Climbing the Fighty Ladder

In the first section of this series I concept of defining roles across a range of cost and ‘fightiness’ scales. All through, I have been at pains to avoid adding equipment that puts MSS into the tasks that should be conducted by a Frigate, Destroyer or other surface combat vessel. The whole name of the series reinforces this point.


If there is fighting to be done, it would be done by the offboard systems MSS carries; small craft, embarked forces and helicopters for example.

This keeps the cost down, one of the underlying principles of MSS.

Beyond HMG, GPMG and a minigun the examples described, don’t have any other fixed armament, deliberately. These could be augmented with a small detachment of Army or Royal Marines personnel equipped with Javelin ATGW’s and HVM air defence missiles.

However, there might be an argument for hardening and ascending the fight ladder.

Lower Rungs

The first thing to address would be countermeasures.

[adrotate group=”1″]


Countermeasures are not often discussed but are advancing all the time and many consider them more effective at protecting against anti-ship missiles than CIWS.

A range of active and passive decoys will be deployed depending on the threat.

In 1994 GEC Marconi were awarded an £80m contract to develop their Siren system to fulfil the Royal Navy ‘Outfit DLH’ requirement. It was designed to seduce inbound anti-ship missiles using a launched RF countermeasure (Mk 251 Active Decoy Round) fired from standard 130mm SeaGnat launchers. A joint UK/French programme called ACCOLADE is currently investigating advanced RF decoys.

In addition to the advanced Mk 251 Siren, the RN Outfit launcher systems can also use RF distraction (chaff) and IR decoys such as the Chemring Mk 216 Mk 1 Mod 1 and Chemring Mk 245 IR. The Royal Navy has replaced the Mk 245 IR round with the Chemring TALOS that uses variable timing and submunitions rather than a single round, called the A2, as in the image below.

The Airborne Systems IDS300 (now called the FDS3) inflatable RF decoy is also commonly used (the launchers are the horizontal cylindrical devices in the image below). The FDS3 is a self-inflating octahedral shaped corner reflector that floats on the surface and unlike chaff, is persistent, able to float for 3 hours in sea state 4

[tabs] [tab title=”Active Decoy”]

Mk 251 Siren active Decoy Round

[/tab] [tab title=”RF and IR Decoys”]

Royal Navy Decoy Rounds

[/tab] [tab title=”Inflatable RF Decoy”]


[/tab] [tab title=”Inflatable RF Decoy Video”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

Whilst the physical launch systems may be very low cost, the warning and control components will add cost and complexity.

But if we want MSS to operate in a hazardous area, even with protection from surface combat vessels and aircraft, it may be a reasonable investment that when taken in context, is not actually that big.

The fixed barrel launchers are simple and cheap, but not without problems, mainly the need to align the ship in order to deploy an optimal countermeasures pattern. A fixed system also limits the flexibility of the newer variable range countermeasures. These issues may be exacerbated in a ship with minimum crewing.

The Chemring Centurion seeks to address these issues.

I have read estimates of £3m per system pair; if true it would be a big step up from a handful of fixed steel tubes but on the other hand, it offers a great deal, the ability to launch countermeasures into the optimal position in time and space (did I actually just say that!). The launcher takes up a minimal footprint, about 2m in diameter, and does not need any deck penetration, just 440v power and a data connection. The launcher can use all standard 130mm countermeasures, the newer 150mm types and the 170mm flared rounds like the Large Payload Carrier.

Chemring have also teamed up with Raytheon to demonstrate a Javelin ATGW launch capability and a low signature protection cover.

[tabs] [tab title=”Centurion Video 1″]

[/tab] [tab title=”Centurion Video 2″]

[/tab] [tab title=”Centurion Video 3″]

[/tab] [tab title=”Centurion Video 4″]

[/tab] [/tabs]

It only weighs 1.2 tonnes and could be easily mounted on an ISO container flatrack, which as any TD readers will know, gets it plus points, but it also means it can be positioned and secured with relative ease. On all the MSS variants, there is ample space.

