Some Thoughts on the Batch 2 River Class


Since the first information was published about the second batch of the River-class patrol ships, officially referred to as Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), I have felt that they have been widely misunderstood. I believe they could be a much more significant development than is generally believed.

The origin of the R2s is, as is well known, the BAE Systems 90 m OPVs that have been sold to Brazil (three, originally built for Trinidad and Tobago) and Thailand (one, with a second now on order and perhaps more to come). I shall refer to this design as the BAES OPV. It is well known that the first three R2s will cost much more than the three BAES OPVs that ended up with Brazil (which is using them intensively, by the way, often on international missions).

The figure for the R2s has been given as £348-million, while the three BAES OPVs that Brazil bought cost £155-million.

Now, the first key point to note is that both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and BAES have stated that the design of the R2s is “based on” that of the 90 m OPV. “Engineers at BAE Systems have modified the design to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy,” said BAES in a press release dated 8 June 2015. This means that the R2s are not the same design as the BAES OPVs. They may look the same externally, but internally they are going to be different.

The question is: how different?

Let us look at the list of changes again:-

  • Watertight integrity modifications (also described as improved watertight integrity)
  • Fire safety modifications
  • Enhanced firefighting facilities
  • Automatic emergency lights
  • Flight Deck Officer position
  • Domestic refrigeration modifications
  • Sewage treatment plant modifications
  • Ballast water modifications
  • Merlin helicopter operation (ie strengthening the flight deck to be able to land a Merlin helicopter on it)
  • Helicopter in-flight refuelling
  • Helicopter refuelling modifications
  • Changes to ship’s minimum operating temperature
  • Davit modifications
  • Force protection weapons modifications (replacing 2×25 mm with 2×7.62 mm Mk 44 Gatling guns)
  • Installation of WECDIS/WAIS (WECDIS stands for Warship Electronic Chart Display and Information System; WAIS might stand for Wide Area Information System. This seems to be an improved version of the system fitted to HMS Clyde.)
  • Install Combat Management System (CMS), and the new RN standard BAES “Shared Infrastructure” which will equip the RN’s entire surface fleet over the next nine/ten years (this integrates ship sensor, weapons and management systems using a common console system).
  • Military communications modifications
  • Magazine protection (if my memory serves me correctly, this involves the fitting of Kevlar armour)
  • Radio equipment room modifications
  • Change lighting and domestic power voltage from 115 v to 230 v
  • Codification of equipment
  • Provision of life saving equipment
  • Replace navigation radars (fit the Kelvin Hughes Sharpeye)
  • Install military GPS
  • Install flight deck landing grid
  • Fuel efficiency monitoring
  • Provide emergency communication equipment
  • Machinery space walkway

The Ministry of Defence and BAES also report that the R2s will have increased stowage space.

Finally, originally it was proposed that the exhaust system be modified, but reportedly that has been determined to be no longer required.

Before going further, this list bears examining in terms of what it tells us about the BAES OPV design, or more precisely, their reduced operational capabilities. Most notably, their reduced watertight integrity, basic fire fighting facilities and the lack of protection for the magazines. This emphasizes that standard OPVs, like the BAES 90 m, are not designed for combat. They are naval vessels, but definitely not warships. They can handle smugglers, pirates and small-scale terrorist groups, but nothing greater than that (including major terrorist movements). It’s not about armament, it’s about their inability to absorb battle damage.

Enthusiasts for upgunning OPVs tend to forget this.

A 76 mm gun system with an unprotected magazine could turn an OPV into a death trap if it got caught up in a real shoot out, even if the opponent had lighter calibre weapons. A 76 mm gun is useful for intimidating modern large, ocean-going fishing vessels that may be bent on poaching, and so is a valid option for, example, the Irish Naval Service (which has no corvettes, let alone frigates) but it carries the risk that politicians will see the OPV as more powerful than it really is and order deployments in areas where it should not go.

Generally, many online commentators have dismissed the modifications to the BAES OPV design to convert it into the R2 design as being secondary or not important enough to justify the greatly increased price tag.

I believe they are wrong.

First, let us consider the watertight integrity improvements. How do you improve watertight integrity? I would argue that this would require additional watertight bulkheads and/or the fitting of shock-proof water inlet and outlet valves, pumps and pipes. With watertight bulkheads, one wants them to have as few points of penetration (for cables, pipes, etc.) as possible, and these to be as high up on the bulkhead as possible. So fitting even one new such bulkhead would require a noticeable redesign of internal hull systems. Improving existing watertight bulkheads (by, for example, reducing, or changing the location, of the points of penetration) would also involve internal redesign. Shock-proof pumps, valves, etc., will be significantly more expensive than their non-shock counterparts. They may also take up more volume, again requiring internal redesign. And improving watertight integrity also probably has consequences for the air conditioning system.

Ballast water modifications would also, I suggest, involve a degree of internal redesign. It may be possible to fit the new sewage treatment system in straight swap for the existing system, provided it has the same dimensions and weight. If not — then some redesign would be needed. Fire safety modifications may also involve some internal redesign or the fitting of better, but more expensive, fire resistant materials, or both. Regarding magazine protection, Kevlar is not cheap and we do not know how much is needed.

I won’t go through everything: some new systems will indeed involve simple swaps for existing systems. However, the new, strengthened, flight deck will be heavier than the existing flight deck. You just can’t drop a heavier flight deck on the existing structure, I would argue. It would increase the stress on the hull. So I believe that the fitting of the new flight deck must involve a strengthening of the hull, either by having stronger hull frames or more hull frames, or a mixture of the two. That, too, would involve redesign. Also, while the fitting of the machinery space walkway may have been a simple affair, it might not have been: it might have involved some redesign of the machinery space. After all, if a machinery space walkway was not part of the original BAES OPV design requirement, would any provision have been made for it in the original design?

The Flight Deck Officer position had to be designed and integrated into the Ship’s superstructure in such a way as not to interfere with the crane, or other fittings and equipment, and integrated into the various ship systems, including power, communications and air conditioning. This might have been straightforward, but then again it might have involved some delicate redesign. Increased stowage space also suggests some internal redesign.

In addition, don’t forget, all these internal changes cannot be made in isolation. They have to be coordinated and made compatible with each other and with the rest of the ship and its systems. That involves design work. And, of course, the time of designers (naval architects) is expensive.

But why these changes? To me, improved watertight integrity, fire safety modifications, enhanced firefighting facilities, automatic emergency lights, magazine protection and the installation of a machinery space walkway (which will clearly give easier access to machinery at sea, allowing emergency repairs) suggest that the R2s, unlike the BAES OPVs, are designed to engage in battle and sustain damage. Or, in other words, they are real, if lightly armed, warships.

Also very suggestive in this regard is the unprecedented top speed of the R2s, in comparison to the RN’s previous OPVs — 24 knots. The RN’s original OPVs, the Island-class, could manage 16.5 kts. The larger Castle-class could reach 19.5 kts. The current R1s have a maximum speed of 20 kts and HMS Clyde, 21 kts. The R2 maximum speed is more than needed by a standard OPV and just, I would argue, inside the warship range.

And if the R2s are real warships, in terms of the hull structure and systems, then it makes enormous sense to use them to replace the current River-class Batch 1 (R1) vessels, which are standard OPVs, and of no use in conflict scenarios at all, and thus provide no flexibility in deployment. (And, if the R1s have no magazine protection, then it is hardly surprising that the RN restricts their main armament to a single 20 mm gun.) The R1s can be sold or transferred to small navies or coast guards for which a seagoing OPV would represent a major increase in patrol capability, such as a number of Caribbean or African countries. They might also make useful secondary-level patrol ships for navies like Uruguay’s or Bangladesh’s. They could even conceivably end up with the UK Border Force. While it might make sense to keep the one “R1.5” ship, the helicopter-deck fitted HMS Clyde, in service (in home waters) after the five R2s are all commissioned, it must not be forgotten that she is not fitted with the new “Shared Infrastructure” system and I doubt it would make sense to refit her with it, so she would probably have to be retired in a decade or so, anyway.

Now, of course, if the R2s are real warships, why are they so lightly armed? I would argue that their armament is perfectly adequate for their intended peacetime roles. The main armament is reported to be a single DS30M 30 mm cannon, a remotely-operated gyro-stabilised electricity-powered system. This has a reported maximum range (in a naval role such as this) of 5 100 m. This is greater that the range to the visual horizon at sea level, which is about 4.7 km. It has a rate of fire 100/200 rounds per minute and uses armour-piercing incendiary (API) and high explosive incendiary (HEI) ammunition. It can also use armour-piercing fin-stabilised discarding sabot tracer ammunition, although whether such rounds would be used in a naval context is unclear. I would argue that this weapon is capable of doing a lot of damage even to larger targets, and certainly to the kind of target an R2 would be most likely to meet in the real world.

The most severe likely threat an R2 would face in normal operation would be a swarming attack by terrorists in small boats. Now, to succeed, such attacks must be launched at short range, otherwise the attackers will be cut to pieces by the 30 mm gun: the boats employed in such attacks would be small and fragile and a single 30 mm hit, or even proximity detonation, would disable one. Such early losses would eviscerate an attack. Given the necessity of a short-range attack, the shorter range of the Mk 44 Gatling guns (in comparison to the 25 mm cannons carried in the BAES OPVs now operated by the Brazilian Navy) is, in this scenario, quite irrelevant but their higher rate of fire is very relevant. Also, given the fragility of the attacking boats, the calibre of 7.62 mm would be perfectly adequate. (The have been pictures of pirate and rebel skiffs operating in the Niger River Delta armed with 12.7 mm or even 14.5 mm heavy machine guns, but these are not to be taken seriously; the moment they hit the sea, even on a calm day, their gunnery would be wildly inaccurate and utterly useless, except to intimidate unarmed and defenceless merchantmen.)

Moreover, it is a pretty safe bet that the RN has not only exercised swarm attacks, but that Ministry of Defence scientists, in what used to be (and maybe still is) called Operational Research (OR), have simulated and modeled them. Such research could be carried out by the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, or DSTL (which, according to its 2014-2015 Annual Report, has 3 839 staff, 90% of them permanent, so it is a substantial, heavyweight, research and development organisation) or be contracted out by DSTL to Qinetiq.

OR has a fantastic record of success, because it is applied science, and many of its findings in the past (eg, Second World War) have been in complete contradiction to what was then regarded as common sense, but proven to be true when put into practice. OR was and is also highly secret, so the only results we see are in, for example, apparently strange weapons choices. I would suggest that many of the RN’s seemingly odd weapons and equipment choices for its ships are based on OR. If the OR boffins (to use a good, old-fashioned, term) gave their approval to the Mk 44 Gatling, then it is the right choice. These comments also apply, of course, to the R2s main armament.

The other probable reason for the light R2 armament in peacetime is what political scientists call bureaucratic politics — interdepartmental disputes (over policy, budget and so on). In this case, a more heavily armed R2 could lead the Treasury to argue that it was a corvette (which, at 24 kts, it is not) and could serve as a cheaper substitute for more frigates (specifically, for the planned General Purpose Frigate).

But what about the R2s during a sustained, State-on-State, conflict? What could they do in such a scenario? The key here is the flexibility of the design. The first key point is the fitting of the Shared Infrastructure common control system. This, of course, makes great sense in terms of training and operating experience for the crews. Although the fit is likely to be relatively basic, I would suggest it would still make it easy to upgrade the weapons and sensor systems on an R2, if and when required, because the information technology backbone would already be in place.

The ships will be equipped with the Terma Scanter 4100 radar for surveillance. According to Terma, the Scanter 4100 can provide 2D air surveillance to a range of 90 nm and 35 000 ft in altitude. It can track up to 100 air targets (subsonic and supersonic). In the surface role, its range is out to the radar horizon (ie, depends on high up the antenna is mounted) and can track up to 500 targets. The company affirms in a brochure that the “accurate tracker allows for transmission of target data to the Command Management System or Fire Control System for target designation”. This suggest that the R2s can be up-armed without needing any new radar fit.

Furthermore, the BAES OPV can be fitted with up to six 20 ft ISO containers. There is no indication that this capability has been removed from the R2s. This means that the ships will be able to be fitted with just about any system or equipment that can be containerised or palletised. One can easily imagine the ships being fitted with containerised/palletised mine hunting systems, or mine laying systems (for defensive mine laying, probably in support of allies), or containerised workshops and spares stores to act as command and support ships for minehunters or patrol boats, or a containerised/palletised system carrying unmanned surface vessels and extra rigid hull inflatable boats allowing the ships to serve as forward force protection base ships. One could even image them being fitted with palletised Sea Ceptor missiles (would should be relatively easy to do) — assuming each pallet carried six Sea Ceptors (as would be carried by each vehicle in the land-based version of the missile), an R2 could carry anything from six (one pallet) to 36 (six pallets) missiles, making it a very useful local area air defence escort for amphibious ships and auxiliaries. Likewise, one can easily envisage the ships embarking containerised unmanned air vehicle (UAV) systems. Not very long ago, it was officially stated that it was not envisaged that these ships would carry UAVs, but a lot has happened since then and that position will likely have changed by the time they enter service. (The most likely reason why the R2s might not deploy containerised UAV systems is the apparent success of current experiments with 3D printed tactical UAVs being undertaken by the RN; I would not be surprised if the R2s entered service with 3D printers installed as standard fit.) The fact that none of these proposed containerised/palletised systems currently exists is irrelevant; it is highly likely that, in an emergency, many of them could be developed, tested and deployed in a matter of weeks. Of course, if most or all the container spaces are occupied, the flight deck is likely to be covered and unusable; but the ships will still be able to refuel helicopters using their helicopter in-flight refuelling systems.

Then there is the flexibility made possible by the absence of a helicopter hangar. Yes, you read that right. Flexibility has many dimensions. Not having a helicopter hangar cuts flexibility along one axis but increases it along another. For a start, the R2s would not be able to carry up to six containers if they had a hangar!

Before going any further, it is necessary to highlight that the fact that one of the modifications to the BAES OPV design to create the R2s is the addition of a flight deck officer position. In addition, a press release by Kelvin Hughes states that the R2s will each be fitted with two types of SharpEye radar — the E/F band navigation and collision avoidance radar and the I-band Doppler helicopter control and navigation radar. These two facts clearly show that the RN fully intends to carry out extensive helicopter operations with the R2s.

Do not forget that the RN has decades of experience in operating ships with flight decks but no hangars. During the Second World War, the RN operated a number of Merchant Aircraft Carriers (merchant ships fitted with flight decks but which continued to carry cargo — grain or oil, which were loaded and unloaded using hoses) that had no hangars: their air groups of three to five Swordfish were lashed down and maintained on the flight deck when not flying. These were used for convoy escort in the North Atlantic. Then, in the mid-1960s, the converted tank landing ship HMS Lofoten, serving as the RN’s first helicopter support ship, successfully operated Wessex anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters on a sustained basis over several days during RN and NATO exercises in the North Sea and (I think) Norwegian waters, despite having no hangar. (My father was one of the Fleet Air Arm maintainers embarked during these exercises, which served to test the Wessex in the ASW role.) Another example is provided by HMS Fearless, which, during the Falklands War in 1982 embarked and operated three Sea King assault and three Scout helicopters despite having no hangar. (Sister ship HMS Intrepid likewise embarked and operated Sea Kings.)

