Monday, 29 December 2008

Cruisers; The Big Boys? Or Just Really Big Toys?

This might seem a strange topic for consideration, after all the total number of cruisers within the worlds navies are very small, in fact there is only one in service outside of the realm of the Superpowers – and even with this it is only the navies of Russian and United State which posses and operate them

The superpower cruisers are:
United States Navy:

  • Twenty Two Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers.
Russian Navy:

  • Two Kirov-class large missile cruisers (sometimes referred to as battle cruisers due to their size),
  • Two Slava-class missile cruisers (further one at reduced readiness, further one under construction, transferred from Ukrainian Navy to Russian Navy),
  • Two(one) Kara-class.
The only other navy;
Peruvian Navy: One De Zeven Provinciën-class cruiser, the world's last operational gun cruiser.

Now in complete opposite to the list above, I will start off with Peru’s entry into the world of cruisers. Almirante Grau’s (formerly De Ruyter of the Royal Netherlands Navy), for deck pictured to the right, is has not only the title of the largest weight of shot fired currently in the world it is also the most powerful mobile artillery unit in the world. The De Zeven Provinciën class (pictured below) was a fairly effective design of cruiser which was built by both sides but never finished in time to serve either during World War II, but upon reaching active service provided the command ship elements in many NATO deployments after hostilities were over.
The Almirante Grau has been updated with Otomat Surface to Surface Missiles (SSM) – which puts in front of the brand new Type 45 Daring class destroyers of the Royal Navy; however I am still not going to examine to depth of the other classes, for one reason it is not fair as it is so much older, secondly it is really not the purpose of this entry to compare cruisers of World War II to cruisers of the modern era but to compare those of the modern era. It was though worthy of a mention.
Now for the beginning of the meat and bones of this entry; the Kara Class of Russian Navy. The `Kara' class design is generally similar to that of the Kresta II cruisers which preceded them, but the Kara’s are longer and are powered by gas rather than steam turbines; which perhaps is an explanation for the Kresta’s rapid disappearance post cold-war opposed to the slow continuance of Kara construction. Originally the Kara’s mounted two SA-N-3 launchers fore and aft, with their associated Head Lights fire-control systems; which are perhaps the most dominant feature of the ship to look at. The large mainmast supports the very large Top Sail radar. As in the Kresta II there are four SS-N-15 launchers either side of the bridge – a similar configuration to the Sovremenny Class destroyers. Unusually for an escort the helicopter is raised to flight deck level by a lift; something which is more associated with carriers and amphibious ships than an escort. The guns mounted on the `Kara' class include two twin main 76.2 mm guns. As in the earlier ships, however, these are cited at the waist and have an arc of fire of some 150o on the beam; different from that of Sovremenny and Udaloy class destroyers where they are mounted centreline; this may of course reflect Russian Naval doctrine on the purpose of cruisers within task groups; but it also seems a reflection of the fact that the guns are not of primary importance in these vessels. Similarly, the 30 mm CIWS turrets are sited in two pairs either side of the stack covering their respective beams, but unable to cover the forward or after arcs; although how significant this might seem in action depends on the ships ability to manoeuvre within the situation the attack finds it. RFS Kerch, which is the only vessel in a state of true active service, entered refit in the late 1980s, which included the installation of a Flat Screen radar, in place of the Top Sail. Whilst, it is logical that this would have been installed in other remaining ship, the Ochakov, however as far as I know this is not the case.
The missile armament is these ships, like all modern cruisers, is their reason for being; starting out they have 2 quad SS-N-14 Silex anti-submarine missiles, the same armament as is fitted the Udaloy class anti-submarine destroyers. Added to this is the fairly impressive by soviet standards SA-N-3 Goblet surface to air missile launchers – with 80 missiles reportedly carried they were in some ways the equivalent of the early Ticonderoga class cruisers – which will be discussed later, the similarity of the level of importance attached to the air defence role is the fact they also pack the SA-N-4 Gecko surface to air missile launchers – with reportedly 40 reloads. This all fits in with a fairly potent radar system (according to all reports, if anyone can actually tell me the definitive Russian name for them I would be most impressed and grateful – I am not putting Owl Screech in my blog entry – it sounds way to much like a Bill Oddie nature documentary).
The Slava Class are different again, for starts the main guns have returned to the centreline, and its visual presence is dominated by the 16 (4 double launchers either sides of the main structure) for the P-500 Bazalt surface to surface missiles(SSMs) otherwise known as the SS-N-12 Sandbox missile. This system, the forerunner of the Shipwreck which is mounted on the Kirovs and will discussed later, is a system which is worthy of great respect. In the history of Russian made anti-ship missiles, this system has definite status. The reason for this status, I hear you ask? Simple, with a range in excess of 550km, a 950kg semi-armour-piercing high explosive warhead, and a speed measuring greater than 2.5 times the speed of sound - it is a weapon system which certainly puts the harpoon to shame, and doesn’t exactly cast the Exocet in a shining light. Added to this impressive system is the S-300F or as NATO calls it SA-N-6, its upgrade missile (compared to the land based version) with range extended to 90 km and maximum target speed of Mach 4; although it does have a more limited engagement altitude compared to its land counterpart, only 25-25,000 m. The radar system attached to this is the TOP PAIR – that is a TOP SAIL teamed with a BIG NET; a comprehensive system if not the technological equal of the of the American SPY Aegis system.
This system is itself further reinforced by the SA-N-4 Gecko system, as is also fitted in the Kara class; this system is aimed at far closer range system than the SA-N-6, only 15km, but it covers this range at 1020 m/s, so it is less than 15s from launch to maximum range – making it a useful system; although not quite on par with the British Seawolf. The missile systems on the Slava class are augmented by 1 twin AK-130 130mm/L70 dual purpose guns; as I have mentioned previously mounted centreline forward, this is supplement by 6 AK-630 close-in weapons systems. As is usually with Soviet era ships of this size it carries a comprehensive anti-submarine outfitting, 2 RBU-6000 anti-submarine mortars, and 10 (2 quin) 533mm torpedo tubes; along with a helicopter as well; although at current it seems to be whichever one can be found that works. There are not unsupported rumours that the final vessel of this class, which is still under construction in the Ukraine, will be sold to Chinese; surely a prospect they must be considering in light of their expressed desire to have 6 carrier groups in service by 2020; cruisers as the Russians, and the Americans acknowledge are important to such groups successful operations.
Undoubtedly, with this in mind, the Soviet navy commissioned the largest class of cruisers to ever be constructed, weighing in at 28,000tons fully loaded, 4 of the class were completed and off these (Kirov) Admiral Ushakov has been inactive since the early 1990s; in fact slated for scrapping as of 2000, (Frunze) Admiral Lazarev has been laid up in Severomorsk, technically in reserve since 2004 – but is being worked on with a view to selling it too the Chinese, (Kalinin) Admiral Nakhimov has been undergoing repairs at Sevmash since 1999, but is not expected to rejoin the navy before 2012 if not 2015, and finally (Yuri Andropov) Pyotr Velikiy (pictured above) is active and serving as the flagship of the Northern fleet, something its namesake Peter the Great would have been proud off.
These goliaths of the escort world pack a very powerful punch centred on the massive P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) AShM, 20 of which are carried. With a speed of 4.5x the speed of sound, a range of 625km, and capable of pulling manoeuvres of 16g; this is possibly the most dangerous anti-ship missile in the world; it packs the standard issue 750kg high explosive warhead, this is not a let down however as it is a very good warhead, and certainly can do what its intended. Of course however the real threat of this weapon is that like almost all soviet weapons it can have a nuclear warhead fitted – hence the NATO designation of Shipwreck is inappropriate it should ‘Carrier Battle group Wreck’ rather than mere shipwreck. It is role as Battle Group BFG (Big Freidly Giant - Ronald Dahl) it also carriers a very impressive, by any standard (and really it can afford to – it’s not lacking in space to put it) air defence arrangement. Working out in range from the ship, the SA-N-9 Gauntlet, which uses the same 9M330 missile as its land based version. They are stored within rotary VLS modules, the missiles are positioned in 4 clusters of launchers comprising of six modules, totalling 192 missiles (each module contains 8 missiles), and mounted flush to the deck. Fire control is handled by the 3R95 multi-channel FC system (Cross Swords). This system is comprised of two complimenting radar sets, a G-band target acquisition radar and a K-band target engagement radar. This gives the system a good degree of flexibility because the G-band is constantly scanning the area even when the K-band is focused on a target. To maintain its 360 degree view it the G-band part of the system is actually two mechanically scanned (so quite a slow system when compared to Aegis) parabolic mounted radars. However, the K-band is electronically scanned phased array reflection type antenna, which is closer to the Aegis, the best thing about this technology though is that it can track and guide eight missiles to four targets simultaneously. These missiles have a maximum range of 12km, but a speed of 850m/s, not as fast as some but with accuracy, the time it takes too travel this distance is about 14s, whilst not as fast the Seawolf or SMs it is not a system a pilot or an officer planning a missile strike can discount.