Medium Calibre Weapons

To provide a step up from 7.62mm and 12.7mm and fitted to both the Type 45 and Type 23 are MSI 30mm automatic cannon systems.

The MSI mounts have a long heritage with the first designs being introduced in the early eighties with the 30mm RARDEN cannon. In the mid-eighties, the Royal Navy selected the Oerlikon 30 mm KCB to replace all existing 20mm and 40mm automatic cannons as a post-Falklands lessons learned exercise. First entering service in 1988 they have been continually refined and the latest version is the DS 30B Mk2 equipped with offboard sensors, the ATK 30mm Bushmaster Mk44 cannon (instead of the Oerlikon) and Seahawk fire control systems that are replacing all previous versions on Type 23 by 2014 in a £15m contract with MSI.

It is officially called the Automated Small Calibre Gun (ASCG)

They would certainly provide more firepower than the small calibre weapons and MSI have even proposed a variant called SIGMA with a Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) for use against light aircraft, UAV’s and surface targets.

[tabs] [tab title=”ASCG 1″]


[/tab] [tab title=”ASCG 2″]

Automated Small Calibre Gun (ASCG)

[/tab] [tab title=”ASCG Video”]

[/tab] [tab title=”SIGMA”]


[/tab] [/tabs]

Close in Weapon System

The Raytheon Phalanx is a multi-barrel close in weapon system primarily for use against anti-ship missiles although it retains some capability against surface targets.

[tabs] [tab title=”Royal Navy Phalanx 1B”]

Royal Navy Phalanx 1B

[/tab] [tab title=”Phalanx Video”]

[/tab] [/tabs]

UK Phalanx has been variously upgraded, used on trailer mounts for C-RAM in Iraq and Afghanistan and converted back to the maritime role. The latest version is the 1B that upgrades a number of components and adds a visual cueing and tracking system for use against surface targets. In addition to providing the 1B upgrade, Babcock has a ten-year support contract for the 36 Phalanx systems, based on providing availability of the systems throughout their life on board ship.

It also provides an upgrade path to directed energy weapons, the Raytheon Defender for example uses the Phalanx mount but replaces and/or augments the gun with a high energy solid state laser. The US Navy is engaged across a number of demonstration programmes for laser weapons and in October 2015, awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Solid State High Power Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) program.  The Royal Navy and DSTL has initiated a number of exploratory programmes to start looking at the potential for laser weapons. A trip to Red Bull by Admiral George Zambellas to look at F1 Motorsport Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) gives us a clue to what is perhaps the greatest challenge, energy storage, not generation.

[tabs] [tab title=”Type 45 Laser CIWS”]


[/tab] [tab title=”Laser Phalanx”]

Laser Phalanx

[/tab] [tab title=””] [/tab] [tab title=”Laser Weapon System (LaWS) Video 1″]

[/tab] [tab title=”Laser Weapon System (LaWS) Video 2″]

[/tab] [/tabs]

CIWS, Medium Calibre Automatic Weapons and Countermeasures would provide a high level of self protection.

Top Rungs

The US Navy’s Distributed Lethality Concept is certainly creating some interest, basically, more firepower in more places.

An example of this is the use of the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile in the anti-shipping role, a quote from the US Navy Director of Surface Warfare, Rear Admiral Peter Fanta;

It flies a real long distance. I got it, it’s not perfect, it may not be the ideal, it doesn’t move at Mach 1 million, okay, I got it – but I’ve got 3,500 of them. It’s an incredible truck – let’s change the payloads, let’s change the sensors, let’s move it forward. We’ve done this already, this is not aspirational, this is operational.

The concept is a whole lot more complicated but this aspect is really illustrative of a pragmatic attitude and an increasing recognition that relying on the magic money tree is not a good strategy.

One of the discussion points has been whether to add offensive weapon systems to logistics vessels, the basic principle of ‘if it floats it fights’ would indicate that does. It also means that logistics vessels can be used to create electronic sensor networks, netted together with others.

