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Am I incorrect in thinking T32 looks intended to fulfill the MCM Mothership role, when required? Albeit T32 is still some way off so something temporary may be needed in the meantime.

stephen ball

Think the 31 vessel technology and innovation (Venturer) from

Ships to inspire – names of Type 31 frigates revealed (


Simple answer: we don’t know. The concept phase hasn’t been launched yet. Nothing has changed since this was published in November 2020.

Tim Hirst

No one knows at this stage. The RN has said part of its capabilities will be to support unmanned systems of some sort. What sort of system and what other capabilities the T32 will have is unknown and unlikely to be confirmed in the next year or two.

Phillip Johnson

It is a reasonable prospect that the T32 will end up providing some or all the deployable MCM capability for the RN as one of its tasks. Crews have to be found somewhere and retiring specialist MCM ships is as good as option as any.
MCM closer to home, if remote MCM fulfils it potential, could operate from shore, crafts of opportunity, or any available government vessel with deck space and lifting capacity..
The important thing to remember is that if unmanned MCM works there will be no need for the ‘mother ship’ to enter mined water except through bad luck.


Mine Warfare could just be the next big thing. If you think about it, every type of Warfare is advancing but the basic Mine seems to me to be stuck in a bit of a time warp. Just my mind wondering a bit I guess !


Mine technology has advanced considerably. The basic mine remains the same yes but there are examples of extremely sophisticated mine systems that remain cheap when considered on a value for money or, relative cost basis.


Mine Warfare has always been a thing and the RN has quietly been at the forefront of MCM for decades.

A buoyant contact mine with horns, on a tether wire, is as basic as it gets and there are still thousands of the things in the Baltic from both world wars. Every year NATO MCMV forces exercise in the area and destroy hundreds of the things.

Then you can have a Ground Mine that sit on the sea bed, can bury itself or be camouflaged with marine growth (which they are surface treated to encourage) They can also be mobile and move around the sea bed to make locating them more difficult.
Captor mines have homing torpedoes that they release to attack targets which is bad news for Subs.
Moored mines don’t need contact horns they can have electrode wires that float out from the mine. A sub or ship touching the wire would set it off.
There are also remote control mines that can be detonated, activated or deactivated by command wires from a control point.

Activation of any mine can be by a single or combination of sensors. Contact, pressure, acoustic, electrical, magnetic, changes in overhead light. Then you can add in the sneaky stuff fitted to them like counters and anti handling devices to deter divers. Mines are a complex and difficult foe to overcome. They are relatively cheap, easy to deploy and completely deniable.

Imagine the chaos from a couple of ground mines in the Gulf.
Who put them there ?
Everyone would suspect the usual culprits but it could be a black flag operation by one nation to drop another nation in it.Prove it otherwise.
Everyone would deny responsibility and it would be very difficult to prove who did it…unless you used CDs( Clearance Divers) to physically recover one that was found and did not go off .


Autonomous systems will undeniably be vastly cheaper and more flexible to operate and it can only be a good thing that the Royal Navy is leading the way in this field.

That being said whilst it’s great a range of existing/future surface vessels will be able to deploy them I still think we can’t completely get away from the perennial argument that ships cannot be in two places at once and already have their core roles to focus on – whether it’s a Bay which are sorely needed in the amphibious role or frigates that will need the freedom to conduct sonar sweeps, perform shore bombardment or act as anti-air pickets etc.

Sure, close to a friendly port and in benign waters deploying autonomous mine-hunters direct from shore will be absolutely fine and avoid tying down a valuable platform but for operations that require persistence, range and may contain a degree of risk I still think roughly 6 cheap and cheerful mother-ships in the Venari or SD Northern River mold will be important.


It would be interesting to hear the reasoning behind the Dutch/ Belgian decision to order bespoke motherships. They each have a major international port to protect, but a combined coastline about 5% of the UK.
RN minehunters have been used as patrol vessels. If they are not replaced and the River 2s are permanently based overseas, protection of UK coastline and territorial waters will become even more feeble than it is now.
Fine to have global ambition if and only if home territory is properly defended.


My guess is that most of the B2 Rivers will be supplanted by T31’s as forward-deployed assets, and returned to UK waters to replace the B1’s. Ideally, long term I’d like to see something like the Venari-85 to replace the B2 Rivers as patrol ships and to act as minehunter motherships, maybe 6-8 in total.


