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The latest offering for the Type 31 Frigate programme is from Babcock, the Arrowhead 120.

The company say Arrowhead is capable of fulfilling and supporting global maritime security requirements and representing defence interests world-wide.

Babcock say they can supply the vessels from its own shipyards or assist with building vessels locally via a technical collaboration.

The Arrowhead design allows for either a single build strategy, using the maximum of pre-outfitting for efficiency, or a cross-site build strategy utilising modules. The latter approach has been successfully adopted by many naval programmes using a technical collaboration model to deliver completed ships at a lead yard.

The company are promoting their claims that they can deliver the whole build package, including licences, design and materials and provide assistance with infrastructure upgrades and construction support if required.

“Our collaborative capability is proven in the success of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. Babcock is a key member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance responsible for the delivery of these ships to the Royal Navy. Similar collaborative work is being undertaken for the US Coast Guard in the development of the design for a new Offshore Patrol Cutter with Eastern Shipbuilding in the USA.”

The vessel is able to host a Medium Calibre Gun options up to 5” for maritime interdiction, self-protection and engagement of surface and land targets. Small calibre weapons up to 30mm calibre can be located in pre-designated upper-deck weapon positions. Provision for up to 8 SSGW and Vertical Launch missiles (SAM/SSGW) up to 16 cells. The option also exists to fit Close-In Weapons System (e.g. Phalanx).

Click to enlarge

“The baseline Arrowhead design can be configured to meet the broad range of operational requirements and profiles a general purpose frigate will be called upon to undertake.

The Arrowhead design acknowledges operational roles will change through the life of the ship and from mission to mission. Multiple mission bays have been incorporated into the design allowing for rapid reconfiguration and rerole to meet changing operational needs.”

With large re-configurable mission and payload areas onboard, Arrowhead , it is hoped, can provide flexibility across a range of operational roles, from HADRO (Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief Operations) to unmanned systems deployment and operation.

89 COMMENTS

    • Does anyone know why the steel work os always very blotchy or wrinkled on RN ships compared to european frigates? Is it deliberate or down to different grades of steal used in construction. I dont think the French use more composite materials.

      • The welding differentially heats where the joins are. Edges & frames get heated while flat areas are not, causing different stresses on the plating. The worse is remidied by heating & beating, but perfection is rare & not necessary. Post-build work also contributes. I’m no expert though.

  1. I think Being Babcock will help give it an edge over the options, as a proven shipbuilder. Won’t be surprised if this is the new T31e, assuming it comes in on price of course

      • He said a proven shipbuilder. They designed our aircraft carriers and new supply ships. They also built parts of the carrier and have their own ship yards capable of producing military ships.

      • Keyword ‘shipbuilder’. Currently building the latest Irish OPV I believe, including other other work on the QE carriers etc. OK not a frigate or destroyer, but still a ship or doesn’t that count?

  2. 5 of these or 5 Venators (in the light frigate config) I think would be very good options. They are even nice looks. The BAe stuff looks utterly crap and for the most part just a stretched OPV which we really don’t want or need……given all the fuss some people have made over the B2 OPV we are getting.

    I just wish to christ they’d bin off that godforsaken Foreign Aid budget and divert that money back into the things OUR country needs. Charity starts at home.

  3. Personally I would like to see a Joint Venture emerge with a hybrid design from pre-selected options using criteria such as performance, constructability, adaptability, price, potential for foreign sales etc.

    Moreover any design should be configured for modular construction and assembly. In this way not only would ensure competence is maintained across more shipyards but conceivably modules or assembly could be sub-contracted to foreign yards in order to promote overseas sales – nothing says “buy me” like industrial offsets.

  4. Looks impressive and well laid out, at least to this lamen.

    Good to see competing designs coming through from Babcock, BMT and Stellar. BAE noticably quiet at the moment, I hope they pull out of the design competition personally.

    • Exceedingly subjective I know, but If the phrase if it looks right it is right means anything this design is out in front to my eye. Always struck me a clean simple form for this type of vessel to maximise flexibility and space would be most fitting. This imediately fits that criteria. A more specialist take I will leave to those more equipped to get down and dirty on the specs.

    • It would certainly be good to see BAE out of this one given the lack of innovation on their part, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they’re quiet is that they’ve already had a quiet nod that the contract is theirs.

      We really need to diversify a bit more.

  5. It looks impressive. Like Joshua, I hope those 16 cells are talking about Mk41 sized, not because I think T31 needs Mk41 (although the option would be nice) but if it is 16 Sea Ceptor then that isn’t enough. A Venator-sized fit, e.g. 48 Sea Ceptor or 24 Sea Ceptor + 8 Mk41 is fine especially since Arrowhead also has provision for box launchers.

