back to article Royal Navy starts work on new, pointless frigates

The Royal Navy has decided to spend £127m to answer the question: "What should the next generation of frigates be like?" This is disappointing, as the real question is "do we actually need any more frigates?" and the answer is very likely "No, or not in their present form, anyway." Officially the navy, commissioning BAE …

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  1. william henderson 1
    Thumb Down

    title TBH

    "British shipyards can't build floating steel boxes at prices to compete with yards abroad: they need to have sonars and radars and guns and missiles and complexity built into the design so as to justify a huge price markup".

    pressumably, a combat freighter will not need radars, guns etc. adding complexity. perhaps the nasty old enemy will be defeated with heat seeking elf un safety inspectors fitted with asbo warheads?

    truth is, arming such a ship merely turns it into a bigger, slower, more cumbersome version of the ship it is intended to replace.

  2. Armus Squelprom
    Stop

    It makes me proud to be a taxpayer

    The cold war is over, but we're spending billions on Trident, supersonic fighter planes & cruise missiles. Obviously our soldiers don't have proper boots or vehicles, but savings have to be made somewhere if BAE's cosy, corrupt monopoly is to be maintained.

  3. S Larti
    Megaphone

    BAe systems...

    Stuff you don't need...

    At a price you can't afford!

    Still, it keeps a few Admirals happy and the nice cosy relationship between the MoD & it's suppliers ticking over expensively, maybe even a few jobs in a marginal constituency or two.

    I mean, it's only the defence budget, why not waste it on silly toys anyway? It's not as though we might actually need armed forces to be properly equipped to fight somebody somewhere is it?

    Errrr....

    1. Marvin the Martian
      Thumb Up

      There's other problems.

      What you don't understand is that this frigate addresses another problem that you skipped in your list --- the grave lack of helicopters.

      Instead of the more-effective merchantman + say 6 helicopters, there's this with only 1 heli: pronto! 5 helicopters more for Afghanistan! Profit!

      (OK, the navy will have to lease those to the army, but still.)

  4. Daniel Wilkie

    Not to be a pedant

    But you seem to be missng the point a little... The backbone of the frigate fleet is still Type 22's, which are very old (likewise, the backbone of the destroyer fleet is 42's which are just as old, but one day they'll eventually be replaced :p) - and comparitvely manpower intensive, which is something we can't really sustain (250 men ish iirc?).

    Frigates are probably the most useful mutlirole ships besides helicopter carriers - as you yourself pointed out they can fulfil antisubmarine, surface combatant, limited antiair and naval gunfire support roles.

    It's not really accurate to say that the helicopter is the only useful antisubmarine weapon on a frigate, I KNOW that you know the towed array sonar is it's most useful asset, and likewise I KNOW that you know that it's passive sonar and not active sonar that you use for hunting submarines, you only fire up the active sonar when you have a very good idea where the sub is as it broadcasts your position to a far greater range than that which you'll get any useful return from.

    I get that you hate BAe, and I can't say I disagree that the proposed concept ship is the way forward (I preferred the original FSC concept that was basically a repurposed 45 shell) - but equally I know if you let the steam wear off and think rationally for a minute, you aren't suggesting the Royal Navy replaces its fleet with converted merchant ships as there's much more to making a competent multirole warship than sticking some helicopter pads on the back of a passenger ferry. They're two different ships designed for two different roles - what you keep referring too is more like an amphibious assault ship or an LPD and we already have plenty of those. While they have their place, it's not the same place as a frigate.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    I have to disagree

    Sorry Lewis, what you have drawn is as Q used to say "My Retirement Fishing Boat".

    Now _THIS_ is a frigate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sovremenny_class_destroyer

  6. Bruce 3

    But its just so pointy

    And would make a great place for the Admirals to host cocktail parties around the sunnier climes.

    Taken directly from the RN buyers handbook. Alas, it is only two pages long.

    1. Keith Rogers

      (untitled)

      I've very little knowledge of warships, but your url seems to suggest that this is, in fact, some kind of destroyer?

    2. Richard 81

      No it's not

      It's a destroyer :P

  7. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Small beer

    For obselete, expensive kit the Trident replacement will be the Daddy of them all. We clearly need a first-strike weapon to deter the Soviet Union, don't we?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Big ships = big target

    So Mr Lewis would much rather be on the oh so quiet capital ships when there's a sub around hmm... Thanks but no thanks I'll stick with the frigate thank you very much.

    Good to see Mr Lewis also fails to mention all the other tasks that frigates and distroyers perfom...

    AC because I like my job :-)

  9. John 62

    Iraqi Army

    What? Lewis didn't mention buying US kit? I jest!

    Using merchant ships reminds me that under Oil for Fraud the Iraqis couldn't get new tanks, but they could buy a ton of Toyota pickups and mount machine guns on them (not saying Toyota were complicit, they could have been anything for all I know). A few Hi-luxs won't last long against well-trained Challenger II tank-men, but you do get a lot more Hi-luxs than tanks for the money.

  10. DS 1

    Bleh

    Another article by Lewis.

    Amazingly no call for cheap mass produced US ships, which is his usual clarion call. I have to say not everything is rong in the article, but these articles have no slid to the point where they are just hypercritical and repeating the same view over and over again.

    Tired point of view, try another angle.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    No alternative US option mentioned

    I admire such restraint.

    £1/8Bn just to *design* this. How much to *not* design it.

    The UK last serious naval shooting war was (AFAIK) the Falklands in 1982. It seems hard to believe that *nothing* was learnt from that. Otherwise what are we talking, WWII? Korea?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      HMS Exeter

      Retired from service last year, the last warship in service *anywhere in the world* to have shot down an enemy combatant. Yes, in the 1982 Falklands conflict [1]. So now there are none. When this fact was communicated to me by one of her officers, he did point out that the Americans might have shot down some of their own, but that doesn't count.

      [1] Which we very carefully didn't call a war, at the time, due to the unpleasantness this causes. Why do we do so now? Discuss.

  12. Herby Silver badge

    A better solution might be:

    A nice PlayMobil version. They could make lots of them for the multi-millions they now cost. They would then show up in pictures (a bathtub works pretty well for an ocean simulator) and they could get all approved.

    Probably be just as useful according to the article.

    Good luck.

    My choice: A nice Nimitz class aircraft carrier. Sorry that blighty can't afford one (I don't know if Uncle Sam can afford them now that we'll be paying for the drug addicts and fatties clogging the system).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    The picture is a typical british design

    After reading the article one more time and going back to the picture:

    It is a typical British design - designed by a committee with everyone's wishes accounted for and nobody being told a NO. Someone wanted to have a cannon - here is a cannon, someone wanted to have some anti-ship capabilities - here are some harpoons, etc.

    The result is something that wants to be a destroyer, but cannot quite make it to that level. Meaningless ship. It has to either grow up and become a proper destroyer like the most recent Russian (and the ones they sell to China) or American ships or slim down and become something usable for antisubmarine warfare/special ops like the ships French and Russian use for the purpose.

    That however means some members of the committee which have decided the spec to be told to f*** off and leave the room. It means saying NO. That is an anti-British behaviour and insults the Britishness of the committee to its core. That is the actual reason why Britain will get this inferior and rather useless ship while other navies will get something better. It is not BAE, it is not officer career or any other reason for that matter. It is British committeeing

  14. SuperTim

    I Mostly Agree.....

    But if you are going to have a helicopter and harpoons, then you need something bigger than a fast attack craft.

    I the frigate is a handy boat to have when you are dealing with tinpot armadas. It wont win any battles with the yanks or the ruskies, but it will put more than a dent in any somalian pirate vessels and would be handy to have to intercept and take down drug runners. You dont need a whole destroyer for that.