The next envelope out from this is that created by the constant throughout these Russian cruisers, the SA-N-6 Grumble, however the Kirov’s got a special version, or rather RFS Pytor Velikiy did – the others will probably be upgrade, in the fullness of time, with full consideration of all economic strictures and work labour contexts. This is the S-300FM Fort-M sometimes referred to as SA-N-20, it introduced the new 48N6 missile. This has a speed of Mach 6, compared to Mach 4.5 of the original, and is capable of a maximum engagement speed of up to Mach 8.5. Added to this the warhead size has been increased to 150 kg; most importantly though the maximum engagement range was increased to 150 km as well as opening the altitude envelope to 10m-27 km; time therefore from launch to maximum range is 72.5s. Another advantage of the upgrade missiles was that they introduced the best so far track-via-missile guidance method, which brought with it the ability to intercept short-range ballistic missiles.
However, this system would be useless with bad information, therefore it is combined with the TOMB STONE MOD radar, rather than TOP DOME radar used in the previous. As an added layer of insurance both naval versions of this system are believed to include a secondary infrared terminal seeker, similar to the newer US Standard missile system, probably to reduce the system's vulnerability to saturation. This would also have the theoretical capability of allowing the missile to be used to engage contacts over the radar horizon, such as warships or sea-skimming anti-ship missiles – although there have been no reports of this being the case.
Added to all this, RFS Pytor Velikiy, and one must presume the others of the class once they are back in service. Like all large Soviet designed ships, and something which has carried on into the new Russian navy, the anti submarine armament is almost over the top; they mount the SS-N-15 Starfish rocket torpedo, 2x RBU-1000 305 mm ASW rocket launchers, 2x RBU-12000 (Udav-1) 254 mm ASW rocket launchers, and 10 533 mm ASW/ASuW torpedo tubes. Centreline aft, overlooking the helicopter deck is a twin AK-130 130 mm/L70 dual purpose gun.
The level of CIWS varies between the vessels, for example Nakhimov & Pytor Velikiy have 6 separate CADS-N-1 Kashtan missile/gun system whilst Lazarev, the one apparently destined for the Chinese mounts 8 of the AK-630 hex Gatling 30 mm/L60 PD guns. Both these systems are fairly comprehensive in the cover they afford their vessels, however the Kashtan system is considered to be a very innovative and effective design by all whom have come in close contact with it.
The last class to be considered is that which makes up almost 75% of the cruisers in the world, this class is of course the almost ubiquitous (as far as their presence in conflict goes) Ticonderoga class of US Navy. USS Port Royal CG-73
They were revolutionary when they were first launched with SPY-1 electronically scanned phased array radar; although originally they were classified as destroyers, it was only after the capability of the Aegis combat system was realised that the class was reclassified as cruisers. In addition to the added radar capability, the Ticonderoga class built after the 5th in class, Thomas S. Gates, are outfitted with two then revolutionary VLS. Theses allow the ship to have 122 launch tubes that can carry a wide variety of missiles, including the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Standard surface-to-air missile(SM-1 & 2, and apparently the future 3 & 6), the Evolved Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, and the ASROC anti-submarine missile. More importantly, the VLS enables all missiles to be on full stand-by at any given time, shortening the ship's response time. The original five ships, including the Thomas S. Gates, had MK. 26 twin arm launchers which limited their missile capacity to a total of 88 missiles, and could not fire the Tomahawk missile. After the end of the Cold War, the lower capabilities of the original five ships limited them to home-waters duties. The classes rather overcrowded superstructure (in fact it is a very ‘fiddly’ design), inherited from the Spruance class destroyers, required two of the radar transceivers to be mounted on a special pallet on the portside aft corner of the superstructure, with the other two mounted on the forward starboard corner. This meant that the weight of the ships, 1,500 tons heavier than the Spruance’s, and more importantly the position of the weight in the vessel; resulted in a highly-stressed hull and some structural problems in early service, although these were mostly corrected before the 1st Gulf War. Due to the differences between the first 5 of the class and the rest, they are sometimes treated as almost separate classes the Mark 26 (or just 26), and the Mark 41 (or just 41). For the purposes of this blog I will also treat them thus, with the intent of using their differences to examine further the role of the cruiser in the modern naval force.
The 26’s had to Mk26 double arm missile launchers, and carried a total of 88 SM-2 reloads, added to this impressive air defence capability, and against the decisions of the British MOD 20 years later, they were also fitted with two quad launchers of RGM-84 Harpoons. To supplement the missile armament the type 21s were also fitted with 2 single mounting deck guns Mark 45 5 in / 54 cal lightweight gun (fore and aft), 4 .50cal guns, and 2 Phalanx CIWS all situated to provide converging fields of fire in the event that the SM2s failed to intercept. Finally an addition any soviet designed would have been proud of 2 triple torpedo launchers mount MK32 ASW torpedoes.
The mark 41 cruisers differ only slightly on the surface, but majorly in capability. The primary difference is the use of this blogs old favourite, the Type 41 VLS, it carries in fact to 61 cell VLS, which carry any combination of RIM-66 SMs, TIM-162 ESSMs, BGM-109 Tomahawk, or RUM-139 VL-ASROC (I will explain these in further detail a bit further on). Again, like the 26s, they are fitted with the 2 quad Harpoon launchers, and have a similar gun and torpedo outfit, the only difference being the addition of 2 single 25mm cannon.
The missile systems are extensive on the Type 41, but I will start with looking at the Standard Missile or SM-2/3/6. SM-2 is the originally SAM fitted to these vessels and has a long history, so long in fact I could very easily write another blog entry on it alone, but for reasons of not wanting to make this piece to long, I will just examine a few of the variants. The first one, is the now truly ‘standard’ standard missile; the SM-2 Medium Range Block IIIB or RIM-66M, with a range of about 160km, it has more advanced targeting system than the previous versions, which included a dual semi-active/infrared seek for terminal guidance; a system which is optimised to cope with the high levels of jamming, and decoying used by modern combat aircraft. Combined with all this technology is a speed of Mach 3.5, and an unspecified G capability; but it’s probably not that low. Unfortunately though, this missile system good though it is does not even begin to take full advantage of the Aegis’s radar capability. The RIM-156 SM-2 Extended Range (SM-2ER) Block IV has an extended range of 185.2km, something which will built on again by the SM-6 generation of missiles (even though this will probably be classified as MR, compared the next). The SM-3 (pictured left launch from USS Lake Erie to destroy the statelite), is the fullest development of the Aegis system, with operational range of 500km, and ceiling of 250km, the SM-3 is not only a ship based anti-ballistic missile, an anti-satellite weapon (as long as they are in a low earth orbit), it is also a very capable, typically American, Surface to Air Missile. This system makes all previous weapons mounted by Aegis ships look like the really were, an average weapon attached to a very much above average detection system.
The Ticonderoga cruisers do of course not only stop aircraft, unlike the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Daring class destroyers, they also stop ships, and for this they use they primarily use Harpoon, although of course the Type 41s can use Tomahawks – but I will get those in a second. Both the 26s and the 41s mount the Harpoon, with a speed of 850km/h or 236m/s, a range of 75km, and warhead of 221kg, it hardly matches up to the Shipwreck, but it is a capability, and Harpoon has proved itself a reliable and capable weapon.
The Type 41s of course gain to weapons with their Type 41 VLS, the Tomahawk and the Asroc. The Asroc or more precisely the RUM-139 VL-ASROC, which carries a Type 46 torpedo – it has a range of 28kms, and provides a measure of extended support the vessels ASW helicopters; something which the Russians had always done, and the Americans perfected. The party piece that practically everyone knows about, thanks in large part to the prolific way the Americans wage war, is the Tomahawk, possibly the best know cruise missile ever made. Its rasin d’etra is that it has a range of 2,500km, and all though its not fast (only 30km/h faster than the Harpoon), the range combined with the accuracy had made it a war winner. A note which I am adding, in contrast to what the Wikipedia entry for the Tomahawk claims, the Sylver A70 launcher can carry the new French cruise missile, the Daring class mount the Sylver A50 which can’t, none of the Sylver launchers can accommodate the Tomahawk.
This weaponry is, as is usual, dependent on that which sees for it, unfortunately I am not able to talk much about it, as not much is available for certain (and I prefer to report facts as a rule). What is known is the AN/SPY-1 is primarily a phased array 3D Air-search radar transmitting an S band frequency, with a detection range well in excess of a hundred nautical miles, and is considered the most powerful radar afloat.
So cruisers, the weapons suggest that they are multi-role combatants, and this is true, they are often the pickets or core ships of naval task force; they are big escorts which support all others, in the cases of the Kirov and Ticonderoga classes, they mobile ABM weapon platforms, something for which their size and the power systems it can accommodate are necessary. The range of weaponry they carry also shows, the range of wartime roles they will fill – picket and core ship sounds so limiting, compared to primary strike co-ordinator, principle air-warfare vessel, command ship, and my personal favourite lone ranger. That cruisers are useful is beyond doubt, that China and maybe other nations will consider joining this at the moment very exclusive band is also beyond doubt; the more important question to my mind, is why wouldn’t a nation which is building every other component of a naval force build a cruiser? It would seem to my humble mind a error of tactical judgement to not do so; although strategic judgement might find the cost an issue.


