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Future Surface Combatant Alternative

August 23, 2009
HMS Mersey, a River class fisheries protection patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. Photo by Brian Burnell via Wikimedia Commons.

HMS Mersey, a River class fisheries protection patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. Photo by Brian Burnell via Wikimedia Commons.

River Class Offshore Patrol Vessel

Here is our UK edition of warship alternatives, this time focusing on the long delayed Royal Navy Future Surface Combatant. This obscure warship design meant to replace Type 22 and Type 23 frigates are frequently overshadowed in the headlines by giant new aircraft carriers currently under construction or exquisite new anti-missile destroyers, but in wartime and peace small vessels have been the most crucial warships, able to deal with a variety of functions where larger vessels are impractical.

Instead of a traditional missile escort mission, something geared for Blue Water conflict, the designers might look to the ongoing counter narcotics operation performed successfully by HMS Iron Duke. Really, this class of frigate is overly large and costly for such routine patrolling, but other type craft already in service would be ideal. We are speaking about the River class offshore patrol vessels, as described here by Naval Technology:

Vosper Thornycroft Shipbuilding has completed delivery of three River Class offshore patrol vessels for the UK Royal Navy. The first of class, HMS Tyne (P281), entered service in January 2003, HMS Severn (P282) in June 2003 and HMS Mersey (P283) in December 2003. The River Class is deployed for fishery protection and other patrol missions around the United Kingdom…The River Class vessels are just under 80m in length and have a full load displacement of 1,700t. The design was carried out by Vosper Thornycroft, assisted by Three Quays Marine.

The hull design gives very comfortable sea-keeping characteristics, even in high sea states, and the 4,125kW engine gives a full load maximum speed of 20kt in sea state 4. A semi-active stabiliser tank is installed for roll damping at all speeds, including when stationary. The vessels carry sufficient fuel, stores and water supplies for an endurance of 21 days.

We think her seakeeping abilities make this class stand out. Their spacious landing deck would also give it room to launch either a UAV or increase its weapon’s load for use in threat areas. While an OPV isn’t something you could send to a major war zone without protection, the numbers you could build for the price of a heavy frigate would enhance its survivability and usefulness. Each vessel costs £60m, making it very cost effective for the type of low intensity operations against pirates and smugglers which the High Tech Navy has little time for. Very many of these vessels could halt the downward slope of the Royal Navy, while enhancing its presence worldwide. New weapons, such as unmanned vehicles, small missiles, even “rockets in a box“,  plus a larger 57mm or 76mm gun, could make this ship more of a threat to the enemies of freedom than its size reveals.

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  8. Anonymous permalink
    August 27, 2009 9:44 am

    Mike Burleson said : “Welcome back Scott B!”

    Pleasure is mine, Mike B. ! ;)

  9. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 26, 2009 8:51 pm

    Welcome back Scott B!

  10. Scott B. permalink
    August 26, 2009 8:20 pm

    D.E. Reddick said : “Instead of 660, 830, or 900 tons increase the size up to something like 1,500 tons or even larger.”

    We’ll see what sort of results the Israeli will be able to achieve with the MEKO A-100 now that they’ve dropped the LCS boondoggle.

  11. August 26, 2009 6:46 pm

    Scott B.,

    I have been wondering about those numbers of ESSM in the installed MK56 launchers. Some sources indicate four missiles per cell while others indicate only two missiles per cell. I was interpreting the ‘eight cells’ to mean 8 by 4 missiles equaling a total loadout of 32 ESSM. Guess I was wrong in my interpretation of the numbers. Still, we could certainly increase the number of cells installed to either side of the hanger and other portions of the superstructure to increase that number of ESSM from only eight to 16, 32, 48, or even 64 warshots (the visible area taken up by the Baynunah’s MK56 launchers is quite small, so expansion of the sponson-based launchers shouldn’t be too difficult). This does assume a larger, longer hull with greater displacement. Instead of 660, 830, or 900 tons increase the size up to something like 1,500 tons or even larger. Just be sure to increase endurance, embark a heavier ASW helicopter, add a stern ramp and boat bay for RHIBs, and simply increase the number of ESSM.

