In February 2019, the then Defence Minister, Gavin Williamson, announced the plan to rapidly procure vessels around which two ‘Littoral Strike Groups’ would be formed. Here we look further at the Future Littoral Strike Ship (FLSS) concept and at the design developed by Prevail Partners as one of the potential candidates to meet this requirement.
Since the ministerial announcement, there has been limited further official comment about the FLSS concept, although the previous First Sea Lord was enthusiastic about “refreshing our littoral strike credentials” when speaking at RUSI in May 2019. £35M has been allocated from the MoD’s Transformation Fund for the development of FLSS although, at the time of writing, no commercial company has received a contract for detailed design work. The concept clearly makes sense but information in the public domain is sketchy.
The FLSS has been evolved from an earlier Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) pre-concept study undertaken between 2017-2018. Conducted by the MoD’s Naval Design Partnering (NDP) team, the MRSS study was tasked to consider options for replacing the LPDs, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark as well as other amphibious capabilities. The FLSS are intended to be procured quickly to complement the LPDs, rather than replace them. The FLSS is unlikely to fly the White Ensign and may either be operated as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary, or more likely run as a government-chartered vessel.
MV Ocean Trader is a merchant ship conversion belonging to the US Military Sea Lift Command and was perhaps the inspiration for the FLSS. Ocean Trader is not painted all-grey and looks like a typical merchant vessel in appearance. Iran also operates the MV Saviz, supposedly a general cargo vessel but in fact used as an offshore surveillance and special forces base, recently operating in the Red Sea probably supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen. At times there are advantages to not advertising the military capabilities of a vessel.
MoD thinking appears to be that there will be two ships, both forward-deployed, one based East of Suez and the other covering in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Baltic as required. The main role of the FLSS will be as a base for special forces operations. The world has seen an increase in groups fighting hybrid conflicts in the so-called ‘grey zone’ below full-scale war. This has been one of the reasons the Royal Marines are transitioning away from operating like infantry to return to their traditional commando and amphibious specialist roles. For the foreseeable future, ‘light footprint’ operations delivered from the sea against terrorist, criminal or extremist groups that threaten UK interests are more likely to be politically acceptable than large scale troop deployments.
Having a low-cost FLSS permanently deployed not far from potential trouble spots offers a deterrent and a tailor-made platform for these operations. Designed to be flexible in the way they are deployed, the FLSS may operate semi-covertly and independently for special forces and commando insertion or for disaster relief work. Alternatively, in higher threat areas the ship could be integrated into a naval task group. Using UAVs and ISR capabilities they may even be able to contribute to the protection of the group. Of course, the FLSS is not limited to low-intensity operations and would be a very useful asset in a more serious conflict by providing an additional amphibious lift for troops and supplies.
The FLSS will have a dual role, also able to perform Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions which could include aid to civilians in the wake of natural disasters, civilian evacuations and medical emergency support. Analysis of the Hospital ship concept (See previous article) reveals it is unlikely the FLSS will be painted white and be used as a dedicated Geneva Convention-compliant hospital ship, except perhaps in a long term major conflict with potential for large numbers of battlefield casualties. Using the FLSS as an ‘aid ship’ is more flexible as it can quickly be reconfigured from offensive operations to HADR in a matter of hours or days. A dedicated hospital ship is more complex to fit out and is subject to very strict regulation of people and equipment it may carry and where it may sail.
The Prevail Partners MRV
Prevail Partners Ltd (PPL) is the first company to go public with its Multi-Role Vessel (MRV) proposal that would meet the FLSS requirement. PPL is a group of British companies with expertise in defence and national security that provide consultancy and bespoke services to industry and government agencies. Both of the founding partners have considerable experience serving in UK Special Forces to senior levels. PPL has assembled a strong consortium of European companies including Siem Industries (ship leasing), Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (shipbuilding), Houlder, (naval architecture) Vestdavit (boat davits), Prism Defence (helicopter-ship integration) and Clarksons Platou (shipping support) who have the specialist expertise to deliver and equip the vessels.
The MRV is based on the FSG 4100 ro-ro ship that is already in commercial service. Four of the original six Point class vessels in service with the MoD were built by FSG to a similar design. The 7,500 tonne DWT vessel uses an efficient hull form that has good seakeeping qualities. Simple twin diesels will propel the ship up to 20 knots with an endurance of 28 days and 10,000nm. There are about 2,428 lane-meters available for vehicles and the vessel can accommodate an embarked military force of up to 400, although the ship’s core crew requirement would be just 35. The vessel is compliant with SOLAS Passenger Ship Rules, being fitted with davit-launched lifeboats, rescue boats and life-rafts.
The MRV can carry the equivalent of 90 C-17 Globemaster aircraft loads of stores and, for example, could get from Plymouth to the Caribbean in under 7 days while transporting its own helicopters, boats and headquarters to enable a substantial operation on arrival. Sockets are provided and power supplies are available for standard TEU containers and refrigerated containers for food storage. The vehicle deck could transport the equivalent of 65 European lorries, 55 military vehicles containing a mix of main battle tanks, armored fighting vehicles, trucks and artillery. Another 1,200 lane-meters would be available by using the flight deck and top deck. The stern ramp designed to work with Mexiflotes and facilities the rapid loading and unloading of wheeled and tracked vehicles up to sea state 2.
Drawing on the expertise of Vestdavit, already and established RN supplier, the 4 main boat bays would be able to embark a wide variety of craft from RIBs to small landing craft (LCVPs). Royal Marine Offshore Raiding Craft (ORC), workboats, and potentially UUVs could all be handled by the sophisticated davits.
The MRV is fitted with a spacious 900 m2 command centre based on UK Special Forces 1* and OF5/4 Task Force headquarters. Access to the facility can be strictly controlled for secure handling of above secret information. A full suite of communications facilities and antenna arrays can be added subject to customer requirements. The ship is intended to host a variety of unarmed systems for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations.Prevail-Partners-Multi-Role-Vessel-General-Arrangement
PPL say their project plan is very well developed and they could even deliver the first ship in basic configuration within a year if the MoD was flexible in its procurement approach. A newly completed 4100 RoRo vessel is alongside in Germany at present and could be fitted out with accommodation block and other modifications at a shipyard in Poland. Given constrained budgets and limited RFA manpower, an attractive option would be to take the ships on a wet-lease charter basis where PPL finance, build, deliver, crew and manage the vessel through its life. Alternatively, on a bare-boat charter, PPL would build the vessel and lease it to the MoD who would be responsible for crewing and maintaining the ships.