Since they first evolved from Torpedo Boat Destroyers; destroyers have maintained an image of, as well as necessity for being fast, manoeuvrable and of surprisingly large endurance considering their size. The reason they needed this combination of qualities, was the raisin d’être; escorting and protecting larger more vulnerable units such as carriers, merchantmen or amphibious ships. The modern destroyers are of 7,000tons plus, in fact the USNs DD(X) will be over 12,500tons. They often have a capability for area air defence, as well as providing the capability to deal with a wide range of other targets.
The increasing numbers of destroyers in service, and especially the reliance placed on them by the USN, the PLAN, and the VMF, are all symptoms of the fact that being larger than frigates, they are far more capable of taking the plethora of modern weaponry required for operations. However, the other advantage they have is that they are cheaper to construct than cruisers; thus presenting a middle way. The most common fleet role undertaken by destroyers is that of air defence, whether using their powerful radars to direct carrier borne aircraft onto targets or just engaging the targets with their own weapons. Another role which is common for destroyers is that of ‘command ship’ as in most navies they are often the largest vessels available, so are the most ‘viable’ option.
The above is Type 52c Lanzhou class destroyer of the People Liberation Army Navy, the most advanced escort currently in service with China’s fleet, it is a very capable ship mounting, as would be expected from such a wealthy nation, a comprehensive array of weaponry. Its most important weapon system being HHQ-9 SAM VLS which combined with the new Type 348 Phased Array Radar makes these two ships, in terms of air defence capability the equivalent of the USNs Arleigh Burke class. The Lanzhou’s also carry a 100mm deck gun, 2 Type 730 CIWS (visible in the picture, they do heavily resemble the Dutch Goalkeeper CIWS used in European navies), it is also outfitted with two triple barrelled 324mm ASW torpedo launchers. This final weapon system is enhanced by the presence of Kamov Ka-28 ASW helicopter – which can provide over the horizon guidance to them; as well as hunting submarines. This whole design, the capability it has provided the Chinese navy with is far in advance of anything which preceded it; most importantly they are the equals of many other classes in service around the world, and the betters of the rest; if they are a sign of things to come, then the time when the Chinese navy could be regarded as technically inferior no matter how good their servicemen and women manning the weapons were has passed into the faded pages of history.

