Monday, 20 February 2017

The puzzling absence of UK fixed-wing maritime strike capability

To compound the lack of a modern anti-ship missile for the RN surface fleet, there is also a worrying absence of airborne anti-ship capability both in the RN and the RAF. John Dunbar argues that such an important strategic asset represents good value for money, especially given the heavy investment in aircraft carriers and aircraft capable of delivering a modern generation of missiles.

After the Second World War it was clear that the aircraft had become a deadly threat to surface ships. Even simple bombs and cannons were able to inflict serious damage to the RN during the Falklands War. The air-launched Exocet anti-shipping also exerted a profound influence on the conduct of operations, even though Argentina possessed just 5 missiles. Perhaps the most important lesson was that the anti-shipping missiles can have both strategic as well as a tactical effect. During the Cold War the RAF and RN trained hard and were equipped for in maritime strike role. Its demise began with the premature retirement of the Sea Eagle missile carried by the Sea Harrier in 2000 and the axing of the Harpoon-equipped Nimrod in 2010.

Future anti-shipping platforms

There are no firm plans to address the airborne maritime strike gap, although there are plenty of viable and affordable options becoming available. The Poseidon P-8 Maritime patrol Aircraft is capable of carrying a wide range of internal and external armament, and will provide both reach and persistence in maritime environments. Three will be in RAF service from 2020, with nine in service by the mid to late 2020’s. In US service Poseidon carries the Harpoon Block II, which could be easily substituted with the longer range Harpoon Block II ER in UK service.

RAF and Royal Navy F35’s could offer both shore-based and carrier based fixed wing anti-shipping capabilities. The F35A and C will be capable of internal carry of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile which has been in service since 2012 but this is too large for the shortened internal weapon bays of the UK’s F35B, suggesting that a weapon will either need to be carried externally – impacting on the F35’s stealth but permitting a wider range of armament choice – or an alternative missile will need to be found for internal carriage.

The RAF’s Typhoon is theoretically capable of carrying most currently available and future anti-shipping missiles but there are no firm plans for integration at this time. MBDA are rumoured to be offering the Marte ER anti-shipping missile as part of the Typhoon’s P4E upgrade package in the medium term but there are no plans for a UK purchase. P-8 and F-35 will not always be available to deploy alongside Typhoon due to constraints on overall numbers, suggesting that there would be clear benefits to Typhoon also having anti-shipping capability, not least as a deterrent to warships getting too close to the UK

Introducing and maintaining a mixed inventory of Naval Strike missile, Harpoon and Marte ER seems likely to be uneconomic, particularly given longer term development plans for the Anglo-French Future Cruise/ Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASM). Provisionally to be known as Perseus, FC/ASM is intended to be the Royal Navy long term replacement for Harpoon on UK warships, and for Storm Shadow on RAF aircraft, but will not enter service until 2030. Other available options include the RBS15 Mk3 – a comparison of key characteristics of in-service and future missiles is set out below.

Year in service Weight Range Speed Warhead Land Attack capable Unit Cost
Exocet Block 3 2008 670Kg 180km Mach 0.92 165K Y
Harpoon Block II ER 2018? 248Kg 248km 537mph 140kg Y $1.2m
Naval Strike Missile 2012 400kg 185km Mach 0.9 125kg Y less than $0.8m
Marte ER 2018 300kg 100km + Mach 0.9 70-90kg? N Unknown
RBS15 MK3 2016 800kg 250km Subsonic 200Kg Y $2.8m?
Long Range Anti Ship Missile 2018/19 700-800kg 560km Mach 0.9 450kg Possibly $0.7-1m
FCASM / Perseus 2030? 800KG approx 300km Mach 3 200kg +2x40kg Y Unknown

The key challenge is to choose the right missile to maximise the performance of platforms that are available, and in doing so there are a range of other issues to consider. Poseidon will often operate at high altitude, so it would come within range of advanced long-range surface to air missiles such as the S-300 or S-400. If equipped with the NSM (externally carried) which has a 125km range, the F35B might also be exposed to these threats. Typhoon is not stealthy, does not have long legs without air to air refuelling, and the Marte ER missile range of 100km+ exposes aircraft to the same challenge from S-300 and S-400 likely to be experienced by F35 and P-8.