    The question is whether we should devote any time to those activities.

    1. Trygve

      Indeed you don't need a destroyer...

      You need a modernised version of something like this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunt_class_MCMV

      plus a third-hand containership to refuel/rearm it and to fly the helicopters from. Massively more useful for any scenario the Royal Navy is likely to get involved in now that the Special Relationship is officially over.

      As for aircraft carriers - dream on, those kinds of toys are for countries with real money to spend. Not going to happen.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      I mostly agree too, but...

      You don't need a frigate either. Any boat that can carry a couple of well-armed helicopters can outrun and outgun a Somali pirate, and a balloon on a long rope gives you "over the horizon" radar capability as well.

      Everything depends on who you think your enemy is.

  15. jubtastic1
    Happy

    Great names though

    Very Cultured.

  16. Brommers

    Ouch!

    No wonder this guy left the Navy, how could they tolerate someone who tells it like it is like this? One thing not discussed is the option to purchase off the shelf ships produced elsewhere at a fraction of the price and timescale.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      Even if

      how to use them remains a bit of a Grey Area?

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Alien

        Applause...

        ...for these references!

      2. blackworx
        Pint

        You both seem to be

        Experiencing a Significant Gravitas Shortfall

        1. Rattus Rattus
          Coat

          Very Little Gravitas Indeed

          But I'm Quietly Confident I'll do better next t ime.

  17. Graham Dawson

    Uh, Lewis?

    "A frequent justification for frigates and destroyers is that you need them to protect carriers, but the fact of the matter is that carriers can protect themselves on their own far better than the escort ships can."

    You kind of had me up to there but, no. Just no. A carrier needs a protective screen. It is actually a very vulnerable ship, even with a combat air patrol, because most of its hull is filled with things for the planes it carries rather than defensive weapons. Every defensive weapon reduces its effectiveness in its primary function of being the place where planes come and go. Back when we had real carriers the doctrine was that the support group served as a sort of mobile ablative armour that could vastly increase the effectiveness of a carrier by allowing it to perform its primary function without the distraction of also having to be a heavily armed cruiser.

    Frigates do serve a purpose and that purpose is to be cannon fodder, pretty much. Up to now frigates have been relatively cheap, high speed combat vessels that served as a general purpose screening patrol for carrier groups, or which would operate in pairs as a peace-time sea patrol, maybe with a destroyer on hand to bulk them up a bit. They're like the interceptor to the destroyer's fighter-bomber.

    Now you could have come from the direction of the MOD being terrible at procurement and driving up the cost with daft practices and requirements. You could have, and that would have been all you'd need to do, but you went off on this bizarre rant against an integral component in an effective naval force. I don't get it, unless you're just saying these things to court controversy and get comments, in that case mission accomplished, I guess

  18. Paul_Murphy

    In my day...*

    It was all battleships around here...

    Then the aircraft carrier came along and all those nice shiny hunks of metal became pointless, easy targets. Interestingly now that AA defences are more advanced (and 'missiles' tend to hit things) having a big, very well armored battleship to pound shore targets and provide a really stable platform, lots of troops and a lot of missiles makes some sense, but it's a lot of money.

    We are looking at a range of scenarios for modern fighting craft - and, unless we are looking at fighting the USA or China, none of those will have much in a big-ship to big-ship fight.

    Nowadays the fighting will be far more likely to revolve around small boats, somalie pirates and the like.

    Therefore helicopters capable of anti-sub ops, carrying troops and/or missiles would be a very good way to go.

    So maybe a container ship with the choppers stored in the containers (to keep them nice and dry/protected) and with it's own defences would be a far more practical way of supporting current needs.

    As you say though Lewis - it's not a big shiny ship for people to get excited about and run up that promotion ladder on.

    We used to have a Navy that was dedicated to the protection of the nation - not the progression of it's officers.

    ttfn

    *not that I have ever been in the navy, but that doesn't stop me form having a viewpoint.

  19. Ian 45

    Grey paint?

    Is it the grey paint thats so expensive because these ships are cheap to build in the far east and then just bolt on your goodies.

    1. Richard 81

      A good example:

      The Falklands. They repeatedly sent frigates into the path of oncoming bombers and exocets to keep our carriers safe. Remember Lewis, we only have three carriers at the best of times, and only one is typically engaged in operations at any one time. In the Falklands, just like today, if you lose a carrier then that is _it_. You go home in defeat.

      My mind boggles at this article. Of all the combat ships used by the navy, frigates are the most numerous and most useful. Patrolling for pirates? Use a frigate. Need to send support for a tsunami? There's already a frigate patrolling for pirates, just re-direct it.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        True, but...

        ...weren't the carriers mainly kept safe by Maggie extracting "Exocet disarm codes" (how does that work then?) from Mitterand by her threatening to nuke Argentina if the codes were withheld?

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/nov/22/books.france

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Critique is all good and well, but it does pose a question

    Not unusual for armies, navies, and air forces to plan for the last war, then get solidly trounced in the next one. In fact, this is what happened in WWII, on unprecedented scale. And in WWI, come to think of it, altough the watching-the-headlights brass, on all sides, then could use the excuse of having the shiny new kit but no inkling of what it would do to their dreams of glory. The next war they very definitely couldn't have that excuse any longer.

    Here, the various MoD factions seem to have lost sight even of the last few wars and are basically tinkering with toys as long as BAE can be given some overpriced contract or other. Which is now an American company anyway, so why bother? The few British workers left might as well be making Blighty-Built[tm] trashcans for all the strategic good it'll do.

    One reason why they still have free reign, apart from incessant pork barreling, is that nobody else even pretends to know what the next war looks like. They leave that to ``the professionals'' even when those get blindsided by somalian pirates. Those pirates appear to be better organised to boot, running in a free pirate market with pirate stock exchange. THEY manage to fund useful fleet assets for less and much quicker than the MoD manages it.

    So I pose a question: What will conflicts in the next score years look like, how big will they be, and what fleet, army, and air assets does one need to hold one's own with some hope of trouncing the enemy? Don't ask the MoD, they don't know and are no longer even interested. Ask almost anyone else. Then we can send the brass back to school to learn to use the new kit and maybe get on with some jolly old defending the nation for a change.

    It's pretty sad, but if you're at a point where dropping the entire MoD and replace it with a really big sack of money to buy mercenaries with has you come out ahead, you at the very least have room to think up options.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Pirate

      RE: Critique is all good and well, but it does pose a question

      "Not unusual for armies, navies, and air forces to plan for the last war, then get solidly trounced in the next one....." Which is why we see "multi-role" platforms like the new frigate, which try and cater for just about every possible role so we don't end up with expensive, one-role ships (cough*air-defence destroyers*cough). But Lewis overplays the RN's clout in actually making many of these long-term strategic decisions, many are settled by White Hall mandarins that have never served on a ship in any form. In wartime we can afford as many single-role, specialist designs as we like, with the Navy pushing for what is actually operationally required, but in peacetime it's just too expensive. So we end up with generalist ships that are sometimes exposed as not good when thrown into an unexpected situation (like having to protect a landing force in the close San Carlos Bay from continuous fast fighter-bomber attacks, with ships and systems actually designed to shoot at the odd Soviet recce Bear in open waters). Those generalist ships do the majority of peacetime roles quite well and to a relatively cheap budget. And I say cheap as we tend to keep them for many years, rather than refreshing with a new design whenever a new threat arrives (or ships are lost to action, as happens in wartime).

