Skip to content

New Cruisers and the Shrinking Fleet

December 11, 2009

The Royal Navy fleet auxiliary ship Lyme Bay (L 3007) leads the USS Gladiator (MCM 11), USS Ardent (MCM 12), USS Dextrous (MCM 13), the minehunter HMS Grimsby (M108) and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan during a training exercise.

The following article from the UK is an example of how our building priorities are greatly skewed, out of all reality, from the type of conflicts we are currently engaged in. I was enjoying the first hand account of the new sea warfare in the Gulf with what we dub the “new cruisers”, of hardworking sailors in their little ships when the politicians threw cold water on our hopes. From UK  Defence Forum, here is Gisela Stuart MP with other members of Parliament on the mine hunter HMS Grimsby in the Persian Gulf:  

We are here to keep sea lines of communication open, to counter terrorist related activities, such as narcotics, alcohol and people-smuggling – all of which to some degree fund terrorist activities – and we play our part in the Global Maritime Partnership On Counter Piracy. The UK is a maritime trading nation and much of our oil and gas comes from this part of the world…  

All well so far. The sailors are doing a magnificent job there:  

We are picked up by HMS Kent. Launched in 1998, she cost £140 million to build and £14-16 million a year to run. She carries an array of weapons, from Harpoon anti-ship missiles, to Stingray torpedoes and vertical launched Seawolf anti-air missiles, as well as a helicopter.  

Perhaps a bit over-kill for fighting pirates in speedboats and motorized skiffs, but what else is the RN allowed these days?  

Piracy is back and it’s big business. Modern container ships are huge and there are only about 600 of them. Capturing one means a huge bounty for the pirates, usually big ransom payments by some company or other and increased insurance premiums for all of us.  

International law is difficult to enforce. Bringing the pirates to justice is far from easy and the solution to the problem has to be found in Somalia and not the high seas.  

If so, what is the Navy doing there? Getting a little frustrated, but not at the sailors.  

 I now understand what they mean by floating platforms. Lyme Bay, a class of ship which replaced the Sir Galahad Class, can carry military forces of up to 356 Royal Marines and all they need, as well as vehicles, battle tanks and, above all, fuel. These are massive floating petrol stations. Access to the ship is either by helicopter, the extending side ramp or via a floodable stern dock.  

Yeah, mothership capability! Now this is nearer the Influence Squadrons we often advocate here. Looks like the RN is on the right track. More on the Grimsby:  

HMS Grimsby is a mine hunter which can fight back if it needs to, but its main function is defensive. It works with local communities but first and foremost they look for mines and dispose of them.  

 But then, the MP veers off into discussing Trident, which sounds like political posturing, but the worse is next to come:  

Talk of saving money by cutting back on aircraft carriers is not just misguided, but it’s dangerous. We are an island, and we must have a properly equipped Navy.  

The finale is mind-boggling, having nothing to do with the “small boys”, the little frigates and minehunters and motherships, the New Cruisers like their far-flung namesakes of the old British Empire that kept the Freedom of the Seas in the 19th Century. These aging ships with little prospect of replacement anytime soon must soldier on in their thankless but essential task holding back the enemies of Civilization, while larger, more expensive and less needed supercarriers get the bulk of the funding. So we take it the politicians learned nothing from their all-expense-paid-by-the-taxpayers sojourn in the Gulf?  Too bad.

More on the subject of getting defense priorities straight the first of the week.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. m.ridgard permalink
    December 14, 2009 2:11 pm

    X,
    So that was your attempt at humour was it,nearly as bad as your attempts on the more serious matters which as above I have proven to be not only completely inaccurate but blatantly untrue.
    ‘And isn’t the 40mm bofors stabilised in some versions of cv90’.
    Dear me,if you weren’t in such a desperate need to score points you might perhaps have thought before you posted.
    I said ‘ A first for any BRITISH ARMY medium calibre vehicle’
    You really must try harder.

  2. December 14, 2009 1:07 pm

    X – 40mm CTA – Case Telescoped Ammunition, is about the same size as a standard 25mm round – thus much smaller than the standard 40mm fire by the Bofors, hence any vehicle with a given volume can carry more rounds. The gun also apparently has a considerably reduced space requirement inside the turret, also an advantage. Finally, and I presume other ammo families offer this, the 40mmCTA round has pre-set airburst ability, allowing you to shower infantry in enfilade (trenches, behind walls etc) with shrapnel.

