And the Americans follow the Royal Navy

I wouldn’t say that this is the whole story but it probably is part of it:

The largest destroyer ever built for the US Navy cut an imposing figure as it drifted down the Kennebec River in Maine and toward the open ocean on Monday.
The USS Zumwalt, a 610-foot, 15,000-ton behemoth, will undergo sea trials before joining the US fleet some time next year.

Its pricetag of $4.4 billion (£2.9 billion) is almost as astounding as its bulk, but Navy Captain James Kirk, the ship’s skipper, said he was “fired up” for the Zumwalt to finally set off for the Atlantic Ocean.

Back when, the UK politicians weren’t all that keen on paying the price for more battleships. Do we really need them?

So the Navy went off and bought things that were pretty much battleships but called them cruisers. And then the politicians, a decade or more later, started to ask, well, do we actually need cruisers? Do we have to pay for them in this modern world? So the Navy went off and bought things that were pretty much battleships but called them destroyers.

Not entirely and absolutely true but sorta.

And of course the final end result of this will be corvettes, sometime in the 2200s, carrying a full air arm.

55 thoughts on “And the Americans follow the Royal Navy”

  1. Jeez, that thing looks bloody awful!

    But on your original point, a destroyer is a lot smaller than a cruiser. HMS Belfast is a heavy crusier IIRC, and it is a lot bigger and better armed than HMS Manchester.

  2. You forgot the reinvention of the frigate when the polls decided we could no longer afford destroyers. The original name of destroyers was, torpedo-boat destroyers, small. lightly armed but fast boats (not ships) commanded by Lieutenants to protest the fleet at Scapa Floe from torpedo boats and later submarines. Destroyers grew in size until the Tribal class fleet escort destroyer, in essence a small cruiser, appeared in the 30’s. The Frigate enjoyed it’s renaissance in the post WWII climate of Defence non-spending.

  3. It’s a hard world with many violently opposing opinions, but on this I’m sure we can all agree: That the Captain’s middle initial just has to be ‘T’.

  4. “of course the final end result of this will be”… that the next sizeable naval war will prove that all big surface ships are obsolete, as they all go to the bottom, their defences overwhelmed by multiple missiles, drones, torpedoes, or what have you.

  5. Lest we forget the competence or otherwise of the Telegraph’s subs:
    “…Zumwalt can be operated with a crew less than half the size what would previously have been needed for such a massive ship.”

  6. Well said, Tim. I was drafting my comment as I read, and then you said what I was thinking.

    Pocket battleship was the term used for German heavy cruisers. This “destroyer” is bigger than Deutschland, Graf Spee, and Scheer.

  7. “Cruiser” is a flexible and much-abused term. From the Washington Treaty up to WW2, it meant a ship under 10,000 tons with guns of 8″ or smaller (eight-inch guns made you a heavy cruiser, six-inch or smaller a light cruiser… but our light cruisers like Belfast ended up bigger than many heavies…) The German panzerschiffe weren’t heavy cruisers because they broke both size and calibre limits (they did have the Hipper-class heavy cruisers); ‘pocket battleship’ was a media term for an overgunned commerce raider.

    Post-war, we got out of the cruiser game entirely. The USSR called some of its ships ‘cruisers’, but then built bigger destroyers. The USN got silliest, calling its carrier escorts ‘frigates’ – culminating in the 17,000-ton, nuclear-powered ‘frigate’ LONG BEACH, before they renamed a swathe of ships as cruisers. They then built three classes (the SPRUANCE and KIDD-class destroyers and the TICONDEROGA-cass cruisers) on the same hull and machinery.

    Naming by size always threw up quirks, and has to be viewed by period; an 1890s battleship was smaller than some 1990s destroyers. The danger is that there’s an assumption that cost scales linearly with tonnage (so if we make it half the size it’ll be half the price?) while capability doesn’t change much – both assumptions hideously false yet infuriatingly persistent.

    Fundamentally, ships have got bigger for legislative, survivability and habitability reasons, as well as a growing realisation that a roomy ship (the SPRUANCES, our Type 45s) costs only a little more than a cramped one, but is far easier to maintain and update and has lots more room to add new capabilities as they’re developed or become affordable; as well as more comfortable to live in, and much better able to keep floating, moving and fighting after a hit.

    Conversely, the Treasury insisted our Type 42 destroyers be shortened as a ‘cost saving measure’: which cost money to redesign them, cost more money over life because they burned more fuel (less efficient hullform), made them difficult to maintain and almost impossible to add capability to, and finally made them miserable seaboats. The contrast between a ‘stumpy’ 42 and the last four, built to the original design, was like an Austin Allegro to an E-Type Jaguar in handling and performance terms. (But we saved a few pounds on steelwork! Yay Treasury!)