      "....So I pose a question: What will conflicts in the next score years look like, how big will they be, and what fleet, army, and air assets does one need to hold one's own with some hope of trouncing the enemy?....." If we were truly planning independent large operations, then more destroyers and heli-carriers would make more sense. But the truth is our politicians are unlikely to ever commit us to another independent war again. Even the Falklands was completely unexpected. The intention is that our Navy will work either as a small part of an Allied fleet (which means playing a token role in support of the US), or as part of a combined European fleet (which means playing guess-the-role with a bunch of unelected Eurocrats with a level of rampant corruption that make BAe look like schoolgirls).

      Looking ahead, the RN will probably be tasked with the following for the next twenty years:

      1. Anti-smuggling ops, especially in the Carribean.

      2. Anti-piracy ops, especially off Africa and possibly in the South-East Asian environment.

      3. Fulfilling the anti-submarine and mine-sweeping roles as part of an Allied (US) fleet in a UN role (possibly against Iran as they do have a few subs and plenty of mines, very unlikley against the Norks, Russians or Chinese).

      4. Acting as a deterent to a bankrupt Argentinian navy.

      5. Supporting disaster relief ops, where actual shooting is unlikley to involve anything bigger than a Gimpy.

      For all the above, even the current Type 22/23s are quite effective (especially with Lewis's other bugbear, the Merlin), so maybe we should spend more on modernising those old hull designs to stretch them for another twenty years rather than replacing the lot with a "do-all" new design. BAe does do a lot of open market design work at the taxpayers expense, but then that is because politicians let them as a way of safeguearding jobs in "deprived" areas. Having said that, it would be horribly expensive to buy up old merchantships and refit them (all different and individual refits with each having to be an individual redesign), and then maintain all those different designs with their different machinery, even if their combat systems were common. The only way round that would be a mass order of a single merchant design, and that would then probably lead to modifications being made to the design to suit the new role, pushing up the price as it moves away from be a merchantship to being a hybrid that probably does less but costs almost the same.

      But I do disagree with the idea of the carrier being the multi-role solution to everything, as it is also an all-eggs-in-one-basket solution - we usually can't afford more than two or three at a time, which usually means only one in any outing. Should an opposing force sink the carrier then the rest of the one-role ships in the area will be sitting ducks, so they actually need to be capable of looking out for themselves.

      /Pirate icon for obvious reasons ;)

  21. graeme leggett
    Stop

    Merchantman vs Frigate

    RFA Merchantman - 18 knots

    Frigate - 30 knots

    'nuff said.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Title

    Meh, Britain's a long time no large sea power anyway anymore, the MoD and BAe just fail to realize that...

    That said, the Frigate is, from an aesthetically point of view, a wreck

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Why not a car ferry?

      If it's speed you want, this 55 knot car ferry beats your 30 knot frigate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferry#World.27s_Fastest_Diesel_Ferry

      I really don't understand why naval ships stick with single hull designs, when catamarans beat them hollow in every measure. In olden days, I could see the idea of a narrow head-on profile being an advantage, but now with everything being BVR missiles, having a shorter, wider design would shirley be better? Also, a single hull used to give better manoeuvrability, but a modern cat has jets along the sides, so probably wins there too. I bet the car ferry is more fuel efficient too.

      So buy an off-the-shelf car ferry and stick a heli-pad on the back and line the sides with as many missiles, radar, etc as you want. The car-deck can carry men, supplies, etc. Maybe even make it reconfigurable/modular according to the mission, rather than fixed at build?

      Actually, a quick google points to the US Navy moving to trimarans, e.g. the Australian built LCS-2 USS Independence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Independence_(LCS-2)

      It's an ugly ship, but it does 44 knots and I know which I'd rather be on in a fight with a type26.

      1. Richard 81

        We used to have one

        RV Triton is a trimaran of corvette size. It was built to test the idea and is now in the service of the Australians as a customs patrol ship.

        It was sitting in Portsmouth for ages.

  23. Guy Herbert
    Alien

    Maybe the RN...

    Anticipates that its main enemy in future will be Somali pirates, er... freelance drug importers, and naughty Spanish trawlers. Nothing like a long-term plan to prepare for the present.

  24. Ratfink
    Pirate

    Time is the issue

    What everyone forgets is ships and aircraft take a long time from procurement to delivery and operational readines. Lets say god forbid WW3 breaks out and we have to fight a real war, Chinese, USA, Russia or the whole 3'rd world. If the UK needed a nuclear deterant at short notice it cannot be built, carriers cannot be built quickly or fast jets at that matter. Frigates give you a small fast platform to load with weapons at short notice, They look quite pointy so would be much faster at reaching trouble spots than a merchantman with a flight deck.

    Yes we didn't have the right gear for Afganistan but we could buy it and deploy it within a year or so. We could mobiles and arm the whole country quicker than building even a half dozen ships. My view is large procurements like this is about having the platform available when you need it.

  25. jason 7
    Grenade

    BAE? Bollocks more like!

    Time to ditch this great money sink for the benefit of everyone.

    BAE have milked the taxpayer for way too long.

    "Ohh but all those wonderful tech jobs will go elsewhere if we dont throw money at them!"

    What, all those jobs that are being funded year on year by several hundred % by the taxpayer? No thanks lets have some jobs that puts money back into the coffers shall we.

    BAE - The biggest tax crack whore around.

    If you work for them...you should be ashamed!

  26. Adam 37

    Containerships

    ISO containers full of "mission specific kit". e.g. need SAM's load a container of VL-Sams, Amphib ops...load that container etc.

    A) All surface ships are targets for air & subsurface. Can a surface ship out run a SSN/MPA/FGA/Drone?

    Heck a drone + a2a refueling may well have greater "persistence" than a frigate.

    B) Crew should be as per commercial container-ships (20?) & then add the relevant "mission specialists" e.g. 100 marines if doing anti-piracy or a mix of marines & helo techs/pilots etc.

    C) GIve it sufficient lifeboats as you have to assume.....all surface ships are expendable.

    The reality of the light blue fascination with manned fga & the dark blue fascination with sleek & fast surface ships is that that's why they joined in the first place.

  27. Desk Jockey
    Flame

    Too much spin, little substance

    A few corrections for Lewis (yet again!): The landing deck can take a pretty good sized heli (up to Chinnok sized the press release says, oooh I wonder why that could be useful?!), there may be a separate hanger for a UAV, it may even have a UUV (oooh never thought of that one!), harpoons are not discussed (read the navy wants cruise missiles this time please) and there will be a mission bay for the special mission types... This news came out last week Lewis and you need to read more than just the newpaper articles which don't tell you very much!

    On the other hand, Lewis is right to say the navy is probably being unimaginative and that this is all about keeping BAE and the shipbuilding industry going. The trouble is that you have to give them something to do, otherwise you lose them then you really have no choice but to buy from abroad. If you want to pretend to be a UN veto wielding country, you need to be able to produce your own phalluses (I mean warships) otherwise no one takes you seriously. It is no accident that the Chinese, Indians and Iranians (who to their credit, think quite creatively) want loads more frigates not just helicopter carriers.

    Now correct my history if you may, but didn't the merchant navy get pretty badly massacred in WW2 because of lack of armour and trying to ask those rust buckets to do too much? It strikes me that putting all your ASW force on a large thin skinned hull might be putting your eggs in one basket although I do not disagree that this concept should be explored more.

    Final point, this is only the assessment phase for the ship (talk of jobs, final specs etc is premature) and there is a defence strategic review coming up (something else the press release said, but the newspapers, except the BBC online, glossed over Lewis!) so the navy have set this in motion based on the defence priorities today. If the defence review says junk the cold war style equipment and focus on asymetric threats only, then Lewis' dream of cheaper helicopter ships may become more of a reality...

  28. Graham Bartlett

    @Ratfink

    Or let's suppose the Alpha Centaurians come down looking for a fight. We'd better plan for that, yeah?

