The Defence Command Paper published in the wake of the March 2021 Integrated Review promised: “more than £50m will be spent converting a Bay class support ship to deliver a more agile and lethal littoral strike capability”. Here we take a speculative look at the options for the conversion.
The Bay Class Landing Ship Dock – Auxiliary (LSD(A)) vessels were originally conceived to provide follow-on support to amphibious assaults, with additional troops and stores carried ashore by landing craft and mexeflote. While they are still entirely capable in this role, they have proved to be flexible and adaptable as a platform for other tasks, notably mine warfare support and humanitarian aid operations. As uncrewed systems become increasingly important they are also an ideal mothership for UAVs, UUVs and USVs.
The full history and design of these vessels is covered in depth by an earlier article but it is safe to say the three remaining Bay class are in high demand. The decision to convert at least one as an LSS is intended as a stop-gap until replaced by the promised ‘Multi-Role Vessels’ in the early 2030s. The conversion should be complete by 2023 when the first LSS is expected to deploy to the Indo-Pacific region.
A more expensive route would have been to procure a dedicated LSS using an adapted merchant vessel. Prevail Partners had developed the LSS concept and put agreements with relevant commercial shipping companies in place that could have delivered the capability without converting one or more of the precious LSD(A)s. Besides cost, limited personnel numbers, boats and helicopters available to equip additional vessels must also have factored in the decision not to go with the Prevail offering.
The LSS concept is described officially as “a forward-deployed vessel, to respond rapidly to crises, special operations-capable, ready to strike from the sea, to pre-empt and deter sub-threshold activity, and counter state threats.” The most significant difference in role between that of the LSD(A) and LSS is the requirement to loiter at sea for longer periods and be able to generate and support special forces and light raiding operations. This is in line with the Future Commando Force (FCF) concept that envisages smaller, more agile forces not intended to conduct ‘traditional’ heavier amphibious warfare. The development of a new Royal Marines operating model is a necessary adjustment to a changing and more complex battlespace, but it is also a convenient way to avoid the significant costs of recapitalising ships and equipment needed to retain the full spectrum of credible amphibious capability.Bay-Class-LSDA-General-Arrangement
The conversion work is likely to be subject to competition, with A&P Falmouth a leading contender. As holders of the Future In-Service Support (FISS) Lot-2 contract to maintain the 3 ships, they are already very familiar with the vessels and should be capable of this modest project. Cammell Laird would be the other likely contender. Having performed maintenance or refit work on most ships of the RFA fleet they have no history of work on the Bay Class but have more steelwork fabrication experience than A&P.
At the time of writing it has not been confirmed which vessel is in line for the conversion. RFA Mounts Bay completed major refit in late 2020 while the refit of RFA Cardigan Bay is just beginning. RFA Lyme Bay arrived in Bahrain in May 2021 but naval sources suggest she will not stay in the Gulf for more than a year and will probably return home to be converted into the LSS. It is unclear if there is an intention to convert another vessel to support the two planned Littoral Strike Groups.
There may be scenarios where raids are delivered covertly over the beach, but insertion by helicopter is more likely to be needed for special forces operations. In terms of converting the Bay class to LSS, the most obvious need is to improve the hangar and aviation facilities. Currently, the Bays have a temporary fabric aircraft shelter that can provide some protection from the elements typically for one or two embarked Wildcat helicopters. A larger permanent hangar, ideally with space for at least two Merlin Mk4s (or four Wildcats) is needed. This would allow them to be safely embarked for long periods and conduct maintenance, including engine changes and provide a more workable environment for engineers when operating in the heat of the Gulf or freezing High North.
The LSD(A)s were not built with command facilities (like the LPDs). Additional office, planning and command spaces for the EMF and upgrades to communications would be desirable. Upgrades to weaponry are unlikely within a £50M budget. LSS is supposed to either keep a low profile by merging with merchant traffic or be accompanied by escort(s) in higher threat environments. Further investment in offboard unmanned systems should be seen as the main way of increasing their offensive capability.
The original LSS concept also hinted at a more substantial medical capability than currently possessed by the Bay class, possibly a Role 2 facility that would support a full surgical team. (They currently have a 14-bed sick bay, a small operating theatre and a treatment room.) Any improvement to afloat medical capability would be especially welcome to help offset the pending disposal (without replacement) of RFA Argus.
