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Fat Dave

It’s becoming increasing evident that xgovt recognises the carriers are obsolete and unaffordable. The only thing stopping the government from getting rid of the wretched things is the perceived blow to national prestige.
They have served their political purpose, which was to sustain jobs in Scotland.
It’s almost certain that PoW will be mothballed and that the rest of the F-35 purchase will be the more capable A land based variant.
Nevertheless, that stills burdens the RN with one expensive and manpower-intense carrier, that has no credible military power.
As a consequence, the RN will remain focussed on supporting one obsolete carrier, instead of being able to fund and man a balanced fleet for the future.

DaveyB

Can you please explain why the carrier is obsolete, unaffordable and has no credible military power?

Humpty Dumpty

Wow, can’t believe the OP got so many down votes. I don’t understand why he wrote what he did in the comment section relating to an article about multi-role support ships, but I don’t understand 81 down votes either.

Aside from the fact that the 2 carriers were hideously expensive to build, they’re going to be hideously expensive to operate and maintain as well (and that goes for the F-35Bs too). And the aftermath of coronavirus is going to make the affordability of both the carriers and the F-35s even more questionable.

Plus the carriers have woeful self-defence. 3 Phalanx (possibly 4), DS30Ms and miniguns. The last two are just to provide protection from fast attack craft with the Phalanx supposed to provide protection from anti-ship missiles (I think this ageing system would struggle against the faster missiles). I’d fit Sea Ceptor to the carriers and replace Phalanx with the Oerlikon Millennium Gun. Its smart airburst ammo sends out a cone of 152 tungsten projectiles and so is more likely to take out a missile than Phalanx is (compare using a shotgun to a rifle). I suppose you could argue that the Phalanx has more stopping power and that’s probably true, but in that case that would be an argument to replace Phalanx with Goalkeeper imo. Then you could have 2 Millennium Guns and 2 Goalkeepers for example if you want. Plus why don’t our carriers have any decoys (e.g. Seagnat, MASS, IrvinGQ off-board floating decoys), SSTD or an ECM suite like Nimitz carriers do (AN/SLQ-32 Version 4)? (I don’t know what the Fords have in the way of ECM.)

Anyway, a carrier is only as good as the aircraft it carries. How many F-35Bs will each carrier carry? I’ve read various figures depending on whether it’s peacetime or wartime that’s being referred to: 12, 24, 36 (and I’m not sure if 36 includes USMC F-35Bs or not). I think currently we only have about 17 F-35Bs in total. 24 or 36 F-35s (plus helicopters) would be OK I suppose, 12 would be just laughable on such large ships. The trouble though is that the F-35 is a very poor aircraft. It doesn’t excel at anything. It’s not an air superiority fighter. It’s a poor dogfighter. It carries very little ordnance internally (carrying it externally undermines its stealth), which means it’s a poor bomber and in a BVR fight (assuming that the ROEs even allow missiles to be fired BVR because of the risk of fratricide) it’ll be out of missiles very soon. But worse, it’s riddled with hundreds of unresolved problems and could be in the boneyard as early as 2026:

https://www.pogo.org/investigation/2019/03/f-35-far-from-ready-to-face-current-or-future-threats/

“Prior to beginning the operational testing phase, officials had also failed to properly address 941 design flaws during the program’s development phase, with 102 listed as “Category I” flaws that “may cause death [or] severe injury,” or lead to major damage to the aircraft or seriously inhibit combat effectiveness. As POGO reported, rather than taking the proper corrective actions, program officials made paperwork adjustments in a series of meetings during the summer of 2018 to make some design flaws, like one involving the emergency transponder and another with the F-35A’s emergency tailhook, appear to be less serious “Category II” deficiencies.”

“During durability testing, the Marine and Navy F-35s have suffered so many cracks and received so many repairs and modifications that the test planes can’t complete their 8,000-hour life-expectancy tests. The Marine version’s airframe life could be so short that today’s F-35Bs might end up in the boneyard as early as 2026, 44 years before the program’s planned 2070 sunset.”

So come 2026 we could potentially be up the proverbial creek without a paddle. If the carriers had cats and traps, then come 2026 we could buy Rafale Ms and/or Sea Gripens. But they don’t, so we can’t.

Not that it really matters though because no carrier has aircraft with sufficient range when it comes to a near-peer or peer enemy. A carrier group will look to stay far out to sea out of the reach of the longest-ranged land-based anti-ship missiles, which will mean that the F-35Bs won’t have the range to reach land. The MQ-25 refuelling drone might fix this problem in the future, except it requires cats and traps to take off and land, which the QE and POW don’t have. And even if they did, and they could launch F-35Cs and MQ-25s, the F-35 carries so little ordnance internally that it won’t be able to inflict much damage when/if it reaches its target. Even if it successfully destroys its target, I seriously doubt it’s coming home. And the whole idea of 4th gen aircraft acting as missile/bomb trucks flying to the rear of the F-35s won’t work in such a scenario since the 4th gen fighters will get shot out of the the sky the moment they get within reach of the enemy’s air-defence systems and its fighters. To survive in well-defended airspace you need to be a very stealthy plane (or drone) and have an excellent EW suite and even then your survival isn’t guaranteed. Going up against sophisticated air defence systems using multiple networked radars operating at multiple frequencies combined with a lot of computing power means that a stealth aircraft can not only be detected, but a missile lock can probably be achieved. Or if not, the enemy will have a pretty damn good idea about the stealth aircraft’s location and the enemy will send up fighters to the general area to look for the stealth plane. An F-35 might manage to shoot down 1 enemy aircraft, possibly 2, but then it’s out of air-to-air missiles and a sitting duck.

Plus the F-35B is ridiculously expensive at over $166 million a pop: https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2019/11/deceptive-pentagon-math-tries-to-obscure-100-million-price-tag-for-f-35/

“Using the Navy’s charts and the same math shows that the real costs for each F-35C is more than $123 million, while each F-35B costs in excess of $166 million. But even that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. None of this factors in the research and development costs of the program.”

The UK was supposed to be buying 138 F-35s, but because of their high purchase price (and their high flying and maintenance costs), I highly doubt that we’ll buy that many. I think we’ll buy 48 max and they’ll all be the B variant. We’re developing Tempest, so why would we want to spend money on the F-35A, which is less bad than the B and C variants, but certainly isn’t good. It would make more sense imo to upgrade all our Typhoons that are capable of being upgraded to Tranche 3A: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurofighter_Typhoon_variants#Tranche_3A
I’d also like us to buy Gripens to boost our fighter numbers. They’re relatively cheap to buy, fly and maintain and they’d be ideal for UK defence and Falklands defence. They can also take off from and land on roads, which is a huge plus in wartime when runways are being bombed.

Anyway getting back to the topic of surface ships, they’re hugely vulnerable to subs, mines and anti-ship missiles. If a war broke out with a near-peer or peer enemy, I can’t see our surface ships surviving for very long. Some say the future is subs and drones and I agree with that view: https://www.investors.com/news/aircraft-carriers-more-sinkable-but-hard-to-kill-off/
“Pentagon officials maintain aircraft carriers are not obsolete. But skepticism is on the rise among think tanks and is even reaching Capitol Hill. In 2016, the Center for a New American Security urged canceling the Ford program after the second ship and boosting drone aircraft and submarines instead. And in December 2018, a Congressional Budget Office report titled “Stop Building Ford Class Aircraft Carriers” weighed canceling the program after three ships.”

Maybe one day railguns and lasers will be perfected and make it possible to take out anti-ship missiles cheaply and effectively. But until that happens, surface ships will continue to be very vulnerable to this threat.

And that still leaves the sub threat. That’s why DARPA developed Sea Hunter (which one day may be armed). The Arcims surface drone can already help surface ships find subs and South Korea has developed an underwater drone to do the same thing (again, maybe these will be armed one day):
https://www.atlas-elektronik.com/solutions/unmanned-naval-systems/arcims.html
https://www.forbes.com/sites/hisutton/2019/10/27/worlds-first-submarine-killing-autonomous-underwater-robot/

There are other drones that are either being developed or that already exist.

To my mind it would make more sense to build more Astute subs rather than Type 26s. The Type 26 will probably be the most advanced anti-sub vessel ever developed, but I still think enemy subs will have the upper hand most of the time. A Type 26 and/or its Merlins might manage to destroy a sub or two, but in a full-scale war with a peer or near-peer enemy (or enemies), I can’t see the Type 26s surviving for long. And the same goes for the Type 45 destroyers and the carriers. Manned subs would be more survivable in a war and could take out enemy subs, surface ships and fire TLAMs at land-based targets.

It would also make sense imo to build quiet diesel-electric/AIP subs for home waters defence (especially Faslane and the GIUK gap) as well as the Falklands and Gibraltar. These could be complemented by land-based Typhoons and Poseidons.

David

Almost all of what you write is sad but true. Sadly there is very little support here for anything other the BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin counting UK taxpayers cash while laughing in the background.

Humpty Dumpty

David, as far as I’m concerned the F-35 is a scam. It doesn’t have a realistic role against peer or near-peer enemies as far as I can see and survivability in hostile airspace is questionable. Plus as I said, it carries so little ordance internally, it can only inflict very limited damage even if it manages to reach its target. Lockheed has a history of bribery and that’s the only way this aircraft got built as far as I can tell. It’s a badly conceived aircraft and badly executed.

It would make far more sense imo to develop extremely long-ranged, extremely stealthy UAVs with excellent EW suites to carry out missions over hostile territory (and when I say excellent EW suites I mean as good as or better than a Growler’s capability and built in such a way that it’s easily upgradeable as improvements in EW are developed). If the drones have sufficient range then an aircraft carrier isn’t needed. If an aircraft carrier isn’t needed, then its escort ships to protect it aren’t needed either.

Imo we should also be building more nuclear-powered manned attack subs and at the same time investing heavily in R&D to develop extremely long-ranged diesel-electric AIP subs that carry a mix of lightweight torpedoes to take out smaller vessels and fast, long-ranged heavyweight torpedoes to take out the larger vessels, as well as extremely long-ranged ground attack missiles (TLAM doesn’t have enough range for all the jobs it could potentially be used for, plus it’s not stealthy and it could probably do with being faster).

Plus it would also make sense to build vast numbers of extremely long-ranged decoy missiles (like MALD but with far greater range) to make the enemy use up precious anti-air missiles before the real attack begins. These decoy missiles could be ground launched, air launched or sub launched. Mix in some real missiles with the decoy missiles to keep the enemy on their toes.

Anyway, we need to (a) think outside of the box in terms of how naval warfare has traditionally been carried out, (b) invest heavily in R&D, (c) break up the monopolies of the large arms industries and introduce some real competition, (d) allow the RN to shop around for the best tools for the job and (e) sack any MP who is caught accepting bribes from an arms company.

David

Yes, the F35 is largely a scam, as is the concept of “stealth”. Every radar built in the battle of britain (long wave length radars) would be capable of detecting the F35.

Read “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex” by William Hartung.

Humpty Dumpty

Well stealth reduces the range at which an aircraft can be locked onto by a missile. All low-frequency radars (and civilian air traffic control radars) can detect stealth planes, but getting a missile lock is another matter. That’s why I mentioned sophisticated air-defence systems using multiple radars operating at multiple frequencies combined with powerful computers (to filter out clutter). Plus if the radars are spread out over a large area then you can benefit from triangulation. Also the F-35 is less stealthy viewed from the sides, top, bottom and rear and its engines of course can be detected using IRST (well the whole airframe can be since it heats up when flying due to friction flying through the air; this applies to any aircraft).

I don’t think stealth is a scam, but it’s not the silver bullet some think it is. And it certainly doesn’t make planes invisible as the Oompa-Loompa-in-Chief seems to think.

I think the F-35 is a scam though because I don’t think it can survive in hostile airspace, which is what it was built to do. Plus the F-35B and F-35C don’t have adequate range when taking off from carriers. It’s also ridiculously expensive to buy, fly and maintain, it has an atrocious fully mission capable rate and an atrocious sortie rate. Plus the F-35B as I said could be in the boneyard as early as 2026, followed by the F-35C.

David

In reality, very few planes have been shot down historically by radar-guided missiles. Partly because they are not very reliable or accurate, but mainly because you actually need to visually identify the plane first to make sure it is really an enemy and not a friend. By the time you do this, guns or heat seeking missiles become much more useful, since you are often too close to launch a radar guided missile anyway. The F35B has no gun and the A version has a pathetic amount of ammunition for only a one or two second burst. In testing, the gun also does not fire straight. In considering the concept of “stealth”, infrared and visual signature are therefore more important. The F35 is likely more vulnerable to heat seeking missiles than other planes because of it’s huge engine.

Humpty Dumpty

David:

“In reality, very few planes have been shot down historically by radar-guided missiles.”
Source?
Plus range makes a huge difference. The shorter the range, the more likely a missile is to hit its target. BVR missiles don’t historically have great kill rates because they take time to reach their target and that gives the aircraft being fired at time to deploy countermeasures and/or perform evasive manoeuvres. Meteor might change that though assuming the ROEs allow it to be fired.

“Partly because they are not very reliable or accurate…”
Source?

“… but mainly because you actually need to visually identify the plane first to make sure it is really an enemy and not a friend.”
Depends on the ROEs.