Ermmm ? What ? theT31’s are being built to keep the numbers up not in addition to the 13 T23’s , ( OK 9 now) How does the Maths add up in all that ? T32 is still an unknown and as far as I can tell the River 2’s were built because they were needed.

Tim Hirst

No, the B2 Rivers were built as HMG had a contract to provide a minimum amount of work each year for the BAe yards on the Clyde. At the time there was no agreement in prospect on the exact scope and cost of the T26. The B2’s were a quickly available design that could be used to fulfil the contract.


I think you’re right- the plan to forward deploy T31 was mentioned in one of the recent defence papers.
I too like the look of Venari which could cover other roles as well. The Dutch/. Belgian mothership is bigger and the 12 vessels plus equipment are reported to cost€2b.
Whilst I see the advantage mentioned in the article of frigates being able to host remote minehunter boats on occasion, relying mainly on such scarce ships for routine minehunting seems wrong.

Glass Half Full

I suggest another way to look at it is that we have options. We might use a frigate as a mothership, say off a hostile coast or in a hostile region where shore based attack or FIAC are a threat. But we might also deploy off a civilian ship or RFA ship where there isn’t that threat, say around the coast of the UK. We tailor our solution for what is required, with most peace time roles not requiring a frigate.

For me ships like our current MCMV, the Venari and the Dutch-Belgian ships are neither one thing nor the other. They carry the expense of a warship but have no anti-air capability and only a single 30/40mm gun to give them very expensive (and slow) OPV functionality, if used in that role. So they are either more than is required or significantly less.


I agree, autonomous MCM systems can give RN considerable flexibility, and are better in some respects than dedicated vessels.

MCMV already get deployed alongside a T23 and/or RFA where required due to threat level, or for support. So putting MCM capability on the escort vessel(s) using autonomous kits doesn’t really diminish availability in these circumstances – Kits could be airlifted, or sent by civilian cargo, to forward deployed RN & RFA vessels, which allows rapid MCM deployment and/or reduced transit costs.

And like you said civilian vessels (of which there are plenty available) can be used in less demanding situations. For benign costal application, I guess kits could also be deployed from onshore, using trucks etc. which is obviously much cheaper than any kind of ship.

It is arguably a compromise, in that it appears RN are using the crew numbers and budget savings from retiring the dedicated MCM fleet, to bolster escort fleet numbers, but that seems to me like a reasonable decision. Whatever form and spec T32 takes, it will surely be a much more versatile asset – multi role, faster, better armed, and able to operate globally with much less support – vs the Hunts/Sandowns.

One of the challenges IMO will be reorganizing MCM specialists into teams that can be deployed with their autonomous kits, without being tied to a particular vessel, and for these teams to be able to work cohesively with different vessel crews as required. This will require good people skills, and a very different mindset for MCM specialists, who currently work in small, close knit crews, on the MCMV.

Glass Half Full

Agreed. Your last point is a valid one though.

I also see additional opportunities with MCM as a deployable team. It may allow the RN to complement full time RN teams with teams from the reserves. Training of reserve teams might be rotated through a single civilian vessel or even predominantly land based, no need to tie up more vessels, or worse, tie up a naval vessel. Greatly reduced requirement to insert reserves into a full time crew to get training and experience. As long as we have enough of the kits then we could rapidly scale up MCM capability using reserves this way, basing them on STUFT or OPVs. This could provide significantly greater MCM capability and flexibility than we have now.

A similar approach might also be used for littoral ASW teams deploying with modules. With a lot of the UK’s future energy likely to come from off shore wind, energy security is probably going to have to be stepped up to protect it. That might be a mix of UUVs augmented by surface vessels using ASW mission modules.

Another benefit is being able to rotate equipment sets through service and maintenance in a warehouse, independent of a ship’s schedules.

Regardless of how far we take the options, deployable modules are also very personnel friendly, helping with retention. Particularly for those with families, where much of the time the teams will be UK based unless deployed, since it is so relatively easy to fly them to the other side of the world with little notice.

Meirion X

You right, it looks like we are only going to have 3 River B1s to defend UK waters. All the B2’s deployed abroad. So MoD will have to call on a full frigates which maybe a diversion from a ASW taskings, to intercede a fishing dispute in Jersey?
Maybe the MoD may need to procure corvettes in the end, to forward deploy abroad?