While the RFA crew are accommodated in some comfort, the Embarked Military Force accommodation for up to 350 personnel is adequate but was not really intended to be inhabited for long periods. It may be desirable to upgrade the EMF recreation areas (under the vehicle deck) to be more comfortable, even at the cost of slightly reducing capacity.
The LSS conversion designers must deliver the project within the £50M budget but are also constrained by the limits of the existing platform. Any additional steelwork must not exceed topweight limits and may require work re-ballasting to ensure the ship’s stability. The Bay class are loosely based on the Dutch Damen Schelde ‘Enforcer’ design used for HNMLS Rotterdam, built in 1997. The highest (bridge) deck is one deck lower than the Bays but the superstructure extends further aft, enclosing a permanent hangar for 3 NH-90 helicopters which would suggest there is some topweight margin available for additions to the superstructure.
Additional compartments must also meet modern certification standards and consideration be given to electrical supplies, heating, ventilation and air conditioning services (HVAC).
Modifications to the upper deck must also take into account the position of the funnels, set inboard and amidships, two pedestal cranes and the elevator vital for moving equipment between the main deck and vehicle deck. The elevator is set on the centreline and its position would complicate the addition of new superstructure above. Re-siting the cranes, funnel or elevator might all be possible but each would imply additional time and cost.
The steelwork itself may be relatively cheap but to this must be added the cost of design, new equipment, the re-siting of existing equipment and integration of HVAC, and power supplies with existing systems.
Below are some very simple concepts showing possible options for the conversion. Without details of the specific requirements for LSS, these are only speculative ideas. For the sake of simplicity and cost, the elevator has not been repositioned or any modifications made below the upper deck.Littoral-Strike-Bay-Plus
This is the most basic solution, essentially replacing the fabric aircraft shelter with a simple rectangular steel hangar that almost extends the full width of the ship, apart from the port side where the crane remains in position. This would not require the re-siting of any equipment and it is perhaps surprising that this simple upgrade was not made years ago. However, the LSS may demand more complex modifications and additional command spaces.Littoral-Strike-Enforcer
This has most in common with the original Dutch Enforcer design and is the most likely direction of travel. The hangar extends the full width of the ship, able to accommodate up to 3 Merlin-size aircraft. The pedestal cranes have been moved aft. There is a smaller upper deck storage area but the flight deck could be extended for two spots to support faster launch and recovery of helicopters. Above the hangar is a small Flying control office (Flyco) and two decks for use as offices and command space. The medical facility has been extended to be more than double the existing size, replacing the offices currently occupying the forward part of 1 deck.Littoral-Strike-Max
This is a more ambitious arrangement but would provide more extensive offices, accommodation and enclosed storage space in a separate after superstructure. The midships deck storage area is retained, although smaller and the elevator emerges into a covered area connected by a tunnel to the aircraft hangar to allow vehicles and stores to be moved to the flight deck. The full-width hangar can also house 3 merlins but the flight deck is reduced to a single spot. Engine exhausts would be extended upward into a more traditional twin funnel design that would keep fumes well away from the deck. Flyco is also in the optimum position overlooking the flight deck. The size of this superstructure will place additional loading on the hull that may demand structural strengthening and significant re-ballasting.
It will be fascinating to see how the conversion project progresses and whether the LSS is a success in service. From an operational perspective, the flexibility of the Bay Class suggests they are a sound platform that can easily be adapted to perform in a slightly different role. In a future article, we will consider the bigger challenge of the Littoral Strike Group concept as a whole.
Have to say that given money is tight at moment, this seems like a waste of scarce resources to me.
Albion and Bulwark provide the capability we want/need and the bays are good Swiss army knives as stated in the article.
Surely the money would be better spent on a future joint logistics/ amphibious design (Karel Doorman or G-LAM) that we can order 8-12 of perhaps in 3 classes of 4 – each offering something slightly different to the other.
£50m could be spent on refining the design of our future Amphibious logistics ships, rather than spending the money on something we are unlikely to use.
£50m could also add more VLS to T31 for instance, or buy some Caiman landing craft or S2S connectors – not sure what we need in the littorals that our current vessels don’t already provide.
Yes. We need 4 at least big Bay replacements and something Karel Doorman-esque would be ideal. I think whatever we build needs to be able to keep up with US ARG’s so be as I said below 500 miles per day (20kts – ish).