  12. Scott B. permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:38 pm

    D. E. Reddick said : “If we’re going to build a corvette, then it should be something akin to U.A.E. Navy’s Baynunah class. While only 660 tons in displacement, it has a helipad and hanger for a light helicopter.”

    The Baynunah’s displacement is 830 tons (metric) according to the shipbuilder’s website here.

    Last I heard from *informed sources*, their displacement was actually over 900 tons (metric).

  13. Scott B. permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:18 pm

    D. E. Reddick said : ” Here’s the Baynunah class armament fit:

    IV) 2 x 2 (total of 4) Raytheon MK56 eight-cell vertical launchers for the RIM-162 ESSM (32 missiles) mounted on hanger-side sponsons;”

    The Baynunah can’t carry more than 8 ESSM (4 GMVLS tubes @ 2 ESSM each).

  14. Scott B. permalink
    August 26, 2009 5:04 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “A lot of the complaints I get from skeptics of the small corvette idea often proposed here, is the poor seakeeping qualities of such vessels. Aside from the fact that ships geared toward shallow water warfare have little need of Blue Water abilities,

    This is a gross misconception, as the defunct D.K. Brown pointed out so many times, for instance in his “Future British Surface Fleet” (p.56) :

    “It is widely believed, incorrectly, that waters close to the land are sheltered and so are safer, but even in the English Channel high winds and seas are not uncommon.

    The 50-year wave height is 20 meters almost to the Isle of Wight, with a corresponding wind speed of 30 m/s.

    Many inshore disasters have shown the danger of underestimating coastal areas, such as the breaking in half of the French torpedo Boat Branlebas off Dartmouth in World War II.”

  15. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 25, 2009 9:30 pm

    D.E. Said “We’re going to be stuck with some number of LCS hull types”

    Sad but true, much like the overweight, overpriced, unneeded DDG-1000.

    Could we go the opposite way and make the LCS cheaper? Use smaller engines, increase her payload, reduce her speed? With the 3000 ton bulk, she doesn’t need to be racing after pirates in shallow waters. End up on a sand bar most likely.

    I can see her more in the mothership role, as a platform for unmanned vehicles or even Navy SEALs. So the extra space might come in handy.

  16. August 25, 2009 8:24 pm

    For anyone reading this thread who isn’t familiar with the Baynunah class of corvettes being built for the U.A.E. Navy, then go to this blog posting by Galrahn over at Information Dissemination. He’s the one who first pointed to the Baynunah as a particular answer to our ever-shrinking Navy. Click on the picture and notice all of the weapons mountings (the Exocet and ESSM weren’t yet installed). As Mike mentioned, this is one heavily armed corvette at merely 660 tons.

    The links provided in Galrahn’s posting are still good. And notice that there are 64 comments regarding the Baynunah or similar vessels.

  17. August 25, 2009 7:18 pm


    We’re going to be stuck with some number of LCS hull types (hopefully not 55).

    So, if true – then let’s fix them enough to make them survivable. That’s my only intent. However few we acquire then just make them capable of taking care of themselves without having the need for a Burke lurking on the horizon.

    And then build 50 or more Baynunah-derived corvettes to serve the needs of the USN and the USA.

  18. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 25, 2009 7:04 pm

    I suspect that the LCS designs are weight critical. How else would you explain not keeping the ASuW modules on board all the time, since they occupy different deck space than the MCM or ASW modules.

  19. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 25, 2009 6:59 pm

    D.E, I see one problem with your enhanced LCS idea, though it sounds logical. With the 3000 ton LCS and its patrol boat armament already approaching $700 (exceeding this price with the LCS Independence), it will easily pass the billion dollar mark with any such additions. At this price you might as well buy more Burke battleships that are far more capable.

    It all comes back to the issue of weight. Keep the tonnage down and the navy will be forced to compromise to keep the costs low. Lower costs means more hulls in the water.

  20. August 25, 2009 5:59 pm

    alex (orriginal),
    Chuck Hill,

    Well, we could do a Baynunah-style job on the two USN LCS designs; since we do appear to be building several of those hideously expensive things. I mean, why not -improve- what we’re presently buying (before we quit building ’em)? While the modularity of mission modules for the LCS vessels appears to be admirable -in- -concept-, one does wonder what happens when the -wrong- modules are installed for the -actual- threats being encountered. So, why can’t we simply build in some additional organic weapons systems and mounts.