    Just looking at the specs I’d be pretty happy with this, Spartan or Venator 110. In fairness the jury is still out on Cutlass because BAE have released so few details. An Avenger-based design would be a big disappointment (buy more River B2 if all that is going to be procured is a stretched OPV). The 1SL’s comments seem to indicate that we aren’t on a path to Avenger though which is good.

    The Save The Royal Navy article has more renders and a link to the PDF by the way: http://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/babcock-announces-arrowhead-another-option-for-the-type-31-frigate-competition/

      • Thanks Ron. Is that from the 9 page PDF that is on the STRN article that I linked to above? If yes then I can’t see the bit that you’re talking about, or maybe we’re each reading the spec a different way.

        I see numerous mention of 8 + 16 but I read that as the 8 being the box launchers just behind the mast and the 16 being the VLS silo between the gun and the bridge. E.g. on the ship overhead view on page 3 it calls out the armaments in pink and says “- Deck space for up to 8 SSGW(…) – VLS(…) up to 16 cells” and it then highlights two areas on the ship with pink circles which is why I read it as saying that 8 box launchers behind the mast can co-exist with up to 16 VLS behind the gun.

        I’m still confused by the size of those VLS. Based on the deck area I would be surprised (and disappointed) if they couldn’t do the Venator trick and be up to 48 Sea Ceptor or maybe more. More would be useful if Spear 3 ever gets its soft-launch VLS capability.

        • I think its safe to say that by VLS they mean a Mk41-or-equivalent sized tube. Given that Harpoon is retiring and any future missile weapons the RN are after will be VLS based, I’d hope that instead of the box launchers that space could be given over to a Sea Ceptor-specific silo amidships (preferably for 24 missiles like on the T26). 16 strike tubes and a 5″ gun would be more than enough of an offensive load for a light escort.

          For comparison purposes, a new Russian frigate, the Admiral Grigorovich, has a 100mm gun, 8 strike tubes, and 24 Shtil-1 anti-air silos (+8 Iglas, 4 torpedo launchers and the RBU-6000 rocket launcher). From a numbers standpoint, the T31 has the potential for double the anti-ship/cruise missile, and a much larger gun for NGS, while the Adm. Grig. has technically a larger armament that is better suited to ASW

  6. One other point. Interesting that both Venator 110 and Arrowhead 120 fall short of the MoDs stated 6,500nm range requirement (both are 6,000nm – I haven’t checked Spartan or Cutlass specs). Maybe that will be tweaked in a design revision and/or met by redefining what economical cruising speed is used in order to reach the 6,500nm target.

  7. This is a great option in my opinion and I would be happy with this. Cost wise I think its doable as well based on the following assumptions:

    Base Build, M&E and Fit Out = £125m (based upon River and Irish frigate costs).
    Gun = £30m (based on contracts signed for 76mm Otto and Mk5 in last 5 yrs).
    VLS = £20m (Mk41 non strike length -16 cells).
    Radars = £5m ( based upon data from artisan and navigation deals).
    Combat systems = £10m
    CIW’s = £10m (includes a Rolling air frame on back of hanger)
    Captas Compact C4 = £5m
    Other items = £15m
    Contingency = £25m

    Arrowhead really does seem to be an option and the fact that Babcock are involved in the US CG build gives it export credentials from the off.

    Pretty impressive if we can do this – which I think we can.

    • Agreed, and some nice detective work there on pulling together costs (assuming they are correct – did you remember to inflation-adjust them because a lot of procurement reference points can be from quite old purchases and we do have this wretched Sterling devaluation to deal with as well). A couple of comments.

      1 – No provision in your costing for box launchers or is that in “any other items”? I think that is essential so that…

      2 – If necessary to keep costs down I would be OK with no Mk41 and only soft launch especially if the VLS Spear 3 sees the light of day. Box launchers would also be necessary though.

      The gun is an interesting one. The T26 5″ is going to blow the budget so where does that leave us? I’ve heard talk of recycling the T23 4.5″ guns but how much life is left in those? I’ve also heard arguments against going with the apparently very capable Oto Melara 76mm due to the cost of the extra logistics chain. With no obvious answer the 76mm seems the best choice and, perhaps once a logistics chain is in place, that might also make it easier to consider it on the next generation MCM vessels (which will probably be bigger motherships e.g. Venari-85) and possibly even up gunning the River B2s (the Irish OPVs mostly have 76mm, maybe we could even do some defence collaboration to share logistics costs).

