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David Graham

Couldn’t agree more. For example, the route search from Faslane to the 200m line seaward of St George’s Channel has to be carried out at all seasons. Anyone who has taken part knows how rough the sea can get one you are beyond the Island of Arran. Like the author, i am also concerned about the ability to defend the autonomous vessels in the Gulf, or, for example, the entry to the Red Sea via the Bab el Mandeb straits. Having worked in Yemen for 5 years, I know how accessible the Yemen side of the strait is by road, and it is in a particularly remote and uninhabited region.

stephen ball
Last edited 2 years ago by stephen ball

Naval warfare is fundamentally about manoeuvre on the sea. Doing away with ‘mother ships’ runs against that. The RN will of course sell this as it being cleverer than the average navy when it reality it is just another cut.

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It’s amazing the number of people posting who think the RN is being cleverer than the average navy when it:

1) Builds £1.3bn destroyers without TBMD and ASW capability but deploys them independently in environments where there is a subsurface threat

2) Builds “general purpose” frigates with no ASW capability no SSM’s and only 12 SAM’s

3) Spends £630m on long-range OPV’s that have no hangar so are not able to properly substitute for frigates on anti-piracy, maritime interdiction, SAR and humanitarian relief as it was stated they would be

5) Has carrier aircraft with no stand off ASM or land attack missiles at a time when Russia is selling the S400 to anyone with enough cash

6) Has shipboard helicopters without a data link

7) Spends hundreds of millions on helicopter launched anti-swarm missiles that aren’t much use against swarms because they’re not fire and forget.

This is the same RN that decided guns were obsolete with the T22 (wrong), that it was a good idea to convert Nimrod airframes into new ASW aircraft (wrong) and that having frigates with obsolete SAM’s, AAW destroyers with no low level AA defences and RFA’s with hundreds of troops on whose only defence was WW2 Bofors guns would be fine (wrong – see Falklands).

In fairness, nearly all of these things come from poor decisions by politicians motivated by using the defence budget as a job creation budget and/or a lack of resources for the required missions provided by the RN’s political masters. I just wish people would stop trying to post rationalise them as decisions driven by proper military considerations and assessments of risk.


It is the politicians. And post WW2 they have made bad decision after bad decision.

As I have said before back in 97 / 98 I was excited too about proper carriers for the RN. But back then I saw the carriers supporting a ‘fleet’ of 32 escorts, 12 SSN’s, and an amphibious force. Fast forward to today and we have 2 carriers with not enough aircraft at the centre of a fleet of what 15 escorts (aged or flawed), 7 SSN’s (not enough), and an amphibious losing hulls and personnel but apparently going to do more. We were also the world’s leading MCM practitioner and now that is going too. I larf whenever I read or hear the phrase ‘carrier strike’; a Cold War solution to an ill defined 21st question.

Last edited 2 years ago by X

Hear hear !!!

RN has a long history of having ships being under armed and under protected in conflicts, WW1 battlecruisers, WW2 HMS Hood, Type-21 frigate, Type-45 destroyer, to name but a few.

Fighting deficiencies and short comings were well known before battles but still the attitude was “it’ll be alright on the night”

Technologies have changed but the offensive and defensive principles of wars have not. Lessons have not been learned.

It is a paper tiger bluff when the chips are down.