They might not actually use a more advanced radar or EW sensor directly onboard, but the radar and signals picture could be shared across an entire battlegroup.

[adrotate group=”1″]

Land Attack

An interesting alternative to a stabilised crane is a stabilised platform onto which a crawler crane can be operated from. Barge Master can supply a modular and containerised three axis motion compensation platform called the BM-T700. It can handle a crawler crane or maximum payload of 600 tonnes, and compensate for a wave height of 2.5m.

[tabs] [tab title=”BM-T700 1″]

Barge Master Platform

[/tab] [tab title=”BM-T700 Video 1″]

[/tab] [tab title=”BM-T700 Video 2″]

[/tab] [/tabs]

The French have recently let a contract to explore the feasibility of using MLRS/GMLRS from their bâtiments de projection et de commandement (BPC) amphibious combat vessels, the Mistral Class. One of the concerns about using such systems from a ship is the adverse impact on accuracy caused by ship motion whilst at sea. Calculations for a land based system make the, entirely reasonable, assumption that it will not be moving.

For the guided rockets, the impact of platform movement will be lessened, but there may still be limits.

BPC GMLRS Sea platform

The need for precision land attack has been identified and unfilled for many years, Operation TELIC in 2003 identified the lack of precision land attack as a significant gap, Operation ELLAMY in Libya in 2011, again identified an unfilled gap.

A post Libya Janes Defence Weekly reported on a Royal Navy lessons learned document in which the two major shortcomings were a lack of precision land attack capability and organic unmanned ISR.

Janes quoted Colonel Pierson Royal Marines, the Deputy Director of NATO Operations in Libya;

It was evident that the Libya campaign showed the need for precision fires, [perhaps the Lockheed Martin] Guided Multiple Rocket Launch System (GMLRS), from the sea base, deep into enemy littoral territory.

In 2016, 13 years after Al Faw, the gap persists.

The Royal Navy intends to fill this gap with the Medium Calibre Gun on Type 26, but given the limited numbers and as yet unclear plan for precision guided munitions for the gun, it strikes me that a perfect stop gap, or even longer term solution, may be to simply drive a MLRS/GMLRS vehicle onto the Barge Master platform.

In the roles and requirements section I made the point that experimentation and systems development are an important function of MSS, there we go, an opportunity to see if it works.

If it does work from a safety and technical viewpoint, operational concepts can be developed.

The image below shows three circles.

The smallest is 40km, chosen as the approximate radar and visual horizon at 20m above sea level for both the observed and observer. This results in a 30km inland range for a 70km range GMLRS round, the second circle. The largest circle shows a 120km radius that represents the 120km range achieved with the GMLRS+ rocket motor


Use an ATACMS round instead of GMLRS/GMLRS+ and the 300km range is shown below.


ATACMS is more of a short range semi ballistic missile and used for interdiction type missions, it was extensively used by US forces in Iraq in 2003 for destruction of Iraqi air defences in the initial stages of the operation. With a range of over 160km (M57 variant) it can carry either a 230kg (5oo lbs) unitary warhead or 274 M74 sub-munitions. The latest Block IVa version increases the range to in excess of 300km. An ATACMS rocket was sled tested in 2005 with the BROACH warhead, the same as fitted to Storm Shadow, this allows it to attack hardened and buried targets.

Future developments are likely to include an insensitive and selectable warhead, semi active laser (SAL) guidance and extended range.

There has also been some discussion on developing GMLRS as a carrier for the Small Diameter Bomb (50km range) and SPEAR Capability 3 weapon. By using these weapons that are equipped with wing kit’s, the intention is to extend the range of the already long range GMLRS and provide additional guidance and warhead options. The M30A1 (Increment 3) Alternative Warhead will restore the area attack capability lost with the Ottawa Treaty.

GMLRS rockets cost approximately $110,000 and over 3,000 have been fired by the UK and USA in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In short, lots of capability and lots of potential.

There are even other rocket systems available.