      • Julian I haver responded in more detail below – but wanted to say separately that I believe we should standardise on Mk41 or Mk57 VLS for the whole fleet to get efficiency of scale.

        Mk 41 comes in 3 lengths: Strike (T45/T26), tactical and self defence(T31) and I think an order for all 19 escorts of varying sizes would bring about some cost benefits and standardise the fleet. important in keeping costs under control.

        • I don’t know the costs but I’m not sure I agree. Mk41 are hot-vent so a not insubstantial cost vs soft-launch tubes which, as I understand it, are pretty much drain pipes (I exaggerate for effect). If we can afford Mk41 within the budget then fine but, if not, I would be OK with all soft-launch VLS so long as there are box launchers for something like NSM or similar and also highly desirable to have a VLS Spear 3 option as well.

          We’ll probably need to agree to differ on this one although I’m not an expert so am happy to do a 180 degree U turn if anyone points out compelling facts. For export flexibility though I do agree that it should definitely be able to accommodate Mk41 even if the RN doesn’t use that capability.

          • Hi Julian

            no need to differ at all – I do not believe these strike length silos – so am more than happy for these to be the cheapest most cost effective silo going. If it makes it easier to maintain even better.

            for me the T45/T26 and Astutes are our Strike capability I would like these to have medium and short range AD missiles and a compact C4 would be money better spent in my opinion.

            Goes to show how this can be done though with some intelligence and decision making on key areas.

  8. One thing I would say about this design is that I wouldn’t like to be the person on the gun in line with the harpoon exhaust chute – not somewhere I would like to be standing at any point – hopefully that position is remote.

  9. Hi Julian

    In response – all figures are in todays money (not index linked at all) – for contracts like this the time value of money is taken into consideration during negotiations.

    The cost of the gun is fairly accurate as it is taken from the indicated prices for T26 order.
    Mk41 is best guess based on a lot of research – it is the cost of 16 cells strike – so I am being conservative (actually it is often referenced at $10m for 8 cells) – The Mk41 comes in several sizes so we can put in a massive order for the T45/T26 and T31 fleet to reduce costs further.

    The Otto is an amazing system with auto loader and I would personally put a 76mm on these with the biggest magazine possible – but this introduces a new system and is probably a non starter as a result (export wise this is the best fit though).

    Box launchers tend to come in circa £1m each so add £8m for these as required.

    I have tried to put together a view of costs apportioned based on info out in the real world and also on this site (Gun and Radars for instance) – from that I think we can make a fair assumption that for £250m the RN can get something quite special if industry really wants to get behind it.

    I also think that the yards can probably make 5-10% profit on these if they are bright about it – for Babcock this would probably mean building on a single site I guess, having had success with the Irish and USCG.

    • Re index linking figures, I didn’t mean any net present value / discounted cash flow analyses, I meant that if for instance the Rivers cost £116 each that was for an order placed 4 years ago so would be more expensive if ordered today. It is whether you inflation-adjusted (not indexed-linked) your estimated costs to allow for any gap between when in the past you took your source figures from and the likely equivalent price that would need to be paid if the order was placed today that I was talking about.

      (Re Rivers, I do realise that those costs also included a spares and support package, I was just using as a convenient example of an old order for whatever it contained that would cost more if placed today.)

      • Hi Julian – in that case no – I have taken the average that seems to be circa £1m per metre length – arbitary but also fairly accurate for this kind of forecast.

        • Thanks Pacman. Your figures are interesting. They seem reasonable to me and are a good breakdown for some of the naysayers who are convinced we can’t get more than a pimper OPV for £250m. Once suppliers start gouging the MoD, and factoring in the extra expense of non-Sterling equipment after the referendum due to Sterling depreciation they might yet be right but I’m not convinced that is a given and am willing to stay optimistic at this point. To my mind we have three good designs now (Arrowhead, Spartan & Venator) and that has to be good for each one trying to make sure that their design delivers the most bang for the buck. This could be very healthy competition.

          How are the finances working out for the bidding? Is it the case that until someone is chosen all design revisions and extra detail needs to be funded by the bidders? I assume this is how it works in which case that would be primary advantage to BAE because it has the most resources and presumably secondary advantage to Babcock as the next biggest in terms of resources to throw at fleshing out the designs during the bidding phase.

