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Assuming she was to act as a replacement for Argus (perhaps named Unicorn after the WWII era support carrier?), what kind of budget would such a ship require? I’d have thought we’re looking anywhere between £200-500mn, which begs the question: another frigate to boost front line strength, or this to sustain and improve on an important capability that we’re about to lose?


Assuming the ELLIDA Multi-Role Support Ship is not meant to meet the Fleet Solid Support ships requirement, I’d vote for using the money for an additional frigate. Thing is, where would you get the RN personal, since retiring Argus frees up mostly RFA personnel (does free up some RN but not enough to crew an extra Type31)? If it’s the case that “the days of slow landing craft directly storming defended beaches are probably over”, I’d transfer the active LPD to the RFA, (freeing up enough to crew a new frigate), and man it with Argus’s mixed RN/RFA crew. You would probably need to spend some money to allow the LPD to better fit the Multi-Role Support Ship role, but there should be enough left over for an additional Type 31.


We paid of 5,000 sailors since 2010, we could and would get the manpower if we actually tried to, the government aren’t trying very hard with less available training places in all forces,


The RN crew for the frigates will largely be freed up from T23s with much larger crews. Based just on raw numbers (not taking into account required officers and specialists), trading 5 T23s for 5 T31s should free up hundreds of sailors to man other platforms (the two laid-up Darings mainly), but manning an additional T31 wouldn’t prove especially challenging.

For once, manpower isn’t the big issue. It’s the OTHER big issue, an insufficient budget. Even if the books were balanced and the budget increased, it seems unlikely that we could get both more frigates and additional auxiliaries.


If only the money would be spent on an extra frigate if we didn’t buy an Argus replacement but we all know it won’t, and Argus is very handy so she should get a replacement no matter what just fo4 the roles she can carry out,


It needs to be pointed out that Argus currently represents the UKs only easily deployable Role 3 facility, capable of parking near any conflict and providing UK levels of hospital care in theatre with a small airfield on the back. Even the QECs role 2 facility doesnt compare (Bastions hospital did but that’s gone now, and we are unlikely to set similar up again).
The choice between the unique capability that benefits all three branches of the service as well as provides a great but of soft power (remember Sierra Leone Ebola?) and a minor upgrade in capability for the RN surface fleet should be obvious.


It’s not really as clear cut as you make it sound. Argus is a brilliant asset, and obviously her role as a humanitarian and medical platform is important, but relatively speaking it’s of secondary importance. Given how hollow the surface fleet has become, an extra frigate would provide a monumental boost in morale, image, and capability that a replacement auxiliary just doesn’t offer.

Something else that tips the scales in favour of the frigate as well is the support for a separately funded hospital ship. There’s less need for a PCRS if you have a dedicated hospital ship that has the benefits of being protected by international law. So the arguement becomes large helicopter auxiliary versus surface combatant, and given the shortage of helicopters the frigate looks somewhat more useful.


That aft Phalanx has a really limited arc of fire.


Yes it does. Would require some modification to that position. I know it’s an” RFA type vessel” but Im always worried about how under ginned, sorry, gunned, the UK is.

Simon m

I would like the RN to procure two custom versions of these one to replace the Bay that should have never been sold and 1 to replace Argus. this would allow us to have 2 balanced ARGs to attach to CSG as well as greater amphibious lift in any potential high level conflict.

The BMT Caiman 90 should have been purchased years ago, but unfortunately the navy has been just trying to hang on to the amphibious capability so chance of investment was slim. The over the horizon concept has been around for years & led to osprey, LCAC, AAAV projects in to being in for the USMC these were all expensive and Indeed I don’t believe the later made it to reality?

This is likely the only option for future amphibious assault, unfortunately the RN has either sat on its hands, been distracted by carriers etc, negligent, or has been simply cash strapped. Hopefully with T31 signed amphibious capability needs to be the focus. I think most people agree the long term replacement for LPD should be LPH, however both Albion and Bulwark have a potential long life. By the looks of the RM they are now looking at elite small actions.

