As part of the Ukrainian Naval Capabilities Enhancement Programme (UNCEP) agreement signed with the UK government in October 2020, Babcock will build at least one, probably two Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FIAC) for Ukraine at their Rosyth facility. Here we look at this programme and Babcock’s other moves in the naval export market.
We first reported in September 2020 that the UK government had agreed to assist Ukraine in regenerating its navy. Initial rumours suggested that FIAC based on the Vosper Thornycroft-designed Barzan class vessels could be built in the UK, possibly at the Appledore shipyard (now owned by Harland and Wolff). The UNCEP subsequently appointed Babcock as the designated prime industrial partner for Ukraine and they will bring in SMEs to contribute as needed.
Industry sources suggested that BAE Systems, who had inherited the IP for the Barzan design, was willing to donate it on an ‘as seen only’ basis to other UK shipbuilders. However, Babcock assessed the Barzan as unsuitable, not least due to the drawbacks of its aluminium hull. A former Babcock subsidiary, FBM Marine (acquired in 2000) had a portfolio of small-medium size fast patrol ship designs under the ‘Protector’ brand developed in the late 1990s. A total of eight FIAC will be built for Ukraine will be based on a modified and updated 50-metre Protector design (P50-U).
UNCEP is based on UK export finance in the form of a loan to the Ukrainian government and will include British-made equipment where possible and Ukrainian and other foreign content as required. The precise weapon and sensor fit has yet to be determined but P50-U will be heavily armed for her size, intended to provide a short-range asymmetric deterrent to the much larger warships of Ukraine’s threatening neighbour. It will likely feature a small-medium calibre main gun, 8 canister-launched anti-ship missiles and a lightweight surface to air missile system.
More work for Rosyth
The lead ship of the P50-U FIACs will be built at Babcock Rosyth facility in the Syncrolift Hall (Building 18 – also known as the Sandown Minehunter Refit Facility) adjacent to the newly erected Type 31 shipbuilding hall. This will allow the project to be de-risked before the remaining 6 or 7 vessels are built In Ukraine.
The automated robotic panel line which has been installed as part of the investment for the Type 31 programme will also be used in the project and the craft will be assembled in pre-outfitted sections. The existing infrastructure in the Hall including overhead gantry cranes can readily support modular construction of what will probably be 500-600 tonne vessels. The syncrolift can also be used to lower the completed hull into the water.
Besides the FIAC project, Babcock also has the contract to improve naval shore facilities in Ukraine and refurbish two decommissioned RN minehunters (ex-HMS Ramsey and Blyth) before their transfer to the Ukrainian navy. The MCMVs will receive upgrades to their predominantly UK equipment fit in Rosyth before being handed over to their new owners. This is a similar package to the three ex-RN Sandown Class MCMV sold to Estonia (2007-8) and refurbished before handover, the three ships were also recently refitted and upgraded in Rosyth.
Arrowhead-140 goes global
Slightly overshadowed by the AUKUS submarine deal, on 16th December at DSEI, Babcock celebrated its first export success with Arrowhead-140. Indonesia formally signed a deal to license the design for two frigates to be constructed by PT PAL in Surabaya. The licensing deal is relatively modest but the real financial value for Babcock will be in the through-life support contract and some UK manufactured content in the ships.
Babcock pay a small royalty to OMT, the Danish company that designed the original Iver Huitfeldt class frigate that the Arrowhead-140 is based on. John Howie, Babcock’s Chief Corporate Affairs Officer told Navy Lookout that “the Danish have been enthusiastic and helpful in supporting the export effort”. Arrowhead is not just ‘Huitfeldt plus’ and there have been significant modifications to meet RN standards, make use of British components and a large contribution from Thales UK.
Arrowhead 140 is also a contender for the Polish frigate requirement and Babcock believe their competitive advantage lies in the size and flexibility of the platform as the Poles seek a more heavily armed ship than Type 31.
Arrowhead was a late entry into the Hellenic navy’s frigate competition which is a multi-faceted project as the Greeks seek a partner to provide more than just warships. There are four aspects to their requirements. The central pillar is a call for 4 frigates to be built in-country and there is strong competition from Europe and the US but the low price point of Arrowhead may be a big advantage. In the interim, their Hydra class MEKO frigates need to be refurbished and Babcock already has experience with these platforms, working on the Australian MEKO frigates. The Greeks also want help to rebuild their warship and commercial shipbuilding and repair capacity. Greeks interests own a quarter of the world’s merchant ships and the regeneration and a partnership in domestic yards has great revenue potential in the long term.