  10. Bloody Hell at last we have TWO contenters Babcock and Spartan this really look like a brilliant ship that might even reach the EXPORT market. Well done Babcock if you can deliver this with good weapon systems and “fitted for but not with” crap. UK may be back in the business of building ships make sure they can operate in Cold and Warm water if we are going to export them. Just KEEP BAE SYSTEMS out of any thing to do with ship building and we might get somewhere. We can s*&t can BAE designs as stretched OPV

    • As far as BAE designs go (I won’t comment on costs) I agree that Avenger very much has the look of a stretched OPV about it but I wouldn’t be comfortable writing Cutlass off just yet. BAE have told us almost nothing about it except that it is the exact same length as Venator 110 (117m) and from memory very similar displacement. After that all we have to go on really are the artist’s impressions and there Cutlass is a much more monolithic ship (more flat radar reflecting surfaces and fewer obvious topside spaces for weapons stations) but BAE hasn’t released any overhead views (that I’ve seen) so we really have no idea what weapons and internal mission spaces it might have. As I said, I’m saying nothing about cost, just capability.

      I confess that the lack of topside space makes me think no box launchers and the lack of hatches in the side makes me think no internal mission hangar for extra RIB or USVs so at this point I’m not expecting Cutlass to be up there with Spartan, Venator or Arrowhead but it would help make the judgement if BAE would tell us more about it (or just withdraw from the design race).

  11. Wouldn’t let Babcock build a campfire.
    It’llbe late and well over budget.All they’ve done in Faslane is right royally rip off the taxpayer

  12. Agreed guys, she looks really good, I would say money has to be found for the 5″ gun though, gunfire support and access to extended range guided munitions has to be a key requirement.

  13. Since we will have 4.5 inch guns in service until the 2040s on type 45 then recycling the ones from the Type 23s seems to make sense, given the cost of the new 5 inch weapon. That being the case it would make sense to put the new 5 inch guns on the Type 31s and the recycled 4.5s on the Type 26 as the Type 31 is more likely to be tasked with the NGFS mission and that’s where the new guns extended range and ability to fire smart ammunition come in. Either way we won’t keep costs to £250 million if we spend 10% of it on new guns.

    • Agree with your thinking, but the order for the first 3 5in guns for the Type 26 has been placed with BAe. Babcock refurbished the 4.5in guns on the Type 23 not that long ago I think so porting them to Type 31 would seem an obvious move to keep the costs down.

      • I’m sure I read that by the time the last 23 is razor blades we will have removed the 4.5 inch from the fleet and only be operating a single medium gun, so at some point the 45s should get a five inch, simple because of the economics of reduced on costs of retiring an equipment line completely.

        • Indeed. But the ambitious timetable ( which we all welcome) for Type 31 might change that. Depends what BAe quote Babcock for 5 x Mk45 guns 🙂

  14. Some great comments on here, especially about the costing, after reading this I believe a £250m ship is quite achievable.

    So it’s Arrowhead 120, Spartan or Venator-110, three excellent designs and what great competition, that’s what a competitive edge brings, great innovative designs and competitive pricing. I’m going to look forward to the decision and final design.

  15. On the subject of Guns I think we need to go new and decide on whether we bring 76mm into inventory or go with the 5″. They are expensive to purchase (although I think costs will come down with a larger order) but we will make it back on support. The 4.5’s are outdated and really need to be swapped out.

    Having taken a look at both Arrowhead and Spartan I see elements in both I like, spartan has a great multi mission spaces that seem really well thought out, whilst the Arrowhead despite filling in the middle of the two hexagon of the Spartan with a more meaningful centre mission space seems to be less well developed. Hard to say given we are looking at sales brochures, but I suspect if we could bring both designs together into a single package then we really will have a world class platform.

    As for cost I have often been told on TD that the hull itself is relatively inexpensive in comparison to the weapons fit – I think 50/50 is about right and as such £30m for a gun seems reasonable (assume again this includes support which should be stripped out).

    As I said earlier we need to get better at marketing – £200m for one of these and lets put the support costs out separately as I do believe we are scaring everyone (including ourselves) about costs.

  16. Arrowhead look right for a frigate ( as does Spartan). I like the family resemblance to Type 26. Cutlass (and Venator actually) still has the look of an OPV.

  17. Both the shipbuilding strategy report and the Type 31e competition scope are heavy on references to the export ability of these new frigates. The “e” is for “export”. It is for this reason that the winner is sure to include Mk41. I think the 76mm Oto-Melaka gun would be a solid option because it is ubiquitous and will be very familiar to potential export customers. I suspect that the ships for the RN. Would carry quad-packed Sea Ceptor in the Mk41. I’m struggling to see how these weapons and a decent sensor fit could be had for the $250M fixed price. We’ll certainly find out soon, though. If the first is to be readied by 2023, there can’t be more than about eighteen months available to choose the winner and sign (and fund) the contract. My money’s on Venator because it’s based on a ship that has already been designed and built for hot-weather operations. I suspect that the 31s will regularly be deployed to our base in the Middle East. I do like the Babcock design, though…only based on the picture in this article.