  3. December 14, 2009 12:17 pm

    “Your last remark concerning this ‘wonder weapon’ is absolutely pointless and clutching at straws.”

    Look up the word humour in the dictionary. Actually fill out yourself a stores chit and go and see if they have any spare. You evidently need some.

    And isn’t the 40mm Bofors stabilised in some versions of CV90?

    And wouldn’t there have been greater savings if we had to upgrade going for 40mm Bofors if a Warrior update was to take place?

  4. Joe permalink
    December 13, 2009 7:58 pm

    Mike said: Plus I am thinking what Alex said about the British could no longer build light carriers for any less than a giant deck, is a sign of obsolescence.

    Alex actually said: Modern Vincy sized vessel would have still taken up 2/3 of the funds that a QE takes up…Ajusted for inflation HMS Ocean would cost £350m today(if she had been built to military standards) so it would be reasonable to expect a 30,000T LPH to be procured for ~£500m perhaps a little more.

    _____________________________________________________________

    Pre-delay, by currency conversion a single QE-class came to about $3.1B, and post-delay approx $3.9B. The modified Ocean numbers that Alex provides are approx $570M and $810M, respectively.

    Obsolescence has nothing to do with this issue. My thought is that if Great Britain did (rightfully) hike its defense spending by 15%, then the two larger carriers make a great deal of sense – end of story, hush up Joe.

    However, it’s been clear for a while that the trend is downward…one only need to look at the growing list of mothballed/retired/delayed/cancelled systems to see that. And next yr might well see a real 15% cut in spending with a flattening out for a few years to come.

    As such, I think **being the expert that I am** that it would have made greater sense to choose the lesser carrier – Mike’s idea of a modified Ocean class – instead of the QE class. I have zilch against the QE’s, but suggest what I do given the fiscal environment and trend lines of the past few yrs, period. Several of these for less overall money might have – if factored into the thought processes the past several years – have lessened pressures to cut elsewhere on the fleet numbers. Perhaps not.

  5. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 5:32 pm

    Your last remark concerning this ‘wonder weapon’ is absolutely pointless and clutching at straws.
    In regards to the turret,this is a completly new design which also proposed as turret to be fitted to the warrior upgrade version,so commonality with both vehicles.
    It also allows for accurate firing on the move,which is a first for any British army medium calibre vehicle weapon system.
    So in your language, no you wouldn’t be deader but you would be deader sooner.

  6. December 13, 2009 4:43 pm

    “It is not being designed,it is already built fitted onto a warrior test vehicle and has a 40mm gun not a 45mm.”

    Sorry I mixed my tenses in a rush. But you know what as I was getting at.

    “This is not a French design but a joint venture between BAE and CTA International and has also been fired from the test vehicle with apparantly excellent results.”

    The 45mm was a typo. But I am interested to know if you are any deader if you are shot at by this wonder weapon than if “we” had just gone with 40mm Bofors?

    And similarly with the turret………..

  7. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 4:27 pm

    The design submitted by BAE for the FRES SV based on the CV9035 has a turret which is designed and built by BAE at their own cost. It is not being designed,it is already built fitted onto a warrior test vehicle and has a 40mm gun not a 45mm.
    This is not a French design but a joint venture between BAE and CTA International and has also been fired from the test vehicle with apparantly excellent results.

  8. December 13, 2009 4:14 pm

    “The Tank which was a British invention was laughable when compared to what the enemy was fielding.”

    Pre-WW2 it was the mark of a good tank the GB didn’t field it.

    But it should be remembered that the French had more tanks than the Germans, and that they were better armed and amoured.

  9. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 4:09 pm

    Mike,
    Your comment ‘let tommorrow take care of itself’ takes me aback.
    This is much the same attitude that ended up with Britain fighting the first couple of years of the last war with antiquated equipment.
    The Army and Airforce in particular were outclassed in every department,except for the Spitfire and Hurricane we would have been torn apart in the air.
    The Tank which was a British invention was laughable when compared to what the enemy was fielding.
    This was because of apathy but more importantly lack of foresight,which you seem to be advocating.

  10. December 13, 2009 4:05 pm

    “Best stay with off the shelf design”

    Well that lesson escapes most in defence procurement. Go to youtube and have a look at the vid’s for the CV90. Its awesone (as the kids say.)

    There is one with a 40mm Bofors firepower demo’.

