The recent military action taken in April against chemical weapons targets in Syria demonstrated the wider range of missile options available to the United States and French Navies for use against land targets, says a report by the Defence Committee.

By contrast, the Royal Navy has only the option of submarine-launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM)—an option that was not used.

The UK and France have entered into an agreement to produce a Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon which will expand the Royal Navy’s missile capability, but this is not due to enter service until the 2030s.

Harpoon, the Royal Navy’s principal heavy anti-ship missile, was due to be taken out of service in 2018, but this has been deferred until at least 2020.

According to the report:

“Consideration should be given to extending TLAM capability to the surface fleet, ahead of development of the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon System, which will not be in service until the 2030s.

The Harpoon anti-ship missile has also wisely been kept in service beyond 2018, but a decision about its future into the 2020s is still needed.”

Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:

“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate  and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.

The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”

39 COMMENTS

  1. I am a total supporter of giving our vessels a rounded attack capability. But which vessels? T26 will be the only ship capable of launching them, but is this not a distraction to their primary asw role? Their focus should be on anti sub and ship missiles.
    T31 is a patrol frigate and unlikely to see this capability. That leaves T45, and the logical choice to me, but will need the Mk 41 cells.

    • Well T26 will get it but that’s way in the future, as for T45 it was designed for mk41, so it shouldnt be difficult to add the 12 it was designed for, as for T31 I can see a couple added in a later batch if it was deemed necessary.

  2. We should have Mk41 on every platform T26, T45 and T31. Its too handy for launching everything from SM3 ABM to ASROC, LRASM but especially TLAM.

    It makes my blood boil that they never bothered fitting the 16 launchers into T45 just to save a few quid.

    With just 7 SSN they are far to busy and precious to be used for launching missiles at third world dictators, This job can be done by little more than a cargo ship equipped with the launchers.

    with TLAM going pout of production its probably too late to acquire any.

    • Martin, hello. When you or others write something like your post you end up getting rude and obnoxious responses from those who know best or better. This is a good site but the experts here are to often not welcoming of comments by lessor posters, such as you and I. I am always reluctant to post as it results in others just slagging me down on my stupid comments. I come here just to read the opinions of others (the slaggers) who know more than i and I value their comments. I just don’t value their tone in any response. I am not over sensitive either. The one I hated most was with me asking where the gun points were or what weapons the latest RN survey ship was carrying. For Gods sake man its a survey ship was the response. Anyway…..

      However, your right in your assertions about arms. All RN ships are warships, even if your a survey ship. The USN has a saying, if it floats it fights. It appears to me that many of the RN ships are under armed or even missing arms. Our ships should be capable of giving anyone a fighting to robustly defend themselves, be it close or longer range, land based, sea based or air attack. CIWS missing, no tubes installed, etc.

  3. The Americans have just ordered their last batch of Tomahawk. The production line is still open, but if the UK wants to top up its stock of Tomahawk, the MoD will have to make an order soon, or lose the chance, perhaps forever.

  4. I may be going against the grain here, but I believe the TLAM should remain on SSN fleet only.

    We have that capability.

    Lets spend the money on other capabilities for T26. ASROC, ASM, etc, rather than duplicating capability.

    • We have the capability to launch a handful of missiles Vs the US capability to launch hundreds in a single night. Our capability is little more than a token gesture for headlines.

      • ASROC is faster too launch than a Merlin, and helicopters cannot always fly because of conditions. ASROC is a must-have for western ASW vessels.

        • And what are you going to attach to the front end of said ASROC?
          It is not certified for a UK MK75 Sting Ray so that means it will need to have a US Mk 50 or 54 on the front end.
          Thats a whole new logistics support infastructure, magazine handling and safety certification process, software upgrades, for something that is not as good as the MK75.
          Even with the clowns in MOD procurement that’s not going to happen.

    • I would go one step further than just questioning TLAM for MK41 VLS surface fleet launch. It seems to be worth questioning the suitability of every current MK41 missile and its relevance to the UK in future versus more modern and capable MK41 options becoming available over the next 10-15 years, given when the UK will have MK41 cells to launch them from.

      With the slow build, T26 won’t be operational until 2027 and neither will its MK41 cells. T31e may have MK41 as early as 2023 …. or not if it just uses low costs VLS cells for Sea Ceptor and possibly even a Spear 3 VLS option. Interestingly T45 is shown with a Decision Point for Future Capability in 2022/23 in the National Shipbuilding Strategy so its not clear what that might imply but would seem to raise a question over installing MK41 in the interim.