I am starting to think that the army needs to realise we are an island nation and the RAF offers limited deployability options as does chartering civilian vessels or relying entirely on RoRos. 16th air assault can’t provide all necessary capability that the UK needs.

In reality 3 commando would always have struggled to develop the firepower, protection etc. To provide a true land fighting force after initial landings. Also that the RN couldn’t provide a bigger force.
Even in the potential new guise recently outlined in the press the brigade could provide force entry enablement. Once entry has been made getting vehicles such as potentially those of strike brigades etc. Only requires specialist logistic knowledge and large follow up logistics. Ships such as LPD, LSD, Ellida, point class potentially LSS and craft such as LCU mk10 are all ideal for providing this. I would like to see the following in addition to Ellida purchase.

Telescopic/temporary hangers added to both LPDS, LSDs until LHDs come online and possibly decks on the point class.
A large number of Marinised CH47s
Puma replaced by new Merlin MK4 plus a smaller purchase of nh90
Purchase of Caiman 90 for LPDs
Consideration of hovercraft such as Griffon 8400TD and BHT types to increase flexibility of initial landing places
Retention of LCU mk10 in limited number for logistics
More purple exercises in UK waters with the UK army, RAF and RN in order to provide a larger deployable maritime land force.


Argus should be replaced it’s one of the most handy ships the UK has, and it can hold 7 choppers. And has a huge hospital.

Kevin Hastie

I agree, Argus is virtually a mini- helicopter carrier AND aid ship; it was used very effectively in the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Too useful not to replace……so, it probably wont be replaced because that is how our MPs operate!

Captain Nemo

It would possibly be interesting to see her allocated as a permanent hospital ship, to set precedent.


Not necessary. Argus’s medical facilities are on par with a UK hospital, and are effectively permanent. Designating it as a hospital ship would only create a nightmare of Geneva Convention issues surrounding her employment and arming.

Captain Nemo

Granted, I simply meant in terms of her being replaced she could meet the often visited requirement for a UK hospital ship and create an ongoing requirement for same.

Paul Blake

I think 2 of these to replace the Tides & Argus would be the best we could hope for, but will of course depend on budgets & other priorities.


Tides? U mean waves no?


Another good article, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the UK should be investing in an enhanced Karel Doorman class JLSS and buying 8 of them to replace the Albions, Bays, Argus, Ocean, Waves and Forts (8 to replace 12 ships).

The KD class is superior to this BMT design and given the RM’s new remit a KD with 2 S2S connectors and 4-8 CB90’s /Atlas would be a massive increase in capability.

Add in its 6 Merlin capable hangar, 2 chinook landing spots and potential to be configured as a hospital ship it is the clear leader in the Logistics/Amphibious/Mothership role and more than capable of providing full logistical support to our Frigates and indeed the carriers. This is on top of logistics capability that is on a par with a Tide class FFT.

They are not necessarily cheap at circa $400m each, but they do offer exceptional flexibility and capability that will reduce the amount of time they are tied up, as has happened to the Albion’s and Bays, and by purchasing a single class of ship for our logistics/ amphibious requirements we can drive costs down and keep a drumbeat going at 1 every 18 months or thereabouts.

Like others I want more combat vessels and the merging of the infrequently used amphibious requirement with a much used logisitics platform makes perfect sense to me.

To ensure we have the ability to have some depth we could have a fleet of 8 FLO-FLO’s replacing the Point class and the intended FLSS and by building mega modules (see Think Defence article on this – incredible) that turn them into a wide range of strategic assets such as FLSS, MCMV mothership, maintenance platform Hospital ship, FFT’s or even a Frigate transport ( They transported the damaged Arleigh Burkes to safety) this is both cost effective and strategic at the same time and one that can even be leased out as many yachts are transported on these ships at certain times of the year. In the scale of things they cost very little and with modules work in a similar manner to the BOXER 8×8 but on a far larger scale.

There is a real ability for the RN/RFA to significantly alter their cost profile whilst increasing its capability in both logisitics, amphibious and helicopter operations for no increase in hull numbers

Do they have the foresight – I think maybe they do.


According to wikipedia Karel Doormen are frigates?