    This is why the RN refers to the Type 26 as a “global combat ship” rather than as a “frigate” or “destroyer” – it’s the size it needs to be, to do the jobs it’s intended for, and the fact that it’s twice the size of the Type 23s it’ll replace doesn’t mean it’s anywhere twice the cost (in fact, the inflation-adjusted price I’ve seen advanced for Hull #1 is not much more than for HMS Norfolk; a lot of good work’s been done to cut cost and risk already) But, cue folk complaining that it’s “too big for a frigate”…

  8. Dearime,

    Proposed at least since the 1880s and the French jeune ecole whose modern torpedo-boats would slaughter the RN’s obsolete battleships, but keeps foundering on the rocks of reality and necessity.

    It’s not impossible to crack the defences of a modern RN task group and sink what they’re protecting… but I can count the countries who could credibly do so without running out of fingers, and several of them are our allies (or at least not hostile or likely to become so). For the rest, if there’s something important to do, we should be able to get in, do it and get out at acceptable cost.

  9. Th obvious story is of the Invincible class carriers. In 1968 the Labour government declared we don’t need aircraft carriers.

    The navy needed ships to operate lots of helicopters and surprise surprise found a flat top was best so the Invincible class was designed but since it had been declared by Labour we didn’t need aircraft carriers any more to get approval from the then Labour government they call them ‘through deck cruisers’.

    Only when Maggie came in and Keith Speed was made navy minister was this changed. The admirality were utterly opposed until he pointed out the pennant number for Invincible was R05, and R designated an aircraft carrier. The guy who issued the pennant numbers hadn’t got the memo that if it looked like an aircraft carrier and flew planes it was I through deck cruiser.

  10. I wonder if …
    A while ago, a friend told me how when he was consulting for a large outfit, he was part of a support team with customers including … the US Navy. One evening they took a call from a Captain Kirk, the helpdesk chap dealt with his problem, and in parting said that if the Captain had any other problems during working hours then he needs to call SPOC – being Single Point Of Contact, most customers being expected to channel help calls through their own “frontline” team during working hours.
    Apparently it took a while to calm the captain down enough to explain that no, the helpdesk guy wasn’t taking the urine, and “Spock” was actually SPOC.
    Just reading the comments above, it’s clear that he probably can’t go anywhere without his namesake coming to mind – and I strongly suspect that the jokes “quickly stop being funny”.

  11. My first two ships were County Class destroyers, aka “Mountbatten’s cruisers”.

    Iirc, When the cruiser build was turned down, all they did was delete one turret and resubmit as a destroyer, dusting off the GW24 destroyer design (about 1/2 the size) to make it look as if that had been the plan all the time.

  12. And I hope “drifted down the Kennebec River” isn’t actually true; surely something that size should have its engines on to ensure steerage way.

  13. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “Fundamentally, ships have got bigger for legislative, survivability and habitability reasons, as well as a growing realisation that a roomy ship (the SPRUANCES, our Type 45s) costs only a little more than a cramped one”

    The Type 42s started out at about £30 million pounds each – even though they had been promised for under £20 ml. They ended up about £120 million. The new Type 45s are a bit over a billion each. That is a lot of inflation.

    “This is why the RN refers to the Type 26 as a “global combat ship” rather than as a “frigate” or “destroyer” – it’s the size it needs to be, to do the jobs it’s intended for”

    Only if that job is keeping Naval officers in flag-ranked jobs. There is virtually nothing else for these ships to do. The Types 45 and 26 are a very expensive ways to bring one 4.5 inch gun close to shore.

    “and the fact that it’s twice the size of the Type 23s it’ll replace doesn’t mean it’s anywhere twice the cost (in fact, the inflation-adjusted price I’ve seen advanced for Hull #1 is not much more than for HMS Norfolk; a lot of good work’s been done to cut cost and risk already) But, cue folk complaining that it’s “too big for a frigate”…”

    Because it is. And hence the need for a sexier name. The Type 26 is unlikely to come in at less at a billion a pop. But they are claiming less than a third of that. So three times what the Type 23 cost. That is what BAe is claiming. They have no particular record of keeping these sorts of promises.

    Jason Lynch – “Proposed at least since the 1880s and the French jeune ecole whose modern torpedo-boats would slaughter the RN’s obsolete battleships, but keeps foundering on the rocks of reality and necessity.”