“The F35B has no gun…”
The F-35B and F-35C can be fitted with an external gun pod.

“… and the A version has a pathetic amount of ammunition for only a one or two second burst.”
The F-35A with an internal gun carries 182 rounds. The B and C variants with the external gun pod can carry 220 rounds. Admittedly that’s not much considering the high rate of fire of the guns.

“In testing, the gun also does not fire straight.”
Yeah, I’ve read that about the F-35A. The gun shoots long and to the right.

“In considering the concept of “stealth”, infrared and visual signature are therefore more important.”
I don’t know what you mean by “visual signature”, but IRST can certainly play a role in detecting stealth aircraft. I wouldn’t say IRST is more important than radar though, since both play a role in detecting stealth aircraft. And as I said, a sophisticated radar-based IADS could not only detect stealth aircraft, but probably achieve a missile lock as well.

“The F35 is likely more vulnerable to heat seeking missiles than other planes because of it’s huge engine.”
I’d say any aircraft is vulnerable to heat-seeking missiles if it presents its engine(s) to the enemy’s infrared sensors.

David

Pretty much all air to air kills of the Falklands War were with sidewinder (heat seeking missile).

AIm-9 Sparrow lethality through to around 1980 including Vietnam War was approximately 8% in terms of missiles fired vs hit (cannons and heat seeking missiles obviously much higher).

http://pogoarchives.org/labyrinth/09/08.pdf

Granted a fair percentage of Iran’s kills in the Iran-Iraq war were with radar guided missiles, also cannon and heat seeking:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iranian_aerial_victories_during_the_Iran–Iraq_war

Same Gulf War, a mix of all three (however very one sided affair, so not really realistic as US+Allies had way more planes and firing attempts).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_engagements_of_the_Gulf_War

Not much air to air combat has occured since then to come up with meaningful statistics.

Humpty Dumpty

“Pretty much all air to air kills of the Falklands War were with sidewinder (heat seeking missile).”
Why are you bringing that up? Your original comment was about radar-guided missiles.

“AIm-9 Sparrow lethality through to around 1980 including Vietnam War was approximately 8% in terms of missiles fired vs hit …”
Do you mean AIM-7 Sparrow?

When looking at statistics for air-to-air missiles, there are a few factors you have to take into account:
– What are the ROEs?
– What range are the missiles being fired at (short range, medium range, long range)?
– What level of training do the pilots have?
– What aircraft is firing the missile and what aircraft is being fired at?
– Did the aircraft being fired at have a towed decoy?
– Did the aircraft being fired at deploy countermeasures (chaff, flares)
– What sort of ECM did the aircraft being fired at have?
– Did the aircraft being fired at engage in evasive manoeuvres?
– And probably other factors I’m not aware of.

Tom

You know that the RAF Commodore and RN Rear Admiral who recommend the F35B as the plane the UK should buy now both work for Lockheed Martin. They both took VP positions after they took early retirement from the armed forces.
And even more scandalous is the civil servant who steered it through government is now the liaison guy for Lockheed in the MoD .

David

It’s not completely out of the question that not only will the carrier(s) be mothballed, but the UK’s Navy will look something like Ukraine’s in 20 years time. Their Navy was actually not dissimilar to Britain’s current Navy in 1991. This is probably a worst case scenario although entirely conceivable. Here’s how things could play out:

– UK’s budget deficit continues to be structurally large. Politicians find it politically untenable to remove promises for increased welfare spending made during coronavirus. As a result national debt continues increasing substantially year on year. Bank of England resorts to money printing, although this substantially dilutes middle class of country, destabilises economy and causes political upheaval. Tax base substantially reduced through coronavirus affects for years.
– As a result of economic destabilisation, secessionist movements grow. Scotland leaves, with increased support for independence in Wales and Northern Ireland. (Same as happened in Soviet Union and Yugoslavia once economy started declining).
– After Scotland leaves, little political support in England for importing ships from Scotland. As a result, government cancels new orders.
– Scottish government expels Trident force from their territory. As a result substantial expense would occur in relocating to England. Government could either react by scrapping submarines, missiles and nukes, or making substantial cuts elsewhere to pay for the relocation.

I am not trying to be negative and predict doom, although I don’t think any of these scenarios are out of the question. If I were the Navy, I would be making contingency plans for all of them.

4thwatch

Do you work full or part time for a foreign power or the BBC?

Meirion X

@Troll D
This article is about Multi role ships, Not Scottish independence or carriers!

You know F**k all about macro economies!!

You did Promise last year you wouldn’t post again here!

Gavin Gordon

On the principal of glass half full, one benefit of having the RN look something like Ukraine’s could be the reduction in overall basing cost, as the Russians have kindly taken on the task of looking after some of Ukraine’s vessels for the forseeable future; and that without even being asked.

Trevor Holcroft

You use Yugoslavia as a template?

Paul H

‘Almost certain’? Where do you get that from?

Paul

Far from being obsolete, carriers are the ongoing future in an increasingly unstable world where you simply cannot rely on a friendly airfield being available. No credible military power? An airgroup comprised of 5th generation stealth war planes makes our carriers a damn sight more capable than a lot of others with the ability to deploy airpower in the most fiercely contested skies anywhere. As for us buying the F35A, yes the RAF would like that, but we only went into the F35 programme to provide aircraft for the carriers, and will place a further order for F35Bs to ensure we can fully field the aircraft in sfficient numbers, before we will ever consider an order for the A.
It has been suggested that to address future requirements our overall buy could be increased, but a lot depends on the development of Tempest.

Meirion X

@Troll FD
Another Troll that’s sprouts utter Nonsense!
Nothing new as usual from him!!

Anyway, this article was not specifc about the carriers!

Rick

Fat Dave, you don’t know what your talking about.

Gavin Gordon

Do you ever read the opinions of the majority of people with any knowledge of what they are talking about, or is that too complex a concept for you, FD?

Airborne

Oh dear how sad, you have no clue or experience of military matters. I wonder what other avatars you use on other military comment sites.

Andy

I’m an amateur in this field but even I recognise either u are foreign troll or just ignorant, could u justify any of your statements about carriers, f35 or any of it

Sunmack

Yeah, a load of F35 A’s sat on an airfield in East Anglia is exactly what the country needs. Whst potential threat could there be to UK security that’s not in range of East Anglia?

Meirion X

The reason the European AF’s are procuring F-35A’s is due to their nuclear role.
The RAF does not have that role anymore.

Duker

The F35A and F35B have the same nuclear capability, its not something left out for Nato buyers, although UK may not have that software activated.

Once the RAF Nimrod had nuclear depth bombs along with Sea King and Lynx, The UK Army had nuclear capable Lance missile batteries. It wasnt just an RAF strike aircraft thing for tactical nuclear missiles.

Cam

True, nuclear depth charges for the a Royal Navy also.

Meirion X

You are right a F-35B could carry two WE 177 if the UK decided to reinstate them. They come in at about the weight limit for F-35B.
And as you say a software upgrade is required to deploy them.
I not sure were the WE 177s completely dismantled?

Meirion X

I very much doubt that the UK will reinstate tactical nuclear weapons!

D J

There is no such thing as tactical nuclear weapons. As soon as you hit the nuke button it’s back to the Stone Age for all of us (if you’re lucky). If you play with fire you will get burnt. One thing I will agree on, UK nuclear deterrent is just that. Anything else in the nuke weapons field is a waste of time. Any nation that hits the nuke button first will no longer exist. UK on its own is capable of rendering any nation on earth uninhabitable. So can France. US , Russia, China -> the planet, even if that not who they were aiming for. It’s a dead end game.

Cam

The RN can man both carriers, and they are far from obsolete, they give Britain more options than any other asset we have! And most of the carriers parts were built in England they were just put together in scotland! The OPVS were built to sustain scottish jobs though and I’m glad they were as ones based in the Caribbean freeing up frigates and ones in the Falklands. And I’m not sure about less F35s being ordered, the timescales involved dictates we won’t ever have them all operational so will need new replacements for our current ones. I would like to see a follow on order of f35as though say 40 odd for the RAF.

Darren

You are a dangerous person.

Paul Blake

I can see the sense in a common MRSS design (like ELLIDA) to replace the Forts & Waves (ideally 3/4 hulls) but think we need a separate LPD to replace the Bays & Argus (Damen Enforcer or similar, again 3/4 hulls) & ideally an LPH (2 x the BAE design for example) to replace Albion & Bulwark if we are to maintain any credible amphibious capability.

SteveyBoy

The Bays are already a derivative of the enforcer design modified for the RFA

D J

I would suggest that perhaps with Brexit et al, it would be a good idea to try working with traditional allies such as Canada/Australia/New Zealand etc & stop the idea of trying to do it alone. Australia is more than happy with it’s existing Bay class. It too, will need replacing around the same timeframe. Australia is also talking about a Pacific Support Ship (whatever exactly that means), presumably something somewhere between a hospital ship & a bay class. Ships need to be designed, built, crewed etc. This doesn’t have to be all the same country.

The most important time for the Northern Hemisphere is the opposite for the Southern Hemisphere. A ship operating in the Caribbean in hurricane season could also be operating in the Southern Pacific in the cyclone season. Two ships could have considerable crossover as the peak for each is roughly 6 months apart. The same is true for the Indian Ocean.

Start thinking out side the square. Start thinking of how to maximise the capital expenditure already outlaid. Does it really matter if a ship is RFA crewed, RN crewed, RAN crewed, RCN crewed or RNZN crewed or all of the above at the same time plus a few locals? I realise that legally there are a few problems, but stop reinventing the wheel. Is there such a thing as a commonwealth flagged ship?

You can do a lot with a common hull if you give some thought to what you are doing. The Danes even managed a frigate out of a support ship.

Killian

Hi DJ,

Very sound points made, however do take into consideration a few logistical issues which arise from having a cross naval support vessels which operate at request or can be re crewed at request.
By having a vessel which can be recrewed with other country’s crews or a vessel which could be requested on operation which is someone else’s creates a major issue of simply, availability.

If we plan to complete an operation at short notice or even with plenty of notice where we require said vessel, which fully requires that ship to be available to us, however other countries could have similar ideas and operations planned at the same time. Additionally, what happens when the host country does not agree with your political opinion and does not want to make the vessel available to you so as to prevent you from proceeding with the planned operation.

This very topic came up and will continue to come up in the conversation around our aircraft carriers, rather than about support ships it was more on the lines of frigates and destroyers to provide protection while out on operations. I feel like the opinion by senior naval staff and government for that issue can easily answer this issue as well and that is that the RN should stand independently to other naval forces to allow us full flexibly while on operation, however we should continue with cross naval service operations with the US, Norway, Germany and so on.

I’d like to add, I’m no expert and this is my own personal opinion on the back of opinions seen in interviews and government meetings accessible on YouTube.

D J

Killian

Thank you for your reply. I take your points regarding full combat naval ships. I was refering more to the ships doing what is basically HADR duties, especially with both the talk of a UK Aid ship & Australia’s talk of building a Pacific Support Ship. They sound very similar, both in likely size & use. UK often sends a Bay class to the Caribbean for their hurrican season. In both these cases, the host country (UK or Australia) would still own the relevent ship. However I do not see any reason why some crew members cannot be from local or other allies. I can’t see why the RAN Pacific Support Ship cannot also operate in the Caribbean & vice versa. If one of these ships on HADR were to be sent off on an actual military operation, it will likely need additional/different crew & change of cargo anyway. If they use the same design with the same equipment, so much the better. Getting a nation to fill in a HADR spot is a lot easier than getting them to fill in a military spot. Its helpfull if they already have people familiar with that role in that place.

There is already some exchange personell with various navies, however they tend to be one or two people. Why can’t you (for example) have a full RCN medical team on a UK Aid ship (or current Bay class) operating in the Caribbean or off the West African coast?

I can see the point re aircraft carriers & frigate/destroyers on non peacetime operations. However in peacetime operations & wartime coalition operations, its pretty common to have a couple of allied ships in attendance. You just don’t want to be reliant on (can’t operate without) that support & it always being available.

ATH

The basic question is do we keep a heavy amphibious capability. If we decide that the sort of scale deeded to do opposed landings is to expensive then that changes the balance of ships needed.

Molinelli Gabriele

F*** it big time. Scrap the whole thing and flog on Fort Victoria for as long as practicable.
And reactivate the second LPD instead of this nonsense.
Costs less and avoids a massive downgrade.

This nonsense about blokes on a few boats “raiding” must end. I’m not playing along with this. They are on the verge of cancelling the nation’s amphibious capability. It is a cut, and has nothing, NOTHING to do with future, innovation and any other nice word.

ATH

Real world.
After Corona there will be cuts.
The most likely thing to go is heavy amphibious.
The future of the RM is raiding, boarding and ships security.

Sjb1968

I fundamentally disagree with your argument. If cuts need to be made it should be to scrap some of the undeployable, useless and under strength British army infantry battalions. If you see the bigger picture beyond inter service budgets you do not knee cap some of your best units and their specialist amphibious capability. They tend to be the first units we deploy in a conflict and provide a huge number of personnel to our special forces. To reduce their role and numbers because they happen to be in the RN budget is militarily insane and should be challenged and not just accepted because cuts need to be made!

