The crews of minehunters HMS Penzance and Chiddingfold have sailed for the Middle East.

The Royal Navy say in a news release that this is the second time the two vessels have sailed in company to the Middle East for a three-year tour of duty, having last made the extended trip between 2014 and 2017.

“Heading back to the U.K., mission accomplished, once Penzance and Chiddingfold arrive, are their sister ships HMS Blyth and Ledbury. The Royal Navy has maintained a four-strong minehunting force – bolstered by a dedicated battle staff and mother ship, currently RFA Cardigan Bay – for more than a decade.

Together, they keep the sea lanes open, deter aggression, work with allies and fly the flag for the UK in a part of the world which is key to the nation’s security and economy. The two Gulf-bound ships are the first to switch over to a new crew rotational system – four months aboard instead of six, followed by four months back in the U.K. on leave/undergoing training, courses, education and the like. The program is intended to give sailors – 51 on Chid, 40 on Penzance – a more settled life, while getting the maximum out of their vessels on operations in theatre.”

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Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

Interesting to speculate on what this operation might look like in the future with a mission module based approach to MCM. As it stands it uses almost a third of the current MCMV fleet and a third of the Bays. Op Kipion as a whole adds T23 and T45 currently. Perhaps Kipion might in future just comprise 2x T31 and 1x Bay (or similar) with the MCM role primarily operating from the Bay and shore based operations using USV and UUV, but with the option to scale up by including 1x or 2x T31 for MCM (and perhaps USV/UUV for… Read more »

John Clark
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John Clark

My main fear with container based systems, is that they consider that the whole capability could be packaged onto the 13 strong T31/T26 force, so no need for dedicated MCM assets.

I’m not against that idea, providing there’s an uplift in T31 numbers.

Certainly makes sense to put MCM assets onto a ship that can also protect itself in a potentially hostile area of operations.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

I could see having T26 MCM capability with a CSG or amphibious group being desirable insurance, but I would be surprised if they ever had one focused on MCM otherwise. I can see the first 5x batch of T31 supporting MCM but not on their own. We clearly can’t expect a one for one T31 per Hunt/Sandown replacement, but an additional 5x T31 plan would greatly increase flexibility of roles for the RN and we might hope for more. Even civilian class vessels in permissive areas could provide additional MCM. For example I can’t see the need for an RN… Read more »

John Clark
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John Clark

Some great ideas there…..

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

But wait there’s more 🙂 Consider using the same approach using UAV, USV, UUV for littoral/home waters ASW. UAVs to drop sonarbuoys, USV for towed sonar and UUV for remote patrolling. The T26s are the high end blue water ASW, the T31s are the lower end. The same scale up and scale down capability using navy reserves also applies here to, although using commercial spec vessels as a mothership for an ASW may be a bit too risky. Using River-class might be acceptable though. An additional requirement is the ability to prosecute an attack which would need Wildcat launched torpedoes… Read more »

John Clark
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John Clark

Makes great sense to me. I would absolutely reallocate Army Wildcats to the Navy, fully fitted out with sonar etc.

The AAR could simply buy more AH64E’s for scouting and perhaps Lakotas for transport duties.

Both procured from US production at low cost.

Using unmanned systems (Air, surface and subsurface) has to be the way to go, perhaps with a range of new RFA support ships based on a large common hull form, with the flexibility of being re-rolled as a Mine countermeasures mothership as required.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

The US tried Apaches for scouting, replacing the Kiowas but now want to move to the FARA, IIRC it was something to do with operating costs of the Apaches and higher maintenance but don’t quote me. Of course the current Wildcats are expensive too. With the FARA program now down to either the Bell 360 Invictus or Sikorsky Raider X candidates, the UK might piggyback onto the program for a more focused light armed scout solution, assuming it doesn’t get cancelled, the aircraft are in fact affordable and do offer improved capabilities over Wildcat. For utility roles, the Lakota, or… Read more »

Cam
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Cam

Lets hope we get new mine warfare ships as we need the numbers to achieve all the current duties and future ones anything less will be bad news for the Royal Navy. We need 12 replacements.

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

The problem with replacing existing MCMV with similar vessels is lack of flexibility for the RN. We would then again have vessels that are dedicated to MCM with a backup OPV role. We don’t need anymore OPVs, we need more capable vessels. We also then tie manpower to the MCM mission only without flexibility for other roles. The mission module approach to MCM operations enables far greater flexibility regarding vessels used, or not even requiring a vessel for shore based operations as previously outlined.

Stevo H
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Stevo H

In an ideal world Cam, yes, but……we live in a way too liberal Country where successive governments have been too scared to upset the lefty liberal public and have therefore been robbing the armed forces of our Country of the correct level of funding that is required in these dangerous times. The Navy has suffered a lot over the years and even though we have two fancy supercarriers, the escort force of destroyers and frigates is too small in my opinion. There should’ve been 8 or 9 Type 45’s and we should be getting 13 Type 26’s to replace the… Read more »

T.S
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If we can get a second batch of properly armed T31, this is where the first batch could be useful. A largish frigate with sufficient armament for low risk patrol, but plenty of space for a secondary MCM role. Load them up with off board systems and fit them with a hull sonar if they dont get in their initial fit out. Could the provision of wildcat helicopter also aid mcm with the right equipment? I would also like to see us start exploring a mothership concept soon. Addition of larger scale autonomous systems to our current vessels will just… Read more »

Helions
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Helions

The USN’s Independence Class LCS have been designated as the dedicated platform for the new unmanned MCM systems. The class will actually do pretty well at this IMO. They have a large well deck, hanger, and flight deck ideal for the mission. Hopefully the USN will finally find a good use for these hulls – we certainly need the MCM assets.

https://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=108404

Cheers

Daveyb
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Daveyb

It’s a shame that the LCS program has had so many faults and nay sayers. Perhaps it was a stretch too far, asking a largish warship to sustain a speed of 40+ knots. But I applaud the two companies on their designs. You would have thought that with the flexible mission bays, stern ramp and side door would be extremely advantageous, but it looks like the USN just aren’t sold on the idea, more ABs please. The Independence design with its massive flight deck and equally large mission bay was at one point earmarked as a troop ship. But finally… Read more »