  18. Lots of very good and interesting points have been made above. Here are my thoughts:

    – Due to (the now known) time and financial constraints, it’s likely that the Type 31e will inherit Artisan, Sea Ceptor and the 4.5″ naval gun from the Type 23’s. Time and money will not be on this ship’s side.

    – Babcock’s naval and ship building experience may edge the Arrowhead over the Venator and Spartan.

    – The Type 31e will need to be able to accommodate Mark41 VLS to be attractive for export. That includes to the US market for their frigate requirements. The UK Government should aim high and start to sound out the requirements of the Americans and see how the Type 31e can fit into their plans.

    – The elephant in the room is anti-ship missiles. It is scandalous that our navy should wait 13 years for anti-ship missiles and this needs to be addressed asap. Due to the time constraints and the likelihood that the Royal Navy version of the Type 31e will not have Mark 41 VLS, I see box launchers as the only option.

    • “The UK Government should aim high and start to sound out the requirements of the Americans and see how the Type 31e can fit into their plans”

      This definitely, although it will be just the design that gets sold, what it does do is take out a massive chunk of the competition.

      The Royal Saudi Navy is going through a massive extension program, just had a look they have 7 ageing French built frigates and it looks like they have a deal with the US for just 4 LCS at $6b in total, but they want to grow their fleet so we should be using our relationship with Saudi Arabia to get a massive piece of this Pie, and sucure an export order with them.

      • The Saudi’s Freedom-class LCS will have Mark 41 VLS and Harpoon and look to be better specced than the US version. I think a Type 31e with Mark 41 VLS, Artisan, Sea Ceptor would complement their four LCS quite well.

        The French and Italians appears to be kissing and making up after their spat regarding the Italian proposed takeover of the French STX yard and the French are aggressively trying to sell their submarines and frigates worldwide.

        The UK Government needs to pull it’s finger out and proactively muscle in on all the frigate markets the French are going for.

        As for the Americans, I would like for the UK to build 5 Type 31e’s for the US Navy and then the US can buy the Type 31e design and build the rest of their frigates. In return, the UK will buy box launched and VLS LRASM for the Type 45, 26 and 31e.

  19. Re the main gun options, I think we will see a standardisation on the 5″ gun across T45 (mid life refit), T26 and T31.

    We need system capable of accurate long range land attack on the T31

    5″ gun and quad packed Sea Ceptor have to be a standard armament, after all it will be the T31 that has to get up close and personal with an amphibious landing, it certainly won’t be T26 or T45 .

    When the shit and bullets are flying on the beach, it will be the T31 in the thick of it, a 76mm just won’t cut it in my opinion.

  20. The thing to remember about the 76mm Oto-Melara is while it’s very well distributed it has pluses and minuses.

    Pluses: 1. It’s relatively cheap for a new mount 2. Widely distributed so good for exports 3. Guided munitions available in the form of DART (cheaper and customer base present though small) and a variant of Volcano in development (spendy and of limited utilities to nations with no satellites).
    Minuses: 1. Not in service in the UK. So no logistics chain or raiding usable parts off decommissioning units. 2. Horribley maintenance intensive. The USN crews of Perry class frigates hated the things for that reason. Which brings me on to reason 3. While ubiquitous it is on the way out in places like the US, Australia , and Canada. Replacing them with either Bofors 57s or 5ins depending unit size.

    • Also I forgot to mention that both 57 (though way to light for this application) and the far more capable 5in are already made by BAE so no imports needed.

  21. When you consider an armed intervention like the 2011 attack on Libya, a T31 relatively close to shore with a 5″ gun, ER guided munitions and a UAV to spot targets, would soon prove its worth.

    indeed if you factor in the reduced requirement for air strikes in such a future operation, it would soon start paying dividends.

  22. I would consider the fitting of a 127mm gun with its firing range of nearly 40km with standard shells a priority, along with sea ceptor and a small calibre cannon. Given the nature of potential conflict.

    Additional weapon fits of a anti ship missiles and a CIWS would be of a lower priority.

    Type 997 radar is probably the preferred sensor over fixed AESA type. As for sonars, it is unlikely that an effective anti submarine one will be fitted given the cost constraints.