The RM’s and their specialist kit are expensive but having the best tends to cost more. If a business faced with the same type of decision got rid of their best staff and kit first or all those in one department because they cost more they would go bust very quickly.

Meirion X

@Sjb
Thanks for your good argument in favour of amph.

SD67

I tend to agree. Heavy amphib is a unique national asset, light infantry can be provided by virtually anyone in NATO

ATH

Getting rid of “under strength infantry battalions” doesn’t save much money but it would still be a good idea.
Changing the roll of the RM is not the same as reducing it. More emphasis on small unit ops would actually increase their skills and make them an even better source of special forces personnel.
Getting rid of the heavy amphibious assault capability is based on the idea that modern defences mean that it would not be used.

Sjb1968

ATH only someone militarily incompetent, however, would consider reducing the RMs overall capability whilst not taking a harder look at less effective forces within the U.K. military. I would also assume that all those Amphibious assault vessels recently built by Spain, Australia, China, France, Italy, Turkey, Singapore and of course the USA are obsolete and we are somehow ahead of the game.
Of course as long as land is near water and we make war on one another, amphibious warfare will be required. It evolves of course but what is being discussed is loosing the best amphibious capability in terms of expertise behind that of the USA. It is a simple cut and nothing else, so don’t be fooled by jargon or wonder weapons because we have always had them and found something to counter them.

Geo

This is a bit awkward, but ….. firstly, the new (as of mid last year) Commandant of the USMC actually is of the opinion that large amphibious ships are, if not exactly obsolete then, at least obsolescent, and that future ship building should focus on medium ships, although to be fair their mediums amphibious ships are everyone else’s large ships. His viewpoint is mainly driven by the possible need to fight through a South China Sea that is full of islands that have been fortified by the PLAN and which, as the ultimate stone frigates can deny large areas of sea to an approaching amphibious force. Here is his “Planning Guidance”, it’s going to shape USMC thinking for a few years so the whole thing is worth a read but the Force Design chapter (p 4-5) is particularly relevant to this conversation:
https://www.marines.mil/Portals/1/Publications/Commandant's%20Planning%20Guidance_2019.pdf?ver=2019-07-17-090732-937

Here is an American commentary on the above document:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/29608/marine-bosss-audacious-plan-to-transform-the-corps-by-giving-up-big-amphibious-ships

Another article from the same source (the author incidentally is a former USN Seahawk pilot), going into further detail:

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/30003/top-marines-transformational-plan-manifesting-itself-in-talk-of-smaller-ships-f-35-buy-changes. (the bit about reducing the F35 B buy in favour of more F35C airframes should be of some concern to everyone posting about using USMC assets to bulk out the HMS QE and PoW airwings).

Secondly, while I don’t have time to go through the STRN archive for the exact article, somewhere toward the start of Gavin Williamson’s term as Sec State Defence there was a proposal from – and this is the key bit – INSIDE THE RN, to save money by substantially reducing the RM (and consequently the RN’s amphibious element) IOT use the money elsewhere, it was Williamson that beat it back at the time. I remember making a mental note of it ,that the admirals were willing to throw the RM under the bus to save the RN’s other missions/assets and and being slightly uncomfortable with the idea (for much the same reasons SJB 1968 outlined above) but frankly if the admirals are convinced that it will come to this and are prepared to do it, as they seemed to be a few years ago then it will happen, like it or not.

Waddi

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1199250/Royal-Marines-news-rebrand-elite-force

This is the best article on the RMC reorganisation from a not usually very authoritative source! To me it is pretty clear that a “heavy” amphibious force is no longer part of long term planning. An air based light infantry/special forces hybrid seems to be the idea. That would point to no LPDs and a carrier focus, which to be brutally honest makes sense. A Bv90 based amphibious force with no amour, no AAM capability, not even turreted 30mm is pretty limited in its capability.

Sjb1968

Waddi it doesn’t make any sense at all military but if enough people say It then does that make it correct. 3 Commando Brigade was always a light force but was fundamentally weakened in 2010 because all the services had to share some financial pain. There was no military logic in what has been done to the RM’s and they are wide open to further reductions.
In my opinion this is because the MOD and senior naval leaders are trying to cover over ever widening gaps between their rhetoric, need for gold plated equipment and financial realities. It is time for some honesty on what as a nation we want to do because salami cuts cannot go on much longer.
I for one would suggest a maritime focused defence posture is the starting point for an island nation and plan from their and not how do we spread the pain.

Meirion X

The Question is, can an air assault by helo be launched in bad weather, fog, heavy rain or a bit too windy?
Maybe Not so!
An amphibious assault could be launched in unfavourable weather?
Maybe!
Those sitting in a Treasury desk most likely don’t know about this.

Duker

D Day was dependent on the the right weather window and was Eisenhower’s toughest decision

Trevor Holcroft

D Day? We also had 100% airpower and intelligence that gave us the full OOB of the Germans and full array of maps.
It was a forced opposed invasion and losses despite all that were heavy.

Under what circumstances would we send our troops into an opposed invasion?

The purpose of “amphibious” ships, of what ever type, is to land troops in places that have no appropriate port but are friendly certainly unopposed territory. And above all have air cover. So as such i do not see a requirement for hugely expensive specialist ships.

The word ‘heavy’ and ‘assault’ strike me in terror. It means ‘suicide’.
The Royal Marines are not just amphibious though are they? They are classed as mountain troops and this is a valid and important role. Should we not get away from this idea of charging up Juno beach?

Meirion X

The future will bring many surprises!
COVID is an example of this.
History trends to repeat it’s self now and again!

Duker

I think the trend now is land heavy equipment at a port..even if its fishing port. The lighter landing craft are carry raiders to secure the port and its estuary including bridges and choke points where that is necessary. Inchon was the classic example at Korea.
And I think the era of landing over the exposed coast ended with WW2 and thats was because the whole European littoral was effectively held by the Germans . When would that be possible again ? The Pacific island hopping was different again , but used the same equipment ,again required one power to gain the archipelagos largely unhindered.

Sjb1968

Geo I read the first document a couple of months ago and you can see the USMC are evolving their capabilities and may in the future not build what for most nations would be considered very large vessels but we are not in their league and our needs are quite different. It cannot be a solely RN decision to reduce the numbers and capability of the RM because they are with the Para’s our elite fighting units and most likely to be deployed at short notice.
The US is blessed with almost endless resources and we are not so cutting the RM has a huge impact on the UK’s overall defence posture way beyond their actual numbers.
The obvious example is the northern flank where the RM’s make a real difference offering a unique capability to NATO whereas a British Battlegroup deployed to the Baltic states is nothing more than military tokenism.

David

There is a point of view that the US Marines are realising that resources are not endless and unlimited and that they will have to do more with less in the future. This is also the case for the UK’s military, whether top brass choose to accept the reality or not.

Andy

Admiral West threw the RN frigates ,destroyers and submarines under the bus to get the carriers built .
The navy is fixated on gold plating everything.

Meirion X

The issue of quality is of most importance in a modern Navy. It is getting the balance right, e.g. the T26/T31 debate.
An all T26 frigate fleet would be a truly gold plated RN!

Geo

You have to remember though that long before he was Admiral West he was Commander West, and when he was Commander West he had a ship shot out from under him because he was positioned as the primary air defence ship along a potential attack route in a patrol frigate with an obsolete point defence missile (4 ready to launch rounds and manually reloaded whats more), a 4.5 and two 20mm guns. He lost 22 men that day, that probably weighs on him and shaped his later thinking as an Admiral – had there been air cover, his men might well still be alive.

SilentMajority

This is a vital point. So many people (real and clearly troll/fictional/foreign) claim loudly that carriers are irrelevant, yet no one is saying surface ships are irrelevant, however have these same people apparently forgotten what tends to happen to surface ships without dedicated air cover?

Arguably one of the most bitter and costly lessons of WW2?

Also, it is catch 22 for the RN and MoD:

“What? You want more more money for frigates and destroyers? Well you should have thought about that before requesting the carriers”

Vs “What? You want more more money for frigates and destroyers? But you have no carriers now, so what are you going to escort?’

The idea that if the RN forwent the carriers, which are essential national assets, then money would have been instead available for a larger surface fleet is laughable – any and all so called ‘savings’ and them some would have been pilfered in 2010, and we would have the same RN or less, but without the spectacular achievement of the carriers, which are the nucleus of the RN, and a bulwark against national and international irrelevance.

I would also state that as primarily a naval power, the RN should always be the priority service, and the idea that cuts should be equally shared is not correct. It pains me to say it, but the Senior service should be just that, and we should be pursuing a primarily naval based defence strategy, there is clearly a place for the Army, but it large or small, she should always be a junior partner – and the whole STRIKE debacle must be reigned it, after expenditure of billions without a stated purpose, mission, or how they will get there – with precious little to show for it, and a willingness to sacrifice real their capabilities to pay for it.

Trevor Holcroft

Yes. This is a fair point. I think these carriers are too big. But we are where we are and they are good ships. But I think 3 40000 tonne carriers would suit. Certainly something bigger than the invincible.

But if we are financial constrained, our first priority is air power, then missile subs, carriers we can afford, elite land forces and leave the heavy armour last or not at all. Most of our armour is in Canada training!!
The fact is that most light tracked and wheeled armour is amazingly heavy as it is. Unless like the Israelis we need to operate in places like Gaza we do not need 60 ton IFVs.

Harry Bulpit

Everyone on this site is always happy to condem every military asset so long as the navy can continue to pretend being the great force it once was. Look at what our military has done since ww2. The navy didn’t clear IED in helmand, nor did they liberate Kuwait in 91, or prevent genocide in Bosnia or Kosovo and it certainly didn’t rase the flag in Port Stanley in 1982. Tell me what’s the point in having a significant amphibious force if you have no armour to follow it up? The navy has its place, a crucial place in the defence of this nation. Just as the Army has its place and the Air force has its. Each service exists for a reason and none can replace the other. Instead of selling each other down the river perhaps if the 3 services worked together in preventing cuts they may actually get somewhere. Plus a single Frigate cost a billion pounds, for the same price the airforce could equip an entire squadron and the army a brigade. The navy will always gain a larger portion of the defence budget then the other services cause they will always buy the most expensive tolls.

Meirion X

Without that specialise £1 billion anti-submarine frigate, you have lost control of your seas to the enemy. Your Army will be going nowhere in that case. Aircraft have limited range without refueling in mid air from tankers based in foreign domains.
And aircraft require transt rights from foreign governments. Also the enemy could coerce countries to deny basing rights for your aircraft.
A very good reason for having aircraft carriers!

Harry Bulpit

100% agree. why you need carriers with a dedicated air wing. My point is we shouldn’t be pitching the services against one another as if they all do the same thing. they don’t.

Meirion X

No other type of fighter aircraft can fly off the QE class carriers, as they are configured for STOVL. The F-35B was procured for precisely this, for use from the QE carriers, and from the RAFs budget. Not the RN’s budget!

Harry Bulpit

yes but there still a shared asset. if we want a carrier capability then we must be able to invest in it proper. By providing a dedicated F35B force to the fleet air arm only. in 2010 it was deemed that the Harrier fleet of five squadrons could not support both Afghanistan and our minimum carrier force of 1 carrier and 1 squadron at the same time. Therefore how is four squadrons of jets supposed to support RAF operation and two carriers capable of taking up to 36 aircraft each? if five squadrons couldn’t commit 2 of them at anyone one time.

Harry Bulpit

Im far from supporting a reduction in the Navy, or complaining about the reasonable prices of their kit. Im simply saying the navy shouldn’t be saved at the expense of the other services, plus giving an explanation as to why the navy always seem to receive less from the others.

Meirion X

The worst thing you can do to make a depression worse, is to cut spending further, it creates more negative feedback in the economy.
If you want to revive the economy after a shock down turn like COVID19, it is
to continue with existing projects, and to bring forward future procurement
projects.

Joe16

I’m glad someone said this, austerity is a political ideology that hasn’t at all been successfully proven to get an economy out of a recession. If by proven you mean “better than Keynesian-esque government spending”.
Government borrowing and spending has been an economic response to downturns from both Labour and Conservative governements for decades. Even the US, the Grandaddy of capitalism, threw themselves behind infrastructure projects and the like after the 2008 crash.
Comparing the UK’s recovery to Europe and saying its been better isn’t exactly proof of the efficacy of austerity either; The Uk government quite drastically (and VERY quietly) cut back on the scale of their austerity plans after 2010, as they saw that it was being very damaging- so what we have seen in the UK is austerity-lite. That is compared to Europe, which has a far more complex single-market system which also jumped heavily but inconsistently on the austerity bandwagon (think of the differences between Germany, France, Greece, and Italy). Saying that our austerity worked better than the EU’s economic policy to recover from the 2008 crash is disingenuous, as they pushed through austerity policies as well and it didn’t work that well.
Compare our recovery, instead, with countries that actually did put stimulus packages in, and I think you’d see a rather different story.

N-a-B

You do realise we never saw austerity? Real austerity will be with us shortly.

Duker

The reverse . The amounts available for business are eye watering, they wont make the same mistake as last time as austerity like in the 1930s just prolongs the pain

N-a-B

Eyewatering amounts indeed. Mostly going on wages or deferral of bills, so pure resource spend or reduction in tax revenue. We don’t even get capital assets out of them. Necessary action, but which will have to be repaid by someone.

