Future Littoral Strike Ship (FLSS)

Speaking at the RUSI this morning,  the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP and Secretary of State for Defence described a new approach to 'Transforming UK Defence to Meet the Global Threats of Tomorrow' in which the subject of a new type of ship was covered, the Future Littoral Strike Ship (FLSS)

Speaking at the RUSI this morning,  the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP and Secretary of State for Defence described a new approach to ‘Transforming UK Defence to Meet the Global Threats of Tomorrow’ in which the subject of a new type of ship was covered, the Future Littoral Strike Ship (FLSS)

The First Sea Lord followed up with a tweet that showed a representative graphic.

Of course, sharp-eyed defence types immediately recognised this as pretty close relative to the US MV Ocean Trader/Cragside, a ship subject to much speculation and commentary over the years.

Whilst I had a bit of fun on Twitter it might be useful to have a signpost to previous blog posts and long reads in the TD archive in which we have discussed these concepts, proposed others, and generally had about the subject of civilian to naval conversions.

The oldest post was one of the first multi-post series on the blog in 2011

A Ship that is not a Frigate

PART 1 – Introduction

PART 2 – Roles and Requirements

PART 3 – Design Discussion

PART 4 – Modules and Payloads

PART 5 – Operational Concepts

This series looked the potential for using smaller offshore support vessels in the security space, even then I recognised that the essential nature of these vessels would not be high-intensity combat, operating at space beneath and on the left of the fightiness scale

The next post on the subject came about in 2014 as a result of a post on another blog

The Return of the Auxilliary Mothership

Credit must be given to Snafu Blogspot, I first read about the Maritime Support Vessel there in 2011, click here but then promptly forgot about it until 2014 more details emerged on the MV Cragside conversion contract., was reminded of this by a few people H/T Lee and Chuck and we had some great discussions, so interesting that I thought it would be worth writing a short post about it.

I noted that this wasn’t really a first, even for the US, but a first to use such a large RORO vessel and on a permanent basis.

This was the first time the US has contracted for a dedicated Maritime Support Vessel (MSV) but has used various vessels in the past in a similar role, especially for special forces support. The 220ft Edison Chouest C-Champion for example. The C-Champion cost the princely sum of $7m to convert and less than $10m per year to run. The feedback was reportedly very good and the C-Champion operated in the role for many years although the lack of aviation facilities was recognised as a shortcoming.

MV C Champion
MV C Champion

Also worth noting that the UK has also operated smaller, but similar in concept vessels. The SD Victoria is often seen (or maybe not) with special boats aboard in the Worldwide Support Vessel role

In November the US DoD issued a contract notice and I wrote a longer post on the subject

Click to read it.

The Return of the Auxilliary Mothership

Lots of detail about the scope and scale of the conversion to the MSV, including details of its jet ski facilities.

What made this really interesting from a UK perspective was the donor vessel, a Flensberger RORO ship of pretty much the same specification as those used in the Strategic RORO contract.

A Ship That Still Isn’t a Frigate

I returned again to the subject in 2016 with a much longer series on civilian conversions, but still noting the essential ‘non-warlike’ nature.

This is not a unique idea, many have proposed similar for many years.

The first I read was from Mark Tempest in 2009 at the US Naval Institute called ‘The Department of Cheaper Pirate Fighting’. Mark also blogs regularly about maritime security at his own blog, Eagle Speak.

The reason I called it ‘not a frigate’ because it was not intended to be a frigate on the cheap, or a surrogate frigate, and to emphasise the point so that people would not get carried away by adding medium calibre guns and cruise missiles.

The reason the article was called ‘still not a frigate’ is that that still stands.

If one wants a Frigate (light or global) ask those nice chaps at BAE or BMT to design and build one for you.

In this ‘long read’ I looked at concepts, roles,


Examples and initial Considerations

Roles and Modules

Following this, I described three potential approaches/designs based on differing donor vessels, offshore platform support, offshore construction and finally, a large multi lift vessel. This latter example also explored a Point RORO conversion including a reader submitted graphic.

MSS (Small) – Platform Supply Vessel Conversion

MSS (Medium) – Offshore Construction Vessel Derivative

MSS (Large) – Multilift Vessel

Finally, and despite me repeatedly stating that it was a support, not a fighting vessel, I looked at options for climbing the ladder that included my indulgent hobby horse of putting GMLRS to sea.

Climbing the Fighty Ladder

With a summary at the end


Irving Maritime Support Ship

The Canadian shipbuilder Irving also proposed something similar around 2016, the Maritime Support Ship, specifically aimed at HADR

Details here  and here

A Royal Navy FLOFLO

A pair of subsequent long reads followed from that.

The first was a look at the Heavylift FLOFLO type of ship with modules that could also double as a more general purpose transport vessel

Click here to read that one

UK amphibious – Today and Tomorrow

With a wider view, there is also some relevant content on TD that covers the subject of amphibiosity and expeditionary operations from the sea

UK Amphibious Capabilities Today and Tomorrow

Joint Port Opening Proposal

The Light Strike Brigade

In these, I describe an approach that would see a slight reduction in mass in amphibious forces with for a move to amphibious raiding, personnel recovery and littoral security capability.

Gavin Williamson Gets Some Stick

Farmageddon was the amusing Sun headline

in August 2018 the Sun reported on Gavin Williamsons ideas;

A source said: “The man is out of his mind. No one knows what to do.”