Finally, the Hellenic Navy has an urgent requirement for ‘interim’ frigates. Sadly for the UK, the cupboard is rather bare with just 2 possible candidates. HMS Montrose will return to the UK in 2022 after 3 intense years in the Gulf to be decommissioned. She has previously undergone LIFEX refit and Babcock Devonport would be well placed to refit her for further service. HMS Monmouth has been stripped of equipment is in a very poor material state, currently in the hands of DRSO in Portsmouth awaiting her fate. Whether Greece would be willing to pay for her to undergo a major refit that would probably cost at least £50M and take 2 years is doubtful. One remote possibility is that Monmouth’s refit could be done in Greece with Babcock assitance and used as a ‘pathfinder project’ to regenerate local skills.
While the French are terribly upset about the cancellation of their Attack-class submarine contract with Australia, it is worth noting that UK naval exports had almost become extinct in the 21st century. State-subsidised shipyards in France and other European companies have enjoyed a sustained run of successes in competitions, building warships where Britain was mostly not even a contender.
In the last two decades, the paltry total of new warships built in Britain for overseas customers comprises 4 OPVs for the Irish Navy (2018), 3 OPVs for Brazil (2013), 3 Khareef-class corvettes for Oman (2011) and 3 light frigates for Brunei (2002). The export of the Type 26 design to Australia and Canada was the start of a revival and UK industry will benefit considerably from supplying equipment for the vessels even being built overseas. All three navies will also benefit from economies of scale in purchasing equipment, commonality when operating together and shared experience and training opportunities. Further successes in licensing the Arrowhead design to other navies would have similar advantages.
More good news.
well armed, just saying
I know, nice if our OPV’s were as well armed…….
Fortunately, our OPVs don’t have to fend off the Russian navy as part of an invasion, so 8x anti-ship missiles is a bit overkill to tackle smuggling, piracy and illegal fishing.
And unlike Ukraine, we have a proper navy with much larger and better equipped major surface combatants as well as large aircraft carriers and nuclear attack submarines to sink Russian ships.
If you had extra anti-ship missiles lying around, stick them on the frigates and destroyers where they belong, not on patrol craft.
If you want more kit for the OPVs, we should invest in better surveillance UAVs and those Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) things to point them at illegal Chinese fishing trawlers without having to shoot anyone and causing a major international incident.
I wouldn’t read too much into what armament you see on deck at this moment in time, it is more of a speculative place holder for the moment. All we know is it will be a mix of Western and Ukrainian. The Leonardo 76mm is a strong possibility as Babcock have a sales and support agreement with that company and it will probably be part of the armament of the ADA Class Corvette that Ukraine is buying of Turkey.
Great to see The UK as an island nation with a proud maritime heritage returning to shipbuilding with a bit of support and joined up thinking from both the industry and the government.
With products like these Ukrainian vessels alongside the T26/T31 offerings we’re well places to offer customer a broad range of options. Hope and expect to see us pursuing exports with countries like Chile and New Zealand as well as emerging navies in places like West Africa and Eastern Europe. Domestic, licence built projects will probably dominate but hopefully UK shipyards can get in on the act with initial proof of concept builds too.
It would be nice to see some ships being built in England though!
The question is who in England could do these sorts of contracts?
Appledore could build this FAC when they have built up a workforce. But how long would that take? Plus could they on their own have quickly worked a design? But the biggest issue is H&W’s ability to provide support and expertise overseas. They only just exist in the U.K. No way are they credible as a partner for a foreign yard.
CL could definitely do the build today but again do the have bothe the expertise and financial resources to run big overseas projects?
I guess the good news is that we’ve got MROSS, FSS and the national flagship all coming up in the next few years and with The Clyde yards and Rosyth both very busy for the foreseeable future it leaves H&W / CL in good position to be awarded the contracts.
The point about state subsidised shipbuilders in France and other European countries (?) is well made. They have made it all but impossible for Britain to compete. Defence equipment was exempt from competition rules. But the subsidising of national champions outside the defence field by France ,Italy ,Germany etc was never properly tackled by the EU. Add to that an EU willingness to finance the closure of manufacturing plants in Western Europe ( mainly UK because of job protection rules elsewhere) and the transfer of work to Eastern Europe or even Turkey, and you start to understand why we have lost so much industry.
At last, this government has declared a Defence Industrial Strategy. Now they need to deliver.
