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Frigate HMS Sutherland is escorting two Russian warships sailing through the English Channel overnight tonight.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“HMS Sutherland is carefully marking these Russian ships as they pass close to UK waters.

The Royal Navy maintains a vigilant watch and is always ready to keep Britain safe.”

A press release said:

“Royal Navy sailors on the Plymouth-based frigate keep watch on every movement of the ships, using state-of-the-art radars to track the course and speed of the ships as they pass close to the UK.”

Commander Andrew Canale, the Commanding Officer of HMS Sutherland, said:

“As one of the Royal Navy’s high readiness units, HMS Sutherland is required to escort warships that approach the UK and this task is considered routine business for us.

It is vitally important the Royal Navy demonstrates its presence and commitment to the integrity of UK territorial waters as we work around the clock to secure the seas of our island nation.”

The Steregushchiy-class corvettes, Soobrazitelny and Boiky, were joined later in the afternoon by a Russian support tanker and an ocean-going tug.

53 COMMENTS

  1. I like the new Russian corvettes. They are really small frigates at around 2200 tons. Helo hanger, medium calibre gun, supersonic ssms, medium range sam. Limited range and flexibility, though. Still, I’ll be happy if the Type 31s have similar specs…

  2. Imagine the pictures in 2019 of RN frigates escorting heavily armed Russian ships with no offensive missiles. Embarrassing and dangerous.

  3. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to Up arm the new river class patrol boats to similar specs the tonnage is about right. And they could then do the job that these frigates are having to do. Endurance and range dont have to be high as they will always be near a friendly port if they are in our waters. Could also use them in Gibraltar and the Falklands as again there are friendly ports there also. This would free up larger units with longer range and endurance for other tasks other than escorting ships through our waters etc.

    • Pretty much the only thing the batch 2’s miss is a hanger. As they stand, with their current armament they are perfect for police roles around the world, which the frigates were always overkill for. As much as it would be nice to have some flexibility from them in respect of war fighting, the important part is they are freeing up escorts in a period that we will need the whole navy pretty much to escort the carriers.

  4. HF, you’re right. The Zumwalt-class destroyers displace over 14,000 tons! How large do our modern multi-purpose warships have to get before they become cruisers. Any warship north of a Type 45 should be a cruiser. There were anti-aircraft cruisers, you know. Type 23s and Type 26s should be light cruisers. Frigates and destroyers should be 3500 tons or less. Much more sensible. Would make the RN instantly more powerful 😁

  5. I think there is a place for a well armed corvette in the RN. I like the C-Sword 90 and meko designs in particular.

    Essentially we are going to end up with a high class escort (T26/T45 mix in the interim – 7-8000 tonnes) and a smaller general purpose light frigate (4000 tonnes) and we really need to concentrate on rationalising the fleet onto a set of common hulls with common parts and systems, instead of the current hotchpotch of systems requiring a massive parts inventory to maintain.

    In many ways we should look to Russia for inspiration as they were in a similar position and have caught everyone off guard with their build up of modern, effective equipment. There is no reason the UK cant do the same, but it needs a clear plan and some commitment.

    With Brexit looming we need now more than ever a strategy that benefits the UK industrial base, as long as that base is looking to support the UK and not just profiteer from it.

    • That’s what we could well end up with, a slightly improved Khareef. It’s one of the BAE offerings; seems like a low cost low risk solution. The question is, for the T31, do they want to go with quantity or quality – without an increase in defence spending we can’t afford both

      • Notwithstanding the merits of the Venator design surely the HM government arrangement with BAe has to include their design team in ‘manufacturing’.

        • I like the Venator 110 (also the Spartan), but fear we won’t be so lucky. Especially if we are hoping to increase the size of the fleet

          • My understanding is that manpower issues are the driver for decision making. There is some talk of increasing defence spending in the next conservative manifesto but that is too far off if decisions need to be taken soon. You can afford to build and crew two 100m batch 3 Rivers without a MCG but with hangar for the same cost as a Khareef. It could do the OPV job in peacetime and in war time take containerised CAMM and Sea Venom missiles and ROVs. It could do most missions except specialised ASW and NGS, no?