The LAR-160 Light Artillery Rocket System from IMI is a 160mm rocket with a range of 45km, each pod containing 13 rockets. A GPS guided version called ACCULAR is available and all types can be mounted on armoured vehicles, trucks or trailers. The 306mm EXTRA has a maximum range of 150km with GPS/INS guidance and a 120kg payload that can be used unitary warheads or sub-munitions. An EXTRA pod contains 4 rockets in the same space as the 13 rocket LAR-160 pod.

IAI (not IMI) make an ATACMS equivalent called LORA with a range of between 30km and 300km and a choice of warheads. It is also suitable for shipboard use and as can be seen from the images below, relatively compact and available in a demountable rack launcher.

A development for the MBDA TAURUS cruise missile will see a vehicle launched variant and perhaps, there might even be a land attack role for the Fire Shadow loitering missile.

[tabs] [tab title=”SDB GMLRS”]

[/tab] [tab title=”ACCULAR”]

[/tab] [tab title=”LORA”]

[/tab] [tab title=”Taurus”]

Ground launched TAURUS

[/tab] [tab title=”Fire Shadow”]

Fire Shadow Loitering Munition

[/tab] [/tabs]

Anti Surface

We might actually be getting into Frigate territory now but in line with the ‘Distributed Lethality’ direction of travel, there are a number of anti-ship missiles that could either use a simple box or vehicle launcher. The box launcher can be fitted into the footprint of either a 20ft, 30ft or 40ft ISO container.

The Naval Strike Missile from Kongsberg is an anti-ship and land attack missile. It will integrated onto the F35 as the Joint Strike Missile so commonality benefits could be realised if we chose to purchase it for the F35’s, unlikely, but it is an option. With a 150km range the NSM weighs 400Kg with a 125kg warhead and can attack a mix of land and surface targets, click here to read about its development path.

The NSM has been criticised by some because it is not hypersonic but I think that is misplaced, the NSM has taken a reasonable line with regards to balancing capabilities against cost and development time, the seeker is reportedly very advanced and low its signature is a valuable feature when faced with a plethora of anti-missile weapons.

In April 2014, Raytheon announced their intent to test a new multi mode seeker for the Tomahawk;

Completion of this test and last year’s passive seeker test will demonstrate that Tomahawk can hit moving targets on land and at sea. Raytheon is working to quickly and affordably modernize this already advanced weapon for naval warfighters

This new seeker is intended to deliver greater precision and and alternative options for both land AND sea targets. The enhancement programme will also upgrade the communications and warhead. The Block IV missile has a two data link. In October 2015, the planned test was completed and the missile hit a moving target at sea after receiving targeting data from an aircraft.

With a range in excess of 1,000 miles, a Block IV enhanced Tomahawk would provide a powerful and flexible capability against land and sea targets.

The future Long Range Anti Surface Missile (LRASM) may possibly be available in a box launcher, i.e. not a Mk 41 VLS.

[tabs] [tab title=”Naval Strike Missile”]

Polish NSM

[/tab] [tab title=”Container NSM”]

Ground Launched NSM

[/tab] [tab title=”Tomahawk”]

Tomahawk Block IV

[/tab] [/tabs]

Where these concepts tend to fall down is the cost of the missile systems and supporting infrastructure tends to dwarf the cost of the platform, so a loss of the platform because it is cheap and cheerful means the loss of the missiles, which are far from cheap and cheerful.

Which leads me to the general conclusion that the argument for adding land attack or anti surface missiles on MSS is not a strong one.

That said, I still like the idea of a GMLRS/ATACMS launch platform in some situations.

A more useful enhancement to MSS may well be a containerised or fully integrated SIGINT capability.