    It isn't in the interests of any country to start WW3. If you try it, the entire world economy dies, and your country (whoever you are) reverts to the stone age. Maybe other countries are further back in the stone age, but this isn't exactly comforting news. The only countries who *might* try it are countries who don't have any global economic force - in other words North Korea, and that's about it.

    I'm not saying that these frigates are right or wrong. I'm just saying that *ANY* defense planning that includes defending the country against WW3 is by definition wrong. If they'd at least plan for the *current* wars, it'd be an start.

    And what's the Navy's role in current wars? Answer: blockading ports, providing air cover, and maybe providing a bit of artillery support. Air cover and blockades, a carrier is your friend. For blockades against Somali pirates and the like, a lot more cheaper, faster, more lightly-armed ships would definitely be the answer. These ships can also keep things away from a carrier long enough for the carrier to do something about it.

  29. Craig Vaughton
    Black Helicopters

    So why not?

    Can't we keep more people happy by splitting the order?

    Why not buy x amount of off the shelf Corvettes to keep the wannabe admirals in a job and give them something to steer, don't Vospers still make these? Then we can fit whatever makes them useful; mirrors to make them look bigger maybe and a nice new jib for the all the existing admirals personal barge's.

    Then order something bigger, cheap and more useful, but hopefully rather more combat ready and survivable than a CAM Ship to house helicopters, Tomahawks, Marines etc. Better still, make them nuke powered and save on fuel, plus have sufficient electricity available for rail gun or a laser later on?

    Or would that upset BAe as they don't make Corvettes and don't have the capacity to build cheap combat capable semi-merchant ships.....shame.

    PS What happened to the proposed shorter wider frigate/destroyers someone came up with that were supposed to be more combat survivable and have a bigger heli-pad on? Or did these quietly get pushed to one side because BAe didn't think of them or only had the right width boat yards to build pointy grey boats? :-)

    1. Ben Raynes
      Black Helicopters

      Seems about right

      (Note to Royal Navy: please don't just rip this off and chuck it in a procurement document. But, if you do, please preserve the wording for comedy purposes.)

      Proper delineation of ship size and class.

      8-12 corvettes, of a size of approx 1500long tons displacement. Make sure they're stealthy, such as the Turkish Milgam class, or the Swedish Visby class - hell, we could just buy them direct off-the-shelf! Put on about as much armament as is proposed for this new frigate, but less Harpoons and more guns - a couple of 4" guns will be fine, with some 50mm rapid-fire cannons and a single central AA battery. Use 'em for taking out drug-runners (sorry, sorry, recreational pharmaceutical transportation specialists) and pirates.

      About the same number of frigates, upto 2750long tons ish. Heavier armour and armament, focus them on sub-hunting and carrier screening. Above all, make 'em cheap! They should be able to carry two proper size helicopters, and be able to withstand a sensible amount of air assault for their size. Make these ships unpleasant enough that if one pitches up on your coastline, you take note of it!

      Above them, have say 6 or so destroyer/cruiser size vessels (heavy destroyer?). Make 'em relatively big, but base them on the same design as the frigates - just add in another couple of hull frames and be done with it. Make sure they've got at least 2 half-decent sized (read: not poxy bloody 5" waste of space) multi-barrel turrets on them so they can actually do meaningful shore bombardment with cheap dumb shells instead of £1m Tomahawks. Put a decent number of tomahawks and harpoons on them as well, for good measure and precision strikes.

      Take all the money you save by consolidating designs, using similar equipment rather than bespoke overpriced garbage, and using as much off-the-shelf componentry as you can, and put bloody reactors and steam catapults on our new carriers!

      Then, use the money you save on buying F35As rather than the less-mission-capable and much more expensive VTOL F35s, and buy the bloody Army some decent guns! Alternatively, use the savings to buy another couple of destroyers and frigates, make THEM nuclear so we have a high-speed, non-resource dependent task force, and go nuts with the railguns baby!

      Note: Care should be taken to properly read any contracts drawn up with suppliers to ensure that the MoD isn't paying for 18ct toilet seats in the corporate HQ etc. etc. Make sure you have proper time constraints and pain-gain mechanisms. Don't move the bloody goalposts after they start! Decide what you want and get them to build it!

      Oh, and please stop designing things by committee. It doesn't work.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    New frigates...

    But can they fit a web, scram and neut and still be cap stable?

    Apologies to those who don't get the reference...

  31. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    WTF?

    £128m for the *assesment* phase

    But if you want us to *build* it that will cost you some *serious* money.

    Was it just 2 weeks ago that BaE threatened the UK government that if they didn't get an armored vehicle contract the c500 workers at Vickers they were planning to lay off would actually *be* laid off?

    Now General Dynamics have the contract and most of the work will be done in the UK. Same jobs. Different workers (or depending on where GD are based and deals they make, the *same* workers).

    It's not the defense industry, its the defense *business*. Patriotism is just BS these guys talk to win a contract. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    1. Xander Dent
      Thumb Up

      Nice

      I miss my days as a frigate pilot...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    jack

    Jack of all trades, can kind of do a bit of everything badly. Lucky I'm not a military man.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Time To Rationalize in Europe Defense Procurement

    How many frigate programs are there in Europe ? I guess only Ireland and Iceland don't have their own.

    The end result is certainly sub-par performance as compared to American and Russian (and soon Chinese) competitors. If a Eurofighter-like program were set up for Frigates, something competitve and much more cost-effective would be the outcome.

    Actually, it could make sense to invite other democratic countries like the US, India, South Korea and Japan to get the "best bang" for the unit of money.

    The major difference to Dutch and German designs seem to be the lack of MK46 torpedoes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachsen_class_frigate

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HNLMS_De_Zeven_Provinci%C3%ABn_(F802)

    Also the Dutch-developed Radar seems to be pretty interesting.

    I am absolutely sure a pooled European (or even larger) effort would result in something that works, is leading-edge and able to compete with anyone. It is time to overcome the petty national egoisms.

    France and Britain should also pool their carrier efforts, as both countries can barely afford them.

    Finally, it is crazy that Europe develops Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen simultaneously, besides buying F16s and F18s from America. Time to rationalize European defense. That would be the sensible thing.

    But yeah, I forgot the British-Dutch Stinking-Edam-Cheese animosity.

    1. Jiminy

      been there...

      they have tried joint european ventures many times in the past.

      The eurofighter was vastly over priced and late as the different countries could never agree on anything.

      The T45 destroyers started out as a joint european project but that all fell apart as nothing was ever done, the only part of it left that is still a joined up effort is the missile system which still does not work

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Torps and Radar From Europe

    At least there is some hope for European Naval Defense efforts:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EuroTorp

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART-L

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Phased_Array_Radar

    Now, that calls for LP to sell us some gear from Raytheon and Lockmart !

  35. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Traditional British Armourment actually Lewis.

    Anyone remember this...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Armoured_Might_of_Lance_Corporal_Jones

    Open two three left two three....five rounds rapid fire...

    bang two three

    bang two three

    bang two three

    bang two three

    bang two three

    Nothing changes much does it.

  36. Ken 16 Silver badge
    IT Angle

    I'm not English

    and I don't really know anything about the military - I appreciate this is a big expense for UK taxpayers but don't really know what the IT angle is - isn't this just the same as a huge investment in trams or something else in the Heavy Engineering sector?

    (ps: I do understand the difference between England, Great Britain and the UK but the Royal Navy always seemed such a purely English construct and unlikely to change allegiance if Scotland, for example, gains independance)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Ken 16

      "isn't this just the same as a huge investment in trams or something else in the Heavy Engineering sector?"