Fortunately, there is a solution available which offers to address many of these issues in the medium term. Lockheed Martin’s Long Range Anti-Shipping Missile (LRASM) is a stop gap solution developed by DARPA to address a shortfall in US Navy capabilities. Stealthy, capable of ‘wilful penetration’ of layered defence and Electronic Counter Measures (according to Lockheed Martin) the LRASM has a devastating 450Kg warhead. More importantly, the LRASM range of 580Km would allow any UK aircraft to launch from a stand of range exceeding that of S300 or S400 systems, as well as addressing shortfalls in the combat range of F35B and typhoon (an F35B with LRASM would be able to strike at ranges comparable to F35A or F35 C carrying NSM) and allowing the limited number of P-8 to exercise influence over much larger areas of ocean.

LRASM is already being tested in the Mk41 Vertical Launch System that will equip type 26 frigates (and which could be retrofitted to Type 45 destroyers) and a canister based launch system is being developed for the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships. Development costs for the RN, looking for a replacement for their current Harpoon Block C missiles, would therefore be limited to ship integration trials. LRASM may also be developed to have land attack capability and the published unit costs are equivalent or lower than most of the available alternatives.

There have been commercial challenges to the US Navy’s decision to award a contract without competition (which will be undertaken for a longer term US replacement paralleling the FC/ASM programme) – but there are no good reasons why the UK should not take advantage of US investment in LRASM. If the UK were to take the lead in adopting LRASM, integration and testing costs might be shared by the USMC and Italian air force (on F35B), and other partners also flying Typhoon.

The numbers problem

Both P-8 and F35 will be available in very low numbers in the short to medium term, and will continue to be high value but scarce assets once fully in service. F35 in particular will need to be prioritised for carrier based deployment, meaning that the Eurofighter Typhoon will be the primary shore based fixed wing platform available for other overseas deployment. But Typhoon availability will also be stretched – once the Tornado GR4 retires, 80 Typhoon will be expected to meet UK QRA duties (40 aircraft) as well as Falklands, Baltic and Iraq / Syria deployments (currently totalling 26 aircraft).

Current RAF focus on the maritime strike is non-existent, the page on their website about anti-shipping shows nothing but a photo of a Stingray anti-submarine torpedo. A wildcard option would be for the Navy to support the RAF case for extending the in-service life of a few Tornado GR4s until 2025-28 to provide continued availability of the highly valued RAPTOR surveillance capability, and reduce overstretch on Typhoon. Tornado is also optimised for high performance and long range at low-level, making it an ideal maritime strike platform. Dedicating a Tornado squadron to be focused on the anti-shipping role by adding LRASM could be undertaken immediately and without interrupting introduction in service of P-8 or planned development of the Typhoon, as well as allowing P-8 to focus on its anti-submarine role. This would also reduce RAF / Navy tensions over prioritising F-35B for carrier deployment, particularly given that the RAF will be reliant on F-35B sensor capability to replace RAPTOR.


As usual, inadequate funding is at the root of the current capability gap and limits future options. The purchase of 80 LRASM might cost around £60m (plus integration costs per aircraft type around £100m). These costs could be shared by other interested nations or services, and would be offset in any case by purchase cost of an interim Harpoon replacement (for the RN surface ships and P-8) and development of either external carriage of NSM, or an alternative internally carried anti-shipping missile for F35-B. These are, however, relatively modest costs considering the billions spent on P-8, F-35 and CVF, and would significantly enhance the capability of all these platforms in service.


The current lack of both air and ship launched anti-shipping missiles in the UK inventory is cause for both embarrassment and concern, and priority must be given to ensuring that Royal Navy carrier strike capability is restored, alongside equipping Maritime Patrol Aircraft to protect UK waters. LRASM offers a solution which would not only reinstate a high-value capability, but which would give the RN and RAF significant advantage over even peer opposition until introduction of Perseus around 2030. Given the UK Government’s stated objective to continue to influence events on the global stage, together with growing Russian warship activity near to the UK mainland, investing in fixed wing maritime strike is not just a necessity, but also looks like exceptional value for money.


Main image: USN P-8A Poseidon conducts release testing of Harpoon shapes. (Photo: US Naval Air Systems Command, 2013)


from Save the Royal Navy

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The TD Purple Reading List

As a diversion from refreshing all the long form content, I have created, in conjunction with others (you know who you are, cheers), a joint forces reading list. The Contemporary Operating Environment Leadership Acquisition Strategy Change Land Maritime Air/Space Info Ops and Cyber Logistics Each of the 10 themes has 10 books. There is also ...

The post The TD Purple Reading List appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

RN attack submarines – is there a crisis?