PPL see the MRV as having export potential for sale to other navies or government organisations. The Hospital/Aid ship version could also meet the requirements of charities and NGOs. Just as RFA Mounts Bay is currently involved in a major disaster relief operation in the Bahamas, a new charity Britannia Maritime Aid, has launched a campaign to build a disaster relief vessel. There is growing momentum and interest in building a UK hospital/aid ship, either through a government DFID/MoD initiative or delivered independently by an NGO.
Although the Bay class have a floodable dock and can use the mexeflote to offload in higher sea states, the MRV has several advantages when used in the disaster relief role. The MRV has more than twice the stores and vehicle capacity, can carry lorries and is slightly faster at about 21 knots compared with the 18 knots of the RFA. Aviation facilities are far superior with a large hangar and a helideck that can support high tempo, multi-spot day/night/all-weather flying. The command and communication facilities would also be more capable.
The FLSS appears to offer the UK a low cost and flexible way to increase its amphibious capabilities. It could also provide a usefully poised deterrent to asymmetric threats to UK interests, particularly in the Middle East. A potential achilles heel would be finding enough helicopters to equip the ships on a permanent basis. The UK military’s rotary-wing assets have approximately halved in the last ten years. The FLSS could quickly flex to become the base for humanitarian operations, a requirement that seems to be ever-more frequent. The PPL consortium has put together a very credible solution in the form of the MRV which the MoD should consider carefully, although there will probably be competition from other companies.
Images: Prevail Partners Ltd
Looks pretty cool, only thing I would say is that I’d like to see at least the refit of the existing hulls be done in the UK.
It would seem logical given the supposed interest in revitalising British shipbuilding. If Rosyth is really set to win T31, Cammel Laird is a logical option to get both the FSS and FLSS.
You’d think so, although in the bid mentioned above it’s to be done in Poland… Could very easily be the kind of thing spread around a bit even- Harland and Wolff could do a bit too
Most of the work is low end metal bashing. You could easily get that done in the U.K. but at a massively higher cost than in Poland. Most of the cost is in labour, and hourly rates of pay in Poland are still much lower than in the U.K.
Yeah but you don’t get any income tax from those workers or vat from the money the workers in the UK would spend add contributions etc. It’s not all about the bottom line. Plus corporation tax from the UK firm
It still wouldn’t pay the difference in cost between made in Poland and the U.K. In the end it would be a political decision.
I’m not so sure would like to see the calculations and a trail of where the money goes!
I see scope to replace the Bays with such a design. I don’t see the UK needing well decks, certainly not to the extent that the US San Antonio’s provide i.e. we don’t really have a “deliver-to-beach” mandate anymore, certainly not militarily. I would rather have this large Ro-Ro at the stern to drive vehicles off directly and presumably mexeflote might still work here?
Yes, I like it, its a jack all of trades, cheap and cheerful setup.
Two CIWS at the stern so close together though is daft. One would have the same field of fire and I can jokingly picture them shooting each other like Idiocracy’s prison entrance MGs.
I think we will need them in cold war situation to deploy equipment to Norway and also if The Falklands war happens again or joint operations with the USA. You cannot always guarantee a port and one of the tactical advantages of amphibious assault is to be able to deploy where the enemy least expects it. Also you can potentially combine lpd and ro-ro with mexeflote to get stuff ashore by landing craft. The RN abandoned LSLs which are basically small ro-ros due to issues getting them close enough to the shore.
For Norway at least, STUFT in addition to Points would get vehicles and troops to Norway fast. Norway has over 80 ports, probably most of which support Ro-Ro. In addition, Ro-Ro would support very fast unloading and dispersal which would be a critical capability in the event of a cold-going-on-hot war, something mexeflotes and well decks can’t hope to match.
That said, I agree there will always be situations where conventional docks may either not exist or will have been damaged and the option to land elsewhere will be required. Mexaflote is great but it is dependent on low sea state, so IMV we do still need a more robust option for landing assets.
The Bay class are less the 15 years old, the won’t come up for replacement for at least another 15 years.
I agree, S2S connectors running out of a rear steel beach is good enough, we need a relatively benign sea state even for well docks so not losing too much capability overall. If we did need that capability, some FLO FLOs would be the logical asset (take a look at article on Think Defence – changed my mind forever) and has revenue generating capabilities when not in use, so should pay for their annual upkeep at least.
what do you mean we don’t have a military.
In retrospect it’s a real shame that the final 2 of the 6 Point Class were released from potential MoD use in 2011. Does anyone know what happened to them? According to Wikipedia they were to be “laid up or sold”. Those would have been two existing hulls right there as the starting point for conversion if still within the MoD remit.
I think they were sold and in use commercially, however to me there are a large number of used RO RO and ROpax available on the market. It’s a balance between conversion costs against new builds – also if built in the UK new builds would probably contribute more to the economy
A possible option would be for the Treasury to offer tax incentives for UK ship-owners to buy and operate vessels of this type under the Red Duster, so that they are available as STUFT.
As for the shortage of helicopter assets to fly from them, I’ve long been a fan of the V-247. https://www.bellflight.com/products/bell-v-247
The V-247 is a nice asset, but given cost constraints a bulk order of Wildcat would be more useful. We have dozens of helicopter capable assets after all, but the FAA has less than 30 Wildcats, and similar numbers of both variants of Merlin. Funding really needs to be found for another 30 odd Wildcats, they’re the perfect weapon for countering Iran’s FAC fleet
Yeah the FAA has 28 wildcats and 55 Merlins. The army has 34 wildcats though, and 37 gazelles that will need replacing so a big order of new helicopters would be great, but what kind? Wildcats Merlins or a foreign choppper? And our 24 pumas will need replacing soon too that’s 60 odd needing replaced soon ones a single engine the others a twin engined. I can’t believe we’ve lost half our helicopters over the last 10 years! Shocking. We did have hundreds of lynx helicopters though, we should have kept some for other duties! And as backups.