Table of Contents

wsd-600-psv Introduction
hms-protector Part 1 – Examples and Initial Considerations
Wildcat Part 2 – Roles and Modules
1981-custom-platform-supply-vessel--2 Part 3 – MSS (Small) – Platform Supply Vessel Conversion
Offshore Construction Part 4 – MSS (Medium) – Offshore Construction Vessel Derivative
rolldock Part 5 – MSS (Large) – Multilift Vessel
CIEWS Phalanx Part 6 – Climbing the Fighty Ladder
Ulstein PSV Summary
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
February 29, 2016 9:43 am

Excellent articles all. Over the next two decades we will need to replace 12 MCMVs, 3 Survey Vessels, 4-5 Ro-Ros, Dillgence and Argus. On top of that there may be a need to fill the ‘Ocean’ gap if the navy gets larger as we are told it will (don’t hold your breath), and to prepare to replace Albion, Bulwark, the Bays and Protector. 8 new build MSS small and 6-8 MSS medium could be an effective replacement for the MCMVs and Survey Vessels, using modular offboard systems (small vessels being largely single purpose MCMV (6) and survey (2) and suitable for constricted waters and Bahrein type missions, larger vessels having more multi-mission capability and adding enhanced flexibility for martime security, defence engagement, training and HADR). 6-8 MSS large could replace the Points, Dilligence and Argus, with equally flexible and cost effective platforms. Must be worth considering.

February 29, 2016 11:06 am

On the fighty point it is a fine balance to avoid tipping anything into the ‘may as well send a frigate’ camp. I think APATs summed it up perfectly on another thread – a couple of ASCG 30mm (for range and overmatch of terrorists / pirates), miniguns, GPMGs and RM FP unit as a core defensive capability. Nothing less though. FFBNW a couple of Phalanx mounts and some decoys were the vessel to deploy to say the gulf. I think he also mentioned .50 cals. Agreed, surely heavier hitting than GPMGs? If anything more needs to be added and it means the ship is going somewhere a frigate should be sent. The only missiles would be with the RM team or possibly on a seahawk sigma mount.

February 29, 2016 5:56 pm

What frigate would we send instead? With only 6 T45 & 8 T26, the RN is hardly awash with escorts. We have got lazy & complacent, thinking our enemies only have AKs, RPGs & IEDs. The lesson from Syria, is that sophisticated ATGWs, rockets, HMGs in 14.5 & 23mm are finding their way into extremist militia hands. Also manpads both Russian & Western, so do not think an armed Lynx/Wildcat is invulnerable. Your MSS needs some sort of anti missile capability, whether it is decoys or Phallanx. Then it needs to outshoot IXIONs yahoos with 14.5 or 23mm. So a remote 30mm or my fave the 57mm. Do we really want to risk the ship (& the souls on board) for only five million quid? Blair is being slagged off for not ordering machineguns & body armour before the 2003 Iraq invasion for political reasons. Lets not repeat history.

February 29, 2016 7:26 pm

Take Hezbollah for example. Thanks to Syria & Iran, they are reported to have anti-ship missiles called RAAD, C-802 (Chinese Harpoon knock off), supersonic Russian Yakhont. Are you really going to stop those with a 7.62 machinegun?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 29, 2016 8:23 pm

@ John Hartley

Hezbollah tend not to pop up and fire anti ship missiles in the Channel. In my post I did say that for units deploying to areas such as the Gulf then Phalanx (as it is now) should be fitted. ASCG with a CIWS, HMG mounts and a RM FPT are what is required for an RFA type vessel to operate E of Suez, other than the ASCG currently using older 30MM mounts that is where we are right now.
The threat is far greater ashore or from a water borne IED alongside or in the littoral than from any group of terrorists with an Anti Ship Missile or jumping in a small boat and deciding to attack the nearest Grey platform.

February 29, 2016 10:37 pm

APATS. The enemy tend to do what they want to do, not what we assume they will do. What is with Hezbollah today, will doubtless leak out to other groups in the future.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
February 29, 2016 10:57 pm

@ John Hartley

The enemy do indeed attempt to do what they want to do. They are however constrained by resources, intelligence, feasibility, expense and risk vs reward in a similar manner to all of us. Which is why we have constant reviews of the threat and intel analysis of where the various groups stand and what their capabilities are.
We are similarly constrained in our resources. There is simply not a credible threat level to justify the considerable expense of up arming non combatants beyond 30MM/CIWS/Mini Gun/HMG/RMFP(which is perfectly adequate). It requires quite a few skilled RN personnel just to maintain and operate the Phalanx fitted to RFA vessels.