It is very easy to write fiction about submarines but rather more difficult to come by the facts. It is strict MoD policy that “We don’t comment on submarine operations”  and while operational security must obviously be first priority, this information vacuum allows journalists to say whatever they like on the subject with little accountability.

Inevitably the majority of media stories focus on supposed failures. For journalists straying into this secretive world armed with limited knowledge, there is the added frisson of excitement that comes with anything that includes the word ‘nuclear’. Meanwhile a blanket of secrecy must shroud the frequent successes of attack submarines (SSNs) that can deliver vital intelligence, sometimes straight the desk of the Prime Minister. The SSN is the ‘big stick’ of naval warfare. Aircraft carriers can project enormous and obvious power but the SSN exerts a strong deterrent effect even by the possibility of their presence. The RN’s seven boats are simply not enough and when availability is reduced by technical problems or sod’s law, there is a profound effect. For those keen to promote the submarine service to the public, it is a restricted and difficult job. Details about current or recent operations remain mostly hidden and if you read the Royal Navy’s website you would get the impression that submariners spend most of their time doing charity work and cycle rides.

Media field day

By rather optimistically declaring 2017 “the year of the Royal Navy” perhaps the Defence Secretary has unwittingly made the service a particular target for negative press. CND, the SNP and the extreme left, together with certain foreign powers have a concerted agenda to undermine the submarine force in any way possible. Despite their role as Britain’s first line of defence, they want to convince the public that nuclear submarines are unsafe, don’t work and are too expensive in the hope they will be axed. Individual journalists will doubtless claim to be only acting in the ‘public interest’ but just 6 weeks into 2017 and there have been three major press stories calculated to undermine confidence the RN submarine service. On 22nd January The Sunday Times revealed a failed Trident missile test in 2016, giving the false impression that the Trident system is unreliable.

No SSNs at sea

On Friday 10th the Sun published an exclusive claiming all of the RNs attack submarines were inoperable. It would seem there is a grain of truth in this, all 7 boats were in Faslane or Devonport, at least for a time. This is unusual with at least two SSNs are typically at sea at one time. The commitment to keeping a ‘duty Tomahawk boat’ stationed East of Suez has clearly had to be abandoned. With Russian submarines operating with increasing tempo near to UK waters, having no SSNs at sea is very serious, not least for the protection of the nuclear deterrent submarine. However informed naval sources state that, while not desirable, this is a short-term blip in the maintenance cycle and more usual patrol patterns with resume in the near future. Although rather more significant, the situation is akin to the storm that erupted last summer when all six Type 45s were alongside in Portsmouth .

Trafalgar class reactors – beyond repair?

On Sunday 12th February Marco Giannangeli writing in the Express “revealed” that a major flaw had been discovered in the reactor of HMS Trenchant. He claimed the fault is so hard to repair that all four remaining Trafalgar class boats will have to be scrapped immediately. If true, this would be catastrophic and leave the RN with just 3 active SSNs. Mr Giannangeli vehemently defends his claims and trusts his “source” who must be feeding him detailed information that is either very loosely based in fact or made up.

‘Nuclear expert’ John Large is extensively quoted in the Express article. Mr Large has previous form. Although undoubtedly knowledgeable, his views are partisan. He has acted as a hired gun for Greenpeace and has critical views on much of government nuclear policy. When a major fault was discovered in the reactor of HMS Tireless in 2000 she was forced to limp into Gibraltar. Mr Large did not “help with the repair” as stated in the article, but was on hand to advise the governor of Gibraltar about risks. In fact with incredible ingenuity, it was the RN engineers serving aboard HMS Tireless who eventually developed a solution to the problem which they carried out with assistance from a Rolls Royce Team. All ten of the SSNs in commission the time had to be inspected and repaired where needed, severely reducing their availability for almost two years.

The Trafalgar class are ageing fast and their captains must be used to having discouraging meetings with their Marine Engineering Officers. In vessels of this age and complexity, unfortunately, defects both large and small, are common. Against this background, the alarming report in the Express has a veneer of believability.

The MoD has denied that there is a problem that would prevent T-boats from deploying again. Other naval sources say they do not recognise any of the statements made in the article and no other credible media outlet has taken up this sensational story.

Where are the boats?