      Yes, except that bridges don't usually go around shooting people.

      1. Ken 16 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        @AC

        I just mean if it ran Windows for Warships or SAP R/3 KIL module I'd see why it was being reported in El Reg...or even if it had a figurehead featuring Bulgarian Airbags (why don't ships have figureheads these days?) but as it is it seems like a story written because the reporter knows a lot about the subject, not because there's any public interest - I can get that by buying a Linux magazine.

        Paris - because it's springtime.

        1. Brutus

          @Ken

          Mostly it's because Lewis likes writing about it and we (mostly) like reading it. And then debating furiously whether he's anti-British industry, in love with american tech, or (my view) got an interesting view on how and where we should waste billions of pounds of taxpayers money in the pretence the BAe is a british institution in need of saving.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @jlocke

      Well the radars look quite impressive but not so sure about the torpedo.

      Naturally instead of having a project manager have responsibility for choosing this sort of hardware they MOD will of course have a competition which BaE will partner up with some American outfit and offer them something does not *quite* exist yet but will (with a little R&D money) soon.

      Multinational design and procurements *always* look good on paper and some (Jaguar and Tornado aircraft and Tornado engines) seem to have worked out quite well. Others IIRC have gone astonishingly sideways.

      Thumbs up for the idea

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    What If ?

    * The Dutch developed and made the Radar

    * Rolls Royce Provided the Turbines

    * MTU made the Diesel Engines (that's the economic propulsion mode)

    * France and Italy contributed the Torpedo

    * Britain made the SAMs

    * France developed the Surface Attack missiles

    * The Taurus cruise missile were adapted for shipborne ops

    * various shipyards would provide parts to be assembled and tested in a single shipyard

    * Germany would develop a towed-array sensor

    * A central agency would develop overall concept and manage the program. (No national meddling from the outside permitted)

    That would certainly yield much better results at 1/3rd the cost.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: What If?

      Aren't you supposed to mix the nationalities and contributions up now for comic effect?

  38. Z.Beeblebrox the 5th

    I don't belive it..

    TSR2 an aircraft far ahead of its time cancelled.. by Labour..

    New frigates of no use whatsoever.. from Labour..

    they never really changed

    1. F1reman

      I think it is clear...

      ...with the benefit of hindsight that canceling the TSR2 was a good thing coz it would never have been used in anger and which other country would have bought it in any significant numbers? So I think we saved ourselves some money there (and it's easy to forget that the TSR2 was dogged by production problems).

      Lewis Pages articles often preach following the above logic: don't waste a lot of our money building stuff that ain't gonna be used simply to maintain an arms industry that builds things that ain't going to be used (or sold in any significant numbers).

      And besides, we've not been able to compete with the US or Russia since WW2. Eurofighter v F-22 anyone? It's a hard fact to take but we're a small little island that is living off the past. If it hadn't been for North Sea Oil god knows.

      I know it's tough for you to admit that we can't afford projects like the TSR2. Indeed, why do you lament the demise of the hugely expensive and unnecessary TSR2 but yet complain bitterly to anyone that'll listen about Labours mishandling of the public debt (yes you do). I bet you also go and watch the Vulcan fly (sorry, limp) around the air show circuit with a nostalgic tear in your eye. It's because of people like you that we've had to put up with successive Tory governments since the war. And because so many Tory governments got voted in we ended up with a right wing labour government. Which you then ignorantly complain about. Well, we get what we deserve, don't we.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        @f1reman

        "..with the benefit of hindsight that canceling the TSR2 was a good thing coz it would never have been used in anger and which other country would have bought it in any significant numbers? So I think we saved ourselves some money there

        Wrong.

        The cancellation costs and job cuts is likely to have wasted a large bag of cash. It's cost was down to some incorporating *multiple* cutting edge technologies to conduct a mission which was ultimately handled IIRC (roughly 15 years later) by the Tornado. The expected UK version of the US F111 *never* materialized. It is *hindsight* that shows it was not used in anger. the view of a break out by the Warsaw Pact countries into what was West Germany leading to likely first use of nuclear weapons by NATO and deep air strikes was viewed as a *real* likelihood

        The UK miltary aircraft industry was well stuffed by Duncan Sandys in his 1957 Defense Review. With the TSR 2(Tactical/Strike/Recon. Does this give you an *idea* of what was being asked of *one* aircraft?) being virtually the *only* leading edge miltary aircraft at the time it was also *carrying* the development of *all* its subsystems as well.

        "(and it's easy to forget that the TSR2 was dogged by production problems)."

        Since it *never* got to production and *all* prototypes were destroyed (not even 1 remains in a museum) that statement is meaningless.

        "don't waste a lot of our money building stuff that ain't gonna be used simply to maintain an arms industry that builds things that ain't going to be used"

        You forgot to add normally getting it from the US, which is *also* part of Lewis's bias. I agree that HMG has far too often been stitched up by BaE and what is now Thales and buying stuff in from abroad on a best-of-breed basis is a good idea. Buying it *all* from the US sounds a *lot* more risky given their paranoid ITAR regulations, described (by an American who dealt with them) as "The closest thing to a protection racket I've ever seen," and a US Judge as a before-the-fact attempt to violate freedom-of-speech.

        Mine's the one with Bill Gunston's "Project Canceled" in the pocket. It's quite instructive.

      2. call me scruffy
        Troll

        Sir!I've sighted a Troll off the starboard bow!

        And your beloved labour governments have, without exception, come into office promising free gobstoppers for all, which they can't afford, then had to borrow money from the americans, and in so doing sold control of British foreign policy to the yanks.

        I'm not going to bother shooting down your TSR-II arguments, please learn to troll more subtly.

        1. william henderson 1

          destroyed??

          Since it *never* got to production and *all* prototypes were destroyed (not even 1 remains in a museum) that statement is meaningless.

          duxford has the last complete aircraft on display

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Thumb Up

            @ william henderson 1

            "duxford has the last complete aircraft on display"

            I stand corrected. You can see it after all.

            Having learned a little aircraft history I am always impressed to see a fixed wing aircraft (Concorde, TSR2) that can fly a mission believed to be only possible by a swing wing (Boeing SST, F111).

            Thanks for the reference.

        2. paulc
          Thumb Down

          BZZZTTT!!! wrong

          "Since it *never* got to production and *all* prototypes were destroyed (not even 1 remains in a museum) that statement is meaningless."

          BZZZTTT!!! wrong... there's 1 at Cosford...

          http://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/cosford/collections/aircraft/british-aircraft-corporation-tsr-2.cfm

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BAC_TSR2_Cosford-01.jpg

          I personally know cos I got trapped in the cockpit when the broom handle holding the hood open slipped... that canopy is seriously heavy...

          used to help out back in late seventies when I was stationed at Cosford on my fitter's course.

  39. M Gale
    Badgers

    Nice ship names

    Sounds like something straight out of an Iain M Banks novel.

  40. Yeoman,Bridge
    Thumb Down

    Why here?

    Mr Page, instead of pumping out your out of date, ill informed and mostly laughable opinions on what is a civilian website why not try a RN based website? Civilians who (no disrespect to you good people out there but unless you are in the business or have been in the business) have very little idea of what you are on about may believe your fairy stories about Q ships and armed merchantmen (yes folks it has been done before, normally with disastrous results)

    Can I recommend RumRation? I am sure that you would receive a very, very warm welcome to your views and some heated discussion over your opinions on how their lord-ships should wage war.

    I do follow your articles with interest, in much the same way that I used to follow many junior officers. It is still interesting to see what holes they can dig themselves into.

    PS you only have MCMV in your set of Top Trumps and gave up. I managed the full surface set . ;-)

    1. Daniel Garcia 2
      FAIL

      (untitled)

      wow, arrogance of first kind no less!!!