Logically it would make sense to standardise on a few types for all three services. Given how modern and versatile it is, and that it’s already in service, doubling both the FAA and AAC Wildcat fleets is clearly the best solution to the light transport/attack requirement. If more ground attack weapons are integrated, Wildcat would make an excellent supplement to the limited Apache fleet. Add another 40 odd to completely replace Gazelle as well, call it a combined fleet of roughly 160.
Medium lift is trickier. I don’t know the reason the RAF gave all of their Merlins to the navy, but if it was purely political then I can’t see any reason they wouldn’t readopt it. It would be nice to have enough medium lift helicopters to fully support 16 Air Assault Brigade on a permanent basis, so enough helicopters for 3 battalions of infantry. Rough maths, that’s about 70-80 aircraft (we also have Chinook of course, but given how big and vulnerable it is, its less suitable for high intensity conflict than smaller and faster types).
Total acquisition of about 180 new aircraft. Nothing new, so low integration and support costs. The biggest issues are funding and pilots, both of which all three services are lacking.
160 wildcats? We only have 62 at the moment. And is that 180 helicopters total in the Millitary m8?
I know we only have 62, I’m on about increasing the number we have available. As you yourself pointed out, the Gazelle fleet goes out of service soon as well (2025), so the increase in Wildcat would also be about covering the Army’s manned patrol and light transport needs.
Currently, we have 237 helicopters in service (not included handfuls of various different types used for specific tasks). Of those, 24 Puma and 36 Gazelle are going to need replacing in the next decade. My suggestion would bring us up to approximately 347. Enough to make sure every RN ship can embark at least one Wildcat, and to make 16 Air Assault Brigade actually air mobile without taking every single helicopter we have.
Yeah ok, I agree with you Callum, we defo need to increase our chopper numbers and with the 60 gazelles and pumas needing replaced soon maybe we could bulk buy even more to get a better deal. But would replacing pumas with Merlins not be better? Then gazelles with wildcats? Or is that too expensive.
Sorry if i didn’t clarify, my intention would be: double the existing FAA and AAC Wildcat fleets (+60 aircraft), replace Gazelle with Wildcat (-36 old aircraft, +40 new), and replace Puma with commando-spec Merlin HC4s and massively expand our medium lift capability (-24 old, +80 new).
Unfortunately though, this would all be very expensive. By expanding on existing types we can reduce associated costs, but it’ll still likely be billions. I don’t have any specific prices, but the Wildcat programme cost £1.7bn for 62 aircraft, so nearly tripling the fleet would likely cost at least another £1-2bn. Likely the same situation with Merlin, although as an older and more mature design it would hopefully be a bit cheaper.
I believe that Gazelle is being replaced with H149m, as variants are already in service with joint helicopter training fleet. It would make sense to add the h-force option to give them weapons. They are ideal for urban areas and give a new capability. In terms of Puma, I would wait until something like the valour is available or replace with Merlin. One of the main thing I would look at is a fully marinised version of CH47 as it is an extremely capable platform but could corrode and doesn’t have proper folding rotors. Wildcat needs a significant upgrade, as it was supposed to be a battlefield recce helicopter and has only a nose sensor (meaning exposure above the treeline), no weapons, no data link, no radar, limited range and attack coordination capability. The army got the short straw of the wildcat deal and this needs rectifying. I would purchase around 12 more
This is a difficult one, I think all wildcats should go to the Army and we should place a large order (100) for Merlins even though I would prefer V22’s. We simply can’t afford them.
The RN then becomes a Merlin only fleet, the Army a wildcat/apache fleet, leaving the RAF with Chinooks.
You may have noticed I have put 100 Merlins down, this is as I think we can get a better deal on volume and we also need to regenerate the helicopter force and Merlin is just an excellent all round product.
Interesting idea. The RN did intend to go to an all-Merlin force back in the 90s, but budget cuts and a desire to support Wildcat changed that. The RN Merlins would need an upgrade to allow them to do the Wildcats surface warfare role.
The biggest issue I see is that you’re allocating all of our medium lift capability to the navy. Joint Helicopter Command might be a thing, but I still find it strange to make the FAA responsible for the main source of combat air mobility for the army. Chinook may have been perfect for Afghanistan, but the general consensus is that in near-peer warfare it’s too vulnerable for front line service (hence why I suggested such a big order of transport Merlins for the RAF).
I agree though, big orders are the way to go. More cost upfront, but you pay less per platform than if you order small batches at large intervals.
I did think that before I proposed, and the reason is to ensure they are all marinised from build. I have also taken into consideration the actual requirement of the navy (T45 can house 2 Merlins) a Karel Doorman Joint support vessel can hanger 6 and I am proposing a class of 8 of these. QEC’s need probably 16-24 between them.
I just think that we should be able to send out our fleet fully loaded, at least on paper, with the reality being less.
This website has an article on the dramatic reduction in vertical lift over the last 20 years and it is shocking. We need numbers and we need a way of defending those numbers through scale, I would love V22’s but not going to happen.
So I think we should have a 5 product helicopter force of:
1. Chinook – 8 Operational sqdns of 8 + 1 sqdn OCU (72 Frames)
60 currently +16 on order
2. Merlin – 8 sqdns of 16 + 1sqdn OCU (16) (144 frames)
55 currently +23 Puma
3. Wildcat – 8 Operational sqdns of 8 +1 sqdn OCU (72 Frames)
62 currently + 32 Gazelle
4. Apache – 8 squadrons of 8 + 1 sqdn OCU (72 frames)
50 active (out of 68) with 50 on order as replacement (costing circa £12m each)
5. Scheibel 100 UAV – 8 squadrons of 16 + 1 sqdn OCU (16) (144 frames)
If we take a look at the above, it suggests we are broadly OK for chinook and wildcat, but need a massive uptick in medium lift and more Apaches (especially at £10-20m a pop) and some UAV’s which are relatively inexpensive in the scale of things.
For medium lift the Merlin is a real winner on a cost basis as it comes in between £20-30m per unit and the current price of apache is unbeatable and we need a cheaper UAV as that is where the world is taking us.
Fantasy fleet – helicopter style, but we are not too far away, especially if we remove all the straggler types.
We can afford it, but the powers that be won’t spend it!. Like Ive said before we’ve had a far far bigger Millitary with a far far poorer budget and country.