    Just look at the side superstructures of each LCS design. Then think of two or three sets of sponsons grafted onto the sides of those superstructures.

    Install some of the same Raytheon MK56 eight-cell vertical launchers as used in the Baynunah corvette class. Emplace some sponsons for the RIM-162 ESSM along the hanger spaces (as in the Baynunah) and place 32 to 64 of ’em for medium range AAW capability.

    Install another set of sponsons to accomodate two 25 mm or 30 mm chainguns. I think that I would prefer to see the 30 mm Mk44 Bushmaster II cannon as are presently installed on the San Antonio (LPD-17) class, with them being the secondary surface defensive fire weapon for the LCS. The 30 mm gun has a higher muzzle velocity and the same rate of fire as the 25 mm version. In guns bigger is often better. Oh, we would have to make sure that those two guns are sponsoned out far enough to fire both directly aft and forward (no blind spots, please).

    Then install some small ‘deckhouses’ (atop the superstructure) to duplicate the type of stealth housing seen in the PLAN Type 022 stealth FACs. Install eight Harpoons in their standard launch cannisters emplaced within those ‘deckhouses.’ This would basically take the poorly armed LCS and turn it into a larger version of the Swedish Visby class of stealth corvettes.

    And I do wonder why the main guns of ships do keep getting so much smaller. Personally, I would prefer something like the new Oto Melara Otobreda 127/64 Lightweight (LW) gun be installed on any sizable surface combatant. It has -four- ready drums for different types of ammunition. It fires at a rate of 40 rounds per minute (time on target fire, anyone) and utilizes any of the presently available ammunition types available for 5 inch / 127 mm naval guns (54 / 62 / 64 calibre types). Place that on a littoral corvette and pair it with another vessel carrying an NLOS missile system and you have dual means of reducing shore installations.

    And those are just my ideas on how to improve however many of the LCS we actually end up acquiring. Cross the Baynunah with both Freedom and Independence and those LCS hulls we do acquire may prove to be far more useful than they are perceived to be according to perceptions of their current specifications.

    Now, pair an enhanced LCS with the Baynunah-derived corvette I described earlier. The LCS could still carry NLOS and a pair of helicopters (maybe a combined det of UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper gunships) while the smaller corvette carried a single ASW helicopter. Improve however many LCS hulls we end up building and then build the corvette type. Pair them up for littoral / blue water operations. Then keep the Burkes way out in the vast blue waters to protect the large deck air-capable amphibs and to shoot down ballistic missiles.

  21. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 25, 2009 4:52 pm

    Incidentally here are the notional characteristics of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). Not fully armed for the role, but the hull looks a lot like a frigate/DE.

    Number Planned: 25
    Length: 357ft.
    Propulsion: Diesel engines
    Max Sustained Speed: 25kts
    Endurance: 45d
    Range: 7,500nm
    Crew: 16/75
    Armament: 57mm medium caliber gun; M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun
    Stern Launch: one Short Range Prosecutor and one Long Range Interceptor
    Aviation Facilities: One MH-65C and two vertical launch unmanned aerial vehicles, or other combinations

  22. leesea permalink
    August 25, 2009 3:39 pm

    D.E. Riddick I think about nailed it! Will the USN ever buy something like that corvette – well armed and small- probably not! NIH and not enough geewhiz factor!

  23. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 25, 2009 3:37 pm

    The piracy problem both ashore and at sea is separating the pirates from the innocent. We can’t simply “kill em all and let God sort’em out.”

    The main problem with most potential aux warships is that their boat handling capabilities are minimal. Although there are some types where that would not be a problem.

    D. E. Reddick and Alex,
    I like your proposed weapons fit, (although I would also like Netfires NLOS and a 5″ vice 76/57mm) now all you have to do is convince the Navy and Coast Guard to put it on the Offshore Patrol Cutter. Then it would be under construction and have a ship yard and it’s Congressional contingent advocating for it. Congress would certainly ask why the Navy wanted LCS when this would be better and cheaper.

