Meet Britain’s New Capital Ship
I will insist the recent news of the Royal Navy scrapping plans for a second attack carrier, and canceling much of their Joint Strike Fighter order isn’t all bad, but a sign of the sea change in warfare since the Cold War. While many hopes and jobs are on the line of whether these giant carriers will even be built, this in no way reduces the power and capability of the Navy as seen by simultaneous good news of the launching of a powerful new capability for the fleet. From DefenceWeb:
Defender, the fifth of the Type 45 anti-air warfare destroyers for the Royal Navy, was successfully launched from BVT Surface Fleet’s shipyard at Govan on the Clyde on Wednesday.
Defender was launched and named by Lady Massey, wife of Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey KCB CBE ADC, in front of over 12 000 people who flocked to the shipyard to join the celebrations for the Glasgow and Exeter affiliated ship, BAE Systems’ naval business unit, BVT Surface Fleet said in a statement.
While the nation is struggling to place new large decks in service, not the only nation suffering such difficulties acquiring giant warships, in the same time period she has successfully and quickly launched an advanced new capability with the Type 45 destroyers. This singular warship success story, equivalents to the American Aegis anti-missile ships, bring a revolutionary ability for the Royal Navy to dominate and defend against targets on land, sea, and especially in the air:
With five of the six Type 45s now in the water, BVT is over half way through the programme and is on target to deliver all six ships to the Royal Navy by the end of 2013. The first of class, HMS Daring was commissioned into service in July and will become operational in February.
Second of class Dauntless has successfully completed sea trials and BVT is on course to hand her over to the Royal Navy in December, whilst Diamond’s sea trials, which began earlier this month, are progressing well.
Dragon is undertaking machinery trials in Scotstoun, with sea trials expected to commence in summer 2010. Defender is 65% complete at launch, and units and blocks for Duncan, the final vessel, are under construction at Govan, with the first block on track to move to berth in January.
According to Harold Hutchinson at Strategypage, these New Battleships are second to none in fighting power:
The Daring-class destroyers are arguably as good as the American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers in the air-defense role…Mind you, the British ships will be very capable – and with precision-guided weapons like the Tomahawk, one doesn’t need as many sorties to shut down an airfield, or to take out a bridge. The ships are carrying more weapons than their predecessors (the Type 45 carries 48 surface-to-air missiles – compared to 22 Sea Darts in a Type 42).
These $1 billion (US) warships are nearly twice the size of the older Type 42, but are filled with deficiencies, most notably the lack of an anti-surface warfare weapon other than a old fashion main gun.
Neither are they equipped with any surface attack missiles like Tomahawk, as they have been geared mainly for air defense within a fleet. There is no denying however, the speed which these potentially awesome fighting vessels have been produced, and any inadequacies can be easily dealt with. Unlike the giant carriers, the entire class of 6 Type 45 destroyers are in existence today, and ready to defend its country from all nautical threats.
Feeling they should only operate within an old style carrier task force, the designers left out the essential cruise missiles and the radar to fire them. Hopefully this decision will be rethought in the near-term, as currently with US vessels of this type so armed, giving HMS Defender and her kin a more independent role suitable for her enhanced anti-missile capabilities. We see such powerful ships able to operate without the traditional air cover provided by jets in a great many roles. We recently justified such a possibility in a post titled “Aircraft Carriers Vs. the New Battleships“:
We can in fact have such a scenario, in one of handful of sea fights in the Missile Age: Unable to afford an offensive attack aircraft carrier arm and still maintain a viable fleet, the British Royal Navy in 1982 was forced to seek alternatives. Acknowledging that her small Harrier carriers could not promise complete air superiority over the Falkland Islands, she was forced to rely more on her guided missile destroyers and frigates. The outcome is well known, with the invasion force not only surviving but prevailing over the numerous Argentine aerial armada, to safely see the troops ashore, the islands safely back under Crown protection. All this occurred long before Britain built her own high tech missile warships, the Type 45, with no Aegis-like warship to guard the South Atlantic Task Force.
Rather than bemoaning the loss of a capability that was really from another era anyway, we hope our friends the British will welcome these powerful fighting ships as the dawn of a new era of seapower. Taking advantage of the force multi-pliers of the micro-chip married to the guided missile, here is a capability which threatens the domain of the manned jet, while also restoring affordability and practicality to the still mighty Royal Navy.