Either higher taxes, constrained public spending or more likely a combination of both.

And that’s before bucket loads of reward cash is shovelled into the insatiable maw of an untouchable NHS, with consequent impact on other departments.

4thwatch

I would press on with the GP 20,000-25000t hull idea. It has been seen the utility of the Bays and although the result may not be perfect it gets the National Ship Building project under way. We are going to need to start somewhere and these ships are as good a place as anywhere IMHO. They are also likely to have export potential as several navies are similarly placed . We must try to work these things through in these troubling and dangerous times where we live in a dangerous environment.
I’m not sure a dedicated hospital ship is the best idea. Corona virus has shown us the hazards of living aboard ship with a virus. Better in my mind may be to have the equipment for 4 -5 field hospital kits and attendant vehicles to be loaded and transported as required by any means available.

Duker

Hospital ship is the exact opposite of cruise ships when it comes to infections.

David Stephen

Exactly. Massive downgrade.

Tempest414

For me the way forward is 2 x solid support ships 3 x 200 meter Enforcer LSD’s with full width hangars for 3 Merlin’s and 1 x 210 meter by 38 meter Enforcer LHD. This would allow the SSS to support the carriers and for RN to have two flat top at all times it would also allow them to use the LSD’s in the LSS role

ATH

That would need a lot of money and crew, both of which will be in short supply.

Cam

We have had a far bigger millitary with far less money than we have these days, 5/6th biggest economy gives you plenty of money to loan or spend. It’s how we spend it that counts, for example just halving our aid budget alone would give us all the ships Tempest414 mentioned above with plenty change, and crews, the government paid off 6000 Royal Navy personel since2010 so they aren’t exactly trying to recruit as many as they can.! We can and will get the man power if the government actually wanted to. We have had a far bigger navy in recent times even just 20 years ago with worse ships and accommodation worse pay and opportunity’s! worse everything but we had the MEN yes men as it was mainly men, these days we have the other half of our population “women” to recruit from, we could easily get all the manpower We need but the governemt doesn’t want it. We got rid of of 25,000 army personnel and soldiers, 6,000 Royal Navy sailors and 6,000 RAF since 2010! But yeah we are recruiting very hard!!! What a joke.

Oh and that covid19 loan of hundreds of billions will be paid of over many years and won’t affect too much, it’s just the economy that will mess things up, we need it up and running ASAP. Luckily our economy is the vast majority (3 quarters) banking and service sector and lots can be done from around the globe and on computers safely away from mass groups like say a car factory.

N-a-B

This is the worst sort of good ideas club nonsense. Here’s a few facts to help the debate.

1. There is no capability requirement for LSS (ie rationale for its existence), let alone a detailed requirement (ie how many troops, helicopters, boats etc). It remains an NCHQ wet dream unsupported by any rigour.

2. The FSS requirement does exist, was derived from extensive studies over 10+ years and is essential for Carrier Strike. It results in a ship considerably larger than 25000 tonnes – the NDP designs were around 40000 te and they were tight on space, deck area etc.

3. The primary features of FSS are driven by ammo stowage, and cargo handling. These are in many places fundamentally incompatible with what is likely to be needed for LSS or a PCRS.

4. There’s a reason FSS was an international competition. There is simply insufficient technical and fabrication capacity in the UK to do this, in any sensible timeframe. Govan is going to be toppers with T26 all decade. Rosyth will have its hands full with T31 until 2028 and possibly beyond. Birkenhead has had its fingers badly burned by SDA and is also busy with steel for Barrow and T45 Napier. Belfast has a tiny workforce and minimal facilities. UK technical staff are busy doing submarines, T31, T26, supporting QEC, T45 etc. There is no capacity to build 2 or 3 40000 te ships in the timeframe required.

5. Fort Vic is only barely capable of supporting QEC and her material state will only get worse.

6. People who talk about “common hulls” tend to have no idea how much the hullform ( shape) costs to develop, rather than the hull design ( structural calcs, drawings etc). The latter is where the money goes and changes with internal arrangement. Which means that different roles tend to have different arrangements and hence designs.

7. When BMT first launched Ellida they were clear it wasn’t capable of doing FSS. Their less than enthusiastic statements above about using Ellida as a basis should be a clue.

NCHQ are currently engaging in a desperate game of trying to get two or three capabilities from one budget. It won’t work, will increase eventual costs and may fatally compromise Carrier Strike.

ATH

That’s a very reasonable set of arguments. Lots of the build it in the U.K. folks still think we have lots of real available shipbuilding capacity. Two big FSS’s would take the U.K. yards till the end of the decade to deliver. That’s to long to depend on Vic for.
Should a real case be made for the LSS building a proper FSS doesn’t stop the original idea of a merchant conversion from happening.

Steve Taylor

Seeing as Not A Boffin earns his crust in the world of naval architecture if anybody is going to come up with a list of reasons why this is ‘clown world’ thinking it will be him.

Why is it common to think a hull is just a hull and it can be made to do anything? Nobody would say let us just buy C130 hang whatever kit we wanted off it to do whatever task. But when it comes to ships it seems anything goes.

Meirion X

Yes, I argee with this argument as well. Cheers!

Darren

Yep.

Darren

You are not seeing the bigger picture of building in the UK. This woiuld not have been an issue just twenty years ago. We are looking to building viable UK shipbuilding after this. Government policy has killed UK capability and it is dangerous. Wealth creation after covid-19 will never come from the service sector. A longer term is needed. You rely on abroad, we die in every way.

Stephen

I agree with most of that N-a-B, except point 4. There is ample capacity at Cammell Lairds and A & P Tyne supplying blocks if needed. It would also give our own shipyards a reason to invest in new facilities and equipment, and keep our own people in well paid jobs.

N-a-B

Physical capacity possibly. Technical capacity most certainly not. That’s not a slur on either yard, but like H&W, the technical (ie design, engineering & project Mgmt) staff are literally a handful – meant in the quantity sense!

You can’t magic these people out of thin air and it’s difficult to subcontract at that scale either.

If Laird’s stop doing steel for Barrow that will also impact other programmes. No easy solution.

Darren

Then we bring them in from abroad. Yeah? Works both ways. Don’t football clubs have from abroad managers?

Cam

There’s thousands of British naval architects and ship builders, managers ect ect with real expertise that work globaly , we could get workers back to the UK if we really tried as spent the money to invest in Britain again. And why not start training more, oh I know the gov hates ship building and does everything to destroy it, doesn’t it seem that way!

D J

I would suggest that quite a few are thinking Australia & Canada are rosier places to be.

KiwiRob

Shipyards aren’t going to invest in facilities if they can’t find a use for them after the military contracts have been built. They have to win commercial orders to remain viable. How many commercial vessels have been built in the UK since 2000, the answer is less than a handful.

Cam

Doesn’t A&P have 4 huge yards around the uk, most Ex ship building dry dock yards with cranes. We could if we spent the money build a great ship building renaissance if the government actually wanted to.

N-a-B

No. They don’t. A dock and a crane does not a shipyard make.

Smithy

Agree with NaB, the MRSS is a ship for a different navy. The RN should just go for two Solid Support Ships, and keep RFA Victoria going for as long as possible – maybe paired with a LPD (let’s get both active) as the core of a EoS forward based task group.

What is missing IMO is a RFA Argus replacement capable of operating @5 helicopters.

Supportive Bloke

Very well put.

Fleet solid support is vital for CS.

This is not replaceable with DPD/DHL when FSS goes a bit wrong.

DAVID GRAHAM

Absolutely spot on. I wonder if these people have any idea about the volume of air stores, never mind anything else, that are required to support a carrier air wing. Back in my day, tens of thousands of items were carried by RFA Reliant in the FES to support air wings in Victorious or Eagle. [aircraft were Gannets, Sea Vixens, Buccaneers, Scimitar tankers and Wessex helos].

looking at todays requirement when the ships will be required to carry stores [victualling], air stores and ammunitions, plus large bulky items such as F-35B engines, big ships of 40,000 te with an SOA similar to the Tides will be the order of the day. the other proposal is simply a non-starter pipe dream.

Cam

Point 6, that’s why we pick a hull design already DESIGNED like the type 31 has, must save millions.

Clive F

I’m with NaB. Keep it simple / focused on re supply of the carriers. Nothing else. The simpler it is the cheaper it is to build and operate and less man power required (also reducing costs).

The only “fancy bits” should be speed (to keep up / re join carrier group) and the new re-supply rigs for speed of transfer.

To reiterate, simple ships have less crew and can stay at sea longer and cost less to maintain.

If we keep the carriers we need to re- supply them so we need to stop fanying about and build 2.

The cost is the cost. Only choice is build abroad or at home ( assuming special rigs etc will be UK fitted like Tides). If there is something left over build something else.

N-a-B

Don’t be under the impression FSS is a simple ship. The requirements for ammunition stowage, climate control, firefighting and onboard cargo handling all lead to a complex ship. The RAS rigs are relatively straightforward and cheap.

The real cost lies in the specifications for chilled water, seawater systems (cooling and firefighting), HVAC and electrical distribution and safety. Note that the majority of these are Class Society driven, not naval.

Which is one reason why mixing across a completely different type of ship is difficult. Putting even an RM rifle company aboard, plus aviation and boat personnel more than doubled the accommodation required. It’s challenging enough just keeping the FSS complement accommodation away from cargo ammunition holds as it is.

Clive F

Thanks

David Graham

Clive, N-a-B is again absolutely correct. RFAs Regent and Resource [mid-60s vintage] were purpose built Armament Supply Ships in the broadest sense officially designated as AFES [ ammunition, food, explosives stores ships] with a full load displacement of 22,890 tons. SOA on steam turbines was 16 knots as a normal service speed, with a 21 knot maximum when needed. They had a facility to carry their own Wessex HU5 for vertical replenishment, and had 8 RAS points. The two ships had naval standard NBCD arrangements, a citadel and complete pre-wetting, so a most complex class of ship. Note that they only carried a limited amount of refrigerated stores in number 3 hold, and no general victualing or other naval stores, nor any air stores.

One can therefore see the need for large complex ships to support the carriers, as they are going to carry everything needed with the exception of fuel.

David Stephen

Alarm bells are ringing. We need/want 2-3 30,000 tonne + FSS. Anything less and we shouldn’t have bothered with the carriers. We need to retain our amphibious capabilities not reduce them. That means like for like replacement of the LPDs and 2 of the LSD (when the time comes). One size fits all ships are a bad idea and always compromised. The LPDs provide C4 facilities and most of the landing craft (which are indispensable) , helicopters will not cut it. The LSDs are needed as they carry more vehicles (and less landing craft) than the LPDs. We need RoRos to carry the rest of any battle groups vehicles (trucks, jeeps etc) and we probably need LSS to ensure that we can provide enough helo spots in a pinch. What we definitely don’t need is to go from 2-3 FSS, 2 LPDs, 3 LSDs, 4 RoRos and Argus to 6-8 (don’t kid yourself it will be more) 20,000 tonne ships that are not optimised for anything.
Just get on and build FSS as originally planned (2-3 large high capacity ships with 3 heavy RAS stations), keep all 4 Points but convert 2 in to LSS. Replace the LPDs (after FSS) on a more or less like for like basis except with higher troop capacity (750-1000) and a hanger for 3 HC4. Eliminate the C4 facilities and reduce the well deck by half (replace with vehicle storage) and build 2 more to replace the Bays and convert the 3rd to replace Argus as PCRS and aviation Training and cover HADR.
If we can’t fund and build 7 ships without fancy radars or sonars or VLS by the mid 2030s we may as well through in the towel now. Every time we think the RN is on track some complete twat pisses in our cornflakes. You need certain ship types to fulfil certain roles and you need a set number of them to do it. Fund the senior service properly. It always has been and always will be integral to our security and prosperity.

N-a-B

Sadly, the RN is doing this to itself. The underpinning rationale in the warfairy community goes something like :

1. We need more matelots to get more ships to sea.
2. RM strength has hardly moved while the RN has shrunk by ~15%.
3. Now we’re not fighting shouty stabby people anymore, does Royal need so many billets?
4. If we sacrifice some Royal, we could increase Matelot headcount at no extra cost.
5. If we switch to the USMC raiding concept we might not have to programme in new LPD, which means we don’t have to ask for as much money which means we might get more destroyers and submarines in the 30s.
6. Kerching!

Much of this is being pushed by a gentleman who hasn’t had many senior command appointments, but has had lots of staff positions, including in HM Treasury. That’s no bad thing, because those battles may be the hardest to fight, but what may be being fundamentally lost is the raison d’etre for Royal.

Be in no doubt, we don’t have enough Royal now for a “heavy” amphibious capability, whatever that is, but no-one has made a compelling case for what the “raiding” capability looks like either. Royal risks ending up trying to justify the Corps existence on a mish-mash of little tasks – nuclear security, maritime security, raiding etc, which may not actually be sustainable.

IT’s not fantasy fleets of X, Y and Z we need, it’s a clearly articulated case for what the Naval Service does and how it needs to deliver that.

Sjb1968

Totally agree and for me sacrificing the RMs to get more matelots risks undermining the need for carriers because ultimately without the capability to insert your forces ashore with heavy equipment what is the point of a strike carrier.