So, contrary to opinions often found on the web, ships with flight decks but no hangars can operate helicopters, not just refuel them. Of course, the length of time they can do this depends on the size of the ship and the weather. And the fact that the R2s are also to be fitted with flight deck landing grids shows that the RN is determined to push the weather/sea condition limits on helicopters operations with the R2s.
Of course, the period that smaller ships without hangars can operate helicopters is likely to be measured in days, whereas a ship with a hangar can operate a helicopter for months. But it does mean that the helicopter operating capabilities of the R2s are much greater than they are usually given credit for.

The other source of flexibility for the R2s resulting from their lack of a hangar is that fact that this allows them to have a larger flight deck, capable of taking the Merlin. As the RN is standardizing on the Lynx/Wildcat and the Merlin, and these will carry out all helicopter roles and missions within the Fleet Air Arm, this means that the R2s will be able to support all these roles and missions: anti-surface vessel warfare, ASW, airborne early warning, assault, and so on. I was going to suggest a number of possible scenarios, but that would only make this piece even longer than it already is! Suffice to say that the R2s will be able to act as floating, moving, forward operating bases for helicopters detached from larger units (frigates, destroyers, aircraft carriers) or from shore bases, for one, two or a few days, depending on the mission, type of helicopter and weather conditions. I will give one scenario: a Type 45 could detach a Wildcat to an R2 operating in coastal and/or inshore waters, for anti-ship reconnaissance and attack missions. The much smaller R2 would have greater freedom of manoeuvre in such waters & if, the worst came to the worst, would be expendable. Also, in many parts of the world, such waters are sheltered and an R2 might very well be able to operate a Wildcat for a week or more (it would be perfectly capable of embarking the necessary maintainers, spares and tools for routine support of the aircraft). In other situations, an R2 might be able to embark and operate an ASW or AEW Merlin for a couple of days.

To sum up, first, I believe that the modifications to the BAES OPV design to create the R2 are — or at least some of them are — extensive and important and justify the significantly increased price. (Of course, I might be wrong, but I do not think I am.) Second, these changes convert the ships from standard OPVs to real, if lightly armed, warships, with significant flexibility designed into them. Indeed, I cannot help wonder if — although the RN will never so describe them, for reasons of bureaucratic politics — they are really sloops. But not, I hasten to add, the much talked about “Black Swan” concept. The Second World War “Black Swans” were, for their size, heavily armed (main armament: 6×4″ dual purpose guns) and specialised (anti-aircraft) escorts. Clearly, the R2s bear no resemblance to such ships. No, the sloops I am thinking about are the First World War Flower-class (not to be confused with the Second World War Flower-class corvettes). These were highly successful, very seaworthy, multipurpose vessels, but were never heavily armed. The first 24 examples had a main armament of just two 12 pounder guns (and a secondary, anti-aircraft armament of two quick-firing 3 pounders). Later examples had a main armament of two 4″ or even two 4.7″ guns (plus the 3 pounders) — still on the light side, by the standards of the day.

Of course, we won’t know for certain until the ships are built, commissioned and in service.

But, while the RN may not have originally desired the R2s, they do seem to have made a virtue out of a necessity.


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June 17, 2016 7:10 pm

An OPV is not a warship, the only thing it should ever be doing in an actual war situation is running for the farthest horizon. So in that respect the extra speed will help.

What won’t is the up-armouring, and an attempt by the MoD and BAE to turn these into something other than what they are: simple hulls to do simple things, fisheries, counter-piracy, smuggling etc.

This runs the risk of perception becoming belief, concept becoming doctrine, in using these patrol ships in an environment where they are nothing more than targets and utterly unable to protect themselves against the immense violence that kinetic impacts today have.

If an NSM hit a new-River, so fine would the remaining particles be that they wouldn’t even sink.

June 17, 2016 7:15 pm

The 30mm is weak for that OPV. They should do what Thailand did for HTMS Krabi and put a Oto Melara 76 mm main gun. What they British are doing to the River class OPV is akin to what the US Coast Guard has called the Reliance-class cutter that has 25mm Mk 38 autocannon.

david wooley
david wooley
June 17, 2016 7:20 pm

The batch one’s do the job very well indeed all we need is more of the same . not mini frigates that have cost implications .

June 17, 2016 7:26 pm

Seems very sensible to me; I think the RN have been very sensible to do all these mods. They’ve made a very handy small warship- as long as everyone remembers it is only a small warship, not the death star

Senior Moment
Senior Moment
June 17, 2016 7:32 pm

Really well thought out and researched article

Peter Elliott
June 17, 2016 7:36 pm

The value of the contract for the new Rivers is not directly related to the ships. It’s the amount needed to keep the Govan yards fully staffed between the QEC and T26 builds. The high unit cost of the Rivers does not in itself indicate the qualities of the ships.

June 17, 2016 7:58 pm

So its neither one thing or the other. Too expensive to be a fisheries patrol vessel, but too lightly armed to go in harms way.

June 17, 2016 7:59 pm

The RN has plenty of heavier warships, there’s not huge need for them to add an additional supply chain element by going with a 76mm for the Rivers just for the sake of these hulls.

In other OPV related news (and since it was mentioned in the article), reports that Ireland will order a fourth P 60 Beckett class, which would move to a 9 ship force.

June 17, 2016 8:07 pm

You are really looking at this backwards. Essentially the Brown Govt signed a Terms of Business Agreement that guaranteed a minimum level of work (and income to BAES). That is why the Batch 2 Rivers are priced at c£116M each. Ludicrous prevarication and delay to the original Type 26 build schedule is forcing the MoD to keep the Clyde shipyards going and pouring cash in BAES direction. The least BAES could do was build these overpriced vessels to Gucci OPV standards. The RN leadership is far from enthusiastic about these vessels and worry they will come at the cost of warships that can actually fight and win wars (there is much more excitement about the Type 31 even if it exists only in outline). Talk of ‘lightly armed warships’ is misleading – these are patrol ships and death-traps in a real shooting war.

We do need more hulls, including patrol ships but the R2s will only be of real significance if the R1s are retained which is not the current plan. They have some utility of course but OPVs must not be confused by those in power (and the Treasury) with real warships.

As for sustained helicopter ops without a flight deck – if you are a masochist or occasionally want to “prove it can be done” then fine for short periods. But as a general rule maintenance-intensive, complex and delicate helicopters are hard enough to repair at sea in a hangar, never mind in the open. There are lots of better, cheaper OPV designs already serving with foreign navies with better weapons fits, a hangar and useful deck space space for containers. Ultimately the R2s are a job creation scheme.

June 17, 2016 8:15 pm

Jane’s 13 June 2016, “India launches 105m OPV for Sri Lankan Navy” Top speed 24 knots, range 4500 nm at 3 knots. Flight deck for a helicopter. Armed with a 76mm gun.

June 17, 2016 8:44 pm

Good article . The RN has speced these well , interesting is the combat management system , as you say they have all the systems to operate a range of weapons in an integrated battle group but no weapons bar the guns mentioned .
I feel this may be an astute move on the navy’s part . If they had weapons , the bean counters would try to class them as frigates/corvettes. With possible ISO containers weapons options they can quickly be up armed and become a useful unit . Reminds me of the Through Deck Cruisers (invincible ) trick , when the navy wasn’t meant to have carriers .

The Other Chris
June 17, 2016 9:58 pm

Just because the TOBA dictated a minimum spend it doesn’t mean that money is handed over for no value at all in return…

June 18, 2016 7:09 am

If you want small ships you can fight with, then look back to WW2. For example, the Japanese Kagero class destroyer. 2033 tons, 35.5 knots, armed with 6x 5 inch, 4x 25mm, 2x 13mm, 8x torps. Ranged all over the Pacific.

June 18, 2016 7:26 am

Looking at past conflicts, the RN have always needed small warships. A need often filled by unsuitable stop-gaps (armed merchant ships, Flower class et al).
So it makes sense to ensure that they are at least fitted to the same standards as the main fleet, with the ability to upgrade as required.

As an aside, I notice the various russian fleets have smaller warships, corvettes etc as part of the fleet.

So, a couple more of these, and then some coastal forces. Visbys or similar, even a modernised Flygfisken.

…That’ll be the homeland secured then.

June 18, 2016 9:43 am

Might there be some merit in looking at a design based upon those unsung heroes, the survey ships of the Echo class? These are rugged ships with long endurance, designed to spend a lot of time away from home, at sea, in all weathers. Echo is 90m long and about 2,000 tonnes: extending the length would allow space to upgrade the propulsion and thereby top speed to, say, 24 knots, and provide more space for containerised systems and a heavier weapons fit. Maybe a medium calibre gun and / or a VLS cell ? As a side benefit, they can be built in Appledore, securing a second source of supply against the Clyde / BAE Systems, and an interesting opportunity for further development towards the Type 31.

June 18, 2016 9:44 am

Correction, Echo is closer to 3,700 tons, built to have plenty of space for the crew and to withstand harsh weather

stephen duckworth
June 18, 2016 10:45 am

I agree that the RN are right to insist on all the upgrades but in view of modern ASM these are VC’s in the making if put in harms way against any peer force . Read “HMS River sank with all hands off the coast of ……… “

June 18, 2016 11:29 am

I thought we very recently sent hms enterprise to Libya for survelliance and rescue missions. How heavily armed was that.

As the nature of conflict changes, migration increases and how people who wish us I’ll are exploiting this I would suggest that what may have historically be classed as constabulary task are every bit as important to national security if not more so than high seas conflict between two blue water navy’s.

So perhaps aircraft, ships and ground units should be in the force structure that are more tailored to these threats rather than just high end units.

shark bait
June 18, 2016 12:02 pm

The new rivers are a disaster, they are platforms that the Royal Navy does not want or need, and only exist as make busy work until we finally build some proper ships.

All they are doing is sucking up resources from platforms that do have a credible wartime capability. We are already loosing three mine hunters to fund the new additions, and then the hundreds of millions of pounds that would be much better plugging one of the many holes within the armed forces.

What we have done is paid for a mini complex warship, to do tasks that don’t require a complex warship, for the sole purpose of sustaining a complex warship industry.

All those tasks you point out; Carrying containers, Launching patrol boats, Mine laying, UAV operations can all be done just as well from cheap non complex platforms. There is very little that can justify using a complex platform in these roles.

Putting Sea Ceptor missiles on this thing is such a horrible idea. The vessels have a 30mm cannon on the front, it is there for sinking criminals in canoes, not for going up against something with ASM. The rivers should never be in that position, so spending the money to defend against it is ridiculous. Further more one the flight deck is filled with a proper radar and Sea Ceptor silos there is no room left for anything else. It will be a platform who’s only purpose is self defence, and it can self defend a lot better by staying in port.

The hangar and Merlin features are moot, because there will not be enough Merlin to start pointlessly equipping the river class with one, and if there was a small hangar there is still nothing to put in it.

There is very little that can justify the price of these, the only reason they exist is to sustain an industry for an important program. It is a terrible waste, draining yet more resources from a Royal Navy already at the tipping point.

If we want boats to be flexible and patrol, the same effect can be achieved much more efficiently using a simple commercial hull. An opportunity exist to do exactly that through through the MHC program in the late 20’s, which is a much better approach. The same capabilities, at a fraction of the cost.

Unfortunately the rivers are happening, so now we have to suck it up and make do.

The platforms are not well equipped to counter the ad-hoc and pop up maritime security threats they are best suited to. They are too slow, with a too small sphere of influence to have the coverage or response times necessary to counter general maritime security threats like piracy or smuggling.

We should try and change that by permanently equipping these new rivers with a Scan Eagle catapult at the front to increase the platform coverage. We can develop this capability capabilities with multiple units and swarm tactic to further increase the sphere of influence.

The next addition is some fast boats on that flight deck, initially as offshore raiding craft, but with the aim of developing capabilities to operate a full on fast combat boat like the CB90. Multiple units can be added to response at a more appropriate scale, speed and legality.

Through a mixture of UAV to increase data collection, and combat boats to increase speed of response, the sphere of influence for the new river class can be greatly enhanced. It will act as a mother ship for some off board distributed systems, our own budget LCS if you like.

They are certainly not going to have any wartime role however, maritime security is the limit. Station one in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Falklands and the others wherever, and they can make a real contribution maritime security in the area.

That doesn’t justify the purchase, the same effect could be achieved much more efficiently from a simple hull, but unfortunately its already happening, and we now need to think how to make the most out of them.

Keith Campbell
Keith Campbell
June 18, 2016 12:03 pm

Thanks for the responses & all the interest. I had hoped I would stimulate debate. It is clear that there are a couple of things I should have made explicit or included, but did not.

Yes, quite right, these are “make work” ships, (hence my reference in my conclusion that the RN has made a virtue out of necessity with the R2s). But this strengthens my argument: you cannot retain warship building skills by building standard OPVs, but only by building warships (even if they are small & lightly armed).

Again, yes, it is not pleasant to carry out maintenance work on a helicopter on an open deck, unless the ship is operating in a balmy climate. But the point is that it can be done, has been done, and would be done if necessary, and that consequently the helicopter operating capabilities of the R2s are significantly greater than they are usually credited with. Also, I bet that a lot of routine “snag rectification” work is done on frigate flight decks & not in the hangars, at least in the Fleet Air Arm, in order to keep up the operational tempo.

I should, perhaps, have made it explicit that I could not see an R2 being committed to a real war without undergoing some kind of systems and/or weapons upgrade (including countermeasures). I thought it would be implicit in my discussion of the potentialities provided by its ability to embark containers.

Of course an R2 could be completely destroyed by a hit from a heavy modern anti-ship missile. And a First World War Flower sloop would have been blown out of the water by a hit from a German torpedo (no doubt some were: I have no information on losses). That does not make an R2 useless in wartime. The Flowers were incredibly useful & played a major role in winning the war at sea. As an American commentator (I can’t remember who, but I’m pretty certain it was on informationdissemination and he was discussing the littoral combat ship) recently pointed out, NO small warship is “survivable” if it takes a major missile or torpedo hit: it is simply a result of its size. Again, this does not make small warships useless.

June 18, 2016 12:28 pm

Interesting. Although I hear all the talk about these being make-work vessels to compensate for T26 delays this article makes me slightly less depressed about what is going to be delivered.

I also hear the talk about an up-armed OPV, however good, not really being fighty enough to have much (if any) role in any peer or near-peer conflict. In today’s world however it does seem to be that a lot of protecting our security involves patrols and potential action against “smugglers, pirates and small-scale terrorist groups” (to borrow a phrase from the article – SP&SST for short). If this is the case then another interesting twist on the lower level capability debate is, if one accepts that any vessel primarily designed for an SP&SST role is not going to be asked to go into harms way in a peer conflict and so doesn’t really need any up-arming capability, just how small a vessel could provide the SP&SST role? What attributes does such a vessel need (endurance, sea keeping, weapons, sensors, aviation facilities, future growth margin)? Might B2 Rivers even be overkill for such roles and might have got more coverage from smaller vessels, maybe closer to the Border Force cutters in size, but with some level of armament to intimidate unarmed vessels and defend against swarm attack? (I’m asking genuine questions here as a lay-person, not trying to imply any answers.)