As for S2S connectors we need speed. I like the French EDA-R’s. But I would be happy with LCM-1E. Being tied to moving the Army’s MBT ashore is out of date.
Could you explain me, why you prefere the LCM-1E?
It’s just quicker than the Mk10 especially light. It will carry an MBT if needs be. Just a bit more conventional less of a risk. Six might be a better deal than four Mk10.
Saying that landing craft are one of the areas where I think ‘complicated hulls’ might just find a niche. That surface effect test bed from a few year back for instance. Or the USMC’s EFV.
Yes, that’s right.
I can’t find the sourc anymore. But wasn’t there a british company with an fast and modern landig craft design? I think i read an articel in the last two years.
BMT have the Caiman 90 Fast design.
LCM-1E is in service, conventional, sensible size, and yet offers that little extra speed. It is more a representation of my thoughts as I am not tied to a particular design.
As I said this is an area where ‘complicated hulls’ and alternative technologies could shine.
BMT Caimen 90 is also the base hull of USMC, Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), which is slightly larger than Caimen 90. I think the design is promising.
Yes, thank you!
Yes. There are better options than LCU Mk10 if the RM is going down this route.
What are current vessels don’t provide is proper facilities to operate helicopters. If HMG wants the LSS concept in at least prototype form by mid decade it has to involve adding aviation facilities to an existing ship. If the concept works out then dedicated replacement classes for both the Albions and Bays could be build mid/late 2030’s but probably not before. The “Big Ship” yards have there hands full with FSS, deep sea survey replacement and national flag ship for the next few years.
I think we have too small a navy for dedicated classes in the RFA and amphibious areas now.
I believe we need to build 8-12 an RN version(s) of the Karel Doorman design that offers a really good blend of capabilities, 4 can be modified for more solid stores, 4 can have a well dock and 4 can have more aviation fuel.
Its always the specialst ships that go first and it isn’t that long ago that Albion and Bulwark were at severe risk.
What we need is high availability multi role assets that we can keep busy… if they are not they will always be at risk…
that is the reality of the situation I am afraid.
I think it’s just about the hangars, really. We won’t be getting a new helicopter carrier any time soon and the current royal navy doctrine centres around three core task groups – a CSG and two small amphibious ready groups (‘littoral strike groups’).
These two amphibious groups will each probably consists of an Albion-class LPD, Bay-class LSD and a GP frigate. The frigate might carry a Wildcat and the Bay class might have one or two or maybe a merlin instead but you are looking at a couple helicopters with limited transport capability, which isn’t ideal at all.
Having a flight of HC4s – even we can get them available at all – is a significant boost to these task groups’ capabilities.
The Danish Absalons have hangers for two merlins, so if the t32 is a derivative of the t31, we could expect it to provide a useful additional lift capacity for the LSG. Issue will be the lack of helicopters for the LSGs.
the absalons can also launch cb90’s. which are a useful asset in my opinion.
I think the abalone class is something we should look at as the additional flex deck has so much utility.
am sure we could put a stern ramp in for Caiman 60’s if that’s what we wanted..
The Defence Review indicated there would be a rationalisation program for helicopter types which would include the smaller types currently operated by SF so I am hopeful issue of helo numbers is being addressed. The AW offer to build in the UK looks favourite.
With a fair wind the ISD for T31, enhancements to the Bay(s) and an increase in helo numbers might just line up.
The LSGs are not large formations. For example, 40 RM commando is to provide the manpower for LSG(East of Suez). The whole battalion cannot be forward deployed at sea permanently. To allow for training and recovery, it will only consist of a reinforced rifle company (probably 250 person max). These, and equipment, should fit comfortably in the Bay and the accompanying frigate.
probably 250 person max
And that’s the problem with the whole concept, not enough mass. The USMC consider an MEU just about viable.
As I have said elsewhere on this thread we needed three fast large LPD’s with one following the carrier on deployment. Place 1 x Close Combat Company, Recce Troop, and a small Tac HQ in the carrier with 6 to 8 Merlin and 6-ish Wildcat. Place the balance of the teeth formations of the commando in the LPD. And then place logistics, arty battery, engineering, and a ‘cavalry squadron’ in Bay(s) to be brought forward as needed. Plenty of berths if there is a need for reinforcement and a second LPD too plus associated Bay(s).