  24. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 25, 2009 10:57 am

    Fighting pirates on land, you get into political problems, but we have no such excuse on the sea, or shouldn’t. Its the least we can do if we want to stay out of land wars, and the US has its reasons for that.

    Auxiliary warships? I’m for that! I see all sorts of roles for off the shelf warships in a future naval strategy with sparse budgets and low tech foes. Our current all battleship navies give us very little choice or flexibility of roles, as well as too few numbers for an effective anti-pirate, counter narcotics force.

  25. August 25, 2009 9:32 am

    “Each vessel costs £60m, making it very cost effective for the type of low intensity operations against pirates and smugglers which the High Tech Navy has little time for.”


    How much does it cost to turn a small freighter into an auxiliary warship with Marines and their weaponry (heavy machine guns, ATGMs) as well as simple landing pad, a hangar for a medium legacy helicopter and living quarters in containers?

    I bet I could fight “against pirates and smugglers” much more cost-efficiently AND much more efficiently (with a much greater effective radius thanks to a helicopter) than anyone could do with a River class OPV.

    Oh, and I could be even more cost-effective if I wouldn’t attempt to solve the problem at sea while the pirates and smugglers are 95% of the time on land.

  26. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 25, 2009 4:54 am

    Hudson, I think I see were you are coming from. You are talking about political will and a proper strategy? And this of course is essential. Writing here I try to propose the right tools which the Navy and the leadership can use for these type of operations, instead of our very costly battleships. The Navy would insist a fleet of exquisite vessels are needed for the worst case scenarios, which are few and far between, and then can be used in the low intensity conflicts as well. I insist we need low end corvettes for the low intensity conflicts we are most often involved in, and in a wartime environment, such ships are still useful.

    You can have many of these little low cost corvettes and still afford a battlefleet, but you can’t afford small ships and very many battleships. I am for a balance fleet instead of a top heavy one.

    D.E.-Note that the Baynunah class is more heavily armed than the 4-5 times heavier LCS! If you had taken the requirement for Blue Water operations off the USS Freedom (hence its 3000 ton bulk) it might have been a decent corvette, and affordable!

    My theory is, the smaller the ship the better balance of cost, capabilities, and armament.

    Alex-look forward to your writing as always. Here’s his blog folks:

  27. August 25, 2009 3:57 am


    why not use SeaRAM instead of RAM? then you have inserted a CIWS in to the mix.

    if you are extending it, why not put in some Oerlikon 30 mm KCB guns on DS-30B mounts

    this is actually not a new topic on mine and mikes discussion, as can be seen by this

    yours sincerly


  28. August 25, 2009 3:21 am

    If we’re going to build a corvette, then it should be something akin to U.A.E. Navy’s Baynunah class. While only 660 tons in displacement, it has a helipad and hanger for a light helicopter. It is an impressive design for a short-ranged corvette. We should be looking at it as a potential blueprint for smaller USN combatants.

    Here’s the Baynunah class armament fit:

    I) 1 Oto Melara 76/62 mm Super Rapide gun;
    II) 2 Rheinmetall MLG 27 27 mm guns mounted on hull-side sponsons;
    III) 2 x 4 launchers for 8 MBDA MM40 block 3 Exocet missiles (8 missiles);
    IV) 2 x 2 (total of 4) Raytheon MK56 eight-cell vertical launchers for the RIM-162 ESSM (32 missiles) mounted on hanger-side sponsons;
    V) 1 mk49 mod3 21-cell RAM launcher for the RAM block 1A missile system (21 missiles).

    OK, let’s replace some weapons with typical USN fits:

    I) 1 Oto Melara 76/62 mm Super Rapide gun or else a 57 mm Bofors gun system;
    II) 2 Bushmaster 25 mm or 30 mm chainguns mounted on hull-side sponsons;
    III) 2 x 4 launchers for 8 Harpoon AShM (8 missiles);
    IV) 2 x 2 (total of 4) Raytheon MK56 eight-cell vertical launchers for the RIM-162 ESSM (32 missiles); or more… Stretch out those hanger-side sponsons for 48 or 64 ESSM;
    V) 1 mk49 mod3 21-cell RAM launcher for the RAM block 1A missile system (21 missiles).