HMS Astute has been at sea on sea trials, seen on the Clyde in early February after completing a lengthy refit in Faslane. HMS Ambush was pictured still under repair in Faslane at the end of January, the damaged conning tower cover still shrouded in scaffolding more than 5 months after an embarrassing accident. While conducting ‘Perisher’ Commanding Officer training, she collided with a merchant vessel off Gibraltar, damage was obviously more than cosmetic. This accident was the last thing the RN needed but perhaps one should consider for a moment the lunacy that has forced the navy to conduct CO training using a £1Bn submarine that represents 33-50% of its available strength. HMS Artful was pictured in Faslane at the end of January fitted with the CHALFONT Dry Deck Shelter (for use by special forces divers) so it would seem likely she is preparing for deployment.

HMS Triumph was refitted in Faslane 2014-15 and has been active around Plymouth in 2016-17. Our friend Mr Giannangeli at the Express published an extraordinary story on New Year’s day claiming she had tracked two Russian submarines for four days just before Christmas with a special new non-acoustic sensor made by Thales (Possibly based on wake-tracking technology that has been around for decades). The MoD itself remained silent but reliable naval sources are quite bemused and say the article was just a fantasy. HMS Trenchant recommissioned in August 2016 after a major refit and upgrade in Devonport. It seems unlikely that a terminal problem with her reactor would emerge now. HMS Torbay was a very busy submarine in 2016 but is scheduled to decommission this year after 30 years of service. A rare and excellent piece about the role of submarines and life on board Torbay was published in the Mirror in December 2016. HMS Talent made the headlines when she suffered minor damage after “colliding with ice” in 2015. She was undergoing major refit in Devonport during 2016.

When HMS Torbay decommissions, the RN will be down to six SSNs at least until HMS Audacious is operational. Audacious is effectively a “Batch 2” Astute with significant design changes and upgrades that rectify some of the issues with the first 3 boats. The MoD reported that her commissioning had been delayed 10 months until November 2016. Sources in Barrow suggest the delay, caused by late deliveries of electrical components and materials may be reduced to 4 months. Either way, the new boats are needed at sea as soon as possible.


Let us not pretend everything is fine. The RN’s SSN force is far too small and fragile. The legacy of flawed government policy, funding cuts, industry cock-ups and MoD mismanagement going back more than two decades is being felt on the frontline. There is a small army of politicians and Civil Servants who should be on trial for the gross negligence that has created this mess. With their hands tied by circumstances beyond their control, those serving today (and many of the civilian workers in the supporting infrastructure) should be commended for continuing to get submarines to sea. RN submariners retain an outstanding reputation for skill and aggression and the service does not compromise on nuclear safety. While it is obviously not quite business as usual, we can look forward to Trafalgar class submarines at sea again soon and their eventual replacement with the outstanding Astute class.


Main Image: HMS Torbay. Photo: Thomas MacDonald via Flickr

from Save the Royal Navy

Friday, 10 February 2017

Steller Systems offers another option for the Type 31 frigate design

Steller Systems, an independent consultancy specialising in naval architecture, has just announced Project Spartan” a design proposal to be considered for the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate / GPFF project. To date, BAE Systems has submitted 2 outline proposals and BMT Group have submitted their Venator-110. Here we take a brief look at the competing options for the Type 31 design.

Enter the Spartan

Stellar Systems believe the Spartan is particularly well-suited for the export market. Sir John Parker (author of the report to inform the National Shipbuilding Strategy) was very clear in his belief that the Type 31 design should have export potential as the major design driver. Like the Venator, the Spartan uses a modular approach so the ship can be reconfigured for a variety of roles and customer needs. It also maximises use of existing UK industrial capability and UK equipment. The most notable difference between the Spartan and the other designs is a bay which allows boats to be deployed from a ramp at the stern, in addition to a large hangar for helicopters and UAVs. More details are available in the PDF below. Being early concepts, no guide to approximate price for any of these designs is available.

Steller Systems Type 31e 09022017 - Public

BAE Systems – Cutlass and Avenger

The BAE Systems Cutlass design an enlarged version of the Al Shamikh class corvettes they built for the Omani navy. There is very little technical detail about the Cutlass and Avenger designs available at this stage.

BAES Avenger Type 31

The BAE Systems Avenger design is based on a stretched River-Class OPV and is definitely the budget option. One suspects the work experience kid did this mock up in an afternoon and this cannot be really be considered a credible frigate design.

BMT Venator-110

Venator 110 Type 31

Until now, most independent observers, including Sir John Parker had considered the Venator-110 as the best of the proposals. Venator probably has the advantage of greater design maturity over the Spartan, having been in development for several years.

