The Defence Committee has published correspondence from the Ministry of Defence responding to questions from the Committee on the Navy and Naval procurement.
Of particular interest to me, is the confirmation that two streams of the Type 45 PIP will now be carried out concurrently.
The Defence Committee asked:
“The timings given In the response for the Type 45 PIPs add to our concern that the programme is slipping. For two ships the length of the programme has been extended beyond 12 months…Since that response, the Government has said it is now looking at accelerating the programme. Does this mean a change to the predicted timings for the PIP given in the response? What other options are the Government and industry considering to address the Industrial capacity Issues that were Identified in the response as a constraint on the PIP programme?”
The Government replied:
“Since our response to your report, good progress has been made on the Type 45 Power and Improvement Project (PIP). HMS DAUNTLESS has successfully completed PIP harbour integration trials at Cammell Laird and is on schedule to sail for sea trials in June 2022. HMS DARING’S PIP conversion Is making progress at Cammell Laird and is forecast to complete by December 2022. HMS DARING will then be towed to Portsmouth and go into dock for planned maintenance and recertification.
HMS DRAGON’s PIP conversion will take place concurrently with her upkeep period in Portsmouth, which commenced in March. Conducting these two PIP streams concurrently in Cammell Laird and Portsmouth will help maintain the programme.
The Department is assessing options to accelerate the programme to complete PIP as early as possible, before 2028. This needs to be balanced against the Royal Navy’s current and future operational commitments, as choices to accelerate PIP by advancing ship conversions will impact Type 45 class availability in the short term.
Any changes to the schedule will also be subject to commercial negotiations with BAE systems as the prime contractor. Type 45 Destroyer availability continues to meet Defence’s operational requirements. HMS DIAMOND recently deployed to the Mediterranean on NATO duties and HMS DEFENDER participated in Exercise COLD RESPONSE in the High North. HMS DUNCAN has also commenced sea trials following a refit period which did not include a PIP conversion.”
What was the issue?
The Ministry of Defence previously confirmed that all Type 45 Destroyers will have received upgrades to their power systems by the mid-2020s. HMS Dauntless was the first.
In 2016 it was revealed that due to a design flaw on the Northrop Grumman intercooler attached to the ships Rolls-Royce WR-21 gas turbines, power availability was diminished considerably when functioning in the warm climate of the Persian Gulf; and it quickly became apparent that the class was not operating as originally envisioned with some losing power mid-deployment.
Therefore a planned refit was scheduled to fully resolve the problems with the six ships in the class.
According to the as always in-depth and comprehensive defence analyst NavyLookout here, the vessels WR-21 gas turbine itself is of a sound design, however, the intercooler unit “has a major design flaw and causes the WR-21s to fail occasionally. When this happens, the electrical load on the diesel generators can become too great and they ‘trip out’, leaving the ship with no source of power or propulsion.”
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Philip Jones, clarified in evidence to the Defence Committee that the “WR-21 gas turbines were designed in extreme hot weather conditions to what we call ‘gracefully degrade’ in their performance, until you get to the point where it goes beyond the temperature at which they would operate… we found that the resilience of the diesel generators and the WR-21 in the ship at the moment was not degrading gracefully; it was degrading catastrophically, so that is what we have had to address”.
The Ministry of Defence is funding the Type 45 Power Improvement Programme, known as ‘Project Napier’. The current contract value is approximately £189 million.
HMS Dauntless was the first ship to receive fixes designed to end the power issues that had impacted the availability of the Type 45 Destroyer fleet. The warship was treated to a flypast from a Typhoon jet as she left the Cammell Laird yard on the 14th of June, the vessel spent 770 days at the facility.