Of the 60 Chinooks, about 10 of those will be retired and replaced with the new buy due to kick off 2025. The first Chinooks we had were model Cs then upgraded to Ds. Although these airframes do not have a fatigue life, they are knackered, in that they require more maintenance than the newer versions. I doubt they will be going to the scrapers, as some will be going to museums, whilst others will be sold off to other countries like the Sea Kings.
The Merlin is a crap battlefield support helicopter, great at ASW. There are a lot of reasons for this, two of which are the ramp angle when on the deck is bloody steep and horrendously slippy when wet. The other, is that it has a composite skin and is more difficult to repair small arms fire damage. The biggest problem though is its overall size, it’s massive and at least twice as big as a Puma, thus limiting where it can land.
For a direct Puma replacement that can also be used from ships, you’re looking at Blackhawk or NH90. Super Pumas are no good, as they are limited to low sea states for landing and taking off. The uS Army is looking at the future medium lift aircraft such as the SB1 Defiant and the V280 Valor. Both aircraft have been design to lift 14 troops and an external load of 10,000lbs, i.e. similar to the Puma. It may be worth hanging on to see which aircraft wins the competition. At the moment the Valor has exceeded 300kts and has really benign low speed handling. The SB1 requires a monster propeller to reach 250kts, but has a slightly lower overall footprint. It has been described as very agile by the test pilots. Both are quite complex electrically/mechanically and use a lot of composites as both primary structure and skin, it will be interesting to see how they handle and repair damage.
There’s one issue you not mentioned though. By increasing the amount of helicopters we have, you will need a massive increase in manpower to fly, maintain and support them.
V280 is the way to go I think, USMC use of tiltrotor has been transforming for them, I read where on exercise they no longer think in terms of county but of state. I’d personally view V280 as a panacea replacing Puma, Merlin, Chinook and Apache and accept the reduced carry for the speed and range they bring and the efficient model you create operating a single type.
The chinook buy is baffling at $3.5bn when this capability is on the horizon.
As Bloke Down the Pub points out somewhere below, V-247 one to watch too.
I second Cpt. Nemo’s above comment re the Bell V280, at least for use on the Carriers & LSS. The speed, range & apparently low operating costs surely make that worth evaluating. Whether inserting SBS/Marines or rescuing pilots, I doubt there’d be much better options out there? I could understand a wait & see approach to see what variants emerge, but to me, aside from lifting capacity (eg. unlikely that it could lift an F35 engine), it looks to do much that a V22 can do, but without the high price tag/costs.
Why don’t we make a cheaper wildcat with skis and less optics ect, similar to the lynx, to replace gazelle and even to build up more numbers, it could also hold more soldiers like lynx did. It should be far cheaper to build. Or even recondition some old lynx for the job and update them a bit, we had hundreds not long ago. I bet the wildcats undercarriage alone costs loads! Skis would be far cheaper and that’s just one thing. What u think?
Probably a non-starter I’m afraid. Aside from skis being useless for a naval helicopter, stripping out equipment from a helicopter meant for recon and attack is costing you the capability you need for a modern platform.
Reconditioning old Lynx airframes was considered during the initial Future Lynx programme but was dropped, presumably due to fatigue and age issues.
Didn’t the Italians keep the skids on their ASW version of the Twin Huey, and for that matter don’t the USMC Hueys have skids?
H147m is more or less that
I think the Wildcat comes in at £40-50m and the Merlin comes in at the £20-30m mark. It literally is time to choose one over the other and then fill in the gaps.
We can buy at least 2 apache’s for the price of a Wildcat and that can do recon and attack, similarly we can buy 2 Merlins and that can carry twice the troops.
Add in a proven UAV like the Scheibel 100 and even smaller quadcopter taking off from the roof of a Boxer (which could have 4) and it starts to look as though a layered approach is not only more resilient, but cheaper too.
The UK really does need to learn from Iran and Russia, who are taking Cyber and assymetrical warfare to the next level.
Because for some reason everything has to be state of the art and as expensive as possible. I think there should be quantities as well to support the otherwise quality equipment that we use. Why waste precious flying hours on simple ferrying tasks in peacetime / far away from the frontlines.
Wildcat is not what the army wants. Its lift capacity is tiny both in personal and underslung load.
Our armed forces struggle to retain enough pilots to fly our existing helicopters, let alone any extra. The V-247 is autonomous and doesn’t need the same level of trained crew to fly them.
Speaking of which, I am wondering exactly how many helos and/or tilt-rotors could operate from the LSS? The artwork appears to show four (4), which is alright and better than a frigate or destroyer, but certainly far less than a purpose built amphibious warship. I would think you could maybe squeeze half a dozen onto a ship like this.
I like the concept however, in the computer graphics I see several issues, the first is that with these ships being foreward deployed they would have to be independent for several months. That means for the helicopter fit there would need to be workshops and space for spares. The next issue is the boat bays, for special operations a RIB is not alwalys the best choice so these bays would need to take boats possibly up to 19meters in lenght. Also divits would be neeed for standard landing craft. The final issue is for the accomadation, with several hundred Marines stationed on these ships for a few months waithing to go at a moments notice they will need not only a place to sleep but recreation etc. So the ideas are good it just needs refining.
I agree with this I would be looking for much larger davits if we can deploy interceptor craft like the SBS long range craft or Safe haven Barracudas or ctruk THOR this would give ability to predeploy SF ahead of main forces and allow for greater standoff for what is a unarmed vessel. Also as you say if we want to vikings etc. Or just logistics wise really LCVPs are needed. I would also like to see a large training area, to allow for planning and a shooting range.
I would also say 6-8 davits minimum which I think would just about fit.
Why do you request so many davits?
Each of the two current davits are serviced by a gantry crane with space for at least three craft each.
I wasn’t aware that the current davits could service multiple vessels, However as the vessels are effectively the teeth along with helicopters. I would then at least double the current number. There will potentially a large amount of simultaneous missions ongoing: force protection, deep raids, evacuation of civilians, fire support, rescue, patrol etc.
Don’t they shoot out to sea at targets, like the big tomato ect.