The PLAN is also benefitting from the growing ‘detente’ between China and Russia, allowing it to purchase some modern versions of Russian classes. This has mainly been exemplified by the acquiring of several units of Sovremenny class destroyers, an example is pictured below, firing a Sunburn Aegis Killer.
Like the Royal Navy’s type 42 destroyers the Sovremennys have a prominent radom atop the Bridge structure; although unlike the Type 42s this radar is by no means its only system. The class was built with the Arleigh Burkes of USN in mind, these ships are their Russian, and now Chinese opposites, and whilst they are certainly not as advanced as Arleigh Burkes, in fact probably not as advance as the Lanzhou's they are, due in large part to the extensive array of weaponry the Russians usually cram into their hulls – and the Sovremennys are a premier example of this, not able to be written of the order of battle as of no consequence. The picture shows of the SSMs, it carries 2× 4 SS-N-22 'Sunburn's; which will be discussed in further detail, the SA-N-7 'Gadfly' SAM, 2 double 130 mm guns, 4× 30 mm AK-630 Gatling guns CIWS, 2 x 2 553 mm Torpedo tubes, and RBU-1000 ASW rockets. This hefty and very encompassing outfit is topped off by the inclusion of a Ka-27 'Helix' ASW and over the horizon targeting aircraft.

It is the missile systems with which the Sovremenny class are outfitted that allow ‘hefty’ to be used to describe; the SA-7 SAM, is based on the 9K37 missile; better known as the SA-11. The missile travels at mach 3, can go out to 22 miles from its launch point, and with the original system installed in 1980 could engage two targets simultaneously per tracking radar. This was a system, which whilst not being up to sophistication and capabilities of aegis, was more than capable of holding its own. The real killer in the Sovremenny’s formidable tools of destruction is the SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles. These are so quick that the maximum theoretical response time, in perfect conditions, is 25-30 seconds; compared to the 120-150 a crew will get when dealing with a Exocet or Harpoon in such perfect conditions, it lethality could never, in fact can never be questioned. In fact the sole reason I can see for the purchase of these ships by the Chinese navy, other diplomatic, is the missile system, the PLAN have access to some very good home grown missile systems, but Sunburn or P-270 Moskit to give its Russian designation is a one of a kind, a weapon system which makes whatever platform it is bolted on to, not only worthy of respect, but also a wide berth. The Sovremennys are not Russia’s only class of destroyers, they also have the Udaloys, these vessels however are really – barring the Udaloy II, large ASW ships, with an armament reflecting this; thus in many ways the Russian equivalent of the Type 23 frigate; although following Russian practice it does have more in the way of weapon systems, there is a picture below of an Udaloy I, Admiral Panteleyev.
The prominently displayed missile tubes (underneath the Bridge) are home to SS-N-14 Rocket torpedoes, and along with its brace of helicopters show the lengths the Soviet Navy was prepared to go to in its attempt to counter NATO submarines.

Mentioning NATO, it’s now appropriate to move into the destroyers of the ‘western’ navies, and appropriately enough to start by comparing, on the chart below the various types of modern Air Defence ship being employed. From the top USN DDG-51 "Arleigh Burke" Class, Flight IIA; Flight I; RN Type 45 "D" Class; French Horizon "Forbin" Class; Dutch "De Zeven Provincien" Class; Spanish "F100" Class. Source: Mihoshi (4/2003) – please note the French Horizon has now become the FREMM or rather the FREDA.

Beginning with an analysis of the second vessel down (above left), the Flight I Arleigh Burke class vessels are some of the most successful destroyer designs ever made - pictured above right with a Nimitz class carrier; even though they lack anything more than rudimentary facilities for Helicopter support. Their Aegis system, combined with the excellent SM-2 missile has provided the backbone, and much of the skeleton, of USN escort groups since the 1980s. Key this success though must be the multi-missile capable VLS system incorporated from the beginning which allowed them to carry everything from cruise missiles to self-defence missiles and a lot of things in between; as is demonstrated by the figure below.

It is the Type 41 vls, which is also used in the Dutch "De Zeven Provincien" Class, which means even the Arleigh Burke Flight I are general purpose destroyers, rather than just air-defence, or anti-submarine; an advantage over the previously mentioned destroyer classes as it allows America to have one class for all jobs rather than two as in the case of the Russians, or many in the case of the Chinese. Flight I Arleigh Burkes even compare well with the new Type 45 destroyers of the Royal Navy (which will be discussed further on) due to the limitations that later have been given by the use of the SYLVER A50 VLS which is limited to just Aster missiles(even the A70 version could have also carried the SCALP Naval, otherwise known as Storm Shadow, cruise missile), rather than the Type 41 VLS. Though not even this advantage was enough on its own for the USN, hence the changing to Flight IIa standard (USS Winston S Churchill pictured below); basically a Flight I with helicopters.

After all the discussion about the Type 41 VLS system; the Arleigh Burkes carry 1 × 32 cell, 1 × 64 cell Mk 41 vertical launch systems with a standard load containing a combination of SM-2 SAMs, BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles and RUM-139 VL-Asroc (rocket torpedoes). To compliment the missile systems they are outfitted with a 5" (127 mm)/62 cal Deck Gun, 2 × 25 mm cannon, 2 × .50 cal. guns (single), 2 × .50 cal. (dual) machine guns, 2 × 5.57mm m240 grenade launchers (with the option of 1 more on flight deck if required) and 2 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS. To add depth to defence provided by the 2 SH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters and the ASROC torpedoes they also mount two Mk 46 triple torpedo tubes. These ships are therefore the ultimate, currently in service, multi-role combat ship – the benchmark by which all future surface combatants, whatever the navy, should be measured. They have the capability to not only decimate air attacks, but also to fire in support of amphibious operations, bombard cities hundreds of miles inland, and comprehensively fend of submarines; and most importantly they can do this all at the same time.

The picture above is a graphic projection of USS Zumwalt, the lead in the class of DDX. It is the next class of destroyer after the Arleigh Burkes, and are, in as far as I know my own words, a powerhouse of mobile firepower. However, they are not general purpose destroyers like the Arleigh Burkes, they are Land Attack. Their armament reflects this, it has 20 × MK 57 VLS modules (the successor to the Mk 41) comprising a total of 80 missiles; Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), Tactical Tomahawk and ASROC. It artillery is however far more potent with 2 × 155 mm Advanced Gun System as compared to the single 127mm of the Arleigh Burkes, added to this capability it will carry 3 MQ-8 Fire Scout VTUAVs to compliment the helicopters they will also be carrying. As well as this there are the now obligatory CIWS, although these are projected to be of a new type, the BAE Systems MK 110 57mm gun. Their lack of advertised capability in air defence is undoubtedly a reflection of both the quality of the Arleigh Burke class and their continued service, as well as the project CG(X) advanced air defence ship. However, even though it is not advertised, the AN/SPY-3 Multi-Function Radar (MFR) an evolution of the current Aegis radars, which would suggest a certain compatibility with SM-2, the soon to be in service SM-3, and the projected SM-6 SAMs. Whatever the case, this lack of emphasis is the exact opposite from the Royal Navy's new destroyer; as I stated earlier I would examine the Type 45 Daring Class, and now is the time.