I think we ought be prepared to offer some small thanks to both Russia & China for their contribution to our Defence Industrial Strategy awakening, Peter. In fact, I’m sure they’ll soon prove even more encouraging on that front.
My favourite example is Navantia. Madrid was caught giving them money and action was taken. But you can bet state funds are still be piped into them.
We follow rules, and that is the reason why we don’t fit into the EU.
It’s called ‘Cash and Close’.
The nearest city to me had a steel works with one of the most advanced rolling mills in the word which was making a profit. The steel works was closed in 1978 due to a deal over production to do with EU quotas. The Dutch bought the rolling mill and closed it and shipped it to the Netherlands in the late 90’s / early 2000’s. Bang 16000 jobs gone. The site is occupied by call centres now.
Odd isn’t it. When in the EU we were probably the only country to play by the rules.
I’m so glad the Aussies have cut the French out of the Sub deal. The French it seems never intended to deliver the subs as contracted for.
A genuine question: how effective is the fast attack craft (FAC) concept?
Without a helicopter to identify and provide targeting for over the horizon surface threats, are they not limited in their offensive capability? Add to that their limited self defence capability and what military value are they in a shooting war?
Iraqi FAC’s were massacred by airborne platforms in Gulf War 1 and Libyan and Iranian FAC’s were dispatched by US warships and aircraft in the Gulf of Sidra and in Operation Praying Mantis.
It seems that the record for FAC’s in combat in recent times is one of bring easily sunk without inflicting damage.
I think it is more about getting a platform somewhere quick in a ‘short of war’ scenario than all out warfare. These won’t last long in a proper conflict.
They will have data links with uavs and other aircraft for over the horizon but in the case of Russia they won’t have to look very far.
I can’t say I’d want to be onboard in a shooting war with Russia, once they launch their anti ship missiles they want be able to get very far before the Russian’s retaliate.
Its like the ships Russia captured in a stand off a couple of years ago and stripped before giving them back. In a game of chess Russia just has more pieces on the board so Ukraine will never pull the trigger first.
I suppose as part of a larger fleet mix, they’re fine for getting hulls in the water with some punch. The Ukrainians don’t have to venture far, and have shore-based aviation support. Should they select the Type-31, they’ll have large aviation-capable frigates.
Good analysis, the RN and USN did very well in dealing with Iraq’s FAC fleet pretty quickly.
I think the Iraqi comparison is poor, the only significant FAC’s they had were Osa’s which where already a 30 year old design by this point. All the rest were just large patrol boats, mine vessels and a couple of landing craft. A real fleet with the experiences of the Iran-Iraq war was being built in Italy, but the Italians were reluctant to deliver when the war started…
If the Iraqi’s had their 8 odd FAC’s were replaced by alien space bats with destroyers and carriers it would have made little difference with what was arrayed against it. Most of the missiles fired at them were probably worth more than the vessels themselves.
I’d love to know more about the Iraqi navies involvement with the invasion of Kuwait city and whether it was the shore batteries or the FAC’s which made the coalition reluctant to close in on the naval offensive until late January- anybody know?
It is a similar experience with the Iranian and Libyan navies, the Iranian navy did sterling work keeping the Iraqis blocked up and doing massed amphibious assaults, but it was a tough ask to go up against carrier groups. The Libyan ships were brought with an eye on Egypt’s navy and were outmatched and outfought entirely by the US Seventh fleet.
Most modern FAC’s such as the newer Russian classes are approaching the size of an interwar destroyer. They have CIWS as well as anti-ship and land attack missiles, meaning if the opponent does not have anti-ship missiles or submarines, they are in a fair bit of trouble. And all for a price lower than a Merlin helicopter, if the Russians are to be believed.
As for Ukraine the many inlets and ports around Odessa and the Dnipro gulf are a good bases for FAC’s, add to that the offshore wind farms we are building which will clutter the radar environment and I think these ships would certainly complicate things for a Russian Black Sea fleet amphibious assault, and winkleing out these ships out when they are under anti-access area-denial could be a expenditure of resources worth more than the effort. This would free up the Ukraine marine division for use elsewhere other than coastal defence. Even beyond a major conflict at the moment Russia could enforce a blockade of Ukraine’s coastline, and bar a single old frigate Ukraine would have no blue water ships to go out and escort vessels, FAC’s have the capability to scare off most would be inspection vessels or helicopters.
