems to me that the Type 26 purchase will extend way into the 2030s and however many hulls are purchased they will not ALL be paid for during the next government. Ordering a minimum of 16 [8 ASW, 8GP] spread across 12 years ensures a healthy industrial drumbeat… costs would be spread over the period and there will be a build up to a further batch eventually replacing the Type 45

I would retire RFA ARgus, accept that HMS Ocean is going, transfer Albion and Bulwark to the RFA with a medical facilities enhancement [paid for by DfiD] to cover HADR taskings. I would then, however, order two Canberra-class ships to replace the amphibious capability and perpetuate all the excellent industrial partnerships/skills gained building the QEs.

I would retain the older Rivers as the new batch enters service. I would use the older Rivers as test beds for MCM research, while withdrawing a like number of the ageing Hunt class that have a larger complement.

I hope the SDSR commits to at least 4 MARS SSS and wonder if the same design could be adapted to offer a 5th ship to provide the capability to replace RFA Diligence.

All this could be done within a budget of less than a £1 billion per year budget construction over the next 15 years for a 2030 fleet…

October 7, 2015 11:55 am

You know 4 of the T45 are going to be equipped with 8 Harpoons (taken from T22B3s), already stating from Duncan, and hence you do not need to put it in Mk.41 VLS. Rather the issue is the OSD of Harpoon coming soon…

Sea Ram. I think it is not much different from CAMMS, and RN may not be able to afford two types of short range SAMs. CIWS-RAM-ESSM trio is a good match. I think RN is going with CIWS-CAMMS pair, with CAMMS covering from full range of RAM to inner-half of the ESSM’s (with CAMSS-ER, can cover full range of ESSM).

October 7, 2015 12:12 pm

There are other reasons for putting Mk41s on a T45. Perhaps you want to add a capability, one that is becoming increasingly important, but there is currently no missile that offers that capability that will go in a Sylver cell…..

October 7, 2015 1:11 pm

@PJS “perpetuate all the excellent industrial partnerships/skills gained building the QEs.”

I think that’s a very important point. Of course, manning and aircraft costs aside, rolling on to produce a third QE would have seen further benefits of scale… but that would never be

Capitalising on and maintaining that large ship construction expertise would be desirable though but Mars SSS aside (and would that most likely head to Korea assuming the Tides work out ok?). Personally, I don’t think the time is right for Canberra type vessel given the QEs (with bigger flight deck) and the well dock capabilities of 5 vessels in the RN / RFA. I think we are one aviation platform short and that should be an LPH, or an Ocean type with lcvps on davits but no well dock; in fact two, one with RN kit (Artisan, self defence kit etc) and one austere for the RFA / HADR use (Argus replacement) in a two way funding with DFID.

October 7, 2015 2:06 pm

I think the permanent Martime Task Force Admiral Z and CGS have spoen about will be

1 x CV
1 x LPD
2 x T45
1-2 x T23/T26 ASW
2-3 x Allied Escorts (France, USA mostly)
1 x SSN
3 x RFA replenishment (2 x Tide 1 x Fort/MARS-SSS)

The aspiration is to have one MTF on operations 100% of the time, filling in for a US carrier group.

Thus the MTF contingency air group will need to be roughly (can vary depending upon the task):
24 F-35 (could include a USMC squadron initially)
9-10 HM2 (4 Crowsnest) – 8 on CV, 1-2 on T23/26
4 Wildcat (2 HMA2 on T45 and 2 AH1 on CV)
4 Apache (on CV)
4 Merlin HC4 (on CV and Fort/MARS-SSS)
3-4 UAV

Also requires:
1 renforced RM Cdo. Amphibious Battlegroup (a rotated company on LPD/LSD, rest at high readiness nearby).
1-2 in-theatre land based MPA (i.e operating from Oman, DG or Cyprus) if Gulf or Med deployed
1-2 in-theatre land-based Voyager

Before PoW is in service, my guess is that this group will rotate with a French led Charles de Gaulle TF, with RN contributing escorts udiring the MN’s turn. After PoW enters service, then one or the other will be permanantly on station (as will one of the LPDs and LSDs and SSNs, and 3-4 escorts), with the second carrier in UK waters on refit, training and work-up duties.