Last edited 2 years ago by Arjun

So the analysis of Risk goes something like this…

  1. A subsurface threat– The whole ocean has a subsurface threat. If its a credible Risk (As opposed to threat) we send an ASW asset as well.
  2. GP Frigates– Built to allow the much more capable high end vessels to be released from the mundane tasking that a lower spec vessel can do. Do you really need a Harpoon missile fitted vessel to beat up pirates in Skiffs?
  3. Because you do not have a hangar does not mean you cannot operate or embark a helo. It does mean that you cannot sustain Helo ops for a lengthy period.
  4. Land attack has been done by subs for decades and will continue as such until Stand of systems are deployed on Surface units and aircraft. This is nothing new.
  5. Data Link– Yes the Merlin AEW, ASW and Wildcat could have data links but what sort of data link . What info are you going to be sending back?
  6. Missiles are only one layer in the defence against swarms. M3 50 cal on the Helo, 4.5″ Guns, CIWS, 30/20 mm guns, 50 Cal, Mini Guns, GPMG are all part of the mix along with heavy manoeuvring of the ship at speed
  7. T22 had guns(40mm Bofor’s and 20mm Bmarcs…I maintained them) just not a 4.5Gun for NGS. That was rectified on the B3 T22. No T22 was sunk in the Falklands but Ships with 4.5 guns where… Does that mean that a ship with a MR gun was more likely to be sunk? If so then the decision to not fit MR guns to a T22 was correct?
  8. The Nimrod was an RAF not RN asset.
  9. The Falklands was 40 years ago. WW2 was 40 years before the Falklands. Can you compare lessons learned from WW2 to the Falklands and then the Falklands to the Present day? Things have moved on. Weaponry wanot the most important part of the Falklands lessons for the RN. Damage Control was the biggest winner along with not having a uniform that melts in a fire, or cables that choke you out in a fire

I am not disagreeing with you wholesale, some points of the points are valid, but the above are some of the justifications that are used, like them or not.

Bloke at the bog

The truth of the matter is that there is not enough bloody money.

Instead of 6 BMW with all mod cons, have to settle on 3 Kia, 2 Fiat and a bike.
Then argue why the latter is better than the former.

While in the same time, the adversaries have more in quantity and quality.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bloke at the bog

The money is being spent elsewhere.


True and I like your analogy.
I often use a similar analogy with chums: we happily spend £70k on a Mercedes & then baulk and spending an extra £500 for the upgraded stereo.

We spent over £1b on a T45 & then shirk at spending an extra £20m for sonar. Obviously £20m is a LOT of cash but in the scheme of things and for the long term utility, over the lifecycle of the hull it’s nothing…

£27m for a wildcat but won’t spend an extra £1-2m for dipping sonar…

Reality is, until we’re embarrassed in a shooting war, we’ll keep hearing the same rationalisations from politicians that some things are not necessary while they cross their fingers that they aren’t in office when the shooting starts.


All you are doing is supporting the argument that the RN thinks coping with less is a virtue.


Has been happening since directly after WW2 and again from 1957.

In 1957 the official strength was 121,500 which included RM, the WRNS and the Nursing service. 70,000 of those were ‘ashore’ but marines etc are ashore of course. 10,000 were national service.
Now its 30,000.

For other figures


Yes. I have known a good number of ‘sailors’ whose whole career’s sea time was accrued on either the Gosport or Torpoint ferries.

dick van dyke

“A growing Navy”.

Tom Webb

This is a good article, it arrives at similar conclusions to this 2018 paper by Qinetiq and BMT that I saw online (although both of those companies have vested interests in selling MCM kit)


I assume this autonomous kit will still need motherships of some type? What will be procured for that? It would be madness to use the T26s / 31s

Whilst not my field, I am sure that with most things whilst autonomous can do a lot there will still be the occasional need for the specialist boats, with divers and crew so even if 80% can be done with UAVs you will still need a small dedicated fleet of MCMVs


Autonomous and ‘unmanned’ systems have to have personnel to look after. They may automate the drudgery but decisions will still have to be made by a human.

Artificial intelligence can be REALly stupid!

I think many imagine that a frigate will drop off a torpedo sized something that will clear acres of sea in a hour and come home all on its own mission accomplished.


And maybe a torpedo sized widget will work I’m some cases… but not all and that will be where you need a small GRP ship to get into the minefield…


It wouldn’t have the range. I am not proposing such. I am saying that is what it appears to me that many here think is going to happen. If you had read of any my posts here on this thread you will know I think MCM drones with out dedicated hulls to support them is just plain stupid. It is being pushed again by the RN pushing a cut as a virtue.


Yep I think your right… it’s just another cut…


On the cheap i think it would be a good idea to merge next OPV and this, but note none of those ship can be near a minefield, they do not have resistance like a MCM.


