The Royal Navy say that ships leaving Faslane on the Clyde faced swarms of attacks from fast boats.

Royal Navy warships negotiating the confined waters of the Clyde on their way to the Joint Warrior exercise practiced with their gunnery teams to fight off massed assaults by fast-moving speed boats.

The Royal Navy said in a statement:

“It’s precisely the sort of attack ships fear – lots of attackers, confined and congested waters – and practise regularly for; gunnery training focuses on this ‘asymmetric threat’, including using laser targeting to improve accuracy against fast-moving, zig-zagging, erratic foes.

Portsmouth minehunter HMS Hurworth followed by frigate HMS Sutherland, based in Plymouth, were first out of Faslane to run the gauntlet as the pair headed for the Cumbrae Gap.”


Warning messages were broadcast over the radio, but when these were ignored, the onus fell on the ship’s protection teams on both ships to fend off the swarms using machine-guns and Mini-guns (hand-held Gatling guns), with Sutherland also able to weigh in with her 30mm automatic cannon, say the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy added that ‘swarmex’ was the first test of Joint Warrior 19-2 for the participating naval forces.

Run in the spring and autumn, Exercise Joint Warrior – directed from Clyde naval base – tests the ability of British and allied air, sea and land forces to work together.

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Fast boats and drone swarms pose the greatest threat to warships today. The conventional envelop of engagement (over the horizon) is much established, but close in attack in confined waters is another situation entirely. The Gulf poses a risk of such an attack that could render onboard weapons useless in a protracted action, especially if the target vessel is patroling alone? The way forward has to be weapon/radar development that can handle sustained swarm attacks. In WW2 the Japanese Kamarzi strategy enveloped US navy vessels and the only real option was to fit multiple guns, to create a wall of… Read more »


Weve been here before, see the Jeune École.
French late 19th century naval doctrine adopted by many other nations that swarms of light cruisers and torpedo boats would make larger capital ships obsolete. The Doctrine itself was made obsolete by increasing warship defences such as torpedo bulges and the lack of seaworthiness of these smaller boats meaning they were unable to project power beyond the coast.

Nick Bowman

Well, a swarm attack by boats would only work in the first minute of a conflict. After that, any small boats approaching a significant combatant ship would be destroyed at longer range by aircraft. Whoever anticipated that and contemplated the light missiles due to be integrated with wildcat deserves to go to the top of the class.


RN vessels have multiple guns. Multiple Phalanx are not needed and the practicalities of fitting , maintaining and supporting such an endeavour is a non starter on oh so many levels. The RN has practised defence against small boat attacks for decades. It is not something new. I doubt the word Boghammer rings many bells but these where used by Iran in the 1980s and where the wake up call for small boat attacks. Any ship doing Portland/GUZ FOST workups then and still now, does a restricted channel exit from the harbour where the ship comes under small boat and… Read more »


A good perspective on the issue. I’m still not convinced the risk of the fast boats has been fully realised, and many warships patrol alone and can’t always be assured of air support. If certain countries continue the practice of fast and numerous attack by small craft, then in time these will become heavily armoured, (possibly reactive?) and capable of withstanding considerable incoming fire. Recent footage on U-Tube has demonstrated just how much small arms damage they can endure, and by big caliber weapons too! Worse still, the development of sub drones to work simultaneously with the aforementioned, could possibly… Read more »


I know we’ve practised against swarm attacks (using blanks!), but has there ever been a live fire exercise against remotely controlled craft? To actually see if a ship can be protected against say a large attack of small fast boats. I know how difficult it is to manually hit a seaborne moving target, whilst on a ship that’s bobbing up and down, especially if you haven’t got a stabilised weapon system (hence the reason for 4 bit).


Looking at those mini guns and the mention of 30mm I’m left wondering how much more effective 40mm would be assuming there was space. If transiting a confined area where ranges are much lower maybe not so much but in more open water e.g. shore-launched attack with the target ship standing a few miles off shore? With T31 now looking to adopt 40mm instead of what I suppose many of us expected to be DS30 cross-decked from T23 does anyone think it slightly incongruous that T26 let alone the carriers or Albion/Bulwark have lesser close-in systems than T31 when looking… Read more »


I think part of the answer can be found in that the T31 is a GP frigate; every weapon system has to pull double duty (except for Sea Ceptor, unless they have a land attack capability that I’m unaware of?). So the 57 mm and 40 mm guns have to be able to most capably handle surface and air targets, as well as potentially a land target if the T31 is operating in the littorals. It’s the only explanation I can think of that justifies bringing new calibre weapons systems into the RN. As to why the RN think that… Read more »


Loads of martlets too.


A mix of Martlets and Starstreaks I think would be great. I think there’s a good case for a RAM type launcher that contains a mix of both Martlets and Starstreak. Martlet has during trials shown that it can down not only helicopter drones but also fixed wing drones like the Qinetiq Banshee which travels up to 650mph at sea level. Therefore it could a tiered approach to defence with Martlet provide defence against small fast boats, subsonic aircraft/drones, then switch to Starstreak for the supersonic stuff. I’m not sure if the CTA40 can increase its rate of fire of… Read more »


Something else just struck me and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before but with your (DaveyB’s) comment it just hit me in the face due to your radar expertise. I commented about how I found it incongruous that T31 might, at least as far as cannons are concerned, be better armed than various so much bigger and more expensive ships but even more perplexing to me is that the T31 radar choice, especially if it does turn out to be Thales NS200 as opposed to NS100, would give the RN’s T31s, £250m cost-optimised frigates, a significantly… Read more »


I think the Artisan was part of the original T26 contract, so we are probably tied into it for a while. I’d not be surprised if BAe start making noise about a cheaper version of Sampson. They have already had a version working with flat panel arrays. So there’s still scope for development. Wait and see I suppose.
The NS200 by all accounts is a very capable radar. Personally think its a step up from Artisan, but it could be improved further by mounting a second array in a back to back arrangement like Sampson.