    Then let’s increase capabilities on a larger hull (1,000 to 1,500 tons, perhaps):

    VI) Increase the displacement, stretch out that hull, and raise the stern deck so that the helo pad is higher and can accomodate a heavier ASW helo and an UAV det.
    VII) Underneath that raised helo pad insert a launch bay and ramp for at least two RHIBs.
    VIII) Beneath the bow install a SONAR.
    IX) Install at least a single triple ASW torpedo tube launcher forward of the bridge (right behind the forward gun, maybe).
    X) Upgrade the engineering plant to provide greater power and speed (insert a gas turbine along with the cruising diesels).

    Other navies are pointing the way. We need only evaluate and adapt their designs to our own needs and requirements. The above could provide a littoral corvette capable of operating for three to four weeks without replenishment. Also, it could support blue water combatants with its loadout of ESSM and its ASW helo.

  29. leesea permalink
    August 25, 2009 1:15 am

    Chuck these ship were originally designed as replacements for fisheries protection ships. OPV in their purest form. None of the descriptions I have read (at least four) have said the Merlins were for ASW, merely to move around a Royal Marine landing party (the ships have two RHIBs). That applies to the first three ships.

    OTH, the last the HMS Clyde is only a test article which the RN may not buty any more of?

    I would lean towards Mike’s viewpoint the OPV(H) version is more like a small corvette which does need more weapons and sensors to get it into that type of ship. Who knows what the Royal Navy will be able to affored once the CVFs have bankrupted the service?!

  30. Hudson permalink
    August 25, 2009 1:06 am

    Mike, I agree with you that corvettes and patrol vessels like the River class are not small boats, and I agree that the USN needs more ships of this type, in the $100 mil. range or less, and they would be useful in the struggle against worldwide piracy, especially in the waters off Somalia.

    However, I am not certain what “adequate numbers” would be in the vastness of the ocean off the Horn. Even with additional mid-size vessels we would still be playing by their rules, waiting for them to threaten or attack. In pre-correct times, the Western navies went after the enemy at the source and were confident in the rightness of their cause, as they saw it, and forthright in their actions. That’s what I’m talking about.

  31. August 24, 2009 9:10 pm


    s*d, the thesis is almost done, and I have a whole host of ideas for blogs saved in a file…waiting for when it is done.

    it has got my attention, and the river class has got a place in my appendix because of it; but I still think you should take a look at the castle class

    yours sincerly


  32. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 8:25 pm

    Hudson, actually the corvettes and OPV’s are not small boats, they are twice the size of most FAC’s and dwarf the tiny pirates boats that are swarming the Gulf of Aden. You might consider these as “small boats destroyers”, and are much cheaper and easier to build in adequate numbers than a 3000+ ton vessel which are becoming borderline exquisite and in the case of the LCS, downright unaffordable.

  33. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 8:18 pm

    Welcome Alex. Knew that would get your attention! Based on my own estimate as how naval designers underestimate the cost on everything these days. Haven’t the new RN carriers and the Type 45s all come in over-priced? But I hope you are right.

  34. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 6:11 pm


    The “Grandson of a River” refers to the River class OPV shown in this article.

  35. Hudson permalink
    August 24, 2009 5:52 pm

    The way to kill a swarm of hornets is not to pick them off one by one with a BB gun, and you certainly don’t need to be stung first to take action. You torch the hive, or in my case, annihilate it with a shotgun.

    When the naval powers become desperate enough, they will change the rules of engagement and “torch” the Somali pirates in their dens, and then figure out how to give the Somali men more rewarding jobs than piracy. Instead of trying to chase their little boats with our little boats, we’ll fight the battle on our terms and let them feel the wrath of our big expensive ships, the way the British and Dutch fleets did during the bombardment of Algiers in 1816, when they forced the Bey to quit enslaving European Christians, or else–sinking scores of swarming pirate gunboats with their ships-of-the-line.

    And I think that, more and more, this will apply to asymetrical war in general. We will fight the wiley critters more by our rules than theirs. Either we will use our armies and navies to destroy the enemy the way they are trained and equipped to do, or we will do something better with our people, money and time.

  36. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 24, 2009 5:35 pm

    There doesn’t seem to be any explanation with the graphic.

