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By mid-year the Australian government is expected to have picked a derivative of BAE’s Type 26 (designated GCS-A), Navantia’s F100 (F5000) or Fincantieri’s FREMM to be the Royal Australian Navy’s future frigate under project SEA5000.

This article was contributed by Australia based Ross White-Chinnery.

The winning design must be first-off a good ASW ship, ideally with hanger capacity for two SH-60R helicopters. The Australian CEAFAR2 radar, Aegis combat system matched with Australian designed consoles and strike length Mk-41 VLS are a stated requirement so AAW capability is not a major point of competition, though the recent decision to include ballistic missile defence capability may favour the F5000’s large VLS capacity. More on that point below.

This competition is however more than the usual warship beauty pageant. SEA5000 along with projects SEA1180 (OPV) and SEA1000 (Future Submarine) forms part of a broader plan to put Australian shipbuilding on a sustainable footing out to mid-century.

Australia has a long history of building ships domestically, usually from foreign designs modified to the RAN’s requirements. As is the story in many other countries however, the Australian shipbuilding industry’s fortunes have waxed and waned with the cycle between major navy projects. The only export or civilian shipbuilding of any significance in the country being confined to fast ferry specialists Austal of Henderson, Western Australia and Tasmania’s InCat.

As in the UK, local political sensitivities are also a factor. Under project SEA4000 modules for the Hobart class destroyers were built by yards around the country, being consolidated at ASC’s yard at Osborne, near Adelaide in South Australia. Under SEA5000 however it is expected all major fabrication and certainly all assembly will be done at Osborne. The terms of the competition do not compel bidders to work with ASC, but they are obliged to locate the work at Osborne. The decline of manufacturing in South Australia, recently punctuated by the exit of all major car manufacturers, has put immense pressure on all sides of politics to be conspicuous in their support the state’s other remaining major manufacturing industry.

With the so-called “Valley of Death” looming after the completion of the Hobart class, a sense of urgency has been injected into the acquisition process. The design must be able to meet the needs of the RAN out to mid-century, yet also sufficiently mature for the first steel cut to happen by 2020.

With the above in mind, let us look at the contenders as if we were a procurement manager. What do we see?

Type 26

This is the most promising ship from an ASW standpoint, but a harder sell as the UK doesn’t have a completed example to show off yet. It is also likely to be the most expensive.

However, it is also the newest and largest of the three designs. This is no small thing given that the ships produced under SEA5000 can be expected to form the backbone of the RAN’s surface combatant force into the second half of this century. It would be remiss of us not to consider where each offering is currently at in its design life, as well as its capacity to grow and adapt in what is likely to be a period of significant and rapid technological change.

In this regard the feature of the Type 26 design that really differentiates it from its rivals is the large mission bay amidships which opens both port and starboard, and aft to form a continuous space with the barn-like hanger. The significance of this is not to be underestimated. Far more than a glorified stores room it should be viewed as part of the ship’s fighting capability. From this space can be deployed USVs with lightweight fibre-optic towed array sonar in support of the ships core ASW role; or for surface reconnaissance, hydrography and mine counter measures in support of an expeditionary force.

From an industrial point of view, BAE benefits from significant presence and a long history in-country having expanded in Australia through acquisition of several local firms. Indeed, BAE Systems Australia is now the largest “local” defence company. BAE benefits particularly from their ownership of two yards in Australia: one at Williamstown in Victoria, and a facility at the Australian Maritime Complex in Henderson not far from Austal’s headquarters. Though the political impetus for the entire build to be done at Osbourne precludes significant utilisation of these yards, having this in-house cadre of skilled local personnel (many of whom have worked on previous RAN projects) can do BAE’s bid no harm at all.

BAE gets another tick on systems integration with key systems like the Mk 45 gun (not mandated, but likely preferred) and Mk.41 VLS already part of base Type 26 design. Even though it will be the first time these have been incorporated into a British warship, they will be old friends to BAE staff at Williamstown and Henderson who respectively built and upgraded the Anzac class frigates.

Likewise, Aegis has never previously been integrated on a British ship. This task is however more in the hands of Lockheed Martin, CEA Technologies and Saab Systems Australia than BAE. In any case BAE as an organisation is not totally bereft of experience with Aegis ships with the US subsidiary having performed modernisation of several Ticonderoga class cruisers for the US Navy.

The Australian government’s drive for defence exports has not gone unnoticed by the UK either with the British government to study the use of CEAFAR in future RN ships. The obvious implication being that the second batch of City class frigates could take after their Australian sisters – should they be built.

FREMM

The Italian ASW-focused variant of the FREMM known as the Virginio Fasan class is very good at what it does. Something we know because the Italians sent one over to show the RAN what it can do, and according to all public accounts it did so impressively.

The main questions regarding Fincantieri’s bid will likely centre around systems integration. Notwithstanding the Italian-derived design of the Freedom class LCS built by Fincantieri-owned Marinette Marine, the Italians stopped putting American weapons on their own ships a long time ago. Furthermore, apart from a speculative model of a FREMM fitted with SPY-1 radars, neither Fincantieri nor any other Italian firm has to this author’s knowledge had any involvement with a project requiring Aegis integration. The Lockheed Martin COMBATSS-21 system fitted to the LCS is however part of the Aegis “pedigree”.

A point of interest is that rather than adapting the design to mount the Mk.45 127mm Fincantieri seems to be pushing a design with two Strales mounts, the latest version of the OTO-Melara 76mm, specifically designed to fire guided rounds. Given the Marina Militare’s is happy mount a 127mm weapon on their GP designated FREMMs, one wonders if on the ASW variant a 127mm in the “A” gun position, rather far forward on the FREMM’s somewhat crowded foredeck, is a little more proximate to the sonar not far beneath it than is ideal.

They might also consider a bit of history: the Anzac class frigates SEA5000 will replace were originally to carry the old OTO-Melara 76mm but this was changed to the US Mk-45 127mm weapon at the Army’s insistence. The Anzacs were replacing all then currently serving ships with medium calibre guns thus leaving the RAN with no ship capable of providing shore bombardment unless that capability was put on the Anzacs. The absence of a 127mm weapon on the SEA5000 would leave the trio of Hobart class destroyers the only ships capable of fire support

Perhaps it is reasoned on the MM and RAN’s shared emphasis on AA capability which comes from both services’ main areas of operation falling well within range of shore-based aircraft. Whatever the reasoning, it should be questioned whether it is the best use of the bid team’s time to burden them with having to sell a customer on a new weapon system (along with the associated training and logistics overheads) when they really need to be pushing the exceptional qualities of the platform and the benefits of the industrial package on offer.

That industrial package is nothing to sneeze at either. Prior to the SEA5000 bid Fincantieri had no in-country presence in Australia but are working hard to remedy the situation. Through their newly established local subsidiary the company anticipates a share of fabrication work on Fincantieri’s civilian order book being done in Australia.

F5000

On first impression, this seems to be both favourite and underdog at same time. Navantia’s recent track record in Australia has been overwhelming, and they are bidding a ship they have already succeeded in selling to Australia once before. Yet doubt hovers over the Spanish contender for it is the oldest of the three and the only one that is not a “native” ASW ship.

It is not known if F5000 is proposed with electric drive. The absence of this feature would be a significant disadvantage vis FREMM and T26. On the other hand, it potentially introduces a point of technical risk that undermine their key selling point of design maturity. Worse still, none of ships with electric drive Navantia has built previously is a high performance ASW escort.

However, the Hobart is a much better ASW ship than the original F-100 and it is Hobart that the F5000 design is building upon. Furthermore, the Australian force context may not require absolute maximum possible ASW capability achievable in the surface platform component. With the UK’s poverty of other ASW assets the RN cannot afford anything less than the best possible ASW ships it can get. The future Australian ASW force however will consist of nearly twice as many P-8s, eventually to be joined by nearly twice as many attack subs as the RN is ever likely to have again.

In any case SEA5000 is required to be more than just an ASW ship. High level AAW and BMD capability on 6000-7000 tonne hull was anticipated for the Anzac class replacement as far back as the 2009 Defence White Paper. F5000 inherits the 48 VLS cells of F-100 which should be just about enough to take a few SM-3s for the BMD role while still having space for a decent load of other weapons. The type 26 and FREMM designs for Australia have both been modelled with 32 Mk.41 cells. The type 26 could likely fit another two eight tube modules to match F5000, though the FREMM already looks a little crowded at the front. (Here we might recall that the RAN had originally wanted a ship with 96 VLS cells.)

As a direct derivative of the Hobart class F5000 is more than just familiar hull. It would run on the same Navantia/SAGE Automation integrated platform management system as the Hobarts, Canberra class LHDs and Supply class replenishment ships. This is probably the most important point in terms of day-to-day operability of the ship from a sailor’s perspective. It means smoother transfers between units and less retraining. For the navy it means savings from being able to consolidate multiple training streams.

It is worth considering that Navantia and Australia are at this point very much known quantities to each other. The difficulties with both the Hobart and Canberra classes are well known, and the decision to send the replenishment ship build overseas, again to Navantia, was met with some bitterness in Australia. Despite this, indeed because of it, Navantia is a company which we now have a much-improved long term working relationship across three classes of ship.

The choice of Aegis as the combat system for SEA5000 further plays to Navantia’s strengths. They have built ten Aegis ships at Ferrol and been closely involved with another three at Osbourne. They have done more work around Aegis than anyone else outside the US and smooth integration of specified weapons systems should be almost a given. There is no system in the specifications Navantia is unfamiliar with other than the radar and that is just as unfamiliar to Fincantieri. BAE will however enjoy some insight on this point having installed the CEAFAR X-band medium range search and S-band fire control arrays on the Anzac class and will soon be receiving those ships back at Henderson to add the L-band long range search array in place of the old SPS-49 2D radar.

Navantia are offering to make Australia the design authority for F5000 and Hobart. This tunes their bid well to the government’s export ambitions. In fact, Navantia already has CEA Technologies, SAGE and SAAB Systems Australia signed up for their bid on the Canadian frigate project.

We have a very tight schedule to navigate between design selection and first steel cut in 2020. Navantia’s hull has already gone through Australian engineering standards compliance – that is one very big and time-consuming job that doesn’t have to be done on this ship which does on the other two. This is no less a consideration than the freshness of the type 26 design.

In summary, Australian choice for SEA5000 must somehow balance all the usual near-term cost and capability considerations with choosing a platform that will be relevant through a period of rapid technological change while also satisfying conflicting political imperatives for the build to begin as soon as possible and for the project to play its part in ensuring the long-term sustainability of shipbuilding in Australia. Piece of cake.

 

88 COMMENTS

  1. Great article, a good read.
    Well informed piece.
    Fingers crossed for the type 26.
    Would make my year if it was selected.

    • probably too expensive sadly – think they are about $1billion a ship – thats a hard sell – but think would be the best ship

      • It’s definitely the best ship, the favourite the F100 is not that cheap either.
        They cost the Spanish around $1bn each and it is an extremely old design so I’m hoping the T26 is still in with a chance.

        • Good article. The advantages of commonality and savings in training in operating the SAGE automated system on the LHDs, DDGs and new Supply class AORs and potentially the Sea 5000 frigates cannot be underestimated for a small navy like the RAN.

          Each design has its advantages and disadvantages. The Australian newspaper reported the Type 26 design dates back to the 1990s.

          The US Navy is looking elsewhere other than the Type 26 which should be a concern for the RAN. Also operating with the US Navy, 26 knots will not cut it VLS shortfall of 16 for ships meant for BMD and fitted with Aegis?

          • What ships are meant for BMD exactly? You do realize that Australia is looking for a ASW frigate?

          • Jack W.

            You’re confusing an announcement by the Oz prime minister at the height of North Korean rocket tests with an actual in place programme and framework for implementing this – it doesn’t exist. At the moment its purely aspirational.

            There is no modified requirement for the SEA 5000 ship design that incorporates long range missile defence. It would be such a massive change they would need to rerun the requirements phase and procurement competition.

          • Matt,

            From the Australian newspaper and conclusive about the change to requirements.

            1. When the Future Frigate project was conceived, it was with an emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, which has not diminished.

            2. It was assumed the AWDs would provide long-range air cover for ships and task groups, leaving the frigates to concentrate on the vital job of detecting and hunting underwater threats that are rapidly increasing in the Asia-Pacific region. However, as events such as the rapid development of North Korea’s ballistic missile capability has necessitated, the future frigates will now also need to have anti-air warfare systems at least as good as the AWDs. Because of the need for this capability increase all three designs are about 7000 tonnes — almost indistinguishable in size from the Hobart-class destroyers.

            https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/future-frigate-decisions-focus-on-combat-system-will-leverage-aegis/news-story/7c334ae3b15d63b9d321d4b0ebbcda2c

          • ‘It has been widely reported’ by the Australian ( Murdoch?) press is not the same as this is government policy.

          • Paul P

            This is what Malcolm Turnbull said in relation to the selection of Aegis CMS for the frigates.

            “Recent events in our region have proven that Australia’s future frigates must be equipped to defend Australia from the threat of medium and long-range missile attacks,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Pacific 17 maritime and naval showcase, referencing North Korea. “We must have the capability to meet and defeat them.”

            Pretty clear the Govt has confirmed the RAN will have 12 x Aegis equipped warships capable of dealing with the threat of medium and long-range missiles.

    • Agree think that the type 26 would be my bet and it would be great to see a second batch of these being built in Australia not only FOR RAN but also extra frigates for RN and RNZN fleets.

      • You want to see RN frigates built in another country…? Even if that wasn’t a massive violation of MoD policy and undermining our own shipbuilding industry, why would we want to build our warships in a country with a far less developed shipbuilding industry where costs would be higher?

        • Callum: Don’t forget that the Type 26 is also being offered by BAE to Canada. If the LM/BAE consortium wins this bid next month, all 15 Canadian Surface Combatants Type 26’s will be built here in Canada as part of that bid. This bid would not undermine the Mod’s policy at all. Canada already has Canadian companies working on the 3 Type 26 Frigates now being built at the Clyde. Most of the hardware content will be British with the exception of the CCM 330 software being offered by Lockheed Martin (LM) as part of the consortium.

    • AV: Couldn’t agree with you more. I believe most politicians here and most Canadians are in agreement also. The first time most Canadians agree on anything! Cheers!

  2. Interesting article. As I understand things the Australian AAW BMD emphasis has emerged strongly since the project inception. If BAE were to increase Type 26 VLS to 48 I make them favourite.

    • It would also be very interesting to know if the T26 design can accommodate 48 strike length Mk41 in the front silo since that, plus the 24 Sea Ceptor silo amidships retained, would seem to be a good potential configuration for an RN T26-AAW variant were that ever to come into consideration for eventual T45 replacement.

      • Agree. A state of the art quiet ASW hull with the future proofing UXV mission bay and 48 Mk41 vls plus Sea Ceptor has a lot of flexibility going for it.

        • If they cut a hole in the roof of the multi mission bay they could accommodate 96 VLS if that’s what the Australians want.

          • Bit drastic. I don’t think ESSM needs a strike length Mk41. You might be able to fit a dozen of the shortest variant of Mk41 in place of the midships Sea Ceptor cells. Might be heavier I suppose but the stability of the design would have to be reviewed anyway with the CEAFAR mast.

          • BB85: If you think the MMB will be utilized for another MK 41 VLS system, it wont, and you are missing the whole point about this space. That Mission Bay is one of the main accomplishments of the Type 26. It can be utilized for all kinds of mission fits and is operations dependent. The above deck for the MMB will be utilized for an advanced SSM System. Cheers!

      • Hi Julian
        No need for it to have 48 Mk41 strike – 24 is fine – if it can then have the tactical or sylver launchers that can quad pack

        Ultimately I personally think the T26 in its current configuration is a better product than T45 and if the SeaCeptor VLS’s are then able to take the longer ranged variant – then that becomes a game changer.

        Clearly 48 Ml41 on an AAW T26 would be amazing, but it is already in a pretty good space in my opinion

        • I’m curious, what makes you say its better than the T45? Obviously the inclusion of strike length VLS makes the T26 a better GP platform, but aside from that, the two vessels perform very different roles.

          I do agree with you though in regard to an AAW T26, and if theres any sense then the T45 replacement due in the 2030s (that will conveniently be the T46) will either use the same or preferably a stretched T26 hull with 64+ VLS and an AAW radar setup (MFR and VSR like the Sampson and S1850M setup on the T45). Who knows, the far lower development costs and the Clyde’s experience building the T26 might allow us to get a couple more, and the RN can finally fulfill its requirement to always have 5 destroyers combat ready at any given time (this requirement was last mentioned in 2009 I think, during the T45 build. After that, well, keeping 5 out of 6 destroyers at sea was clearly optimistic and the RN dropped a requirement it had kept for half a century)

          • Hi Callum

            I think an inherently quiet platform with more VLS, space etc that could have its radar upgraded to Sampson etc, makes the T26 a better platform. I believe the FSL is on record as stating the T45’s are very noisy ships.

            So from my point of view, better layout, fit out and ultimately it comes down to the radar and how many air defence missiles these things carry and for me the T26 has the edge.

            One area I do think the T45 has the edge is engines and for the life of me I dont understand why we aren’t continuing with the T45 engines given the amount of effort we have gone through to understand the issues and correct. At the time they were work leading, and I think I am right in saying the are very fuel efficient, so we look to be giving up on something we seem to have gotten to the bottom of (painfully but new stuff often is painful)

            Hope that answers your query.

          • Hi Pacman27,
            Fair points, although comparing the VLS on them is a bit tricky. The T26 has 24 strike tubes, which beats the T45’s 0 strike length tubes, but the T45 can fit all 48 of the T26s Sea Ceptors in just 12 of its Silver A50s, and still have another 36 cells for more missiles (quad packable missiles are a godsend for the T45, if it ditches Aster 15 for the comparable Sea Ceptor, it can carry 36 Aster 30s and 48 Sea Ceptors, which makes it utterly lethal in the AAW role).

            The quiet hull of the T26 is definitely an advantage, but it’s one that’s primarily a benefit when deployed away from the carrier group hunting subs. When you’re sailing with a big arse carrier and half a dozen other ships, a quiet hull is less important. Also, the T45s did actually meet their design spec for operational quietness, it’s just that quietness wasn’t judged to be that important for a big AAW destroyer.

            IEP would’ve been nice for the T26s, seeing as it’s on the T45s and QECs, but Id assume there was either a cost issue involved, or else the older style setup was judged to be better suited to an ASW ship (perhaps IEP is why the T45s are so comparatively loud? No clue)

    • The BMD capability that Australia made a statement on was about overall strategy and aspiration for the county, and not a requirement for the SEA 5000 competition. You can’t just make dramatic changes to the required capability without rerunning the competition – not even their new Hobart AWW destroyers are anywhere near BMD level. The primary capability for SEA 5000 is ASW and this has been stated clearly every time by Australian government.

      On the matter of number of VLS, the requirement for the SEA 5000 frigate is 32 VLS. The Navantia have 48 VLS due only to the commitment to keep the design as close to the Hobart class to save on costs. The Navantia design is simply not a modern ASW frigate in anyway and could not provide appropriate critical ASW capability over the 30 years of operation. Despite what is being said around the Navantia advantage with commonality with existing Hobart class, the winner still has to meet the basic requirements. I predict the Navantia ship will come dead last in the competition.

      • Matt

        1. The Hobarts are being upgraded to Baseline 9 Aegis – BMD. Also equipped with CEC.
        2. The F5000s frigates will also be equipped with Aegis, CEC, Ceafar2.

        The Burkes date back to 1985 but no one would ever suggest they are not highly capable warships.

      • Logically I agree and I hope you are right but don’t underestimate the effectiveness of good salesmanship. The Indian fighter requirement was for for an interceptor and Typhoon should have won. But Rafale was bought because it had commonality with the existing fleet, more mature offensive capabilties at the time and a heritage of success. A good salesman will use the power of suggestion. I do hope the Australians decide to make a break with Navantia and go for the Type 26.

        • I agree with your “salesman” point. In fact this is where BAE and UK are being very clever by procuring many components of T26 in Australia.

          In the base of the Indian Rafale decision, I think this was due to the Rafale being nuclear capable and them wanting to replace the Mirage 2000s. I agree though that the lifecycle capability for Typhoon was much stronger.

          • I also hope RAN breaks with Navantia. UK has much to recommend by being headed out of the EU and towards the wider world. Hopefully Australia can see this.

  3. From the sound of it, it’s going to come down to the T26 or the F5000. The FREMM lacks the ASW capability and future proofing of our bid, and doesn’t offer the same ease of integration and savings potential of the Navantia design.

    In my eyes, it comes down to what wins out: military wisdom or politic. Wisdom says that the T26 will be better in its intended role, and will continue to be combat effective for a long time, while politics leans towards the F5000 due to recent purchases, expected lower cost, and export potential

    • The FREMM does have ASW capability – and a well developed one at that. I agree though that the Type 26 has the most innovative and up to date design for ASW. The Navantia ship is not really designed for ASW and does not have the modern thinking on ASW that is present in its competitors.

      In terms of what design will be selected, we have to take into consideration the mindset of Australia at the moment with China growing in aspiration and developing their military with new tech. We also have to look at the design they chose for their submarine programme – a very risky diesel pumpjet design based on a French nuclear sub – when they could have easily bought off the shelf.

      • Apologies if I was unclear. When I say the FREMM lacks in ASW capability, I mean in relative terms against the T26. It clearly is a very capable sub hunter, its just that the T26 is going to be better, especially going into the future when drones play an increasing role in ASW warfare.

        Agreed, although taking the local mindset into consideration still results in either the T26 or the F5000. On one hand, the gold standard for ASW for the next few decades, versus a design thats pretty much already in service and offers a capable, low risk, versatile platform

  4. Navantia must be favourite given the experience with the Hobart class, followed by FREMM a proven warship design and the outside choice our very own unbuilt T26.

    Not a lot in it as each option has its advantages, shame that the UK didn’t hasten the development of the T26 rather sit on the project for several years. T26 could have been a contender for the US FFX, but alas it did not as was not a proven design.

    Really hope T26 will be selected, but would not be surprised if it did not make the cut

    • I can’t see FREMM being one of the finalists, Fincantieri is the least established company of the 3 in Oz, with the design that technically offers the fewest advantages: no previous integration with US combat systems, fewer VLS cells, no mission bay, and less room for future upgrades.

      Between the F5000 and T26, it comes down to if savings and AAW/BMD capability are prioritised more than future proofing and the core ASW role.

      • Navantia is the least established in Australia by quite some margin – they have only 124 employees. BAE and Fincantieri have 1000s of employees in Australia. We have to remember that when Navantia took over the build (they originally only provided the design) of the Hobart class programme, they just subcontracted this out to other companies – including to BAE.

        If AAW/BMD were as important as you state, they would simply rerun the competition. Any ship design that lost on the basis of AAW/BMD capability would be able to sue the Australian government as it wasn’t stated in the requirements.

        The SEA 5000 is an ASW frigate and the importance of having this capability has been stated by Australian government time and again.

        • Navantia has built both Australia’s LHDs and destroyers, and BAE is the largest defence contractor in the country. In comparison, Fincantieri as a company has the weakest standing in this competition.

          Its not me stating the importance of AAW/BMD capability, especially over ASW capability. As the article points out, this has been a requirement since 2009. Why exactly would they rerun the competition? The Navantia design is better suited to BMD simply because it has more VLS and Navantia have more experience with Aegis than any of the other competitors.

          Yes, I’m fully aware that SEA 5000 is an ASW frigate, but any modern warship has to be versatile. All of the proposed designs are ASW warships to greater (T26) or lesser (F5000) degrees, but its the complete package that will decide the final winner, and that doesn’t just mean the ship itself.

  5. Surely 8 additional Mk41 VLS cells could be added to the bow replacing the 24 CAMM cells, and another 8 replacing the 24 cells amidships at least? Then you’ve got the same number as Navantia’s proposal.

    • They’ve already done the bow modification that you suggest, in fact they added 12 extra Mk41 in place of the forward Sea Ceptor silo to make it a 36 tube all Mk41 affair.. It’s quite possible that doing anything in the amidships area might be way more complicated though. Is there enough depth for strike length? Is there sensitive equipment topside that might end up too close to the exhaust vents or the departing missiles? Etc, etc.

      My hope is that 48 strike length Mk41 might squeeze into the deck area of the forward silo but obviously many design issues such as adequate depth still arise there and I do wonder, if 48 would fit, why BAE didn’t go with that. Maybe it was an issue of coming in within the RAN budget and that forward silo could in reality have space for an additional 12 Mk41 FFBNW. I’ve no idea but it would be good if that was the case.

      • I don’t think Rim162 ESSM needs strike length Mk41: I think the shortest Mk41 variant would do it. Might make feasible to fit Mk41 midships.

        • Good point but I’d still worry about ESSM launching hot and whether that might mean too much sensitive equipment around the midships topside needing to be shifted around. We’re all guessing though so who knows and, as Pacman27 said further up, T26 is already impressive as it is. The good hull (assuming it turns out as the designers hope) and existing flexibility and weapons load are big pluses.

  6. If there was a built example of the type 26 I’d see it being the clear favourite but the usual government dilly dallying has once again screwed the country over.

  7. It will boil down to FREMM or type 26.
    FREMM is in service and have numbers, the cost is very competitive but they are not as large or as capable as type 26 with European weaponry or I would suppose as quiet or have the same sprint, stealth capabilities of a type 26.
    Italian anti mine and anti torpedo defence system fitted to Italian FREMM class is an excellent system and very much should be standard NATO fit to all surface warships.
    I would hope the Australians go for type 26 for its growth and developmental potential.
    I bet they can get them for less than the UK bill of £1.23 billion per ship.

  8. There are a couple of quite unbelievable statements made in this article:

    “However, the Hobart is a much better ASW ship than the original F-100 and it is Hobart that the F5000 design is building upon.”

    The Hobart is not an ASW ship at all so I don’t understand the comparison with the original F100. What exactly is this assertion based on?

    “Furthermore, the Australian force context may not require absolute maximum possible ASW capability achievable in the surface platform component.”

    What an unbelievable statement! What kind of government would put up a $35B budget for a ASW frigate programme, go through all the arduous motions of procurement, design and build, and all because they don’t quite want the maximum possible? Anyone searching for Australian government statements on ASW capability for future frigates will find a multitude – including very recent ones underlining its importance.

    Australia choosing the Navantia design for ASW would be like so many 2nd/3rd tier countries selecting F16s/F18s as an upgrade to their air-forces. It’s out of date and would be outclassed by any current and projected power in the pacific throughout the frigates’ 30 lifecycle.

  9. How is it that they get a better all round ship for less money? Better radar, more mk41 strike cells etc. How much are we likely to get back from licensing the design – enough to buy us an extra t26 for ourselves? And if we are giving the design rights to Australia as part of the deal, that means we would be competing in any export competitions with the same design against them. Not sure how that will work.

    • Unless the contract negotiators on our side are completely crazy/incompetent Australia will not get the design rights for T26, they will get a license to use the design under specific conditions (number of units, location, duration being typical conditions). The design rights might well be licensed for exclusive use for this contract – no right to resell the design, only the right to use it to build these 9 ships.

      There will also be other issues of intellectual property that need to be covered in the contract (something called “residuals” being one example that can often be contentious in such negotiations) but any competent negotiating/legal team on both sides should be familiar with all the potential issues and have them covered in the final contract.

  10. And to continue my rant (bad mood this morning) how is it a country with a much smaller budget is set to have more of these than us? And more subs – double!
    Rant over

    • Yeah. I have no answer for you on that one except to agree. Same goes for Canada too if T26 wins that one. If neither Australian nor Canada cut their planned numbers like the U.K. has then both Australia and Canada would be committing to building more T26 than the U.K.

      Sorry, that didn’t really help make you feel any better did it!

      • You might want to look at the size of the coastlines of both Canada and Australia. It is for this reason that they need the amount of ships they are requesting.

    • Because they don’t have 2 70,000 ton carriers, they have half as many AAW destroyers, their subs are going to be diesel not nuclear, they have a battalion of marines not 7000 and they operate 1 large and 1 small tanker as opposed to our 6 tankers and 3 large replenishment ships. Also they have 1 LHD and 1 LSD (ex Bay) compared to our 2 LPDs and 3 LSDs. And lastly they are building 1 extra ASW frigate but we are building 5 Type 31 instaead.

  11. Forget about the missiles…If the missiles are to long build a deck housing to cover the bit that pokes out of the deck ( See T45 and T23 who both have such an arrangement.) It is the CEAFAR2 radar will be the thing that decides which hull wins out.
    The first part of the CEAFAR upgrade on the ANZACS involved adding loads of top weight for the new phased array and its housing and correspondingly loads of pig iron and lead into the bilges to counter it.
    With CEFAR 2 about to be fitted the ANZACs will lose the current SPS 49 Air search radar but its being replaced with more top weight as another new phased array and housing will go on top of the existing CEAFAR housing.
    As with the T45 in the UK if you put a big heavy radar on top you need a big hull to accommodate it and to alleviate top weight issues. So a bigger hull is better.

    Electric drive on a top draw ASW ship is a must. The current UK T23 is ultra quiet and very difficult to find when on the 1 deck DG sets and motors. Electric drive will be a requirement.

    So that leaves a T26 and FREMM to battle it out… The mission bay on T26 may be the clincher as well as the UK MOD looking at CEAFAR2 on future vessels

    • Point taken on the electric drive. It ought to rule out Navantia. Type 26 is a full metre wider in the beam than the Italian Fremm. I’m not a naval architect but I would guess this makes it quite a bit easier to manage additional Cefar top weight. Also I read the Sea Hawk is 3 metres longer than the NH90 for which I assume the Fremm hanger was sized. So as you say the the open plan mission bay might decide it. Can the Type 26 hanger take 2 Merlin or Sea Hawks side by side?

      • Information from another site I found on CEAFAR2

        https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/warships1discussionboards/uk-type-26-frigate-t30244-s850.html

        CEAFAR 2 is a scalable solution, the size of the antennas and the power output can be tailored depending on the specifications. Of the (very) few public snipets about the CEAFAR 2L that was required by the RAN for SEA 5000 it seems to be quite a powerfull set, twenty fixed major AESA GAN antenas, working in the S and X bands, distributed by six faces, fully capable of suporting the likes of the SM-6/SM-2 Block IIIA/B and doing Anti Ballistic Missile work, something that Artisan (by multiple reasons, including range and illumination) cant do. We are looking more at “SAMPSON/S1850” cability than Artisan.

        • Artisan and CEAFAR2 have roughly the same range and can handle the same amount of objects. Sampson is on another level with twice the range and tracking capability. Not sure why you mentioned S1850 as this has BMD capability up to 2000kms.

          • Quite a statement: that Artisan and Cefar 2 are comparable. If so I stand corrected. Just to be clear, are you saying Artisan could handle mid course guidance of multiple ESSM?

          • CEAFAR has a proven capability on the ANZAC class of being able to track and intercept multiple supersonic cruise missiles. The RAN is one of the few navies currently that have demonstrated this capability against real (rather than simulated) targets.

        • Yes, Cefar is comparable to Sampson capability. As I understand it Sampson went down a different ASEA evolutionary path at a certain point when it retained rotating arrays. I am guessing that a fixed frequency horizontal scan is something you will always want in a surveillance radar so why waste software and chip cycles on it? Any way I see Sampson as Beta Max in a world where everyone else went for multiple solid face arrays, the VHS solution. Another analogy might be Mac versus Windows. Clumsy technology always wins out over elegant technology eventually because it creates more jobs.

          • As I understand it the decision to make Sampson dual panel rotating was to reduce weight so that it could be mounted higher vs a unit with a higher number of fixed panels. The benefit of higher elevation was presumably considered worth the trade off vs the brief interruptions of view on an object as one panel goes off target and before the other one comes on.

            I do hope T26 wins the RAN bid but I would be immensely sad if a consequence of us winning was for the U.K. to not maintain its position as the originator of the gold standard AAW radar by not developing a next generation Sampson successor but instead simply purchased CEAFAR2.

            I wonder whether it would be possible to develop some sort of Franken-radar whereby CEAFAR2 transducers were used but a lot of the back end processing was next generation Sampson stuff. Perhaps that would be an acceptable compromise to give Australian some level of CEAFAR sweetener but not walk away from our technology lead. I assume a huge amount of a radar’s capability is in the back end and I did read from people who seemed to know that the real Sampson magic is in the back end as opposed to the antenna

          • Sampson evolved from a longstanding UK radar program which ran in a period where the power requirements and of the solid state modules were more of a limitation than they are now.
            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/4256094_MESAR_Sampson_Radar_Technology_for_BMD
            That said I think the trade off between cost, weight, height, power and mechanical versus electronic scanning is still in favour of the Artisan and Sampson strategy.
            Its an action replay of Captor-M versus Captor-E. Captor-E will be better, but it is noteworthy that it will I think retain some mechanical scanning.

        • Paul P.

          Not sure what is so captivating about my statement. The stated range for Artisan is 200kms with the ability to track up to 900 objects. The stated range for CEAFAR2 is 250kms with the ability to track up to 500 objects. They are therefore in my view ‘comparable’.

          I wasn’t stating anything about the ability of Artisan to provide mid-course guidance.

          • So I must be missing something. I’m thinking Artisan is a lot cheaper than Cefar for what is (superficially) the same capability and a requirement to add tons of ballast to the hull? Is this simply a question of Australia developing an indigenous radar industry. Not sure the debating points should be technical or industrial.

  12. CEAFAR 2 isnt fitted yet…the ANZACs are just starting on getting the “2” part of the upgrade now which replaces the long range search radar…they currently have CEAFAR 1 which was the evolved Sea Sparrow fit.
    Talking to the Aussies this week they like it and have no issues with it. Its a step change in capabilities to what they did have.
    Sampson and Artisan …Sampson is an outstanding piece of kit and probably the current gold standard on active phased arrays (even though it rotates). Artisan does what it says on the box and provides an improved capability compared to 996 and allows you to dispense with trackers so saving top weight and maintenance requirements which is all good.
    Who wins??? I would say Sampson currently in conjunction with the 1046 LRR but the CEAFAR upgrade will probably pull ahead as it eliminates the rotating Sampson and 1046 LRR requirement.

      • Perhaps because it is too good. Who would we trust with the technology who wouldn’t rip it off and resell it or use it against us?
        Ditto for Artisan I suspect, although this has quite a few valid competitors. Don’t know if it was offered but NZ didn’t go Artisan when they chose Sea Ceptor. That said I think export sales of Artisan to Brazil and Chile are on the cards; on Leander perhap?

      • When Sampson was trialed on the IOW the number of tracks and its capabilities where of an order of magnitude better than any other radar at the time. The issue was not with the radar but the ability of the track extractors and combat system computers to process the data the radar was producing.
        Samson is big and heavy. 9 tones of rotating mass at the top of a T45 mast is a challenge along with getting the services all the way up there to keep it cool and fed with power.

        • Right. So what I read was right, as in the real magic of Sampson is in the back end (“ability of the track extractors” etc) rather than the antennae. In theory then might that open up an opportunity for the sort of Franken-radar joint project I was talking about with the UK taking CEAFAR AESA panels and doing its own computing stuff?

          Then again, within the context of using RN CEAFAR adoption as a sweetener for the RAN T26 bid, T23 radars are different to T45 so I suppose there is nothing to stop “Pure” CEAFAR coming in for some or all RN frigates but when the time comes for T45 replacement the UK still doing its own thing with a Sampson successor (hopefully with the same spectacular advantage vs its competitors).

          • I don’t know whether the technology behind the emitters is plateauing but it does seem that the software processing power and algorithms are the competitive differentiator for radar systems. The ceafar guys seem to think they are on a winner with a scaleable architecture. I’m sure BAE understand that if they want export orders for Type 26 they will have to fit and integrate whatever radar and cms the customer wants. The Canadians might not want either Artisan or Ceafar for example.
            I suspect that Sampson is better than ceafar or the US radars. But Betamax was better than VHS.

          • Yes. All my pondering on the possibility of a mixed Sampson/CEAFAR system is not in any way suggesting that would be for a RAN T26 or anyone else’s. My pondering is because in earlier comments at least one person mentioned that one thing that might help swing the RAN towards selecting T26, apart from its superior ASW capabilities, is the carrot already dangled that the RN will evaluate CEAFAR for use on RN ships. My concern was if that evaluation ended up in the RN adopting CEAFAR it might precipitate a UK retreat from developing in-house technology and going all CEAFAR. Frankly I think the opposite extreme is more likely – in 2 or 3 years time the UK might well say “thanks, we evaluated CEAFAR, but no thanks”. I’m just trying to understand options.

            It’s also interesting by the way that we have great sonars in the UK and I suspect that a very large part of that challenge and ability to differentiate is in the back end, i.e. the signal analysis algorithms and the computing power available to run them on. I also suspect that GCHQ has some world-class signal analysis capabilities that are even more classified than the radar and sonar stuff. There seems to be a common theme here. I’m not saying they are necessarily connected, and admittedly adding GCHQ into the mix is speculative and perhaps pushing things a bit far, but I find it interesting none the less that we seem to have this national competence.

        • Given that only a tiny portion of the sky visible from high up is not visible from low down, why don’t we have a big heavy 3D radar low down and a small lightweight 2D radar high up?

  13. Have to say if there is any justice in this world BAE deserve to get this order. Not only is Type 26 the best contender but they also performed a naval engineering miracle in upgrading the Anzac frigates with Cefar radar. Ugly duckling to swan comes to mind.

  14. The fact is the UK wasted to much time, energy and money on the t45 and cvf projects.

    We should have been developing warships that were affordable and capable for both the RN and export markets.

    It seems we make this mistake over and over again to a pint where large parts of defence industry have died or are unsustainable in the future.

    • Sweeping statement. By way of balance Type 45 was bleeding edge but it is best in class AAW and will economical to run – even with the engines working.
      CVF is more debatable. Bit late to question it now but did we really need the first day strike Iraq war US style ‘supercarrier’ sortie rate? Maybe 3 mid sized fleet carriers would have been more useful.

      • It was a general statement on the health of the UK defence industry.

        Current estimates conclude that the UK is the world’s sixth largest weapons exporter, but given the current trends in 10 years time we will be outside the top 10. With the likes of Israel being a bigger exporter than the UK.

        KSA takes 33%, the USA and UAE take a further 33% and the balance goes to the other 200 countries.

        From an economic and defence from a point of view the t45 and cvf have been poor given the financial constraints.

        The t45 is under equipped with from a weapon and combat systems standpoint. It is widely admitted in MOD circles that the project got several key issues wrong.

        • Agree with your point re dependence on a small number of (Gulf) customers.
          The Israelis are a smart people and they need to export. Good luck to them. I think our Sky Sabre is using Iron Dome software networking.
          Re Type 45 radar and propulsion, these did cost an arm an a leg but there is no way the UK is not going to be at the leading edge of these technologies. They are strategic and a price sometimes has to be paid for that.
          Also agree general point re UK industrial strategy. Manufacturing and hi tech is the way to go and I think the government is committed to this.

          • I agree the Israelis are smart people and need to export, I am suggesting that we to become smart people and export.

            We have the potential, knowledge and financial muscle just need the political will to make it happen.

            T26 is a potential start, but we are a number of years behind the competition due to that lack of political will and poor decision making.

          • Israel is interesting. In my experience, and it was part of my sales territory for quite a while, they are not just smart but seriously disproportionately smart relative to the size of their country. I don’t think one could find a better example on the planet than Israel when it comes to “punching above one’s weight” in terms of excellence and academic (intellectual property) output.

            For the record, I do have serious issues with the behaviour of Israel’s government over many terms but I will not deny the excellence of their intellectual achievements nor the good hearts (in my biased personal opinion of course) of the Israelis that share my view of their government’s behaviour (and such Israelis do exist).

          • Julian I have never been to Israel, but spent several years in a number of Arab countries.

            I can report that I found most Arabs to be friendly and generous, however they are not smart being inherently lazy both mentally and physically.

            Demands for them to demonstrate motivation are met the term inshallah. Meaning that they assume they have no control over their lives as everything is determined by God rather than by individual action. You cannot run an effective military force if you blame everything on God.

          • You learn very quickly that the longer the Inshallah is when spoken the less likely something is to actually happen

  15. Well folks, we wont have to wait much longer as far as a 15 Canadian Surface Combatant winning bid is concerned. The government will be announcing it probably by the end of April 2018. The contenders are the BAE Type 26, The Dutch De Zeven Provincien, & the Spanish F-100 Christopher Columbus Class. I have listened to all your comments with great interest and I believe, as many other Canadians do, that the LM/BAE Type 26 Frigate will be the best option for Canada overall, as well as for ASW and ASuW capabilities. If the Type 26 could increase it’s MK 41 VLS payload from 32 to 48 cells, it would also have an awesome AAW capability. I’m sure that could be easily accomplished, however don’t know how that would affect the tonnage and stability of the ship. As you know Canada has no AAW capability at this time as we have already written off the Iroquois Class Destroyers. The first 3 or 4 Type 26 Frigates could have the AAW fit, with the remaining 11-12 Frigates having an ASW & ASuw along with the Standard MK 41 VLS capability. My thoughts anyway. Have A Great Navy Day!! Cheers!!

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