Assuming that 1 CV, 1 LPD, 1 LSD, 1 Fort/SSS, 2 Tides, 2 T45s, 2 RFAs, 2 T23/T26s and an SSN need to be on downtime in UK, or preparing for the next deployment, that leaves for other duties (including, in the case of the RFAs, resupplying the MTF):

9 T23-T26
2 T45
3-6 OPVs
2 RFA Tankers (Waves)
1 Fort/MARS SSS?
6-8 MPAs?
Argus and Dilgence need to be on standby

All of these with maybe a 60-70% availability over thier lifetime. I haven’t covered deterrent, MCM or Droggie. But can assume 24/7 deterrent requires 4 SSBN, 2 SSN, 4 MPA and 5 MCMV.

October 7, 2015 2:21 pm


we are not worlds apart… but in my fleet 2030, I have transferred Albion and Bulwark to the RFA, for HADR, [be it Mediterranean Refuge crisis, Hurricane Season in the Caribbean, planned medical diplomacy, or urgent response]. Maintaining their current alternating readiness, and paid for by DfiD, should see their lives extended but always available should any conflict necessitate.

Hence I need replacements… to me it makes sense if I am to acquire a dedicated amphibious asset, then it has the flexibility of both a well dock and big landing platform [I could be wrong but the costs between having a well dock or not are marginal] and if Egypt can afford two… why can’t the UK. We could go round and round the block about the merits of one LXX over another LXX but I am also looking at it from an industrial perspective that some hard learnt expertise has been acquired building the QEs and constructing 2 LXX over, say, 6 years would retain a lot of skills, a supply chain of several SMEs in the UK, and provide the RN with a very useful capability [ they will never, never, place a QE close enough to shore to make it a viable amphibious platform]

Again, I refer to my basic premise on the subject of cost… its not we dont have the funds… we choose not to spend them.

October 7, 2015 3:21 pm

Getting a bit worried about this TF “Z” with PoW and all the eggs in one basket…

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 7, 2015 6:16 pm

What about putting a laser on QE/PoW? Rheinmetall showed off their naval laser mount at DSEI 2015.
Also, did not BAE put forward a proposed air defence variant of the T26 with Aster 30 & a suitable radar?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
October 7, 2015 7:23 pm

…perhaps I’ve missed something, but where are the 15 MCMV? Some development of that capacity has always seemed to me to be the best way to provide proper work (and training) for a greatly enhanced RNVR…to maintain friendly contacts with our North Sea and indeed North Atlantic neighbours (giving said reservists sea time)…and with a modular kit-fit to sweep mines and hunt subs in periods of tension…mostly home based, but no reason not to go a little further afield if required. Aren’t we using them in the Gulf now?


Lord Jim
Lord Jim
October 7, 2015 8:06 pm

I cannot really see a problem with fitting Sea Ceptor to the Carriers. 2×8 quad packs, one on the port side towards the front and one on the starboard side towards the rear. This would provide the 360 degree coverage required. adding sponsons for these two packs should not be a major adaptation during their first major refit of even sooner.

How and when the RN replaces tis Harpoon is actually going to be an important programme as ideally it should also include the re-introduction of both an air launched and submarine launched capability. NSM/JSM would fulfil this as would the latest Exocet variants, though the latter like Harpoon is getting a bit long in the tooth.

I like the idea of transferring the LSDs to the RFA, if there is the manpower, but I cannot see anyway they would be replaced by two new LHDs such as the Canberra class. Yes more funding should be becoming available to Defence, but if one looks at the wish lists already submitted by all three services in advance of the SDSR that money is already spent and probably then some.

Retaining skills has to be balanced against the cost. This argument/discussion has been raised many times on this forum and I doubt is a consensus will ever be reached. If we cannot retain a national capability in the UK for things such a ammunition, surely ship building is going to be under pressure to either deliver competitive programmes or wither away. The only maritime area I believe we should retain is in the design and building of SSN/SSBNs. This is because there is not alternative if we still want to retain these capabilities. Can anyone see the USN offering to sell us the Virginia class or the Ohio replacement, and the same goes for France, though there may be a small possibility there when they wish to replace their Rubis class SSNs.

Rocket Banana
October 7, 2015 8:16 pm


I remember having this conversion with NaB (probably) a couple of years ago. I used Cavour as the more sensible model.

I think the real problems were two fold: 1) You can’t use them if you’ve got aircraft or people anyway close to them, 2) Not being close to them prohibits efficient deck movements (and parking).

October 7, 2015 9:06 pm

I’ve stated my thoughts previously around the need for a fundamental review for the UK’s amphibious assault capability and also a “purple” maritime focus for UK expeditionary capability.