RichardIC

I’m not sure where the carriers come into that, because they’re not capable of carrying heavy equipment, or at least loading and unloading it without full port infrastructure.

At least the Littoral Strike Ship – which was a bonkers name for a pimped up ferry – is out of the door.

Steve Taylor

‘strike carrier’ that’s the problem right there. The Queen Elizabeth class carriers may be fleet carriers due to their size and speed but they are not strike carriers. If HMG was to announce in the next review that QE’s will go to sea (as some future point) with a complement of say 36 UK F35b plus Crowsnest, a clutch of Pingers to help with the ASW screen, then yes they we could start perhaps start to use the phrase ‘strike carrier’. (No not really it will still be a stretch.) QE’s are hybrids. They are to use a term that has fallen out of use ‘aviation support ships’. They are the UK’s floating air bases. If there is another large war at sea the RN will be a subordinate unit of the USN. I suspect the QE’s will fly the flag of whoever is commanding the ‘amphibious’ element and it will be at the head of a task group USN amphibious ships perhaps with an Albion limping along too in a “me too” walk on part who knows? Amphibious landings, ASW screens, ASAC/AEW, and even logistical support may not be as exciting as carrier strike but all those tasks are probably more essential. Though I understand what N-a-B about the on ration strength of the Corps if anything it is something we should be doubling down upon. The carrier should sit at the centre of everything we do military beyond the UK. To me the glaring gap in the RN’s orbat is a class of fast 28k tonne LPD (3 of) to follow a QE wherever they go.

David

In calling them strike carriers, one also needs to consider the fact that an F35b can only hold two small 1000lb bombs internally. This is an almost meaningless payload in terms of non-nuclear war.

Trevor Holcroft

But with air superiority it can carry much more.

Dern

Why don’t we give the Marines light amphib and raiding duties, and have the Army do Heavy Amphib. After all most of the troops who stormed beaches in the 20th century where army not navy.

Glass Half Full

This – “It’s not fantasy fleets of X, Y and Z we need, it’s a clearly articulated case for what the Naval Service does and how it needs to deliver that”, combined with this from the article, “… the ever-increasing vulnerability of static naval vessels conducting amphibious missions”, is what should drive any consideration of what a future UK amphibious capability looks like, in the context of the primary role of landing troops and equipment in Norway, should hostilities ever break out. Or more likely as a credible capability to deter that ever happening; if its not credible, i.e. too easily targeted, it won’t deter.

We might today choose to discount Russian supersonic and especially hypersonic cruise and ballistic missiles as largely CGI threats, but surely not for the next 30-40 years that any Albion or Bay-class replacement is in service. Sure we are developing counters across NATO, with AAW destroyers armed with SM-6, SM-3, Aster 30 NT1 & 2 BMD variants in combination with continually improving sensor fits. But conventional layered defence doesn’t exist for BMD, it requires the highest end AAW defence, wherever that defence is needed, potentially putting a strain on availability high end assets. It would be naive not to recognise this increased threat and plan future amphibious capability in that context.

Steve Taylor

We are where we are. Suggesting we don’t need carriers on this site will just earn down votes and ire.

We need the 3 FSS ships. We need more helicopters. We need T26 to be built to the highest spec levels. And we need a good sized buy of F35b.

ATH

Covid and the fallout will dominate government spending for the next 5 plus years.
The MoD will do well to keep getting 2% of GDP ( which will take 3/5 years to get back to ‘19 levels).
Somethings will have to go in defence, heavy amphibious looks In my opinion the most likely to go in the Naval domain.
That’s the reality, calls for the government to “spend more to properly fund the RN” just make the people making the calls look behind the reality.

Meirion X

Actually, the best way to get the economic recovery going after COVID19, is to bring forward procurement plans. Cutting back spending just creates more negative feedback in the economy.

Ron5

As long as you spend the money at home.

Trevor Holcroft

Yes.
I’d build a brand new shipyard in Hull and build these support ships, of what ever size, there.
It’s called investment. But whilst I support foreign aid, I’d scrap what we spent via the EU and the UN and invest at home.

Is there no reason to not build say specialist, but smaller, ammunition ships, refrigerated ships, general ships, re-fuel ships?
I suppose the experts will say “no”.

But may I repeat … I do not see any likelyhood of us assaulting an opposed coast. Suicide. Our RM are best at, need for, mountain warfare.
We need delete land troops, not heavy armour.

Sjb1968

If you have to cut something then sell the 2 Wave class tankers as 6 tankers does seem rather excessive and reduce the Hydrographic flotilla. Bearing in mind the LPDs and Bays are bought and paid for, we are talking about the running costs and manning of the 1 LPD we have in service. It is hardly a big saving and was around £17m per annum the last time it was published.

Steve Taylor

You our amphibious capability, we don’t do ‘heavy amphibious’. Only the US and China do ‘heavy amphibious’. It would be a huge mistake. In 25 years we have gone from NATO’s leading ASW state, a small capable but submarine power, and with a good ‘light amphibious’ capability supported by a measure (still underfunded) ship based fixed wing force to us struggling to regain ASW in light of a growing Russian capability, an even smaller and struggling submarine force, and an amphibious capability in danger of being cut away, and all of this to support large carriers and a new fixed wing naval fighter that in itself is so expensive it will only go someway to being what it could be. We have swapped things we could do and did well to regain a capability has in spades and one we will probably not need unilaterally in the future.

N-a-B

The carriers and F35 are not where the money is going. Spend on those two systems is dwarfed by supporting the submarine force and acquiring Astute and Dreadnought.

Before anyone starts, they haven’t been funded separately (Hansard is explicit where Trident / V- boat funding came from), since the original Polaris programme.

Sjb1968

Ah the elephant in the room, Dreadnought. You are either in the big boys league or not and the next defence review may well be the final move into a lower tier of capability for the U.K.

Trevor Holcroft

Leave it to the French then?

D J

No, but building a class of just 4 very expensive but seperate submarines in both UK & France to do the same job is rather stupid. Boomers are mind numbingly expensive. You can’t even attempt to recover costs by exporting. Reinventing the wheel because you can does not mean you end up with a better wheel.

Steve Taylor

All I see now when I see the carriers is Astute 8, T26 9, helicopters.

I know many here just want to fight WW3 or refight WW2 and don’t really think beyond their Top Bun fantasies.

Andy

Well how about Falklands, for all those that say carriers aren’t needed, a recent war, they were needed and it was us alone against enemy with no USA and no nato. They thought couldn’t happen then and government slashed navy while people said that type of war is finished, we will only fight with allies

Trevor Holcroft

We have air power now on the Falklands. Our potential enemy there is bankrupt.

Geo

I really wouldn’t say China does “heavy amphibious” just yet.

Steve Taylor

Are you sure?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Liberation_Army_Navy_Marine_Corps

Did the 6 (+2) Type 071 LPD’s pass you by?

The 26 LST’s?

The new LHD’s in build?

Geo

When I said “just yet” what I meant was “just yet” – when the 075s are in service (the prototype had a fire last week) they will be much closer to the goal, but having the assets is only half the story, they have to be proficient in using them as well and that’s going to take a bit more time.

David Stephen

Anything that needs more than a helo to move is “ a heavy amphibious” operation. We can do this presently, we did do it in the Falklands and we should retain the capability. There is no point in carriers without amphibious lift. It’s not WW2 anymore and the carriers are unlikely to fight a modern Midway. If we want to sink enemy ships we should build more SSNs. The carriers allow us to project power not just by air strikes but also by enabling landing operations? Few situations will be resolved with air strikes alone. Without heavy lift capability what can the RM actually achieve? How many missions will require only as many RM as you can fit in a dozen HC4 with nothing heavier than GPMGs or maybe some mortars?
We still do ASW well we just don’t base our whole fleet around it. Air power via carriers and the ability to threaten an enemy’s shore with troops are vital to a top tier navy. Along with SSNs and the ability to sustain operations at distance these are what separates the best from the rest. Convoy protection is not a likely mission so realistically we need to provide ASW protection to a deployed task force and secure our own waters. 8 Type 26 should be sufficient.

D J

Only if you build at least 10 T31 & arm them properly. 8 T26 means likely 3 guaranteed to be available worldwide. There will be only 7 SSN, meaning generally 2 available. In order to independently field one carrier (& possibly one amphibious ship), will basically take everything the RN has on any given day.

Ethan

A true jack of all trades master of none, except it’s not a jack of all trades. The carrier strike group needs a ship with expansive food and ammunition stores, instead gets something with a small, non-sustainable ammunition store and a useless floodable dock. The same thing can be said in reverse, the Royal Marines need a large floodable dock for landing craft, instead they get a dock big enough for one craft and useless ammunition/fuel stores taking up the rest of the space.

ANDREW JOHN WILDE

This is all about hospital ships isnt it. The politicians will approve a new design of support ship based roughly on the same design capable of filling any one of four totally different roles. The military leaders, for I am sure that the whole concept will be run by the same hotch-potch of Admirals, Generals etc will yet again fail to fall on their swords and accept this rubbish as they are” more able to influence matters whilst still serving” where upon the politicians will recognise the public,s desire to have a hospital ship[ having recently seen those two marvellous United States versions] and once again allow the construction of a new class of ships for the Royal Navy as long as they are not painted grey, carry any armament, which is standard practise these days, and have a maximum speed of 15 knots. As for where this ship would be built I guess that somewhere abroad is favourite.

Phillip Johnson

Multi role by definition is about trying to do multiple things on the same hull, unfortunately in the current environment that almost certainly means fewer hulls because you can switch roles as needed. In theory at least.
If this article is correct https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2020/04/15/uk-hits-pause-on-defense-review-due-to-coronavirus/
it would appear the current SDSR has been paused until the virus passes, when ever that is.
Is that good or bad?
In general terms revews have the bad effect of freezing things in place until the review is completed. If the review now has an indefinate completion date how many decisions, hard or otherwise, will simply go into the distance until you end up with a loss of capability anyway.

Rocket Banana

We’re not going “storm a beach” anytime soon. We will however need to land supplies and people over a beach because the port has been destroyed by a hurricane. So…

1. Delete Albion, Bulwark and Argus from fleet
2. Add a fixed Merlin hangar and hospital amidships to each Bay [use DfID budget at A&P Falmouth]
3. Build 3 x larger ELLIDA+ (four Merlin spots and hangar for 2 Merlin + 2 Wildcat)
4. Bias these ELLIDA+ for FSS by linking weapons stores to vehicle and flight decks with automated handling
5. Reinforce upper decks of Point Class RoRos for Chinook operation

Main point is that we have to innovate. We cannot keep getting stuck in the dedicated ships for dedicated jobs rut, not because we don’t want to, but because we can’t afford to.

If we simply cannot merge semi-amphib (the above ELLIDA+) into FSS then concentrate on FSS only and ultimately replace the Bays with a quad-spot, dual-LCU design. Notice that in both cases our amphibious capability is the BOLT-ON to the more important capabilities.

Sjb1968

Argus is sadly going without replacement anyway, whilst the two LPDs have at least 10 more years in them so why delete them now. Keep 1 in reserve and 1 in service as we currently do, which was also the norm with Fearless and Intrepid, Add the hangars as you said to the Bays and order 3 FSSS now. Planning for some kind of replacement to the LPD’s can come later. Fearless actually served for 37 years!

Captain Nemo

Or could it be that the navy wants four SSS and is prepared to ‘sacrifice’ LSS to get them, so you end up with a SSS with a ro-ro deck, steel beach and a big hanger, as per this early design:

http://www.rfanostalgia.org/gallery3/RFA-DRY-CARGO/Future-Solid-Support/MARS-SSS

That then being a done deal the point class contract is up for replacement mid 2020’s so it can replace them off its own back with four LSS (as a for instance, the Prevail Partners MRV) for about £60m a year from the support side of the budget, money it’s already paying.

So the navy gets four SSS and four LSS for about the same money.
If that’s the plan.

ANDREW JOHN WILDE

If R.F.A. Fort Victoria is unable to make next years cruise to the Far East to demonstrate just how unprepared for war the Royal Navy really is, will the United States Navy be supplying the ice creams from one of their superb stores ships as well as half the F 35b,s and a couple of their escorts thrown in. I am sure that some weird and expensive vessel can be constructed to replace the whole of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s few remaining ships but if it isn’t primarily a 45,000 ton Stores Supply Ship capable of travelling at 26 knots with an Aircraft carrier Task Force around the world then why have we got two aircraft carriers?
I refer to my previous comments. I firmly believe that it is about time that the senior leadership of the Royal Navy commenced falling on their swords in great numbers. If they cannot persuade and influence politicians and those at the M.O.D. with regard to what is desperately needed by the Royal Navy NOW then the South China Sea next year will finally illustrate to the world just how poor the leadership has become in what was once regarded as the worlds best led Navy.

Steve Taylor

The USN has been ‘programming in’ the QE’s in terms of escort provision for a long time. The best way to look at the carriers is our contribution to the collective naval defence of the West more than as ‘national assets’ per se.

D J

Steve

Only just noticed your post. Ignore the negative downvotes. Yes the USN has been keeping an eye on the QE class. If France also follows with a CTOL QE version (or two), then from a USN perspective ‘now you are talking’. 4 x European 65,000t carriers simply can’t be ignored.