I too like the concept, but as taxpayer funded ships, surely they have to be built in Britain. If Scotland is going to be our centre for warship building, then in Cammell Lairds, they will be losing jobs soon as work on the R.R.S. Sir David Attenborough comes to an end, this would be perfect for them, with the solid support ships (and potentially a hospital ship) also in the pipeline for them. We can’t have British shipyards losing jobs whilst taxpayer funded ships like this are given to foreign shipyards. If the government are serious about supporting British shipbuilding these orders need to be given to keep our own shipyards going and make it worth their while to invest in new facilities and equipment.
Let’s do it …..in the UK. CL Birkenhead has a long and successful history of building quality grey-tops and parts of the same (plus the red Attenborough and black subs of the past). The yard is RN/MN/RFA friendly and is coming in to capacity. There is also massive wet dock space next door – an anchor chain or two away – for fitting out floating hulls. Get on with it please.
A slightly larger version of this?
I still remember the original announcement said LSS and escorts, as if these were to be included in the group for independent operations?
Is this too much to hope for? Or been dropped? Has anyone heard anymore about this element of the groups?
These could be important as the LSS may still need some protection and if the navy has to divert ships from what is already a small escort force these ships could be a burden especially considering now adopting the carrier strike group.
We could escort with T31 as i believe they will be forward deployed, but if escorting LSS then they wouldn’t be acting independently as per their remit. Plus it would mean committing another 100 plus men to the mission.
It is also likely T31 would be out and about whilst LSS would be in port. So would be in 2 different places. It could good fortune and the frigate is the correct place but it could also be hundreds or thousands of miles away.
I am guessing as troops probably flying from UK. If t31 was given a limited patrol area. It could be coordinated it the time this takes?
I wouldn’t expect any escorts to be able to combat a near peer adversary, but for instance a mission may be to evacuate UK citizens where there is a civil war or strike terrorist cell in countries where it won’t necessarily be welcomed.
Typically this scenario would be in Africa, middle east or the far east and areas where countries might have navies, but aren’t that sophisticated. So I was wondering if these escorts are going to exist something along the lines of a corvette and small SSK (which could also deploy special forces without requiring an SSN). Just enough to barrier the LSS against threats and to give consequences to any interference. These escorts would be able to be supported by the LSS so range requirements and stores requirements wouldn’t be crucial meaning costs would be kept down. The crews for the escorts could also be based in the UK and flown out for missions.
If LSS has to wait for an escort being forward deployed or being coordinated it isn’t much of an advantage and it creates a problem to the already stretched RN.
What’s wrong with this surely the impact on the rest of the navy as well as what the ships can do on their own is important?
This ship should be capable of deploying CB90’s or even Safeboat Mk 6’s (or similar) for self protection, add in Seaceptor where the UAV’s are in the graphic and its got a bit of bite.
Ok cheers, I did only bring up escorts as it was part of the announcement. I took escort as something able to move with the ship rather than based on board. But you’re most likely correct as probably not financially viable otherwise
ultimately I think it would have a set of Unmanned boats forming a picket line in high threat areas, but the ability to deploy the Atlas workboats with whatever load out they need would be good as would some fast attack craft.
This is certainly not intended to take on a warship and if the threat of that was there it would have a proper escort in tow.
My point was that if the LSS is waiting on an escort it is not going to be able to respond quickly which I thought was the whole concept? I just thought logically. I wouldn’t want a frigate permanently earmarked and therefore looking to explore other options in a medium threat environment. The escort would be more a close escort/deterrent than a serious combatant – just not making LSS a sitting duck. I would envision the group would be able to operate against very small and/or unsophisticated Navies and air forces. Of course if threat is high then appropriate escorts are required but if this situation arose the carrier strike group would likely be deployed.
HADR will be a major role fot these ships and this should be reflected in the design from the outset. RFA Mounts Bay is doing outstanding work in the Bahamas currently.
The seperate flight deck for UAVs is a good design feature but i didn’t notice any storage /hangar arrangements for UAVs of the UAV flight deck which I hope there are. Otherwise they may need to be stored in the main hangar which would impinge on manned flight operations.
Hopefully they have something in mind to store the UAVs next the UAV flight deck.
Also the Bays usually have mexeflote strapped to their side. Again didn’t notice arrangements for storage of Mexeflote. This would need sorted if not already planned for.
The graphic shows 3 UAV’s on the rear upper flight deck.
I have a hazy recollection of reading somewhere that it was the fire spreading to fuel and ammunition storage that did the Atlantic Conveyor in – along with, and caused by, merchant ship standards for sub division and damage control – (not that’s a knock on the Conveyor’s designers and builders, Merchant ships should be built to merchant standards). My point being that if it’s custom built then they really should think about putting the ammunition storage below the waterline instead of in the bow structure. I’m sure saying “switch the gym and the ammunition storage” is a gross oversimplification but it’s the kind of thing that needs to happen, otherwise the first stray Exocet/Harpoon/SS-N-Really Fast Missile/ATGM is going to blow the bow off.
I have to agree Geo, crew safety is a major concern, the only issue being is if these are built to full military standards, it will mean a ground up re-design of a previously affordable civilian design and massively increased cost.
Fully agree with ammo below the water line with floodable area.
Another great article,
I do like the concept as this is essentially a poor mans Karel Doorman, and there is nothing wrong with that.
What I dont understand is why we don’t take this even further forward and add in the stores elements that the KD JLSS has and then create a much larger fleet that covers solid stores, HADR, amphib, hospital, vehicle movement etc..
The Karel Doorman is the template and we need to find a way of being able to utilise the lane metres with fuel storage modules and solid stores so that these ships can be Rolex as necessary,
Another pet hate is why is the crane arm not sitting on top of the helicopter roof and the gantry enclosed this would add another 2-3m of helicopter hankering facilities and enable the crane to be secured more effectively.
The ability for S2S hovercraft to operate off the back steel beach would negate the need for well docks and provide a good capability.
We have 3 Bays, 2 Albion’s, 1 Argus, 3 Forts and 2 Wave, and 4 Point Class that could all be replaced over time by a single class of this type of ship.
Perhaps we should be looking at FLOFLO’s with mega modules instead that way we can role these more effectively and whilst the cheaper hulls can be built offshore, the mega modules would be done in the UK, which may provide the optimal solution between value and support of British Industry.