If going smaller then for future growth a flight deck capability for some sort of modest-sized UAV to extend surveillance reach would probably be a good idea. Hangar facilities to maintain the UAV(s?) might even be possible via a container solution rather than permanent fit which actually might be true of the Rivers as well. I’m not sure where the containers go on the Rivers but from images of the B2s it looks as if there might be space for single containers port and starboard of the crane, aft of the ribs, which wouldn’t encroach on the flight deck.

June 18, 2016 12:44 pm

@Shark Bait – Ooops. This is what comes from not doing a refresh on a browser tab kept open on the comments. I see that my musings were almost all covered in your post almost an hour earlier which I hadn’t seen at time of making my post.

June 18, 2016 1:29 pm

I hope all the issue addressed in this post is correct. In short (for me), R2 (will) have a better damage control/survivability than R1 or other BAE OPVs (Amazonas). I think it is reasonable assumption.

On the other hand, all the “utility tasks to be performed via smallish vessels” is quite common. Even River B.1 can do it. On the other hand, survivability has little meaning here, because as noted by the author, a single ASM hit can easily destroy the vessel, regardless of it being R1, R1.5 or R2.

So the issue is, low-threat warfare. It will deeply depend on what kind of tasks you assume.

Among the current tasks RN is involved, what tasks can be “better” done by R2s?

As EEZ patrol/fishery protection vessels, I think much simpler R1/1.5 is better (less maintenance load, less crew). If the R1s are to be “replaced”, it is doing so with a bit less suitable platform (R2).

Then, what about APT-N, currently frequently tasked to R1? Med? APT-S and FIGS? Or even Kipion?

Among them, APT-N “want’s” helicopter hangar. If it is identified as R2’s task and Helicopter is must, then simply modify the vessels to replace 15t crain with a retractable hangar (or simply change the 2 additional vessels design to take it).

If up armored (with 20mm CIWS and 30mm SeaHawk sigma (LMM and StarStreak), and possibly with a 3inch gun), and added with a Wildcat hanger (and a arsenal for LMM and SeaVenom), it can replace the APT-S, if the Argentina military situation was kept as low as it is now. (note APT-S is now gapped for long). In this case, their “so so high survivability” get some meaning.

I do not think (even if up-armored) it can replace one of the Kipion ship (or may be OK?). Only a fraction of FRE task (chasing Russian frigates) will be OK and never the TAPS.

If you want to send R2/3s to Mali, Siera Leone, or like, Wildcat hanger will be needed, but up-armor will not be so critical.

These kinds of operational research will be needed, before saying yes or no to your post, I guess.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 18, 2016 2:20 pm

Well this has brought the usual good ideas club out in spades. Some want to turn them into mini Frigates others claim they are costing us 3 MCMVs and are useless :)

Dependent on Manning and the decision on the River B1 there are plans for these vessels in place. If we leave the EU then that may well be in the Channel.

These vessels can be gainfully employed in 2 or 3 different roles dependent on circumstances and contrary to some claims, there 24kt speed, ability to carry fast RHIBS a helicopter or UAV and modern information sharing from things like AIS NATO shipping centre, WAP from a variety of sources makes them ideal for combatting smuggling and gives them quite an area of influence. This becomes more obvious when you understand that anti smuggling and fish, anti piracy etc are Intel driven and geographically focused. Very different from open water AsUW or ASW.

So in summary , everyone take a chill pill.

The Other Chris
June 18, 2016 3:42 pm

Via circumstance, we’re receiving quite an uplift in the “local” end of our fleet.

It was only a few year’s ago we were cheering the decision to purchase the R1’s at the end of their ten-year lease period from VT as they’d proven quite successful in practice. Any doubt that R2’s are superior to R1’s?

What really needs correcting are the numbers of capable escorts – frigates and destroyers. Lord Stanhope confirmed that 23 is the minimum number required by the RN advised to the government in both 2010 and 2015. We have 19 and if we don’t start building replacements soon those numbers will drop. More vessels were damaged in 1982 than we have in our fleet currently…

There’s also concern with the current proposed solution to that issue of lack of hulls. Not that GPFF can’t be a capable and flexible surface vessel of itself (Venator 110 and Damen Crossover flexi-roles are interesting capabilities), but that by losing the 5 x T26 “General Purpose” hulls we’re losing five high-end noise-reduced vessels that can be upgraded to superior ASW assets very quickly.

So, if we accept the 5 x R2’s (including options) as a positive uplift in both reserving warship production skills and number of vessels in the water that can look after the Channel/Fisheries and ship out to likes of the Med as our contribution to such operations, the more critical issues for the RN are:

– Placing the order for T26 so we can start replacing aging T23
– Come up with a solution to purchase 13 x T26 so we don’t lose any high-end ASW capability
– Purchase 4+ x GPFF to fill out the fleet to a minimum of 23 escorts
– Complete the T45 plant corrections
– Move on with the future

June 18, 2016 5:36 pm

My professor always said I should plan my essays more thoroughly before embarking on a multi-page rant, so here’s my outline: let me know if I managed to stick to it!

– A job creation scheme
– The best of a bad situation
– The French doctrine
– Why small doesn’t mean ‘small’
– BAES’s limited product catalogue
– Political expediency
– ‘Not the mission we signed up for!’

The procurement of these ships is, as others have already said, a job creation scheme to paper over a gap in orders – a gap created by politics, not by necessity. Let us be under absolutely no doubt about that.

The fact that the RN has attempted to make the most out of a bad situation by upgrading these ships as much as possible is not surprising. What other choice did they have?

These two facts, however, will probably push the RN towards a well known and often discussed alternative to their current operating doctrine – that of the Marine Nationale. I foresee an operating model not dissimilar to that of the French in which an RFA is deployed with a River Batch 2 instead of a frigate, and operates much as the MNs various fleets of corvettes have done for decades, providing presence, deterrence, surveillance and assistance. Meanwhile, our diminishing fleet of high end escorts (which are so diminished in number that they, themselves, are probably worthy of being escorted as high value units in their own right) concentrate on defence diplomacy (exercises, etc.), deployments to conflict zones, and on escorting capital assets like carriers and amphibs.

There are many who won’t be upset by such a change.

Many of those who won’t be upset are also many of those who often say the RN needs a class of small warships, like the MN’s corvettes, for instance. But anyone who reads small as meaning ‘tiny’ has misconstrued. The RN needs a class of ‘cheap’ warships that are sufficiently lightly armed as to remain cheap to procure and to maintain, and that can be operated and maintained with small crews (because people are the most expensive components). But that doesn’t mean the vessel itself has to be small. In fact, the bigger the better. Lots of empty space that is, for the moment, only full of ballast, is fine if it means that the RN can have a fleet of ships that can be usefully upgraded one day, should we discover ourselves in a conflict in which half a dozen T45s and half a dozen T26s simply can’t stretch themselves thinly enough… which is not unlikely.

So why is this relevant to the River Batch 2?

The original BAES OPV design has been modified with significant ‘warshipy’ type upgrades, as the article describes. Unfortunately, all this time and effort and money has been expended on a tiny little hull with minimal utility. The article attempts to make a virtue out of the inability to embark both containerised equipment and a hangar. Is is not. It is a limit imposed by political necessity, and from such political necessities have come some of the worst military procurement decisions in history.

So what was the alternative? I would far rather have built something on the scale of the Absalon (not necessarily the Absalon, I hasten to add: there are many options). I would have built this big OPV with all the same warshipy upgrades, but with a hull full of ballast and the same small crew operating a similar weapons, sensor and equipment fit… with the notable addition of a hangar plus plenty of ISO container space. That would have been a useful addition the fleet.

Why didn’t we get such a vessel?

That’s easy. BAES don’t make one. And that’s the whole point! To meet the requirements for this job creation scheme without spending three or four times what was actually spent, the MoD had to choose an off-the-shelf design from BAES’s increasingly limited catalogue. What else have they got on there that might have been relevant? Those Brunei ships? Barely better than OPVs on steriods, themselves. The Khareefs? No, they’re corvettes and buying them would have cut into the procurement of real warships like T26. The Lekiu? Based on the obsolete F2000 design and also falls foul of the corvette trap.

BAES are behind the times. While competitors like Damen are pumping out fascinating, scale-able and affordable options across every single role and size range you can think of, and are succeeding in selling them (!), BAES divide their time between wooing the US military, working hard to convert themselves into a US company, and topping up their shareholder dividends by ripping the back out of the MoD.

Innovation doesn’t even feature on their list of priorities, which is why their catalogue of designs is so thoroughly uninspiring, and why political expediency has saddled the RN with a half dozen pointless, semi-useful police boats that better resembled well-equipped coast guard cutters, which is ironic given how fervently the RN has resisted taking on a coast guard mission down the years (perhaps they should have thought about that before confiscating the Coast Guard’s assets in the 1850s).

June 18, 2016 7:33 pm

MSR, I think you’re looking for something like the Indonesian FMPVs from North Sea. :) But don’t forget, you want something nice, expect to pay a “nice” price for it too.

APATS, but what about the voting segment that wants capital punishment for smugglers and illegal immigrants without trial? I’m sure they would like to Harpoon every suspected smuggler in the UK EEZ! And I think they would be wishing for a Harpoon that isn’t a “sharp pointy metal stick thrown by hand”. (Disclaimer: humour Type: Questionable :P )

I’m sure people would like 20 frigates and destroyers each for the Navy, but there is such a thing called “budget allocation” and I have serious doubts that you can ask for more without someone in Parliament kneeling over and frothing at the mouth. And I suspect some will even skip the kneeling over part.

June 19, 2016 6:53 am

The biggest warship in the RN that is currently operational, HMS OCEAN, was built to commercial specs. The RN then spent a lot of time, effort and money getting the watertight integrity to come up to RN spec. The RN do not want to make that mistake again. Bulkheads are probably not the problem. It usually comes down to placing watertight doors in bulkheads that have “normal” house like doors in them, sealing cable and pipe penetrations through bulkheads and decks with intumesent/ waterproof sealant and fitting isolating valves in vent trunking. Remember the RN has come close to losing at least 4 ships since the Falklands due to incidents that had nothing to do with war fighting and everything to do with flooding (Southampton, Brazen , Nottingham and Endurance).
Ballast Water and sewage system Mods are to be expected with the new, more stringent regulations coming into force for commercial ships. Warships need not comply but if you don’t, you tend to find that the number of Ports that will allow you alongside diminishes very quickly and that greatly affects sustainability and endurance.
Magazine Mods are a must even for full on warships. IM weapons are coming into service but the legacy munitions in use have a number of serious problems if damaged by shrapnel, bullet penetration or just being in a good old blazing inferno. Plating in a magazine, fitting auto spray systems, fire detection and blow off plates are a given.
For other improvements, such Machinery space walk way, FDO facilities etc, these are straight forward design changes that should not prove to be overly difficult to implement. The flight deck strengthening is more problematic but is not just for taking a bigger helo. Deck strengthening also reduces the chances of deck penetration should a crash on deck or a weapon mishap occur.
With regard to main armament, whilst a 76 OTO would be the ultimate nice to have the footprint and supportability of such a gun is huge. It is a complex gun with a big magazine. When the gun goes wrong it usually involves lots of bent metal and days of repairs. The single 30 is in contrast quite simple and reliable and the footprint considerably smaller. With the addition of 50 Cal HMG’s and Mk 44 Mini Guns attacks from small boats is covered .Mk 44s can put a lot of rounds down on a target and you don’t have to be that accurate. At 3000 rounds a min they literally shred targets and the closer you get to one the more damage it does because accuracy improves as range to target decreases.
With having a flight deck available the platform flexibility also greatly increases. Be that for HIFR or landing on a Helo or for UAV operations. By including a small magazine for say the Sea Skua replacements it would give the R2 the ability to also act as a floating weapon park. Sustainability increases as well…you can Vertrep stores from an RFA or from ashore. A flight deck also increases SAR capability (It isn’t all about killing stuff!) Scan Eagle UAV’s could easily operate from the flight deck. For protection from the elements you can fit the launcher, catcher in a 40ft ISO or just have them tied down on deck, they are after all just trailers .The vehicles are supplied in waterproof containers and can be stowed inside the ship. A containerised control /Data link container would not be that difficult to install if a fixed system (as is fitted to T23) was not used
So why get an R2? Well no more than 3 miles away from here are sat some of the most expensive RN warships per foot of length ever made, Sandown and Hunt MCMVs. R2 OPV’s would be an ideal replacement for at least 2 of them and would offer far more options than the current MCMV forces can provide with regards to Maritime Security Patrols. With the new RN Naval Base facilities being built here they would make an ideal addition to the RN presence in theatre. Manning them in a similar way as the Echo and Enterprise are would have platform availability up in the 300+ days per year category.
Incidentally the USN has MCMVs here as well but it also has Typhoon class patrol boats. They don’t have big guns or anti aircraft missiles they are armed with 25 mm Bushmasters only and they do the job out here of patrolling and providing a presence very well.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 19, 2016 12:32 pm

@Gun Buster

Not sure D3 would agree with you over replacing 2 of our MCMVS with 2 River Batch 2. They are the assets that the US cannot replicate. Their Avenger class have no embedded CDE and huge availability issues. One of 4 from September 15 to April 16 only then increasing to 2 of 4 with no certain timeline to go to 3 or more.
It is no coincidence that the UK supply the Operational Battlestaff for the Allied adaptive MCM force featuring UK and US MCMVs, UK and US AUVs and US USV and air MCM and the AFSB.

No doubt the rivers would be useful in theatre. Those Typhoons do have some other clever toys though. Some tasty Electro Optical Devices, a USB, Griffin ASM, 50 Cal’s, 40mm grenade launcher and 2 25mm bushmasters.
They have 8 plus the USCG PBs.

June 19, 2016 1:07 pm

…. think you mean USV APATS. A USB on a ship isn’t that hard to do, I’m sure the crewmen/women/it have lots of them whenever they bring consumer electronics aboard. :)

Now if only they can find a charger….

To be honest, I do understand the feelings of wanting to get the/be the best, it’s part of the competitive streak inherent in the human condition. I also do get that those OPVs/corvettes/support ships are not going to fight WWIII all the time and most days are simply boring work, if you had to fire a shot in anger, that’s probably going to be bar talk material for a year (or even a lifetime, many servicemen don’t even get that), so trying to design your everyday workhorse for a one time event to fight off Russians isn’t really logical. Even less so than designing them to fight off Argentinians, all you need is a cabin cruiser and a clipped on machine gun for that, considering the state of *their* navy.

Smacking down smugglers, pirates and immigration control are jobs. Wacking Russians is a hobby.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 19, 2016 1:19 pm


Actually meant UAV autocorrect on my new phone driving me mad but as site seems to block me posting from home ip and no proxy on lap top at moment only means to post from home is phone on 4G.

