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So what happens when the Americans/Chinese/Russians display an every day ability to destroy satellites? British Armed Forces have absolutely no ability to operate or protect this new technology and equipment. Swapping limited amounts of steel for glass fibre will never survive in the face of the masses of steel that will be assembled to back up our opponents autonomous systems etc.


They all have that ability to destroy satellites. Which is why we need the ability to deploy hot-standby satellites very quickly to replace satellites lost to the enemy. I suspect this is why an RAF pilot is seconded to Virgin Orbit. That would give theoretically give the ability to rapidly deploy replacement small satellites from any runway that can support a 747.
While the USAF already have this capability; launching the Pegasus rocket from B52’s, they have also contracted Virgin Orbit for some launches.

Phillip Johnson

The idea of destroying satellites ignores the problem of fragments. If someone starts blowing up or smashing numbers of satellites there will be so many fragments on unpredictable orbits, satellite capability would degrade for everybody.
What happens to modern Defence if someone takes GPS and Satellite coms away?


Luckily enough we are part of NATO and americas best ale so we can and do use yank systems all the time..


Ha, i like Ale !!!!

Trevor H

The article talked about “pseudo satellites”. Do pay attention at the back.
High altitude drones, used for surveylance. In the stratosphere. Can operate for months. Autonomous or manual. Could be used for missile detection. Seems plausible to be used as EAW…. assuming they are not large then one can imagine a number in a circle surrounding a task force group… maybe layers of them.

Autonomous logistic aircraft sounds interesting… would it be expensive assuming it needs to be big?

But autonomous minesweeping has got to be realistic.

But to me, I see hints of the F32 here when they are reminding us that we need platforms, platforms big enough to be flexible to accept new weapons.


For the UK, the pseudo-satellite is based around the Airbus Zephyr high altitude aircraft. This operates above 20,000m (65,000ft) and has an endurance over 7 days. Theoretically, it can stay up longer as the wing solar cell recharge the main batteries. The main issue with the Zephyr is the small payload it can carry. Officially for the Zephyr 8 (S) this is only 5Kg. Not enough for a radar let alone a decent EO turret. The current plan is to use them as a communications relay. However, Airbus state: “Zephyr can support a wide range of payload capabilities, including but not limited to: Electro Optical, Infrared, Hyper spectral, Passive Radio Frequency (RF) Radar, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) radar, Early Warning, Lidar and Automatic Identification System (AIS).”

Zephyr – UAV – Airbus

The MoD have purchased a few that operate from Australia. Airbus are producing an even larger version called the Zephyr T which has a 20Kg payload.
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As I have said before we are still going to need platforms. These systems will still need looking after. which means personnel; many of whom who will have to be deployed and so in uniform. And these systems aren’t as clever as many seem to think they are. Our problem at the moment is not enough firepower. Though interesting and needed all this is a distraction.

Last edited 3 years ago by X

So who is to protect the unmanned vessels, from what it seems like, they will have a frigate tied up in their operations too, which seems rather wasteful. The current Sandown and Hunt classes, are able to protect themselves from light attack, and have secondary roles as patrol vessels, that is a huge gulf in capability that is going to be created. Not only would this tie up our most valuable assets in a babysitting role. Those same assets are now going to be put in situations that are just not viable, especially with the current dearth of new, or actually just existent armament. Small boats that a burst of machine gun fire could put out of service, doesn’t seem a great investment.


Great points


The idea of using frigates to carry out routine minehunting seems crazy. The new remote/ autonomous systems will obviously need a host vessel to ensure our larger warships are not misused. The new Belgian/Dutch vessel is a similar size and displacement to our River2 OPVs. Using this now proven platform ought to be affordable and would retain the flexibility of roles mentioned above.
The grp mcms we currently have were expensive to build (£50m for a 1989 build). In real terms anR2 mothership would be cheaper. If Belgium needs 6, then UK would need considerably more.