As the kids say, “this is the future deal with it”

Last edited 2 years ago by OkamsRazor

Update 18/02/2021
An Intermarine representative reached out to Naval News to add the following information:
Please note that the INTERMARINE NG MCMVs will be able to operate both in STAND OFF mode, thanks to the MCM Toolbox, as well as to access the minefield area, when necessary, according to the motto: “Unmanned where you can, Manned where you must”(…)

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criss whicker

so how long before the RN becomes the worlds first automated navy ??


More likely the first navy without ships. 🙂


For MCM operation:

I understand Belgian/Dutch new MCMV are not good at “within minefield” operation. They are steal vessels, 2500t large. So, not only RN, but also Belgium and Netherlands are “not thinking of manned operation in the mine field”, I understand.

For Persian Gulf operation, one Bay class LSD has been always assigned there. Regardless of LSG having Bay or not, I understand the plan is to assign one Bay always be there. The Bay will approach near the mine filed, but will not go into.

However, 16000t Bay has higher risk than 2500t Belgian/Dutch MCMV, larger acoustic noise, magnetic signal, and less maneuverability. As a River B2 OPV can carry the autonomous MCM operation system (, a team with one River B2 and a large mother ship (at this moment, Bay LSD) will be an option to make RN approach virtually the same to Belgian/Dutch ones.

For other tasks:
RN has increased 4 River B2 recently (+5 RB2, -1 RB1.5). With OPV’s very long sea-going days (as they do not carry complex weapons nor MCM gears = needs much less maintenance), I understand 4 OPV is nearly as capable as 8 MCMV in “training/visiting” role. Losing 12 MCMV does matter, but 2/3 of it is already compensated by 4 more OPVs, and coming T32 will add more (note Hunt-class is announced to remain until ~2030). Thus, I think in this field, capability added with River B2, and will be with T32, covers those to be lost by disbanding all MCMVs. But this means 5 River B2 is not an increase in the fleet.

I have no idea why route survey needs dedicated MCMV. If needed, just add a side-scan sonar on a simple fishery vessel. A 400-600t level simple sea-worthy ship is ten times cheaper than a dedicated MCMV. Its need does not disappear in “war time”, meaning using MCMV here is also a waste of resource? (not sure here).

Hunt-class MCMV is understood to remain there until ~2030, as I understand. So, there are plenty of time before RN loses “in the minefiled” operation capability. If initial trials went wrong, then, just ban the T32 program and separate it into “a few more T31 and ~6 MCM mother ship”. Everything solved.

Mothership needs:
But, I do think a dedicated mothership is needed. I personally opt to ban T32 program and relocate is resource to ~3 T31B2 and 4 PSV-like medium class mother ship (say, 4000t class, like French BGDM original plan). One or two “British-BGDM” will free up (my proposed) River B2 and a Bay in Persian gulf, enabling them to join LSG and cover training/visibility/emergency-response/Constabulary-tasks.


The idea behind using plastic hulled drones is that the ‘mothership’ doesn’t go anywhere near the ‘minefield’. This supposedly mitigates the risk to the crew. To my mind not optimum as retention of signature reduction features should be a consideration. Saying that the Dutch / Belgian ships are more sophisticated than the Rivers. Note thrusters fore and aft for example. They will be able to take a position and hold it more easily controlling drones on the open sea than a River. Where will all this MCM modules be kept? What about say dive support? All this kit will need to be moved to the River or vice versa, fitted, worked up to some degree and then dispatched to do a very tricky job.

As far as I know T32’s role is yet to be defined. Back in the olden days sloops were the RN’s MCM vessels. But I would suggest multiple hundred million escorts are best left to be escorts. We seem to be going from RFA’s filling gaps to RN front line units doing auxiliary work which is utterly nonsensical.

Also you are conflating the roles of a depot ship supporting MCM hulls with the MCM hulls supporting drones at sea. Completely different .
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Last edited 2 years ago by X

Autonomous MCM drones will be operated from a Bay LSD. This is RN official announcement. It is not my proposal. So, for RN, Bay-class LSD is not a depot ship, but an MCM drone support vessel.

My proposal is to use River B2 as a manned support ship. Drones will self deploy from Bays, so River B2 do not need to care it. MCM drone control system in a container (Thalres solution) can be carried on River OPV. And, if some manned support be needed, a RHIB/dingey will be launched from the OPV to handle it. This is my personal proposal, so not clear if RN will do the same (although RN demonstrated River B2 OPV to carry the MCM drone control system).