June 19, 2016 3:03 pm

No worries APATS, I was just teasing.

stephen duckworth
June 19, 2016 3:50 pm

I am with MSR absolutely on this BAE are seriously struggling in comparison to their peers in terms of warship offers. We are where we are today and they have the opportunity with the T31 to come up with a design that can fill that gap in their catalogue with a truely flexible offering that can compete with the aforementioned Damen offerings. Size the ships spaces on the largest weapons/systems out there and give the poor BAE sales person a chance. When the customer says “Can it fit a …..?” to quote Bob the Builder “Yes it can!”
Berthing and docking facilities around the world must be considered in terms of tonnage displaced but strive towards a flexible design with more than adequate (for future upgrades) services and space provided to give the ever fickle end user what they want. Do not fit anything less than the highest level of services ,electrical,cooling,heating, which might seem to cost more on an initial basis but in terms of thousands of hours of design and drawing office time let alone multiplication of stores will actually be cheaper than for this fit out we use this cable,clamps,glands,joints,junctions,etc but for this slightly larger we need a whole new set which effects everything from bend radius to the holes in the ships plating. So what if a cable is to big (for now – what happens when the customer whats a bigger whatever?) just fit it and 20 years on in refit the shipwright will send a thank you postcard and a bottle of your favourite tipple.

Mick Nicholson
Mick Nicholson
June 19, 2016 8:38 pm

WAIS = Warship AIS, AIS is the civil system by which ships identify themselves by short VHF messages. The Warship bit means integrated with the RN’s Combat and navigation systems

June 20, 2016 12:03 am

A long essay trying hard to justify the corporate welfare programme that is BAE.

For the same money, the UK could have had a true ocean going patrol vessel like the ‘Holland class’.

Instead you get 90% of what the (somehow malligned) Irish naval service are buying from Appledore for 40% the price.

Deja Vu
Deja Vu
June 20, 2016 11:03 am

On the narrow question of the hanger could there be a demountable lightweight hanger erected using the ships crane around the helicopter and using the twist locks to stop it being blown off the flight deck. Could be erected when the ship is detached and the helicopter needs maintenance. The containers once empty could be set up with work benches to give an even more sheltered environment for the technicians to work in.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 20, 2016 12:10 pm

Stephen Duckworth, given that BAe has been a privately owned company for thirty-odd years, why’s it my responsibility as a hard-pressed taxpayer to pay for the design of a ship to fill a gap in their product catalogue?

The usual way for private companies to fund a bright idea is to issue some shares. If the market thinks they’re onto something, investors will throw their money in; if no one wants to invest, then that’s the wisdom of the crowd, and maybe the bright idea and fabulous product wasn’t so great after all.

I’m not entirely convinced with arguments for retaining UK design and metal-bashing skills either. We’re making work for a Korean shipyard with massive tankers, then tossing our own yard a few patrol vessels with otherwise dubious necessity – do we want the domestic industry or not?

As for the UK’s design teams, in these days of multinational companies and freedom of movement, are the UK’s ship design teams genuinely any more British than Arsenal’s first team? We have people claiming a need for the UK to retain a domestic design capability, but is this really still relevant? Is the capability there to retain, or is it just office space occupied by Germans, Scandinavians, Americans, whoever… sat on foreign furniture at foreign computers, designing supposedly British ships?

The Other Chris
June 20, 2016 12:13 pm

Yes. Several manufacturers with options around. Rubb Buildings constructed the temporary one aboard Cardigan Bay.

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The Other Chris
June 20, 2016 12:16 pm

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June 20, 2016 1:15 pm

@BB “Stephen Duckworth, given that BAe has been a privately owned company for thirty-odd years, why’s it my responsibility as a hard-pressed taxpayer to pay for the design of a ship to fill a gap in their product catalogue?”

Exactly – there has to be some limit on the extent of support. The absolutely last thing we should do in my view is give them another class to design until the first T26 hits the water. All design / production / engineering effort should be devoted to making that happen. Hopefully by then sense will prevail and we will just squeeze out another few T26s and the T31 idea will fade away. If we ever need anything between a B2 River and a T26, then I have no fundamental issue with going elsewhere for an extant design.

Hopefully we will move towards a strategy that focusses on a drumbeat of DD/FF and SSNs without significant gaps that require make work to avoid skills losses

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 20, 2016 1:26 pm

“As for the UK’s design teams, in these days of multinational companies and freedom of movement, are the UK’s ship design teams genuinely any more British than Arsenal’s first team? We have people claiming a need for the UK to retain a domestic design capability, but is this really still relevant? Is the capability there to retain, or is it just office space occupied by Germans, Scandinavians, Americans, whoever… sat on foreign furniture at foreign computers, designing supposedly British ships?”

Try getting a security clearance to the required level for non-UK nationals. In your own time, go…..

June 20, 2016 4:45 pm

NAB, I think that is done at the company level, non-disclosure agreements are done with the company by the company, regardless of nationality, which means that the onus is not on the MoD or the government to police the employees other than for the most international of crimes.

After all, MI 5 has not been rummaging through BaE’s employees list for decades. :)

stephen duckworth
June 20, 2016 5:04 pm

On my thoughts on BAE or BMT or whoever gets the T31 contract ( if it isn’t cancelled by the next government that is and we are left with 6AAW and 8ASW and 5OPV) there is an opportunity to design a mid-sized vessel that may sell overseas which would sustain work and skills in UK design offices and yards until the next RN warship programme comes about.In the meantime variants of the R2’s and T31’s could be offered to possible overseas customers adapted to suit their particular needs and kit.I would hope a considerable amount of work towards the T31 will carry through from the £100m’s we have already paid BAE for T26 along with the £850m+ we have given them to finish the design. Granted 5 T26GP fitted for but not with the towed array 2087 ( IIRC only 9 in existence ) but otherwise all the T23 kit pulled through would be best for the RN so common sense may prevail but that is unlikely I think you will agree.
The fundamental question is do we want our warships designed and built abroad or at home? As NAB pointed out their are OSA issue’s (I struggled, although born in England but to a Catholic Northern Irish mother and an ex-RN English father ) and there is always the issue of tax claw back from both the manufacturer, supplier’s and UK staff. Would overseas sales of £100m’s of warships per year be a good thing?

June 20, 2016 6:20 pm

Just a thought but perhaps BAE would be able to sell more ships if they actually had a catalog of complimentary designs that can be sold not just to a variety of specifications but also in conjunction with each other as part of more comprehensive agreements.

Only thinking of this because as some of you may have seen last week Qatar signed a very large shipbuilding deal with Italy’s Fincantieri. 6 years of solid work, comprising 4 Corvette’s, 2 OPV’s and an LPD based on the one built for Algeria.

BAE doesn’t have a small/flexible LPD or LHD design that so many growing navies around the world want these days and nor does it have an affordable frigate. In fact at the moment all it can really offer up is it’s 90m OPV, which to be fair is doing a bit of business, and a very large, expensive, frankly niche frigate that despite the earlier rhetoric has been heavily tailored to the RN’s pretty atypical demands and isn’t even off the drawing board yet.

A few years ago it was rumoured that Brazil were interested in the T26 as part of a wider deal for River’s and tankers based on the Wave class, which sounded promising as the latter 2 are good designs. However these kinds of sales are unfortunately always going to be rare and precarious if the sole large surface combatant BAE can offer is way too costly and complex for most other nations requirements.

This is part of the reason why i think the T31 has to be seen as more than something which can plug a hole in the RN’s line-up. It has to find the right balance between being a useful design for our own purposes, but also small, flexible and affordable enough to appeal to the multitude of Green Water Navies out there.

That’s of course if BAE want to have a healthy shipbuilding division in the UK. I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t be the UK taxpayer funding a private companies R&D, or guaranteeing a steady flow of work no matter what the cost.

If the current trends continue then maybe having the Clyde yards (or probably just a yard) committed to a steady drumbeat of UK/RN specific high-end frigates and destroyers, and Babcock/Cammell Laird building up a catalog of OPV’s, Auxillaries and Corvettes/Light Frigates which can supply the UK’s needs but also actively seek foreign orders on the world market could be a better set-up.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 20, 2016 6:25 pm

Sorry Observer, you think wrong.

The onus is on the company to control access to the material. But access to material / premises granted only for appropriately vetted staff. Not something taken lightly.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
June 20, 2016 6:27 pm

“perhaps BAE would be able to sell more ships if they actually had a catalog of complimentary designs ”

No sh1t – a catalogue of designs that they’ll supply for free? Even BAE couldn’t miss that one.

Or did you mean complementary?

June 20, 2016 6:49 pm


‘No sh1t – a catalogue of designs that they’ll supply for free? Even BAE couldn’t miss that one.

Or did you mean complementary?’

I meant complementary. Blame the spell check.

June 20, 2016 6:50 pm

For every successful warship export design there are dozens, if not hundreds, that never achieve anything other than costing their company design hours, wages and marketing. There are certain European yards that will sell to anyone though that invariably involves very generous loans from friendly banks or the government and its doubtful whether anyone other than a few shady middlemen actually make any money out of it, politicians love it though as they get to trumpet export success and avoid nasty fights with overly powerful unions.Even those yards are now running into competition from South Korea and China. The new competition can compete because very few countries specify the sort of high-quality warships the RN does, even much of what comes out of French yards for export would never meet RN requirements. BAE is right to be competing in Aus, its one of the few places where their engineering skills are likely to be appreciated. Someone did try explaining to the Saudis why they should buy T45s…….

The Other Chris
June 20, 2016 7:44 pm

“…an opportunity to design a mid-sized vessel that may sell overseas…”

That’s what the Global Combat Ship (Type 26 base design) is supposed to be.

June 20, 2016 8:21 pm

That is what the MoD and various politicians sometimes say it is.

On an unrelated note, in the same SDSR as the Type 31 was first suggested, it was announced that successor costs had grown and a £10 billion contingency was being set up for the programme….I wonder where the money for that came from?

The Other Chris
June 20, 2016 8:30 pm

Aye, only sarcasm doesn’t transmit through text very well.

June 20, 2016 9:43 pm

Put yourself in the position of the shareholder/board member of bae (dragons den esq) and be the head of program going to them to ask for their cash to develop a program with there own funds.

They’ll demand its designed to a requirement that makes its attractive to foreign markets and they will also want to sell it to whoever they want like any other privately financed venture.

However the RN want different standards to most other countries and the government will not let them sell it to a number of countries for very obvious reasons, so you are unlikely to get the funds from shareholders.

Brian Black
Brian Black
June 20, 2016 10:44 pm

“Try getting a security clearance to the required level for non-UK nationals”

I thought British citizenship was handed out like Smarties nowadays. Surely security clearance doesn’t hang on that?

If you can get into the UK (only six hundred thousand manage that every year), and can score 75% in a ten minute multiple choice quiz (with all Q&A available for preview online) – congratulations, you win an exclusive British passport!

I doubt there are many people that could design a warship but couldn’t pass the UK citizenship test, but I’ll take your word that it’s an Anglo-saxon old boys club designing the frigates. Maybe that’s related to why nothing sells though.

June 21, 2016 7:27 am

A few more updates to comments…

USN MCMV availability is apparently improving. Although as I looked this morning going to work 3 are alongside. The units here are having a number of major upgrades to systems completed in country to improve availability issues.
Losing a couple of UK MCMVs would affect OC in theater but there is only so much route surveying you can do and having more General Purpose vessel’s (OPV) to conduct MSR duties would be a bonus especially with the increased top speed and aviation capability when compared to a Hunt or Sandown.

AIS is a SOLAS requirement for all vessels over 300 t ( and provides automatic ship data to authorities and other ships. The Warship AIS version allows you to turn it off to stop people knowing where you are (which is a must during times of tension) as well as some other sneeky attributes.

Explaining to the Saudis why they should buy T45- The Saudis do like the T45 when they have been onboard them during visits to KSA . If they had the chance again would they have bought some? Who knows? Maybe, but that chance has disappeared. The next big KSA outlay is going to be for LCS to replace their PC fleet. BAe had a go but had nothing to offer that met the requirements.

June 21, 2016 9:03 am

@BB – “I thought British citizenship was handed out like Smarties nowadays. Surely security clearance doesn’t hang on that?” – NaB’s comment (“Try getting a security clearance to the required level for non-UK nationals. In your own time, go…..”) doesn’t read to me that he’s saying that UK citizenship is sufficient to get clearance, to my eyes it is at implying “necessary (or at least extremely desirable) but not sufficient”.

If we’re talking about developed vetting here and it is anything like it was when I came in contact with it in the early 1980s then I can well imagine that being a non-UK national would create issues although maybe not be a show-stopper in all cases. If the person being vetted had much of their previous life lived outside the UK it could certainly make the background checking on friends and finances take much longer and possibly impractical to do to the level required to approve a clearance.

June 21, 2016 9:05 am

Other nations have small warships that are “fighty”. During WW2 & the early cold war, so did the RN.
If you look at what is around now, there are some amazing designs. For example, the French C Sword 90 Stealth Corvette from Oct 2014 EURONAVAL. 65 crew, 20 additional berths, 95m long, 2x 11m RHIBs, 76 or 57 main gun, 2x 20 or 30mm secondary. 8x MM40 Exocet (so LRASM or Harpoon block II+ as alternatives?) , 16x VL SAM, 2x triple torps, helideck supporting a 10t class helicopter. Range 7000 nmi at 12 kt. 28 kt max.

June 21, 2016 10:40 am

@JH – “Other nations have small warships that are “fighty”. … If you look at what is around now, there are some amazing designs. For example, the French C Sword 90 Stealth Corvette from Oct 2014 EURONAVAL”

As an uninformed observer I’m still trying to get my head around when a design becomes “fighty” enough re RN requirements. If one looks at Venator 110 for instance there are a lot of people dismissing that as “wouldn’t last a second in a fight” but that is if anything slightly more fighty than the C Sword 90 (if torpedo tubes were added and maybe AESA non-AESA radar issues not withstanding). I realise that technically we’re on the B2 River thread where this isn’t really an issue (I don’t think anyone is looking for an OPV to be particularly fighty although it is interesting to see what others pack into a 90m hull) and a lot of the Venator not-fighty-enough comments are in the context of T31 discussions but this fighty-enough stuff is still something I’m trying to grapple with.

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 11:33 am

I can think of at least 4 types of “fightyness” only one of which is fashionable:.

1. How many weapons does it have? This is at the risk of “top trumps” but it matters to a lot of countries where national pride is tied up in having armed forces that look good on paper particularly in relation to particular neighbours. Its really important to certain sections of the internet too ;)

2. How survivable is it? This is really importnat to the RN. Not just for the Falklands but becuase for hundreds of years before that we’ve often put our ships in harm’s way and expected them to take hits and still come out still fighting. Modern ideas of corporate liability will only increase the urge to give “our people” the best possible chance if the ship gets hit. Its really hard for a layman to judge and a lot of it will be classified. But from whats been said on here I’d expect a lot of RN ship cost goes into unflashy measures to improve survivability. Bigger is also usually better from this point of view.

3. Can it find, target and engage without being found and engaged itself? The whole ISTAR piece including not only the ship’s sensors, signature reduction etc but also the skills of the crew and in particular the warfare officers. There are plenty of navies with very “fighty” looking ships that wouldn’t last long at all in a fight becuase either their sensors, or their crew, or both, are simply not up to the task.