This is HMS Daring the first and therefore the name ship of its class, it is a Type 45 Air Defence destroyer. In many ways its layout is reminiscent of the Type 23 frigates; with the major bulk of its weapons systems forward of the Bridge. With the SYLVER A50 prominent behind the new 1 x 114 mm (4.5 inch) Mk 8 mod 1 gun, it will also carry two American made 2 x Phalanx 20 mm CIWS, rather than the British made the BAE Systems Mk 110 57mm gun – as the Americans have selected for the Zumwalts. This is many way’s nit-picking, but it is necessary, the Daring class were put together quickly after the Horizon joint European air-defence frigate project fell through. Thus, I feel mistakes have been made. The single 48 cell SYLVER VLS system is at a disadvantage when compared to the 32 and 64 cell TYPE 41 VLS mounted on the Arleigh Burke, now the Royal Navy has nowhere near the budget of the USN so this would be expecting to much, but a single 64 cell Mk 41 or even Mk 57 VLS would have taken up only a little more space, but would have also carried a far larger quantity and range of weaponry – as has already been pointed out; interestingly enough the SYLVER was designed for the French and the Dutch navy, however the Dutch still put the Type 41 into their "De Zeven Provincien" Class. Most importantly the other VLS systems would have made the Daring class a multi-role Guided Missile Destroy, rather than just an anti-air. Carrying on we have the usage of the Phalanx CIWS a good and proven system, used on the previous Type 42 class destroyers, hardly anything to argue you against it, but, it is old, the Americans who developed it are moving beyond it, the Dutch Goalkeeper is a newer and in many ways better system already used on many new units. However, the winner in my opinion should have been the BAE Systems Mk 110, mounting 3 of these in concert with about 4 Rafael TYPHOON remote controlled weapon systems; preferably of the GSA type, although the DSA with its gun combined with countermeasures devices is of course a very good alternative.

The answer to questions why is this better than the Phalanx, and why would I build a system like I have just outlined - rather than what has currently been installed? The answer is simple, the Mk110 is just as good at anti-missile work as the Phalanx, but cheaper, more importantly it also has a far better capability against swarms of motor torpedo boats packed with explosives; a threat increasingly possible with the modern prevalence of Asymmetric warfare. Thus these very capable weapons augmented by the 4(?) Typhoon GSA's, with their combination of gun and SAM(this can be RAM or even Seawolf/Aster 15 - its just a small software fix away) would provide a very very strong anti-aircraft air defence umbrella for the support of operations in the littoral as well as providing a better sphere of protection against burgeoning range of anti-ship missiles with which nations are equipping their forces.

The use of the Oerlikon 30 mm KCB guns on DS-30B mounts is becoming a tradition in the Royal Navy having been fitted in the Type 23s, they are a very serviceable weapon system but would be, in my opinion, of more use with the weapons described above rather than the Phalanx as they would provide a far smaller percentage of the weight of firepower that could be used against air or surface threats. This is unlike my feelings on the inclusion of only 1 helicopter; be it Merlin or Lynx, even the addition of UAVs would have greatly increased both the ASW capabilities, and her fire support capabilities. To my mind, when there are so many British built, let alone worldwide, UAVs of such high standards it would surely have not been that difficult to build them in from the start; rather than as I suspect have to be built in at a later date. This lack of inclusion goes further; for some unknown reason these ships have not been given a SSM – the only anti-ship capability they have is that provided by the deck gun; there is plenty of space on them for the inclusion of a Harpoon system or if they had carried the Type 41 or 57 VLS tomahawk cruise missiles could have been fitted – adding the further dimension of deep strike land attack capability.

This all will come across as me disliking the Type 45s or even not thinking them good ships; that however, is my personal dilemma; I do think they are great ships, with the Sampson radar system, their powerful stealthy design, great manoeuvrability and turn of speed; they are great ships. It is just, that they could have so easily been exceptional ships; they could so easily have replaced the Arleigh Burkes, even for a short while, as the bench mark. They will not be built in large numbers, so the decision to build them so heavily focused on Air-Warfare is almost criminally short sighted; it forgets that there is no bigger, more powerful escort to provide them with back up. It is the story of the Type 23 frigates repeating its self, a brilliant ASW ship, it however lacks in depth of air defence; in the Type 45 they have the air defence, but not the strike capability; the Royal Navy is not big enough anymore to have these specialised ships; but no one seems to have told those in charge of procurement this. However, I could rant at the lack of consideration shown by this for hours; but in fact it would be pointless, as once the juggernaut of designers, engineers, and civil servants have made the decisions it is the fate of the naval officers to live with them; and historians such as myself to try and bring the stories of their trials, tribulations, and heroisms to light.

Above is HMCS Algoquin, a fitting point to start the conclusion of this piece. It is a destroyer in the Canadian navy. She is of the Iroquois class, a class which has served throughout the Cold War, they will be replaced soon, and without a doubt the Canadians are eyeing their allies’ ships, to see what traits they should include in the replacements. The Type 45’s are a rogue element set against the flow of ever more capable vessels; with ever more expanding armament and roles for which to use them in. As has been said the Arleigh Burkes are the benchmarks of this, but the Type 51c’s of the PLAN are also worthy of consideration. Both these classes exemplify the growth in sophistication of what used to be the workhorses of the fleet, but are now its thoroughbreds. All in all destroyers are now, and will continue to be the go to vessels, therefore the navy with limited destroyers will always be limited in operations and in the end might as well not show up to the conflict zone.


Royal Navy Type 23, HMS Somerset

Sorry this took so long; I eventually realised with so much going on in this area of ship procurement I would never have been able to make this definitive - as new stuff would always be emerging, so I will just keep adding.

The workhorses of the majority of modern naval forces, these ships were originally and still are at the forefront of the surface based anti-submarine warfare effort. However, as the Cold War developed and they became more and more important in making up the numbers of escorts; frigates have grown both in versatility and breadth of weaponry carried, as well roles for which they are to fulfil. These factors have in turn lead to a growth in size of the vessels themselves, something which is shown by the chart below.

A general description of a frigate is “A warship, usually of 4,000 to 9,000 displacement tons, that is smaller than a destroyer and used primarily for escort duty”. The average modern displacement is often closer to 9,000 tons, than to 4,000. This, as is said above, is reflective of the weapons capacity they are now outfitted with.

There is a slight exception to this general trend, now to be discussed. HMS Chatham, pictured to the left, is a prime example of the growth of roles which frigates are supposed to carry out when considered alongside HMS Somerset, pictured at the beginning. Chatham is a Batch 3 Type 22 Frigate of the Royal Navy, weighing in at 4,900-5,300 tons as opposed to Batch 1's 4,400 tons. She is armed with Sea Wolf SAMs in the visible launchers fore and aft, a 4.5in main gun, Stingray Torpedoes, a Dutch Goalkeeper CIWS and Harpoon SSMs; as well as the ability to carry two Lynx Helicopters or one Merlin (EH101).

