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Could a crane that big be used to resupply Mark 41 VLS tubes? As long as you can get the two ships to bob up and down against each other out at sea.




They can be reloaded at sea but the work takes a lot longer.
A full reload can be done in port with dock cranes in a day.

Last edited 1 year ago by Harkens
The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

It has been attempted at sea.


indeed, “attempted” !


And given up as a bad job. Too many variables on a suspended pendulating load. That’s before you get to handling the empties and putting them somewhere before you load a new canister.


One of my previous jobs helicopters ( Squirrel type) lowering 5m heavy poles into previously drilled holes in the ground for foundations did occur.
Amazing downdraft underneath!


The risk assessment for VERTREP of a VLS store would mean that it will never happen unless its in extemis during war time. Imagine hovering above a loaded silo, lose an engine, cut the load to keep power available, the ammo falls onto the silo because if you dont do that the helo will spoof in onto the silo.


I don’t think anyone is mental enough to try VERTREPing VLS for the reasons GB states above. The issue for ship to ship VLS reload are that :

  1. There are just too many uncontrollable forces acting on the load and/or the receiving ship. You can take some of them out with an AHC crane, but you can’t remove others.
  2. People just don’t understand the space and handling demands for these canisters. A filled strike VLS canister (Mk14 for example) is about 8m long and weighs over 2 tonnes. The empty canister which has to come out of the launcher first is a bit lighter, but still the same dimensions. Handling a single 8m long by 1m square canister on a ships deck is no easy thing, let alone a couple of dozen of them.
The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

It would make a good video game.


Thats the very largest size of canister so is the extreme situation and a long range strike mission might be shifted to another means if the ship has none left. Im thinking of the smaller self defence missiles where defence of the ship itself is essential. Also theres obviously wind and sea state conditions that are more ideal than others.
Remember the missile is always loaded vertically by a crane or similar at dock and that needs ideal conditions too


Having done some work into the feasibility (or otherwise) of this – and witnessed some of the shenanigans involved in loading VLSW at a munitions quay – I’m well aware of the limitations thanks.

I’ve also seen what the Navsea came up with at Port Hueneme in the early noughties to try and crack the problem. Sadly, no open source footage of it, because the comedy value is immense.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

You have never craned something over the side of a ship have you?

This sort of thing is sci-fi……..
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tell me how they unload the existing canister and load a new one for any warship ( or submarine)
Harry Potter ?
It must be dangling at the end of a wire.
I wouldnt have thought a small helicopter could lift these large construction poles, hanging vertically and slot them in either. of course they are guided at the end. And military helicopters are normally much much more powerful than those built for civilian use.

Is 2 -3 days in port the only choice ?
This pic is from along aside a stores ship

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

You are conflating replenishment alongside the wall with replenishment at sea.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

The RFA is moving three ways. The warship is moving three ways.
The missile on the end of the cable is moving three ways. Too much movement to do this with ease at sea. It is not trivial.

Honest friend we are not trying to be awkward. 🙂


Well, then don’t give up your pole dancing job yet may come in handy, ho ho ho.


Having been involved in construction where things get done, oh how it compares with the box tickers who have no hands on experience and say ..cant be done. lets go back to port and spend 2-3 days and do it that way.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

This sort of thing is sci-fi”
Yet the image I provided is a submarine tender ( Emory Land) replenishing missile cannister for a ship along side


Something else that was considered impossible at the time.(1912)
Reconstruction (2021)of the RN first seaplane the Waterbird
They too were lifted on and off the water by crane from its mother ship…surely cant be done as well ?

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Not the same.


Something else thats impossible
But with the right equipment and the proper training two large ships can travel very close together ( crazy impossible) and also transfer solid stores and fuel from one to the other- horizontally ( impossible)


Again replenishment of a missile cannister between moving ships at sea
HMS Manchester receives Sea Dart via Replenishment At Sea, April 1988. The bulky missile canister is transferred horizontally from the RFA stores ship via jackstay. It is then attached to a hydraulic arm on the launcher and raised to the vertical position. The missile is then withdrawn from the bottom of the canister by another hydraulic ram that lowers it down to the magazine below. The empty canister is returned to the RFA. (Photos: Kev Slade)

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Not the same.


And what happened to the nuclear flying Aircraft Carriers?

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Last edited 1 year ago by Radakin
The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

No RAS-ing isn’t impossible. It is difficult.


of course , ‘peace’ came along and the easy way was preferred as it always is. Look how complicated the Sea Dart reloading was with a special container which needed to be re used the ram to extract the missile from the container etc. Now each missile has its own box which stays with it from ‘farm to plate’- to reuse a phrase.
I can think of aviation aerial refuelling where in order to have the process available ‘when needed’ its done plenty of times when not needed to make sure the skills arent lost


It fails to mention how many tins of beans and Sausages (snorkas) she can carry,

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

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Belgium is spending £1 billion on six of those. And they’re considerably smaller with significantly less accommodation than RFA SC.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Yes. I note Stirling Castle has a 2.20 metre greater draft. Nice deep hull always useful for when working in coastal waters and channels, not.


80% of the solution at 25% of the price, and we get it now rather than four years from now. Bargain. If some aspects aren’t perfect, well nothing is.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Bargain and cheap aren’t synonyms for each other.


I wonder how happy they and the Dutch are happy about their decision now.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Probably very happy. The Koninklijke Marine hasn’t a bad track with procurement.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) I assume those tanks are filled for ballast.

2) What a lot of wasted volume.


At the moment. As the concepts of use develop over the next few years I’m sure uses will be found for the space.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) It helps at times when others go out of their way to state the obvious. Thank you.