4. Can you get to and stay where you need to be? There’s no point us having “fighty” ships that sit in the English Channel willy waving at the French. We need our ships to be able to get to where our real enemies are and stay there for long periods. Again size really helps here. Having the Royal Fleet Auxilliary also helps. The recent discussion about Type 45 propulsion and power systems in harsh foreign conditions is also a good example of the engineering contribution to “fightyness”. A modern ship can’t fight with its power offline. Again its not something you will see much of in the catalogues.

June 21, 2016 12:55 pm

The C Sword 90, like Venator, is nothing more than a collection of PowerPoint slides and CGI. However, the size of these proposals gives sufficient capacity for complex weapons, sensors, aircraft accommodation and other key requirements to make a platform more than just a one-trick pony. The Rivers and their derivatives are still small and whilst they promise a lot, there will be compromises in their design that make them unsuitable, such as a lack of a high-speed propulsion plant, shortages in fuel capacity, lack of a hangar (comparing a Wildcat to a Swordfish to justify hangar-less maintenance is quite funny) and shortfalls in accommodation that force a smaller crew (as people are generally the most capable asset a warship has). The new Rivers have no capacity for additional storage, nor do they have the power surplus or stability to be able to carry large complex sensors such as AESA radars at any height – any radar can look a long way away, the warfighting requirement is to spot missiles and low-flying aircraft down at the horizon at a distance where you can take action.

Type 23 has all of the sensors and systems that we would need. Yet for a typical 6-month deployment, every spare corner of the ship will be stuffed to capacity with additional stores and equipment (not to mention people). There is simply not enough space in a small hull to do these deployments, unless you sacrifice the flexibility of the platform.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 12:59 pm


An improvement from having 2 in ASRY but only 2 are available and one of the 4 has huge issues. They aspire to get 3 running before going back to 2 when 1 goes in for her refit. The betting is they will be down to one then back to two.
The issue is they are unsupported as all the money went into MCM modules for LCS.
The DFs for even simple engineering stores are horrific as much has to be actually manufactured and they seem to be less of a fan of the STOROB procedure.

In terms of Detailed Route Survey. It has taken on less importance although there is plenty of miles of Q routes to keep 4 MCMVs busy.

Recently OC has been the focus and the ability to be ready for contingency operations. Including the evolution of a truly adaptive integrated approach to MCM ops which has led to a draft green paper. That is why they are there and why nobody at 5th Fleet would dream of swapping 2 of them for another 2 Patrol Boats.

They also do an awful lot of Defence engagement and can go to places and interact with local units larger vessels cannot.

June 21, 2016 1:13 pm

Part of the survivability of the C Sword 90, comes from its stealth shape. Go look it up. Its at Its less likely to be sunk if the enemy cannot find it on radar.
As for sensors, it has 4x fixed array panels for 360 degree coverage, + an electro-optic tracking system, fire control radar, RESM, IBCS, also has a hull mounted sonar + decoys for anti-ship missiles & torps.
Going back to WW2, we sent 1350 ton Black Swan, 925 ton Flower & 1370 ton River class out to protect the Atlantic/Arctic convoys. This idea that small ships cannot get beyond the Isle of Wight is a nonsense.

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 1:33 pm

JH the accomodation standards and seakeeping on those small ships out in the Atlantic were atrocious. We could never justify doing that for our people today, and if we did they would leave the service in droves. Militarily peoples performance is significantly degraded by seasickness. We did it in WW2 becuase we had no choice. Why on earth would we do something like that when we do have a choice?

June 21, 2016 1:56 pm

PE. Those 3 WW2 ships had crews of 85, 140 & 192. C Sword 90, thanks to modern automation, has a crew of 65, so more room per person. As for rough weather, if you are in an Atlantic storm, a ship will get tossed around if it is 2000, 4000 or 6000 tons. People got sea sick on a 20,000 ton invincible class.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 2:29 pm


C Sword 90 does not have anything it is power point. Speaking from a lot of sea time I would be fascinated to see just how they fit everything in the hull of the dimensions given.
4 Generators, 2 Propulsion engines. They talk about a new naval radar with fixed arrays, yet does it exist? If not then how do they allow for the weight and space within the design?
A hull mounted sonar with max draught of 4M will be interesting as well, as will a 10 tonne helo capability with a TAS on this 95M platform.
That is before I even try and think how you operate it operationally with 65 personnel. Not going to happen. Simply too much kit to maintain and too many systems to operate in multi environment warfare nor forgetting the flight. Or any DC parties.
Would be virtually impossible at state 1 and totally impossible to maintain 24/7.

As TAS pointed out even a T23 is totally overflowing with the extra kit and personnel required for a 6 or now 9 month operational deployment. Something like C Sword 90 would be unable to operate as required by the RN. Type 31 should be at least T 23 size.

So in summary nice bit of power point completely unsuited to our requirements as too expensive and over complex to be used as an OPV. Too small and not enough personnel to operate as required with a TG or solo deployed on ops.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 2:39 pm

Having said all that about the C Sword it may well sell especially in the ME. Those navies do very short patrols have no interest in being able to maintain operational capability in state 2 Manning and love shiny things :)

June 21, 2016 2:42 pm

APATS. If you can get money out of HM Treasury to fund the SDR98 target of 32 full size frigates & destroyers, then fine, do not arm up small ships. However, if we only have 6 destroyers & 8 frigates, then the OPVs will need to be more “fighty”.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 2:50 pm


Since when did I mention SDSR 98 and no point in making things look “fighty” when as I just pointed out they are only fighty in a very short term specific scenario that does not fit our operational requirements.
C Sword 90 just does not fit what we need, it would to be 30 odd metres longer have an extra 50 bodies on board and be capable of deploying with possibly more as well as sustained state 2 Manning.

No amount of “look how fighty it is” takes away the fact that it cannot be fighty for more than a few hours even if they do shoe horn all that kit on somewhere.

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 3:05 pm

JH you need to take about 3 steps back and think about what role the RN plays in the world and how, politically and fiscally, we justify having a navy at all.

The only hostile power coming near our home islands are the Russians in their subs. We have, can, and will again, combat them by having ships and planes out in the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap. That’s arduous enough and it is at a significant range from the UK. In a war secenario we would focus on stopping the subs up north to allow convoys to come to us through the South West approaches. This task could also theoretically be done in an emergency with small ships. But we have to ask what those small ships will do while we’re not fighting the Russians?

Anything short of war with Russia (which is hopefully 98% of the time) we will be operating significant thousands of miles from home. That requires big survivable ships that can go a long way and do a significant number of tasks over, as others have pointed out, periods of 6-9 months. Small ships just can’t do that.

If, for reasons of either politics or budgets, we choose neither to go to those places nor prepare for the possibility of war with Russia then we might as well pack in the Navy and have a police style coastguard in cutters and rubber dinghies overflown by Typhoons.

That’s the context of our naval requirements.

June 21, 2016 3:32 pm

When RN was optimized for G-I-UK gap operation (1980-1990), most of the escorts has a range of 4500nm or so = short legged. T26 has 7000 nm long rage. Thus, if again the G-I-UK gap is important, the T31/GPFF can have a range “only” 4500 nm?

This is the value many of the “light frigate” of European navy has. If yes, will help a lot to make T31/GPFF cheap, good for export.

June 21, 2016 3:50 pm

NaB, don’t know about you guys but the checks here probably just involve a reference check, a school graduation check and a check on Interpol and travel to “proscribed” countries and that is about it. Despite the desire to think a background check is something out of James Bond or the many copies of American “investigative” series, there is really no way to do an in-depth check on a person due to the sheer volume of “applicants” and the simple fact that most people don’t keep a record of their day to day life or everyone they meet in the street! Not to mention most people doing the work are just poor overworked clerks. You guys might be a lot more stringent considering your recent history of terrorist attacks. What do they ask you to submit for security clearance if I may ask? I doubt it’s top secret, especially since they would probably print it on the form: Bring along your X,Y and Z. (I’m still amused at the American MNC I worked for asking us to sign an “ethical declaration” like people who are unethical won’t lie on it. Or even keep it in mind if they were out to do something wrong. :) )

JH, there was a documentary once which showed the life on board one of those patrol corvettes in our navy. Their patrol route was only a one day journey out and back, nothing at all like the weeks or months long deployment that your navy does.

In fact, there is a running trend observed in our navy at the moment, a widening split between a “patrol” fleet and a “warfighting” (don’t shoot me, it’s a “common” phrase these days) fleet where the “warfighting” gets the missiles, guns, bombs and torpedoes while the “patrol” fleet gets the bare minimum of 25-30mm/76mm cannons, minimal endurance and that is more or less it. Their role simply does not require more! This is similar to what is happening between your Type- series and the Rivers series, one is a patrol ship, the other is a ship designed for high intensity situations.

You design your ships for roles, not just stack it up to 20,000 tons with armour and weapons.

And, interesting fact. The more stuff you jam into a ship, the more crew you need. And crew numbers can get very, very big very fast. Our minimalist patrol ships can work on a crew of 23, the frigates with all the bells and whistles have their crew numbers jump to 70-100., almost 3-4 times the crew and that causes bunking and stores to bloat. You want “flexi” ships, I’m afraid you’re going to have to build in a lot of empty space. Not only for the systems but also for the extra people and food needed.

June 21, 2016 3:52 pm


Your figures for range are, I suspect, based on the escorts that came before Type 23. The T23s were the first RN warship to have a CODLAG plant which, together with substantial fuel reserves gave them their long range, or more accurately, long endurance. However, this was not the design driver – the diesel electric plant was selected for acoustic quietness, much of the fuel was kept as ballast and the gas turbines were for sprinting to reposition the towed arrays (and for running away from torpedoes!). In addition, the minimum manning adopted was not for efficiency but for short endurance – the T23s were supposed to head out, complete a 4 week patrol then head back for maintenance. They were also originally conceived (but not designed) without a self-defence missile system, though that idea was short lived and the only evidence of it is the empty Sea Wolf silo on the Fort Victoria class, behind which the T23s would hide during a raid. Endurance and range have since become hallmarks of RN operations and are seen as critical capabilities, especially given the steady decline of the RFA.

The Type 22s were optimised for ASW but had gas turbine plants that did not have endurance, hence the shorter range. The Leanders were even smaller, and despite massing 2,800t or so in the final broad-beamed iteration of the class, were recognised as being too small to be globally effective. They were, as you know, modified into the ASW (Ikara), Sea Cat, Sea Wolf and Gun variants which when combined could provide broad-spectrum warfare capabilities, but were individually one trick ponies (especially those still armed with Sea Cat, which was useless).

For me, the lessons identified from all of the above is the need for a larger hull, which provides endurance, capacity and flexibility, rather than a number of smaller hulls with individual complementary capabilities but fundamentally reduced range. There are interesting parallels here with both T26 and LCS – I rather hope T31 ends up closer to being a T26-sized hull than an LCS concept.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 4:04 pm


Security clearance dictates what you are allowed access to. The basic level is none. Then you have a counter terrorism check cleRance level. People who work at airports etc have this. This involves an online form that can take a couple of hours to complete. Details of employment and supervisors for 5 years. Parents details etc.
Next level up is SC which allows access to Secret which involves a more complex online form with everything in the CT form but a lot of medical and financial questions. This can take weeks to process as checks are made.
Next level is Developed Vetting. Far more in detail online form goes much further back. Friends supervisors etc are interviewed as are you and that interview can take hours. This can take months to come through and costs thousands of pounds to complete. This allows regular unsupervised access to TS material.
People have lost this for having a gf from certain countries.

So depending on clearance level required yes it can be complex and time consuming.

June 21, 2016 4:31 pm

Look, if our “Dear Leaders” had built 12 T45, kept the 16 T23 & decided to replace them one for one, with T26, then I would not be pushing for upgunning the OPVs. However, with so few big ships, I fear the little ships will be sent in to harms way, simply because there is nothing else to send. I have no small warship fetish. I would rather have large warships. Sadly the political climate is against that. Yet, we still have idiot politicians, who know nothing about warships & thus would not know (or care) they were sending the wrong ship. Just so log as they can strut about pretending to be important.
We do have bases in Gibraltar, Cyprus, Bahrain, Falklands, so this range fetish is overdone.

June 21, 2016 4:33 pm

just so log, is of course, just so long.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 4:55 pm


It is nothing to do with a range fetish. It is to do with a capability assessment. I have told you why something like C Sword 90 does not work for us, so has TAS. What do we have in common, we have both done several operational deployments and understand the requirements.
I even pointed out just where the C Sword 90 may sell if ever built. It is not about upgrading small ships to be fighty, rather it is about having platform’s that can actually operate in the manner we require them to do.
As for the attack on Politicians, the RN tell them what the requirements are and they do not over rule. They may and indeed have decided to prioritise one mission and gap another but they have not and would not tell us to send a totally unsuitable platform in harm’s way.
Sometimes they are just easy targets for assumptive vitriol.

June 21, 2016 4:55 pm

APATS, thanks, that is interesting. And sounds really time consuming. So take home message, if you want to work with classified material in the UK, send in the application early. :)

JH, ironically, “Dear Leader” and “Glorious Leader”s are more likely to build your 12-16 than a democratic parliament. :) Those kind of megalomaniacs tend to love big ships with lots of guns and missiles. With limited usage.

If you have that many ships built, your bill is going to be very high. 12 billion pounds for just the Type-45 build cost alone IIRC. Right now, there simply is no call for that sort of expenditure and while people say “our budget is XYZ”, remember that it’s all spoken for, unless you have a *surplus* of 12 billion pounds (over a period of years is possible too), all that money is already being used for something else. For your dream fleet, something has to give.

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 5:07 pm

JH – much as I myself expect the worst from politicians of all parties they have shown that on defence there is a certain depth below which even they will not plumb. Some examples:

Through Deck Cruisers and Harriers in the 1970s when we could have opted out of Naval Aviation altogether
Bringing both QEC into service and not just as LPH
Not gapping Crowsnest
Ordering the UOR vehicles and various other kit for Herrick
Funding “Combat Mass” for the RAF in 2015 when the ‘soft choice’ would have been to go down to just 6 fast jet squadrons.
Ordering a new top end ASW-MPA

Yes theres been smoke and mirrors around the 2% of GDP but even so there is an element of setting a floor undr the cuts.

So I see T31 as “all to play for” in terms getting a meaningful Surface Combatant and not just an OPV with pretentions. And once its in production and proven in service then expect to see the River Class sacrificed left right and centre to pay for more T31.

June 21, 2016 5:08 pm

I use to work in the USCG and our OPV’s which are the 270 medium Endurance cutters have a 76mm Main deck gun. Our 210 Medium Endurance class cutters have a 25 MM Mk 38 Mod 2 autocannon. What the Royal navy is doing to the River class OPV is putting a WEAK gun on a ship. A 76 MM gun or the 57 MM Bofors would be far better for the River class OPV. You want a Naval gun on a OPV that can stop a small to medium ship. Here’s an example of our OPV’s

June 21, 2016 5:20 pm

Look at the US Coast Guard for example, countries that want to emulate the US Coast Guard because we are seen as a Law Enforcement/Humanitarian/Military role. Our wartime role would be fleet/convoy/merchant escort. Our peacetime is Law Enforcement, Humanitarian response, Search and rescue and EEZ patrol. We have cutters that can swing role from a peacetime law enforcement to military if need be. Our cutters have to be out at sea far long than anyone and the most is 5 days to 6 months for polar missions. That’s why the US Coast Guard builds ships with LONG Endurance. Even our newest National Security cutter is built with Long endurance and enough to keep up with an Amphibious ready group and Naval Fleet Auxiliary ships. It even has enough expansion room for Torpedos, towed array sonar, VLS ESSM and VLS LRASM.