They are not and it is a single ship of the Dutch navy

Check it out. It is a bit of everything. Loads of lane metres similar fuel load to a tide class. Ability to hanger 6 merlins or 2 chinooks with 2 landing spots and can launch amphibious craft

It is one hell of a ship and means when not in use as a helicopter carrier or amphibious asset or mothership it can take on a logistics role. This will prevent it being targeted for cuts as has happened with the albions whilst actually increasing our capability

Clearly it is a compromise but one I think works and releases funds to frigates


Not knocking the KD class, I agree it is a hell of a vessel, but one small correction. The fuel load is nothing like the Tides.

Wikipedia lists KD (supply ship variant obviously) as having…

“holding capacity of approx 8000 m3 of fuel, more than 1000 m3 of helicopter fuel, approx 450 m3 of potable water and approx 400 tonnes of ammunition and other supplies.”

… whereas for Tide it says …

“Tanks for diesel oil, aviation fuel (19,000m3) and fresh water (1,300m3)” .

Assuming the Wikipedia info is accurate for both classes then a Tide has a bit over twice the fuel load and about 3 times the water load of a KD supply ship. Not at all surprising since the Tides are dedicated tankers and can’t do pretty much any of the other stuff that a KD supply ship can do but just thought I should correct that one bit of your post.

John Clark

Packman, I have to agree with you.
We need far more flexible assets moving forward.
Albion and Bulwark will find themselves increasing at odds with a changing Royal Marine Corps, now ‘officially’ tilting away from Brigade assault capability ( something that’s not actually been possible anyway for a while).

We simply need to think in a different way.


Agree. A couple of years ago I suggested a fleet of 13 absalons each with 8 CB90s specifically to spread the risk of launching a brigade level assault whilst being able launch raids when necessary

I still think this is the way to go and would add a flex deck to our T31.

We need more assets not fewer larger ones as we need to be blue to sustain losses especially in the littorals of Scandinavia where we will be operating if push comes to shove

Time for the uk to become more asymmetrical in our approach and a t31 capable of deploying 4 cb90s and 2 merlins is a very potent weapon able to deliver a company of marines ashore as an example

Captain Nemo

Yes, you do sound like a broken record, lol, but you’re clearly passionate about the navy and your reasoning is sound, so you’re easily forgiven; well, that and we’re all kind of guilty of the same thing.
I’d like the navy to entertain the idea of a flex deck for a batch 2 T31, to better support vessels which don’t conform to the boat bays on the Arrowhead 140, returning Iver Huitfeldt to its Absalon roots and furthering my aim of plundering the MCM budget for frigates (and if you play that record backwards it kind of sounds like Elvis – A Little Less Conversation).
Kind regards, Nemo


Lee H on the ukdefencejournal site obviously thinks the same and has posted this. It’s worth reading.

As well as being a possible replacement for Argus and the Bays, Ellida looks to me like a candidate for a kind of ‘Black Swan’ replacement for the LPDs which might be built in built in numbers acknowledging the reality that in any future assault against shores defended by AShM will incur significant ship losses. As the saying goes, quantity has a quality all of its own.

Simon m

Thinking another way will get you 2 converted RoRo as they are simply cheaper than Karel Doorman. I don’t know the reason but I can only guess that the Falklands conflict influences the navy as they have had opportunity for more flexible designs such as KD and never taken it.

Simon m

ok having to type this in a separate program due to the horrible ads.

I am ready to be voted down

I like the Karel Doorman design, however the Ellida design offers several advantages

1 a large well dock for support logistical workhorses LCU & mexeflotes
2 a deck to support containers with the ability to offload to mexeflotes

These make it significantly more useful in amphibious ops and HADR etc.

However, the design needs to be slightly larger to include either bigger aviation support or equivalent medical facilities of Argus. However I would like it to have some crossover of the roles. I also would like consideration to greater hovercraft support

I would like to see:

1 vessel (medical primary) to replace Argus
1 vessel (aviation primary) to effectively replace the 4th bay sold to Australia

In regards to the previous comment it looks like the changes to the RM are happening whether we like it or not. If we don’t dedicate an army formation to amphibious landings we will simply lose all amphibious capability and there’s no point to CSG if you can’t follow it up.