      Let see Nelson, how many real naval battles did you fight? 0? 1? 5?

      in how many years?How many naval battles did your buddies fight?

      :D

      what business? pork barrels? playing with the biggest sea toys?

      Lewis can be wrong in many things, but your paternalistic arrogance is pure FAIL..

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    Merchantmen with Helicopters

    The big problem with the idea of merchantmen with helicopters is survivability. One of the big expenses of putting together a military ship is making the thing survivable. Compartmentalisation isn't cheap - but it is absolutely necessary to make sure that any old hole doesn't sink the beast. Don't tell me that no-one is going to get through the ring of helicopters, because that just isn't true. I'm sure one of the drug submarines that regularly ship tonnes of cocaine from South America to the US, or a small craft in heavy seas, or many other options can get close enough to stick an RPG through the hull at or just below the waterline.

    Building firefighting equipment and compartmentalisation into a container ship makes you look not dissimilar to something like HMS Ocean. Whilst we may not have gone up against an armed force equipped with real aircraft or real subs in quite a while, it can still happen. The Argentinians had a real airforce and caused us a lot of bother down south. Plenty of nations have diesel subs that could cause a carrier battlegroup plenty of bother. Frigates and Destroyers may be pointless for fighting the landlocked Afghan war, or the almost landlocked Iraqi one, and they may be pointless for fighting Pirates off the horn of Africa. But mechantmen stacked with helicopters aren't much use when you go up against a nation with some real armed forces. Atlantic Conveyor didn't do too well, despite being rather close to the entire RN fleet.

    We actually need the full force mix. Carriers, helicopter platforms (why not send HMS Ocean to the Horn of Africa), frigates, destroyers, submarines and all the smaller ships that make up a truly effective navy.

    Interestingly, the one thing I would propose to do differently is a simple one. Why not drop the Trident replacement, but equip the Astute with nuclear tipped Tomahawks instead? It would retain the nuclear deterrent without the need for a whole new class of boat.

    1. Desk Jockey

      Merchies with Helicopters

      In regards to using an Astute as a strategic deterrence, it is a nice and appealing idea, but those pesky countries like China, Iran and Korea are an awfully long way away. The idea of a deterrence is to hide it somewhere safe where it can strike at will. The Atlantic is our (and the US's) backyard and the subs can be hidden and protected there. If you are stuck with cruise missiles, you have to move that strategically important sub a hell of a lot closer and where you can't protect it so easily.

      So range, time and effect works against you. Plus there is one other factor, cruise missiles can be interecepted, ballistic missiles are much harder to intercept. You cannot retrospectively put BMs on attack subs either, the design is different. This really is a case of you either spend the money on the real deal or you accept a significant decrease in the ability to respond. This at a time when other 'nasty' countries are working to increase their capabilities...

      PS. I wondered how long it would take before someone would haul Lewis up on his CV. He says he left rather than wasting time on those warships, although his former colleagues seems to have a different take on that... ;)

      1. arkhangelsk

        Hardly surprising

        You are not thinking of this correctly. The People of your Nation are willing to only spend such and such an amount on your Armed Forces, of which a certain percent heads for the Navy. Choosing to spend it on the unlikely abilities of Trident will cost your nation severely in the area of conventional force that is is more likely to use, so you have to "accept a signficant decrease in the ability to respond" to various (considered more likely) conventional warfare scenarios. This will not change no matter how much or little money the people give.

        AS for Lewis' CV: As is common for all such controversial characters, Lewis is the victim of various digs at his history. To be fair, Lewis DOES make enough technical errors in his articles that it is plausible he was kicked out for technical incompetence. On the other hand, his personality and views with definitely lead to conflict with his superiors whether he's capable or not. IN short, I remain neutral on this and figure we'll just never know the whole unbiased story. What is DEFINITELY wrong is to dismiss ideas using ad hominem tactics like you seem to suggest, so I should hope the answer to your question is NEVER.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Had it since the fifteenth century, dude

      You whole post makes it sound as if you think merchant vessels don't have compartmentalisation and fire fighting equipment. !?!? Dude, merchant lines *invented* compartmentalisation. Contrary to popular myth they were not introduced on RMS Titanic but have been seen as early as the fifteenth century. By 1890, nearly 20 years before Titanic was laid down, the highest certification grade required compartment watertight doors to have an automatic electric closure mechanism. That's only 2 years after Jack the Ripper was running around!

      The degree of compartmentalisation varies considerably with type but passenger liners are not far different to warships. And you know what? They still cost a hell of a lot less.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Really ?

    "The eurofighter was vastly over priced and late as the different countries could never agree on anything."

    Now please check the cost overruns of the F-35 and the F-22 programs. Defense R&D is very often (always ?) overrunning costs, as the customer almost always demands at least ten revolutionary features. Like "must run on shit, fly in subways, smell like a rose and look like a pig".

    The EFA actually is very good for the money invested, as is the A400M. EFA is a plane that can compete aerodynamically with the SU34 and Mig29, is better than the F15 and has much better dogfighting weapons (IRIS-T). But it contains "euro" in its name, and that is of course bad ???

    Simple economic reasoning means that the time of national procurements must come to an end. Defense R&D is risky and very expensive, so real european cooperation is imperative.

    The next generation fighter, frigate, submarine, aircraft carrier and MBT should clearly be procured by a european agency that has the power to create something coherent. Eurofighter and EuroLeopard are exactly the right examples of that !

    If the Japanese, Indians and South Koreans would like to join, even better.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Taurus ALCM

    This is also something to cheer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taurus_KEPD_350

  44. Conrad Longmore

    Atlantic Conveyor

    Well, remember the Atlantic Conveyor? A merchantman converted to military use during the Falklands, it moved a small but significant aerial force of helicopters and Harriers into theatre which then went on to do some good. The downside.. it was extremely vulnerable to attack and was eventually sunk with the loss of 12 lives.

    Your essay question is this: was it worth the risk of bringing an unarmed large merchantman into the Falklands theatre?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Conveyor

  45. meus sententia

    The lessons of history

    Mr Page, you don't read history. You might have heard of the Falklands. But it's not the conflict that I'm talking about. It's the consequences to ship design in it's immediate aftermath. The Type 23, for instance.

    The Type 23 was designed to be nothing more than a floating pit-stop for your flying legions of helicopters. Operating either from an RFA or one of the Invincible class ships, ASW helicopters were envisaged swarming out into the atlantic to attack and sink soviet subs. But because even a helicopter has limitations (gasp, shock, horror) they would occasionally require refueling and rearming, which meant returning to the RFA or Invincible class ship.

    But the RN had a cunning thought. They thought "what if it doesn't have to come all the way back? That's a waste of good sub-hunting time." So the Type 23 was born. Nothing but a big flat flight deck, a place for the Captain to stand and a pop-gun (for the crew's moral, you understand. They like to think they can defend themselves, after all). These ships would operate miles ahead of the helicopter carrying ships, spreading themselves out so that the buzzing, flitting helicopters would never be too far away from a firm place to land, a full tank of fuel and a refreshing cup of tea.

    So that was the plan. But then the Falklands happened. Ships got sunk. Ideas were tried and tested by combat and some failed (and people died) while others worked (and fewer people died). Lessons were learned.

    These lessons were applied, retrospectively, to the Type 23. The flight deck remained the same because big flight decks are cool (even the Type 45 has one and it's not supposed to be cool at all, according to this website). But in addition to this, they added a hangar. It had to be a big hangar so that they could fit a Merlin inside it (a big helicopter). Then they thought about the ships that got sunk at the Falklands because they didn't have any decent short-range AA missiles, so they stuck a load of Seawolf on, just behind the pop-gun, which they upgraded to a big, mean gun instead.