    • What i have been wondering is why we seem to stand alone with vessels with long range. We pulled out of the European destroyer project because we wanted ours to have longer range. Is the range really needed for ships that can’t be sent into the front line in a war situation?

        • The odd thing about this article is that it starts off talking about people talking about up arming the batch 1’s and then goes on to talk about why they would be no good for war fighting and that the batch 2’s have this in mind, but this just makes it even more silly that they are not armed better. There is no point spending huge amount on money on upgrading the batch 1’s with better protection, if they don’t have the armament to actually ever be put into a warfighting role.

          • Yeah. The article poses more questions than it answers I guess. The crane and the 6 containers offer intriguing possibilties: containerised CAMM, ROV’s, Sea Venom, torpedos, helicopter spares. Not a million miles away from the Black Swan sloop idea that was mooted a while back.

    • I would disagree, a better comparison would be with shorter legged T23, as it is a proper multirole surface combatant. Equivalent European capabilities would be (for those pr.20380 ships):
      – 12 cell Aster-15 VLS (Redut with 9M96 round).
      – 8 round Harpoon launcher (Kh35).
      – medium calibre gun system (100mm gun).
      – 2 30mm goalkeeper CIWS (AK-630).
      – 2 quad lightweight torpedo systems (Paket-NK).
      – full sonar suit with bow and towed.
      – full radar suit with general purpose search radar, surface search radar, general purpose fire control radar.
      – heavy helicopter capability (both basing and operating).

  6. Longer range/endurance means they can:
    – spend more time doing their job and less time travelling to/from a friendly port to resupply
    – less time resupplying which means the enemy don’t just need to park a sub at a known friendly port waiting in ambush
    – more self sufficient, less tanker and stores ships support
    – more tactical flexibility
    – can visit far flung places with less support

    Range and endurance is essential IMO. What’s the saying…amateurs talk tactics, experts talk logistics!

  7. The whole containerised idea seems to be a lost opportunity. The replacement to rapier looks like it would be almost containerised. If they had gone that that route and ordered a few more, then it would open up the option to put air defence on the carriers, landing platforms and of course the OPVs.

  8. ‘The Royal Navy maintains a vigilant watch and is always ready to keep Britain safe.’

    Unfortunately, after cuts to all 3 services over the past 7 years it may be ready be isn’t able.

  9. I would sell every OPV we have and invest in a T31 fleet(Meko200, Csword90, Belharra, spartan or Venator) and build 2 per year until we have a fleet of 25 of these (13 yrs).

    The other thing is to make sure these are kitted out properly, with all necessary systems and armaments and that they can be replenished at sea.

    We need platforms that are fit for purpose from day one, not to satisfy a gap in the schedule or to have something new.

    I know this is not that popular across the forum, but I have a choice between 25 belharra or spartan frigates or a mix of mine hunters and OPV’s then I know what I will choose every time. Lastly and perhaps overlooked is the fact that the French and Germans are exporting “stock” vessels out of their own schedule, we should aim to do the same and we cant if our production runs are so small.

    • Your list of frigates indicates just how crowded the market is for 4000t-ish frigates, just the market place that the T31 is going to be aimed at. It’s a tough call to expect it to get significant share of the export market for that class of vessel. Never say never but a tough call none the less. It is going to have to be a really innovative design to win export orders, either innovative on capabilities and flexibility or on keeping it affordable vs the competition.

      I still like the look of BMT’s Venator 110. Spartan also looks interesting but there haven’t been enough details released about that design to really judge it yet.

      • We’re not going to get any T31 exports, it’s a fantasy. Both T26 & T31 will be hamstrung by low volumes and high prices. Treasury fudge which is worst of all worlds killing both models for export. If the T26 is as good as they say, we should build more of them, get the price down and let the T26 be the export.

    • I wouldn’t argue with the desirability your ideal scenario, though there clearly is a valid peacetime role for OPVs. There’s an old saying on the selling / marketing game; you need to be the first or the best. The French and Germans know this and take decisions much faster than we do. There does not exist in these countries the clearly adversarial relationship between government and supplier which we see in the UK. Until we stop fighting ourselves I can’t see us getting faster and better value for what we spend on defence.