It’s hard to dispute your argument Pacman, it makes a lot of sense and that’s for sure…
Here’s the rub, those inhabiting the plush carpeted corridors of Whitehall and the smart offices of Abby Wood don’t share your common sense approach.
They are mainly concerned with keeping the political/ industrial complex happy, that’s the primary driver behind ordering equipment.
That’s why our substantial defence budget appears to buy so little…
You end up with crazy procurement, like the eye watering expensive Army Wildcat, a helicopter looking for a role….
And wildcat holds less troops than lynx! Crazy
Be careful wishing for a ship that is a jack of all trades, what you will get is a ship that is master of none. The Karel Doorman can do several things other than replenish other ships, but if you compare her capacity to an equivalent replenishment ship such as the Italian Vulcano LSS, you find she carries a lot less to transfer to the ships she is replenishing on roughly the same hull size. This means either they have to make do with less, with repercussions for their endurance or that they have to make a lot more transfers in order to do. If she is at sea going back and forth between a rear supply base and the fleet she is replenishing then she isn’t going to be available for any of those vehicle movement/amphibious operations.
Understood and this is a compromise I am willing to make, to ensure we have ships we can use day to day. It’s not that long ago the RN was fighting to save the Albion class, which spend a lot of time tied up.
If you compare these to the FORT and Waves they will be replacing they are light years ahead, if you match them to the bays, Argus and Albion’s, likewise, so as a replacement for current assets the only specialised capability we are losing is the docks and that can also be minimised through careful design (S2S connectors solve this).
If we ordered 2 more Tides and 8 Karel Doorman style joint amphibious and logistics support vessel and 4 FLOFLO’s I believe our capability jumps up massively, you are right of course that there are compromises to be made, but it runs both ways, in that we will have more assets able to distribute solid stores than we do today as well as being capable ships in a variety of other roles.
I m not saying the KD is perfect, but it is the current benchmark and one I think we can improve upon. My suggestion is not buy a couple as I would agree with you, we need to buy a fleet of these to gain the advantages of the class.
I agree with Pacman, let’s understand that we probably won’t get the ( substantial) defence budget increase we need any time soon, so we have to spend money going forward, in a cost effective manner, to increase capability.
While a reduction in individual hull capability in certain areas is unfortunate, quantity has an undeniable quality all of its own.
Thats the point, you have just halved your capability not doubled it. If you do what you are suggesting then you have the same number of hulls that can do half the job of the ship they are replacing (across both roles) but, and this is the important bit, they can only do one job at a time, or at least can only do one job effectively. Your fleet of JLSS’s might be able replenish a two carrier battlegroup the three weeks sailing time to the Falklands AND carry a two brigade division’s worth of men and equipment to the same destination (but probably won’t be able to, as they would have to be replenished themselves) however once they get there, under your proposal then the carriers and the escorts have to make do with what fuel and ordinance they have with them because the AOR’s are taking the troops forward to the beach and are not turning around to do their outwards run for the next wave of supplies.
There is a valid argument that AORs and other auxiliaries should be built with a load bearing deck, capable of supporting as many containers and/or vehicles as stability calculations and tie down points allow for, and that this deck should be accessible by (a) crane(s), built into the ship and possibly (assuming no major design compromises are needed) a ramp that is also built into the ship (preferably connecting to the flight deck as well), but. That. Is. It.
Another valid argument is that if amphibious ships are built a little bigger than they are, they can carry a replenishment rig to supply their own escorts – the USN has done that with carriers, battleships and possibly their Tarawa/Wasp/America classes – but this one relies on the ‘phibs being a lot bigger than they (or the Doorman) are at the moment.
Supply ships and amphibious ships are very different and there is little scope for convergence, if only because they need to be in different parts of the battle space at the same time and need to have their full capability in the relevant spot simultaneously. The Doorman is the OPV of the AOR/LPD worlds i.e. a peacetime ship – built by a navy that is even more cash strapped than the RN is, based on the gamble that they are not going to need to go to war in her lifetime or that if they do it will be in the North Sea. This is not a gamble I’d recommend for the RN/RFA for any new class other than possibly as a one off replacement for Argus, certainly not as a sweeping replacement for the RFA as a whole.
Really useful looking ships, wet lease promises 300 operational days a year.
My gut feeling is that these should quietly replace the ‘Points’ without any fanfare; cheap enough for use as sea bases and in ‘Bay’ roles but with enough combined sealift to put an army brigade behind a marine entry.
Obvious worry would be that they are seen as such a success that they intrude on specialised Royal Navy vessels and that over time we lose our ability to open a beach or port.
Nah we definitely need the points to move our army gear around the globe, they are used allot so they will never be cancelled they are too handy, but they did sacrifice two to keep people happy!
I think you misunderstand, not buy these two to replace the four points, replace the points with them (which is due up mid 2020’s iirc), you’re getting an uplift in capability without really asking for much.
Ah right, well that’s a major uplift in capability’s so I agree, but sadly with all the cuts since 2010 that,ll be hard to achieve.
True, but these two ships seem to have appeared out of thin air whereas the Points are a costed necessity.
I’m uneasy about the whole ‘littoral strike’ thing, I struggle to think of any recent situations where it could have been useful, but I recognize that it’s a popular topic at the moment.
The danger here would be that these two ships (despite reassurances) simply replace Albion and Bulwark and that the future commando force results in a Ranger+ outfit that degrades numbers and specialist capabilities within the corps, I’d hate for us to have to be be looking at amphibious regeneration in twenty years time.
If these simply replaced the Points then you’d increase capability on the quiet and offer the potential for forward spec ops basing within an established requirement and without encroached on amphibious capability; they’d be roaming the seas doing work anyway and there’d be more of them, odds are you’re more likely to have one close to hand when it’s needed. These two might sit waiting for a call that never comes.
One of the problems of basing the design on the Point Class is the noise. I live on the shores of the Solent & can tell immediately at night when a Point Class vessel is passing by the extremely loud engine noise, container ships, tankers & cruise liners are much quieter. If it were integrated into a task group or conducting special service operations with the current engine fit any submarine would be able to hear & locate it from miles away.