    There are a half dozen 8×8 vehicles that could fulfil FRES. My fave’ is the Patria AMV. Fully amphibious too.

  11. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 13, 2009 3:52 pm

    Best stay with off the shelf design, that way no screw-ups. The same happened when they were looking at Stryker because it was supposed to be air-transportable. It Wasn’t, they bought it anyway. that was good for the troops since they got a pretty good platform when they needed it, not the far-off future. the perfect is the enemy of the “good enough”.

  12. December 13, 2009 3:01 pm

    “FRES scout bids are in and being assessed and a decision is expected in early 2010 before any election so as to get things moving. Yes the UV version has been delayed but I doubt very much it will be scrapped as you claim,more likely is that the Warrior upgrade will be binned and FRES UV will continue but only after the Scout version is built.”

    What a cock-up though. We will probably buy the CV90. But not the off-shelf version with the excellent Bofors 40mm. No we are designing a unique turret using the unproven 45mm French weapon with the telescoping ammunition.

    What was scrapped with FRES was that requirement for it be airportable in C130.

  13. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 13, 2009 2:58 pm

    Michael, by your account the Soviet threat in the midst of WW 2 would have been more important than the German and Japanese enemy we were already engaged in fighting. i don’t buy that. We can’t have our choice of threats. We either fight one enemy at a time or in the future these threats will multiply against us. The conventional and unconventional is becoming increasingly skewed as First World weapons get into the hands of Third World rogue states and terrorists. We can no longer ignore them.

    Plus I am thinking what Alex said about the British could no longer build light carriers for any less than a giant deck, is a sign of obsolescence. There must be a better way than shrinking force structures. Defense is always a burden a free nation must carry, but it doesn’t have to be an unreasonable burden. I don’t buy into the fact that we must build one capability and neglect another, in this case, the cruisers which are already in the fight, not deterring some future obscure conflict.

    We must prioritize, and I say, give the funds to those who can use them, to the ones already in harms way. Let tomorrow take care of itself. It could be our ideas of how we might fight in the future could be wrong, but we know the enemy in the Gulf.

  14. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 2:04 pm

    Mike,
    On todays ‘politics show’ Bob Ainsworth was questioned in regards to replacing the UK’s current nuclear deterent and the cost of doing so.
    Whilst I have little confidence in any UK political party in regards to defence,he at least spoke some sense when he said that the world twenty years ago was a far different place to what it is today and what it will be in twenty years time.
    This argument for building a new class of SSBN’s can also be linked to building new carriers.
    We know for a fact that certain countries are determined to acquire nuclear weapons,and a couple of unstable countries already have them.
    In which case we need to have our own deterent to protect us from nuclear blackmail.
    We also know that more and more countries are forging ahead with their intentions of building or acquiring carriers,are we to believe that these are going to be used to protect their own littorals?
    Only a few days ago was the aniversary of the sinking of HM ships ‘Prince of Wales’ and ‘Repulse’ by Japanese aircraft during the last war.
    A major factor in this disaster was those ships being deployed without any air cover.
    Likewise the Falklands campaign could not have gone ahead without carriers,even the motley collection that our government had left us with were used to good effect. No thanks to politicians.
    Yes we have to fund the current conflict,but we also have to prepare for the future and I don’t see that as our building priorities being skewed out of all reality as you suggest.

  15. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 1:26 pm

    Alex.
    Come on, you have made statements which are clearly not true however much you try and fudge the issue.
    FRES scout bids are in and being assessed and a decision is expected in early 2010 before any election so as to get things moving. Yes the UV version has been delayed but I doubt very much it will be scrapped as you claim,more likely is that the Warrior upgrade will be binned and FRES UV will continue but only after the Scout version is built.

    MARS, well the MoD is still refering to it as the MARS project and it is still ongoing,on that note I rest my case.

    FSC, May 2009 BVT was awarded a £610,000 contract to prepare ground for the programme to advance into assesment phase by MoD.
    They have also now been given exclusive rights for design,construction and integration by the MoD,this was signed on 21st July 2009..

    Perhaps your notes could do with an update.

  16. Alex 2.0 permalink
    December 13, 2009 11:56 am

    The MARS programme was more than the tankers, the tankers were only 5/6 of a planned 11/12 vessels. which also included a number of solid-support vessels, sea based logistics and my notes say something of a carrier/aviation support vessel (RFA Argus replacement?)