      • Paul and Julian

        I agree with your comments.

        We Brits do underplay how innovative we are (think TFT, OLED,Dyson, Maglev, the dreadnought), but we are terrible at productionising products and the Germans and Japanese in particular are not.

        Whatever we do is going to take time and an awful lot of money to get an export market. I think it is unlikely as well, hence my suggestion we concentrate on single platform smaller frigates in large numbers that run compact C4, Atlas Arcims MHVC , MTU90’s, 16 Mk41 strike and a rolling sea ram. Add in a wildcat and 2 CB90’s I think we have a platform capable of replacing a whole range of current vessels and we should be able to get the price down to £500m (I believe LM offered their LCS to the uk for circa £400m each – so this should be our benchmark cost wise).

        This small frigate should replace (over time) all OPV’s (6) Minehunters (15) and include the T31 allocation ( I am going for 8), so a fleet of 25 is doable but we have to stick to retiring these assets after 25 years with their last 5 years spent in the OPV roles to get the necessary lifecycle value out of them.

        For me the Belharra has taken a huge step forward in design and capability and the UK has a lot of catching up to do and I am not sure venator or spartan deliver the full range of capability required. It is a problem.

        • Belharra marketing hype from the DCNS web site.
          “Thanks to the architecture and versatility of DCNS’s SETIS® combat-management system, proven on the FREMM frigates and GOWIND® corvettes, the BELH@RRA ® frigate will respond to the specific needs of client navies in all areas of warfare, whilst at the same time offering significant platform modularity to increase vessel payload or autonomy. The new frigate will offer cutting-edge performance for submarine warfare, an unprecedented aircraft detection capability and strengthened air-surface warfare capacities; a multi-mission foundation to which capacities responding to new threats such as asymmetric warfare or cyber-defence will also be added.”
          Excuse me while I laugh. I think BMT can match this with Venator, which has undergone hull testing and I suspect might be at least as close to reality. For once we might be alongside in pole position.

          • @Paul

            The belharra is in build now – it will launch this year or early next and I think the French have ordered 8. They are ahead I believe, but I admire your optimism and trust in the venator design.

          • Good for DCNS that the Belharra is in production and close to launch (I didn’t know that) but from looking at the paper specs I agree with Paul, it does look as if Venator 110 could be a very worthy competitor with it’s various modular mission bay spaces (under the flight deck but don’t forget the sunken area amidships on the upper deck for 2 ISO containers for instance and I think there might even be something internal amidships as well. There’s also space for 8 box launchers and up to 48 Sea Ceptor soft launch in the forward silo with other options for mixed Mk41 & Sea Ceptor plus plenty of topside space along the sides for CIWS and decoys. BMT also seem, at least from all its technical papers, to have baked in affordability considerations into the design at all stages so perhaps at least able to avoid it being inappropriately expensive even if not managing to be a bargain (but you never know). The trouble is all this counts for nothing if it never gets built.

  10. Let’s hope the conservatives commit to a 3% defence budget and scrap the unbelievably wasteful Foreign Aid budget.

    This is critical to the UK and my vote goes to the party that will support law and order and defence.

    • The Conservatives have made damaging and swingeing cuts to defence over that past 7 years that curiously have been ignored by the very newspapers that would have rightly pilloried the Labour party had they done the same.

      • @HF

        I think every dept has had cuts and defence has done OK overall. TBH it just couldn’t go on for the MOD as they were running multiple disasters they called programmes.

        Nimrod (4bn and still building), FRES (4bn and nothing) Astutes (over budget but a success) T45, etc etc, etc. The list is laughable and long, I personally think Philip HAmmond saved the MOD from itself and he should be thanked for putting some of these programmes out of their misery. Like I say I blame the admirals, generals and air marshalls who refuse to work collaboratively and are wasteful.

        Once the MOD proves it can deliver kit and manage its budget properly then I agree it should get more money but that is not yet clear to me.

      • If Labour had been present and believed in defence themselves that might have happened, but they weren’t; they are white flag on defence and IMHO will be obliterated in the current election.