This type of ship being readily detectable by sub isn’t that much of an issue. Only dedicated sub-hunting platforms need make any serious effort to be quiet. Carriers, Assault Ships, Auxiliaries and even AAW, ASuW focussed Destroyers need not be quite. In some ways it’s actually beneficial to be noisy. Picture a Kilo tracking a QE, a T45 & a Tide. Noisy. But somewhere nearby is an Astute and a Type23/26. Where ? . . Exactly, Kilo doesn’t know !
Is this seriously only 7,500 tons!, would be great if we could properly arm these ships with say a mk41 with tomahawks and anti ship missiles, gives great options before an OP, even a sea ceptor mobile container or two.
Again thanks m8
Not worthwhile to arm Strike Ships with Tomahawk cruise missiles, because a lot of them would need to be fired for some of them to get through air defenses. Our adversaries would prepare their air defenses ready every time a UK Strike Ship appeared offshore, making it very costly to fire lots of them at a time.
Or an adversary might decide a Strike Ship is a threat and easy target to sink, with Tomahawks on board?
The RN only has Tomahawks on submarines which can be launched Unexpectedly, to attack an adversary target in a very sneakily way.
Only the USN can afford to fire dozens of Tomahawks from warships at a time!
Yes, Strike Ships could be armed with Sea Ceptor.
FLSS started out as a simple ship to produce an advance base for some helicopters, small boats and personnel. It seems to be getting more complicated.
May I venture a prediction, the more people complicate the concept the less likely it is to happen. Or at least it will end up being the replacement for something rather than a needed increase in hull numbers.
Be careful what you wish for.
Ok, I get the concept. A better design of Argos combined with some of the capabilities of the Bay class. The brief states its main purpose is supporting SF Ops, but could also be used for humanitarian relief. So it’s either going to be operating just beyond the horizon or close to shore. Therefore, to my mind, it will require a greater offensive and defensive capability. The ship is primarily designed to be used for small scale conflicts against terrorist groups or below peer Nations. We have seen what terrorist groups can do to shipping operating near the coast i.e. Lebanon and Yemen. The attack against Israeli patrol boats using multiple wire guided anti-tank missiles shows you need a decent close in weapon system. But also the attacks off Yemen, show that the factions can get hold of modern anti-ship weapons. So something more substantial is required that pushes out the engagement range. Therefore, I think the ship requires to be more “fighty”, especially if she’s expected to operate in the area for a while!
This is a good case to show that both Phalanx and SeaCeptor are required to protect the ship. Granted the costs of Artisan will push the basic price up. However, if Sea Girafe is used instead, this would be a cheaper solution. The radar is already integrated with the missile through LandCeptor. It will also provide the ship with a decent 3D search coverage. However, the design does not show a single offensive weapon fitted. For such a ship to be fully independent, surely it needs some form of offensive weapons? It’s going to be highly unlikely that a carrier or ground based aircraft are going to be available. So what kind of support can the ship give. They may have an embarked Apache or a couple of Schiebel type UAVs, but that does not provide persistent air cover. The Schiebels would be a good choice for the reconnaissance asset though, its perhaps limited in height and range so perhaps something larger would be required.
One answer to the lack of offensive weapons would be to add the Oto (Leonardo) 76mm gun. The thinking behind this is that it is a multi-purpose weapon. It can do anti-surface, anti-air and naval gunfire support, especially if armed with Dart and Volcano ammo. With the Volcano ammo it gives precision fire up to 70km away. It is more capable than the 57mm Bofors and a lot lighter than a 4.5″/5″ gun. For something more substantial, I would propose arming the ship with Sea Venom instead of say Brimestone/Sea Spear. The reason for this is that Sea Venom can pretty much do everything Brimestone can do, but with a longer range and is already be part of the Fleet’s inventory. With its top attack mode, it should be able to take out tanks as well. It will be useful against corvette sized vessels whilst having the capabilities to target infrastructure or strong points ashore. The two way data-link of Sea Venom could help with targets of opportunity, but would require more interaction from the ship, as it doesn’t have a laser seeker. I would expect a couple of DS30 mounts with the addition of Martlet to help protect against fast attack boats or swarms of inflatables.
By giving the ship the capability to properly defend itself and provide artillery support of deployed SF, this will negate the the need for an escort. The ship would need a new classification, perhaps Assault ship or if that sounds too aggressive what about Monitor?
I agree that the ships should be a bit more “fighty” and should be able to defend themselves in a hostile enviroment. There is a strong case for seaceptor to complement phalanx as a minimum, and the Martlet/30mm combination would be a further useful addition. I like your concept of fitting a main gun for artillery support. The Danes have embraced this with the Absalon.
Hopefully the Littoral Strike Ships will be an evolution of the Absalon concept .
I cannot help think UK would get better value for money with a replacement for HMS Ocean.
If we get two of these ships, then the first will just allow the decommissioning of RFA Argus and I have misgivings that the second will only serve to enable the removal of a more expensive LPD in the medium term.
We are not the US who can invest in this type of ship and have sufficient resources to then protect it, although I can see the attractiveness of having assets that can provide sizeable helicopter lift with the demise of Ocean and that of Argus looming.
But these ships have the hallmarks of a lash up and I would rather see the existing Bays provided with a decent hangar and a fourth ship ordered to replace the one sold to the RAN (an awful decision) or what about using the money to get the second LPD back to sea. A ship we have already bought and paid for!
This to me looks to be an excellent auxiliary ship but not a complete solution. To me the RN still requires a replacement for HMS Ocean.
They just need to make the wee curve from the flight deck to the ammo store slightly longer. A 12 degree angle would be just about right and quite aesthetically pleasing.
They even could paint a nice white line up the middle. 🙂
What happened to the 12 Merlins that were in deep storage? Couldn’t they now be upgraded to HM2 standard?
It’s a cross channel ferry.
That doesn’t convince me (not that my convincing counts for anything lol). SOLAS passenger ship rules? Isn’t there a risk of the vehicle deck flooding, with those MBTs in rough seas, are those doors really strong enough to take a knock from one of those?
Plus it smacks way too much of PFI. Learn from Voyager. Avoid it altogether. Do not build or accept it in the first place if it has to be leased back again at a premium.
I do like the idea of FLSS, it just has to be safe & financed sensibly (i.e. not PFI).
I like the concept of the Turkish Anadolu;
Based on the Juan Carlos, and designed to accommodate not just heavy vehicles, but also F35Bs.