Fundamentally, any capability needs in my book pass the SCARE test:
– Scalable: Able to cover multiple simultaneous small scale interventions to a large scale one off operation
– Collaborative: Able to incorporate and complement allied assets
– Adaptable: Able to cater to support a broad spectrum of operations
– Range: The UK is a global player
– Effective: It needs to be able to truly fulfil the required role and be globally respected.

This to me means having the ability to maintain 3 similar maritime task groups, operating up to 2 at any time and surging 3 in extreme circumstances. Each based around a QE (or other flattop) with a TAG (inc RAF / FAA F35B sqdns), TLAM platforms and ability to deploy and support an elite battle group (RM and Army); with supporting escorts, SSNs, MPAs, RFAs etc.

In addition to all of this, the UK needs to have the ability to have a global presence (through OPV, T26, SSN and Survey assets).

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
October 8, 2015 4:10 am

Much as I would like to see the RN acquiring one or two Juan Carlos type LHDs (with all the F35 capability retained please), I suspect that might be a bit difficult to sell to the Treasury at the moment (“what do you mean you want more aircraft carriers – what did you do with the two that we just bought you?”).

Realistically, I think we have to accept that we will be using the Albions for a good few years to come, which is not a bad thing – they seem to be good ships that are just lacking in the helicopter department. Now that Ocean is going, it seems that we will have to always deploy a CV with the amphibs, even when there is no real threat-based need for them, simply to provide helicopters.

Rather than move the amphibs into the RFA (who would need to recruit a lot of extra people to run them anyway), I would propose that we replace Argus with another helicopter capable platform similar to the JLSS (Karel Doorman), perhaps with slightly more hangar space – it would cover the auxiliary helicopter carrier/ aviation training platform and PCRS functions as well as providing additional replenishment capacity. It would fit better with the role of the RFA and probably be easier to justify to the Treasury, as a direct replacement for an extremely useful existing asset. In fantasy fleet world, I would have more than one, but just getting a confirmed replacement for Argus would be a good result. Should the MARS SSS also materialise with the proposed large hangar then, between the various platforms, we have the possibility of providing sufficient helicopters to allow the amphibs to deploy independently of the CVs for smaller/ lower-threat operations (or to deploy alongside allied CVs that might not be so focussed on amphibious ops).

But, if money is really tight, then maybe we could re-visit putting hangars on the Bays ;)

October 13, 2015 9:34 am
Reply to  Beno

Too large?! They can be mounted staboard side on the stern where there is no Phalanx. Sending a carrier without some SAM is unheard of.

October 15, 2015 7:18 pm
Reply to  mickp

Perhaps another solution could be a MSI Seahawk Sigma Mount with Starstreak 2 and LMM carried in the 7 cell launcher alongside the 30mm cannon? Makes a bit more sense as all of the missiles, mount and cannon are in service with the RN already. With a little bit of sensor fusion (from artisan or from the Phalanx sensors) you could have a very useful CIWS alongside the Phalanx, good for aerial targets and for FIAC’s in restricted seaways. With Starstreak 2’s 7km range and incredible acceleration and speed it could treble the hard kill envelope from the QE’s. And thats before we get onto a couple of CAMM cells.

Come to think of it, it would make a lot of sense for all RN small combatants to have the Sigma mount. Suddenly a rather small vessel has a decent air defence and surface attack capability (for limited threats).

October 15, 2015 7:24 pm

If we go along the commonality route we could have:

MSI Seahawk Sigma (30mm, Starstreak 2 to 7km+, LMM to 8km)
CAMM-ER to 40km+

All are in either in service already, on order or due to be on order shortly. Most are UK made as well.

Has anyone seen anything of the Sea Centurion decoy launcher recently though. For such a clever system all seems to have gone quiet…I thought it would be a shoo in for QE and T26, and retrofit to T45.

October 15, 2015 9:35 pm


I quite like Seahawk Sigma but my problem is with missiles and gun combined, surely there are operational restrictions in firing at more than one target at once? If we use it on smaller vesselsI think we need more mounts, so on B2 Rivers for example I’d have a sea hawk sigma mount forward and 2 conventional 30mm mounts on the wings (as for the Amazonas although they are 20mm I think). For QE, that wouldn’t be such a problem as there is Phalanx also. For QE for a simple solution I’d still look at Sea Ram replacing phalanx as point defence at an early stage, with CAMM possibly down the line. Isn’t the real defensive requirement of QE a point defence hard kill / decoy capability to deal with leakers unless we are foolish enough to operate it with an inadequate screen by reference to threat levels?