But, the trial may go well or go bad. Luckily, Hunts will be there for nearly a decade, so RN can do “try-and-test”.


Do Rivers have space and support for a decompression chamber?


Probably somewhere. They are expensive and need all sorts of plumbing and stores. There are reasons why navies have dedicated dive support hulls.


Ok. thx.


How many Bays do we have now?

Your whole second paragraph just describes how sketchy the whole venture is…..


Bay for MCM in Persian Gulf has been there for long period. Nothing has been changed.

LSG will use Albion/Bulwark for one, and another Bay for another one. This will leave another Bay for maintenance.

In place, I understand Caribbean hurricane season support ship has now shifted to a Wave + River, not a Bay.

Last edited 2 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

As I have said several times now you are confusing a ‘depot ship’ with command and control.


Uhmm. Could you tell me what is “command and control” and what is just depot, when we are talking about “a Bay at Persian Gulf for MCM tasks”?

Autonomous MCM command an control needs to be added to the Bay. It is compact, and can be fitted within a 20ft ISO container, in Thales’s solution. A Bay will easily handle this. It can be on a container or added directly to some room in her hull. A River can also handle this.

Diver support is something different. It will be able to be added to River B2 or building dedicated ship will be easy (=French solution). It is relatively cheap, compared to modern MCMV.

Thanks in advance..


Somewhere to service these drones is a depot.

Out on the sea doing mine hunting would be command and control.


Thanks. But your definition is not clear to me.

“Remotely controlled (in distant-located operation center) autonomous MCM drones, delivered from mother ship(s)” is the RN’s MCM future (as they say).

For me, control and depot, both is onboard the Bay in the Gulf, and sometimes “part of them” is on a River.

In your definition, where is depot and where is command and control?

Last edited 2 years ago by donald_of_tokyo
Glass Half Full

I broadly agree with your observations but think you are over-weighting the B2’s role and perhaps under-weighting the requirement for T32.

While retaining 3 B1s was ostensibly about managing fisheries post-Brexit it also allows the forward deployment of 3 B2s to the Med and SE Asia. But these 3 B2s seem likely to be placeholders for T31 in their deployment, not in addition to, with the 3 B2s returning to the UK so that the 3 B1s will then be de-commissioned after something like a 25-year life. So no B2s for the Gulf region.

The Gulf would be likely to have at least one T31, or a T32 in due course, doing the role that Montrose is doing now along with supporting a LSG operating from Duqm. A second T31 or T32 would support the Bay for the MCM mothership role as you outline. Two frigates in the region would allow temporary cessation of MCM and/or LSG ops in order to escort vessels per recent experience/requirement. The Bay then gets replaced with a new design LSS. Consider something like a Damen LST 120 for LSS with space for four davit systems to support deploying MCM UxVs in this role.

Not convinced on your argument giving up T32 for BGDM, unless the latter is armed like a frigate. What seems to get overlooked in discussions regarding MCM motherships is operations off a hostile coast. We got away with operating HMS Brocklesby off Libya but it would be unwise to assume such operations, even off the coast of a relatively low end threat such as Houthi controlled Yemen, would fare as well. For the future we should assume we might face shore based ASM, long range tube and rocket artillery and FIAC threats. Which means we need T31 level capabilities at a minimum for MCM roles in such regions … or have to provide a frigate as escort to an under-armed dedicated MCM mothership with the associated inefficiency of doing so. No reason why T32 might not be designed to better support autonomous MCM deployment vs T31 for such a role.

In summary, autonomous MCM enables the RN to operate in the most benign to the most threatening environments, by using the most suitable and cost effective platform for each situation … or no platform at all, if shore based ops meet the need.


Nobody knows what T32 will look. If a ship is built and commissioned to support drones it shouldn’t be necessarily classed as an ‘escort’.

And hopefully, God willing, we won’t be in the Gulf in a decade’s or two time.