    MARS was cancelled last year(that’ll teach me to post without consulting my notes) and the fleet tanker is now a seperate issue.

    – Alex.

  17. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 10:11 am

    Alex.
    Taken from Jane’s 27 oct 2009.
    ‘The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is gearing up to resurrect its MARS Tankers programme a little over six months after abandoning an earlier Fleet Tanker acquisition effort.

    In a notice issued on 6 October, the Defence Acquisition and Support (DE&S) organisation’s Afloat Support directorate launched a prequalification phase for interested industry parties,and,at the same time,revealed that it had broadened the scope of possible solutions. An industry day is scheduled for 4 nov,with prequalification questionnaires (PQQs) due for return no later than 4 December 2009’.

    There is more but that is the bones of it.

    More on the other two items later.

  18. Alex 2.0 permalink
    December 13, 2009 9:56 am

    Mike, to produce a small carrier that doesn’t cost the earth would mean cutting sensors, it would be more productive for smaller navy’s to build large LPHs in their place with just a token force of STOVL aircraft… Ajusted for inflation HMS Ocean would cost £350m today(if she had been built to military standards) so it would be reasonable to expect a 30,000T LPH to be procured for ~£500m perhaps a little more, Cavour cost €1.5bn (~£1.2bn ~$2bn)

    M.rigard
    FRES Hasn’t been cancelled no, the Utility version (the bulk of the programme) HAS been effectively cancelled, from FRES we’ll get the scout platform, nothing else.

    MARS since the numbers were jiggled around in 2006 there has been no news on MARS, no-one has produced any concepts for years, the ships are meant to be being built as we speak, RFA don’t even have any idea what is going to be built let alone when.

    FSC – A project that has been in concept phase for 10 years and cancelled twice?

  19. m.ridgard permalink
    December 13, 2009 8:58 am

    FRES:- NOT cancelled
    FSC :- NOT cancelled
    MARS:- NOT cancelled

  20. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 13, 2009 7:39 am

    Alex 2.0 said “Modern Vincy sized vessel would have still taken up 2/3 of the funds that a QE takes up”

    So if light carriers are now prohibitive for the RN, is there yet a third choice for naval aviation in small and medium navies? Britain set the standard in the 70s since few navies can build supercarriers without busting the bank. Now you see the Harrier carriers everywhere, but what does the future hold?

    I have my own ideas but curious what you guys think.

  21. James Daly permalink
    December 13, 2009 5:31 am

    I still wonder if the retirement of the Harrier was motivated by the RAF trying to undermine the Fleet Air Arm. ‘Hey, we can use our Harrier GR’s off the carriers!’ – except by all accounts they arent working out too well. Apart from having the same name they’re completely different aircraft, with a completely different electronics fit.

    That list of cancelled projects in Alex’s last post really does make grim reading. Its only when you see it sll written down like that you realise how bad things are. And its not going to get any better, the Chancellor announced cuts in public spending this week, including Defence, but didnt mention any Defence projects specifically.

  22. Joe permalink
    December 12, 2009 10:34 pm

    Hey, many thanks for the replies. A lot of good info/ideas in there.

    The list you provide is indeed harrowing to read through. There is a lot there to comment on, but the early retirement of the Harriers (which I’d read about previously) stands out as a real WTH? head scratcher.

  23. Alex 2.0 permalink
    December 12, 2009 9:39 pm

    Modern Vincy sized vessel would have still taken up 2/3 of the funds that a QE takes up, QE class is the optimum size for UK interests, should the need to fit them with cats and traps arrive they are big enough for 2 90m cats (CdeG has 75m IIRC) any bigger and the RN couldn’t ever have expected to be able to utilise the space

    (Pretending that the carriers wern’t delayed which pushed programme costs up £1bn) £3.8bn for the 2 Carriers is a bargain for the increased capabiltiy that they can provide, the 150(cut to 138) Aircraft to operate off of them is another question.

    The crux of the matter is not that the carriers are too big, expensive and unwieldly for the RN, the problem is that the defence budget in the UK is enough when all of your men and kit are sitting at home or are in low intensity operations but 2.2~2.5% isn’t going to cut the cheese when 10,000+ troops and equipment are on high intensity operations in 2 theatres (well for us Iraq is over but that’s not the point) there needed to be a ~15%+ rise in defence spending to cover the cracks but obtaining another £200 per worker to fund operations that have little-no public support?