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 5:23 pm

Nicky: can you explain a bit more about what that USCG 76mm is for…? I can imagine 3 scenarios:

1. To fight really really nasty drug smuggleers etc
2. In case it kicks of locally with a rogue regime
3. To join in with the 3rd battle of the Atalntic against the Russians

Genuine question as I don’t know the answer. If its (1) or (2) how often in the last 70 years has that happened? And couldn’t the regular USN handle it? If its (3) then do the ships also have the sensors and combat system to join to with a serious duffy? If they do, great! If not I’d be a bit worried.

Looking forard to being educated.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 21, 2016 5:32 pm

The NSC is a £500 million 130M 4500 tonne ship. That is a Frigate in most navies. It has a compliment of 115. With its radars and EW kit it is effectively a Frigate without the weapon fit.

stephen duckworth
June 21, 2016 6:58 pm

“130m and 4,500t is a frigate in most navies”
The Russians think so , they have taken delivery of the first of the new Admiral Gorshkov class frigate. The first of a batch of 6. Delayed as the desiels where made in the Ukraine who I beleive they have had a falling out with. Normal services to be resumed with the fall of Odessa later this year :-(
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June 21, 2016 7:20 pm

We don’t have so much coastline that we need to get something that big. While those guys above joke that it’s a frigate without the fit, it’s more like a destroyer to us, it’s 50% higher in displacement than our front line frigates lol.

Our OPVs are strictly short ranged, though they have ranged as far as Australia but that was for practice and training.

If we do need to range further, we use our Endurance. :)

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You have to fit your ship for the job, not the job for the ship and in our case, there simply is no need for a long range patrol cruiser since most piracy cases are point blank in your face situations due to the narrow Malacca Straits.

June 21, 2016 8:14 pm

Well the “Dear Leader” in N. Korea only has 3 frigates. Big AEGIS type Destroyers are the reserve of USN, Japan, S. Korea.
12 T45 would not have cost £12 billion. The 6 only cost a billion each because R&D was split between 6 rather than 12. Going from memory, I think we could have had 12 for 9, maybe 9.5 billion. If we were building 16 T26 now, we would have saved money (& not had this “Hitler rants” thread) on the batch 2 River class. We have a government that spends over £700 billion a year. A fleet of 28 RN Destroyers/Frigates is only one a year, if you plan fleet renewal right.
The 1970s still had politicians who had been in the armed services during WW2. Ted Heath, for all his faults, had been a major in Artillery. James Callaghan had been in the RN. He saw a memo on Mine hunter numbers & challenged it. Todays PM would have just stared blankly at it.
Mine protected vehicles only got the OK, when Afghanistan casualties got so great, their was a pubic outcry. Thank the public who made a fuss, not Blair/Brown. Blair sent troops off to war in Iraq, without the right kit/spare parts, so he could pretend he had not committed to war. More on that in the next few months. I doubt they would dare whitewash that, but we shall see.

June 21, 2016 8:18 pm


Level 4 – super duper flighty
“Let’s nuke that speedboat”

Level 3 – super flighty
“Hope them hostiles have their swimming trunks on”

Level 2 – plain flighty
” this could be close”

Level 1 – what’s fighty?
” Oh shit , how fast can we get out of here?”

Peter Elliott
June 21, 2016 8:26 pm

You hit on one truth JH that it’s not the capital cost of the equipment that hurts us. It is the recurring cost, every year, of the skilled people to operate it.

June 21, 2016 10:06 pm

Exactly how fighty does a ship need to be if it’s going to spend most of its life chugging up and down the channel, boarding trawlers, fisherman bothering, measuring net sizes and nosing through log books.

June 21, 2016 10:42 pm

For the roles you describe,
Level 1 fighty should suffice!

But this will limit the flexibility of the unit for possible other missions in the future . So are the RN trying to be sensible future proofing and building some flexibility into batch 2 Rivers ? Hence getting the most out of the unit and it will be useful for training personnel due to having the standard navy systems on board . And the RN need more personnel having laid up two ships due to crew shortages .

June 21, 2016 11:01 pm

Why do I get the feeling we skipped past the important steps of 1) Global strategy, 2) Need for, and 3) Role of ship in said strategy and jumped straight to the catalogue shopping?

Before you start shopping you need to figure out what your overall plan for RN deployment in the future is and even how it integrates into the armed forces as a whole. Having nothing but speedboats covered by a huge airforce is a possible concept of ops and strategy (IIRC the Israelis favour this) or in reverse a huge fleet of ships might take up the role of air denial and persecution of targets while the airforce is kept in a recce role. you got to figure out how you want to play the game first. IIRC, the Canadians tried to go for a large sub fleet in the past as a concept of a heavy sub based navy.

So, vision of your role in the world, then concept of how to get there. *then* go shopping for equipment. I really can’t see the need for anything heavier than the Rivers in the Falklands and anti-immigration/smuggling patrols in the Bahamas while the higher end ships can do the heavier lifting.

Think of it this way if it makes you happier JH, every OPV is taking up a task that you would have assigned a Type-45/26 to do, which means that you now got a “spare” destroyer or frigate that can be elsewhere fighting bush fires. Not totally true, but thinking that way might make you happier. Maybe…

June 22, 2016 8:15 am

Observer, they did all that, but seem to be trying to ignore 1,2 and 3.
The rivers B1 have always been primarily fisheries protection vessels, it’s what they are funded for and meant to do (the B2s are not fundamental different) and they do it very well. We now seem to be asking them to do is things like AP(N), which is a bit bonkers when you think of the differing requirement. chasing drug dealers in fast boats and providing disaster in a distant deployment is not in anyway the same as checking up on slow moving trawlers and mertchant vessels in home waters with a full infrastructure behind you. One really needs an air asset, resonable crew size and space…..the other does not.

Not forgetting these deployments are part of the training of the higher end fighty ships.

No amount of “we could bolt this weapon or that bit of kit on” will change what they are and why we needed them in the first place. If we want some more ships in a wider patrol role (more global) AP(N) etc but can’t afford more high end units, we could look to be buying bigger hulls with hangers and space for lots of containers that could have some form of secondary logistics role in a hot war environment.

June 22, 2016 8:21 am

Observer. That is fine in theory, but wars tend to come out of nowhere fast & you end up fighting with what you have got. OK, perhaps not nowhere, as all around the World, there are disputes. Most never go beyond bad language, but once every so often, one sparks into a shooting war. No use saying “Do you mind waiting seven years while I build some warships?” If you only have OPVs armed with a pop gun, you can either watch them go straight to the bottom or surrender first. Not a position I would want to be in.
A global strategy would be great, but our useless politicians/officials would just come up with trendy gibberish about diversity/climate change & eating five-a-day(+ charging 5p for a carrier bag).

June 22, 2016 8:47 am

Defensenews has an item saying Turkey has just launched its third Ada class corvette (MILGEM), 2400 tons, 29 knots, 3500 nm range, 76mm gun, missiles , torps, Seahawk helicopter.

Peter Elliott
June 22, 2016 9:02 am

Bully for them. Bet it isn’t designed to go very far or stay there for very long.

H Nelson
H Nelson
June 22, 2016 10:26 am

Ada class has a range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km; 4,000 mi) at 15 knots, and has an endurance of 21 days with logistical support and ten days while operating autonomously.[11] She has a crew of 93, with space for up to 106

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 22, 2016 11:42 am

@H Nelson

10 days autonomous! We regularly used to do 14 day patrols on the Batch 1 River. The Ada class could just about manage an Atlantic crossing without support, maybe.
They are designed as handy light weight ASW assets for use in the Black Sea and the Med. Totally not what we need again.

Has anyone stopped to think that we build ships that can do what we need them to be able to do which might not be the same as other countries? Hence the wet dreams about Corvette’s are just that dreams.

June 22, 2016 12:20 pm

JH, wars may come out of nowhere but equipment doesn’t. In this digital age, you can’t even buy a screwdriver without someone blogging it. Officially, we have “24” F-15s from the US. Unofficially, the secret was long out that there were 16 “extra” planes due to some enterprising planewatchers actually recording down all the plane’s serial numbers from open source photos! (I’m being generous here and using the word “enterprising” instead of “bored”). Hell, webwatchers have even managed to number China’s Hongbei-class fleet which was never openly declared by simply comparing the camo pattern on different ships!

Wars may suddenly flare up, but equipment does not come from nowhere, if the area isn’t suitable for the Rivers, another asset type is going to be assigned there. The Rivers are used for anti-smuggling operations *in UK waters* (this part is very important). Unless for some reason the French decide to fire a shot in anger or the MoD suddenly decides the RN is rebelling, the possible threats to these ships are almost non-existent, biggest one is probably the Falklands and even that is a low probability event considering the state of the Argentinian armed forces. Or do you think some drug lord might decide to slap on Harpoons and/or torpedoes on their speedboats in addition to cocaine?

Scaremongering is all nice to get a big budget, but you shouldn’t start believing your own propaganda, the only 2 places a Rivers might get into undeclared trouble is Iran and North Korea and you can bet they won’t be going near those areas often. More often than not, they are chasing smugglers and fishing trawlers *which is their role*!

People complain about the MoD using assets in ways they are not intended to, but in reverse, are you not doing the same, assuming a high intensity job for the Rivers which they are not supposed to take? In this case, hostile border patrol with a medium level technological opponent as opposed to drug and people smugglers?

Right tool for the right job. Why is there a need to assume the Rivers are going to attack frigates and destroyers or depth charge subs?

(The subs part was sarcasm, I know “depth charges” are out of fashion, unless you’re talking about the modern RBUs and their effectiveness is debatable).

June 22, 2016 12:20 pm


On the level of the ship “fightiness”, I think there is no upper-limits, nor lower-limits. If your enemy is armed with 3-5 SSKs, even if you have T45 near the theater, you CANNOT send it to the field where those SSK’s are in umbush. If they have 4 squardons of atack aircrafts armed with ASM, T26 CANNOT be sent, as well.

As we know, however, most of the nations all around the globe do not have more than 3 SSKs nor 4 squadrons of atackers. That’s why RN think an escort in standing tasks can be diverted into war time task.

At the same time, “many” (if not most) of the nations also do not have even a missile boat, nor a handlful of light attack aircrafts. In this case, a Froreal-like Patrol Frigate can surely do the job. But, the River B1 or B2 cannot do this because of, say, -lack of helicopter, lack of firepower (even a 3 in gun is a threat), and (maybe) lack of range and endurance.

So, I proposed to have “2 River B3 ships”, with extended hull, with Wildcat Hangar and even with a 3in gun. It shall also have, improved splint speed (because of additional length), longer range/endurance (larger hull) and better sea keeping.

Of course, if there are resources left to build more frigates and man all of them, no problem. But, money and man-power is the resources currently RN is apparently lacking. As a compromize, I think, “extended-River-based” Patrol Frigate (or Floreal-like something) is worth considering.

I said “consider”. Because even with reduced escort number by 1-2, if UK decides to “gap” (=abondone) some of the standing tasks, RN can meet the requirement.

June 22, 2016 12:34 pm

Donald, fisheries and EEZ protection vessel, not all up assault corvette. They would be primarily operating in UK waters and if you have 3-4 hostile SSKs operating in your EEZ not to mention a squadron of hostile planes, you have a huge problem and it isn’t fisheries protection!

There is no point taking the worst possible scenario then tossing something not designed for that role and comparing it. In the extreme, you could even say “aircraft carriers are useless because “they” can nuke the carrier with ICBMs!” or “frigates are useless when they start throwing nuclear missiles!”.

You might want to compare the ships for the roles it IS supposed to be designed for, not try to make them fight off the Red Menace by themselves solo.

June 22, 2016 12:55 pm


Sorry I was not clear.

1:I am not proposing to up-armor vessels to be used for EEZ patrol. No. I line River B.1 as it is, and also think B.2 is “sufficiently armed”. (actually I do not even understand why B.2s have CMS). RN will have 3 River B.2s to REPLACE the 4 B1/1.5s. With enlarged Boader Agency, Reduced Fishery protection work, 3 will be enough, even APT-N is added to their task list.

2: In this situation, I thought the 2 additional Rivers are “surpluss” = purely job generation purpose (I may be wring, I admit). At the same time, I have some pessimistic view on keeping the “escorts number to 19”.

3: In this circumstances ONLY, I am proposing the “extended-River Patrol Frigate”, which is designed (to my idea) to handle APT-S, APT-N and FIGS, all of the atlantic forward standing tasks. (note APT-S has long been gapped. A T23 will be sent there later this year, but it does not mean APT-S will resume as a “permanent” deplyment).

> “2 River B3 ships”, with extended hull, with Wildcat Hangar and even with a 3in gun. It shall also have, improved splint speed (because of additional length), longer range/endurance (larger hull) and better sea keeping.
I for got to add a 20mm CIWS on top of the hangar.

June 22, 2016 12:56 pm

Type 23 origin myths appearing yet again.

The Dukes were never meant to “hide” behind the Forts, in fact quite the opposite. The idea was that a Fort would operate someway behind, but still in contact, with a group of four T23s enabling the group to pool aviation resources (Merlins) to provide (alongside TAS and long range MPA) a very potent ASW group. I always liked the concept myself. The Forts were to get an identical Sea Wolf outfit to a T23, the reason they didn’t was that the specified CMS failed, the ships themselves went way over budget and the Soviet Union had the temerity to finally be torn apart by the inherent contradictions of socialism.

The lesson from the T23 is that if one wants it is possible to build a smallish but still capable ASW orientated, but still GP, platform if you sacrifice enough of the expeditionary element. If what Navy HQ has in mind is a 21st century T23 for operations in the Atlantic and Med (leaving the the T26 to go off on global jaunts) then all may be well with the world. If all this nonsense about venators, corvettes and patrol frigates turns out to be true the RN will be making a terrible mistake.

June 22, 2016 1:06 pm

Sorry, many type-miss.
In short; I love simple OPVs, RN must have them. But, if, only if, the escort number of RN is decreasing, a “Floreal-like” vessel may come in to fill the gap with smaller resource. A modified River B.2, with extended hull, will be able to make it.