  23. The cost of the bae mk45 mod 4 gun is a potential problem, however I note that a contract was placed by the US navy for three such weapons and costed at US $45m although this was sometime ago.

    Given the UK has already opted for this weapon and will have the infrastructure to support it, surely it’s the logical choice.

    • I suppose it’s difficult to know what we paid for ours because that initial contract with the seemingly eye-watering price (£183m in July this year) included 3 ship guns, an extra for shore based training, and then who knows how much munitions, initial training and whatever other startup costs might be involved. If one simply divides by 4 it gives a unit price of just under £46m per gun which is a million miles away from the $15m per gun for the long-time-ago (how long?) US sale.

      I’ve seen people quoting figures of actual per-gun cost of about £30m before but not seen any attribution or rationale for that figure. In the context of the UK £183m purchase and assuming a fair amount of it is initial one-off startup costs £30m each does sound somewhat feasible though.

      • The contract was from 2005, a long time ago I know, but it’s the most specific I could find in a quick search and was reported in US based defence industrial daily.

        The unit cost of a mk45 mod 4 in 2017 is a puzzle, not sure how the UK MOD contract is made up unit cost plus support costs plus training and so on?

        For me NGFS is a top priority for a T31, would we want to risk an expensive t26 in that role? I think not.

        Given the infrastructure costs have been paid I consider it to be a must for the T31.

        • The reason the cost is lower by that much is in the US DOD owns the Technical Data Rights (TDR) for the mk.45 all mods. So BAE has to play ball on the price to the USN or find the contract lost to GD or ATK.
          Not a deal BAE would make now but they inherited it so weren’t given much choice. So they make it up by screwing other like the UK and Aus.

          • I agree we are not going get the mk45 mod4 the same price as the US navy, but it’s a very large price difference between what we are paying and the US pays.

            For me it’s a puzzle which I would like explained by someone. Maybe then we can see if this weapon is affordable for T31.

          • Didn’t Elliott just explain the reason (TDR ownership) quite completely? Thanks Elliott, very interesting if slightly depressing reading.

            Maybe it isn’t literally presented this way but in effect does it mean that when the US DOD buys the gun they pay BAE for the components, the assembly and some BAE profit margin on that whereas when the UK or any other non-US buys the gun they pay for all of the above plus an additional amount for use of the TDR that BAE either passes on to the US DOD or is allowed to keep for itself in return for deeply discounting the US pricing?

          • Yes on the discount no on the passing additional profit to DOD. BAE inherited the deal when they purchased United Defense. United Defense’s main products at the time were M113, Bradley IFVs, and assorted artilley and one of the manufacturers of MK41 VLS.

  24. I like this idea but i prefer the spartan because it can hold a merlin and its cost effective it also holds more missiles and it can be changed easy into a different configureation

  25. With my moniker Guns are something I do know about.
    The OTO 76 is a great gun.
    I worked on it when It was in service with the RN on the Peacock Class patrol boats in Hong Kong.It was light, had a high rate of fire and had a big on tap ammo supply on the mount. However the feed system is mechanically linked together from top to bottom so when it went wrong it went wrong massively and things got broken and bent in a big way. Its good for Maritime security work but does not cut it for NGS.

    The Mk8 4.5 is another good gun. The latest MOD 1 variants have removed most of the temperamental and maintenance intensive hydraulics and gone electric. They are a far better gun to maintain and to keep going than the old MOD 0 guns where. The Extended Range ammo has helped to give it an extended lease of life. However it is manpower intensive to load. With 20 ready rounds on mount it needs manpower to keep loading shells onto the Auto loader. It does do all that its asked to do but the weight of shell is now borderline for NGS and it is (Mostly) only used by the UK

    The 5″ has a large user base . In its latest guise it is an exceptional weapon. With the latest magazine handling system it has reduced the manpower foot print required to load and operate it to 6 people. The shells have a good payload capacity and it has growth capacity in the design.

    If the aim is to keep manpower on the new boats low then the Mk 8 isn’t a viable option . That leaves you with OTO and the 5″. As OTO has little if any NGS value it all depends on what the powers that be want the role of the vessel to be. If they want NGS in the mix then the 5″ is the simple choice. If you don’t want NGS in the mix then it will be the OTO.

