MoD awards BAE Systems contract for first three Type 26 Global Combat Ships

Royal Navy BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship

The Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems a £3.7bn contract to manufacture the first three Type 26 warships for the Royal Navy. Developed under the title “Global Combat Ship”, the Type 26 along with a newer, smaller class of frigate will go on to replace the current Type 23 frigates (Duke-class).

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The Type 26 Frigate is a cutting-edge warship, combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy. We will cut steel on the first ship later this month – a hugely significant milestone that delivers on our commitment to maintain our global naval power. These ships will be a force to be reckoned with, there to protect our powerful new carriers and helping keep British interests safe across the world.

Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178bn Equipment Plan, the Type 26 programme will bring vast economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK. The contract is structured to ensure value for taxpayers’ money and, importantly, now designed to protect them from extra bills from project overrun. The investment will secure hundreds of skilled jobs at BAE Systems on the Clyde for the next twenty years, and thousands of jobs in the supply chain across Britain.

While the Type 26 will be primarily concerned with escorting the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the ships will also be expected to deal with numerous missions across the spectrum of Royal Navy operations. As well as the traditional combat role they will also be capable of undertaking anti-piracy, national security and humanitarian/disaster relief operations.

Armament will consist of a NATO-standard BAE 5 inch, 62-calibre Mark 45 naval gun, Phalanx close-in weapon systems, Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missiles (currently being fitted to the Type 23) and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles in various mixes. They will also be armed with an as yet unspecified new generation anti-ship missile. A rather large flight deck will allow the vessel to accommodate a wide array of British and NATO helicopter types.

Originally it was planned to acquire thirteen Type 26s but in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review the decision was taken to reduce the order to eight and to make up the shortfall in hulls with a smaller frigate type currently under development.

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HMS Westminster to rejoin fleet with new SAM

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Sea Ceptor SAM (MBDA)

At present the Type-23 frigate is undergoing a major overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Base and is set to rejoin the fleet next year. When it does it will be carrying the MBDA Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missile (SAM) in place of its Sea Wolf missile system. Sea Ceptor was selected by the Royal Navy in January 2012 under the future local area air defence system (FLAADS) program and will eventually be adopted by the future Type 26 frigate as well as being retrofitted to the remaining Type 23s.

Capable of speeds up to Mach 3 and with a range of 15.5miles (25km), the weapon is designed for defence against high speed aircraft and anti-ship missiles. The missile was designed to be easily integrated with a number of radar systems both existing and in development meaning it can theoretically be integrated in to a number of surface warships. With 360 degree coverage of the launching vessel it is reported as being able to protect 1,300km² of sea from multiple air threats.

As well as new weaponry, the Royal Navy’s website states that Westminster will also have the main propulsion systems thoroughly overhauled and the hull will be subjected to repairs and preventative maintenance.

 

The Amphion Tragedy

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Thomas Tegg’s depiction of the blast

It had been a busy few days for Captain Israel Pellow and the 219 officers and men that made up the crew of HMS Amphion, an Amazon-class fifth-rate frigate sporting an armament of no less than 32 guns. In the early afternoon of the 22nd September 1796, the ship was alive with the kind of activity associated with the eve of departure from port. In 1796, HMS Amphion was a 16-year old warship and had seen action against American revolutionary forces having participated in a successful raid on New London in Connecticut on September 10th 1781.  The warship had also seen action against the French having recaptured the British sloop Bonetta, which had been captured at Yorktown.

Laying in Plymouth harbour alongside a sheer-hulk, a type of floating crane, that was assisting in repairs and refitting the sailing vessel, the number of persons onboard had swelled to well over 300 as family members visited their husbands, fathers and brothers before they sailed the following morning. Captain Pellow on the other hand was waiting for another type of visitor to come aboard his vessel. A 64-gun Dutch warship, the Overyssel, was also in Plymouth and expected to sail the next day as well. Pellow had invited her captain, William Swaffield, to dine aboard the British warship that afternoon with him and his first Lieutenant. The Dutch ship’s captain accepted and the three men had sat down together in the captain’s cabin aboard Amphion before 1600hrs to dine together.

Suddenly and without prior warning, Pellow and his guests were hurled out of their seats as the ship shook violently and roared with the deep, booming sound of an explosion. The three men were badly dazed and confused by the violence of the blast and as the floor beneath them began to change angle it was clear that some terrible calamity had befell the ship. Pellow and the First Lieutenant, both barely able to stand from their own injuries, made a desperate bid for survival by throwing themselves out of the galley window unsure if they were fit enough to swim or not but certain they would die if they remained. Pellow managed to clamber on to a chain from the sheer-hulk and as luck would have it a boat that had rushed to the scene spotted and then rescued the two men but their dinner guest, Captain Swaffield, failed to materialise. A Royal Marine who was guarding the door to the cabin also survived but had no recollection of events from the initial blast up to when he too was rescued by a boat in the water making his own escape a complete mystery.

The blast originated on the aft gun deck and was so powerful that it threw mangled bodies and splintered timber high in to the air and even sent four of the ship’s 32 guns over the side and on to the sheer-hulk. The majority of those who perished were killed in the initial blast which caused scenes of appalling horror aboard the warship with sailors and their family members overcrowded on her decks being cut down by flying debris. In one horrifying scene, a wife of one of the sailors had the lower half of her body blown clean off. Her upper half was found still clutching her infant that was, amazingly, still alive and rescued by one of the other survivors who managed to get them both off before the vessel went down.