Yes but viable for what? They often split up marine units into smaller tastings on ship. A full meu is for invasion, we are talking raiding and SF work ie like marsoc or seal units
A full MEU isn’t for an invasion. Not enough of anything. Do you even know of what units an MEU is composed.
ROYAL MARINES ARE NOT SPECIAL FORCES.
We needed a class of large fast LPD’s to follow the carriers about. Something a long the lines of the USS San Antonio class. Something capable of making 500 miles bounds per day.
I am not wholly sold on this new direction for the Royal Marines. I think it is more about cutting strength for ‘savings’ than anything really practical. The corps is already light.
Lets hope the mods to the Bay are better than the original mods carried out to the Enforcer design that produced the sub-class.
X, I agree, especially as the function of the new direction has not been well communicated.
3Cdo was one of the best assets the country had. It needed investing in not rendering down. The Italians, Australians, and Japanese are doing all they can to get where we were.
I would have invested in 16AAB too. And put both with another brigade of infantry in support into a separate division.
indeed, which other country on the planet would reduce such an elite force to the bone…
As ex army I have no qualms in stating the marines are a bit special and should be around the 14k size mark for such a quality capability.
just take a look at how many rotations they had in Herrick against the Army…. its clearly offering great value for money and in many cases a more comprehensive capability.
The RM stats and value for money are better than the Army’s. Not by much but enough to be significant. Why it should be I don’t know.
But as I said above to me it is a no brainer. We have a commando at sea, probably in the Med and Indian Ocean. And we have a duty parachute battalion ready to go because the UK can still fly into many countries. It means we can deal with two crisis. Sometimes they will work together. And SF support comes with that. Stick them in a division and we have a fire brigade.
Shame we are loosing all the hercs! Anyone know if we will get a true replacement? Or is 20 odd a400s and 7 globes it.
Probably no replacement.
I do recall, but typically can’t find supporting evidence, that some command kit was transferred into a Bay(s) when the type 22s were removed from service?
Also the danger of upgrading the Bays is that the expensive to run Albion and Bulwark become even more “at risk”?
Ooh look, the Solid Supply Ships, so desperately needed by the Royal Navy, seem to have disappeared from the conversation, yet again. Just when is it going to dawn on everyone that spreading the Royal Navy thinly around the world, relying on the good will of nations to assist all types of ships is only going to happen until the Chinese call in the markers. Until we can properly support our ships alone why do we need an LSS in any shape or form?
This is a small money experiment to look at the concept and provide limited ops in not to threatening areas.
I agree that the FFS program is key but this will be done and at sea before the main build starts on FFS, which with contract award not likely before’23 won’t be until the second half of the decade. This is far to late, but the government’s dithering means there’s not much that can be done to pull it forward.
My hope is that we eventually see 6 MRSS vessels to replace the Albion’s & Bays which combines the best aspects of both classes as well as whatever enhancements we see in the next few years to the latter – so command/control facilities, a well-deck, decent capacity for an embarked force, endurance to remain on station and a hangar for 3-4 large helo’s.
With half decent medical facilities and stores space / provision for a mexieflote across the whole class they would also provide a much more flexible HADR ability than relying solely on Argus or re-rolling other RFA’s.
Much better to have a large class of common platforms that can adapt to a variety of tasks and achieve a higher rate of availability than running 2 LSD’s and 3 LPD’s.
Feel this is not the way forward particularly looking at the age. all three do the job very well indeed. especially as standby vessels in the hurricane season with their mexi float able to get heavy machinery ashore and get the airport runways clear for support aircraft to land at the same time staff can check what is required with the helo and boots on the ground so the right rescue equipment is flown in. Going on age we need 8 hulls in the next few years. two solid stores ships, two replacements for bulwick and her sister, and the three-bay class.
also, we need an emergency deck for the f35s. used to navy always to have two flight decks available at all times so we need 8 hulls with flight decks that can take the f35. a flooding compartment for LC.if look at some of the passenger hulls the hull form scantling is there. go for elect pod engines make them highly moveable and have the capacity of speed. quickly. an elec gen in the bottom better stability. but we do not need a top hamper which makes a good target, keeping the ships internal design flexible we go from multi-task to hospital to support ship. with the same engines, the same basic design costs should be down.
If there are to be, at least two helo’s embarked, or even three, there needs to be a hanger if any work is required on them.
Genuine question why don’t they enlarge the vehicle lift or design and build a helicopter lift starboard and park the helicopters below?