      So what current and future MK41 missiles might make sense?

      Perseus seems a long way off at a nominal 2030 availability but it is a major upgrade and importantly is planned for ship, aircraft and submarine launch providing commonality which seems to be one of the major goals for UK defence missile designs. But probably pricey given its planned capabilities

      LRASM seems to be ship and aircraft only with no torpedo launch planned but the concept is being explored. Probably cheaper than Perseus but only the stop gap version will be available until 2024 and the 2024 version will be the result of a US competition so not necessarily the same as the stop gap. The 2024 version may make sense as a lower cost option alongside Perseus.

      SM2 and SM6 may not be considered a requirement outside T45/focused AAW platform use where the SM2 would seem to overlap with Aster 30 Block 0 and SM6 might overlap with Aster 30 Block 1NT. However both SM2 and SM6 are well proven solutions.

      There are probably others I have left out but the final missile I am considering is ASROC since it is often mentioned. It would use the same MK54 torpedo as the P8’s will, at least initially in the case of the P8. RN ASW torpedo doctrine aside it seems questions might arise over the future of Sting Ray by selecting ASROC and its existing monopoly in P8. Conversely qualifying Sting Ray on P8 and producing a MK41 launched Sting Ray might open up additional markets for Sting Ray and get back to desirable commonality across UK air and sea assets. Of course the RN could just decide that helicopter and non-VLS ship launched torpedoes are all that is required.

      Just some food for thought … or dismissal 🙂

      • The issue I have with the MK54 is that it is a slightly smarter front end on a 1960 era Mk46 torpedo. Thats the same weapon that Sting Ray was designed to replace.
        The MK46 propulsion system used on the MK54 is slow, has limited range and is many steps backwards compared to Sting Ray.
        As a former Air Weapons maintainer I can say that the Sting Ray is not just streets, but Avenues and Motorways ahead of the MK46 Propulsion system. Sting Ray has far greater range, speed , homing system, shallow and deep water performance, and a Direct Energy, Shaped Charge warhead which was designed to kill Soviet era double hull subs.
        The MOD needs a Sting Ray equipped P8 and possibly an ASROC as well to replace Ship Launched Torpedo tubes that are pretty much obsolete nowadays.

        • Thanks for the feedback. I included ASROC because folks love to throw it out there as an automatic choice. However, its not clear to me just how much extra capability beyond helicopter launched torpedoes VLS launched torpedoes bring? I assume VLS torpedoes could be launched under worse sea and weather conditions but can you be certain about what you’re aiming at under those conditions unless its in direct response to a torpedo already fired from the submarine? However, assuming there is a clear benefit then it seems there is plenty of time to explore Sting Ray for this.

          • It has what a 12 mile range… Having no experience of using it in the RN I would have to hazard a guess that its a bit last ditch if its ever used.Much like MTLS is on a T23. With a 12 mile range you are not going to use it on a tail acquired target that could be a least a convergence zone away at 50+ miles. You would need a target contact that is active sonar acquired. In a real life shooting contest if you get something on active then the sub has already got a wake homer with your name on it in the water and heading your way.
            Helos fly in bad weather. For ASW on a ship, bad weather is a good thing as the chances of detecting anything for either side drop off dramatically. That lets you rest and recover for a while before you start again. Environmentals get messed up, surface noise from rain, wind , waves mess up detection and the nice predictable thermocline’s and surface ducts get stired and mixed up.

            Merlin has a far longer range and can isolate a target using its own organic sensors. It can carry 4 torpedoes itself and once those have gone it can still dip and use its sonobuoys on a contact whilst a Wildcat pony brings some more Sting Rays for a MATCH attack.

          • Thanks again for the detailed reply Gunbuster. I suspected what you described to be the case but lacked any reference to confirm it.

  5. There is a huge cost difference in ship launched Vs SUV launched too. So they would prob pay for themselves the next time we launch 10 to destroy a small building in the middle of nowhere.

  6. Tomahawk has been box-launched in the past on the re-activated Iowa class battleships (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armored_Box_Launcher). I wonder whether any of those ABLs are still around in any sort of state that they might be refurbishable. If missiles are being fired from a decent standoff range with escorts for the firing vessel then an RFA vessel such as a Bay with plenty of deck space might be able to host TLAM as a stopgap until Mk41 solutions come into service. Even after Mk41 solutions come into service it might still be useful to have the ABLs kept in storage somewhere for possible redeployment if any situation arose that required maximum possible capability.