Last edited 1 year ago by The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Just looking at those tanks and wondering if they were removed them and you put in a lift to the working deck, just how many RNMBs or other autonomous vehicles you could fit in that garage. Now that has me thinking of a smaller version of the carrier’s weapon handling system.

Last edited 1 year ago by Iain
Peter S

I was always a bit doubtful about retiring our MCM fleet without replacement. All the official comment suggested autonomous systems could be deployed from frigates or operated from shore. At the same time, Belgium ad Netherlands were ordering new bespoke platforms.
But if we can buy an effective platform like this for £40m, and get it into service so quickly, then the RN has got it right.Now we need a few more.


I wouldn’t buy any more till the RN/RFA have had a few years to properly evaluate what things are and aren’t needed on the sort of ship.


That kind of thinking is the enemy of getting the service sorted.

If there’s a need, budget and available crew, putting together a working group to advise the committee to report to the steering group to advise the Minister to wait a few years until the requirements sub-committee has had chance to properly evaluate and work up the business case, isn’t the way I would go.

If it’s reasonably good and it’s cheap, buy it. Then if it isn’t perfect and you can’t upgrade it, sell it later. At least the Navy will have had a few years of working capability while someone whips up their perfect gold-plated requirements list back in the office.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

And rushing in to something new without proper testing and evaluation is how lots of money is wasted. Money the MoD doesn’t have much of now or likely in the next few years.


Lots of money? Absent a crisis, the decisions that are rushed are the decisions to cancel, not the decisions to buy.

Nevertherless, overlong evaluation times are no protection against failure and extended decision making typically leads to budget overruns. (Remind me how many years and how much money was spent evaluating Crowsnest?) What kind of requirements might we fail to discover over a year of MCM operations from Stirling Castle that the extra years you are asking for will uncover? The longer you leave it, the more nice-to-haves accrete, masquerading as requirements and pushing up prices.

I would argue the absence of timely decision making has cost the Navy far far more than rushing into things, certainly over the last twenty five years. Overall, I’d rather chance wasting money to have capability than chance wasting money to lack it.

Peter S

I agree. So often we hear the refrain ” buy ready made off the shelf equipment”. In many cases, there is no such kit available. But for MCM motherships, there is obviously a commercial off the shelf option that avoids the seemingly unavoidable delays and cost overruns in major procurements.


Last I heard they were looking for up-to 4 additional mother-ships, now it’s up-to 3!

Still think it’s a massive shame we didn’t pursue a common OPV sized platform to replace the Hunt’s/Sandown’s/Echo’s and Rivers.

But i guess a clutch of RFA’s is better than nothing at all, and with an additional ability to deploy the autonomous kit from other vessels it’ll be a pretty versatile capability.


Penny pinching indeed. Lets say that Stirling Castle is a great purchase as a trails ship to work out the kinks in the deployment of remote systems. Do we think that 3 more mother ships can replace the final 13 Hunts and Sandown’s?

Have we seen any figures on how one mother ship with its remote systems is as “useful” or “efficient” as a given number of Hunts or Sandowns? You know the usual “we only need one third as many hulls because the off board systems are so much more efficient” ???

By the way, even if one mothership is equivalent to 3 or 4 Hunt’s or Sandown’s in pure MCMV work, if you loose 1 MCMV to battle damage, the other 3 keep working….. how does that work for the mothership?

To your point Challenger, does the other recent commercial purchase of a “Seabed operations” capability plus the MCM motherships replace the hydrographic capabilities of Echo and Enterprise – once again, platforms are great, but one platform can only be in one place at a time.

Wouldn’t it be forward looking if we got in now with our Danish allies who have signed for the design phase of a multi-purpose vessel (MPV), which could replace the MCMV’s, Enterprise and Echo and both B1 and B2 Rivers…. eventually…..

All that commonality on the platform, while the modularity of the “Navy PODS” system provides the kit for a given capability. Of course while these MPV’s will be low crew, if they are RN ships, rather than RFA’s that leads to a whole other discussion of recruiting and retaining!

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) We had what 28 MCM hulls with Sandown and Hunts?

2) The Dutch have 5 Tripartite class in service and are buying 6 City class.

3) You would think ‘defence’ of Faslane would be best mounted from a hull built to naval standards. Or perhaps I am wrong?

4) Buying commercial hulls is all very well and good until the need comes to clear a field off a shore you don’t ‘own’.


RFA Stirling Castle is a large auxiliary ship and a great platform to test various autonomous systems.

I wonder if the R1´s and R2´s could be used as motherships in the future for some autonomous systems or are they to small for that?


The R1’s are too old to consider.
It’s not just space for launch and recovery systems that’s needed but also space to maintain the equipment. I suspect the R2’s would struggle for maintenance space. Plus the R2’s have jobs to do already which HMG considers important.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Lovely boats.
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As we know the Hunts and Sandowns are armed as they were/are asked to enter contested areas. Stirling Castle is not to be armed, certainly in the short term, is it the plan that she just operates in UK waters and or purely a test ship at present? Or is she likely to rely on other vessels for security? I’m interested not just wanting to start an argument.

The Whale Island Zoo Keeper

1) It isn’t so much being armed. It is serviceability of the hull. Those Dutch and Belgian hulls I mention above are designed to take damage. Commercial hulls not so much; saying that ships do have a lot of redundancy but not to warship standards.
1a) I remember Endurance was not very warship like.

2) It is an obvious issue to me. But many here don’t seem to think about it.


I presume the crane is weather compensated and the ship has DP

  • Why have UK Gov bought a vessel built in Romania by an Italian Contractor while UK Shipyards were closed/mothballed …??
  • That question goes to McBlair, McBrown, McDarling, McCameron, Sir Cleggy and the other MOD people who besmirched ENGLISH Shipyards …
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