Glass Half Full

Probably showing my bias regarding T32 since IMO it is likely to be something between T31 and T26 in escort capabilities with the RN finally implementing a CEC in T45, T26 and T32 for maximum flexibility and capability across the major escorts. So IMO T32 is an intermediate frigate with sensor and weapons capabilities similar to FTI or PPA Full or Light+, but you’re correct we’re all just guessing.

I’d hope we didn’t have to be in the Gulf either but it doesn’t seem like Iran is going anywhere.


“MCM motherships is operating off a hostile coast”, where are you talking about? May be a 3P 40mm gun will be needed, but I do not think a full frigate capability will be needed.

99% of the MCM tasks is in peace time. This is historical fact, and I think it will be so also in near future. If MCM mother ship are heavily armed, it will directly mean very limited hull can be at the theater they are needed. A frigate-level armament will eat up many resources (more money) = less hulls built, and increased maintenance = even less “days of hull actually at work”. Not only the first point, but also the second point matters. It will simply very significantly reduce the RN MCM capability.

By the way, ASW task is high end, as nations with SSK is very limited and SSK attack is a war, not a peacetime. This is completely different from MCM tasks. So, T32 and T26 being (possibly) capable of handing future ASW drones is a good thing.

If they can ALSO cover the very very nitche task of “MCM under threat”, that a bonus for me.


99% of what the navy does is done in peace time. 🙂


OK, so define it correctly.

99% of the tasks the whole navy does is in peace time, but majority of their action is in war time (Falkland war, Gulf war I, Gulf war II and Sierra Leone).

99% of the MCM tasks in action is in peace time. When there was a mine threat in Gulf War II, the raiding task force to the port stopped ship-borne landing and shifted to heliborne. Even if “a T32” was there, I guess they do the same.

Modern sea-mine is clever, sophisticated, and stealthy. Therefore, mine hunting is a time consuming business. I agree “MCM task in hot region” does exist, but I think it is to find if there are mine field there. If suspicious, just avoid the route for a moment (like using heliborne) and leave the mine disposal to “after the war”.

Modern towed side-scan sonar enables this from helicopter and/or MCM-USV/UUV. REMUS UUV pods are virtually “autonomous swimming side-scan sonars”. Any ship can deploy it (thanks to new technology) and route survey can be done with it. (No need to send HMS Alacrity going back and forth within the Falkland strait to find if there are no mine to sink her. )

But, time consuming and dangerous mine hunting shall better be done after war. In many past war, this was the tactics of choice, look like.

Glass Half Full

Perhaps I didn’t express myself clearly. You seem to be making my point. I’m not saying we should have dedicated MCM motherships armed as frigates. I’m saying we need the option to support those capabilities, if we operate off a hostile coast, by being able to use a T32 in that role if necessary. It would probably be a rare requirement so the primary role for a T32 would be as an escort IMO, assuming it ends up specified as I believe it will. Your last sentence <If they can ALSO cover the very very niche task of “MCM under threat”, that a bonus for me.> seems to agree with this

As X observed 99% of what the navy does is in peacetime, that’s why we can use B2 and T31 for constabulary roles and not arm them to the teeth as if we’re already in WWIII. However, we can have a hostile coast with mines deployed without being in a high level war. Operating off Houthi controlled Yemen would be an example. Libya was a past example. Iran tends to be very calculating in how far they escalate, but if they believe they can threaten beyond a MCM vessels ability to respond without major repercussions then they may do so, a heavier armed vessel may avoid that temptation. Any other country where the UK may find itself, perhaps supporting a UN mission, off a coast where an insurgency has gained access to mines and higher level shore based weapons.

At the highest level a hostile coast could be one where ships may be targeted just by long range ASM. Imagine having to clear mines laid by Russian submarines off the Norwegian coast or in the Baltic Sea. Air, submarine or land launched ASM might all be potential threats. The likelihood is low but credible deterrence helps keep it that way.



  • If the T26 class = 8 of the 14 high-end escorts in RN, can cover the “drone-capable frigate” solution (although it is not yet clear), I think it might be enough. In other cases, a MCM mother ship escorted by T31/T45/T26 will do. Select the best escort, depending on the theater (Norway, Baltic sea, or Houthi controlled Yemen). CAMM is local area air defense capable, and a 40mm 3P gun on the MCM mother ship will be able to handle those “suicide drones”.
  • By the way, drone-based ASW and USV-based fast-boat swarm counter measure will become important tactics in near future, I guess. As such, T26 will be good with its mission bay, and T32 with similar capability will be nice.

