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Simon m

The work on Tidespring and potentially other tide class is concerning and isn’t great news. But I am sure any issues will be rectified. Is there any case that this work has been stretched out for other reasons for example keeping the yard busy or that lack of manpower that means that there is no rush to get the vessel back in service?
The general state of the shipbuilding industry is much more alarming and if Scotland’s independence does happen the situation surely presents a threat to national security. I can only hope that Babcock and a potential distributed build is still possible and breathes some life in to the industry.
The only real fix for the issues:
1. I believe is to ensure every military and government vessel is built in British yards – this IMO can only happen if there is competition so prices are kept to a reasonable level.
2. The defence budget and general government budget is increased and there is a steady drum beat of work.
3. There’s a recognition to expand the fleet
4. There needs to be a more flexible approach around capability rather than an every so often injection of funding for new classes. For instance I believe there is a case now for multi-role mine warfare vessels rather than waiting for an OSD the same with the LPDs to be replaced by LHDs. There is little reason that these could not be sold once replacements are in place. Conversely we are already planning a T45 replacement when ships could be upgraded and a couple of new builds added instead. It seems Daring is sat in Portsmouth at the moment why not send her to CL for Hull extension and a capability enhancement. This sort of work could smooth out peaks troths of new classes and enhances the RN.

Other suggestions and issues
At the end of the day we will effectively have to pay for a workforce on a constant basis or overpay for ships (due to the fact the workforce needs regenerating) that potentially are much subject to faults etc. Due to skills fade. Therefore it makes more sense to keep them constantly busy.
Therefore another consideration and that is whether shipbuilding skills could be applied elsewhere on different military projects for example can engineers etc. Contribute to Challenger 2 LEP? Or work on Ajax Boxer etc. This maybe easier for BAE but perhaps government should insist on sub contraction to Babcock etc. Is there crossover in some components such as wiring etc.

The option to build and export ships is clearly limited and personally I would drop the e from T31. T26 is an example of this although the design and some of the sub components will be exported it is always likely countries want to build their own. So this will not keep the whole workforce busy.

There is the suggestion in NSS that ships should only last 10-15 years and sold, the problem with this is weapon systems on the ships may still be relevant and most of the sales I have seen have resulted in receiving small amounts. The other problem is that it looks likely well designed warships (i.e. those with space flexibility) look to be able to give long service and new warships are becoming more and more expensive. Therefore for T31 you could pay £300m run for 10-15 years, sell for £60 to 80 million then have to replace at £500m for a ship you don’t really need as there is another 15 years life left! There is also then issue of weapons transfer or selling them unarmed. If unarmed surely the price may then drop further, you would also need to figure in weapons removal and integration.

This also needs coordination between industry and the MOD with a proper thought out plan. What would be helpful is that the government committed to an absolute minimum defence spend of 2% plus inflation and then plans could be made. If the budget goes up then all well and good extra weapons could be purchased etc.

Just my rambling thoughts!


With a fleet of 20 ish escorts there is no room for competition. It’s a specialised field so yards need to keep working in the area. So one yard doing a new build every 15/20 months is all we need .

Simon m

There are plenty of ships outside of escorts to provide work to yards MCMV, opv’s, auxiliaries, aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships etc. Most of these still need naval build knowledge for both upkeep, MLUs and new builds.


Simon, you seem to ignore the costs of mid life refits. Newer ships are meant to be more modular, but patching up the hill (as is happening with the T23 mid life refits is still costly) still. Never mind the cost of replacing things that were not designed to be replaced (T45 gen sets).

Simon m

I still feel the mid-life updates would cost less than difference between selling old and buying new. Mid-life updates/LIFEX keep the industry busy too. But I can’t believe for instance that T23 mlu/LIFEX even approaches the cost of a T26.

I think Sean is right it is making sure analysis is done and the correct number of yards are selected to provide such work.

Another issue is going to be the T26 build rate and procurement delay, this means more t23 are due a LIFEX (which to me is different to mlu) 34 years is too long to run a frigate such as a T23 design it also unbalances the fleet and denies the RN capabilities such as flexible mission bay. This is where it does costs money and capability!

For me MLUs should be around adding/updating weapons or systems, like Seawolf to Sea Ceptor.

I think roughly around 20-25 years should be the maximum for a ship, unless the design continues to give the correct capabilities and a LIFEX is possible, new builds of the same design should not be ignored either.