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X

I believe the intent is to ditch the B1s by the end of the decade, redeploy the B2s back to the UK for fisheries protection and have the T31s take over the overseas role for which they will be better equipped. So yes, the end result is the loss of the B1s when all is said and done. There is a lot of smoke in the defence review. In reality it seems that, yes, frigate numbers will eventually grow but simultaneously all the MCMVs and B1s will go at the same time.

Meirion X

The T31s are supposed to replace the 5 T23 GP’s.


Sure, and they will. My only point is that 13 MCMVs and 3 B1 Rivers will go at the same time. Once you introduce the 5 T32s – likely as MCM “motherships” – you still have a net loss of 11 hulls.

Meirion X

I agree, we need to replace the River B1s with something.
I also think, some of the mothership hulls could be fiberglass to operate close range MCMV’s.

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X

Don’t think there is any money for that. The autonomous MCM systems will likely operate from the T32s and T31s it seems.

stephen ball

Autonomous system’s are more costly but safer.

David Graham

Agreed. I can see no reason why the likes of SD Northern River could not be used as a command and control centre. There’s always a lot of nonsense talked by politicians etc about friendly ports and airfields, and nonsense it is.


All of this should be framed in terms of manoeuvre from seaward. That is why states have navies after all. That’s why this move makes no sense without ships to house these systems.

Meirion X

The RN will be developing the Type 32 frigates to house those new systems.
You seem to suggest they are Not?

It is nonsense to suggest otherwise!

It looks like, I may need to learn a new language to understand you!

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X
Meirion X

The first MCMV’s are highly likely to be deployed and housed by a Bay Class LSD. They are bigger enough to house them!

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X
Meirion X

But SD Northern River as a primary
submarine rescue vessel, needs to be prepared to be dispatch to any sub emergency rescue, so would need to down tools quickly if on a temporary MCM operation.
So a unsuitable vessel for this kind of tasking.

Glass Half Full

Excellent update article but I’m not really buying some of those challenges as being material. They seem a bit forced in order to come up with some cons for article balance.

  1. Lack of presence: We don’t need presence everywhere we operate our MCMV, such as around UK shores. We’re probably getting 5x T32 precisely because we won’t be getting 13x dedicated MCMV. The former are likely to add a more meaningful and useful presence, even if only armed similarly to T31, than our current MCMV, Venari or the Dutch-Belgian solution, including air and FIAC defences off a hostile shore. Four of our current MCMV plus a bay and a frigate are dedicated to the Gulf. Shift that to 1x MRSS as a mothership plus two frigates and it becomes a much more flexible force that can quickly pull back from MCM ops to free up two frigates for escort roles if heightened tensions require it. Add a few STUFT painted grey for ops in permissive environments for more presence. A 30/40mm on a dedicated MCMV isn’t going to add much to presence.
  2. Reliability: Why assume we won’t still have dive teams? We can fly them all over the world too. The issues of how challenging breakdowns or adverse weather are is going to be a function of how far from a mothership the USVs are operating. Are we planning to send these platforms off to operate on their own in the middle of the North Sea or the Baltic Sea? Seems unlikely, not least because they’ll need periodic refueling. A single mothership deploying multiple systems will cover a much wider area than a current MCMV can, thus reducing the number of dedicated MCMV. Probably one reason why the article includes a comment about how much faster the new systems are.
  3. Jamming: That argument could be used against every communications, command and control system used on every land, air and sea system. Its a reality that attempts will occur and our systems will work to counter. MCM is not a special case.
Last edited 2 years ago by Glass Half Full
James Fennell

Correct – in fact we just bought a whole new flotilla of ATLAS SEA dive support workboats as part of project VAHANA, so we can assume that each MCM package will still include divers.


Yes but they will be remotely controlled !!!!!


Are these boats commissioned? And are they added to the total number of RN vessels?


By ‘boats’ do you mean UUVs? That would be really scraping the barrel to make fleet numbers look better than they really are.


I’m on about optionally manned boats. Other nations have many hundreds of vessels the RN Have barely 75. In terms of numbers it acts as a deterant also.


The removal of the MCMV vessels and their replacement will benefit the surface fleet in quite a few ways.