    And there you have it. The Type 23. The product of bitter, recent and relevant experience fighting a modern war with modern weapons at a really inconvenient time, a long way from home in the last place on earth that anyone ever thought that we'd be fighting a war.

    Because that is the kind of situation you've got to think about when you're designing something on which you know people may fight and people may die. So you might be forgiven for being a little conservative in your approach, but you will absolutely be forgiven for learning the lessons of recent history and designing something that you already know will work!

  46. paulc

    Leander...

    Just re-invent the Leander class... and please don't make them Jack of all trades... have anti-sub version (3 helicopters), anti-air version (plenty of long range anti-air missiles) and anti-surface version (more anti-surface missiles)... but make sure all of them have 1 helicopter minimum...

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
      Stop

      Type 12 (improved)

      This was Leander. It was built on the basic hull form and machinery of the Type 12 Whitby and Rothsay frigates, which were specialist AS and AA frigates.

      Interestingly, the last batch Leanders ('broad-beam') were actually completed with different specialist configurations (Ikara AS, or Sea Wolf AA, and I believe that some had Exocet) in place of the Twin 4.5" turret, and many older vessels were converted during their lifetime.

      So we went from specialist to general, then back to specialist.

      After this, the Navy wobbled a bit. The Type 21 (Amazon) which was a commercial design, which was regarded as a poor as a result of not having sufficient upgrade potential built in, but then the Type 22 Weapon or Broadsword, which was a Navy design, and the later 'stretched' versions were so successful that some remain in service today. As I understood it, the extra space was not for additional weapons, but for Command and Control capabilities to allow these vessels additional radar and tactical control facilities to allow a conflict to be run from on-board.

      Looking back, it seems strange now to consider that the Leander class ran to 26 ships. Nowadays, the entire major surface fleet is not much larger.

      And the other thing to note is that today's destroyers are the size of 2nd WW cruisers, the frigates are the size of flotilla leader destroyers. There are effectively no vessels in the small frigate/corvette category, as these do not have full ocean-going capabilities without sacrificing either speed or weapons for endurance.

      In reply to everybody saying that the modern warships are armored, that is not really the case. Whilst they do have survivability design features, a single missile or largish bomb will actually take a frigate out, and they would suffer quite badly from shrapnel damage from a near miss. What they do have is the ability to operate in nuclear or bacterial contaminated fields of war (so called ABC, Atomic, Bacterial or Chemical), and the Type 45 destroyer is intended to be a 'stealth' ship, with surfaces and water sprays designed to scatter radar, to make it look smaller on radar than it actually is. Imagine how large a container ship, with large flat sides must look.

      These features are most comically illustrated by the so-called Kryten turret (Mk. 8 improved), which looks, naturally, like Kryten's (from Red Dwarf) head.

      In addition, a warship must be able to move at least as fast as the rest of the group it is with (and with allied Navies), and to be able to react rapidly (which is why they switched from oil fuel steam turbines that had a startup time measured in hours, to Gas Turbine and/or Diesel, to allow a ship to be underway in a matter of minutes). Keeping j-fuel safe in combat is MUCH more difficult than keeping heavy oil fuel, which requires more design work.

      And Lewis's ill-informed musing about carriers being able to protect themselves does not take into account amphibious warefare vessels like HMS Ocean, which do not have all the trappings of a full carrier.

      Putting it bluntly, frigate sized ships are much more cost effective and useful in any number of different, and possibly un-expected environments than helicopter-carrying RFA's.

      So Lewis. 3/10, could do better.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    @Atlantic Conveyor

    Actually, HMS Sheffield was not doing better than the merchant ship. Sheffield only had the advantage of higher speed, which can be critical for other things, of course.

    But if you have an Exocet, Kormoran or the even bigger russian monster ASMs at you hull, no amount of armour can help you. Kormoran has already a 200kg warhead.

    CIWS, RAM, chaff and even a proper RADAR can be installed on any ship of a certain minimum size. Why they did not have it on Atlantic Conveyor is a very non-technical question. Britain managed to obtain the latest AAMs for their Harriers shortly before the Falklands, but neither CIWS nor chaff for that important merchant ship. CIWS could simply have been removed from USN ships and bolted on RN ships and AC, if somebody had thought about that and talked to the Americans.

    At the very minimum they should have had plenty of chaff dispensers and a warning system (active or passive). But I guess this is the way Britain goes to war: Lions in unprotected ships commanded by idiots. If you have enough Lions, it works out well, apparently.

    A new frigate could be stealthy, though and certainly is much faster than a merchantmen.

    FAIL:MoD

    1. call me scruffy

      plug and pray?

      Phallanx might just be a bolt on and hope for the best... but only just, Goalkeeper takes more than a little work to install on a ship.

      If WWII was the first war to be fought with electronics, the Falklands was nearly the first to be lost with them. There were a lot of problems with fire control systems.

    2. Daniel Wilkie

      Er...

      Not sure where the whole armour argument comes from - warships haven't been armoured as such for a long time, precisely for this reason (iirc, theplan is the missile will blast straight through rather than be funnelled through the inside of a ship - as out the other side of the hull is the path of least resistance - of course if I'm wrong someone will no doubt correct me).

      Also you can't just bolt a CIWS on the side of a ship and rely on it to stop incoming missiles - if that was the best solution all warships would be covered in them...

      As for the Sheffield, it's widely agreed that the main thing that did for it was bad luck in that the generators and watermain were damaged in the impacts and made fighting the fire impossible - were it not for that stroke of misfortune it had much better odds of surviving than a container ship full of helicopters.

  48. Reg Sim

    I suspect

    I suspect where the Atlantic Conveyor is concerned, they did not have the time to fit and test these systems, as it was all a last second hash the whole war.

    Whilst I suspect these ships maybe nessasary for varius roles, I am more concerend with what we will get, another type 45 fiasco where we get unarme ships for a few years?

    ahh well who knows, good luck to all whome funder

  49. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    IT Angle

    @call me scruffy

    "If WWII was the first war to be fought with electronics, the Falklands was nearly the first to be lost with them. There were a lot of problems with fire control systems."

    IIRC the two big ones were that the radar warning receivers were switched off (on at least one ship) due to interference and on others (which had them switched on) the Exocet guidance radar was still in the library as "friendly".

    IT Angle. Well EMC between the various bits of hardware caused one problem while a failure of effective change management caused the second.

    Hopefully better recognition of EMC makes installation of RF hardware a bit more plug-n-play but has naval change management gotten any better?

  50. Anders Halling
    Heart

    Look to Denmark

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absalon_class_command_and_support_ship

    Multi-role flex-ship, 2 helos, can fit mission specific weapon loadouts, self-defence AA capability (ESSM).

    Fit for troops, ASUW, what have you. This can do anything a bog-standard frigate can for one third of the cost with less survivabilty should it be hit. But I would much rather have 3 of these than one "standard" frigate.

    To the AC with the EVE refencence:

    All gank, no tank. ;)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Anders Halling

      Looked up the entry.

      Now this *is* neat. In particular the multi-role deck which can act as everything from a ro-ro ferry (without the tendency to capsize I hope) to beach invasion or C&C ship. the use of the standard aligned fittings for weapons mounting (with precision made elements so all the fluid and electrical links match up) is also very clever.

      AFAIK the RN has *never* investigated either of these ideas (or rather its contractors have not). Together they define a *huge* range of possible ship shapes and sizes with virtually unlimited weapon and mission packs. Upgrades and integration of new hardware can be tested on "Desk simulators" before *anything* goes to sea.