USN has also be wondering if the Ford class has been a horrendous mistake. From my point of view, yes it has. But a QE type falls midway between a USMC type Harrier carrier & USN CTOL nuke carrier, but at a third the price. At the moment, you can always claim that QE is an oversized Harrier carrier. If France builds just 1 x CTOL QE carrier, the Ford class becomes a real ‘what the f… were you thinking’.

Of course this is just my opinion.

Pacman27

I agree with a multi role ship approach NMLS Karel Doorman is the benchmark at present and I am sure we could improve

Going even further, why not get a fleet of FLO FLO’s and add mega modules as needed. This is ultimately the most cost efficient way to do it. Think Boxer but on a 200m ship scale.

With Flo Flo’s you can have almost any configuration you want as long as you have a massive crane and facilities to load the modules.

If I had a choice I would remove the amphibious capability in its current guise, buy some CB90’s (lots of) and get a platform that can launch 8 CB90s, as well as 2 S2S connectors.

We can’t afford to have dedicated am-hubs tied up as they are too niche, best to have something that can be used constantly but allows for role change when needed.

A KD can accommodate 2 chinook or 6 Merlins plus a whole host of other assets, check out the specs and it really is something special. If we can improve it by 5% that is a game changer.

9 KD’s would be transformational – the main issue would be where do we get 54 Merlins from!!!

Ian

By the time we we’re half way through that built we’d be in new copter territory

Don

@Pacman27
I note you are a fan of the KD. It is a good ship but I do not think it suitable in the SSS role supporting the carriers as there are too many compromises in achieving the multirole capabilities. Perhaps there is s role for it in the Carribean especially in HADR and it would fit well paired to supporting a River there.
Looking for other roles for KDs I wonder could they take on the role of HMS Argus and also support the Minewarfare fleet in the Gulf.
I am a fan of keeping ships with well decks and would prefer not to loose the Bays for a KD replacements. Flo Flo’s may make me reconsider this.
I am wondering is there potentially a new role for the Bays/Albions in supporting autonomous underwater vehicles in the ASW role and this could be another reason to retain them.

Don

A previous article was on Manta and autonomous underwater submarines.
Would it be feasible or even desireable to launch , recover and support them via a large well deck amphibous ship? Is this worth exploring before any rash cuts to exsisting ships or before specs for new ships finalised?
(I suppose it all comes down to draught and recovery technique/equipment)

Colin

It looks like another clever ruse to shrink the RN and reduce the RM’s capabilities. The marines will have to pray for fine weather to launch an assault by helicopter and the navy has already lost numbers to protect a static assault vessel. It requires the entire fleet to protect the aircraft carriers. I don’t understand the modular configuration idea. If the vessel is configured for one mission in the far east how long would it take to reconfigure it for a task in the Atlantic? If it sustained any damage the RN would then have lost 2 or 3 classes of vessel at a stroke. The never ending defence review needs to come to the realisation that defence needs to be properly funded.

Joe16

I’m not convinced by the idea of just one vessel for all of this, seems a bit too much of a compromise to me…
To me, a design for an FSS that can then form the basis for the replacement of wet-stores ships when they are too old is the way forward. There are a number of allies working on various carrier-esque force projection platforms that may well be interested in the design too, I’m specifically thinking about Australia.
I think you then need a separate, commercial-derived multipurpose design to cover the LSS, aid ship, and potentially some of the amphibious role; trying to work in all the RAS equipment you need for the FSS onto a platform that needs large amounts of containerised storage and heli-ops space seems to be too much to ask. Trying to fit a well deck into the design as well would be just asking too much.
I note that the USMC is looking into doing away with their tanks, a lot of their artillery, and some of their manned aircraft too. To be replaced with more medium armour, drones and long range missile systems. This would still leave them “tougher” in terms of weight of force they can bring to bear than the RM, but they are going for a lighter role- potentially the heavy armour amphibious delivery will be filled by the US army going forward?
We’re obviusly smaller than the USMC, but I see a similar move would potentially be good: RM become raiders and airbourne amphibious first landing troops, with Army Strike taking up the USMC’s medium armour role (I know neither Boxer or Ajax are amphibious, but LAVs can’t surf either), and the heavy armour being our CR2s. This would mean our army taking up a secondary specialised role, but I don’t think it’d be one that your average squaddie would be averse to. The British army has had a shore attack function, from before WW2, I think it could do with being revitalised to keep them relevant to Britan’s various requirements.

Sjaak

The most logical partner for the RN are the Dutch. They are closest to one another from a naval culture aspect as well as the highly integrated and successful integration (many years) of amphibious forces and structures. The current Dutch amphibious forces deliver true value for money (LPD’s with Transport, Command and true JSS capabilities), that would be my starting point for fleet planning (look at recent Joint Warrior exercises). Evaluating, adopting and sharing, the builder is well known for successful transfer of technology for local construction (Damen). A robust and reliable partner instead of the French or not realistic Australian (distance and other geography) or Canadian (outdated design/cost explosion) partnerships.

Simon m

My standpoint is an MRSS cannot in any circumstances cheaply replace the LPDs. Nor can they replace FSS.

Both are specialist vessels the LPDS have C2 capabilities are designed to naval survivability standards and are designed to get troops ashore quickly. FSS needs the capability to carry large amounts of ammunition, supplies any dock, amphibious facilities or hospital equipment will reduce the amount of space for storage. Both are sacred cows like the diner jacket analogy with tanks you don’t often need them but when you do only they will do.

The RN & RAF don’t have large numbers of MH53 or V22 ospreys and it is extremely unlikely they will ever get this capability. The Royal navy is reliant upon as many Chinooks the RAF can spare for heavy lift. This is also facilitating the reason for keeping the 105mm light gun ( which in peer to peer wholly outgunned) as the Merlin can’t lift the m777. So how do we plan to get serious firepower & support a shore without LPD’s? We’re so worried about anti ship missiles the Marines won’t even get naval gun support.

What’s driving this? The USMC, & IMO there are huge holes in the strategy and is very Pacific theatre driven as well as driven by pressures being put on their budget (I think because the idiot wants his wall).
You can see this by reductions in F35 & V22. Getting rid of the tanks is also a joke for a force of the size of the corp it isn’t going to take much for China to get armour on the Pacific islands and infantry have always benefited from heavy armour support in most battles. But we are following their lead (not that we had tanks in the marines anyway!)

Anti-ship missiles are a threat, but what is an Arleigh Burke and Ticonderoga & a Carrier for? How can the us navy justify the expenditure on these ships if they are not up for the task? The ACV procurement is a joke 12-15 knots what happened to AAAV that would’ve kept the Marines firmly OTH? Meanwhile the US army is buying the BMT caiman design!

What the MRSS could ‘replace’ are the LSS designs, RFA argus if big enough and potentially the Bay Class (preferably the one we gave away).
Certainly when LSS was announced most people ignored the word Groups – inferring not just a ship. As it was phrased littoral strike groups then a multi-role vessel would make sense instead of the prevail partners/USN type design in order to provide a larger platform but also support vessels in the group (if has fuel capability?). Also a well deck provides a greater number of options.

I also don’t necessarily agree with the army should cut for the Navy the army is in the midst of the biggest and much needed modernisation. It is the smallest it has ever been and so is the RAF. These kind of interservice rivalry comments are childish and only serve one department and that’s the treasury.

What the army should be doing is looking at how they need to deploy if they did that and made sensible conclusions this would reinforce the need of amphibious shipping.
Especially if the marines are now rapidly deploying and pre-deployed across the globe.
If cuts have to be made then the Navy should find them unless the defence review changes this. If we have to cut then the Wave class maybe a possibility and a Bay if replaced by MRSS. Being sarcastic Type 45 as it can’t protect ships?

Also to me all the fuss being made in spending millions on more big ships would be better focused on replacing the LCU mk10 & possibly LCVP mk5s. These replacements would cost relatively small amounts and would revolutionise any amphibious ops. Marinising CH47 would also be small beans in the overall scale of things and as Japan, Australia and a number of others operate it there is scope for a joint project with Boeing. If operating OTH and many more miles away a T45 & F35s, frigates, soft kill measures (proper CIWS and AEW) protecting the amphibious group should be enough.

Also how risk averse are we becoming? Seems anywhere there are S400s and long range anti ship missiles we wet ourselves! No wonder Russia and China are emboldened! It is like us abandoning Battleships in WW2 as they are in range of the Germans/Japanese guns. Not saying this was the best way of fighting naval battles BTW.

Both ourselves and the US are threatening them with light airborne forces with no staying power and plinking rockets and missiles from a distance with ships floating around the littorals. Hardly says we are prepared for a serious campaign.

Steve Taylor

The US Army’s landing craft are for logistics not combat.

The USMC tanks is a sticky issue. A platoon of tanks is big logistical load even for a 3 ship ARG. If the replacement for the LAV carries more ATGM and some of the volume released by giving up the 4 tanks in the platoon is given over to to more LAV replacements then perhaps the tanks won’t be missed. The USMC isn’t a field force.

Why the CH47 hasn’t been ‘marinised’ is one of life’s great mysteries. Saying that few countries have ships big enough to make use of them in numbers and the USMC seem to like the CH53. So…

The RN and RAF don’t have Osprey but the US does and that is why QE was built to accommodate them. It doesn’t seem to dawn on many that the reason why we got the carriers was that it would dovetail into US operations easily. Of course back then the escort gap wasn’t foreseen and the LCS and Zumwalt were going to solve all our problems.

As for a fast ship to shore connector we should look at MN LCAT. But I doubt we will ever see replacements for the LPD’s anyway.

Steve Taylor

There is nothing I posted there that isn’t fact with only small amount of well founded opinion.

This site is a joke.

Meirion X

But, I think LPDs could be use to launch UUVs , maybe.
LPD could be use either a UUV mission or as amph.

Dern

Then go away?

Dern

Seriously all you ever do is bitch and moan about this site after every post you make. If you don’t like it maybe you should leave?

Duker

The CH47 Chinook is too large when looking at the total rotor diameter
The CH53E is a single 79ft diameter while a CH47F has two rotors of 60 ft each they do overlap but thats between the masts

Barry Larking

Another mess that is the responsibility of Whitehall and the CoS. Perhaps an article on why so many U.K. projects since the 1950s have been doomed from the start. When something industry produces works despite the best efforts of the massed umbrellas, it usually suffers being damned with faint praise enough to ensure no or few exports. Since the 1970s the canonical belief is Blighty cannot make anything on its own. Playing footsie with ‘partners’ who throw wobblies or temper tantrums to get their own way. Delays and budgetary incompetence and the end result somehow always looks more camel than horse.

In April 1982 a British task force backed by ‘Ships taken up from trade’ had to go to war. Heroes to me, they overcame issues because that’s what trained and motivated service personnel do. Improvisation is enormously undervalued. Thank heavens no one told the sailors and aircrew and foot sloggers!

The performance of those charged with our national defence has, since 2010, been abysmal. Mere chance ought to have produced one winning hand, but this lot are impeccable – straight out one hundred per cent dunces. They only seem to be in control because on the evidence, it’s not that much better anywhere else beneath the sales talk and propaganda.

Waddi

Here is a radical idea for you. Swap the T31 Iver Huitfeld design for the Absalon and increase the order. Forget the LSS. It would reduce the pain of no LPD replacement

Don

In my fantasy fleet.
I would go with build the planned 5 T31.
Build a further 3 T31 to increase escort numbers.
Build 2 stretched Absalon to accommodate four engines over the Absalon’s two. The stretch may also allow a bigger hangar for more helos or better still a second helo landing spot.
Use the Absalons as a permanent deployment in the Carribean (HADR) and Gulf (supporting the minewarfare fleet) thus releading the Bays back to their primary role.

Meirion X

The contract for the frigates has been signed and sealed, and the supply chain contracts like the engines have been awarded now.

borg

I say Chaps, It’s a frightful bore. We need to keep what little we have incase those pesky French decide to take all our Mackerel .

Darren

Ships are different in design for a reason. Some are longer, some are big and some are small, some have different hull and bow characteristics even down to the shape of the bulbous bow if they use one etc. Tankers are different to cruise ships and container ships are different to tankers and bulk carriers, offshore ships of any kind are different to other offshore ships and are different to ferries that sail in the same seas, deadweight ships v displacement ships, gross tonnage ships, net tonnage ships etc. Commercial ships differ due to efficiency, in operation for carrying and cost of sailing, but also life expectancy.

That aside. Are we asking ships to be multi ability and used more? If so, will this be factored in along with being not so efficient in one or many tasks as opposed to a ship designed for this task. Also, there are many good books on ship structures and these books inform us (with all the Mathmatics aside) that, although the cost of a unit cost is 20% (but over a short period of time), the lifetime maintenance is 30% but could become higher if these ships get over used. If we save a little on initial build, does the expense over the life of these ships outweigh the small saving in a common hull design? How long do we want these ships to last with little maintenance as they are not commercial ships!

If The great Naval Architect and Naval Tactics and strategist Dominic Cummings gets involved in areas like this, then what is the point. We could say what is the point me saying anything, but the difference is this, his words make a difference, and are potentially lethal! Especially if it is the flippant one with getting rid of one of the super carriers. I have said before, you sell one, the other takes on the sold one’s role too and gets knackered at a younger age and very expensive to maintain. If that happens, Save the Royal Navy website may as well not bother anymore and cease to excist as it will all be over.

