RFA Stirling Castle, a new vessel that will operate autonomous minehunting vessels as a ‘mothership’, has arrived at her new home HMNB Clyde in Scotland.

Once operational, the ship will serve as a central command and accommodation hub for the Royal Navy’s mine warfare specialists and their cutting-edge equipment, including uncrewed minehunting vessels.

 

The primary focus will be on securing UK waters, while Royal Fleet Auxiliary personnel will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ship.

RFA Stirling Castle replaces traditional mine countermeasures vessels by integrating advanced technology to combat mine threats. The ship is equipped with a range of uncrewed systems, including the joint French-UK Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep (SWEEP) system, and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs).

These systems, say the Royal Navy here, will enable the identification, location, and neutralisation of mine threats more effectively and efficiently.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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terence patrick hewett
terence patrick hewett
16 days ago

Doesn’t entirely make clear whether this vessel is a “trials platform” or a “mothership” or both.

Jim
Jim
16 days ago

Not a trials platform, it is a mothership, first of a class of 4. It’s a big step up from the Sandowns class it’s replacing.

Frank
Frank
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim

One of four “motherships to replace what until recent years, used to be 30 or so Mine hunters’ including Twelve Sandowns….. So that’s just four places at any given time subject to Crew numbers and availability/maintenance.

Jim
Jim
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Yes and no, one MCM vesell can only track mines at one point. A mother ship operating multiple drones can look for mines in multiple locations at the same time.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago
Reply to  Jim

Sorry but a fleet of 30 can be in thirty places all over the World…… this solitary Castle might just be able to be in one place and locally deploy multiple Vehicles but…… just locally….. I’m looking at the wider picture mate.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim

It’s a big step up from the Sandowns class it’s replacing.”

The cynic that in me that has developed from successive “upgrades” to capability that disguise downsizing the fleet means I have to question this. Forgive my ignorance!

Firstly, was the class 3, not 4?

Do we know what and when the third ship will be, given ships 1 and 2 have been acquired?

Are they truly upgrades over the formerly large minehunter fleet? What makes them so?

Hugo
Hugo
16 days ago

In minehunting yes, because they can carry automated platforms of various sizes and easily maintain them at sea whereas the old mine hunters don’t have the space for that.
Disadvantage is obviously numbers, but that’s the usual trade off.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
15 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

Thank you! Learn something new every day

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
15 days ago
Reply to  Hugo

Just off the top of my head there must (being generous) at least 20 locations around the UK where keeping waters mine free would be vital in a conflict arguably a lot more and obviously this won’t be a one time process in any single location as time passes. Will other vessels still be maintained or developed to help out? We will need to know we have a near stranglehold on Russian subs in the North Sea and the artic approaches to make this work I fear. Too many presumptions on future scenarios for my liking in any conflict, Most… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
15 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

I Don’t know if We still do ,but Hunts used too conduct what was called OP Pike around UK waters in which we would Route Survey shipping lanes and harbours checking on the seabed for any objects that hadn’t been there on a previous survey

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
15 days ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

The No 1 Task of the RN is to maintain, support and operate the CASD capability no other Port or facility comes close on the priority list.
To do that they must ensure that the access routes from HMNB Clyde to the deep water of the North Atlantic are safe and clear of threats. Which is why there have been a couple of MCM vessels based there for decades, and the RFA Fort Stirling is doing her trials up there.

Hugo
Hugo
16 days ago

Also it is intended to be 4 Platforms. We’ve only Stirling Castle so far, Proteus is a survey vessel.

Frank
Frank
16 days ago

Stirling castle is the first of 3/4… RFA Proteus is for a different purpose so actually It’s just the one hull…. unless you count the 10t boats and UWV’s she will carry.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Thank you! Learn something new every day

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
16 days ago

Ship 2? No other mother vessels have arrived yet. If you’re referring to Proteus, she is for cable defence work.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago

Yes, different roles, similar ships in looks…. It appears that Stirling Castle will be having more dock time to “rectify defects” sometime in the Spring, which means that she won’t have done much work a year on from purchase.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
15 days ago

Thank you! Can always rely on you to clarify things for us less knowledgable

Jim
Jim
15 days ago

Plastic hull small expensive MCM vessels are a piss port way to deploy drones and modern mines are so lethal ships can’t get anywhere close. That’s why it’s an upgrade.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago
Reply to  Jim

So this one 6000t hull made of Steel and to commercial standards is so much better then ? Got any specs you would like to share to enlighten us mate ?

Jacko
Jacko
16 days ago

Isn’t that an old photo? Didn’t I read that she is now grey.

Last edited 16 days ago by Jacko
Frank
Frank
16 days ago
Reply to  Jacko

No… RFA Proteus is Grey but She’s not being used as a Minehunting Mothership….. In fact we only have the Stirling Castle ATM and She’s spent months just sat in Portland….. three more ships will be purchased and converted but I don’t know when.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Now for finding some crews…….

Hugo
Hugo
16 days ago
Reply to  Jacko

Might be thinking of Proteus

Lusty
Lusty
16 days ago
Reply to  Jacko

Recent photo. Only thing grey about her is the Scottish weather…

farouk
farouk
15 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

State of the MOD, can’t afford paint,

Gertrude
Gertrude
15 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Nah, she got a fresh paint job after delivery. Looks better than pussers grey IMO. On a side note the running of the ship was supposed to be as close to commercial practices as possible allowing her to be run cheaper and with less resource. But of course that changed with the RN sticking their noses in. Dunno if they did implement them, fost were wanting significant changes most requiring an AMA. Could be why she’s been so delayed.