HMS Somerset is a Type 23, she weighs in at 4,200 tons, as can be seen in the picture she has 4.5in deck gun, behind which is a Vertical Launch System (VLS) for her Seawolf SAMs, poking out between this and the bridge are the Harpoon SSMs launchers. She carries only a single Merlin helicopter, has not got CIWS, but does retain the Stingray torpedoes. Even with her lower level of armament HMS Somerset and her 12 sisters who remain in the service of the Royal Navy make up 50% of the escorts available. The reason for this is that they were originally designed to act as part of an escort group, along with larger numbers of destroyers/general purpose frigates; whilst they took care of the submarines. The Type 23's are considered the best Sub-Hunters, in NATO's arsenal, but the problem which has come about with them, is that the Governments have never built the rest of the escort group, leaving them to fight in roles for which they do very well, but not as well as they could if they were properly supported.

I have, however, spoken of a trend of ever larger and more powerful Frigates, and this I shall now show by pointing to the other navies of the world. Germany is a prime example of this, with an expanding fleet of general purpose frigates, the F124s- F221 Hessen pictured left, weigh in at 5,960tons, the new class of Frigates the F125s, are 7,200tons - picture to the left below. Whilst both classes can carry two NH90 helicopters, the difference that appears between them is that of armament. The F124, carries a MK. 41 VLS with 8 cells for 32 RIM-162 ESSM (4 per cell) and 24 SM-2 IIIA SAMs, 2 RAM launchers with 21 SAM/CIWS-missiles each, 2 quadruple Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, an OTO-Melara 76 mm deck gun, 2 Mauser MLG 27 mm auto cannons, and 2 triple torpedo launchers with EuroTorp MU90 Impact torpedoes; an impressive outfitting for a ship which focuses on Anti-Submarine and General Purpose warfare.
On the other hand the F125, which focuses on peacekeeping and land attack roles, has a very different outfitting. This is projected to be 8 × RGM-84 Harpoon SSM (interim solution until joint sea/land attack missile becomes available), 2 × RAM Block II SAM/CIWS, 1 × 127 mm lightweight Otobreda naval gun with guided VULCANO ammunition for land-attack missions (range: more than 100 km (62 mi)), 2 × 27 mm MLG 27 remote-controlled auto cannons, 5 × 12.7 mm Hitrole-NT remote-controlled machine gun turrets, 2 × 12.7 mm heavy machine guns (manually controlled). Most notably there are no torpedoes carried; in fact these frigates could be called destroyers, if they carried a better SAM system, such as Aster, which might be put in to the Type 41 launcher anyway at a later time. What points mostly to their future inshore operations is the sheer weight of firepower devoted to close defence, 2 Auto cannons, 5 remote controlled machineguns not to mention the RAM (Rowling Airframe Missiles) and 2 manually controlled machineguns. This will provide these ships with an almost unparalleled capability within the Littoral regions of operation.

The F125's are not the only large frigates coming into service, replacing/complimenting smaller, older vessels. The De Zeven Provinciën class frigates, of which HNLMS Tromp, below, is a prime example.

Weighing in at 6,050 tons, and with another very impressive aray of armaments; it has a modular Mk41 VLS with 8 cells each Standard armament: 8×4 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, 32 SM-2 IIIA surface-to-air missiles, as well as this she carries 2 Goalkeeper CIWS guns, 2 quadruple Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, an Oto Melara 127 mm/54 dual-purpose gun, 2 Oerlikon Contraves 20 mm machine guns, 2 twin MK32 Mod 9 torpedo launchers with Raytheon MK46 Mod 5 torpedoes. They have a flight deck and hangar facility for a lynx helicopter. The class has also the advantage that as it stands it can add in at least one more set of 8 cells onto the VLS. This class fall in the category of large general purpose frigates. It is a good class of ship, which will provide a truly powerful bastion for the support of operations. In a way it is like the complimentary class of frigates the Royal Navy planned when they were building the Type 23s.

France and Italy are providing another addition to the large frigate family; 5,800-6,000 tone FREMM or FREDA (depending on whether it belongs to the Anti-Submarine, General Purpose or Anti-Air subclasses). Whilst weapon outfits for this class are sketchy, and fairly fluid at the moment, the Anti-Air or FREDA's will be almost certainly be carrying the Aster Missile system.

The Chinese are also building new escorts, although currently they seem to focus on destroyers, rather like America is doing; this maybe something to do with superpower status, or more likely it is a reflection of the usual truth, that if in doubt the larger more versatile and well armed escort is the better bet – if you can afford it, and both these nations can.

For my view on frigates, they are going to get larger in size and be multi-role focused, also I am doubting the wisdom of small nations commissioning more than 6 vessels in class or perhaps making them batches of 4, as such nations need to adapt their forces to meet a constant changing set of requirements, building one large class based in one set of ideas, such as the Type 23s of the Royal Navy, would seem to undermine their position.

Monday, 22 December 2008


Okay so this, I am afraid, is another of those joining the dots entries I am adding so that when the next large one is put out there it will not be such a great leap from the first. This is focusing on those little vessels, which the more I learn about the more I think are of growing importance in modern naval warfare; after all for navies such as Israel's they are their largest ships (Sa'ar 5 Pictured). I am of course referring to the very humble, but multi-mission capable corvette.

The limitations on corvettes are of course obvious, they are small; this means all the space has to be used effectively, but the continued use of the Pauka's by former Soviet Countries, and the American's new Littoral Combat Ships - a hybrid corvette in everything but name, rather like the British 'Through Deck Cruisers', aka the Invincible Class Carriers. Both these designs show that if you put enough thought into the design you can get a very useful 'ship of war' out of it.
Another factor which has raised the importance of these vessels in my mind at least is the lesson of the Joint Strike Fighter - an aircraft produced to a budget, of very high quality, very good capabilities, and not that expensive. Whilst of course the possibility exists to do this with other classes of ships, it is in fact better to build a number of corvettes in this method rather as the USAF is doing with JSF a larger number of those aircraft to provide the quantity whilst there is a core of F-22 Raptors. This is how I envisage the role of corvettes in a modern 'blue water' fleet, the Destroyers/Frigates provide the key escorts of the carriers/amphibious groups, whilst the corvettes fill the gaps, shadowing the big targets - the carriers and the amphibious ships, or taking over guard ship posts from the larger escorts if those vessels are needed elsewhere, thus alleviating the possibility of the Falklands Islands being left unguarded in the case of the British.