      So simple. So ingenious. So why don't the RN try this out?

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Falklands...

    The Argentine apparently (acc. to wikipedia) had only 5 (five !) Exocets available. Imagine what they could have done with 50 or 100.

    That Britsh ships did not have any defense except CAP fighters and chaff is a testimony of the broken state of Britain at that time. The russian Bears with their long-range ASMs would probably have eaten the RN for lunch, if they had ever tried then.

  52. Brownshoe Sailor

    Whoa, Nelly!

    Quote: "Some RN frigates now have longer-ranging low frequency active sonar, but it still makes more sense to mount such kit on copters which can move about much faster and can't be torpedoed."

    You can't carry the size projector (transducer) needed for low freq sonar in a helicopter, at least one the size of an SH-3 (Sea King) or SH-60, nor easily supply the power it needs. Maybe with something a bit larger than an H-53 . . .

    A helicopter hovering to dip a sonar "dome" creates a great disturbance on the surface of the water - and if subs don't have torpedoes capable of homing on that and leaping put of the water to explode and spray shrapnel all over the helo hovering at 40 feet, they easily can.

    Been there, done that - got the flak, the t-shirt and the gongs.

    1. Desk Jockey

      Subs with Anti Air

      That reminds me, I believe some Russian subs do actually have anti air capability. With that in mind, those heli carriers would end up not sending out their helis on potential suicide missions while wishing they had ship based systems to do the job! Now a frigate working within torpedo range of a heli would probably shut that down as a sub commander would have to be pretty damn confident to take on both a sub and a frigate at the same time. The moment he launches at one of them, the other would take a bearing on the noise and immediately drop a homing torpedo in that direction. Silence is a sub's best defence after all...

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Happy

        @Desk Jockey

        "That reminds me, I believe some Russian subs do actually have anti air capability. "

        And that reminds me that there was a plan to put a launcher of 4 shorts Blowpipe missiles on the tail of UK fleet ballistic subs able to pop out of streamlined housing.

        Seemed like a reasonable idea. Not sure if it ever *went* anywhere.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CIWS / RAM

    "Also you can't just bolt a CIWS on the side of a ship and rely on it to stop incoming missiles - if that was the best solution all warships would be covered in them..."

    Apparently, all German surface combat vessels (except the smal mine hunters) had CIWS/Goalkeeper installed and now all (except the smallest) have RAM.

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gepard_class_fast_attack_craft , a small Excocet-Launcher.

    Those which don't have that often have at least chaff.

    And yes, CIWS is bolt-on capable, as the RADAR and all is contained in a single system. You only have to turn it on/off properly, so that it does not attack your own aircarft when they want to land on your ship.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Helos

    "A helicopter hovering to dip a sonar "dome" creates a great disturbance on the surface of the water - and if subs don't have torpedoes capable of homing on that and leaping put of the water to explode and spray shrapnel all over the helo hovering at 40 feet, they easily can."

    German submarines will soon have a nice missile that will pop out of the water and go after the helicopter. It's the same technology as the EFA IRIS-T and if it acquires the helo it is the sure death, as it has thrust-vector control.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IDAS_(missile)

    1. Magnus_Pym
      Thumb Up

      Helicopter schmelicopter

      "A helicopter hovering to dip a sonar "dome" creates a great disturbance on the surface of the water -

      Surely then the answer is lighter than air craft. auto control blimps made of clear plastic to avoid casting a shadow, could be released by the dozen to spread out and create a detection ring around the area. A submarine attacking on of the blimps would be destroying a single (relatively cheap) detector at the cost of giving away it's position. The remaining craft would simply shuffle round complete the ring. In the event of a submarine being detected control could pass to an operative on board the control ship to deploy a suitable weapon or two. Problem solved.

      That will be a million pounds for the consultancy fee. thanks.

  55. Matt Hawkins
    FAIL

    Type 45 In Service? I Think Not.

    It gets a bit boring saying this but there are NO Type 45s "in service" or "in Naval service".

    All Type 45s floating on the water are undergoing trials.

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Real Money

    @jason 7

    You do realise that BAE contributes more to the UK economy than most other companies ... many of which just stir the money pot. BAE is our largest exporter. That means money coming into the country. That actually contributes to the coffers I think you'll find.

    If you want the UK to actually have an armed forces then you really are better off it being supplied by BAE. Do you really think it would be better for all that money to go abroad?

    You might like to think BAE is fleecing the tax payer but it actually has a smaller profit margin than almost all other companies supplying the UK Government.

    Drug companies? Telecoms? Energy? I think your anger would be better placed there. You'll save us all more money.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Helicopter schmelicopter

    I guess the next level in this cat-and-mouse game will be heavier helicopters, that will dump lots of decoys into the water that create similar noises like a hovering helo.

    IDAS makes the sub/helo game fair again :-)

  58. arkhangelsk

    Pretty shocking

    I've decided to put the meat of my review in my Groups Google site here

    http://groups.google.com/group/arkhangelsk-website/browse_thread/thread/f408874fa73a17fa#

    but despite some technically controversial areas, Lewis Page's article is worthy of thought. Surface ships ARE of very little utility these days.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    IRIS-T

    [a little OT, but still very interesting]

    There are two videos of IRIS-T on youtube.

    This one is pretty scary, you look right into the single eye of a kill robot:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8wnb27z3vc

    The other vid demonstrates the extreme agility of IRIS-T

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r2nrzHTR_o

    IRIS-T is plug-in compatible with AIM-9 sidewinder, so they can be operated with any AIM-9 platform. Of course, the special capabilites (like using the IR sensor before launch etc) can only be used after special integration.

    Now Lewis, what do the merkis have to outdo this shitty piece of eurotech ??

  60. Nick Pettefar

    WWII RAF v RN

    I believe that the RAF were responsible for sinking more ships than the RN in WW2. The RN don't really like to talk about this though.

    Nowadays we do not need a navy or an airforce, they are expensive and old-fashioned, ineffectual and inefficient.

    What we really need is a military service which uses whatever it the most efficient. No need to compartmentalise at all.

    I believe the only reason the RN and RAF exist is because of the men at the top justifying their power, nothing to do with the needs of the country at all. A Sea Lord is on a par with a gas lamp lighter or a Hansom cab driver. Let's just dump the lot of the useless bastards and re-organise our military into something that is efficient and modern. Keep the Queen's guards by all means, the red coats and silly hats bring in lots of tourist money but please get rid of all the rest of them and give us something that has no traditions and history to justify itself but effectivel and efficiently does the job.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Nick Pettefar

    Yeah, use a tanker man to fly that Eurofighter. After all, today's youth has lots of experience from their WoW simulators.

    And when you are at it, could you also let it him command a submarine ? After all, vision out of a tank is not much better than out of a sub, right ?

    Seriously, there probably is scope for rationalization, like aviator's training, some weapons and subsystems design/procurement. Also, there is a lot of scope to rationalize on a pan-european level. But I still think a land soldier needs very different skills than a seaman.

    Also, don't forget that ther are indeed countries out there with proper armed forces like China, Russia, Venezuela, Libya, N.Korea, Pakistan or Iran. Only because they are currently quiet means exactly nothing. Actually, the Pakistanis are secretly fuelling the war in Afghanistan and the right thing to do would be to go after them !

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Lewis !

    Help us with decrying this example of socialist euro-waste:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airbus_A330_MRTT

    Boeing's 767 tanker has less fuel capacity, but I am sure you can make the UK's decision to buy 14 of those as a wasteful activity.

  63. REMF

    ah lewis, living in dream land again

    it's not that you bare totally bonkers, the bizarre thing is that occasionally you make sense........... right before you jump off the high-board once again on some irrelevant and facile tangent.

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