Frank62
Frank62
15 days ago
Reply to  farouk

FFBNW

Jacko
Jacko
16 days ago

Righto thanks all👍

Robert
Robert
15 days ago

I thought she was to relieve/replace the Bay-Class (DLS) ship in Bahrain? Would we not be better off building a MCM
mothership like the Netherlands, Belgium and France are for their autonomous systems

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
15 days ago
Reply to  Robert

No. That is a logical aspiration for when we have the 4, as it’s never been great using a precious LSD(A) for that.
Stirling is primarily for Faslane.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago

Faslane ?…. I didn’t know that…. Will the others be primarily for the Clyde, Portsmouth and Plymouth then ? …. it’s all very confusing but I get that the 10t Boats would be Ideal for this sort of Inshore hunting ……. What will we have to do the Global Bit ?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Yes mate, that’s what I’d read. Prioritising the CASD. I also heard the other 3 were for Devonport, Pompey, and one overseas.
I’m not certain on this so apologies if incorrect.
Global?! They cannot self deploy! As we said. Hope an asset is available to carry them.
What if the mines are in deeper, rougher seas? Can these boats do that?
Another point, the Hunts will be around for a while yet while this autonomous MCM capability is expanded.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago

Once again mate…. you seem to be aware of these “What If’s” and all the associated questions….. Clyde might just need one all of their own I guess then ? …… Overseas would more than likely be one of either Bahrain, Gib or at a push, Falklands……

Gertrude
Gertrude
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

She’s an OSV anyways so was always going to be near coast. But yeah, was always slotted for faslane.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
15 days ago
Reply to  Robert

Have you seen the price of them ?

Tommo
Tommo
15 days ago

What on-board defence systems are mounted on her or none at all

Frank
Frank
15 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Apparently the Blue Paintjob will be enough to disguise her !

Tommo
Tommo
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

ARRR Radar deflecting hush hush paint gotcha no wonder why B+Q shelves were empty

DH
DH
15 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Ha, you breaking out with pirate speak, young Tommo 🤣☠️

Gertrude
Gertrude
15 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

That’s outside of her role, she’s not “classed” (lbt) for high risk operational theatres. She’s bound for uk waters for a specific role.

Tommo
Tommo
15 days ago
Reply to  Gertrude

That’s good can’t have RFA personnel getting Danger money for operational tasks like Minehunting in contested waters they can do tasks like OP Pike ( Route surveying ) around UK waters

Aaron L
Aaron L
15 days ago

Not a particularly important point but do we know if she’s going to be repainted? Probably not at the top of the priority list mind.

Would have thought so as they’ve repainted Proteus.

Frank
Frank
15 days ago
Reply to  Aaron L

She will be repainted in a few years after conducting Trials.

DH
DH
15 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Ooor, when the dreaded rust/ corrosion /cathartic reaction, takes hold and requires ‘tiddlying up’, maybe. 🙄👍😁

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
15 days ago

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what Stirling Castle is actually supposed to do. I’ve been quite interested in the metamorphosis in Mine clearing for a few years so I’ll share my take on it. It is the intention of the RN to acquire 4 MMCV Motherships mid decade and until the Trials are done no one knows which option we will go for. RFA Stirling Castle is a Trials ship but her purpose is Threefold. Carry out Trials of the New Anglo French MMCM system in a realistic environment (in the Clyde). She will trial… Read more »

Frank
Frank
15 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Or BJ’s (so far) fictional fleet of 5 T32’s….. (recently revised to say “Up To 5”) Designed to be “Platforms for Autonomous Vehicles” ….. Oh dear, i’m so cynical in my old age. !

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
13 days ago
Reply to  Frank

I’m still sticking to boris meant to say type 31 but got confused and to stop him looking like a Wally the press office ran with it. The conversation would of went something like: Press office: Boris you said 5 type 32 instead of 31. What should we do? Boris: oh I don’t want to look like a silly boy just back up what I said. I will be long gone by then. Press office: ok we will say something about new ships for 2030s. Oh what about adding autonomous capabilities? Boris: perfect thanks oh and add in we fixed… Read more »

Jim
Jim
15 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Great summation, thanks for sharing

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
11 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Well explained mate. I too support the OTS solution.

Bill
Bill
15 days ago

Wouldn’t Portsmouth or Devonport have been a more practical home port?

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
15 days ago
Reply to  Bill

Nope CASD on the Clyde is RN No1 priority and as it is way deeper than the others the best place to trial the capability is where it is hardest not easiest.

Mark F
Mark F
15 days ago

One thing the Navy will surely loose is a lot of “junior” command posts. We all know that Charles commanded a mine-sweeper at one point in his career, and I suspect that a large percentage of those in 1* and above roles probably got their first command on a Mine sweeper/hunter.
I am sure these posts gave them considerable experience in running a ship’s company.

Lusty
Lusty
15 days ago
Reply to  Mark F

I hope they use a screwdriver to tighten up those loose posts.

monkey spanker
monkey spanker
13 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Vital job of securing any leadership.