Then again I am saying this from what is unfortuantly not an armchair so I would love to hear what others think.
Slightly off topic but, Interesting article on UK defence news 24/7 today. “billion £ Pirate Hunter Ship” moved to Birkenhead, it goes on to say It can “destroy Cricket ball sized objects travelling at 3 time the speed of light” !!! But it was the Liverpool Echo.
Presumably CAMM is a very strong contender for the SAM element?
Or will it be the Ukrainian Dnipro and the SSM being the Neptune? Both of those look a little large (or have gone very quiet in the case of the Dnipro).
I know its not the finalised design…just a mock-up, but those rear canisters for AShM are very small…they look smaller than NSM size, which isn’t particularly big as AShM’s are. Too small ffor the Ukrainian Neptune missile as well…
The only thing I can think of that would fit is…a surface launched Sea Venom…
95% sure they’re NSM missile launchers, they have the distinctive boxy shape with rounded edges and the doors on the end of the tubes look just like the NSM ones too.
I think the size is just a bit deceptive/hard to judge from the model.
Not surprised that Barzan was considered unsuitable, as it was a thirty-year old design, but it didn’t have an aluminium hull, only aluminium superstructure – I designed it!
Indeed. That “rumour” was barking from the off.
What will be more interesting is how much of the Protector design is still valid (if any). Suspect that the old hands from FBM are long gone, so what you have is a set of lines, some R&P results, outline weights and very little else.
The impact of Class rules will also be interesting – whether they’re done to LRNS or Special Service Craft Or indeed DNV or BV) – both of which have changed significantly since the early noughties and will affect the arrangement, structure and systems. Yet more load on Babcock design teams – will be interesting to see how they squeeze this one in.
Deconfliction from T31 in build will also be tricky, given they want to cut steel on T31-01 this year. Good test of material marking and control procedures.
Other than BMT are there any other UK organisations Babcock could subcontract the detailed design work to if their stretched a bit to thin to take this job on. Or does the need to match the design to the manufacturing capabilities mean the job needs to be done in house?
BMT don’t do detailed design. My bet would be the Romanians who are HQ’d in the Isle of Man.
However, they’ve got to get through Basic design and Class Approval before they get there.
Interesting design. It looks like there are 4 Mk41 VLS cells behind the forward gun. Could be for 16 CAMM or 16 VL ESSM. I know LM had developed the 3-cell Extensible Launching System (ExLS), but it appears to be a 4-cell unit.
Aft, there appears to be a small launcher lightweight missiles, and those could be for Martlet LMMs.
The MK 41 module has 8 cells.
The MK41 is made up of modules. There is an 8-cell module. There are 61-cell modules. The cells can be configured as needed, which is how the system has been designed – to be flexible. The latest iteration is a 3-cell module, which is why I was wondering about the configuration depicted.
No. The Mk 41 is an 8-call module and is indivisible. The “61-cell module” you refer to is actually 8 x 8 cell modules with three cells nominally given over originally to a missile strikedown crane, long since removed, because using it at sea was impractical.
Assuming that they are four standard launch cells, and they are not something else:
Lockheed make VLS, ExLS, CLS. Which can be supplied in anything from 1 to 8 cells per module. None of which are cheap.
Then there are the offerings from Raytheon, BAE, MDBA, and others. That is without all the soviet/russian launchers, which they apparently still have and might want to try an integrate for using their own kit.
The aft trainable launcher(s) will be for something akin to MICA or Starstreak. Alternatively for one of the many ASW rocket systems which you can use for bombardments. That is probably at most 4/8/12 slots on a single launcher.
The angle launchers for some kind of anti-ship missile or ASW missile. The tripple decoy launchers for all kinds of decoys and ordnance.
At most that is 4 VLS, 8 ALS, 16 TLS. Plus main gun, machine guns, and 4 decoy launchers. That is without considering fast mine laying, which can be effective in coastal protection scenarios. How much ammunition is in the magazines, and how many reloads for everything else are they going to be carrying?
What is the payload capacity of these vessels?
That is without all the sensors need to cue them, combat system to manage them, and crew to run them. Presumably this will be TACTICOS. Are Babcock using this as a dry run for Type 31 integration?
What is the crewing of these vessels? Are they been used as fast transports for military forces?
There will probably be a fair amount of government furnished equipment on the vessels to keep costs, maintenance, and support down. Is the budget sufficient, nevermind necessary, to lever all this kit in?
It is not clear what the extent of UK content will be, in particular manufactured content. The suspicion is that this will be minimal.
