One of the standout design features of the Type 26 frigate is a large mission bay. As offboard systems continue to evolve and become more widespread, the flexibility and capacity of mission bays for all types of naval vessels will become increasingly important.
The Type 26 system has been designed and developed by Roll Royce, with initial imagery changing over time as more information became available.
The Type 26 GCS project team were also leading on a couple of projects that will benefit NATO standardisation, namely module interfaces and shock protection. A mock-up of the bay was constructed at RNAS Yeovilton to allow experimentation, especially with regard to moving loads inside and outside the bay. The shock protection system was developed by Thornton Tomasetti Defence Ltd, formerly Weidlinger Associates, a British company with its parent in the US. The protection system was designed by TTDL in Scotland, funded by DE&S Naval Authority Group at Abbey Wood. This was tested at an underwater range in Scotland with very encouraging results.
There is much more to this systems than meets the eye, it will have active heave compensation and an ability to move loads up to 15 tonnes, with those loads including crewed and uncrewed vessels, ISO containers and other bulk loads. The cradle assembly can be changed as designs evolve.
It might also be interesting to compare the T26 approach to that of the US Navy LCS
As usual though, there are civilian alternatives.
Vetsadavit has launched an integrated mission bay concept called the MissionEase System. MissionEase works on a system of hydraulic cradles which moves boats safely from stowage positions to maintenance, preparation or launch areas of the mission bay. It links seamlessly with dual or single-point davits to deploy or recover boats in high seas from either side of the vessel. Kalve explains, “The ability to deploy and recover boats safely is part of the main armament of today’s warships, and critical to seismic work and for expedition cruise ships and yachts. A midships hangar or mission bay allows the boats to be stored, maintained, prepared and launched from a safe environment with a dry, high freeboard. But existing systems rely on overhead gantries to move the boats within the bay. When the ship is moving that is dangerous, and slinging and unslinging takes time.
MissionEase allows the boats to be moved safely and quickly within the bay on the cradles, even in high seas or with a list on the vessel. The boats are fed directly to the davits for launch, or feed directly back into the stow when recovered.” In addition to a wide range of types and sizes of boats and Unmanned Surface Vehicles, MissionEase will also handle standard TEU containers for stores and armament when the vessel is in port.
Although it cannot move containers at sea, one has to ask how much this is actually a requirement.
This video provides a very good overview
Interestingly, the Mission Ease system has a higher payload than the T26, 28 tonnes compared to a released figure of 15 tonnes for T26. Read more here
Without these types of handling systems, the huge benefits offered by offboard and uncrewed solutions are unlikely to be realised, it is an area of crucial importance very few seem to be talking about.