    • Reading the spec I’ve a feeling that the RN is thinking in terms of an eventual fleet of 10 of these ships with the first batch batch of 5 being light in weight, fast ‘patrol frigates’ armed with the Bofors 57mm to fulfil standing requirements in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Home waters, Nato and the Gulf. My impression as layman is that this is the urgent pressure point for the RN. There might then be a second production batch of ‘Light frigates’ equipped with the Mk45 gun for more expeditionary NGS. Or you might interleave production flexibly as the Type 23’s are retired. So I could see us having 2 significantly different variants of this ship. What’s in a name? River Batch 2 is a completely different ship from River Batch 1.

  26. Thanks for the insight Gunbuster. I hadn’t taken into account the crewing requirement when considering the main gun.

    As a crew of less than 100 (preferably 90) seems to be the goal, it does concern me that extensive automation of systems tends to come with a hefty price tag, due to the greater systems complexity.

    Its going to be hard keeping to the rather tight unit price without compromising…

  27. I really cant see the 4.5inch gun serving pasted the last type 23 ( infact I could see it going even before then). You only get true benefits realisation (cash savings) when you retire something completely, that way you can dismantle all the support infrastructure behind it (training, munitions, spare etc). So I would lay a bet on the 45s getting a five inch gun sometime in the next 10-15 years. The RN 31s will likely get a five inch purely on the economics of reduced on costs (it will be one of the few examples of increase capital costs showing an apsolute cast iron saving), if they don’t give the 31 the 5 inch then the only logical ( from an on cost piont of view) gun would be the same as what ever the OPVs have at the time. The export version of the 31 will clearly have options to fit the customers meduim gun of choice.

    • I read the spec to mean the core main gun requirement is for killling FAC out to the horizon and the adaptable requirement is for NGS (> 76mm). Rate of fire is more important for the FAC requirement which would suggest the Bofors 57mm. Perhaps the first ( cheap) batch of 5 for Caribbean, Gulf, Nato, South Atlantic and home patrol could have the 57mm. My understanding is that this is the urgent RN requirement. A production batch might have the Mk45 with an emphasis on NGS. Export customers would probably choose the OTO 76mm. Interestingly the 57mm would give the RN compatibilty with the LCS and the US Coastguard.

    • Good point re the gun type and through life costs vs capital costs. How though does the bidder factors this into the proposal – the request is to design the most capable frigate for £250million. This encourages the inclusion of the cheapest kit, not the most economical through life or use of kit currently in use with the RN. I also wonder how the bidders can factor in the kit that can be harvested from the retiring T23s – how do they value them, and do these count within the £250 million cap?

      • When MoD DE&S evaluate the bids they have to add in the costs for all the Defence Lines of Development:
        Training
        Equipment
        Personnel
        Information
        Concepts and Doctrine
        Organisation
        Infrastructure
        Logistics
        and the overarching requirement for Interoperability.
        See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_management for an overview and the Acquisition System Guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/acquisition-operating-framework for more detail than anyone could want.

      • Dan

        Its actually pretty easy to balance this out with the appropriate framework in place. I think the choices for most items are limited (Mk41/Sylver, Otto/BAE for the guns etc), so actually I think the RN know the costs of most systems.

        They should also know the costs of support and maintenance by now as they do enough of it and will be able to spot false claims.

        The key here is to push to competition as hard as possible whilst ensuring we get core components.

        We know we can get large double hulled tankers built for circa £100m each – so the steel and fabrication for a 120m escort could/should come in around /less than this. We also know ballpark figures for key systems such as compact C4 sonar, Artisan, nav systems etc and their general support costs.

        As others have said this is where competitive tender come into their own, one of these bidders will put a design/build forward that is unbeatable and the RN will go for it. Care will need to be exercised that it is realistic and doesn’t destroy the industry as this is what happened in the 80’s with low ball bids that sent yards into receivership.

        I really do think this is all doable it just needs care and collaboration to ensure its sustainable and beneficial to the industry.

        • Should have added that the support costs for these ships should be considerably less than the outgoing T23’s so could be a real win/win.

  28. Why not a bigger vessel with more space and range. Not silly-size but large enough to operate Chinooks and launch a useful number of troops to shore, a company of marines say. Stick a big gun on the front of it, plus or minus a missile silo or two. And make lots of them for christ’s sake. Why on earth are we messing around with ‘5 or more’? Get 15-20 of these larger shells and up-specc them as necessary. Going to a gunfight? Put two missile silos onboard. Going to sit in the Atlantic or Med? Go with a couple of lynx. Going to the Caribbean in the wake of a hurricane? Put modular operating theatres in, or whatever. Space is the greatest luxury.
    The Navy needs ships, and it would be far more beneficial if they were true generalists not piddling little specialists. In a proper shooting war we’d be out of the game in no time after losing a couple of these exorbitant vessels. Surely a vessel with capacity that could be configured for different roles would be more useful and exportable? Why is it we’re not interested in going down this route?