Replacing the vehicle lift with a side flight deck lift would be an easier modification than those suggested in the Max variant. A hangar door would be needed to be added to seal off the dock so that it could be used without compromising the hanger space. Extending the rear of the superstructure by a few frames would allow the provision of more hospital and office space, but a higher priority should be the enlarging of the ship’s food storage areas (Dry, Chill and Frozen) to allow for long term self sustainment when trooped up.
As a picture paints a 1000 words, here is mine!
Do you think you could get all that work done for £50m inc design, classification society checks and bidding process?
£50m is about a fifth of the original (inflation adjusted) cost of a LSD(A), so I would hope so to most of it.
The lifts, bowthruster, hospital, store rooms, vehicle deck compartmentalization and doors are all relatively easy conversions (as there is plenty of space to fit them).
For me the difficulty is in doing the superstructure, not just for size, but also for the stability, the bay class already are famed for rolling heavily (even in a flat calm).
A cheaper less satisfactory option would be to convert more of the emf accomodation and vehicle deck into office/planning spaces, this would come with the bonus of not worsening stability.
Interesting question, that’s the arrangement in Argus I believe. Not sure you could do that and the other needed work fast and for £50m.
I have a great idea for a more capable litoral strike ship. I call it HMS Ocean…
The one main thing Ocean did was prove that the RN needed two 30k tonne LHD’s built to naval standards. The RN got some value out of that ship.
Yes! Let’s get 2 LHDs similar to the French Tonnerre class or the US Wasp class. These vessels are larger so is able to have lots of deck space and well-dock space as well as hangers and command facility.
The problem is money…
I have a solution!
We just need to boost the budget and spend the money where it’s most needed.
We should have just perhaps built something Makin Island-esque instead of the carriers. The RN got it the wrong way. Instead of building two large hulls to support what we did well (in terms of surface warfare), ASW and (light) amphibious warfare, they built two big carriers and decided to try recreate something we had stopped doing in the 70’s and build a new fleet around them. An air group of say 6 F35b, 8 Junglies, 6 Wildcat, 4(5) Crowsnest, and 4(5) ASW would have been more useful and achievable. But we are where we are.
Sorry but in today’s fast modern info based warfare I think the navy far better having f35 of real amount able to fight real campaign against a peer enemy, what you describe would be great for invading Iraq or policing but against a peer, no use, couldn’t even sustain a real CAP to protect the ships, we would be stuck relying on the cousins or France to do the heavy lift.
F35b is no use against a peer and especially in the numbers we will buying it in. And that is without essentials like AEW&C and force multipliers like tankers.
We already rely on the US to do anything. The RN is a sub-component of the USN. The RN isn’t going to war against a peer, why you just can’t China I don’t know, on its own ever again. We may end up doing policing work though or supporting amphibious or littoral operations on our own.
Don’t use the word ‘sorry’ to open a comment with as its smacks of condescension. This is your second reply to me which I have read and all it indicates that is you read the latest articles but have no real understanding of the fundamentals of naval operations. As I said to you below the US have discovered that this current path of reliance on IT and what I will call modern business practices have shown in war gaming to be flawed.
So if its possible would you modify QE class with.a well dock rather than cats and traps?
Interesting to reread last July’s article on this subject. It suggested that the Bays were unsuitable for the interim LSS role for a number of reasons- lack of operations room, capacity for just one LCU, commercial build standard and more.
I understand what now seems to be the long term plan to build 6 MRSS to replace the LPDs and Bays but I don’t really get the thinking behind this decision. The new approach being developed by the RM will surely need a much greater helicopter capability. There is already too much for the Merlins to do so that leaves Chinooks. If these can’t operate from the LSS, the fast lift capacity will be insufficient.
The original plan to adapt POW to perform the helicopter assault function has been dropped ( the costs were similar to those of adapting a Bay) but it looks increasingly unlikely that we will have enough F35s for both carriers any time soon.
Nor is it clear what will support the second LRG.
Well we will never use both carriers at once unless the balloons gone up.
We are unlikely to FULLY use both carriers at the same time because we will never have enough F35s to deliver the original ambition. That’s why the plan to adapt POW for amphibious operations made sense. I guess it has been shelved because of the newer ambition to fit cats/ traps to operate UCAVs. If this can be delivered,affordably, then operating both carriers at the same time becomes a possibility. If not then the RN may revert to the amphibious plan or keep one carrier in extended readiness, alternating as we do with Bulwark/ Albion.