    Does the “Grandson of a River” depicted in “Top Clicks” refer to this River Class or to the River Class frigates of WWII that was built in the UK, Canada, Australia, and in a modified form, in the US (PF2-102)?

  37. August 24, 2009 3:31 pm


    where are you getting the 1billion £ from? ok the T45s come in at £600million a pop…expensive yes, but not that bad

    River class, good at sea keeping; yes the larger one is, personal experience of the smaller ones is that they have need some work on their stabilisation systems.

    as for weapons outfit; this is the interesting thing, the Castle class were better, and better able to be fitted out with extra weaponry when required – interestingly enough the yard which built them, but has since not built warships, is submitting a design for the C3, whilst it is 3000tons, it is armed with the same SeaRAM CIWS and BAE MK110 57mm as the LCS, but will also have the modular weapons systems based on those shipped aboard the absalom class combined with the capability of taking a Lynx in hangar. it will come in at £105million – but is built using completely off the shelf technology, in fact examples of the hull design are already in existence on the very expensive luxury motor yachts that they construct – very very nice hulls; and these builders usually build for people who do not like overruns and will not pay if you over run, so I think if taken they are the best option. This is because on average BAE projects come in 150% over cost and 4 years late.

    yours sincerly


  38. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 24, 2009 3:19 pm

    Like I said, I’m not saying they are not useful.

    They could operate a medium helo like a Dauphin/Lynx for recon and carry a the Netfires NLOS to deal with swarms of small boats, just don’t expect them to attack nuc subs. Although they could tow a towed array and provide useful info that way.

    It’s just not logical to try to turn them into DEs.

  39. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 3:14 pm

    The RN Future Surface Combatant programme is split into three classes of ships, C1, C2, C3, with C3 being the smallest at about 3000 – 3500 tons.

    The C3’s are not a replacement for the Type 22/23’s. The larger C1 and C2’s are the replacement for the Type 22/23’s.

  40. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 3:11 pm

    “The Rivers are little more than armed fishing vessels.”

    Armed fishing vessels whipped the high end British frigates in the Cod Wars of the 60s and 70s on numerous occasions, and these ships were built with those lessons in mind. they can do things the big exquisite ships can’t. Just because a vessel is small, I wouldn’t necessarily underestimate its abilities. A terrorist speedboat armed with explosives can put our largest battleships out of service for a whole year.

    Desperate times call for desperate measures, and with our rapidly aging and shrinking forces structures, while threats mount worldwide, some thinking outside the box is called for. The professionals don’t seem to have any answers but “send more money”. They’ve done little enough with the many billions they have gotten for decades.

  41. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 24, 2009 3:00 pm


    I’m not denying the usefulness of this type of ship (I spent a lot of time on USCG OPVs) but it is what it is. When we start talking about using them to operate Merlins for ASW we start needing to add things.

    These ships are inexpensive to buy and operate because they don’t have a lot of the things that go along with being a warship, Air Search Radars, ESM/ECM, redundant systems, compartmentation standards, fire fighting standards, higher levels of secure communications. These ships can be useful, but they are not destroyers, and if we tried to make them destroyers we would drive up the cost of both purchase and operations. That was my point. The fact that it can land an ASW Merlin, does not make it an ASW ship.

    The Rivers are little more than armed fishing vessels. Armed fishing vessels have been and can still be useful. They have been used for landing agents, ASW, and MCM, but they are what they are. They are not destroyers and for the Brits to call them a replacement for the Type 22/23 is kind of sad.

  42. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 1:04 pm

    Mike, the budget for the C3 OPV/Corvette is supposed to be £100 million per unit, i.e. relatively cheap. If it goes much above that, then I’d agree with you, they’d be defeating the whole point of the exercise.

    From what I hear though, they’re not planning on building very many of them (low estimate – 12 ships, high estimate – 20 ships). Personally I’d like to see more ships built. If all else fails, build more River class OPV’s like you’ve suggested.

  43. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 12:46 pm

    William, bankruptcy will make you do things you never thought you’d do again, in civilian life as well as with the military. At one time, who would have guessed Britain giving up her Colonies, her battleships, her large deck aircraft carriers. Even more than the US, the UK needs to prioritize.