James Fennell

The choice of the 40mm L70 is curious, if indeed that’s where T31 is going, but I can see some rationale (although would it not make sense to adopt the CTA 40mm for commonality? Probably too expensive). If the alternative was two DS30s, then no CIWS anti-missile capability, or alternatively one DS30 and one Phalanx would not ensure 360 degree protection from fast boats (although the 57mm could fill the gap forward, surely?). Two Bofors 40mm mounts provide both 360 degree anti-air/missile/UAS CIWS (although not as effective as Phalanx) and good protection against fast boats – and in a swarming… Read more »


Presumably 40mm L70 and Martlet/Starstreak aren’t mutually exclusive. With the launcher already demonstrated on a DS30 mount I wouldn’t have thought there would be any show-stopper issues with doing the same on a 40mm mount except for time, budget and political will to actually fund such an initiative of course. For the RN T31 maybe it is a bit more complicated though because the DS30 used for the RN Martlet work was on an “open” mount (for want of a better word) whereas the T31 renders that we’re seeing are showing the 40mm in cupolas presumably for stealth (although maybe… Read more »

James Fennell

Yes and a wider range of munitions – airburst and so on.

Gavin Gordon

Both the onboard LMG and helo 50cal are utilising standard sights. On the face of it, adopting the EO on-mount sights offered for these weapons would appear to be a cost effective upgrade to such existing systems. Know the US trialled same on their helocopters but cannot ascertain if they were considered adequate at that stage of their development. Either way, such a system would seem well worth the effort for these multiple and fast moving threats.


The GPMG has a sight that projects a web over the target at infinity reducing eye strain. It also has a laser for illumination and is NVG compatible .
The M3 door gun is fine.
I have done the door gunner job in a Lynx . The sight gives you an indication of where to put the rounds.
In reality you actually watch and walk the tracer onto the target.

Gavin Gordon

OK, cheers. Maybe this was what the US found – perhaps using a holographic sight, or similar.


Martlet should have been cleared for ship-launch by now? Anything with a 30mm Cannon should be armed with at least 7 cells/canisters per gun.
Why the delay?

John Hampson

The couple of machine guns on RN boats are mostly 7.62mm and a few .50 cal (12.7). Range effective ranges 800m to 1,800m. Most Iranian fast attack craft are armed with 14.5 heavy machine guns and 20mm cannon. Effective range 3000m to 6000m. You do the maths. And before the cry what about the RN 30mm? Well the Iranians may be stubborn as mules but they are not stupid. They know the arcs of fire and would avoid them. I have posted numerous time RN vessels are underarmed. Politicians are gambling with the lives of sailors to save a few… Read more »


Totally agree. And get Wildcat armed up ASAP. 50mm cannon not good enough.


know.The effective range of a 7.62 GPMG is 1800m, 7.62 Mini Gun is 2000m, 50 cal 2000m-2500m. Its actually a lot more than a couple of machine gunson board but hey what do I know… Effective range is getting rounds on target with accuracy.Try aiming a gun from a small boat in a swell doing 20+ knots at a moving target that is shooting back at you You will hit sod all. The effective range in a swell of a small boat is far less than that of a stable large ships weapon ranges. Regarding firing arcs. its obviously a… Read more »

John Hampson

Gunbuster. 1st. Swell in the Gulf for most of the year is almost nonexistent. Normal sea state in the Gulf is 1 to 2.With days of 0 to 1. Dec and Jan occasionally gets up to 3 or 4. 2nd. I was only quoting ranges from the internet. But your correction does not alter the fact that the Iranian 14.5mm and 20mm outrange the RN 7.62/12.5. 3rd. I did not want to bore people but many of the Iranian Fast Attack craft are armed with light missiles which have even greater range. 4th. There is no guarantee that a Wildcat… Read more »


I am in the Gulf some 50m from the coast and get daily weather updates due to my job. Today is a lovely 36 deg with 1-3ft swell inshore rising to 5 off shore . From personal experience of being out on the lumpy stuff it is not a flat calm and benign environment for most of the year. Winter is bloody awful. Squalls, rain, snow and heavy seas which are not good in a small boat. Ranges for a 14.5 are greater than a 50cal but the 14.5 mount is not stabilised. It is a nigh impossible task trying… Read more »

John Hampson

Gunbuster. Well if you are happy with the defences I stand corrected.


“Swarmex”? Jesus Christ does the MoD have to put “ex” after everything to make up some new stupid phrase? Almost as infantile as “photoex”.

John Hampson

The USS Essex carrier, had 12 x 5 inch, 32 x 40mm, 46 x 20mm AA guns. But the Essex and other heavily armed carriers could not knock down the lone kamikazi attackers that had leaked thru the defensive ring of destroyers firing 100 ‘s of AA guns and CAP’s. Yet the RN boats are expected to fend of swarms of fast attack craft with their axis of attack exploiting blind spots, with a couple of GMP’s, Miniguns and 2 x30mm. The Essex had almost more guns alone than the entire RN fleet.