March 1, 2016 7:26 am

The Zambellas doctrine – that your ships should all have full spectrum capability so that if trouble arises you can just despatch the nearest ship – has a strong but simplistic logic. The problem is generational. That is that every generation of ship design has an exponentially higher cost, more than the taxpayers willingness to pay for them, with the result that with every generation the fleet size gets smaller. So year on year while you might still despatch the nearest ship the distance it has to travel gets longer. When the distance the nearest ship has to travel is no closer than sending a ship from its home port, the doctrine falls over – there is no point in incurring the expense of fitting every ship with full spectrum capability if come the event you can simply and just as quickly despatch the ship that has a bare minimum capability for the task at hand.

The obvious alternative, in a world of limited budgets, is simply not to up-spec each generation of ships to the point where they become unaffordable. Imagine a world where every ship was simply the latest Type 22 (or 23 or whatever you chose as a baseline). With no R&D costs to fund the price of each ship would fall dramatically and it would be possible to talk about a fleet expanding in size not shrinking. Moreover, once ship builders are confident that there could be a continuous production line (say one ship per year for a 25 frigate fleet) they don’t need to recover their fixed business costs over a single batch of ships, so the price per unit can fall further. And this is not to say that ship capability would not increase. The builders and manufacturers, if confident that they have an ongoing market to sell into, will undertake product development at their own cost so your fleet capability will increase according to what the market supplies of its own accord (manufacturers competing with each other), not by admirals demanding a higher level of performance than already exists and promising the taxpayer will pay whatever it takes – until the taxpayer decides enough is enough and cancels the order.

The extent to which the pull factor of the MoD demanding higher performance increases costs ultimately to the MoDs own detriment would be well worth analysis. Consider this – each new mobile phone arriving on the market is about the same price as the model it replaces. The difference between the old and new, and the reason to buy the new, is in the extra capability Samsung, Apple, etc have managed to develop within what is essentially a fixed price. When the admirals go out to buy a ship they specify something that no one has yet built and are naively surprised to find that it costs vastly more than they paid for the previous model.

The proposals in this blog for alternative designs are interesting but you do get the feeling this is just designing a frigate with another name. It will look different and be built in Korea rather than Barrow, but it still ends up with the same cost pull factors – once you say it has to have this and that it stops being the cheap alternative you would get if you just bought the best second hand ship of trade that was for sale at the time.

For the sake of discussion you could go back to the full spectrum vs not full spectrum debate. A frigate comes with four general areas of specialisation: ASW, air defence, littoral operations, and surface warfare. You could therefore say that your typical frigate is the equivalent of four smaller simpler ships each providing a single specialisation – imagine four River class; one providing ASW, one air defence, one littoral and one surface warfare. Okay, I have no idea whether if four River class could be built and deployed for the same cost as a single Type 26, but it must be in the ballpark. A simple hull x4, each fitted with a single weapon system, manned by 50 sailors, wouldn’t be too far away from the cost of a single highly complex ship with layers of interconnected systems and 200 sailors.

So what does that achieve? Well the saving and force multiplication comes in how you deploy them. There would not be much need for ASW or air defence in the Caribbean so you would happy to undertake that patrol with the littoral version with a basic helicopter.
Similarly, in the North Sea with RAF air cover and ground based radar you wouldn’t need air defence and there would be limited use for littoral operations or surface warfare, but you want ASW with a Merlin.

This doesn’t mean that you are going down the road of replacing your fleet of ‘proper’ ships with a same size fleet of second rate ships. What you would be doing is what is the Zambella’s doctrine can’t do – managing to get the equivalent of your frigate into two places once eg the littoral part in the Caribbean and the ASW part in the North Sea, with the air defence and surface warfare parts still available to be deployed doing something else.