I think we need to bear in mind that almost from T45 onwards we are procuring a very different generation of vessels with built in space (even t45 has extra accommodation a bigger hanger etc.) specifically designed for multirole capabilities, barring some major changes in weaponry, propulsion etc. we will soon be paying a premium for the replacement designs that have little more capabilities (instead of potentially investing in weaponry).
So I think there really will need to be a different approach and a balance between LIFEX and procurement of new slightly upgraded designs (LIFEX does need to be there or industry will rinse the Mod saying the slight upgrade is next best thing) If designs don’t meet our capabilities then they should be replaced and sold. Most navies that buy used ships are unlikely to afford the most capable designs.

I just think we need a more pragmatic approach more around capability rather than we have had this ship so long so let’s give industry a massive amount of money to design a different ship with no increase in ability.

Just look at how the Arleigh Burke destroyers have hit the sweet spot for USN.

Potentially a couple of years after investing heavily in a new design with slight increase in capability a new technology may appear


If the MOD selected 2 or 3 yards as being where all new RN, RFA ships were both built, AND where they received major refits, would that be enough work to keep the yards continuously employed? Yes there’s a difference between shipbuild and ship repair but a yard capable of the former must be capable of the latter.
Having given them that security there would need to be a way of injecting competition between the yards to ensure value for money. Most efficient / cost-effective of the yards gets to cherry-pick the work on offer?


I am sure it will be rectified with more man-hours and money… more money. Everything is becoming so expensive to maintain the only ship left in the fleet will be the QE.

Simon m

Hopefully if selected arrowhead 140 will reverse this trend just watched an interview with the captain of a Iver Huitfield class (parent design for a140) due to Manning etc. The ship is available for about 180 or so days of the year. But in terms of refits he stated that in 2 years they would need about 4 weeks. More or less saying if you could crew they would be available almost all the time. They have also installed maintenance patches in all areas to allow easy removal of equipment which allows them to swap for working equipment and continue operating.
The engine bays has winches and rails mean maintenance can be done on board. All this and they got 3 vessels (although they reused some weapons etc.) Cheaper that a single T26 or T45!


The national shipbuilding strategy is a complete fiasco the government has let two of the type 31e building yards to be closed Ferguson in deep trouble so yet again everything’s going north of the border . I cannot see why the Tories even wasted money getting sir john parker to do the NSS because they don’t seem to be taking any advice from it.


In fairness Ferguson hit the wall in part due to issues with a ship contract with the Scottish government that gave them an excuse to nationalise it. H&W hasn’t built ships for 20 year as was profitable for the last few years. Their owner went bust pulling them under. I expect it to be back in business in the next couple of months hopefully stronger than before.

Captain Nemo

My initial thought was ‘I wonder if it’s manning again’, but they obviously wouldn’t pay Cammell Laird a parking fee.
Just out of interest and because I haven’t gotten into trouble so far this morning, do you think there would be a business case for the RN absorbing the RFA at this point?
Is it of a size now where it still justifies its own existence and would the navy as a combined whole make more efficient use of those 2000 bodies, as well as possibly bringing that tonnage safely within the remit of UK shipbuilding?
It’s my observation that the RFA seems to find itself performing tasks more typically suited to the navy proper (particularly in respect of the Bays) and I can only see that trend continuing as I seem to recall specific mention of tankers and their generous helicopter facilities being made at RUSI in respect of the littoral strike concept.
My inclination is to say that the RFA is probably a very economical organization and that its access to civilian labour markets is likely a major advantage.
Apologies for the slight off topic.


Unless absolutely all the RFA crew joined up. And some if not most wouldn’t then for a number of years we would have a large number of ships laid up due lack of crew. The RN is having to work had to crew the ships its got it can’t do any more.

Captain Nemo

No, my guess is that they probably wouldn’t be interested or they would have just joined the navy.
It’s interesting as a numbers game as with any merger you gain efficiencies by eliminating task duplication, in this case I would guess those would mostly lie on the shore side. But if the navy is actively considering reducing its number of marines to increase its number of naval ratings against a fixed overall headcount then the opportunity to increase your headcount while rationalizing the administrative side would reap dividends you would think.
I must admit as to being slightly confused with the arrangement overall as HMS Albion might be sitting offshore with 400 marines and Lyme Bay could be sitting right beside her with another 350, or acting as a mothership in a hot spot like The Gulf, or chasing pirates. If a smaller Royal Navy will mean that greater utility will be sought from every other platform I’m curious as to whether the RFA guys are still happy that they have the better part of the deal.