Exact figures are difficult to ascertain given the fact that families were allowed onboard to say goodbye to their loved ones but most sources agree that at least 300 perished in the blast including women and children. The remains of the warship sank alongside the sheer-hulk in over 60ft of water with pieces of the warship and some of her crew still washing up on the shore months later. Captain Swaffield’s body was found a whole month later sporting a massive skull fracture which was presumed to have occurred during his escape attempt.

Lacking the modern forensic technology of today, the precise cause of the blast will never truly be known. However, an investigation in to the ship’s company following the blast revealed that at least one gunner was known to be pilfering supplies of gunpowder for sale on shore. When questioned about the sailor, one survivor remembered seeing him drunk shortly before the blast occurred leading many to believe that he had gone down to the gunpowder stores possibly to steal more of the powder to sell or trade for liquor. Either through smoking or dropping a lamp in his drunken state, he detonated the gunpowder.

The horrific scene of the mother and child was later remembered in a poem by English poet Felicia Hemans;

Till then we had not wept—
But well our gushing hearts might say,
That there a Mother slept!
For her pale arms a babe had prest
With such a wreathing grasp,
The fire had pass’d o’er that fond breast,
Yet not undone the clasp.
Deep in her bosom lay his head,
With half-shut violet eye—
He had known little of her dread,
Nought of her agony.
Oh! human love, whose yearning heart,
Through all things vainly true,
So stamps upon thy mortal part
Its passionate adieu:
Surely thou hast another lot,
There is some home for thee,
Where thou shalt rest, rememb’ring not
The moaning of the sea.

 

 

 

NEWS: New generators and radars for Royal Navy warships

Type 45

Type 45 (commons.wikimedia)

The Royal Navy’s fleet of Type 45s will need to go in to refit to address an ongoing problem with the vessel’s ability to generate power when at combat stations according to the BBC. The demands of using it’s full range of systems such as in a combat scenario have proven too much for the electrical generators and current proposals involve upgrading the six ships’ diesel generators to “add greater resilience to the power and the propulsion system”.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence told the BBC:

The Type 45 destroyers are hugely capable ships and have consistently made a difference to our safety and security, including HMS Defender’s support to US carrier operations against Daesh in the Gulf. In our defence review last year we committed to improving the Type 45’s power and propulsion system through a series of machinery upgrades during planned maintenance, which will ensure increased availability and resilience over the life of the ships.

HMS St Albans

Type 23 HMS St Albans (royalnavy.mod.uk)

In other news, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems UK have won a £63m contract to supply the Royal Navy with up to 60 new navigation radars. The contract is part of the Royal Navy’s Navigation Radar Program which looks set to improve the fleet’s navigation systems. Among the ships planned to receive the new solid-state SharpEye radar sets are the fleet of Type 23 frigates as well as the Hunt- and Sandown-class Mine Counter Measure Vessels (MCMVs). The sets will also be fitted to Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, fast patrol boats and some submarines.

NEWS: Royal Navy cuts Type 26 order but it may be a good thing

Type 26 Royal Navy frigate

The Royal Navy has cut the order for the new Type 26 frigate from thirteen to eight. In place of the cancelled vessels will be a new class of lighter and cheaper warships to fill the gap. The decision was announced by the British Government on Monday during the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) announcement.

However some sources claim that this is actually a good thing for the Royal Navy and BAE Systems who are the main contractor in building the ships. It will mean that now the Royal Navy now has a firm order for the eight ships whereas before there was doubt over just how many they would receive. For BAE Systems it means they can keep their engineering teams working in developing the new vessels.

On the downside it does mean that if either project is delayed then the Royal Navy’s surface fleet may experience a capability gap as the older warships the Type 26 is set to replace are phased out.

NEWS: Two Royal Navy warships return to service following refits

The Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth has completed a 20-month refit that saw significant improvements to its operational systems. The refit was primarily concerned with enhancing the vessel’s sustainability and fighting capability which included new weapon systems and sensors such as a new 3D air surveillance radar. The vertical launch Sea Wolf SAM system was also improved as was the command and control system. The ship’s structure has also been reinforced with 17t of new steel. The warship has completed a fleet inspection at Naval Base Devonport, performing extensive sea trials to test its upgraded weapon systems and sensors and is ready for active duty.

Additionally, the Hunt-class minesweeper HMS Cattistock has also just finished a major update which includd new engines. With a modernised Kelvin Hughes Type-1007 naval radar the vessel has received two Eca PAP 104 Mk3 remotely controlled vehicles used for the identification and disposal of mines. The upgrade will mean the vessel is expected to remain effective to at least 2030.

NEWS: HMS Lancaster in Nigeria

HMS Lancaster (Royalnavy.mod.uk)

HMS Lancaster (Royalnavy.mod.uk)

The Type-23 frigate HMS Lancaster arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday to provide an opportunity for the crew to train with the Nigerian armed forces and confirm Britain’s support for the country in it’s fight against Boko Haram. The ship has the first frontline Wildcat helicopter deployed aboard.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul T Arkwright, said in a statement;

The visit of HMS Lancaster is a signal of our commitment to Nigeria and Nigeria’s military forces as they face security challenges. The U.K. government is firmly committed to supporting President Buhari’s government and prioritizes across the board, in particular when it comes to scarcity.

As well as conducting training the ship was also host to Nigeria’s security top brass on Wednesday night including a representative of the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral OC Medani, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command Rear Admiral Osondu, representatives of the Army Headquarters, the Nigerian Police and National Security and Civil Defence corps.

HMS Lancaster will depart Lagos harbour tomorrow for an exercise at sea with the Nigerian Navy before returning to its normal Atlantic patrol.