October 17, 2015 1:02 pm
Reply to  mickp

Absolutely, there are restrictions on using the gun and missile simultaneously. Neither the LMM or Starstreak 2 are autonomous, so they’ll need guidance (laser marking). Unless you have 2 operators and 2 EO sighting systems you will be limited to a single engagement at a time. By the looks of the photo’s on MSI’s website the Sigma would use an off mount EO system. The local sighting on the mount seems pretty basic. Of course if you mount a decent EO system on the Sigma you could well be doubling the ships EO capabilities and enabling separate engagements to take place (missile launch and handover to separate EO turret, followed by gun or missile engagement from the on-mount system. But to be honest given the speed and range of LMM and Starstreak in particular any engagement is doing to be over almost as soon as it starts. Certainly before you get the gun involved. Starstreak with it’s separate projectiles could be an astonishingly good CIW solution for missile interception. But the main point in adding the launchers is increasing the real world engagement range of the system from around 1km to 5km, and giving, for the first time in years, RN small surface combatants an effective AA system (for self defence) which in an era of UAV’c, UCAVS and cheap missiles could be very useful. Increasing the defence layers of a T45, T26 and QE would just be a useful bonus.

For the B2 Rivers if we managed to get a Sigma Seahawk on board I’d be happy with .50 cal or GPMG on the wings, but if we’ve got any 20mm mounts knocking around I could be persuaded…got to watch the topweight though. But they are only patrol craft, if we were sending them into harms way I’d be demanding countermeasures (like MASS), some Stingray torps and ship launched Sea Venom before I upped the number of guns. But the real use for the Sigma Seahawk would be on the MCM fleet, particularly in the gulf. We won’t be putting the B3 Rivers in harms way, but we regularly put MCM vessels out front, it would be nice if they had a bit more self defence capability.

SeaRAM I would avoid, the Phalanx is marginal these days against missiles but as a final defence it’s better than nothing, it has some utility against FIAC though. SeaRAM adds another missile to the supply chain, more cost and isn’t as effective as CAMM. I’d rather that sort of money went on CAMM on QE. Which given it’s being ordered already, with the training systems etc would work out cheaper than SeaRAM with an enormous increase in capability. But you’re right, given the squeeze on RN escorts we should be looking to give the QE class a little more firepower, even if the RN (and USN) aren’t too keen on tooling their CV’s up like the Russians, we just don’t have the escort numbers that the USN have.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
October 17, 2015 3:30 pm

@TimR – a good point about the MCM fleet. They are often overlooked, as are the RFA’s, which might also be candidates for a bolt-on defensive upgrade. IIRC the River B1s and some of the older RFAs carry/ carried 20mm guns, so there should be a few around for recycling (and the B2s/ Amazonas were designed with 20mm secondary guns in mind). Agree with you on the countermeasures stuff (probably more effective than extra weapons), but wouldn’t Sea Venom and Stingray be more complex (and expensive)?

October 18, 2015 10:59 am

I’ve always felt that the big gap is coastal forces- Ages ago I had a discussion on this very site about that- Like GNB upthread! I would like to have a number of smaller vessels similar to the Turandal Missile corvettes and maybe the Hamina FAC, manned by the RNVR and based around the country, not necessarily based at the Naval stations, but at smaller ports- I suspect the british public in those ports would rapidly adopt ‘our’ ships and I reckon that it would provide a handy source of recruitment. A couple of regulars in each squadron to keep up standards (would also provide good postings for those unable to go to sea for extended periods, or nearing the end of their service)

Peter Elliott
October 18, 2015 11:14 am

But what threat are these coastal missile boats meant to be meeting? Only the French or Spanish as far as I can see. The reason we dont have these boats is that we enjoy a strategic luxury denied to many nations: all our potential enemies are a fair distance away. That is why a capable blue water navy is what we prioritise. If an enemy navy ever came in range of coastal missile boats we would already have lost.

Which is not to say we don’t need customs and constabulary boats. But that is a different argument.

January 13, 2016 10:33 pm

Queen Elizabeth carriers will not now be fitted with Phalanx.

Cost saving measure.

Gen dit.

January 13, 2016 10:50 pm

Phalanx now won’t be fitted to save money. Gen dit

January 14, 2016 11:07 am

You mean, will not be permanently fitted with Phalanx. Fitted for but not with and the mounts rotated between deploying units, as it is today. We have them on the Bay class, it’s nonsensical to suggest they will never be fitted to the CVF.