March 1, 2016 8:48 am

We may not be up against an enemy state in an old fashioned war, but the terrorist groups are larger & backed by a sponsor state supplying far heavier/advanced weapons than terrorists would previously of had. Look how Saudi & the Gulf states are arming the Sunni militias, while Iran (now free from sanctions) will supply the Shia groups.
I wish the RN still had 30+ frigates/destroyers, but it doesn’t. The chances of one steaming in to save the day when a lightly armed MSS comes under attack, seems very remote.
I get that we are looking at affordable ships, but I would suggest that spending an extra £10-20 million on upgunning a £100 million MSS, might be a wise precaution. Not spoil the ship for a halfpenny of tar & all that.

Brian Black
Brian Black
March 1, 2016 11:15 am

While the illustration shows an M270 launcher on the Mistral’s deck, my reading of the reports about French efforts is that they want to take the missile and fire control system and develop an integrated ship-borne weapon system.

I don’t see why a naval variant of GMLRS would be particularly technologically difficult. The attitude of the ship can be measured at any given time using gyros, and even predicted using near-recent data. The missile would need to be updated with the relevant information till the point of launch. This might not be possible with the current missile and FCS, but it is possible.

The problem might be one of commonality, and therefore development cost, in that all that can be reused in a naval system is a tube and a rocket motor with everything else developed from scratch.

It is also possible to have a firing system where the fire button is pressed, but the missile won’t launch until the ship’s motion is within an acceptable window that can be compensated for by the missile’s in-flight guidance. That again is easily achievable, and probably a lot simpler than stabilizing the launcher, but something else that wouldn’t be brought across from the land system.

shark bait
March 1, 2016 1:50 pm

I am a big advocate of the ship that still isn’t a frigate, however climbing the fighty ladder is not the right way to go. If we need something fighty, send a real surface combatant or a sub.

The only place the MSS could realistically fit into the RN fleet is as a mine hunter and survey ship replacement, essentially the old MHCP program. We don’t have a requirement for fighty mine hunters, nor do we have a requirement for a fighty MSS.

The beauty of the MSS concept is its flexibility and its scalability. A well designed platform that can effectively operate multiple off-board mine hunting systems will by nature be capable of operating other off board systems. Those off board systems could be anything we have in our inventory (or future fantasy inventories) like CB90’s, Wild Cat or even GMRLS. That is where the MSS will get its bite from, any vehicle that can be plonked on the deck, without any complex integration.

Once we start getting into big guns and missiles the integration becomes vastly more complex and costly and should be left to the dedicated surface combatants.

There definitely needs to be some restraint shown with the MMS design, be happy with the extra space and growth margins, and don’t try and fill them with exciting complex systems from day 1. Start off with a simple platform, operating simple off board systems, and then experiment with in service systems to bring additional capabilities to the platform over time to meet developing threats. Eventually there will be a platform, that can host multiply off-board systems, whose payload can be tailored to best meet the perceived threats of each deployment.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 1, 2016 1:53 pm


“We may not be up against an enemy state in an old fashioned war, but the terrorist groups are larger & backed by a sponsor state supplying far heavier/advanced weapons than terrorists would previously of had. Look how Saudi & the Gulf states are arming the Sunni militias, while Iran (now free from sanctions) will supply the Shia groups.
I wish the RN still had 30+ frigates/destroyers, but it doesn’t. The chances of one steaming in to save the day when a lightly armed MSS comes under attack, seems very remote.
I get that we are looking at affordable ships, but I would suggest that spending an extra £10-20 million on upgunning a £100 million MSS, might be a wise precaution. Not spoil the ship for a halfpenny of tar & all that.”

