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Defence thoughts

How many large UUVs can we afford and what would their tonnage be? How specialised should each one be?

At the end of the day we will need more engineers, a greater dockyard/logistical capacity, and frankly either spend our money better or divert money from other budgets like the NHS.

Oh, and we need to ask ourselves how long we can go on over the next century or so if 7 SSNs are the maximum number we can sustain. Can the replacements for Astute at least number 3 or so, or can drone subs do their job instead?

If not, then we are heading for an end to our most powerful asset no matter what The Thin Pinstriped Line says. 16 to 7 to….

Sorry to “talk the Navy down”, but we have to address the decline of numbers. Sorry, sorry sorry. Yes it’s typical armchair admiral stuff. I know I know.


I’m not sure on numbers and tonnage. The Large/Extra-Large UUV scale seems to vary. The cost would also seem to vary, this website did a look at the British Manta – – which they suggested had a 1-unit plus trials cost total of about GBP 2.5M. That’s a limited run 9m long unit.

The US has the Orca, which would seem to be about USD 43M for 4, or 11M each for a 15m unit with transoceanic range – more than needed for a series of UK-Norway patrols.

I think ideally each UUV hull would have some kind of modular payload options that you could swap between mine warfare (Synthetic Apperture or Sidescan Sonar), charting (multibeam echosounder) and ASW sensor array (based on an off the shelf dipping/towed sonar?). Although that might seem risky, commercial AUV’s have swappable payloads fairly routinely.
In terms of affordability, the sticker price of likely GBP 5-10m each is pretty good compared to hundreds of millions or billion pound frigates, destroyers or submarines. The sustained costs in the long term will probably be moderate, though you should plan for fleet attrition, especially on solo operations.

I don’t think UUV’s will be able to replace traditional submarines, they are problematic to communicate with, can’t make their own decisions very well, have legal issues and to maintain any range are usually laboriously slow. For force-multiplying other systems as detection platforms I think they’re probably well worth it, and if we need to do some cable/pipeline surveilance then a 5M pound system with minimal support footprint that can do 2-week patrols of parts of the network is probably useful.

Last edited 2 years ago by Otterman
Defence thoughts

Sounds like we need to plan for a High-medium-low mix of say, 4 large SSNS (9000tons), 4 medium SSNS (3-4000tons), and however many drones (or whathaveyou).


That plan actually sounds more expensive than having 8 large SSNs. Due to commonality of parts, economies of scale, and single R&D costs instead of two designs, I think the 8 large ones will be less expensive than operating two classes of boats. Regardless, I believe we need a minimum of 12 SSNs, supported by drones.

Defence thoughts

True. The problem is when you replace what we have now and it shrinks down to 4 regardless.


Good luck trying to convince a politician that they can both divert money from the NHS to defence and get re-elected. It’s not going to happen.
The only way the MoD will get more money is from more taxes, an equally difficult thing to sell to a Tory politician.


Should be an equally difficult thing to sell to anyone given that taxpayers in the UK currently have pretty much the highest tax burden ever. I think I saw something that said its currently even higher than during World War II. We really need to be better at spending the vast amounts taken in all different types of tax.

Meirion x

Tax rates were far higher in the early 1980’s with Income tax at 60% and a Inheritance sort of tax at 75%.


 An overall a lack of mass and depth pretty much describes the entire UK military.


Mass, depth and as far as RN concerned lethality!

Andrew Wilde

In other words!


Hey, trying being Canada who has the Northwest Passage but no ice-capable subs or warships.


I’m still amazed at how many old ships are being discovered as the ice melts again.


Nothing is being discovered because the ice melts. That happens every summer

Bloke down the pub

<i>’It is expected that by 2050 the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free in the summer months.'</i>
Back in the ninetys, it was claimed that the Arctic would be ice free by 2000. Instead, the variation of sea ice extent has been little outside of long term means and nothing that hasn’t been seen before. I wouldn’t go betting the house on the Arctic Ocean being reliably open water any time soon.

Barry Larking

The far north of Norway – Finnmark – is a bleak place I know quite well. I wonder about the need to defend it by expeditionary reinforcement in the light of modern conditions. Also the Norwegians know the terrain and cope with the conditions better than most. As with Ukraine, when you have an ally that knows how to fight the best plan is to support them, not waste energy on joining in unless as a last resort. If the Finns come into N.A.T.O. it’s the Russians who have a problem of their own making. The addition of Sweden makes the far North and Arctic a much less threatened arena unless you are Russia dealing with countries that have strong national identities and a proven backbone. The chief issue for the U.K. is the undersea one, both aggressive threats and vital infrastructure. The U.K.’s lack of spending on defence upgrades that accompanied the ‘peace dividend’ illusion is the main cause; the disastrous procurement process has not helped. We are playing a game of catch up; if there were seven or more SSN’s in the water today the picture wouldn’t be that bad. Russia’s military performance in the Ukraine confounds all the accepted expert assessments up to February this year. Anyone who predicted this military fiasco before that date would have been laughed out of court. I’d rather be in our present condition than theirs.


Somewhere else we have discussing whether the UK should be classed as an Arctic country as we can actually border the sea and can reach it. Unlike Sweden and Finland who may partially fall into the Arctic Circle but don’t have a ‘sea border’. It is where we should have concentrated efforts not with carriers. But we are where we are. Something all the pro-carrier Russiaphobes who spout here never seem to think abut.


How on Earth did this become carrier-bashing again, and what exactly is the point you’re trying to make? That the only reason we built the carriers is fear of Russia?

The carriers give us versatility. Sadly, as we all like to complain, defence doesn’t get the funds it needs. That means focusing efforts on platforms that can do multiple roles as and when required, and an aircraft carrier with a reasonable airwing is just about the most universally capable platform in the world. It can do humanitarian and peacekeeping ops, it can do limited intervention and deterrence, it can do all-out warfare, and it can do them all significantly better than the alternatives.

Would 6 more frigates, or however you decide to break down the money spent on the carriers, give us the same range of capabilities? No.