    The problem with the Global Corvette design, at 3000 tons or so it is another gold-plated but underarmed frigate, that will likely approach 1 billion pounds, as pricey and yet underarmed as the American LCS. These vessels, despite possessing nowhere near the abilities of an Aegis or PAMMS destroyers, are still of the gold plated variety. So my advice to them would be to “think smaller”.

  44. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 9:30 am

    Anyway the RN are highly unlikely to go for a River class derivative. Current thinking is that they’re much more likely to go for something derived from the BVT Omani corvette or the BMT Verminator.

    I must admit I really like the flexibility of the enlarged River class design, particularly its 50m long “flex” deck. But your right most of the time it will operate with just a lynx or OPV. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be useful to have a slightly bigger flight deck to operate larger helicopters when required.

  45. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 9:20 am

    Mike, I think the reasoning is that that the OPV can carry an embarked force of marines and transfer them to the Merlin/Chinook.

    Also during major conflict, the OPV’s acting as the ASW screen on the outer perimeter can operate ASW Merlins that have been transfered from the larger ships at the centre of the task force.

  46. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 8:23 am

    William. These are very interesting. Now for the type of missions the River class is for, would you need something as large as Merlin or Chinook? I’d think a Lynx or Fire Scout is very adequate.

  47. William permalink
    August 24, 2009 5:33 am

    The Warships1 blog have come up with a stretched design of the River class, with a telescopic hangar, and capable of landing/refeueling chinook or merlin sized helicopters.

  48. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 24, 2009 4:28 am

    Undegrad said “If the River-class, or perhaps even the USCG OPC, had a 57mm gun, a SeaRAM, some 25mm guns, and at least one Mk32 triple torpedo launcher it might be equivalent to a DE, but not until then.”

    I believe I said pretty much the same thing in the article, while emphasizing the excellent seakeeping qualities of the vessel. A lot of the complaints I get from skeptics of the small corvette idea often proposed here, is the poor seakeeping qualities of such vessels. Aside from the fact that ships geared toward shallow water warfare have little need of Blue Water abilities, the River class circumvents even that deficiency.

    Getting back to the armament, even with its current limited defenses, they are still more than adequate for the anti-piracy, anti-smuggling role which Britain currently uses its Sea Wolf armed Type 23s, and America her 10,000 ton Burke super destroyers. Though for a FSC replacement I would emphasize the use of those arms you mentioned as well. Whatever could be fit.

    Also Hudson said “Size matters”.

    I disagree and think that numbers matter more. Of course, you do need size for your battleships, but how many battleships can one nation afford? Note that every class of warship in Western navies are approaching capital vessel capabilities in armament and especially cost. You still need ships for sundry patrol duties, littoral warfare, mine warfare, ect that are spartan and easy to build in large numbers. Otherwise you are swamped against multiple threats by poorer nation who can use these asymmetrical tactics against us. We see this already occurring in Indian Ocean, with these most minor of seapowers the pirates. And the bigger navies with their high tech superships are flummoxed at how to handle the problem! They are stretched thin and overworked by this most minor of threats, even with a global alliance of ships!

    Sure size matters, but not for all functions and not even for most functions of naval warfare.

  49. leesea permalink
    August 24, 2009 1:58 am

    Chuck you’re missing the ship type distinction. Smaller warships and patrol ships do NOT need all those things which comes along with manned helos. Simply deploying UAVs is good enough. IF the ship does land helos, those can be supported on a bigger mothership. The point is the US Navy has NEITHER of those types of ships! More hulls, more locations, more prescence – not a few bigger and better exquisite type ships, as Mike points out.

  50. Hudson permalink
    August 24, 2009 12:57 am

    A classy ship, the River. One imagines good crew accommodations for the long voyage: two tots of rum instead of one. This might do for the fisheries mission where disputes seldom go beyond the shot across the bow stage. It’s a bit lightly armed for pirates and drug runners should they choose to make a fight of it.

    This is where you want a frigate of the Iron Duke’s repute. Size matters. The larger ship will deter the small fry from taking a shot at it. It’s like having a 300lb bouncer at the club instead of a 195lb martial arts expert. The idea is to maintain order and prevent fights not wipe the floor with rowdy patrons.