Some of the vessels mentioned had to solve problems and issues with galvanic corrosion due to dissimilar metals used in construction of the hull, superstructure, and other areas; which would be for top weight tradeoff amongst other things. How did Babcock assess the design of these vessels not knowing the basic construction and materials list?
Did they do any finite element modelling?
What are the materials been used in the construction, and where are they being sourced from?
Depending on the customer, this looks to be quite a tricky contract to furfill in terms of capability, budget, and timescales. There seems to be a high probability of customer rejection. Is it been used as a loss leader for other potential buyers in case of sucess or failure?
More to the point:
Where are Babcock going to find all the designers, developers, and engineers, to keep all these different projects going and on track?
Plenty of warning signs already.
Why build most of our warships in Scotland? We need to. Expand the English and Irish yards before theres the possibility of Scottish independence . Cost is not everything. Let think a bit mor strategic
Babcock are the prime on this job and they don’t have any English production facilities.
All the shipbuilding was moved to Scotland to dissuade them from this independence stuff.
I’m not so much worried about moving shipbuilding back to England should they leave the union, there are plenty of places where that could be based and who would like the work and with enough investment (preferably make Scotland pay for moving ship production facilities back to England in a manner similar to the EU “divorce bill”).
The problem is there is no good substitute for Faslane and the lochs around there for basing the SSBN fleet out of. Every potential inlet or estuary in England is 1) Quite shallow and 2) Quite crowded. The best option is by Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Probably also worth noting that of the “paltry total” of exports, nigh-on half of them were rejected for various reasons.
The Amazonas for Brazil started life as VT coastguard cutters for Trinidad and Tobago (which later cancelled the contract) and the Brunei ships (Yarrows F2000) were an unmitigated disaster, rejected by the RBN, laid up for best part of a decade before being offloaded to Indonesia. While the court found for BAES, they were lucky in that the contract was so loose in performance terms as to be meaningless.
The Khareefs ended up making a huge loss for BVT as well.
There’s a lot more to this lark than CGI renders…….
In what way were the Brunei ships a disaster?
Wasn’t the issue the fact that the Brunei authorities had massively over-specced what they needed and tried to wriggle out of it? Thought the issue was they’d gone for something that was far out of their ability to actually operate and support effectively?
That was the BAES party line and they got away with it in court courtesy of the poorly written contract. In fairness there was some truth in the contention that the ships were beyond the expertise of the RBN.
However, those who worked on the ships were aware that a “simple” modification to the Lekiu ships built for Malaysia should not have resulted in the significant discrepancies between the design predictions and the as-built result. Nothing to do with over-speccing, plenty to do with wrongly assuming you could just carry over design assumptions into a new ship.
There’s a reason it took the best part of a decade to shift them – and we were very lucky to avoid the good ideas club who wanted them in RN service.
Without going in to too much detail what was the main issue?
One of many
We should order 3 for fishery protection and 5 for Border Force. The weapons loadout looks perfect for those tasks….
Did you forget to take your meds today????
For a bit of fun mainly.
We should really have kept HMS Vanguard for that
Already tried! HMC&E (one of Border Force’s previous incarnations) operated 4 x shortened, aluminium hulled Protector class vessels during the 90’s, (not affectionately) designated ‘bean tins’ by the crews. Unfortunately, these vessels rolled on wet grass and were eventually retired, early…
‘Ukraine previously signed a memorandum with the UK to secure £1.25 billion in funding to build new military vessels for the Ukrainian Navy, the first ship will be constructed in the UK and the remaining 7 vessels will be built in Ukraine.’
Sounds like Ukraine build prices are ‘generous’
The contract also includes lots of work to upgrade both construction and operational facilities in Ukraine.
Hmm…a not so gracious understatement , considering OMT basically handed Babcock the Indonesian order after first securing a deal with Jarkarta for 2 IH, as late as last year.
That is not what Babcock says. When the A140/T31 was first revealed the program director clearly stated that, the obvious superstructure changes aside, there was no major changes compared to the original IH design. Ofc all the Auxiliary equipment will be different and many systems will be updated to comply with the latest classification standards.
Babcock becoming a real success story. Great to see.
I assume as a feature of a bigger armada blend, they’re fine for getting bodies in the water with some punch. The Ukrainians don’t need to wander far, and have shore-based aeronautics support. Would it be advisable for them they select the Type-31, they’ll have enormous flying fit frigates.