    • Interesting read and I think totally off track. The T31 is not going to compete with full the full fat frigates mentioned in this article, they will compete with Belharra, Meko’s etc.

      I think what is interesting is the UK could commit today to building 1 T31 every year for 30 year and 1 T26 every 2 years and give the industry a real long term commitment, even if that means product revisions every 6 – 10 years.

      How do we do this – well 8 T26 are scheduled and T45 will need replaced – so that is 14 which means we have a full schedule for 28 years and can then repeat. For T31 we have 5 committed to but we do have the minehunting fleet due for renewal (15) and eventually the 5 river b2’s will need renewing which gives us 25 over a 25 year period, when we can repeat as well.

      My point which I have laboured is that we now have a strategy and we have a fleet of circa 90 major vessels that means we need to be building 3 vessels of all classes every single year.

      The cost of 1 T26 and 2 T31 every 2 years is likely to be £1-1.25bn if we can commit and sort our the procurement of these in a more structured way.

  29. There are several appealing options on the table. I just hope the MoD just don’t go all risk-averse default option of BAE Systems. The worrying thing in all this is that the government would like to grow the fleet by the “2030’s”! That’s far too long a wait. We need to be ordering ships next week, looking at the general unease in maritime affairs worlwide.

    The piracy problem hasn’t gone away, a bit more flag flying on the Rock wouldn’t go amiss and we seem to be doing more in the Baltic now. Not to mention the fact that Russian forces are extending their patrols out into the Atlantic and through the Channel more.

    I’m genuinely amiss as to why the govt won’t divert a few billion from the Aid budget to pay for some of this. It’s a gold pot ripe for picking; foreign aid is generally not a vote winner IMHO, but not being available to evacuate Britons abroad, or deliver assistance to our far flung friends in hurricanes IS a vote loser. Plus there’s the job creation element. Seems an easy win to me.

  30. Reasonable looking ship and seems capable for the requirements. I do agree with many of the comments PLEASE not BAE.
    There are two points of concern with a third please change. The first point is the helicopter hanger, could that be slightly enlarged so it could take the Merlin, it appears that it can house the EH90, Seahawk and WIldcat. This means that if the RN needed the heavier heilicopter it would need to either purchase a new type or send a T26. The next issue if the 2 quad SSM launchers mid-ships. Nearly all of the next genaration SSMs are launched from VLS, so either the company is just shown that something can be put in this position or there is a design flaw. The third issue which would be good to have is instead of 16 Sea Ceptors could it be 24.
    Apart from that is does look good.

  31. For cost reasons I think the navy will go for re using the 4.5 inch gun from the t23, maybe with a new spec of mod 2 design to bring it up to date, the 4.5 is a very good gun and the navy already has the logistics and support in place for the 4.5 not to mention an abundance of ammunition for the 4.5.

    The type 45s will never get a 5 inch on the front, the cost of modifying the ship to accept the 5 inch mount and it’s associated loading system from the magazine up would be too prohibitive. The 45’s will keep their current guns it’s not just as simple as lift a gun off and bolt a new one on.

    The point of the gun on the front is naval gunfire support (MIFS) people tout the extended range ammunition but the cost of those shells probably means they will never be purchased as the biggest point of the gun is that a 20 round burst costs a hell of alot less than one missile and is just as precise the guided shells put the cost of firing one close to that of a missile launch rendering the gun useless. Having a gun on the front is also a very visual threat it’s something people understand when they see it a gun barrel is very scary whereas an unmarked tube with an unseen missile is not very threatening at all.

    The 4.5 operates currently with a crew of about 6 guys so the 5 inch isn’t any less manpower intensive than the current system. Unfortunately I think the navy were badgered into buying the 5 inch for no other reason than it’s a BAE gun on a BEA ship the 4.5 although a BAE gun originally would not make them any money and also let’s not forget although the t31e is the export ship the t26 was originally an export ship too so fitting a 5 inch on the front already appealed to alot of navies around the world.

    The arrowhead can fit multiple guns on its bow so from a fit point of view navies can put whatever they want on there so the gun is less an issue. From the TH point of view of cost the 4.5 is the only logical choice because it will cost a fraction of 5 more 5 inch systems.

    • With their refurbishment experience of the Mk45 I think that is what Babcock will pitch on the Arrowhead. Or the Bofors 57mm, the gun on the USCG offshore cutter which I reckon is the base design for Arrowhead.

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