I think the ship even at 200m is a little to short to achieve all the RN/RFA needs it to do, barely room for 2 helicopters -it needs a further 50m or so of length 20m aft and 30m for’rad – but most of all it needs to the case that RFAs like all RNships built here in the UK –

Simon m

I agree it needs to be bigger but the comments under the final image seems to indicate the possibility of 5 Merlin? if it could go to say to 225-250m it would be more like 6 or 7.

The other thing that I would change is the crane capacity if possible to 20 tonnes to enable a better range of vehicles to be offloaded if included as additional freight at the front.

As an a side I think UK mod should invest in marinising the Chinook as this would give a much greater maritime lift capability.


Is the era of specialist and role-specific military platforms (sea, land and air) now a thing of the 20th century, and also unaffordable in terms of cash, resources and people govern limited MOD funding and the extortionate price of current major combat platforms?

With the rapid evolution of innovative and cost effective surveillance and armaments technology available to most adversaries, unpredicatable threats popping up as enemies ‘out think and out manoeuvre’ our conventional military doctrines (dogmas?), with enemy tactics virally adapting faster and within our traditional OODA loop, shouldn’t the MoD move to rapidly adaptable and re-configurable platforms to match and react to today and tomorrow’s real-world charging threats?

Does the virally evolving threat environment require the majority of ships, vessels, boats, aircraft, UASs, etc, that contribute to RN operational effect to be more numerous, multi-role and rapidly role-adaptable? Why does the RN and RFA seem to limit its platform armaments to short-medium range guns and missiles that can react to a stand-off incoming threat, but not ‘reach out and outreach’ many adversaries?

A limited RFA and RN fleet suggests that support vessels need to be multi-role to sustain the fleet at sea, support various amphibious littoral combat operation scenarios, and contribute to UK’s humanitarian aid/disaster relief efforts. Maximise and sweat assets.

Many modern corvettes (the dreaded “C” word) are well armed, fast, multi-role, and operationally flexible –

“Smerch, a Nanuchka III-class corvette, displaces around 500 tons of water. After recent upgrades, Smerch boasts 30-millimeter and 76-millimeter guns, a battery of small surface-to-air missiles and Uran anti-ship missiles, which are equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s own Harpoon anti-ship missile.”

Even some new soviet ‘ice-breakers’ have long-reach surface attack cruise missiles and significant heli-borne and self-defence capability (out?)marching our DDs and FFs?

Given the era of swarm missiles, swarm fast well-armed gun boats and smaller combat vessels, silent subs, swarm UASs, hyper-sonic missiles, etc, is it now time for a reality check and re-balance of RN ships away from a few large, overly expensive, under-armed, swarm-vulnerable 20th Century-orientated platforms? The 21st Century requires a larger number of medium-smaller, faster, heavily armed, rapidly re-roleable, fast combat maritime platforms with smaller complements, larger ‘deployable dispersed footprints’, fleet attrition resilience, with wider area dominance and bigger punch and reach per platform.

Nature aptly demonstrates how a big and powerful adversary can be overcome by a pack of smaller, faster, well armed adversaries once they get within ‘range’ – .

There is operational depth, width, reach and attrition resilience in numbers. What funding and operational value and deterrent is a £1billion DD or FF alongside due to technical problems, lack of crew, or damaged in a conflict, where each loss to operational output takes out nearly 17% of a capability? Current 33-50% T45s available, ~ 50% T23s available? One £1billion FF or DD can only ‘influence’, ‘dominate’ or ‘cover’ a small area of ocean and airspace – the current limitations of our RN were well articulated in the STRN’s own article on the matter on 21 Jul 19 – .

It would appear that swarm, rapid, agile and operationally adaptable and flexible platforms are the strategy and operational effect needed for 21st Century navies with limited resources and the need to quickly technically and operationally adapt to a rapidly changing world threat and fluid adversary environment.

Will O

Russia may be updating it’s corvettes, doesn’t mean it’s shifting focus to small ship fleet as that article rather misleadingly implies, their larger ships are being updated & replaced too. They’ll actually have several fleets, with some very large ships indeed, Lider class etc. besides the Corvettes.