The arguments have been made and we know the advantages of the bigger ships over the smaller and what these can give. We applaud the NHS, but must also applaud the RN, Army and RAF for what they have done in the past, are doing now and what will happen in the dangerous future. But after Covid-19 it could be massacre of defence and the UK gov feel free to do what ever they like, even though as with all major wars you have a huge over cpacity, the same will be with dealing with Covid-19 virus, which was not caused by the UK or our doing.

It has to be remembered that even back to HMS Victory’s early life, she was laid up for years. Ex Soviet ships have been laid up for years and many are back on the water. OK the cost may have been high to bring them back after so many years and that has to be factored in. But may be like lock down, we are all tying up at the moment and waiting for better days. But don’t sell new ships that will serve you in the future, as in the hugely cheap super carriers the UK has built, this would serve only to cause a huge national depression even if people are not fully aware of it, it will be in the national psyche. Oh this Country is finished and in decline, but they are not fully aware of why, they just feel that is the case and this would be one of the reasons.

Lets not have anymore silly comments on the carriers. But the article was about one size fits all. Is this possible? Is there a hull design to fit in that can be of size (or variant sizes) for efficiency in operation in every aspect to suite this requirement (supplying the two super carriers for FSSS role as an example). Is this the staff requirement? Can we look at non BMT designs? Or are they the protected and potentially expensive UK content? Can the design be done cheaper abroad so it can be made in the UK? Why is it the other way around in which the UK pays BMT (how many do they employ) to do an expensive rejig (Tides) only for a South Korean firm to build and to gain knowledge over? Questions, Questions Questions.

Phillip Johnson

2 more questions –
How many T26 are actually under contract?
Has the T31 contract actually been signed?

N-a-B

Three and yes.

N-a-B

Answers, answers, answers.

1. “Common hulls” are a fallacy, as outlined some days ago. You save your money in common equipment items (eg diesels, generators, CW plants, pumps, switchboard breakers, electric motors etc, etc). The amount of effort required to generate logistic support information is non-trivial. The more you can re-use, the cheaper it is – and that’s before you get to spares and consumables.

2. The “Staff Requirement” for FSS exists. There is no staff requirement at present for LSS (or any of the other wish list ships).

3. BMT were only one of three UK design houses in the FSS competition. There was the Team UK consortium and one other teamed with an overseas yard.

4. Any overseas yard will need a UK design partner, because the FSS requirement (like any pure solid stores ship) is largely bespoke. There are very few (less than half a dozen) proper solid stores ship classes in operation worldwide. UK processes and requirements are also something that foreign yards struggle with, hence the need for help. That’s why DSME needed BMT for the Tides, why Navantia partnered with BMT for their FSS bid and why one of the other overseas yards in the FSS competition had another UK design company providing the design.

5. As above, the design (at least not the contract and basic design) can’t really be done aboard. The “design” element as a proportion of an overall contract would be in the low tens of millions, compared to a contract price – even with overseas build – of nigh-on a billion plus. Building in the UK (even if the capacity existed) would be very expensive.

6. BMT (Defence) are part of a larger BMT group. BMT defence have about 400-500 staff, but that covers a wide range of disciplines (ie design is only a small part of that).

7. Not sure why you think the Tides were an expensive re-jig. They were in fact just what was required (a UK design for an overseas yard to build at an affordable price), after MoD spent the best part of a decade trying to work out why UK build was too expensive or why you couldn’t just buy a commercial tanker.

Darren

I would have liked answers answers answers, but the main answer I interpreted is good. They should be designed and built in the UK. The tides were not cheap. They cost a lot of money (550 million pounds net for just build (which means 770+ million pounds for just hull build in the UK gross and I think (know) we could have done far better) plus 160 million pounds gross for protected expensive UK content)., Nigh on a billion quid. The Koreans saw us coming. The rejig is because they were based on a Norwegian design. What ever now, the South Koreans did not build these ships with their eye’s closed. The original Sir John Parker report saw design being very expensive for the Tides and BMT were not happy in having less input or rather making more money from what ever they do as we need to reduce design and planning too as well as production in the UK. Capacity did excist but was not helped by government wanting a extra 2 years for building the carriers (with the extra nigh on 2 billion pounds expence). Lack of capacity, the UK does not build ships like these anymore, the UK has not built ships like these for a long time (but less time from the last Destroyers A) etc, were the couple of many excuses used to “got away with it” as some minister said. Was it Luff?

N-a-B

Oh dear.

You “know” we could have done better? The last UK built tankers each cost north of £180m some twenty years ago. Which would be about £280m each when builtat the same time as the Tides.

In what possible sense is four ships for £550M a bad deal? Your info on the origin of the design is also awry.

That’s before we get to the minor question of precisely which UK facility would build them. Please elaborate. Which yard would have built four 40000te tankers in the space of five years?

The Koreans (and I’ve dealt with that yard) were badly burned. So please also explain why they “saw us coming” and why they decided not to bid for FSS.

Darren

Ok. Facts: Cost of two Wave’s went up from 200 million pounds to 210 or a little more after 1997 due to yet again, gov changes after 1997. Say 213 milion pounds in 2001 for two ships (contract let) so in 2012 prices when the Tide contracts were given would be for the Waves (the latest Tankers built in Britain): £303m or £151.5m gross for each ship in 2012 compared to the original 452 pounds net (that’s no tax reciepts from this before the extra near on £100m due to currency changes) from South Korea (I give small 30% tax claw back, but it is higher). Gross in todays prices around 183m quid (Gross is before tax) for the Waves but minus 40% tax back (more realistic), the Waves are far far chear that these hugely bad value for the UK taxpayer Tide ships.

Design aegir was based on a Norweigen design and aegir is guess what?
I’m not interested in what you dealt with with this yard. But please do tell me how the South Koreans got burnt.

In the space of five years build. No yards were given a chance as they were pushed out of it by the governments back then. The Tides were late and full of problems anyhow.

Break down from 2012 and being nice just 452m (gross) for just basic hull build (gov placed in and not full price to fool people like yourself may be) no tax back so add 30% to may be 40+% gives a big cost. Plus £110m net from UK suppliers who may have even sourced from abroad too. This gives poor value for the UK tax payer.

I hope this has made it clearer for you.

Dern

“I hope this has made it clearer to you.” the arrogance of that closing statement alone makes me lean toward NAB’s point over yours.

Darren

I have tried to make a fact clearer. You are obviously working with this N a B and have dispealled the Oh dear oh dear and the other statements by who I think may be a troll and called me arrogant instead. I have faced arrogance and condescending repies. All I have tried to do is help people less informed. Look at the data and facts. Investigate for yourself and learn. It is not arrogant to say that either.

N-a-B

Oh dear again.

Your contract prices for the Waves are way off by some margin. £200m was the original contract price. What they actually cost at completion was more like £330m. Uplift that to 2013 prices and it’s more like £550m the pair. Wibbling on gross prices and where tax is spent is an interesting argument, but only if you ignore actual cash availability in the Equipment programme, which is how the Treasury judges it. Which is what matters.

The Aegir design was developed specifically for the MARS tanker contract ( became the Tides) by BMT. The hullform design (ie the shape) was licensed from a Norwegian ship design firm as is standard practice in the commercial shipping world. BMT then developed that form further. – you can find papers on it. But as per previous, the real money goes in the hull design (arrangement, systems, structure), where BMT started from scratch with their own investment. They also persisted in this despite HMG starting and stopping the programme several times. Including in the middle of a shipbuilding recession where yards were basically giving build slots away to get work. That actually led to a stiff letter from RoK government to HMG as the two Korean yards in the competition at the time expended significant finds on their bid, only to see the competition stopped. Rolls Royce had a design too but didn’t get too far. They may have bid with Hyundai as they have done for the NZ tanker.

You repeat the line yards were pushed out of it by HMG. The truth is, no UK yards wanted to bid because spare capacity was limited and because they knew they could not compete price-wise with overseas yards or get anywhere near the available budget. From memory Babcock’s bid as part of Navantia team and NWSL ( now Laird’s) were on Fincantieri’s team. Neither as builders, but as UK partner to deal with the classified elements.

The Tides were late – partly because DSME had not understood they were building a military vessel, as opposed to a commercial vessel with some military features. But also because MoD kept changing mind and for once enforcing the contract terms. DSME did not know what they had signed up to (try reading a MoD contract, it’s instructive) and lost something like 30% on the job. Which is one reason why after having had a look at the FSS ITN they declined to bid in the competition. The Tides were not and are not “full of problems”. There were issues on the first two, now resolved, which were addressed for ships 3&4.

So there’s the story of Tide. BMT did a great job getting a good design together off their own bat. If you can tell me which specific UK yards could have bid and had capacity to deliver in the timeframe, please do. Note that at one point in the last six years, RFA was down to two Waves, two small and antediluvian Rovers and Fort Vic as our oiling capability. Because MoD had faffed around in the noughties trying to make something relatively simple complicated – and to be fair having their budget chopped and changed as a result of Herrick.

UK capacity is even more stretched now. Again, please do explain exactly where and how a UK team can design and build FSS in the next five to seven years.

Darren

Can you please stay out of the UK and her politics and stick to your own domes please. It is now obvious what you are doing. If not, give me answers to the UK questions, with solutions to the answers for the UK’s questions in shipbuilding. If not, go away, OK! You are undermining us and decling us in the UK. People are not stupid.

N-a-B

You haven’t quite mastered the concept of answering a relatively question I ask you, have you? Or spelling and grammar, come to that.

Darren

The difference is this. I know sometimes my grammar is poor along with my spelling because I usaully rush these things as I am pretty busy, I don’t know what a domes is either. But, “answering a relatively question”??? Hmn.

N-a-B

Predictive text is a bitch.

Any joy working out how to answer a relatively simple question yet? You know, the one about where and how a UK team could design and build FSS between now & 2027? With some specifics, like which yard, which design team? Just some teensy little facts to back up your opinion.

One of us works in that very same UK industry. I’m betting it’s not you.

Darren

Actually the second part to this.
Not that old chesnut please. I do know my longitudinals from my stringers and deck traverses to my solid floors. Don’t bother.

I have been down that road before, by more capable and yet even more hysterical people than yourself who did themselves no favours in ranting off but have had interesting points on certain issues. I’m guilty of being hysterical myself through exasperation on certain subjects.

I went into detail about shipyard outputs and capabilities etc and a plan for the carriers firstly when there was less website info and then for the warship tankers that became the the Tides. When you share ideas plans etc, all you get is negative feedback and, you don’t know what you are talking about etc, but my outline for the carriers is indeed what happened in the end, except Swan Hunters had been killed off by then and replaced by Rosyth, (the Swan Hunters further north) and Barrow was kept out of it. I am assuming you do not have any answers and solutions to the UK shipbuilding sector, or rather feel there is not any. There are new technologies and disruptive technologies that will work to the UK’s advantage or close some unfair gaps if we invest in them too.

I don’t know of other Countries that have built three ships like these in the recent past and in this time scale, but I do know of a Country that built two super carriers within a short time frame which have been far shorter if it were not for government meddling. I’m sure the UK government will word this contract and conditions as to make it difficult for UK industry to respond and the UK gov may say to have three ships we had to build abroad, which is total bunk! The UK government can be artful and conniving which seem to benefit others not from the UK or UK vested interests that is against the UK in general and overall good of the UK advantage.

Look, I am as bitter as yourself over these things and was really upset with the farce that was the QM2 contract when again every excuse was used but not true to build this ship abroad as we learned and by then that labour gov was happy to kill off many Type 22 ships that were in their early teens and type 42s that were not replaced like for like etc. We knew something was wrong with this financial sector driven and asset bubble property bubble, led economy in which no real wealth is created but only extruded from, as banks do. It cannot carry on. Our banks are geared up for the UK to just be a huge importer and this is declining us with the huge debt and deficits we have.

I take your points and the fact that you want to buy foreign built ships for some reason that make no economic sense, but don’t get personal.
You are coming across as someone who wants an image and to get personal with other people by trying to highlight their shortcomings. But look, I am just as frustrated as you are with the current practices that work to undermine us as I said above. You do not know me ok and I do not know you and it’s not about our individual abilities ok.

We now have a nation and economy facing serious problems now and not due to us but a Country that is run by a wicked disgusting regime. Public spending is said to be one key policy and to give the FSSS or what ever it turns out to be, to a foreign Country when we can and should be building them ourselves is plain utter madness. Contracts like these are even more stimulus to the UK economy and potential for revival in many sectors that will benefit. We need to stop the self doubt and undermining ourselves, when we a far better than this and others think. Covid-19 has really highlighted this Country’s short comings in terms of being able to make things for herself by being reliant on PPE and faulty test kits from the country that caused this nightmare, let alone nuclear power, bridges, transport, major infrastructure and of course, ships. Our forebears are crying, (with embarrassment).

As for these BMT concept ships? Will they fit Staff requirements or will staff have to accept others (like BMT) ideas of what they think staff requirements are? It may be the ship to answer all our needs, so who needs different ship types when the perfect hull form has been found to suit what ever function.