        Lib Dems were as responsible as Tories for those first five years because they believe everyone lives in a green and pleasant village singing cumbayar.

        WhoTF ‘is’ serious about it? Where’s Churchill when we need him!

        • ‘they are white flag on defence’

          Corbyn is but he hasn’t been allowed to junk the deterrent – the Labour party as a whole is not white flag, never has been, and hopefully never will be.

          • I for one shall be delighted when the Labour Party is once again credible on defence but it won’t be this leadership team.

    • I believe in an appropriately funded and well spent aid budget, compassion and helping others less fortunate is a good thing, but right now the aid budget is not well spent and its level of funding is not appropriate.

      It will never happen but for me this snap election could (and should) bring an opportunity because it will reset the 5 year electoral term. My proposal would be to do something that would achieve good both for the aid budget and for defence (and other departments) as follows…

      Halve the aid budget for the next parliamentary term. That is actually good for the aid budget because the remaining half can be concentrated on programs where we know the money is well spent and the 5 year moratorium on the other half gives time to rethink how the aid money is allocated, managed and monitored. In 5 years time the aid budget comes back stronger and better spent.

      At £13bn a year the 50% cut delivers £32.5bn of real cash to spend on other stuff over the next 5 years. I do think that the NHS, social care and education would need to get the majority of that but even if only £12.5bn was allocated to defence as a one-off injection of cash that really was there to spend immediately (none of this delaying builds because cash flow isn’t there in the current year) it could ramp up F-35B buys, add another couple of T-26 and get them building immediately, make Pacman27’s (and my) vision of 8 x multi-role MARS SSS happen, and do quite a lot of other stuff as well (e.g. I would love to see at least one more Astute, ideally 2 or 3 more, but I fear that with new SSBN build about to start there isn’t capacity to build more Astutes even if the cash was there).

      • I couldn’t agree more with you Julian.

        I do think if we look at how much tax relief goes to charities contributing abroad we will also hit the 0.7% mark, but it is clear to me that foreign aid is poorly run (does anybody remember the tent village in Afghanistan on that no one would pay to move to turkey).

        I also think that our armed forces are often the first line in our humanitarian effort – yet are asked to live and work in substandard equipment and bases and when they are injured to queue up in the NHS like everyone else, they are not everyone else, they give their all for our country and need to be supported as if they do

  11. I read a fewe articles recently about the mood of the nation prior to the 1st world war. during the build up of German naval strength the UK population demanded more warship construction then the German Navy could muster. We want “8 and we won’t wait” clamour for 8 dreadnoughts to be ordered immediately.
    Fast forward to now- our country is in crises with swinging cuts to all public services, yet we are spending £13billion on foreign aid. The conservatives have been a disaster to national defences with huge defence cuts in SDSR 2010 and SDSR 2015. Why as a nation do we not wake up to the realisation that our Navy and Army particularly are in mortal danger.
    The national shipbuilding plan has not been fully realised or acknowledged for what it is- a plan to avoid disaster. We want 8 and we won’t wait- give us 8 type 26 fast- meaning 1 ship a year not the lethargic 1 ship in every 24 months.
    Then rapidly build 12-14 type 31 frigates at a similar time scale and get a further batch of astute submarines on order.
    Get a replacement for HMS ocean ordered.
    If we cannot afford adequate national defence currently cut the foreign aid budget and increased GDP to defence ratio to 3%

    • No sure I agree totally with you Mr J B

      I want to see a whole fleet strategy and industrial build plan before committing anymore money to the RN. Whilst I do want a whole new fleet of 75 major ships I want to make sure that the UK can sustain this build tempo of 3 vessels p.a. So for me its not just about now – its about the next 50 years.