I’d imagine if we were to use those motherships, we wouldn’t need as many large hulls, at least not as many as we have currently, due to each being able to carry and operate multiple unmanned systems. This itself could be used as a sort of bait thrown to the treasury, as they definitely wouldn’t allow a like for like replacement, and quite frankly we wouldn’t need the same number for the same or eve greater capability, so a win for us and a perceived one for the treasury. Our 13 current vessels could probably be replaced by 9-10 of the newer ones possibly 8, assuming multiple unmanned MCMs per hull, for expanded capability. We, quite frankly, need to purchase according to our budget and stop aiming for what we will ultimately not have delivered, FBNW is really becoming far too common, and has been for quite some time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the t31 (and possibly t32) are to be the new mine fleet, given their minimal armament fit.

4th watch

These craft are going to operate under the wider umbrella of layered defence. I own one of the first if not the first inshore minehunter a 37′ civilian boat used as ‘echo sounding boat’ on the River Clyde. Though probably armed with a lewis gun it was to all intents and purposes unarmed. In service 1941-44 & could have been strafed any time but the real danger was from UXBs which was very real.


Well, for the most part our current minesweepers don’t, but that’s okay due to them not being a worthwhile target, a frigate most definitely would be, and we can’t exactly send in a T45 every time a frigate needs an escort, so it can escort it’s own unmanned vessels.

Trevor H

Currently where do we sweep for mines?


We have vessels deployed in the Persian Gulf (4 I think) as well as UK waters get swept regularly. I’m no expert & just relaying what I have read here (from other helpful commenters) and elsewhere but I believe they sweep them regularly to create “Q-routes” where the underwater topography is so well known that any new foreign object (i.e. a recently placed mine) can be identified very quickly and easily. It’s my understanding the MCM work benefits greatly from ongoing efforts rather than only deploying these skills/abilities in times of war.


So who wants to bet that the mysterious Type 32 will be sparsely armed mother-ships for remotely operated mine-hunters but classed as frigates so we’ve officially got 24 escorts and are ‘growing our Royal Navy’.

Don’t want to sound like a luddite as remote mine-hunters will be a lot safer and more flexible and we need to keep pace with technological change, but there is a real need for more frigates AND some mother-ships, not 1:1 replacements for the Hunts and Sandown’s, but at least 6 or 8 platforms to focus on mine-warfare and let other assets focus on their primary roles.

Trevor H

I’m guessing you are wrong. But too many people want to moan for the sake of it.

Mike O

I think type 32 will be a revised version of the Black Swan concept from 2012. A better basic armament but a cheap hull to act as a mother ship. Cheap to build, cheap to replace but with the main expense being in the off board systems.


Also what’s the reckoning that the MK41’s will be empty when Glasgow commissions from a lack of anti-ship, land-attack or anti-submarine missiles?

Spun as ‘fitted for not with’ no doubt.


You can bet on it

Supportive Bloke

Maybe: but a lot quicker to up arm than the T45’s MK41 gym.


We need mine hunter motherships to replace our minehunters even if the systems to destroy mines like “barrier above” could be autonomous we STILL NEED LARGER MOTNERHSIPS, we haven’t the Hulls to come anywhere near to cover for the 13 MCMVs If they are all scrapped without replacing …Remember when we had 30 Odd mcmvs not long ago…

Last edited 3 years ago by Cam
Simon m

My problem is that manned platforms are inherently flexible especially the latest generation of ships. By adopting single use autonomous systems are we really being more efficient/saving money? For example if we replaced MCMs for an aluminium hull or degaussed steel hull multi-purpose vessel yes it would be more expensive but it could perform anti-piracy, defence engagement, HADR, anti-aircraft, anti-ship, counter narcotics etc.
The autonomous minehunters can hunt mines and what else?
A bay as the mothership is ok in relatively safe areas, but in a warzone? It’s huge & would stick out on radar like a sore thumb! Do the mcm USVs have the range, robustness etc. To deploy far enough away from the mothership to protect it?
It’s all great rushing to new technology but are we certain of what high intensity conflict is really like? Can we guarantee communication and control of such assets? We’re moving to counter Cyber but at the same time adopting assets that are inherently more vulnerable to Cyber attack.