The Other Nick
The Other Nick
June 22, 2016 3:56 pm

Thoughts on the possibilities to use newer and lighter sonars rather than the full fat Thales 2087 sonar to turn a lighter/smaller ship into an effective ASW frigate, not requiring a 7,000 ton plus Type 26. An example being the Ultra Electronics VDS used in the CANTASS with the twelve Halifax Class Modernization (HCM)/ Frigate Equipment Life Extension (FELEX) programme plus a Wildcat with the Thales Compact FLASH Dipping Sonar

“Ultra’s new generation of variable-depth sonar (VDS) is a single in-line active-transmit and passive-receive array. In its full specification it can include an active horizontal projector array, a towed low-frequency source, a flexible, towed torpedo acoustic countermeasure body and a directional receive array. Ultra’s fully-modular VDS marks a step change in technology and capability, away from the constraints of traditional towed sonars. It needs only a single, lightweight winch, which can be operated by two personnel. Additionally, the low weight and footprint of the VDS allows it to be fitted to vessels not specifically designed for ASW operations. The VDS nested receive array is populated with quad receive hydrophones, allowing left/right and target above/below ambiguities to be resolved in real-time.”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 22, 2016 4:18 pm


2087 is used on T23 that are not 7000 tonnes. What makes a ship larger are modern accommodation and stability standards, things like mission bays, strike length silos, stores spaces and fuel tanks for range and endurance.

That is why T23 is creaking at the seams, St Albans deployed to the Gulf with over 200 personnel. Single cabins utilised as 2 berths and the harpoon power room was in the top tier of the austere accommodation (according to their XO).

All in favour of using a lightweight TAS to allow fit on smaller vessels but these vessels will still require the noise reduction measures and the trained personnel to be effective.

June 22, 2016 6:24 pm

If I knew the future, I would be very rich. Sadly, I am not. We can say this may or may not happen, but we can never be sure until it does or doesn’t.
Look at the heavily armed FAC/Corvettes/Frigates in the Middle East. Most of those are no threat now, but what if regime change leads to Libya/Syria style chaos? What if extremist rebel groups get hold of those ships?
If the RN still had 23-30 full fat frigates/destroyers, we would have enough for most tasks. Sadly, with 19, perhaps reducing to 14, the risk is that we send a lightly armed OPV to do a frigate/destroyer job & it ends up getting sunk.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 22, 2016 6:32 pm


I can tell you exactly what happens. The CBG of CTF50 along with CRUDES of CTF55 and the naval forces of the other CMF forces and the huge amount of fast fixed wing ashore sink them in 24-36 hours.
What does not happen is we sail an OPV 6000 miles to take part in a conflict it is not suited for and where the surface threat was sunk before it reaches GiB!

June 22, 2016 6:39 pm

JH, the OPVs are busy doing fisheries patrol since there are only 3 of them. You might want to look for a destroyer or a frigate for that job. And I will think very little of anyone from higher command that sends a fisheries protection OPV all the way to another region to hunt warships, especially when you have frigates, destroyers and Tornadoes, some of them even already working in that area!

It’s starting to look to me like you’re crafting unlikely scenarios just to get something to hate on. The OPVs usual area of operations are nowhere near the Middle East and to redirect a short ranged patrol craft into an “at risk” area in a totally different area of operations when you have much more appropriate equipment purpose built for that sounds a lot like complaining that a fork is useless because it can’t hold much soup. And if something like that really happened, I’d be looking to see who in the MoD wants someone on that ship killed. The convoluted scenarios needed to put the ship at risk is severe. 1) You are using a ship that is not designed for that job even though you have more appropriate equipment available and 2) You redirected a ship used for fisheries protection in local areas to an overseas risky posting when there are already more capable ships on station in that area.

If someone misuses the ship, it’s not the fault of the ship. It’s the fault of the person. So…. where were you sending your fisheries patrol vessel again?

June 22, 2016 9:21 pm

Observer. I am not sending it anywhere. Someone else will though. That is the problem. Look at Iran in the 1970s. The Wests best friend. The US sold the Shah F-14s, F-4s, F-5s. The UK sold them tanks & frigates. Then the Ayatollah arrived & all that kit was suddenly aimed at us. That is not sci fi fantasy, that happened. The secular dictators were not nice guys, but they kept things stable. Without them there is now chaos in Iraq & Libya. Again fact not fantasy. What happens to all that nice shiny kit if there is a coup in Saudi or the Gulf states?
The RN had a cold war strength until the early 90s of 50 frigates & destroyers. We are now down to 19 & if the faffing continues, perhaps 14. If T45 can’t be fixed, then 8, if T26 gets delayed too long, then zero.
You keep saying send a frigate/destroyer, but where are these spare RN Frigates/Destroyers? I would love for there to be some.

June 22, 2016 10:24 pm

Rivers are for fishery patrol. They have been Gucci speced above and beyond but not weaponised .

Presently they have been pressed into Caribbean patrol . It will be interesting to get feedback about this deployment. I reckon lack of a hangar and helo would be raised as this would be useful for drugs enforcement and humanitarian relief .

Yes they could be adapted with weapons kit and stretched for a hangar etc. . But do we want a modified fishery boat as a frigate ?

Perhaps/perhaps not a modified river for Caribbean patrol .

What is needed is Type 26 – lots of.

If we can’t get enough numbers of these then efforts should be focused on a purposed built Type 31. All RN type 31 should be speced with quiet engines to allow easy upgrading for asw work . Export variants could be speced with cheaper noisier Diesel engines .
Rivers would be good for crew training and the RN may have other tasks lined up with bolt on kit but they are not frigates !

Just because other countries have 90m vessels of about 1900 tons bristling with weapons doesn’t mean they are effective fighting units. They maybe suitable for third rate navies trying to intimidated their local neighbours. The RN needs proper kit for a blue water navy.

Not much will happen until the chancellors autumn statement when the shipbuilding strategy is due .

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 22, 2016 10:29 pm


I have already explained to you what happens in your scenario. Without even going into the boring technical detail of the fact that not everyone would support the coup, how difficult it is for untrained personnel to operate the ships etc.
The fact stands that we have enough firepower in the Gulf to neutralise them in 24-36 hours.
Sorry if realism is boring and real. Nobody is sending OPVs to a warzone you are beginning to sound like a very broken record and your comment on 45 is truly desperate given DFND availability.

Peter Elliott
June 22, 2016 10:49 pm

The one thing JH is right about is that until we get actual build contracts for T26 / T31 then the corrosive suspicion will remain that the Treasury is going to leave us short. The Defence Select Committee nailed the maths that says that unless we start building Combat Ships very soon we will start to lose T23s without replacement.

The suspicions around that incipient gap are what this argument and this whole thread are really all about.

June 22, 2016 10:53 pm

JH, there are limits to blaming other people for problems. There is no way any Shah, Ayatolla or Mujahadeen can cut orders for RN ships to send them into conflict areas. The only way the OPVs are going to move from UK territorial waters off the coast of Iran is if *THE NAVY ITSELF* orders them to. And if you wanted to beat the wardrums and sabre rattle about possible rebellions threatening the OPVs, let us see which are the territories that are “rebelling” to put the OPVs at risk.

-The Caribbean. Big threat there huh.
-The UK. I knew people were upset about Brexit.
-The Falklands. Those ungrateful bastards.

Such a hotbed of rebellion and high tech weaponry.

JH, you’re just working yourself into an unnecessary (and unrealistic) frenzy.

Peter Elliott
June 22, 2016 11:02 pm

If you think about it that’s exactly what happened with the SSN fleet.

Astute class was late being ordered and got later and later in build. Meanwhile the “S” boats were gone and the “T” boats were getting older and older and falling by the wayside with various ailments. So although the official fleet was 7 boats there must have been a point when HMS Astute was still in her interminable first of class trials and we were down to just 4 or 5 nominally servicable “T” boats. Are we back up to 7 operational boats yet? Even if we are it took a long time.

That’s what could easily happen with the surface fleet.

June 23, 2016 12:58 am

I think it is needed to think fleet wide. Following is my “personal” view.

– Default plan:
6 T45, 8 T26(ASW), 5 T31, 5 R2(OPV)
If this happens, no problem. But, I think T31 will be “extended-Khareef (as BAE said) or VENATOR”-like ship, ~4000t FL, to keep the number of 5. If you make it “more T26-like”, it is much better to continue T26 build, becase ship-design cost consumes at least 1-2 unit cost.

– Insist on T26 accepting reduced number:
6 T45, 8 T26(ASW), 3 T26(GP), 5 R2(OPV)
Another nice plan. But, since RN loses 2 frigate, a standing task will disapear (guess APT-S).

– Insist on T26 with reduced number, but keep APT-S:
6 T45, 8 T26(ASW), 3 T26(GP), 3 R2(OPV) and 2 “extended-R2” (OPV/PF)
This is my proposal. So the heart is to build as much T26 as possible, while keeping APT-S.

As you can see, my proposed “extended-R2” is not much “extended”. ~5m or so hull plugged in the center, replace the 15t crain with a hangar. Even the 3in gun can be omitted, by adopting SeaHawk Sigma version of 30mm gun (with 7 LMM/StarStreaker). A 20mm CIWS is needed, but just rip it off from single T26.

How many additional resource needed? Not sure, but I think, 2 “extended-R2” = 2 R2 + 60-80M GBP. If the resource is more limited (economy etc.), then reduce T26 to 10, and increase “extended-R2” to 3.

June 23, 2016 3:51 am

“What happens to all that nice shiny kit if there is a coup in Saudi or the Gulf states?”

Well speaking from personal experience having worked very closly with the Saudi’s …nothing. The reason being is that most of the indepth maintenance of equipment is undertaken by Expats. Should a coup happen they would go and that nice shiny kit will sit on the tarmac, alongside or in a vehicle park gathering sandy dust.
By the way the Saudi military, National Guard and for that matter the greater populace are very very pro the king.Add into that tribal loyalties, Wasta, and the temperament of the majority of Saudi’s a coup is most unlikely anytime soon or in the forseeable future..

June 23, 2016 4:02 am

@All Politicians are the Same

T23 has always struggled for accomodation. Now it is at or even past breaking point.The Harpoon power room….Luxury! Well only if the Harpoon SFC is turned off otherwise you have to sleep next to a piece o kit making a high pitch squealing hum all night.
I always prefered the Sonar Instrument Room. Much quieter unless the 2050 is transmitting of course.

T23 has little space or capacity left to shoe horn people or equipment into. The sickbay bunks are used for accom, the Air/Flight Equipment Maintenance room is now used for UAV team accomodation. Add into that extra bunks for Comms Techs, Marine Security Detachment and a Phot and you see the problem.

In short extra equipment and fits means extra operators and maintainers. That means growth in ship size. That was recognised in T45 where extra space for growth was built in from the start so as to avoid this issue. T26 will have space for growth. Hopefully T31 will as well but priobably not as much as everyone would like.

June 23, 2016 5:49 am

For those having thoughts of turning OPVs into warfighting corvettes.Why?
At present the RN has 4 MCMV’s permanently in the Gulf.
These vessels have a single 30mm , mini guns , GPMG’s and a couple of 50 Cals.
They do MCMV work and conduct general maritime security and engagement work in the Gulf area. They dont have SSM, ASM’s AA missiles, towed array ASW or a flight deck.
They and any potential Gulf based OPV(should that happen) would not go out to play in a warfighting situation unless the enemy forces had been completly neutralised as a viable threat be that in the air, on the surface or sub surface. In addition a zone along the costal area of a hostile nation would need to be cleaned of any Anti Ship Missile launcher threat.
Then and only then will lightly armed units be sent into the area.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
June 23, 2016 6:28 am


Sorry but totally not true of MCMVS. In the case of of a mine threat they would have to do their job. Hence the choke point transit SOM and initial offensive mine warfare plans as well as all the work done on MMPU and fixed wing support.

June 23, 2016 7:51 am

Re shiny kit after a coup. Sure they probably won’t know how to maintain or operate all the bits, but they can still do damage if they limp to see & fire off only half the weapons.
The insurgent groups in the Middle East have gone beyond an AK & an IED. They are using missiles like TOW & anti ship Russian/Chinese weapons now. If the new rulers have members of the old order armed forces amongst them , then those people will have some knowledge of how to work those weapons/platforms.
If the RN has frigates/destroyers then send those. However numbers are falling fast. What happens when we do not have a frigate/destroyer available? Will the service chiefs send something unsuitable, as they fear further defence cuts if they cannot answer a ministerial request?

June 23, 2016 7:52 am

See should of course be Sea. Damn this lack of an edit.

June 23, 2016 9:58 am

The B2’s will be excellent OPVs. Patrol, presence and surveillance but no warfighting. 30mm cannon and small arms to overmatch any opportunists in speedboats etc (they might merit a couple of 0.50 cals as per some of the minehunters to add punch and variety but nothing more). Yes I guess you could lash containers to the flight deck with some sort of missile in or a CIWS but that would surely only ever arise in some emergency of Falkland proportions. The only enhancements that might be considered are some sort of decoy suite and some sort of UAV capability to enhance the surveillance and patrol aspect- eg camcopter in a dog kennel. They can do fisheries, they can do flag flying in exercises and visits, they can do BOT patrol, they can do APT (N), they can do FRE in the sense of escorting Russians through the channel, they can do at sea training. We have them ordered, make the most of what they are and can do. Yes the DDs / FFS can do all these in peacetime also ,but the OPVs give ‘cover’ in a number of areas in the event the DDs / FFs are warfighting. If we do build a T31 it should in my view have a relevant war fighting capability and in my view that is ASW

June 23, 2016 11:20 am

@APATS, @Gunbusters: I worry about the attitude that OPV’s can do anything other than fisheries, or indeed that MCMV’s should be tooling around the Gulf without even a Phalanx. The unfortunate fact is that in any foreign place where “presence” is required, even a RIB can tote an ATGW. The era of “cheap” patrol vessels is over, something you think the RN would have learnt in 1991 when Sea Skua wiped out all those Iraqi FPB’s.

June 23, 2016 2:21 pm

At least in my case, I am not proposing to make OPV a corvette.

In fight against “RIB with ATGW”, an OPV armed with 30 mm Gun, LMMs, 7.62mm gatlings (and a 20 mm CIWS, in my “Patrol Frigate” idea) is nothing less than a frigate equipped with the same armament for close-in-defence.

Tasks in west Africa, or east Africa/Indian ocean, do you need CAMMs and TLAMs ? Even a 5in gun is surplus in some cases. To fight with fast boats, OPV can be properly up-armed to handle it with the SAME close-in-defence weapons frigate/destroyers have. So, “up-armored, longer range OPV” CAN DO some of these tasks (but yes need proper damage control, at least to some extent).

NOT ALL war is against Iraq. To say more, to concentrate RN’s hi-end vessels in Gulf/Med, filling other tasks with “less resource-requiring assets = Patrol Frigates” is a good option, I think. Another idea is to dismiss these mid-end tasks. Then you do not need to send either hi-end escort nor “Patrol Frigates”, but UK will lose interests in these regions.

So, my point again. If escort number is in risk to decline, RN shall either build “very cheap” Patrol Frigate” = “British-Floreal-Frigate” to fill the gap, or jut leave that tasks to be gapped. If escort number is in good shape, little need for “Patrol Frigate”, I agree.

Anyway, heavily armed but short legged “Corvette” is not needed, to my point of view, becase I can find only one task these ship will be tasked; Gulf guardships homeported in Baharein. Good. But training, supporting, and maintenance will be a big issue. Corvettes do not have good flexibility to handle “Indean ocean patrol”-like task (short legged), which can be best done with a “Patrol Frigate”. On the other hands, RN can place “Patrol Frigates” in many standing tasks. As such, I “guess” latter is better.