Iran isn’t remotely in the same league, it has loads of little boats in lieu of any real navy, it’s a terrible strategy except for skirmishing and trouble making in times of peace, every one of their boats is a sitting duck with no defence to speak of, they’ve no regard for the welfare of their crews.
They’re not limited in resorces either, quite the opposite. Iran’s economy is 80% state controlled, with around half under control of the IRGC (shell companies etc. lines are blurred) so they’re actually wasting a phenomenal amount of their nation’s resources & with very little to show for it. Not exactly something the UK should seek to emulate.

The UK has ‘swarms’ of it’s own already anyway, in the form of F35Bs.


It looks like a good concept ship that could be built in diffrent variants, however they are not replacements for the Albion class, I still say that the replacement for the Albions should be a HMAS Canberra type ship, preferable with F35B capability, two would be ideal but I would accept one.
The first issue of the Ellida multi-role-vessel to resolve is the helicopter hanger, if that could be increased in size to take four Merlins then that would be about right, possible the easy solution to that would be a 25 meter increase in lenght in the hanger area would fix the problem . I looked at the size of the dock not only could it take the suggested two Caiman-90s but it could for the assault role take four CB-90s of the Swedish navy instead, plus a further two in the boat bays. This means a 120 troops landing by fast attack assualt boat and a further 120 by the four Merlins in the light assault role, 240 troops total. You could also then have combinations for example four CB-90’s, one Caiman 90, two Merlins one Wildcat and an Apache, (If they can develop the folding rotor), 188 troops and 4 vikings and close support air cover in the medium assualt role. These ships have no capacity for the heavy assault role, however, if working together with a HMAS Canberra style ship which can land a armoured battlegroup of a 1000 men 12 battletanks (Challanger 2) and all its supporting units then they don’t need the heavy assault role. The area that is designated for the three stored helicopters could be used instead for the Scheiebel S-100, or the hanger could utilise that space. A Tier 3 hospital facility could replace a part of the vehicle deck In this configuration they would be good for the Forward Deployed Littoral Strike Ship concept that has been suggested for the Royal Navy. As a forward deployed Strike Ship its defensive armerment would need to be increased.
With an alteration to the hanger to take two Merlins they would be good replacements for the Bay class and in its current form but some improvements to the hospital facilities it could replace Argus.
With the current form and a part of the vehicle deck converted to medical facilities then they would be useful humanitarian/disaster aid role.
The Strike ship variants would be Royal Navy,the Bay/Argus replacements RFA and the humanitarian ships would be either RFA or a new National Rescue Force. The ships belonging to the NRF would be taken up by the RN/RFA in times of national emergency
There is the possibility that this vessel type could also work as a command and control ship equipped with VTOL UAV’s, SBS launch base and ROV’s.
That gives a total of 8-9 hulls at about £300-£350 million each, the only wish that I could have would be a 2-4 knot increase, the reason for that is so they could work with the LHD.
Yes I know where is the goverment going to find £3.15 billion, but just think about things, to build say 9 of these it would take 12-15 years so per year thats about £220 million per year, from that approx 40% will be returned to the treasury through direct tax such as income tax and indirect tax such as VAT or put a diffrent way one Starbuck coffee per household every two months. If built in the UK how many people would that employ in the ship building industry, supporting industries etc, for example if built in Liverpool it could regenarate the area, 12-15 years garanteed work can do wonders for an area. Again I know that is the cost to build them, you can expect the same cost again for operations over the lifespan of the ships, 25 years and then the same cost again plus 20% for replacements plus a crew of about 120 men for each ship plus a further 100 medical staff plus minus 20 depending if the facilities is Tier 1, 2 or 3.
All in all a good concept, a British design, British build that could find an international market.
Pacman. I know that you prefer the KD design and it does have many merrits, its helicopter facilities are better but it is missing the all important well-dock.
By the way does anyone know if it would be possible to have the F35 B with folding wings?