    And yet they did kill the battleship. The even faster and even cheaper airplane helped of course. It took a while for that to flow through the building programmes. After all, battleships were built to last. They went with the massive investment in protecting the fleet first.

    “It’s not impossible to crack the defences of a modern RN task group and sink what they’re protecting… but I can count the countries who could credibly do so without running out of fingers, and several of them are our allies (or at least not hostile or likely to become so).”

    The US Navy is clearly worried about Iran simply swamping them with cheap inflatables. No navies seem to agree with you because virtually none of them will bring their ships close to shore any more.

    “For the rest, if there’s something important to do, we should be able to get in, do it and get out at acceptable cost.”

    Indeed. Which is why BAe should never be given another contract again.

  14. SMFS,

    It’s remarkable to see so much ignorance in a single post.

    Lots of things suffered rampant inflation during the 1970s and early 1980s. Start designing a Type 42 in 1965, for a projected cost of £20 million, and inflation alone takes that to £40 million for Sheffield, and £120 million by the time Edinburgh commissions. The figures hardly seem catastrophic.

    Type 45 inherited the costs of the failed NFR90, the Europroject disaster of Project Horizon, development costs for PAAMS(S) and a political direction to pay for and use the revolutionary WR21 gas turbine, which would not be excessive because they’d be spread across fourteen hulls… we mean twelve hulls… we’ve ordered six and might maybe order two more… all right, we’re stopping at six. The unit cost for Dragon was about £600m in 2010… which, adjusted for inflation, is only around twice the price of 1965’s planned Type 42 for considerably more than twice the capability.

    Torpedo boats failed pretty comprehensively. Even by 1944, with a total technological advantage (VHF radio and good radar) a force of over fifty torpedo boats were beaten off easily by Nishimura’s battleships at the Surigao Strait, achieving nothing. Destroyers then attacked in and did much better execution, before Oldendorf’s elderly battleships – there for bombardment, not as frontline warships – finished off the cripples. (Should have been a carrier battle, but Halsey went off chasing decoys, leaving the main effort weakly protected). In the whole dreadnought era, torpedo boats sank exactly one battleship (the Austro-Hungarian Szent István, in 1918)

    The missile-armed ‘fast attack craft’ did little better, for the same reasons and despite inflated claims of its predicted effectivess – but somehow there’s always an excuse when they go up against proper ships and get slaughtered, and the *next* time they’ll pro

    And no, the US aren’t worried about “cheap inflatables”, nor are they afraid to get close to shore (whatever the execution of the Littoral Combat Ship turned out as, the clue’s in the name as to where it expects to operate and what it’s designed to do there). The worries about an Iranian threat are considerably more capable and multidimensional… which was why the Type 42s were withdrawn from the Gulf as unsurvivable in 2008 or so, and why the Type 45s and Type 23s are very much appreciated for their capabilities (as, in a different domain, are the minehunters) – none of which involve the 4.5″ Mk 8 Mod 1.

  15. It’s remarkable to see so much ignorance in a single post.

    Not when SMFS gets on his armchair admiral / general hobby horse, no. This was actually almost sane by those standards.

    Only if that job is keeping Naval officers in flag-ranked jobs.

    Close but no cigar. That part of the job is more accurately described as “providing second command slots for PWO(A) types and over-promoted WAFUs.”

  16. ” like an Austin Allegro to an E-Type Jaguar in handling and performance terms.

    Totally off topic but, having owned both at one time or another, I can assure you an Austin Allegro handles a whole lot better then a Jaguar E-type. There’s simply no comparison. They’re not even on the same page.
    Performance? Immaterial in something corners like a motor boat.

  17. “… their defences overwhelmed by multiple missiles, drones, torpedoes, …”

    This may have been true in the 20th century, but advances in naval air defense technology no longer guarantee a successful strike using lots of cheap missiles (air, surface or subsurface launched), modern Aegis systems are pretty much impenetrable and can engage anything up to SRBMs. or even an orbiting satellite, and they double up as anti-ship missiles for any fast attack boats. The solution is more likely to be a nuke or a cruise missile.

    Torpedos are relatively short range, even the best submarines would be lucky to get close enough undetected, torpedos are more sub to sub warfare nowadays.

    Drone armament wouldn’t even scratch the paintwork.

  18. We’ve been doing that for decades now.

    The Arleigh Burke destroyer is 10,000 tons – the same displacement at the Ticonderoga cruiser.

    And our vessels have, for a long time, been 5-10k heavier than the vessels of the same role in other navies. Because we’re rich byatch.

    But – something to keep in mind – its not the *displacement* of the vessel that determines its class, its where it fits into on a spectrum of vessel capabilities. And the Zumwalt is the first of a series that is intended to redraw the baseline.