As the MoD struggles to deal with a budget black hole, Williamson has been accused of hatching a series of crackpot schemes to solve an equipment crisis.

According to several senior sources they include:

MOUNTING “really expensive guns” on tractors and disguising mobile missile defence ­systems as Coca-Cola lorries;

BUYING old commercial ferries and transforming them into beach assault craft, and;

WASTING thousands of hours of civil service time on plans to launch his own medal


The online ridicule continued but at least the Sun gave us this image

I actually thought all were reasonable ideas worthy of discussion but the ridicule continued online

A UK Hospital Ship

In January this year, The Daily Mail reported comments by the International Development Secretary (Penny Mordaunt MP) about the potential to use DFiD funds to create a UK hospital ship.

Good posts from on the subject from;

UK Defence Journal

Save the Royal Navy

I also threw some content into the ring, specifically on the ongoing subject of civilian vessel conversions, building on the content above

A UK Hospital Ship


There is a lot of content on Think Defence on this subject but it has been covered by much better-qualified people than I and we should recognise this.

As usual, Gavin’s speech raises more questions than it answers; will they be RN or RFA, what impact to Albion/Bulwark, how many, what specifications, where are the donor vessels coming from, how much, how will they be crewed and paid for, what is the operating model, will they be the notional replacement for HMS Ocean and RFA Argus and perhaps more importantly, how many containers will they hold!

Perhaps also worth noting, a single low-quality graphic does not a set of requirements make, we don’t know what the final design will look like or what requirements will drive that design.




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Ogden Dowcett
February 11, 2019 3:21 pm

I’d go full Blofeld… Take a Triple -E and give it ESB/Ocean Trader/Oregon treatment. Add a welldeck in back to handle 1 – 2 LCUs or small boats (M18, Mk VI, CB90, etc), USV/UUV launching system, side doors for port ro-ro loading, the obligatory ISO based “Mission Modules”, a 2 Merlin capable hangar with 2 helo deck spots, and the pièce de résistance….. an A26 capable moonpool/underhull mating capability for when the Commandos want to be really sneaky. OK daydream time over, time to get back to work.

February 11, 2019 4:16 pm

Great can we now stop spending money on the T31 and just buy some more Bay’s with a permanent hangar?

February 11, 2019 5:55 pm

Nice work mate, you got this out quick ! Good summary of all your previous good thinking on this subject !

February 11, 2019 7:07 pm

Looking fwd to seeing a couple of point class vessels converted to operate small commando units with multiple unmanned systems embarked. A long time coming. The list of possible sub systems it could deploy will only grow with our imagination

We may even have a candidate to try a few himars vehicles out on!

The Canadian configuration also interesting perhaps the hull of a point could also lend itself to the solid stores requirement.

February 11, 2019 10:02 pm

Rather than using two civilian vessels to be permantly converted, could we not combine this role with other roles TD discussed using the large module concept in his hospital ship article to create an Argus and Diligence replacement and a Hospital ship along with the FLSS concept using the Multi-Function Vessel route and a heavy lift type hull?

So a few common hulls acquired which can be re roled as and when depending on need and if all roles are needed in an emergency we can simply just add hulls from commercial sources for our modules.

steven duckworth
steven duckworth
February 12, 2019 12:45 am

The Hospital ship(s) , one east of Suez , another West Africa and another Caribbean could do so much good treating the local population for specialist procedures . Hearts and minds won in droves.
Used also as a training facility for local medical staff it could sustain the goodwill even after the vessel moves on to help at another port before it’s scheduled return.
In the event of a natural or man made disaster bringing large teams of emergency service personel on site from a large base of self supporting operations relatively quickly could save significant loss of life.

February 12, 2019 11:26 am

The Sun has uncovered, for us, who was behind the infamous Red Trousers call-sign:
“BUYING old commercial ferries and transforming them into beach assault craft” without bothering to include the details. That the plan was to beach them, drive in through the sea end and out, straight onto the beach through the other.

February 12, 2019 12:35 pm

Much as I said on the hospital ship thread, I’m a big fan of Con-Ro for military applications and think something like the Oceanex Connaigra would be perfect for this.

Peter Elliott
February 13, 2019 5:53 pm

ACC – the “old car ferry” in the Red Trousers story was to be called the “RFA Fergie”

February 23, 2019 10:47 am
Simon m
Simon m
May 8, 2019 9:14 pm

One of the most interesting things I noted in the announcement over littoral strike ships was the statement this included escorts and support vessels as part of a group. Assuming these are not being taken from existing assets (sadly probably the case).
I wonder what a littoral strike group would look like? My initial thoughts would Chinook Long range helicopter’s, long range sf vessels such safehaven thunderchild, some LCVPs, vessels such as ctruk Thor or again safehaven marine’s barracuda for amphibious assault close protection and riverine patrol. Some lynx wildcats with both land attack, asw and asuw.

I also wondered if consideration would be given to small SSKs such as BMT vidar or wyvern designs as well as an rn version of the al khareef/batch 3 river vessels fitted with 57mm and small amount of sea ceptor missiles. Of course this would all dependent upon the budget if one exists for a group.

But it would be an interesting and capable force for forward deployment which could be put in place for a modest cost. Possibly capable of independently operating against small countries and allowing modest surface, air and sub surface operations especially if also reinforced with usv,UAV, uuv assets