They are arming terrorist factions but not to attack western assets at Sea. it is not in their interests and is beyond their capabilities in most circumstances. the threat is from a non controlled group ashore or utilising a rudimentary water born IED in harbour. Not from a state sponsored (states who do not want to attack us out there) with some advanced weaponary.
even then the current policy of CIWS/30Mm (hopefully upgraded to ACSG) and mini gun 50 cal represents the best combination of how to defeat it without spending a lot of money in systems and man power. The relevant upgrade would have to be a PDMS system at least and that costs money that the threat does not justify.

March 1, 2016 3:05 pm
stephen duckworth
March 1, 2016 3:08 pm

JamesF’s point on the future need to replace a multitude of vessels in the next decade or two that operate in a low / medium risk environment and TD’s proposal to develop a range of simple MSS vessels marry up perfectly and the time to start their development is now. Basic platforms using as much COTS oil and gas industry standard components across the range of small,medium and large MSS utilizing the same manning/automation principals as commercial vessels to operate the ship whilst providing ample and comfortable accommodation for embarked mission specialists seems a great idea. A basic self protection fit out of a Centurion launcher and miniguns etc would be baseline with more expensive kit (using the old mantra of fitted for but not with ) provided for in terms of location and support services and taken out of air conditioned storage and fitted as required.
RichardW’s point about us having to few full fat fighting frigates to forward deploy to respond to rapidly escalating situations in our global commitments in any meaning full time (were not just NATO ) is going to become ever more true . We had 12 T42 now replaced by 6 T45 . We have 13 T23 which are planned to be replaced by 8 T26 . A reduction from 25 to 14 and of these 14 a proportion will be in refit or on the QE class escort allocation with callme Dave committing to one available at all times so its escorts must be with her at all times to. So out of that 14 say 3 in refit and 4 allocated to a CVF leaving 7 , one for each of the 7 seas.
A cheap , low level manned vessel that can tasked with various small duties, anti-whatever or whathave you are required and they are cutting their steel now in the form of the new batch of Rivers(and possibly more) which will take up this slack. The politicians think they have got it covered to meet their overseas commitments but wouldn’t it be so much better to have the MSS series ( or just the big ones IMHO) than a vessel that can host only 6 20′ ISO containers OR lilypad only a Wildcat but not both at the same time and for the same price and basic crew levels a River FFS!

March 1, 2016 4:38 pm

I’m with Hartley and on this one. We’ve had our warnings from Hezbollah and ISIS about their capabilities, and assuming things will stay the same is complacent. Building poorly armed cheap ships for some nebulous “policing” roles is a luxury we can’t afford. If there’s not the money or hulls to patrol the Caribbean for drug smugglers or chase pirates around Somalia, then so be it: and the latter have largely gone away, after binning the ridiculous practice of insisting on unarmed merchant ships anyway.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
March 1, 2016 4:47 pm

@ Stephen Duckworth

“A reduction from 25 to 14 and of these 14 a proportion will be in refit or on the QE class escort allocation with callme Dave committing to one available at all times so its escorts must be with her at all times to. So out of that 14 say 3 in refit and 4 allocated to a CVF leaving 7”

Sorry but this is fundamentally wrong. CDG has recently been deployed in the Gulf and at no point even there did she have more than 4 escorts, often 1 or and at no point did she have more than 2 French escorts. Even the US CVN often has only 1 or in close attendance in the Gulf. As for running west of Suez, even less requirement. escort requirements are based on threat and people seem to be under teh impression that every time a Carrier sails it has to be protected by a screen providing 360 degree AAW/ASW and ASuW protection. That is just not the case.

@Simon 257

The reason why I advocate and why we fit CIWS on vessels deploying E of Suez.

stephen duckworth
March 1, 2016 7:06 pm

Thanks for the heads up on probable CVF escort requirements.

March 1, 2016 7:20 pm

I have a feeling that the global economy is not as healthy as people assume. Once HMG has paid for QE/PoW + some sort of airgroup, then 8 T26, 4 new Trident boats, the make work Rivers, getting the T45s fixed, there is not going to be any money left for extra ships, no matter how cheap & poorly armed. Perhaps I should sign this, gloomy Southern boy?

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x