Of the 3 options I would make the following comments:
My understanding is that the vessel will lose one of its cranes (port side) so that the Hangar can be full width and joined onto the existing fwd superstructure. It will apparently be a 3 merlin capable hangar.
The Exhausts will be resited to emerge further on /through the new hangar build.
This will allow for an increase in size of the flight deck area to make it a 2 spot deck that will be 2 Merlin/ Chinook capable .
Austere Marine accom below the dock will be revamped to a standard RN type messdeck arrangement.
Additional office space etc will be included above the new hangar
The Exhausts will be resited.
Ha! After all the trouble that went into that quite unnecessary redesign from the original Enforcer specs to reduce turbulence from efflux across the flight deck. And now they going to go backwards.
The uptakes will be a bit trickier than that. The resiting was not particularly flightdeck efflux related – a more integrated issue was responsible. Going backwards won’t fix that.
The exauhsts will move fwd. That means that the exhaust trunking port and stbd inside the vehicle deck will need to be extended further along the vehicle deck going fwd and then go up. Its not a massive issue as there is loads of space on the vehicle deck port and stbd (high ) for them to go in.
I meant in terms of yet more fiddling not going backwards as in terms of going aft.
I freely admit to being an arm chair observer to this so please correct me if I am wrong on any points below.
I note Albion class LPD, Bay class LSD(A) and Point class were not built with helicopter hangers, that is because we had the Ocean class LPH (I believe there should have been two of these?). This was to provide proposed balance between sea and air amphibious delivery from lessons learnt from the Falklands for projecting 3 Command Brigade (3CB) (more on that to come below).
With the decommissioning of Ocean and no replacement of the resource, it seems there is now an imbalance as we ‘find’ ourselves without helicopter platforms for amphibious assets and significantly reduced capacity to sustain 3CB (selling of Larg’s Bay). We are told Queen Elizabeth class CV can ‘moonlight’ as a LHP, but if one CV is in dock, but from my arm chair I suspect it would be hard to sustain fixed wing capabilities at a high tempo during a conflict without compromising helicopter amphibious operations.
The addition of hangers to all Bays, especially Navy Lookouts proposed LSS Bay Plus concept, should have been included in the original design (see above for the possible reason why not), but as the multi-functional benefits of the Bays has been demonstrated over time (victims of their own success) makes sense in that all the Bay have this upgrade to expand their capabilities further (especially for sea and air drone use).
However there has been little or no focus for the reason why we have Albion, Bay and Point class assets in the first place, 3CB.
The Brigade has moved from being a proven self-contained brigade strength (up to Division strength in 1982) capable of world wide development to that of a ‘raiding’ group’ as part of two Littoral Response Groups’ north and south.
The 3CB capabilities served the UK very well during the 1950’s to present day, providing significant flexibility and scope. Its capabilities, capacity and professionalism is envied around the world and shamelessly copied. The evolution of 3CB and its supporting assets traces their roots from some key conflicts such as Norway, Sicily, Normandy, Suez, Falkland and First Gulf War etc. and humanitarian events. The move to Littoral Response Groups does not seem to follow this pathway, rather it diverts from progress and lessons learnt so far?
The significant change to ‘ ‘Littoral Response Group’ emphasis has not been fully explained to us or why such revolutionary change is needed. The reasoning for this change is unclear, especially as Australian and China seeks to build or imitate ‘3 Commando Brigade’ capacity and USMC continues to maintain and further evolve critical capability. Others may watching the development of the Littoral Response Group, but they are clearly not adopting or championing it as a concept. Are we going on this journey alone?
I have not yet read or had explained to me in a rational way why such a massive change is being undertaken, when all that was needed was investment to increase 3CB including its supporting shipping assets.
Now we are ‘pivoting’ back to a global nation, restoring the policy of Edwards Heath’s retreat from east of Suez in the 1970s, but do we have the investment or assets to do this? As of today we only have one Destroyer deployable. Is this of concern?
In a world of digital challenges and increasing use of drone, may be increasing flexibility and capabilities is the key evolution, especially for unknown future?