I’m more supportive of adoption of Pacific 950 or Autonomous platforms to work alongside manned platforms. As you keep flexibility but increase range/effectiveness etc. Plus someone is around to repair it and reboot it etc.
Effectiveness needs to be carefully considered at both ends of the spectrum to suggest UGVs can do stop and search of vessels and numerous duties that involve either face to face contact or even communicating over the radio I’m not sure.

As soon as someone says something like stop counting ships, I’m pretty sure that the treasury will have a field day to be honest and especially if we’re are left with lots of single role equipment that also doesn’t result in the direct loss of jobs if cut.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simon m

I would settle for 10 new River batch with mission bays at back and take out helipad to fit such systems for MCMVs role, we will need motherships for these autonomous craft. And the New Anti mine rivers Could cover the patrol role also giving the RN even more flexibility. 10 is what we need minimum and the mines at Clyde naval base can be covered by autonomous craft from the base so no need for larger maned boats like big river adapted mcmvs, shame we only have 13 mcmvs left in the fleet.


New Belgian Netherlands mine counter measures ships. 2000 tonnes plus.
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Each navy is supposed to have 6 each of this joint class. Unusually they will be built in a French commercial shipyard by Kership a JV between Naval Group ( DCNS) and Piriou.
And quite an increase in size over their ‘Tripartite class’ predecessors-(LOA) of 51.5m for a beam of 8.9m and a full‑load displacement of 615t
LOA of 81.4m for a 17m beam (15.5m at the waterline) and an as‑built displacement of 2730t with provision for increases to an end-of-life displacement of 2800t.
I can see the French jumping in on this when their minehunters need replacing.
Belgiums budget is €1.1 Billion for 6


As the french, Belgium’s and Dutch all use the Tripartite class of minehunters, the french must need a replacement soon.


“ The twelve ships will be equipped with a total of a hundred drones managed in a pool called Toolbox, shared by the two navies and supplied by ECA Group. The configuration of the Toolbox, used on board each ship or deployed from the shore, will vary depending on the typology of the missions. It will consist of surface drones USV INSPECTOR125, underwater drones AUV A18M and towed sonars T18 for mine detection and the MIDS system (Mine Identification and Disposal System) for mine identification and neutralization.”

Maybe we should have a couple of such vesssels for both uk waters and the gulf.


Yes. We need 8 to 12 of them. Back home we could have simpler platforms for surveillaning routes out HMNB’s. You could use robotic platforms (soon-ish) for that work. But overseas no.

My point is that drones still means platforms. Big platforms too.


As i put in an earlier comment i fear the Type 32 will be 5 lightly armed mother-ships for remote mine-hunters but labelled frigates to let HMG boast about increasing the size of the fleet from 19 to 24 escorts – despite it of course representing a significant drop in overall numbers.

Missed a trick going for more River’s due to dither and delay rather than looking to a 3,000 ton multi-mission design to fulfill patrol, survey and mine-warfare mother-ship duties.

16 of them to replace all of the River’s, Hunt’s, Sandown’s and Echo’s would be have been a major uplift in capability and flexibility whilst retaining decent numbers.


I think that is where we are yes.

I am not a fan of ‘one hull suits all purposes’. Steel is cheap. Right hull for the right job is the best approach.


True, but you could also argue that real economies of scale are only achieved when a common design is produced in significantly large numbers to drive down the build time and costs.


History would suggest otherwise. A hull is little 40% of the cost of a warship.


It’s not just the hull though is it. Building lots of a single class means the shipyard can become efficient at reproducing the same design and propulsion, communication and weapon systems etc can all be purchased in larger quantities to reduce the individual costs.

16 Type 23’s meant that towards the end of the program they were being stamped out in 2-3 years, for a good price and with all systems de-risked.