Will O

The Albions don’t need replacing for another 15 years. (Double checking, the S in STRN stands for SAVE, not scrap or sell)
I agree regarding LHDs, like the Canberras (or Italy’s new Trieste), only in addition to the Albion(s) not instead.
(Scrapping Albions, needlessly & before time, wouldn’t be at all popular)

Having just built Carriers, the UK has all the necessary skills & infrastructure to build LHDs, so make use of it whilst it’s all still in place. If left too long, more things will get sold off (like that Goliath crane) that will need replacing at greater cost.

The Amphibious capability is being terribly neglected, now down to just one Albion & one of the Bays. I see LHDs as restoring some capability lost with Ocean, Lusty (used like an LPH), Largs Bay, & the mothballed Albion.

I also agree that the RM should get ‘something like’ the CB90, but not necessarily that, testing them was sensible.
Perhaps Baglietto’s MNI-15/FFC might suit a little better (as Italy plans to use with the Trieste).
I don’t see that for ELLIDA much would be gained by having those instead of Caimen 90s, but in place of the LCVPs in the boat bays, maybe. They’d offer less capacity, but would possibly be better matched with the Caimen90s in the well dock, & also MNI-15s can be differently configured. Would all depend how ELLIDA was intended to be used.

Why millitarise ELLIDA for amphibious support anyway?
ELLIDA lends itself to disaster relief, as do the Bays, but ELLIDAs as ‘aid ships’ could, like a hospital ship, potentially be funded through the aid budget if there’s the political will (& there should be, with an election soon). Not feasible to fund that way if too heavily millitarised, perhaps why BMT left out ordinance supply.


Would make a good hospital ship, let’s get one built at camel laird now. Or two so ones always available. Hell let’s build 6 in a row and sell 4 abroad, they will sell if kitted up the great british way

Will O

I have a question, if the life rafts are the orange things, what are the small boxes under the cranes? (not the shipping containers lol)
I’d assumed those to be life rafts (eg. MES) till I saw the other life rafts.
100 capacity on each side isn’t enough if it’s expected to carry 350 troops?


Ok the first question to be asked is what is a Multi Role Support Ship? Is it a ship that has amphibious ability, stores ability, unmanned automated ability or fighting ability, even a combination.
I know what I would build and how but that would mean a ship of about 8-10,000 tons. We can also base the MRSS/T32 on two designs that we have building at the moment.
Lets start with the T31 design, well thats simple this class is based on the Iver Huitfeldt of the Danish Navy, the IH is based on the Absalon class which is a multi role combat ship. Give this ship a RAS point and now she can be a soild store supply ship. To achive my thinking the forward 35mm to be removed and replaced with Sea Ceptor. Three BAE 40mm guns to be installed one on the hanger and two Port Starboard a half a deck lower than the Sea Ceptor location. In the Amphib role it would mean 200-250 RM landing force by both helicopter and fast assault boats such as the SB-90, in the frigate role a five inch gun, three 40mm guns, two 30mm with LMM 48 Sea Ceptors and 8 anti ship missiles, possilbly we could install a single block of Mk41s for extreme long range 500 km+ land attack missiles. Oh and don’t forget the 200-250 RMs. So now to supplys, with two RAS points either two port or one port and one starboard the transport decks could carry dry stores for ships, they would also have the ability to use helicopter lift or landing craft.
By using this design concept we could have 6-8MRSS and 5 T32s as mother ship, supply ship, amphib capabile ships with a medium frigate weapons load, which would also be good for independent commands and humanitarian tasks. I would thyink that this type of ship would be about half the price of a T26. I also forgot to menton that this type woul havea ASW ability as she could carry two helicopters and use the aft open deck structure for a towed array.

The second design possibility is the T26, keep her forward half (rear of main funnel forward) as she is but the rear half converted to open deck for RM equipment, ROVs containers etc. However I think this would be more expensive and not as flexible.

So my conclusion is to redesign the T31 along the lines of the Absalon, stretch her midships by 10-15m and install a collapasable RAS point Starboard. Build a dozen of these ships and you have your multi role combat ship, multi role support ship, mothership and humanitarian ship not forgeting an independent self supporting attack ship.