      My 50 year plan would be: (numbers in brackets are total order – numbers outside are fleet)

      2 Carriers (2) – already ordered and lasts for 50 years hence the timeline.
      4 SSBN (8) – 25 year reactor life
      9 SSN (18) – 25 yr reactor life
      13 T26 AAW (25) – UK Arleigh Burke
      13 T31 ASW (25) – UK Belharra
      13 T27 GPF (25) – UK Absalon, configured for amphibious assault/mothership (T26 hull)
      9 JSS (18) – UK Karen Doorman SSS / mothership
      9 FFT (18) – Tide class
      3 specialist (6) – large Survey ship, Fwd Repair, Antarctic survey

      The above is dramatically different to what we have today, but not in volume, to make this really work we need to adopt the latest USV and UAV as below.

      52 (104) Safeboats Mark 6
      104 (208) CB90’s
      104 (208) Atlas Arcims Mine countermeasure suite
      36 (72) Ship to Shore connectors (hovercraft)
      300 (600) RHIB’s

      Now whilst this list is not comprehensive it does provide a list of major assets to be funded and built (irrelevant of current class) and many have primary and secondary roles as multi role assets.

      We also need to standardise on Engines, parts, hulls etc to ensure we reduce maintenance costs which are frankly killing the RN budget in favour of replacement to new.

      Lastly we need a lifecycle plan that sees old Escorts moved into roles currently being done by OPV’s (which are retired as are the Minehunters and most of the current fleet). This means they have an easier end to their days and are no longer frontline as they have been replaced by newer kit that is constantly being built by our industrial base.

      As has been discussed a few times on the thread on FREMM – this also allows the UK the chance of building an export market where we can provide our allies with assets from our own build schedule and invest in adding more capacity to the schedule to make up the difference.

      This is what I want to see from our military leaders and not just a wish list of items they want.

      • Hi Pacman,

        I suspect our military leaders would be happy to comply. I don’t defend some MoD actions, but I believe we need to look to 10 & 11 Downing Street for the lions share of responsibility, especially for long term programs.

  12. Don’t the mine sweepers need to have fibre glass holes to avoid triggering magnetic mines, which would rule out a multi purpose light frigate taking up the role.

    • As I understand it the idea is that in future more work, both detection and disposal, will be done by remotely operated vehicles controlled from the mothership or on autonomous search patterns so the unmanned scouts would be designed to not have magnetic signatures and would go out in front so that the mothership would never be getting anywhere near any mines hence its hull becomes less important.

    • The Atlas system is the one currently being tested by the RN and is the way forward in my opinion. It has huge potential for mine clearance and surveying and at significantly less cost than dedicated minhunters. I would rather have 15 frigates instead of 15 Minehunters each with 2 Atlas and they can be tasked far more economically and effectively than 15 specialised assets.

      Technology has moved on, but due to continuous life extension programmes we are not taking advantage and altering our cost profile accordingly. All of my proposals seek to kickstart a paradigm shift that sees the RN refresh its force before we go into a conflict and get a bloody nose. Sadly history states we will wait until the inevitable (ie: Snatch land rovers in afghan). This is a truly sad and predictable pattern with our seniors.

      • @pacman
        Good luck with the prospective versus reactive paradigm shift. Can’t see it happening in the current economic climate. The River 2 OPV’s come pretty close to the MHPC concept that was floated a while back. Would be interested to know if they are capable of doing what HMS Echo does.
        By the way, regarding Belharra, I know the French have ordered 8. But there’s the difference in culture. Bet you the design is still not firmed up, but the French government has committed to its national ship builder in trustful anticipation of a decent product. That’s the difference. In the UK the MOD is probably asking BAe for 3 quotes for the self tapping screws on the Type 26.

  13. I could probably post this on almost any thread here since use of the aid budget comes up in so many discussions but if anyone didn’t hear or read about it there have been rumours swirling around Westminster in the last 24 hours that the Tories might be looking at merging the defence and foreign aid budgets into a single item which would make it easier to weigh it a bit more towards defence and less towards handouts to dictators (obviously not all the aid budget is spent that badly, just picking an extreme example).

    A merged budget would also make it possible to switch the weighting in the other direction of course but I really don’t see that happening since defence spending, particularly things like local ship building, is a boost for the U.K. economy whereas sending money overseas isn’t and with the 2 year Brexit clock now ticking I am sure the government wants as much economic stimulus as it can get, especially stuff that isn’t based on more retail activity fuelled by increasing consumer debt.

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