If we stick to small orders of different classes then at the very least a lot of design details need to be leveraged and passed on in a continually evolving drumbeat rather than seeing large gaps in production and re-inventing the wheel every time.


I never understand why on these blogs the majority just don’t grasp anything about ships or naval architecture.

If this was a site about the RAF and I said lets just buy C130 as we can shove modules in the back and it has really long wings we can hang missiles off and so on I would be met with a wave of derision.

Or do you have toolboxes that contain a single hammer?

It’s amazing.


I know that missiles have been placed on transports.

No. I mean a total lack of understanding on the matter.


Fairly early in the programme, we were turning them out in under three years and for a very decent price. It didn’t get appreciably better beyond that. The only system that was not derisked was the CMS, which is software-dependent anyway.


You could also argue that is the reason the UK struggled with design between T23 (mid 80s) and T45 (early 2000s).

There are very definitely purchasing economies of scale (but only if you buy all the equipment items for the entire class in a oner – which very rarely happens).

In terms of production, the learning curve in a yard actually goes asymptotic after 3 or 4 hulls (well for a decent yard, anyway). These are not production line items.


I would have hoped that such a vessel carrying multiple drones would be able to replace multiple hunt/sandown so 8-12 seems excessive.

Two in the gulf might be able to replace the 4 mine hunters we currently have there.

Containerised versions could also be flown out so the t23/31 could also become a mine hunter.



1) Using an escort as a ferry for kit is a waste.
2) What if you need MCM elsewhere?
3) What about the need for things like diver support.
4) What about operations from seaward? You can’t always count on operating from the shore. What if you can’t find suitable hulls? What about comms etc.?

Drones aren’t simple or cheap or small or that intelligent.

Bloke down the pub

Is Project Nelson so named because Nelson had a eye(sic)?


The side scanning sonar I imagine would find use not just for hunting mines but other targets like narco semi-submersibles as well

Mike O

No not really. Sidescan is not intended for that sort of thing. It creates a kind of imagery of the seabed based on the intensity of the return signal. This imagery is great for static objects like mines, wrecks, shopping trolleys but rubbish for anything else. Your tow fish would probably be at a greater depth than a narco sub so wouldn’t sea it anyway.

Mike O

Black Swans are rightly highly regarded, but they were able to take advantage of the changes in anti submarine tactics as WW2 progressed…initially it was a pattern of 12-18 depth charges over the stern when you passed over a U boat. Repeat till a hit is made or contact is lost. It was developed through the war with better locating sonar which could pass range and depth information to the larger , quicker sinking Limbo and Squid mortars which fired ahead this time. The Black Swan would try to stay behind the U boat and keep the sonar contact and 6 mortar bombs fired in a star of David pattern, hopefully to explode around a U boat at the correct depth with the pressure waves from below and above crushing it.
But of course the Black Swan hulls were the right ships in place at the right time to do this. The post war Blackwood class were an attempt to produce a stripped to essentials follow on to Black Swans with a pure A/S focus.

Mike O

Check out the link. I was referring to the 2012 concept proposal not the WW2 sloop. But there story is fantastic. I recently read ‘The Fighting Captain- The story of Frederic Walker RN CB DSO & The Battle of the Atlantic’. An incredible story.

Check out the 2012 concept. I have heard that it was mocked at the time but elements of it can be seen in much of what has been announced recently. It is a website. Easily googled if you don’t trust the link.

Ref the Blackwoods. I always thought it was a sound concept maybe imperfectly executed. With the modern weapons/sensors available it seems perfectly feasible to make a relatively small and cheap ASW focused escort that is still useful in peacetime presence, patrol, escort tasks etc. But I guess that is the future task of unmanned systems.


Thanks , I only read the outline from the link but will get the more detailed pages from your recommendation


Curious that the RN has nothing along the lines of a Fast Attack Craft. Something lighter than a frigate, but quite fast and relatively well armed. Numerous countries, large and small, have them. Sweden, Norway, Italy, Turkey, several Middle Eastern and African and Asian countries come to mind.