  1. MCMV specialist “Muppets” can be left to do their thing from a container. No need for a great number of Marine and Weapon engineers, Loggies to be employed supporting them on the vessels. Those specialisations can be redrafted to other units. They will need some Engineering support for the new kit but not a whole ships worth.
  2. Savings in fuel, manpower RIPs( Crew Changes), maintenance, refits, spares and all of the specialist low mag/non mag storage and support in Faslane and Portsmouth specifically the warehousing for the equipment.
  3. Divers will still be needed so I would expect to see more Dive Pots in containers and dive equipment along the lines of the FSU equipment to come online. Divers are an essential part of MCMV. If you need to examine or recover a new or unknown threat mine, then CDs are the way to do it.
  4. Combined influence sweeps are quick so it’s good to have them back. Not all mines are on wires . Ground mines are a far bigger threat. With no wires to cut you must use influence sweeps to activate them or hunt them individually as the RN currently does. Constant repetitive sweeping is required because mines will have counters in them and they be set to go off after a specific number of targets ( or sweeps ) have passed.Constant sweeping runs are needed and this is ideal for the remote boats.
  5. For export there are a number of opportunities to sell to Gulf, Baltic and Med states who use RN based equipment. This would help in bringing the costs down.

Interesting times ahead in the MCMV world.


Perhaps we could do the same with other systems? Missiles and radars in containers and just deposit them on what hulls there are available. Seems like a plan to me.

Meirion X

The containerise systems of missiles and raders would need to have had fixtures and fittings integrated into the vessel beforehand simler of the Iver Huitfeldt mission modules. And of cause the safety of electric cables etc.

You cannot dump any container system on any vessel and hope it works!

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X
Meirion X

This site is a level playing field for dialogue and free speech.
You do Not have to respond to my comments, your choice.

You would turn this site into a one sided Monologue of Yourself, if you had your way!

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X

1: Can the “L3Harris 12-metre USVs” be carried on T26’s mission bay?

2: Can there be (regardless of L3Harris or Atlas/ARCIM) a ASW version of drones? We know ARCIMS has a version carrying LFAPS ASW sonar, but we do not hear much about it these days.

I “guess” in shallow water, active pinging from drones will make the mother ship more safe, and multi-static ASW sonar analysis will enable batter detection of SSK in the shallow water?

Meirion X

A T26 could carry a USV/UUV TAS sonar, and deployed ahead of ship a few km as like a TAS. It would need to be in comms’ range, or by fibre optic cable.

No reason why a L3Harris could be carried, on a T26 with a 20m beem.

Last edited 2 years ago by Meirion X

(after some web survey)
There are (may be) three candidates,
1: L3Harris “Halcyon”, which is 10.8m long, 3.5 m wide
2: Atlas “ARCIMS”, which is 11.2 m long, 3.4 m wide
3: ECA “Inspector 125”, which is 12.3 m long, 4.5 m wide

We know T26’s mission bay can carry 2x 20ft ISO containers in a row. But, the size of its side-door is not clear if it can handle “12.3 + m” long boats. I understand ARCIMS and Halcyon is OK.

So, sorry but self-corrected.

Are there any plan to adopt ECA “Inspector 125” for RN? And then, is it T26 capable?

This must be the original question…

Last edited 2 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

Is a permanent mothership necessary? Surely it would make sense to airlift the equipment as needed to a nearby friendly port and install it onto the closest available ship with a mission bay? Seems like it would be much faster than a dedicated ship.


Just who has decided that the Royal Navy is leading the world in the provision of effective autonomous systems for mine detection and destruction systems? These boats are unmanned targets, nothing more. Without a crew at all they can be sunk at will with no come -back to the nation involved in the destruction. The Chinese could knock out 1000 remote controlled plastic boats to its allied nations, especially in the Gulf and take these USV,s , whatever, out with no risk to diplomatic relations whatsoever.
Is there going to be a firm commitment by the Government to order six of these systems by 2035, maybe reduced to five, with more to follow when we can afford them, as with the F35b. Any time before 2050 would be just fine, and will these craft be designated as warships to swell the number of ships available as with the plastic University boats. The only surprise here is that some person associated with this latest manpower reduction scheme hasn’t declared that these systems will not be affected by a COVID pandemic.


I think we should build more River 2s as GP mother ships etc. They are very well suited to this role and flag waving. Perhaps they need a hanger and with a run silent ability and could form a useful part of any task group carrying a USV or two
They seem to be doing a first rate job in the Indo-Pacific against some early doubts.
I’d imagine its a brilliant posting.