My definition of a corvette is something of around 550 to 2,800 metric tons, and between 50-120 meters in length. They carry almost any armament going, although it is increasingly common - and advantageous, for them have multi-role capable VLS system which take any combination of surface to air, surface to surface, or even surface to sub-surface weaponry. They carry a small helicopter- the lynx is quite common, although the new German ones have unmanned air vehicles with dipping sonar’s and small torpedoes instead of them. As is expected from the fact they are operated by so many states they exhibit a wide variety of gun armament across the range of corvettes in use. This I know is a nice long list, and I am sorry its style is lacking but its purpose is to show what these vessels are capable of.
With the German K130 Braunschweig class the standard theory of corvettes being the little ships which support other escorts is turned on its head; as it is these corvettes which are responsible for supporting the German navy’s attack boats. Now, this is focused on the Baltic sea operations, but it still demonstrates the same theory which I pointed out in the first post, that a destroyer operating in support of three or four corvettes will be able to achieve a large degree of sea control within a limited area of conflict; especially in support of littoral operations and peacekeeping/counter-piracy operations, both of which favour the larger numbers of smaller craft for which a corvette is an ideal constituent.

The final area which lends a corvette so well to modern warfare is the recent theories of decentralisation whereby capabilities are distributed around smaller vessels in order to make them more secure against enemy attacks. Reminiscent of guerrilla warfare and the methods by which smaller states survive the attacks of larger ones; for example the policy of Long War epitomised by Ho Chi Minh. However, back to theories of naval warfare. Corvettes can provide so much, but they come at a price, they need the support of a larger escort, a destroyer, and further back a carrier group. A corvette because of its size will never have the onboard supplies to survive unsupported against a modern threat spectrum as will be deployed in a full conflict. Whilst this is true, it also misses the main purpose of a corvette, it is a ship designed to act as part of something larger, as part of a battle group; it is as part of a collective that it comes into its own. Most importantly a corvette provides an option for navies which need the hulls but don’t have the budget of the USA to spend billions on escorts; because of this fact whatever its logistical limitations its importance will just continue to grow as time goes on.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Royal Navy's New Aircraft Carriers

Okay, this will be a slightly shorter missive than the last, but as I am working on another long one I thought I would lay some ground work out there, to highlight points in the previous post, as well as to lay the foundations for the next.

Well it seems the time has come again for the great carrier debate; please note all the old war horses who appear to still live in the 1930s are charging out with a variation on the theme ; 'the bomber will always get through'. The first is a former chief of the Air Staff, unremarkable really as he was one on those who believed that it was impossible for the Falkland’s war to be waged successfully; we all know how correct that was almost very close to the truth, without those very ships he is so dead against and the amphibious forces which he obviously believes can somehow miraculously operate in the modern world without 'organic' air support, it would have been lost.

However, they do make a salient point, air power is crucial in modern war. No one can argue with this, without sounding like a person who fundamentally believes that the moon is really made of cheese. No one should argue with this. The most important point here is that the strength and importance of air power argues for more aircraft carriers, not less.

Fact 1
Airplanes need to land in order to be maintained and rearmed - yes they can be refuelled in the air, but even that can only be done so many times before the complex piece of military hardware referred to as an aircraft needs to be looked at for things going wrong.

Fact 2
Airplanes are becoming more and more complicated, and thus require more and more capability to be included in their airstrips in order to support them.

Fact 3
Airbases are vulnerable; not only to attack at source - they do not move, and have usually been around for a fair number of years, but also to diplomatic attack. Most wars fought in this age are not fought near enough to a home country in order for tactical aircraft to readily launch from them in support of the campaign. Strategic bombers are of course another matter, but Britain does not possess any, although a fare number of American ones are based on British territory. This all means, that rather like America and its bombers, we need to base our aircraft on very expensive to maintain, upgrade, and possibly denied to us Airbases. If we are allowed to use them, then we need to put a sizeable chunk of the ground forces assigned to the operation to the task of protecting these fixed points. These are all things which to a logical mind seems odd to say the least.

Thus therefore....
Airbases are useful, and will always be important to the waging of war, but for a nation of limited means the prospect of a mobile air base, providing a strategic platform for tactical air support seems to be the most viable solution; not as an offensive weapon, which surely, could be put forward, as the only reason for maintaining an airbase in another countries territory, but as a defensive instrument of policy. An aircraft carrier can be moved to where the crisis of the moment is, provide the air support to the forces employed or its presence might be enough to render actual use of force unnecessary for the resolving of the situation; without any other powers or state being endangered or required to provide aid or succour. It can then move on to the next, and the next, before being replaced on station in turn by another carrier, thus its crew go home and it can be repaired and replenished for the next crisis. An airbase cannot do that.

This all beggars the question - why then replace three carriers with two? and why are some persons then suggesting this should be reduced further. Whilst it would be easy to perhaps accuse these people of only acting in their own interest and not thinking of the security of the nation they have served for so many years, that is not my answer. They are thinking in a way of themselves but it is not out of selfish reasons, like a 'tanker' would say we need more tanks because they know that tanks work, these men say we do not need aircraft carriers only airplanes due to the simple fact they have never opened their minds to them. This presents a further argument for not only aircraft carriers but also the Royal Naval Air Service, which keeps alive an Naval Air mentality which embraces aircraft carriers - ships which I believe I have demonstrated with the above arguments are well worth the investment for a nation which is not only an island, but an over committed and overstretched one.
please read this article, mainly because it provides another view of what I have written about;

Thursday, 18 December 2008

A study in the Royal Navy's requirements

Hallo, I have never done one of these before so I appologise if it is dire!

A good place to start I suppose is what are the Royal Navy's requirements/missions;

  1. Maintaining the diplomatic position/status quo through providing physical presence and capability of moderate intervention in support of diplomatic action
  2. Supporting a worldwide commitment to the support and protection of British interests
  3. re-iterating the point above due to its importance; Providing the capability – without creating a casus beli – like the deployment of troops or aircraft to a neighbour would, of intervention within nation states, in the context of Genocide/Ethnic Cleansing
  4. Providing succour, multiplication and the vital artery and arms of any expeditionary force.

Broadly speaking the Royal Navies requriments/missions are not that different from any others; what is different is perhaps no other navy is expected to do so much on so little money and especially with so little men and material. Britian is a...Medium Power, its not that big, but its friends are and we like to keep up with the club; but unfortunately our governments often take on more commitments than the forces are actually designed for; as in a similar situation to australia we have a 'balanced force' which has a little of everything and enough of nothing. The Royal Navy is the worst example of this in a very bad set, currently we have no guardship in the Falklands, because the Foreign Minister committed us to the EU anti-piracy taskforce of Somalia, before bothering too ask the Defence Minister let alone any naval officers if they had the ships to spare. This event I feel serves to highlight my point - overstretch has not just been reached, but the band has broken.

So, now I have made my case, here is what (according to some basic maths, logic, and sound strategic/military convention based in years of blood and sacrifice) the Royal Navy requires;

A third carrier of some description is a necessity for maintaining a permanent two carrier capability or most importantly a permanent carrier on station; after all it is the only way of guaranteeing organic air defence of a fleet as well as mobile/cost effective deep strike/strategic influence capability – this could be done by building a third Queen Elizabeth, or perhaps the purchase of an older American CVN...