    You could reconfigure and up-gun the River class for more serious encounters. However, the Brits already have future small ship designs, notably the Global Corvette. The Brits have outlined their future navy in major ship categories, unlike the USN which seems no have no overall plan. The problem for the RN will be finding funding to actually put hulls in the water.

  51. Distiller permalink
    August 24, 2009 12:39 am

    Inventing the wheel? No need to! Meko A-100.

  52. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 23, 2009 11:59 pm

    Questions to ask:

    Not only can it land a helicopter?
    Can it refuel it?
    Helo Inflight refueling?
    Hanger it?
    Service it?
    Repair it?
    Haul down and traversing system to land it in heavy weather and
    move it into the hanger?
    Rearm it? With sonobuoys, torpedoes, and misssiles?

  53. leesea permalink
    August 23, 2009 10:29 pm

    Remember what these vessels are intended to do! They are patrol ships aka cutters with endurance as their strong suite and good weapons for low end MSO. Not necessarily Cyclone PC replacement but still good ships. The OPV(H) varinat has what I consider important the helo/UAV deck and boats. While not having a high dash speed, they have range and capacity. All that is needed for littoral patrol ops. It will be interesting to see how they work out.

    Also of significance is that their builder VT is responsible for all logisitcs support for as set number of years.

  54. UndergradProgressive permalink
    August 23, 2009 10:13 pm

    The Clyde looks a bit more capable – two miniguns certainly could work to counter swarming tactics. However, I wonder if the comparison to DEs and destroyers of the past is overstating the capabilities of these vessels.

    The River-class OPV, even the extended version, the Clyde, only mounts a 30mm gun and sundry MGs and miniguns. The John C. Butler class destroyer escort (of which the USS Samuel B. Roberts of Taffy 3 and the Battle off Samar fame was a member) mounted two 5 inch DP mounted guns, 2 dual-mount 40mm guns, 10 20mm guns, a number of depth charge racks and projectors, and a hedgehog launcher.

    If the River-class, or perhaps even the USCG OPC, had a 57mm gun, a SeaRAM, some 25mm guns, and at least one Mk32 triple torpedo launcher it might be equivalent to a DE, but not until then.

  55. William permalink
    August 23, 2009 5:00 pm

    The MOD’s budget for the C3 OPV is £100 million each.

  56. Mike Burleson permalink*
    August 23, 2009 4:57 pm

    Also consider HMS Clyde which is a modified version, slightly bigger, with room for a Merlin:

    I understand why the RN would prefer a high-performance vessel (ie-exquisite) to replace their Type 23s, but with even low-end frigates approaching the billion pound mark, who can afford many of these? OPV’s with some off the shelf weapons can perform most of the functions which we now use our most expensive battleships for.

    I’m not sure about Blue Water operations, but the fact is a century ago, ships of this size were utilized as oceans escorts and built in many hundreds. They were then called destroyers!

  57. Chuck Hill permalink
    August 23, 2009 4:44 pm

    Don’t see a helo/UAV landing deck. The price is right. Still it’s not even as capable as the old 270 ft USCG cutters which are the same size.

  58. William permalink
    August 23, 2009 4:43 pm

    Here’s a link from 2007 on BVT’s FSC C3 OPV proposal:

  59. UndergradProgressive permalink
    August 23, 2009 3:54 pm

    It seems like a versatile, capable vessel. Naval Technology mentions one of the best features of the vessel – the capability to carry 18 marines for a boarding party. Throw a SeaRAM and some more MGs (the Brits seem to only put two GPMGs, of which the M240 is a derivative variant) on it, and it’s good to go. I wonder if you could use it as a destroyer escort, too (but it might be too slow – top speed of 20 kts seems slow for hunting down subs, even with VLS launched ASROC).

  60. William permalink
    August 23, 2009 3:48 pm

    I can’t find the link, but BVT have recently offered their solution for the UK FSC C3 requirement for a low end OPV that can be configured for MCM and ASW.

    Its based on the 100m 3500 ton corvette that they’ve recently built for Oman. BVT are even offering to LEASE the ships to the RN.

    The MOD does not intend to start building these OPV’s until 2013.

    Astonishingly the MOD does not seem to be in any hurry to get new OPV/escorts into service.


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