June 23, 2016 3:28 pm

JH, why are you assuming there is a “shortage” of ships to the point where you have to send suicide boats to do a job? There isn’t such a shortage to a point where you can’t relieve a destroyer or frigate from a task, and that is where the OPV comes in. It takes over some roles so that your other ships can do more important things. Or are you saying that using a destroyer to check trawler fishing catches is a worthwhile use of an air defence destroyer or an ASW frigate?

This is even in addition to the fact that there already is a station for destroyers and frigates in your Middle East scenario. So how is there a “shortage” of ships going to the Middle East when there is already a station (2 in fact, CTF-150 and -151?) that the UK contributes to every year? And as part of a coalition task force much less? And not OPVs?

Did the RN ships assigned to those task forces pull a “Flying Dutchman” and disappear?

There is only a “shortage” if you don’t know where the ships are assigned to. All the necessary stations have ships, the only reason people think there is a “shortage” is because they want a “30 ship navy and not one less!!” thus thinking that anything less than overbloated numbers is a “shortage”. Something like the American “400 ship navy” that is their goal.

Match station numbers to ships, not just toss up a huge number and say anything less is a shortage.

Peter Elliott
June 23, 2016 4:14 pm

Much as I dislike the relentless negativity of some commenters such sentiments are going to keep reappearing so long as actual surface combatants are not ordered. The gloomy talk will only finally be scotched once actual warships start hitting the water with some regularity and to the expected cost.

June 23, 2016 6:12 pm

Observer. You seem to think the RN is awash with fighty frigates/destroyers. How fit to fight are they? The 6 T45 have fab radar, good range & decent SAM, but if the proverbial hits the fan, they risk the lights going out & being dead in the water. Only 4 of the 6 have Harpoon & those missiles are pretty old. Perhaps the Treasury will give those 6 ships a fighty makeover i.e. new Harpoon block II+, add lasers to the Phallanx, fit the Mk 41 launchers there is space for, sort out the propulsion issue. Lets hope.
The 13 T23 were good ships when new, but what state are they in now (or the next few years as they are forced to run on)? How many set sail, even in dangerous places, with less than their full load of missiles?

June 23, 2016 8:54 pm

The 76mm for the USCG is a General purpose Naval gun. It’s used for Air and Naval Targets. I have seen them used to stop drug boats and Go fast boats. It has been standard for the USCG.

June 23, 2016 8:59 pm

@All Politicians are the Same
The US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter is designed like a Light Frigate in a similar fashion to the Lafayette class Frigates. They are designed for Long endurance and to be on station far longer. They also have built in room for extra growth and the ability to be upgunned to a ASUW frigate. That’s why the US Navy is interested in upgunning the US Coast Guard’s National Security cutter to a Patrol Frigate to replace the POS LCS.

June 23, 2016 9:02 pm

JH, in reverse, how many naval stations do you think are there that needs a destroyer or a frigate? Can you list them out?

You’re too focused on the equipment, not the tasks, you’re into Top Trumps mode already and that is NOT a good way to run a military or to do equipment procurement.

Just list out the areas where you “think” the UK needs a Type-45/Type-23/26, then check the numbers.

June 23, 2016 9:06 pm

The problem here is, you don’t need a Frigate, if your doing all the LOW end work such as EEZ patrol, Maritime security or anti Piracy operations. AN OPV or a cutter is more appropriate and it would be great to have a Frigate to act as a mother ship or a command and control ship for the OPV or cutter. The US Coast Guard has cutters that can go globally and even to both ends of the Poles. That’s why you have the US Coast Guard in the Persian Gulf because the US Coast Guard is an expert in Maritime security and has a wealth of experience. We also have cutters from the 210’s, 270’s, 378’s and even the NSC who all have the capability to deploy overseas and deploy with a Carrier battle group, Amphibious ready group or Naval Fleet Auxiliary group. In some roles, you don’t need a frigate to chase down pirates or terrorist. You can use a Cutter or an OPV to do that.

June 23, 2016 9:09 pm

What’s nice about the US Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter is that it can be upgunned to a Light frigate or a full frigate. HII has been pushing the US navy to buy into the National Security cutter hull and upgun it to a Frigate. The one thing that the National Security cutter excels at is being able to have the Sea legs to stay on station longer than any other ship.

June 23, 2016 9:14 pm

Even the US Coast Guard’s 270 Famous cutter class is far capable than the River class OPV.comment image

June 23, 2016 9:21 pm

It’s also why for some countries, they are looking for an something like the USCG’s NSC for all the low end work but can be heavily armed when need be. Australia is a prime examlpe, who needs a High end OPV or Light frigate for all the EEZ work.comment image

June 23, 2016 9:38 pm

Observer. That seems a bureaucratic mindset to me. Never mind the bigger picture, just meet some notional target.
To me the bigger picture rests on 2 questions. Does the RN have enough ships to cope with a major crisis? Are those ships fit to fight?

June 23, 2016 9:42 pm

That was my point, an OPV is not useless and there is really no need to turn an OPV into a missile gunboat since there are tasks that do require ships to do, no matter how minimally armed. Yet somehow people keep thinking slapping missiles on board a ship is a good idea regardless of tasking.

Like some smuggler is going to launch Mig-29s at you and come at you with 127mm cannon. Or people are somehow going to send OPVs up against the Revolutionary Guards.

June 23, 2016 9:59 pm

JH, I don’t see you even glancing at the bigger picture at all.

Where are your areas to allocate your forces is not a “bureaucratic mindset”, just simple basic common sense. Or are you going to say you’re going to send ships to China or Japan or India as a permanent station?

The things you need to do determines your numbers, not random “I love the number 40, therefore we should have 40 ships” thinking.

Where are the areas where the RN deploy? That is the most basic question you have to ask before taking numbers. And it’s also a step you seem to have missed out on. You didn’t even go over the basics and you want to talk allocation and needed numbers?

List out the areas where the RN needs frigates and destroyers first, then continue. Please do this most basic of tasks.

June 23, 2016 10:29 pm

If they don’t start building some ships soon ,we could be in the embarrassing position of having our shiny new carriers being escorted by lots of shiny new Fishery protection vessels!

June 23, 2016 11:53 pm

That’s why for the Royal navy, they need to be better armed than a weak 30MM gun on the River class OPV. if your gona use an OPV like that to stop smugglers and Go fast boats, you need a bigger main deck gun like a 57 MM Bofors or oto melra 76 MM. Heck, even the Spanish Navy’s Buque de Acción Marítima is better armed than the River class OPV. What the Royal Navy needs to do is take a page from the Royal Thai Navy’s HTMS Krabi.

June 23, 2016 11:59 pm

Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say the Royal Navy should have followed the HTMS Krabi as a template to build a good OPV. At least with HTMS Krabi, you have a well armed OPV for EEZ patrol and for Missions such as SAR, Martitime security, Maritime patrol, Alien interdiction mission, Anti Piracy and counter drug operations

June 24, 2016 1:41 am

Nicky, how often in your career have you heard of a smuggler attacking a coast guard vessel? They are criminals out for profit, not death sworn assault troops, they don’t usually do non-profitable suicidal actions. There really is no call for anything other than 25-30mm usually, though there have been other commentators here espousing the 76mm too. I personally find it 50/50, it’s not so important that you have to have it at all costs, but it’s nice if you do. I think Chuck Hill was all for the 76mm on the platform of it being able to cause damage enough to sink a ship if need be, which is a valid approach.

On the other hand, one of our naval commanders dispatched to the Gulf of Aden wrote a paper regarding the changes in conditions and ROE of OOTW (Operations Other Than War) and he espoused the 25-30mm for the simple reason that in “police actions”, you bring the criminal back alive preferably, not in body bags, so disabling shots are more the norm than killing or sinking shots. It’s something like the police, you’re supposed to arrest the guy, not blow him up into minced meat.

Long story short, how you fit your ship is a reflection on how you operate. As a warship, the more lethal the better. As a police vessel? You’re limited in how big you can go. Unless you have a thing for bringing people back in body bags….

So 76mm for warships, 25-30mm for police cutters.

Of course, if you want 76mm on your Security Cutters, that’s fine by me too, it works just as well, more or less.

June 24, 2016 1:48 am

For looks, I don’t think many can beat the Indonesian X3K FSMP :)

Heard they changed the hull to a fire retardant material after the first was lost to fire. Literally the burnt hand (boat) teaches best. lol.

June 24, 2016 11:38 am

Something you seem to be forgetting is that these Batch 2’s are being built due to the agreement with BAE and the gap in ordering the 26’s. As such why should the RN add in other costs by standing up new supply chains for the 76mm for example for hulls that are being bought just to be bought.

June 24, 2016 3:28 pm

Putting a 30 MM on an OPV is weak. I can see a 30 MM on a Patrol boat but not on a OPV at that size. For an OPV like the River class Batch 2, they should at the very least consider the 57 mm Bofors or 76 MM gun. Heck, even the same gun that’s on the Type 23. A 30 MM is not gona stop anything larger than a speed boat.

June 24, 2016 3:48 pm

The reason why the US Coast Guard has the 76 MM on the 270’s, 378 Hamilton class cutters and even the 57 MM on the National Security cutters is because the US Coast Guard is not only a Law Enforcement service but also a Military branch and at anytime can fall under the Jurisdiction of the US Navy. Often times the US Coast Guard deploys with the US Navy and it’s why some cutters are armed with a 76 mm, 57mm main deck gun. The only cutters that have less than a 30mm in the US Coast Guard is the Sentinel-class cutter and the Reliance-class cutter, which have the 25 mm autocannon. Those cutters are mostly used to go after drug cartels and interecpt illegal immigrants and human smugglers. In the US Coast Guard’s view, you want a Main deck gun that can stop a Boat or disable it’s engines. That’s why the USCG has HITRON that can use a .50cal Sniper rifle and stop a GOFAST boat. That’s why Chuck Hill and I are all onboard for the 76 MM on the NSC as well.

The only OPV I know of that has something less than 30MM is the Royal New Zealand Navy’s Protector-class offshore patrol vessel. Which I think the 30MM is to weak for an OPVcomment image

A 30MM is more for ships like Sentinel-class cutter that the USCG is building right now.

Rocket Banana
June 24, 2016 5:36 pm

Question to someone that builds ships:

Can the skills needed to build FF/DD be maintained by a continually evolving class?

I mean this from the perspective of T26 being the foundation for T31 and the ultimate replacement for T45.

Would we totally lose the capacity to build afresh or would we maintain knowledge by always having a reference design (the last T26 batch 57)?

Obviously I’m not precluding the notion of realising that a totally new design is needed to accommodate the new/changing requirements.

June 24, 2016 6:18 pm

One thing about the Royal Navy’s R2 River class almost looks like. It looks similar to the US Coast Guard’s Reliance class cutters that were built between 1964 and 1969.
Here’s the specs on the US Coast Guard’s Reliance class cutters
Displacement: 1,127.2 long tons (1,145 t) full load
210 ft 6 in (64.16 m) LOA
200 ft (61 m) LWL
Beam: 34 ft (10 m)
Draft: 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m)
Propulsion: 2 × 2,500 hp (1,864 kW) ALCO 251B diesel engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Complement: 75
1 × 25mm Mk 38 autocannon
2 × M2HB .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine guns
Aviation facilities: Helipad
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June 24, 2016 6:30 pm

Also, I think the Royal Navy should take a Page from the US Coast Guard on how it arms it’s ships. Look at the US Coast Guard’s 270 Medium Endurance class cutters. The R2 River class OPV fit the Similar mission profile of the US Coast Guard’s 270 Medium Endurance class cutters such as National Defense, search and rescue, alien migrant interdiction operations, counter-drug patrols, fisheries enforcement, and international engagement.
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June 24, 2016 6:47 pm

Sorry Simon, no idea on that one.

Nicky, as I mentioned before, we split role fleets, so we end up with rather specialized designs.

7.62mm gun, 45 knots speed, not much endurance to speak of. Patrol Interdiction Boat (PIB). Police vessel, like the big words “POLICE” on the side isn’t a big giveaway. :)

Naval vessel, old Victory class corvette, 8 Harpoons, 76mm main gun, 16 Barak SAMs, 2x 12.7(0.5 cal) MGs. Used to have 6 torpedoes but they took it out for a Scaneagle. 35 knots.

So you can see that the Police use high speed, lightly armed vessels while the Navy use heavier armed, slower ships.

Another police vessel, the Damen Stanpatrol 3507, the smaller version of your Sentinel

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25mm gun.

The UK uses a similar ship the customs patrol boat which is unarmed.

From what I gather, the border sneaking criminals over on the UK side don’t usually shoot back when caught, so they can get away with unarmed patrol ships and unarmed police officers.

The US needs huge ships because your coastline is *HUGE!* compared to our area of responsibilities.

June 24, 2016 6:58 pm

defensenews has an item “Italy reveals innovations on new naval vessels”. They are planning to build 7x 4500 ton, 133m multifunction frigates. Although armed with 127mm + Aster 15/30, they are also developing a lightweight 76mm called Sovraponte.

June 24, 2016 7:43 pm

Here’s the problem that the US Coast Guard faces. What do you do if you have an armed terrorist who is hell bent on destroying a port with a tanker or freighter or even an Armed terrorist armed with a dirty nuke. A 25 to 30MM isn’t gona cut it and the boats you showed ain’t gona stop nothing more than a small boat. That’s why at min, you need something such as a 57 mm bofors or 76 oto melera main deck gun. if you look at Iran’s speed boat fleet for example, they would shred anything the UK throws at them, including your so called police boats armed with a 25 to 30 mm.

That’s why the USCG has cutters who are armed with at mim a 57 mm Bofors to a 76 mm Main deck gun. if you need to stop a ship from a small to large ship, a 30 MM is not gona cut it. The only cutters that use the 25mm are the sentinel class cutters, Island class cutter and the Reliance class cutters. A 30 MM is simply too WEAK under a swam attack situation or even a well armed and determined terrorist. Also, the USCG has Gunners mates who know very well how to put rounds into the Bridge and Engine room to stop a ship.

Quite frankly, your Patrol Interdiction Boat would be shredded before it even takes a shot. One well placed 57 or 76 mm would wipe it off. Here’s what a well placed 57 mm Bofors will do to a ship.

Heck, even war is boring wrote an article on how bad the River class is and why it won’t stand up to anything.

June 24, 2016 8:17 pm

…..Nicky, are you an idiot?…

Do you know the difference between the *POLICE* and the *NAVY*? Or the *ARMY*? Are you going to send the police department to GWII? What kind of logic is that? NYPD vs Republican Guards or Revolutionary Guards?

If you’re not, then why are you comparing a civilian protection organization vs an armed forces and call it lacking? That is like saying the US shouldn’t have police because any police department vs China is bound to lose. It TOTALLY MISSES THE POINT of the organization.

I want to see you call for the abolition of the police department since against an army, they are useless. Illogical? That is exactly the problem with your comparisons.

Or at least call for the invasion of Iran by the Sheriff’s department. Or the FBI.