Though at $1bn, I’m not sure that would be affordable, and politically may attract opposition being seen as a third Carrier.
Note that Australia wanted to convert the (Juan Carlos based) Canberra for F35Bs, but it wasn’t feasible.
Shame the UK & Australia can’t work together & agree upon a design to suit the apparently similar needs of both – including the F35Bs like the Anadolu.
Can we please be clear about this and put it to rest. Australia. Did. Not. Want to convert the Canberras to operate F35s, in fact they went to some trouble to design the capability out. One special interest group in Australia (the Navy League) keeps issuing press releases about how it should be built back into them (and also playing fantasy fleets with naming them), and one faction of one political party briefly said it should be looked into, but neither the RAN or the Dept of Defence, nor for that matter a government made up of a coalition of parties that include the one with the faction members who speak out of turn on this issue actually want them to operate F35s (as more than an emergency runway should allied planes need one in a hurry).
In the early part of this century Australia was flush with cash from a China that was buying iron ore and coal from Australia like there was no tomorrow, the Australian defence community had a chance at the time to expand it’s capabilities and had a choice, if they had wanted carriers they could have gotten them, the decision was made to build an amphibious capability instead so they put all the effort into that.
It’s part of the “you train for the last war you fought” syndrome – for Australia the defining last conflict wasn’t Iraq or Afghanistan, it was East Timor, mainly because in Iraq and Afghanistan the Australian involvement was limited to small contingents (rotated in and out) that plugged into allied forces whereas in Timor the ADF ran the show and everyone else plugged into the ADF forces, and let me tell you it was a close run thing, that showed how badly the ADF needed to increase it’s logistical capabilities. Sealift capabilities were not the only thing: the RAAF cancelled options on C 130s and purchased C 17s (and C 27s), the army did away with it’s paratroop battalion battlegroup (3 RAR) and re-rolled 2RAR as the nucleus of an amphibious battalion battle group, at the same time the various second and third line army logistical units were consolidated into a newly raise log brigade (17th Brigade) and various other changes were made. This was a whole of ADF effort and the Canberras, as amphibious landing ships were a key plank of it, none of the professionals involved wanted to divert resources, that by 2008 were starting to become scarce again (well ok, a few admirals and FAA types probably fantasised about it, and who can blame them!), into modifying them to operate F35s.
I get the ‘last war you fought’ thing, especially as things flared up in East Timor again in 2006. Take a look at this;
Not much appearing in news on it, but one could envisage a similar situation arising, & that’s very recent events.
I don’t think the F35B issue will ever completely go away for Australia, even if Australia has settled on those two Canberras not hosting them. I agree with Australia’s decision to go for the F35A for it’s airforce, but not to leave it’s Navy without either F35Bs or Cs. I can understand the reasoning that the Canberras couldn’t provide sufficient air support for themselves alone, with F35Bs, for not spending too much money converting them to full carriers at the expense of their amphibious capabilities, yet intentionally designing them to make F35B conversion more difficult, if true, is a mistake.
Were Australia to adopt F35Bs, the UK & Australia would have even more to offer one another as allies than currently, so I’m sure Aussies can understand there will always be some bias here in the UK too, in favour of those F35Bs.
(Australia and the UK are not allies btw, there isn’t a single defence treaty between the two, save for the 5 Powers arrangement which isn’t really applicable)
Treaties lol, there’s more cooperation & interoperability between UK’s & Australia’s armies (& Navies, Air Force etc.) than there is between the UK’s & Iceland’s (which has no Army), even though there’s a formal alliance between the UK & Iceland.
If there’s no formal alliance with Australia, it’s simply because we fell out over the cricket, they burned one of our bats or something which made us very cross.
Meanwhile, as per the link above, things in Western Papua have indeed escalated, riots, 27 dead, govt. buildings on fire;
I would like to see the command center with direct access to the bridge as the Old Man traverses between the two. Post Brexit all work should be accomplished in UK, full stop.
Wondering if we are better off buying the AgustaWestland AW609 and have a few of these to land on the Carriers and FLSS
If I may have the temerity to leave a soldier’s comment on what is clearly a sailor’s board? My intent is to be helpful…
…and indeed quote one of your famous figures back at you? “The Army is a projectile to be fired by the Navy.” Well, you need to make sure you have the right calibre barrel!
This ship, IMHO, has the potential for being supported by the Army (making it more likely to be procured) as it would seem that the primary purpose is the generation of military effect ashore. But ONLY if it is properly, genuinely configured to do two things:
1. Carry and deliver heavy armour. Things like Challenger 2, AS90, Titan / Trojan, Warrior. You might want to consider Apache too, but that’s by-the-by.
2. Be able to take receipt of said heavy armour at sea.
The reason for the first is obvious. The reason for the second is to do with logistic loops. I fully accept that you guys will deploy 3 Bde first, and that is likely to take all of your amph assets. But once they are off the ship, how do you deliver the Army in to the same location? Speed is essential. You need to be able to cross-deck a 70T main battle tank at sea, or else go all the way back to port. Mexeflotes might be the answer – but that’s not really my area.
And a further thought. If you want to configure these things for humanitarian disaster relief, you may want to add:
1. The ability to use the ship’s own systems to provide support ashore. So have the necessary hoses and tanks to pipe fresh water ashore in bulk, and have an RO plant that is man enough for the task.
2. Carry and deliver heavy construction plant, including things like heavy bulldozers, large cranes, mobile quarry kit etc. And lots of Chinooks.
Surely the answer is a version of the Bay Class, but with hanger for 4-6 Merlin sized helicopters, as per the Spanish and Dutch versions.
Such a design could easily be adapted to provide more medical facilities and one basic design could cover the littoral strike, hospital ship, landing and aviation training roles.
As I have been saying for several years, the simple solution would be to use the Tide class hull and replicate it to produce the Albion and RFA replacements. The Albion and RFA replacements would be built in modular form in the UK creating jobs, increasing efficiencies and economies of scale. Commercial of the Shelf (COTS) parts could be used where possible to keep costs down. Shipyards would compete against each other for work and the vessels could also be marketed for export.
We simply don’t have the time and money to create a new class and design for each vessel and need to use a bit more common sense with ship design and procurement.