    • There are probably some old box launchers off the old Spruance class from before their VLS upgrade. However those things are old, as in the sailors who worked with them are welcoming their grandchildren.

    • Israel is also under a lot more threat than the UK. It has a very discreet need and so can fund things the UK can not. However has Israel got 2 super carriers? Have they got Ballistic missile submarines? In fact have they got any locally produced subs?

      The UK has developed many missiles. I am not sure what your point is regarding this…

      • Israel also gets, or at least used to get, massive amounts of money from the USA.

        In the early 2000s I was sitting across from a senior Israeli official in the final stages of negotiating a big sale and he told me very explicitly, “we want your product but if you can get it approved for FMF(*) purchase then it will be a hell of a lot easier for me to get the budget. For every $1 I have to spend from my local budget I have $10 of FMF funding”. I did get my product approved for FMF funding (that’s the US money coming in) and, being a part of that program, the final negotiations had to be done with a buyer based in Israel’s New York Embassy (or Consulate, I forget but I do still remember his name) and the product had to be officially delivered to a warehouse in New Jersey rather than to the location in Israel. Presumably it was then onward-shipped.

        Although I was never told my contact at the Israeli reseller who I was working with on the sale was pretty sure that the project we were selling into was Iron Dome.

        (*) I actually forget whether the funding program was referred to as “FMF” (Foreign Military Funding) or “FMS” (Foreign Military Support) but, apart from my possibly getting the three letter acronym slightly wrong, the above is pretty much a verbatim quote of the conversation. We then went into detailed discussions about what I would have to do to get my product approved most of which I have forgotten.

  7. Just to clarify a point for Keithdwat. The type 45 destroyer was designed for, has an allocated space for and is wired to receive mk41 strike length vl silos. Unfortunately they were constructed fitted for but not with these crucial weapons.
    It would be a very easy armed forces win to fit strike length vl silos to the type 45s whilst they are in dry dock having their power and propulsion issues resolved.
    By a rough estimate 2x 16 cell vl silos would cost about £70 million per ship. Then missile load and order for LRASM, tomahawk, asroc would cost a further £600 million for say 300 missiles (200 of each) that would truely then maxi.ise the type 45 hull and make them much more capable multi role warships, similar but less heavily armed then arleigh Burke’s but with superior air defence radar.
    We just need to find the money to make this work.
    I see foreign aid budget is going to be circa £16 billion give away this year. That’s the answer I am afraid. Sorry to nuclear armed space programme India and Pakistan but we are going to need our money kept in the UK.
    Our government definetly is failing in its first priority the defence of the realm.

  8. The Arrowhead proposal for Type 31 will include Mk41 VLS, Type 26 will have it and we can retrofit to Type 45. Ship launched Tomahawk is cheaper to purchase and we would be foolish not to order the new anti ship variant.
    We can’t afford to use Very limited SSN fleet as bomb carriers as it were.

  9. Is the UK actually ready for an extra 1% spend. I can hear all the military people saying YES (I do tend to agree that there is too much hand to mouth to just cover essentials). However my question is to HMG, will the money be spent in the UK or will it just result in buying overseas equipment? I don’t think we’ve got much new innovative equipment that can be brought as COTS that MOD want to buy coming through (at best it’s licensed in to manufacture in the UK, if that). The point being this may be better received if it can be shown that the money is staying in the UK economy, not adding to a balance of payment deficit and ideally helping the UK economy grow and improve productivity. To do this well, MOD should explore how it would build new supply capability, where the technology was home grown and could be exported (ideally dual-use to really bring in pound notes). There is a lot to be said for SBIR (not to be confused with SBRI that is laughable if you’ve seen what the US do, which is measured in product sales!). Put out calls to see how small business could help MOD deliver productivity gains, if you don’t look you don’t find. Start small, once this can be shown it can rolled out. One buck in delivers $12 back to the US economy on a wider basis, it works! Treasury would not be able to ignore that! Start small.

    • They had a accident similar on USS Sullivans a few years ago where the booster on a older SM-2 being expended during training exploded a few feet off the deck. But it at least launched so it didn’t cause any damage beyond a small fire.
      On the Saschen it seems it happened in the tube so that’s going to be expensive.

      • Yep…and they will still have to remove what is left of the missile and warhead from the tube and the missiles from the adjacent tubes which have been heat stressed…sprays or no sprays

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