So for the future I kindly offer up a suggestion base around a fully 3CB (of 3 Commandos and supporting assets) in additional to separate two company strength LRGs:
1) the Albion class replaced with three capable 30,000 tonnes LHD (say enhanced Juan Carlos / Canberra but with VLS and improve close defense) which could better provide support for LRG north and south than LSS Bays or MRSS (the thought of lack of air and surface defense on LSS Bay or MRSS is extremely worrying!),
2) the LSD(A) Bay’s replaced with four evolved designs with hangers (LSS Bay Plus is cheapest and practical) as well as the lessons learnt from three decades of service,
3) two evolved LSS Karel Doormans with Role 3 medical facilities and focused on Chinook support and,
4) the Points replaced like for like.
The common platform here is the evolved Enforce design for Bays and LSS and may be a smaller version for the Points. There are a number of possible customers for this.
But lets face it, its not going to happen.
I would be grateful it Navy Lookout could review the purpose/capabilities/capacity of 3CB as this is the critical point for the procurement of any amphibious Royal Navy vessel in future.
Welcome your more informed thoughts…especially as money is tight!
The aviation facilities for Albion and Bulwark were deleted as a cost saving. One whole deck was quite literately rubbed out. Hence there rather squat look. It is debatable whether an LPD needs a hangar. A flight deck yes. Hangar no. Nice to have perhaps, but not essential.
Bays didn’t have a hangar because they didn’t need them. They are cargo ships and a hangar would have robbed deck space for containers and outsize cargo. The fact that they have had hangars installed says more about a lack of hulls in the Naval Service than any mistake in the original design. Their role is to deliver day two plus stores into AOA. Same reason why they only have capacity for one LCU, any more would rob volume for cargo.
The Points didn’t have hangars because they are strategic transports for vehicles, containers, and outsize cargos. Where amphibious warfare involves moving stuff by sea, moving stuff by sea isn’t always amphibious warfare.
This new role for the RM makes no sense to me either.
I think they are working on the basis that in 70years they have never been called on to perform a full amphibious invasion, what they are often asked to do is SF, navy seal type work. Therefore they will primarily be trained and equipped for that. Chances are by the time we have put together the fleet, gained air control, sailed there then then fight is over. War is changing, less people, more tech, more info, faster, faster, faster
I am sure the RM went somewhere in 82. And I am sure they have done operations around Africa and in Iraq and even places like South America. If by ‘full amphibious invasion’ you mean beach storming you don’t really have any grasp of modern amphibious operations which are centred on manoeuvre to bring pressure against centres of gravity.
The RM are not special forces. Dropping 3 of the new 4x4s by Chinook somewhere is SF work not infantry. SF support is still about mass. And to move mass you need assets like helicopters and surface craft. A reinforced company is not enough for that. We don’t have enough helicopters. And a converted slow cargo ship (even if specialised) isn’t where I would start for this sort of work. The USMC state an MEU is the smallest unit that can achieve influence.
Less personnel and more tech faster, faster is why the Americans are suddenly finding their strategies are flawed.
Thanks. 3 CdB based on a MEB (if required) with rotating MEU (similar to 2nd Battalion RAR).
Very versatile and valuable ships: so much so, that Largs Bay was sold to Australia in 2010. Another casualty of the 2010 SDR fiasco.
Nice article. Enjoyable read. My money is on option 1 given the budget restrictions
I think these big landing ships have had there day, smaller stealthier boats are required for raiding parties. Most enemies will wipe out these boats before they get anywhere near the shore, with the many long range weapons land based and air craft missiles .12+ tx ships would be more usefull. If you need to land lots of kit in an area we have command and control of then rent a ro-ro.
Not sure we will be sending these ships to fight a peer millitary.., with weapons today it’s suicide, luckily enough we have 90% of world countrys we can use these on…
That’s my point, So why have them when we can rent a ro ro to do the job. For the humanitarian aid, hospital role etc HMS argos has proved it can do the job well they could probably do the mine sweeping mother ship role as well.
My question is what happens to the tasks that the Bay currently performs? Argus is going, the MCMVs are going and now we lose at least 1 Bay – so where are all these new Minesweeping drones etc going? Can we really afford to use T26 mission bays for minesweeping or re-task T31s? Will 4-5 T-32s cut it as drone motherships? It feels like we are focussing on doing a lot in 3 places whilst sacrificing the possibility of doing a little in a dozen.
Would it not be a better idea to convert the two laid up Point class than waste the money on converting the very capable Bay’s.