    Until 2003 everything was more or less fine, since then everything has fallen apart:

    Nimrod MRA.4 – 21 cut to 16, cut to 12 (3 of which aren’t likely to enter service)
    Type 45 – 12 cut to 8, 6 built
    Type 23 – 16, 3 payed off early
    Amalgamation of historic British Army units beyond recognition
    SSNs 12, SDR outlined reduction to 10, cut to 8, 7 are planned (only 6 are confirmed)
    Jaguar – Early retirement
    FSTA – PFI Agreement
    EF Typhoon – Fine we hope!
    Sea Harrier – Retired whilst replacements are still 10 years away (and some of the aircraft were only 7 years old)
    CVF – DELAYED
    Ocean replacement – DELAYED/CANCELLED
    MARS – CANCELLED
    FSC – CANCELLED
    FMCMC – CANCELLED
    FRES – CANCELLED
    FOAS – CANCELLED
    JCA(JSF) – GOD KNOWS!

    If the future holds more of the same then maybe it would have been better to look at a class of 3 ~230m, 30,000T LPHs(could probably knock them out at the cost of ~£500m/unit) but until we’ve waited 30 years we wont know what the future holds.

    – Alex.

  24. Joe permalink
    December 12, 2009 8:31 pm

    Alex,

    If you were the man in charge, would you have done anything differently on the aircraft carrier front in Great Britain?

    That seems to be the fork in the road everyone argues about per there being flexibility in the naval budget. In your opinion, are the the two QE-class carriers the best route to have gone or would something more akin to an updated/modified HMS-Invincibile or -Ocean class carriers have been a more proper route?

  25. Alex 2.0 permalink
    December 12, 2009 7:55 pm

    Joe said: “It might be a very labor-intensive idea, but why not do a Build Your Own Navy – Radicalized-style thread for the U.K.? ”

    Wouldn’t be very good, on the shoestring budget the Royal Navy have at their command and finding figures that the Royal Navy can make availiable for procurement would be an even harder task

    IMO despite the dreadful state of the Royal Navy’s surface combatants the first thing that needs to be sorted out is the MARS programme, the RFA tankers/support vessels need replacing now, without support there is little point in drawing up a formidable alternative division of resources. You could say if the MoD stretch to another £250m/year(will cost the average working man/woman £10/year) for the Royal Navy they could constantly build 1 corvette every 8 months (3/2years) assuming these vessels are hard worked (which they would be) 20 year service life would be a reasonable expectation (£250m/year; say £5m/year to support each vessel and £60m/unit) but where would the support in the forms of tankers and replenishment come from?

    PS: I know these are crude figures and it doesn’t work like that but the point is that maintaining and building a fleet of 30 corvettes is akin to the cost to do the same for 6 destroyers (assuming 25 year service life) or 10-12 frigates (25 year service life)

    PPS: I still think the RN need 10 T45s, 8 FSC-C1 and 12-14 FSC-C2; the Corvettes I had in mind would’ve been something around 85m, 2,000T ~40 crew, 20~30 EMF, Organic MCM, flight deck, RIB/ROV/UUV dock under hangar(think BMT Venator), SeaRAM… this could come in the form of a Highly modified HMS Clyde (Modified River Class) and would replace MCM and patrol assets… For reference HMS Clyde cost £30m

    – Alex

  26. Mike Burleson permalink*
    December 12, 2009 3:46 pm

    Here is something Think Defence, a UK website is doing this weekend:

    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2009/12/if-you-had-to-cut-the-mod-budget-by-25/

    As well as on their Future Defence Review

    http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2009/12/future-defence-review-forum-or-wiki/

  27. Joe permalink
    December 12, 2009 3:37 pm

    It might be a very labor-intensive idea, but why not do a Build Your Own Navy – Radicalized-style thread for the U.K.?

    You do have a goodly number of contributors who have broad-based knowledge on several navies, but some of your more “lay-person” types might find it instructive to see the current composition, a wide range of alternatives, and prices of all options laid out. Exercises like the one for the U.S. Navy from last month can never be totally comprehensive, but they do serve to increase awareness of the issues facing pencil pushers and military geniuses alike as they try to forge a future navy.

    And it might also increase awareness of a topic that is sure to be a hot one in 2010 with our U.K. bretheren.

Trackbacks

  1. Carrier Alternative Weekly « New Wars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: