Babcock International has successfully completed Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) of the Air Weapons Handling System (AWHS) for the Type 26 Frigate, designed for BAE Systems.

The firm say that AWHS provides a flexible and configurable munitions stowage system, capable of safely storing and retrieving a variety of munition types within highly space constrained magazine environments.

Following several years of development by Babcock’s Defence Systems Technology team in Leicester, UK, the first in class unit, destined for Glasgow has now successfully completed Factory Acceptance Testing.

Andrew Hopkins, Babcock Programme Manager said:

“The successful testing of this new Air Weapons Handling capability is the culmination of significant effort and collaboration between BAE Systems, Babcock and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) over the last five years; offering the Royal Navy (RN) a step change in mechanised weapon handling capability including safety, speed of operation, space efficiency, weight, flexibility, shock resilience and low signature.”

Babcock Lead Engineer Chris Connolly demonstrates extraction of a Sting Ray dummy torpedo during factory trials.

With testing culminating in an intensive three week factory acceptance period, Babcock say its engineering and production teams have successfully demonstrated the systems capability to representatives from BAE Systems, MOD, and RN – proving compatibility with both current and future weapons systems.

BAE Systems T26 Delivery Lead for Guided Weapons said:

“This is a significant step forward for the AWHS, the FAT has clearly demonstrated the performance, function and flexibility of the design; it is a credit to the Babcock project team. Following the trials there is every confidence that the system can be successfully integrated into the T26 platform and proven as a highly efficient weapon handling system. Thanks also to the MOD customer who has supported the trials notably with the provision of all the weapon types and their trolleys/containers.”

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DaveyB

I know this system is designed to move the helo’s weapons about. But would there be a method of reloading a SeaCeptor from below decks? I appreciate that the Mk41 VLS is probably too long, but as Sea Ceptor is much shorter, could this be feasible?

Pacman27

I believe there is a way of doing this that would involved having a a cradle around the VLS system that can raise itself up on pistons and then bring a Missile up a single VLS that is linked to the store below deck. All the technology is there and as our VLS’s have a protected casing the Cradle crane could sit on the outside of this and Jack itself into position when required. TBH it shouldn’t really be needed if we install the right VLS as Seaceptor can quad pack into any of the current VLS’s we have (we… Read more »

Cam

But even replacing half of our destroyers missiles with quad packed Sea Ceptor and the rest with the long range sea viper would give them a far bigger and better load out. Or adding the fitted for but not installed mk41 would also give the RN many more options, we shouldn’t just rely on submarines for land atack considering we only have 6, and I cant understand why they don’t do it, our destroyers should have land atack ability. (Yeah yeah “money where will we find it”) we can afford many more destroyers and frigates than 19! It’s a choice.

Glass Half Full

Seems feasible, given the relative simplicity of cold launch cells. But T26 starts with 48 dedicated Sea Ceptor cells, plus the possibility of quad packing some of the Mk 41 VLS (or having additional Asters), so it would be a pretty extreme situation that would require it, given the likely presence of additional ships. In addition, moving the 100kg, 3 metre+ missiles through the ship from stores to cells might not be optimal, or best practice, or even possible, if not designed for. Interestingly Arrowhead 140 has a crane on deck amidships adjacent to the cells, at least as shown… Read more »

whlgrubber

Hydraulically raise the mk41 by 3 metres,hydraulically transport the missiles horizontally from armory to beneath the mk41 vls, raise the missiles to the vertical then lower the mk 41 onto the missiles.
Not unlike the seaslug rearm used on the old dlgs.(but make it work this time)

Julian

Early Ticos and ABs had Mk41s in units of 61 rather than 64 I believe because of the 64 tubes 3 where covered by a single rectangular plate that housed a collapsible crane intended to be used for reloading at sea but it was deemed too dangerous an operation to perform at sea so was discontinued and subsequent vessels given full 64-packs of usable Mk41 tubes without 3 being allocated to crane space. The concept of this “strike-down module is mentioned on the Wikipedia Mk41 article although I’m confused why that talks about it taking out 5 tubes rather than… Read more »

Gunbuster

Anything is possible but why bother? The equipment was built and There was an ambition to RAS VL Seawolf and ASTER but the Risk assessment was so bad that the idea was binned. The same will be said for Ceptor. As to having a reload magazine below the magazine that’s just complicating matters. You would need approx 9m of hull depth to make it feasable and below the currently planned magazine is going to be other equipment that would need to be moved. Leave it as it is which is simple and effective. The easiest way to reload is to… Read more »

Cam

Do the type 26 frigates hold the most missiles that any British frigate or even destroyer has ever held??

Mike

Will the Australian and Canadian versions use this or something home grown? (Or is that not public knowledge yet?)

Ulya

A little of topic but seeing Glass half full comment, has final decision for type 31 been announced yet?

Glass Half Full

The most recent date (quoted in May of this year) is for a winning bid decision announced in December 2019 with first steel cut in 2020.

Glass Half Full

There are a couple of words in the article that I suspect may be skimmed over but are perhaps worth calling attention to – namely “low signature”. There is often criticism about the cost of T26 with the usual suspects of BAES, government delays and slow build highlighted as the major drivers of the cost. However, what I suspect is overlooked is also the expense associated with how the complete T26 design, including all its systems, not just hull and propulsion, is optimised for low signature. It is not just mechanical systems either, as fluid management systems meaning pipe routing/design… Read more »

Pacman27

I agree with all the comments on here, essentially my view is that we would be better quad packing a better VLS system So for T45 we get rid of the aster 15 (add a booster and it joins the Aster 30 stock) and quad pack Seaceptor. This would double this ships capability overnight, for no real increase in cost (apart from missiles of course). For T26 it could be even easier – dependant on which VLS tubes they plan to use. Even the current sea sparrow VLS can be quad packed, the RN has chosen not to. Given they… Read more »

Julian

There almost certainly isn’t the space midship for the deck penetration required for Mk41 there. That’s the problem with strike length VLS, they are quite disruptive in terms of ship layout. Below-decks space is a very finite resource. For any up-arming of T26 I think the more practical option (which none the less the UK is unlikely to adopt unfortunately) would probably be to retain the midships 24 Sea Ceptor and adopt the RAN/RCN forward silo configuration of 36 x Mk41 which the design can presumably accommodate although even there I don’t know if the RAN & RCN sacrificed compartment… Read more »

Meirion X

Also, why risk a Type 26 for shore bombardment with use of main gun? Is it really needed?

Gunbuster

Yes.

The Falklands proved the need and utility of having a MR Gun on a ship. Hence the batch 3 T22 all had guns.

A T26 like a tail T23 nowadays is not just going to do ASW.

Glass Half Full

So you would put a £1Bn ship, or multiples of them, well within shore based ASM range in order to deliver NGS? I’d question doing that even with a T31. It is a huge risk for comparatively little reward, given the other weapon options we have today that didn’t exist historically. It seems every time NGS comes up people point to history, including the Falklands and Libya. However, with the likely proliferation of shore based ASM, the Houthi’s having provided a contemporary example, we have to be damn sure our enemy doesn’t possess any, or that we can down every… Read more »

Gunbuster

What has the price of a ship got to do with it? Operational Capability and the ability to deliver fire onto an adversary is all that matters to the crew on board or the command in the Hole in Northwood. NGS is a core capability for RN DD/FF and is a requirement to support the RM units ashore. Falklands, Libya, Al Faw, all delivered (or threatened to deliver in Sierra Leonne) NGS to support troops ashore . You wont always have a friendly F35 or a coalition B52/B1 on call. At Al Faw Marlborough (Old Ships!) along with Richmond ,… Read more »

Glass Half Full

The relevance of price of the ship is that it determines how many the country gets and consequently how many it can afford to lose without severely compromising ongoing and future missions. When the UK only has 6 destroyers and 13 frigates it has very little ability to absorb loss or major damage in warships because it takes much too long to build replacements or repair. Sure we almost invariably work with allies, so its not make-or-break on UK assets alone, but if we do choose to risk ships (and crews) we need to be clear about the effectiveness and… Read more »

Gunbuster

The price of the ship is Operationally immaterial. The risk of losing a vessel or completing its task is determined by Fleet HQ and the vessel CO. If we are talking about the impact on capability of losing a vessel because we only have 5 or 6 others that is a different issue and that is due to an under investment in resources by consecutive Govts over many years. The RN has lost vessels from the active list for years at a time recently not because of enemy action but due to collisions ( Brilliant – a rock, Southampton- A… Read more »

Glass Half Full

My use of price as a proxy for the limited number of assets has clearly confused my point. It would have been better for me to have simply said that with such a limited number of T26 (and T31 come to that), putting them at relatively high risk of ASM attack in order to undertake NGS is a very poor risk-reward trade off. Particularly because alternative weapons may achieve similar results without risking the ship. We can’t separate availability of assets from strategy and tactics though, so total numbers are not a separate issue. If for whatever reason we only… Read more »

Joe16

I have to admit to not being a big fan of the idea of dedicated SeaCeptor silos- it seems so restrictive. Would the space not be better used for even a non-strike length generic VLS like Sylver 50 or the American equivalent (never got the hang of the different MK numbers)? These would be long enough (I believe) to be able to launch ASMs like Harpoon and the NMS, and still wide enough to quad pack SeaCeptor. I can’t imagine that the SeaCeptor silos are shallower than a Sylver 50?
Otherwise, I agree with everything you put above.

Glass Half Full

I’d turn your position around and ask “Under what circumstances would we not want 48 Sea Ceptor?” Today and future environments I suggest we always would. So if that’s the case then why use more expensive hot launch cells to quad pack Sea Ceptor, versus lower cost cold launch cells, which have more flexibility for placement/location in a ship? Save the hot launch cells for missiles that need it. Regarding size, imagine away 🙂 Sea Ceptor is ~3.5m long including canister. The Land Ceptor launch systems show the cell system doesn’t need to be much longer than this. Sylver 50… Read more »

Joe16

Fair points, well made! Gives me some food for thought, thank you 🙂

Gunbuster

You cannot VL harpoon. Thats why even USN Ticos and Burkes have the same sort of launchers that the RN has.

Joe16

Thanks, I didn’t realise that! It was just an assumption, based on how long it had been around and how popular VLS is. I guess I should not make so many assumptions….

Watcherzero

Its the reason the missile or ‘armoury’ battleship concept never took off with the Kirov class the only thing coming close due to low hull numbers in the USSR. Putting extreme amounts of missiles on one ship is akin to putting all your eggs in one basket.

Meirion X

That is a argument to have more small frigates, for RN say 10 Type 31. And maybe more destroyers, but some armed with either Mk41 or Sylver.

Gunbuster

The KIROV was big because it had single decker bus sized SSN 19 “Shipwreck” missiles taking up most of the Fwd area.

Glass Half Full

I wonder if Sea Ceptor quad packed in Sylver VLS cells would be the best use of those cells? Instead of the usual proposed solution of adding Mk41 VLS to T45 or quad packing in Sylver, it seems like it might be much more economic and easier to integrate additional cold launch Sea Ceptor cells into T45 and retain the Sylver cells for missiles that need hot launch. So in the case of T45 that would be more Aster 30 and perhaps Aster BMD, keeping T45 as a dedicated AAW destroyer. If you add strike length Mk41 mid-ships to T26… Read more »

Meirion X

Instead replace main gun with a CIWS type of weapon further forward to the bow, creating space for a further row of Sae Ceptor.

Gunbuster

No.
A CIWS would get battered by heavy seas and be unservicable 90% of the time.

Meirion X

Ok, I get your point. So really, the bow on Type 26 frigate needs to be lengthened in order to fit more rows of VLS cells?

Julian

I agree on the use of the T45 FFBNW Mk41 space for dedicated Sea Ceptor launchers. T45 are so few in numbers that with our carriers, supporting allies’ carrier groups etc I can’t see our T45s spending much time in anything other than dedicated AAW roles so it makes sense to make it the best AAW escort that it can be. We all know how tight money is so using that space for Sea Ceptor seems a reasonably affordable way to significantly enhance T45’s AAW capability. I do still worry about the dedicated Sea Ceptor launchers though. I realise T23… Read more »

Glass Half Full

I suspect its down to cost trade-offs, but if you want to quad pack Sea Ceptor without using a full Mk41 tactical or strike length solution then the ExLS was designed for this purpose. You may recall it was shown on some of the early candidates for the T31 program, BMT’s Venator-110 in particular showed the 3-cell ExLS as an option.

Julian

Yeah. I do remember the use of 3-cell ExLS on some of the Venator-110 configuration options that BMT showed. By the way, just to be clear in case I’m not, for T45 I’m not suggesting quad-packing Mk41. I’m just saying that if our dedicated designed-for-purpose Sea Ceptor launchers can’t make at least as efficient use of deck space as quad-packing Mk41 then we’ve done a bad design job on our custom launchers and we’re squandering (at least partially) one of the benefits that should come with Sea Ceptor i.e. simpler launch system means no exhaust gas venting which should mean… Read more »

Glass Half Full

I didn’t phrase my response well as I had understood that you were just after increased packing density and not necessarily quad packing. So apologies if it came over otherwise. Regarding tighter packing, and in this case I’ll also include ExLS as an example, there may be other factors than just cost. In a quad-pack only one missile can fire from a quad pack at a time and that probably goes for any tight packing of missiles, in order not to interfere with each other. Spreading them out may enable more launches in a shorter period against multiple simultaneous attacking… Read more »

Meirion X

Would not a CIWS type of gun be more appropriate for a ASW frigate, instead of a main gun? If so, positioned weapon further forward to the bow, thereby creating space for further row of VLS cells including Sea Ceptor.

Rokuth

“… why risk a Type 26 for shore bombardment with use of main gun?”

What would be the alternative?

“Would not a CIWS type of gun be more appropriate for a ASW frigate, instead of a main gun?”

The T26 is suppose to already have 2 Phalanx CIWS weapons mounted. The Mk45 Gun system is designed for use against surface warships, anti-aircraft and shore bombardment. Why neuter the T26 by removing the main gun?

Meirion X

Ok, I get your point, thanks for your argument!

Glass Half Full

A number of alternatives, depending on what is trying to be achieved. In such a scenario it seems unlikely we are having an isolated ship launch NGS, so an attack might include assets from multiple ships. Options include helicopter and/or fixed wing launched bombs, missiles and cruise missiles. Ship launched cruise missiles. Weapons like Martlet, Sea Venom, Brimstone, SPEAR 3, up to heavier weapons such as JSM and beyond. I don’t know what Meirion had in mind, and it may not be practical to move CIWS/gun systems further froward, but the Mk110 57mm would meet most requirements and be less… Read more »

Gunbuster

Quad packing SC on a T45 does not give you the system. You need somewhere to put the SC data link domes and equipment cabinets( Though the cabinets are household fridge sized so not an issue) so as to give 360 degree transmission coverage. Whilst small and lightweight they would also need to be positioned so as to avoid mutual interference issues on the transmitting frequency’s of other sensors.

Ron

From the comments there are several questions/comments. About the announcement of the T31 that if I understand correctly is meant to be at the end of this year. I am concerned about this as there is meant to be a strategic review in autumn. T45 and the Mk41 VLS, I totally agree that the T 45 should be equipped with the Mk41 and they should be armed with cruise missiles and the Aster BMD this would give the T45 a tactical as well as a strategic punch. The idea of replacing the Aster 15 with quad packed Sea Ceptor is… Read more »

Meirion X

You have hit it on the nail Ron!

This is what I have argued in a past post, a Type 26 frigate/s would need to sail ahead of the main fleet to sanitise areas that the fleet will sail through.

Meirion X

Type 45’s and Type 31’s should be the real close
escorts.

Jack

I’m intrigued as to why you think it’s computerised. The controls look like what you get for a standard xy crane. Computerised I’d expect a different HMI.

As for shock, a quick google search on a stingray shows its less than 300kg. It fairly heavy duty if it’s not shock rated and it does talk about shock in the text.

Ron

Jack, the reason that I think it is computerised is that I have seen quite often written that the principles for the QE is the same as what companies such as Amazon use and that the T26 system is based on that. They are fully automated they know where xyz is go and retrieve. I will show my ignorance in that I don’t know what you mean with HMI. I understand that a stingray torp is about 300 kg, but when I am speaking about shock is when a ship is constantly slamming due to weather or when receiving a… Read more »

Gunbuster

The handling system will have manual back up. On a T23 system it is a case of insert handles and turn by hand and attach chains on the drive pulleys and move by hand.

Secondary Ammo resupply is regularly practised on board. For Close range ammo ( Bullets) and MR Gun Shells, it still is block and tackle, miller flaps and cruets…nothing much has changed since WW1 or earlier for moving ammo from a deep mag to a gun when the hoist is out of action.

Gunbuster

The whole stowage rack would be shock mounted top and bottom.

Glass Half Full

I won’t repeat everything I’ve already posted in response to other comments but in summary additional Sea Ceptor cells for T45 to increase missile load out is much more practical and affordable than adding MK41 VLS. Keeping T45 as a a dedicated AAW destroyer. The only missile the UK uses that might be qualified for MK41 in a T45 combat system is Tomahawk, and despite plans for Block V, it is an old platform that is neither stealthy nor supersonic and as such rather questionable for future potential use in a Tier 1 conflict, which has to be the bar… Read more »

Gunbuster

“As an AAW destroyer variant, the T26 would not be conducting ASW”

Every vessel in the RN practises ALL types of warfare. T45 do ASW. T23 do HVU( High Value Unit) AAW escort work. I have even done ASW on an LPD and we did not have a sonar. We did have outstanding data links and a big flight deck though so we drove everyone else around the sea and controlled the Helos.

Glass Half Full

I should have qualified my comment better wrt primary role. Indeed you can ask any vessel to do ASW work, particularly with the advent of ISO based ASW mission modules from the likes of Thales and future USV/UUV capabilities. Or as you point out a T45 pinging the hell out of the ocean and deploying a Wildcat with a torpedo in the event it finds something. The downside is that its active sonar will have advertised exactly where it is, if that wasn’t already known. I suspect torpedoes are only going to be getting much smarter in future, so this… Read more »

Gunbuster

The S2087 tail on a T23 and a T26 is active. Yes its LF but its still active.
A T26 hull form that is used as a basis for a AAW unit is attractive. I doubt however that the MOD will stump up the cash for a ASW/AAW variant that retains the ASW nice to haves. Double raft mounting of equipment amongst other quietening techniques, is to expensive a proposition.

Glass Half Full

Passive-only operation capable too though. From very low, through medium to ultra-high frequencies. Including mammal monitoring, to seek out those pesky Russian Beluga whales no doubt.

Gunbuster

Ah the joys of Air weapon handling… T42- manual handling using portable rails and Didsbury hand wound hoist- Manpower at least 6 T22- manual handling using portable rails and Didsbury hand wound hoist- Manpower at least 6 T23- Air powered handling system manpower 3-4 T26- Powered handling system Manpower probably 2 but you will need 4. A T23 system is powered but it had manual back ups if it lost the air to the drive motors ( Air powered because you want to keep electrics to a minimum in a weapon mag). To pull the torpedo , DC or Skua… Read more »

Ron

Gunbuster, Thanks for that, in fact can I have your permission to keep that info. The reason is that I am writing my PhD thesis in Naval History, (tactics and strategy) mostly Mahan stuff. So along the way I collect information, store it as I never know when it might prove useful.
Its funny that you mention the T42 as one of my friends was the naval architect for the T42 hull.

Gunbuster

Now I know who to blame for the carp accom we had during my time on the Brum!

🙂