Darren

The original contract price was as stated by this very website 200 million pounds, but due to some design changes with spend and save programs, it cost around 0.5 million pounds extra. The increase to between 210 to 215 million pounds was due to the addition to the contract for procurement of spares and minor configuration changes to the ships design in the time of build, but the contract remained within time and budget. You need to stop giving wrong figures over this. I have looked everywhere to try and find this 330m figure for the Waves, but there is nothing. The other fact is that South Korean firms have enjoyed unfair conditions and subsidies recently and this website has stated that too.

However, I have gone to your 330 million pounds from 1997 the earliest order time instead of delivery time which is to your 2013 (should be 2012) time for this South Korean order and it does come out to around 524 million pounds. But this 330 million pounds I cannot find anywhere as I say.
I have put the highest figure in (215m with the extras mentioned above) from my earliest date 1997, which include the design development and UK content unlike the Tides, which is just build at net as the UK gov get no tax claw back. It is also to favour the South Koreans at 2013. This comes to around just over 341 million pounds for two ships including everything and at gross which is important. Is that fair enough?
£200,500,000 from 1997 is: £309,030,000 Gross for the two Wave ships in 2012. This is from facilities that are no where near as efficient (we assume) as South Korea’s. You say completion or commission? 2003? That gives a figure 100m lower than yours in your case scenario. So, in all fairness, please don’t make it up.

You cannot ignore cash availability and this Country needs to be more clever than this daft policy which I assume they still use. This cannot be a get out clause for this hugely expensive and over staffed MoD to use.

“That actually led to a stiff letter from RoK government to HMG as the two Korean yards in the competition at the time expended significant finds on their bid.”

I assume you mean “funds”. We all make typos and I’m sure I have made plenty here too as well as my poor grammar you like to give personal focus on. But why do you think UK yards did not even bid for it? Maybe because it costs money and when even the negative UK media know before hand that you are wasting your time and going to be rejected by your own government, why bother!? Also now RoK know what UK industry is up against in terms of the UK government and how it undermines UK industry, maybe now they will understand. It would be quite nice to see the UK gov undermine foreign firms and see them go to the wall for a change. Overseas yards that enjoy subsidies will win even if the price is not that good. Again, that was on this website about how those South Korean yards have been bailed out, or helped in certain ways.

There was capacity indicated by the flawed union between Cammell Laird and Fincantieri bid (not BAE). In this disastrous time we saw Swan Hunters die even though the Bays were built to a fair price as indicated by the NAO, Appledore, although not capable of building whole tankers like this, the work force was there and moves around, Portsmouth VT’s (many from Cammell Laird, I knew them) destroyed by BAE to kill off competition and Scotstoun becoming what ever it is now due to BAE and UK gov decisions it is now with out shipbuild facilities. Also, BAE who should have let go of Govan, but were worried again about competition if someone else took it over (BAE do not own Govan). BAE also have Barrow and on the unofficial website for Barrow Shipyard: KOFAC North West Undersea warfare. They provided a good case for Barrow to be included in all MARs projects, but BAE don’t build ships like these although they offered to build a third Wave at a lower price than the first two ships (due to experience in building the previous ships), the government rejected this. But in the end, BAE don’t do shipbuilding, they are not shipbuilders.

“The Tides were late because the builder had not understood”. No excuse by these supposed supreme shipbuilders of South Korea. If this had been the other way around in the UK you most likely would have gone to town over UK firms doing this. Yes, these are warships or military ships, not commercial ships. The only difference is that the UK manning of these warships with a differently trained crew unlike Germany or Italy and others and it works against us and these eu rules worked brilliantly to our detriment. Can you not see this? The Dutch are building there CSS or what ever you want to call it, in the Netherlands, just as Germany has, just as France it, just as Italy has, just as any other normal Country that understand that giving away their taxpayers money abroad and gaining less than should be the case, does not make sense. Sir John Parker has sited that building abroad made it more expensive in certain areas. Read all of his reports and reviews on the national shipbuilding strategy by him.

“DSME did not know what they had signed up to (try reading a MoD contract, it’s instructive) and lost something like 30% on the job. Which is one reason why after having had a look at the FSS ITN they declined to bid in the competition.”

I hope now that foreign shipyards now know what great underinvested UK shipyards are up against. You have pretty much answered it for me. The contract should have been 30% more? That means 550m divided by 70 multiplied by 100% means 785m pounds just for the hull builds, yes? Also 160m pounds plus UK protected content (which much would have still come from abroad) less lets say 40% means = around £880m which is massive price for so-called tankers back then. That’s a conservative price too! This cannnot be polished in any way as this is a stinker.

Look. The whole point of this is to increase and make more UK shipbuilding more capable, yes? To have a sharp eye on investment from these contracts as never happened before as just warship building never demanded this and firms possibly did take the proverbial in the distant past.

I don’t want to down BMT as I love Naval Arch and I am proud of our design prowess, but also of our shipbuilding prowess and potential which should be in sinc with our design and engineering capability (it can). The fact that these ships were designed by BMT must mean we had design ability. You said they were BMT team designed which mean UK ability in design is pretty capable. We had and still have build capacity too. The problem is the culture of daft MoD thinking in which they think a face value lower price against a non existent UK price is better. There is no excuse for looking at a price as one from abroad will be net and one from the UK will be gross. We are in a data led world nowadays and there is no excuse for now being able to work out the value for money with gross and net costs and benifit to the UK economy in wealth creation.

I don’t think you want to look at a UK team build strategy, but only down it. If otherwise, tell me if you want to be constructive in this. Long term strategy is needed and will benefit the RN and UK in the long term. Meaningful big tonnage ships are required, but I guess Cammell laird, Babcock, Harlands, A&P (Cammell Laird), Pallion brought back as a shipbuilding entity and a number of other places can do this including not shipbuilding looking facilities that are near the water as we should not be so poo faced about ships being built in places that look like shipyards but not described as shipyards. Swan Hunters wanted to build carrier sections at Port Clarence and not at Wallsend (only assembly if they won that contract). Barrow always had potential and even if the shipsbuilders owners did not want to tender for the tankers, the actual shipbuilders did as shown with the un-official website KOFAC. BAE are a aerospace firm that own and run shipyards thats all.

UKindustry/MOD/Alliance, until eu rules got involved. This was the case until Andrew Tyler said otherwise or was rather, someone who changed this policy due to originally EU rules about warship like ships etc… and it went on. A highly paid individual who changed the policy and why should UK industry take chances with changes like this?

I think this covers your reply?

N-a-B

I think the technical term rhymes with “clucking bell”.

No-one would be more delighted than I if we managed to bring shipbuilding at scale back to the UK. However, there are very real and practical reasons why this is fraught with risk and mostly impractical. Particularly for the FSS contract, for which there are very real timescales that need to be hit.

Firstly, a list of shipbuilding sites and long-defunct shipbuilding sites does not make a capability. It is only a capability if it’s facilities are relevant and functional and more importantly, if it has sufficiently skilled and experienced people available to run them. That’s why you can pretty much forget Govan and Rosyth for FSS, because both will be at or near capacity with T26 and T31 respectively. That’s both technical and physical capacity. Barrow has enough on its plate with Astute and Dreadnought, are subcontracting work out to Lairds and they are screaming for bodies as well. This means there is little or no spare build capacity on the Clyde, in Fife or on the Wirral during the required timeline for FSS.

Cammell Laird have been badly burned by SDA – which is still there, well over a year since it should have been delivered – and while they will argue that much of the delay is down to others, much of the cause is down to an undersized technical department. Not their fault as such, you can only employ what your workload supports, but it does impose real limits in what you can do and is redolent of what happened at the Dutch version of Swan Hunter in the late 90s, early noughties. If you don’t have the technical capacity and experience, things go wrong fairly quickly and very expensively. They’re also about to spend a lot of effort on T45 PIP over the next five years.

A&P are a refit yard group with very limited technical capacity and largely mothballed steel fabrication capability at Hebburn. H&W employed 79 people when bought out of receivership last year. Pallion has not built a ship since 1984 if memory serves. There are no extra people to run these facilities or provide the technical capability in project management, design, engineering, let alone shipbuilding trades etc. Nor is there a huge supply of people working overseas, gagging to come back. In fact, there’s a sizeable chunk of people leaving the UK for Australia and Canada in particular as the T26 export sales have an unexpected effect and it’s far from certain they’ll come back. Nor are they able to be replaced in a handful of years. You could conceivably bring overseas technical staff in, but that depends on them being available, willing and staying long enough to actually transfer skills, which is far from certain. That process takes years, if not decades.

Then there’s the rather tricky question of what you do with these facilities in the longer term, even were it possible to get them manned and running. Commercial shipbuilding on any scale is not coming back for some very good reasons, notably :

1. The global shipping market has significant over-capacity, which will only be exacerbated by the effects of C19 and is likely to last for a number of years. That means that freight rates will be low, which means that shipowners who buy ships will want absolute lowest cost (build and operating) in order
to make money. They will not be knocking on the UKs door.
2. The offshore market was at rock bottom with $70/bbl oil. Although oil price will rise from $20/bbl now, that market is not going to recover any time soon.
3. The cruise ship market is about to take a big hit. That will hurt Fincantieri and Meyer Werft hard and they will have to minimise their margins and look at other markets.

Private companies are not going to choose UK yards through sentiment. Your QM2 example being a classic case. They will go with cost and proven capability to deliver.

Those realities mean that you’re therefore reliant on government-funded ships. Much as I’d like to believe that HMG will fund a massive expansion of the RN, the reality is that it’s not going to happen. In fact, you’re probably going to see BAE and Babcock eat each other for T26 batch 2. Beyond that, there’s very little in the “pipeline”. Type 4X towards the end of the 30s? LPD replacement only if we retain an amphibious assault capability, which is far from certain. MHC – whatever that ends up being, it’s very unlikely to be one for one replacement or particularly large (NB currently unfunded). What then? What does this newly expanded shipbuilding capability do? How does it support itself?

Which is why FSS is a bit of an oddity. It is needed asap, because the existing ship is not ageing well and can barely support QEC. There are at least two UK designs available to overseas yards – rumour has it that the Team UK effort didn’t actually have a worked up design – so there is UK benefit in design skills. Where it falls over is that UK physical capacity is simply not available and rapidly expanding it to fit FSS would leave it with no visible means of support beyond that.

If – and only if – UK plc committed to investing in a single specialised shipbuilding facility capable of building surface ship product ranges efficiently in one place, which would be sustainable in the long term, then that might work. Can’t quite see people signing up to that though……

There are no easy answers to this, which is why lists of long-defunct facilities don’t quite cut it as a credible answer.

Darren

Yes. Your final para. But any facility that is still around is not defunct, it is probably out of date and needs investment… and, and , and… I rest my case. For business to do the investment, they need a government that believes in them in the first place and a solid direction (and a financial sector that does not only look into the assets they can get from it). The FSSS project should come with conditions and a agreement with industry that investment in people and facilities are made and not just dividends for share holders to profit from in taxpayer funded projects.

N-a-B

If it has no people it is defunct. You can get a facility in a couple of years. That does not apply to people. You need only look at the Wallsend facility for LSDA for a cautionary tale.

Darren

This is a good article amd why we must not be dependent on imports any longer, from masks to steel and ships. Yes he has an interest, but at least for once, it is in the right interests from this Country. Selling scrap stel abroad is not good either and recycled steel is not what is seen on the dockside at Southampton as you cannot make anything out of in that state: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/crisis-must-end-our-reliance-imports-says-liberty-steel-boss-2844991

N-a-B

Shipbuilding steels are not the same as constructional steel and tend to come in very small batches, with different toughness, tensile strength and thickness. Then there’s plates vs profiles. That makes them very difficult to manufacture cost-effectively.

To give you an idea of the impact on the UK steel industry, a normal year of Naval construction in the UK would probably use around 20000 tonnes of shipbuilding steel, ranging from Q1N grade through EH36, DH36, AH36 and AH27 grades and thicknesses from 6mm through to that used for submarines. These are tiny batches, so tiny that compared to overall UK steel production of 7.5M te/pa (2018), they represent 0.25% of overall production.

Yes, that’s right, one quarter of one percent. Hardly game changing. Not even going to keep one plant going and is likely to have a detrimental effect on existing plants, in that it would interrupt efficient production of more popular types/grades.

Darren

Something more happened with this expensive and not value for the UK taxpayer project. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/peter-green-946b9325_ministry-of-defence-refuses-to-release-key-activity-6665895302316244993–Db7?fbclid=IwAR0Hn6NFPtS4BeZ4VPNnnzfQ3pm9Mf0ScFoIkBfeRzOvoLEbFTeTTrAPC-A Politicians are great at polishing tu+ds, but this one when we know it was so wrong, you cannot do this.

N-a-B

Your assumption being that the conclusions would support your argument.

It would be unfortunate if the conclusions were instead to reflect the stark reality of the capacity constraints extant in UK industry in 2012 and even moreso now. That would make any argument to constrain the competition to onshore bidders (a current cunning plan in NCHQ) rather difficult to sustain, particularly given the timeline for the project. That would most definitely be politically contentious for a number of senior people in RN/MoD and some of the more vociferous politicians, such as John Spellar.

The simple issue with FSS is that the timeline requires a significant expansion in UK technical and physical capacity which on completion of the project would have no visible means of support, irrespective of how much people wish it were not so or how many extra hulls they wish into their fantasy fleets.