VENATOR-110 Technical Brief


from Save the Royal Navy

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Progress Update – February 2016

As I have explained, 2017 is the year that Think Defence goes low key but more detailed, no more frequent short blogs but longer form content at a much more relaxed pace. An update for Feb 2017

The post Progress Update – February 2016 appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

Friday, 3 February 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth – making good progress

The exact dates of the departure of HMS Queen Elizabeth for sea trials and her subsequent arrival in Portsmouth have been subject of intense media speculation. Briefings last year had given the impression that sea trials would probably be conducted in March 2017, although many journalists overlooked the caveat that timings maybe subject to change. It is now clear that the sea trials date has slipped slightly but disappointment over minor delays must be seen in the context of a very ambitious 8-year building project. There have also been various other rumours about the project circulating, some of which are addressed here.

At the time of writing HMS Queen Elizabeth is alongside in Rosyth and well into the ‘test and commissioning’ phase of her construction. This includes the trials and integration of many systems. As the first ship of her class, she is effectively a prototype and much of her equipment is either entirely new, unique or has never been fitted in RN vessels before. As testing is conducted, a multitude of technical challenges have to be addressed and no one can say with absolute certainty when this process will be complete. The good news is that the Aircraft Carrier Alliance (ACA) confirm they have not discovered a ‘show stopper” or any specific serious problem could cause a major delay.

The ACA contract with the MoD stipulates that the ship must be handed over to the Royal Navy by the end of 2017 so, contrary to received wisdom, the project remains on schedule.

Overall there is great confidence amongst the builders and Ship’s Staff in Rosyth that the ship is sound, will meet its specification and perform well at sea. It is a virtual certainty that the ship will go on trials this summer and be delivered to the RN before the end of the year.

The sea trials programme

‘Spring sea trials’ will now be ‘summer sea trials’ but this is not cause for great concern. Considering the size and nature of the project, those involved should be congratulated on the relatively smooth progress that has already been made. The Ship’s Company is now working on board 24/7 and the ‘Ships Staff Move On Board’ (SSMOB) date is not far off. She is already transforming from a building site into something more like a warship. Safety and the operational readiness of the ship are the top priority of the contractor who remain the owners of the ship until she is formally handed over to the RN. It is obviously sensible to wait until they are fully confident in her before they declare the Ready For Sea Date (RFSD). The ‘delay’ maybe frustrating for government, the navy and the ship’s company especially, who would all like to get the ship to sea as soon as possible. Common sense dictates it would be unwise to rush departure, merely for political convenience or to meet an arbitrary deadline. HMS Queen Elizabeth will be in the under an intense media spotlight from the moment she puts to sea. Eliminating as many technical issues as possible while still alongside in Rosyth, before departure is wise.

Real cause for anger about delays should be directed towards the government of Gordon Brown which deliberately delayed the project in 2008 by two years for a short-term ‘cost saving’. Apart from extending the gap David Cameron then created in RN carrier capability, this eventually added around £1.5Bn to the total cost of the project.

The exact timing of sea trials for this mighty ship will be dependant on several factors. Departure from Rosyth is only possible under certain tidal conditions and there are several weeks between ‘tidal windows’. Manoeuvring a 70,000 ton ship out of the basin and through a very narrow lock cannot be done in high winds. Once she has left the river Forth, it is not intended that she will return to Rosyth. Like the whole test and commissioning phase, the sea trials schedule is only an outline plan and subject to change. The trials phase will be conducted in the North Sea and at the halfway point, the ship may use the deepwater berths at Invergordon or anchor in the Cromarty Firth.

“The QE Class programme represents an engineering challenge of unprecedented scale and complexity for UK shipbuilding. HMS Queen Elizabeth is at a mature stage of the testing and commissioning phase, which is designed to thoroughly assess her vast and complex systems and identify any requirements for further work in advance sea trials. We remain focused on delivering this critical capability for the Nation. HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH will undertake her sea trials programme in the summer of 2017.” Aircraft Carrier Alliance spokesperson.

Landing craft will not be carried

As the Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) will also have to undertake the role of amphibious assault ship, many commentators have assumed that one, or both of the ships will be fitted to carry small landing craft (LCVPs). This is not the case and there is no provision for the carriers to embark LCVPs, CB90s (fast assault craft) or Hovercraft. Troops will essentially have to be transported helicopter (or possibly Osprey tiltrotor). For more detail see previous post. There is a small platform at the stern of the ship, colloquiality referred to as the ‘wodge’, which offers the option of loading and unloading personnel and equipment onto other small craft, mexeflotes etc. in benign weather conditions.