Before they made sponsored reserve a requirement of joining up, There was a major push to get people to “volunteer” for SR status for reasons that were….Interesting(Think about RN boat crew that wandered into Iranian waters and that as civilians we have no protection under the Geneva convention). It didn’t go down very well. Like Nemo says below, If people wanted the navy lifestyle, They would have joined the RN.

Also, Given the RFA crews are a fraction of the size of navy ones, I don’t think it’s a case of 1 for 1 manning so how much extra manpower would be needed is anyone’s guess


You also have to remember that a lot of the older RFA personnel joined the RFA after having a career in the RN. In addition, many personnel are in the Company because it’s NOT the RN.

The topic of absorption into the RN comes up quite often on the tinterweb and it’s the same response every time – it would be a huge mistake and as we would end up with several more ships laid up. In addition, it would require a totally new skill set, because not many in the RN will have experience as a delivering ship in a replenishment.

TL;DR: Wouldn’t work and wouldn’t ever happen.


I seriously doubt the delays and issues are down to CL who by now have a lot of experience in the repair/refit game. Far more likely that it’s issues with the initial build quality as the article suggests which further demonstrations the false economy of awarding major contracts overseas (no tax or wages filtered back into the UK economy, no sustaining of high-skilled jobs and at the end of the day still no guarantee that the work won’t be shoddy!).

At least with the Tide’s there are plausible and (probably) simple reasons which will be rectified and with 6 large tankers now in RFA service there is plenty of spare capacity to take up the slack. I’m far more concerned about Audacious and the Vanguard refit. There’s no public information as to why Audacious is now almost a year behind in her sea trails and commissioning and with Trenchant scheduled to leave service after 30 years pretty imminently it looks like the already stretched submarine service will be dropping to just 5 boats for who know’s how long.

Given that the mid life refits of the Vanguards were pushed to the right and it’s absolutely critical to generate CASD there is similarly now little-no margin for delays here either.

Meirion X

I very much think the RN would get better value to have VLS Astutes.
And to develop FC/ASW to as future deterrent.


So let me get this right, 25% of our new tankers is in an unexpected extended refit, over 50% of our frigates is non operational, one of our new SSNs at a cost of £1.2 billion has been tied up for 18 months and not gone to sea, 25% of our SSBN fleet is in an unexpected extended refit and our T45s do not work and are not fully equipped as the way they were designed to do. It also seems that with what is left over, over 50% of our operational frigates and destroyers are on overseas deployments. Theres not much left to protect British Home Waters, NATO waters.
Am I correct in these figures if so then the MPs, MoD, Admiralty and god knows who else should be sacked, hung, drawn and then quatered whilst still alive. We are an Island nation that depends and lives of the sea, we have little enough ships if they are all working to carry out the tasks that is asked of the RN/RFA.
I am also trying to understand with so few ships operational how is it that we have manpower issues, we have only five frigates and six destroyers that can go to sea unless some of the destroyers are in refit so it is probably 4 destroyers operational.
Somewhere there is a monumental balls up in the equipment chain and I can only say thanks to the men and women who man the few assets that are operational that they can fulfill the requirements of the nation in spite of their political masters.

Phillip Johnson

What has not been mentioned is the possibility that parts have been taken from Tidespring to support the other members of the class. If the ship way going into refit anyway……………………
Such an event would be painfully consistent with the way other classes have been managed.


“While it was the correct decision to build the Tide class in South Korea given the lack of domestic capacity available at the time,”
Sorry but in this case, no. The big un-tapped potential of Barrow shipyard in which KOFAC, the un-official website for the Barrow shipyard showed the potential for building the MARS fleet of ships, Tankers, Fluid and Solid and others etc… BAE along with BMT, got into bed with a foreign builder (BMT are doing this again with a Spanish competitior for the Solid Support Ships so shame on them!). BAE took Barrow out of this potential so to focus just on nuclear subs at Barrow, for mainly the Central and North yard, the South Yard assembled the Albion ships along with one Wave tanker (if worked out correctly, far cheaper than the rubbish Tide ships), so was perfectly able to do this. OK, hull sections were fabricated in the North yard (Devonshire Dock Hall) and wheeled to the assembly birth slipways for dynamic ship launch. But new contracts should mean new methods and a condition in INVESTMENT in capability! The new facilities with the automated unit production shop and CAS (Central Assembly Shop) sadly never happened too. Don’t forget this yard could build many big ships at the same time not so long ago.