    A cruiser is a multi-role vessel with a balance of offensive capability and endurance. A destroyer prioritizes offensive power over endurance.

    Not that a 15k destroyer isn’t going to be able to keep station as long as a 10k cruiser though. Or that the Zumwalt wasn’t originally a intended to be a new cruiser (CG(X)) at the beginning of the century, scrapped for the DD(X) and then the DD(21) projects, which were scrapped and then turned around and delivered the Zumwalt destroyer – with basically the same displacement and capabilities as the CG(X) project of 20+ years ago.

    Despite all this they’re even delivering it a year earlier than the original CG(X) delivery date.

  19. “Andrew Carey
    December 8, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the head Doctor is asked by Kirk or his First Officer to do something above his pay grade.”

    No doctor – Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC). Enlisted, E-6+ paygrade.

  20. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “It’s remarkable to see so much ignorance in a single post.”

    You keep saying this. It is a pity you keep failing to show it is true. Then we might learn something.

    “Lots of things suffered rampant inflation during the 1970s and early 1980s. Start designing a Type 42 in 1965, for a projected cost of £20 million, and inflation alone takes that to £40 million for Sheffield, and £120 million by the time Edinburgh commissions. The figures hardly seem catastrophic.”

    Sure. They do, actually for a variety of reasons but nothing to do with BAe. However as usual you are changing the subject and avoiding the point. When the last was delivered in 1985 it cost £130 million. The replacement cost a bit over a billion pounds each. Eight times as much. The first being launched in 2006. Sure, some of that is inflation. But it is clearly not the case that the larger ship costs slightly more. As you claimed. It costs a hell of a lot more.

    “Type 45 inherited the costs of the failed NFR90, the Europroject disaster of Project Horizon, development costs for PAAMS(S) and a political direction to pay for and use the revolutionary WR21 gas turbine”

    Sure. What the bureaucrats and BAe want is for their contracts to remain in the research merry-go-round where they can charge us all billions and produce nothing.

    “Torpedo boats failed pretty comprehensively. Even by 1944, with a total technological advantage (VHF radio and good radar) a force of over fifty torpedo boats were beaten off easily by Nishimura’s battleships at the Surigao Strait, achieving nothing. Destroyers then attacked in and did much better execution, before Oldendorf’s elderly battleships – there for bombardment, not as frontline warships – finished off the cripples.”

    Yes, I am happy to agree that is odd. The Destroyers attacked with torpedoes and did what the PT boats should have. I would guess there is some special circumstance here. Their torpedoes may have failed or their commanders, never very high, may not have pressed their attack. After all, a PT boat did one of the cruisers in.

    Notice that there were only two battleship v. battleship battles in the Pacific War. By WW2 the airplane and the torpedo boat had made it too risky.

    “In the whole dreadnought era, torpedo boats sank exactly one battleship (the Austro-Hungarian Szent István, in 1918)”

    It is not merely what they do, it is what they prevent. If someone’s AA prevents their enemies flying, or prevents accuracy or causes bombs to fall elsewhere, it has done its job even if they shoot nothing down.

    “And no, the US aren’t worried about “cheap inflatables”, nor are they afraid to get close to shore”

    The US Navy says otherwise.

    “which was why the Type 42s were withdrawn from the Gulf as unsurvivable in 2008 or so, and why the Type 45s and Type 23s are very much appreciated for their capabilities (as, in a different domain, are the minehunters) – none of which involve the 4.5″ Mk 8 Mod 1.”

    It is hard to think of a single threat to the Type 42 that the Iranians could mount that would require the extra capability of a Type 45. I suppose an AA ship is better prepared to deal with the Iranian Air force or what is left of it.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    Runcie Balspune – “This may have been true in the 20th century, but advances in naval air defense technology no longer guarantee a successful strike using lots of cheap missiles (air, surface or subsurface launched), modern Aegis systems are pretty much impenetrable and can engage anything up to SRBMs. or even an orbiting satellite, and they double up as anti-ship missiles for any fast attack boats. The solution is more likely to be a nuke or a cruise missile.”

    A nuke is less likely because there is usually only one of them. Don’t fall for the hype. We have no idea what the Aegis system can do. Well, we can be pretty sure they can’t hit satellites and they are unlikely to pose any threat to SRBMs. Which is fine as they are unlikely to be able to hit a carrier any time soon.

    However what the Aegis does it make cheap missiles more likely as the prefer means of annoying the Americans. The more reliable their radars and missiles are, the more every enemy has to rely on overwhelming them. Sure, they carry a lot of missiles, but they can only track and guide missiles to (I think from memory) 16 or so targets at a time. Someone with 17 platforms they don’t care much about will be a problem.