As you pointed out, what I am against is, building “a dedicated frigate-level-armed MCM mother ship”. Even a corvette-level armed one, like the old Venetor-90 design, will significantly reduce the MCM capability. This is what I meant.

Mike O

Is type 32 not going to be a general purpose mother ship? I understand details are limited but I believe that is what has been stated.

I respect the points made in the article but they are problems with many different solutions. Either way the future is brighter for the Navy than the army at the moment.

Just me

Yes, these 11m UMCMVs can be carried in significant numbers in the T26/31 and T32 mission bays.
Every ship can have its own on board sweeper or two. And they are not limited to sweeping.

Last edited 2 years ago by Just me

I’m afraid T31 mission bay can handle only upto 9.5 m boat. What is more, T31 has only 3 boat alcoves, two of which is occupied by her RHIBs.


Why? How much upper deck space and volume would that take up? How clever do you think these things are?


Nobody knows what T32’s role will be. Carrying drones in huge numbers is something that has been ceased on sites like this for some reason.

Mike O

Maybe X but I have not heard anyone serious say huge numbers.

Jeremy Quin did say “The roles and capabilities for the Type 32 Frigate will be decided following the concept phase, which is in its early stages… Further work is required to develop the operational concept however it is envisioned that Type 32 will be a platform for autonomous systems, adding to the Navy’s capabilities for missions such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.”

Nothing is certain but it is indicative of the likely outcome.


Nothing has been decided. Two things get sites like this excited, ‘carrier strike’, and ‘drones and mission modules’. Missiles are already autonomous systems….

dick van dyke

what Army ? !


I can see the RN cancelling something vital to get some small cheap motherships that aren’t fit for purpose! I hope im wrong.


I assume they will get an off the shelf offshore support vessel, have it operated by the RFA and that will be the mothership for the autonomous mine clearance.


What if mines have to be cleared underfire? It is the command and control that is the issue. That is separate from operating a depot ship.

Saying that I have wondered about whether one way of delivering marines to shore would be to use a number of some form of ‘complex hull’ carried into theatre by an RFA flo-flo.


I’m still not seeing a solution to an IRGC speedboat just sailing up and boarding a USV and then towing it away. Given that manned boats just surrendered in the past when faced with such a threat, would the navy actually be allowed to kill humans to stop them boarding a USV? A remote detonation device would just see the IRGC sail up to each boat in turn and watch the firework display.

A cheap mothership is needed with at least 4 slots and support facilities – there aren’t enough Bays and T31s/T32s/T26s will have better things to do and be grossly over the top for this work.

Dick Van Dyke

Sorry but, I’d love to see a story based upon the latest reports of the whole situation in Afghanistan here, So much more important than this current thread to be honest. Sorry again if this might be mis placed.


Try ‘The War Zone’ its US centric but usually is very detailed and fast moving events as well as in depth covered

dick van dyke

Thanks, never heard of it.


Also, try UKDJ its got about 5 uptodate threads on the subject.


Just when oh when is the leadership of the Royal Navy going to come out publicly, not that they have ever done in private, and say “STOP, THIS HAS GONE TOO FAR”. Their acceptance of every manpower cut is shameful enough but now ships companies are at risk serving on frigates and destroyers that will carry toy boats rather than the formidable armament they are going to need. MCM,s will always be required as long as the nuclear submarine has to operate from bases like Faslane. I’m not going to completely rubbish the idea of small plastic boats clearing mines effectively but surely the mother ship and her little gaggle of boats must be built and shown to be effective before yet another reduction in ship numbers takes place. Scrapping minesweepers before they cease to be effective and converting existing RFA assets already in short supply is not the answer. We need something positive from our gutless Admirals. Don’t hold your breath.


With the early retirement of all the Sandown Class could we see the recommissioning of HMS Atherstone???

To late to swap the M55 contract for a few extra Sandown???