The original design has always included space for two Passenger Transfer Craft (PTC) and RIBs which will be accommodated and deployed from sponsons. As many ports will not be able to accommodate the ship alongside, she will often have to anchor offshore. Fast and safe transport for the ship’s company and visitors is an important requirement. The first of the PTCs has already been delivered by Alnmaritec Ltd, and with a nice nod to Fleet Air Arm history, is named “Swordfish”. She is highly manoeuvrable, can make up to 18 knots, has a crew of 2 and can carry up to 36 passengers. The seats can be removed so bulky items could be carried. The cabin area is heated and there is a set of heads forward.

Confidence in automation

In order to reduce the personnel requirement, the QEC are fitted with a Highly Mechanised Weapons Handling System (HMWHS) to transport ammunition and stores around the ship. Manned by around only 50 people, it can be operated with as few as 12 in an emergency. Similar to many systems already in use in warehouses and airports, loads are palletised to a standard size. FIAM (Flight In Air Material – eg bombs or missiles) come in many shapes, sizes and weights but this palletised rail system has the flexibility to quickly move all types. Sophisticated, but largely unseen capability such as this, allows aircraft to be readied quickly and maintain a high sortie rate. There has been some concern that automated systems like this are vulnerable to action damage or failure on extended operations. With a small Ship’s Company there would be few sailors available to make repairs or move loads using more manual methods. However HMWHS has been thoroughly de-risked on land-based test rigs, and there is confidence that it is sufficiently robust and reliable.

The QEC incorporates advanced magazine design to reduce the risk of fire and detonation of stored ammunition or fuel. There are dog-legs in delivery routes and measures to reduce the effects of flash and blast. One of the cost drivers and time-consuming aspects of any good warship design is to ensure it is properly battle-hardened and this is the case with the QEC. In the event of equipment failure or damage, there are work-arounds and back-ups to maintain a measure of fighting capability.

Structural concerns unfounded

A press report that suggested HMS Queen Elizabeth would suffer hull distortion from ‘hogging’ and ‘sagging’ is entirely unfounded. (Hogging is caused by the movement of waves which push up on the centre of the hull, causing the upper deck to bend down at each end, sagging is the opposite effect) This phenomenon affects all ships and is a foundational concern for any naval architect. At the design stage many hours were devoted to computer modelling the dynamic structural stress and deflections that would affect the QEC hull. The greatest stress caused by movement through large seas occurs around the aircraft lift openings at flight deck level. This has been addressed with major reinforcement and curves where it is cut out from the deck. A very experienced team spent several years designing the QEC and there is no reason at all to have any doubts about the structural integrity of a ship intended to last up to 50 years.

The QEC has two deck-edge lifts capable of moving two armed F-35s (or even the entire ships company!) simultaneously. They have been designed and manufactured by MacTaggart Scott, probably the world leaders in aircraft lift design, drawing on long experience with many other carriers. The QEC lifts avoid the many engineering problems encountered with the centre line ‘scissor lifts’ employed on the Invincible class.

IEP propulsion – like the type 45, but not like the Type 45

The QEC and the Type 45 destroyers both use Integrated Electric Propulsion (IEP) There are no direct drives from either Diesels or Gas Turbines wich provide electricity to the main propulsion motors. Sophisticated Variable Frequency Variable Power (VFVP) technology is used to control speed. That is where the similarities end. BAE Systems designed the Type 45 althought the MoD made the key propulsion decisions. A specially recruited Thales team designed the QEC. The QEC are designed to cruise on diesels with their MT-30 gas turbines brought online for higher speeds. The Type 45 was designed to cruise on its supposedly very efficient WR-21 Gas turbines, and only use diesels for extra speed. Unfortunately the intercooler-recuperators fitted to the Type 45 gas turbines have proved problematic. The MT-30s used by the QEC have been well tested and is a simpler, more reliable option.

QEC has duplicated main and secondary machinery in two well-separated complexes with independent uptakes and downtakes in the two islands. From a propulsion perspective, the QEC is like two ships. If the forward system is damaged, the after section will keep going and vice-versa, another reassuring aspect of a resilient design

Although there are some aspects of the QEC project that are cause for concern, her designers and builders should be commended for an incredible British achievement. After years of anticipation, we can look forward HMS Queen Elizabeth putting to sea in the summer and a world class warship being delivered to the Royal Navy in 2017.

*Technically, as she is not yet in commission, the ship should not be called “HMS Queen Elizabeth”. However dropping the ‘HMS’ prefix is likely to cause unfortunate confusion with the reigning monarch.

from Save the Royal Navy