  • the carrier groups could be significantly enhanced by the addition of LHD/LPH + 2 ALSLs to each group, this would provide each carrier group with its own (small) Independent Land Action Force, as well as a force which could be mated onto the amphibious group to provide increased strength for thats operations - most importantly if deployed with 2* commander it will have a real capability on the international stage and within peacekeeping/peace enforcement operations
  • The LHD option would have the added advantage of extra strike aircraft as part of the battle group, something which no naval officer would ever turn down, and which no government should ever brush aside with out at least considering how this would impact on not only power of operations but the possible battle evolutions which such extra capacity can provide; e.g. should the extreme happen and the carrier be deck be damaged beyond repair you still have limited organic air cover, or more appropriately some escorts and the LHD could seperate from the group to provide the basis of an at sea pincer movement, finnally why not the carrier carrying out support air strikes whilst the LHD gets in close to take off some civilians from a contested shore or in a different form using its own air detachment for all operational support leaving the carrier air component a free hand to strike at will.

An amphibious task group based around 3 LHD/LPH + 3LPDs + 9 ALSLs, would provide for a permanent lift capability of 5600+ Marines, a significant and desirable intervention force consider the requirements of British foreign policy, something which again would require the construction of a 3rd Bulwark class vessel, and 2 either LHDs or 2 enlarged Ocean class vessels

  • if the LHDs are attached to carrier groups, then a larger amphibious group of 6 LHD/LPH + 9 LPD + 15 ALSLs = providing a capability of 12000+ Marines or light division (two enhanced brigades/three short brigades) strength force, such a balanced intervention force would be of great advantage to British policy, and the independent capability of a power of Britain’s size/strength
  • examples of where this would come in would be if we needed to support a commonwealth member, retake the falklands for a second time, or more likely need to provide a force capable of implementing regime change...something which western governments are getting more and more keen on

To maintain a guaranteed strength of 3 required escort groups – each made of 3 destroyers, 4 frigates, and 1 SSN – requires a strength of 4.5 groups at the minimum – 6 would be of preference for operational flexibility to be fully developed, i.e. a fleet of at least 15 (18) destroyers, 18 (24) frigates, and 5(6) SSNs (surplus to those required for other duties, and estimate of total SSN fleet strength would come in at about 12-16, the latter being desirable especially if more extended deployments are foreseen) total difference in vessel strength is 15D+18F+12S = 45 vessels, 18D+24F+16S = 58 vessels, difference is 13 vessels, but in operational effectiveness this roughly equates to an increase capability of 50% based in standard power projection terminology/capacity (capacity could be increased by purchase of 18 corvettes, instead of aforementioned vessels, however these whilst providing the hulls, and certain level of capability would not be realist substitutes, especially in the case of destroyers and submarines, the most affected categories); any combination in between would be a considerable improvement on the current system, with a force of 18D+24F+12S = 54 vessels being perhaps the more opportune option for political agreement/support.

  • To maintain this level it might be a viable option to purchase some (6) Flight IIa Arleigh Burke class destroyers from America, to compliment a group of 6 type 45's, and perhaps 3-6 larger destroyers optimised for surface group command.
  • 13 Type 23's and 4 Type 22's in service would not require that much more building, in fact it would only require a small building program, accomplishable by bringing forward the construction of the type 22's replacements and providing an extended program (+1-7 on the 4 replacements required).
  • The submarines are possibly the easiest as the 6 Trafalgar class boats could be joined by 6 Astute's to provide the necessary 12 boats, an extra 4 would be nice but again, if it was desired purchasing American boats or building SSKs would be perfectly reasonable suggestion for a power of the British position.
  • The 18 corvettes could be based on enlarged versions of those being built in Britain for Oman, ships which in actual fact are being heavily based on a design of the Future Surface Combatent. These ships might want to be bought anyway with the requirment for amphibious/littoral warfare, especially if the enlarged amphibious group is sought as they would provide a key pool of extra escorts to supliment its escort group.

To support all this would require the maintenance of a 6 support groups, based around 1 oiler + 3 one-stop replenishment ships, a total force of 24 auxiliaries.

  • this could be supplemented by the increasing of each group to 6 ships, with the addition of a 4th one-stop replenishment ship(1SRS), and 1 medical ship, this would certainly be something which, with the modern dislike of casualties, should be considered seriously, especially if the larger carrier group/amphibious group is adopted

Therefore computing a total fleet strength in vessels (excluding patrol boats and minesweepers) would be around 96 vessels of blue water status (warships + Auxiliaries).

Total fleet strength with enlarged carrier group/amphibious group/support group+Corvettes; 153 vessels;

  • each carrier group would in this case contain; 18 vessels - Carrier, LHD/LPH, 2*ALSL, 4*1SRS, 1 Medical Ship, 1 Oiler, 3 Destroyers, 4 Frigates, 1 SSN
  • the amphibious task group would contain (in constant); 42 vessels - 4*LHD/LPHs, 6*LPDs, 10*ALSLs, 4*1SRS, 1 Medical Ship, 1 Oiler, 3 Destroyers, 4 Frigates, 1 SSN, 8 Corvettes
  • addition of second support group might be of use to this force, raising it to 48 Vessels - 4*LHD/LPHs, 6*LPDs, 10*ALSLs, 8*1SRS, 2 Medical Ship, 2 Oiler, 3 Destroyers, 4 Frigates, 1 SSN, 8 Corvettes - Ratio of 2 Auxilary/Transport vessels to 1 escort
  • free surface escorts (in constant); 11 vessels - 3 destroyers, 4 Frigates, 4 Corvettes
    free subs (in constant); 5 vessels - 5 SSNs

Okey, so this is a Long list, and its a large number of ships but it is worth it. I know people are going to take the numbers to pieces, and I will thank them before they do so, as that will help me improve it; but, the escort groups are based in what worked for the Americans, French and Royal Navy - during Cold War, Falklands War and other conflicts. This itself is built upon something which a good friend recently said to me 'Even though the equipment is better now, the sea is still a very big space, and you cannot coverit without a certain quantity of hulls'.

looking forward to the feedback!

Added: 5th January 2009

The difference between the fleet strengths is 57 ships, but this relates to a constant operating strength of about 100 vessels, as opposed to 60 vessels in the first. However it is more than just numbers, the larger fleet allows for extra escorts of the amphibious task group - thus allowing the carrier battle groups to operate more freely - with their movements less constrained by providing defence for that amphibious group.

This is important because it will allow a far more flexible fleet to implemented - the difference between the two fleet strengths is that whilst the smaller will do almost everything that the Royal Navy is or could be required to do; on its own or part of an alliance. The larger will do everything and would enable the Royal Navy, and therefore the British Government to take the lead on humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the world; something which in the modern world are of increasing importance and provide opportunities for prestige as well as the exercising of their role as a UN security council member.

hope this answers the question!