    Everyone recognises this which is why the number of missiles is going up all the time. The Type 42 carried 22 missiles. The Type 45 carries 48. The American Aegis cruisers carry almost 100.

    Which leads to the obvious question – The Type 45 is not as capable as the Aegis system. It is also more expensive. Buying them from the Japanese would have saved at least a third of the cost. From the Koreans, perhaps half. But they do not run their weapons procurement programmes as job creation schemes for marginal constituencies and to feather bed BAe.

    “Torpedos are relatively short range, even the best submarines would be lucky to get close enough undetected, torpedos are more sub to sub warfare nowadays.”

    I am not sure the Americans are going to take that risk with their carriers anywhere near someone with some subs. Nor will the Royal Navy. Submarines are a bit niche, but they are not as bad as you seem to think. The US was concerned enough to lease a conventional sub from the Swedes. The results were not encouraging.

    “Drone armament wouldn’t even scratch the paintwork.”

    Depends how big the drone gets. Although the best thing you could do with it was probably get it shot down. They only have 100 missiles.

  22. SMFS,

    You claimed Type 42 suffered catastrophic price growth: in fact it merely suffered the indignity of tracking RPI despite several enhancements and a major design change mid-production. Hardly a shock or a bad performance.

    Type 45, after two decades of politically-driven bungling to burnish our Eurodefensive credentials, ended up as a highly effective ship which the USN are keenly copying (their invitation for Daring to attend RIMPAC’s ballistic missile trial was practically a demand, and we’re leveraging the issue) once we went independent and actually built what we needed, rather than what France and Italy would permit while demanding one-third workshares each for buying four and two ships respectively (while our buy was still, then, twelve).

    Strip out the costs burdened by ministerial meddling and incompetence, and it’s incredible value for money compared to any peer competitor of anywhere near the capability, indeed even at headline cost it’s a bargain by US standards. We’re paying less for each Type 45 destroyer, than the USN is being billed for each Littoral Combat Ship of far less capability.

    Torpedo boats, meant to be cheap yet decisive, failed repeatedly. Even when they had a perfect opportunity against a desperate, outclassed opponent, they failed completely. Is that yet another bizarre exception, or is it perhaps possible that torpedo boats actually were never cheap nor decisive? That the ‘surprising failures’ are actually not surprising to those who get paid to study these issues? When *did* torpedo boats achieve their potential?

    As for threats to the Type 42, a single battery of C802 coastal-defence missiles (or their successors, Noor and then Ghader) would easily overwhelm a Type 42 with its two Radar 909 directors and single, twin-arm mechanical launcher needing twenty-two seconds to reload after every second shot. That you find it “hard to think of” doesn’t change the fact that four vehicles could do it easily: and C802 is mobile and camouflaged enough that the Iranians were able to sneak a fire unit into southern Lebanon in 2006 (into what may have been the most intensively searched and observed battlespace ever), smack the INS Hanit and a passing Egyptian freighter, and get away clean, rather denying the notion that we can easily find and kill all those pesky mobile missile launchers before they threaten us.

    Sea Dart had a decent kill probability against C802, and time to fire, reload and fire again: that gets you maybe three kills against a salvo of nine, between their clearing the horizon to become engageable and hitting the ship. Phalanx might get one, possibly two, so that’s four hits by 165kg warheads on a 1970s ship – Coventry rolled onto her beam ends and sank in twenty minutes, after a less harsh treatment.

    Oh, and Iran have enough C802 batteries covering the Straits of Hormuz to require both hands to count: add in the other missile systems and you need to take off your socks as well. To be honest, it’s surprising we kept pushing the 42s in there as long as we did… (I was riding Manchester in the CAG in 2008, one of the last 42 Gulf deployments)

  23. SMFS,

    AEGIS with SM-3 has indeed hit satellites: Op BURNT FROST in 2008, for instance.

    They’ve hit SRBMs, most recently off Scotland during the last JOINT WARRIOR.

    Is there no beginning to your knowledge?

    Type 45 is cheaper than an ARLEIGH BURKE, which is why the option of simply buying BURKEs from the US was carefully considered before being binned (45s are more capable in the areas we care about as well, but that’s a different issue). They’re cheaper than anything the Koreans or Japanese would charge for export, though we did get the Koreans to build the Tide-class replenishment ships for us – because there they would sign up to a specification significantly cheaper than any UK builder.

    Numbers of weapons are politically driven: the RN wanted many VLS silos which could be loaded or left empty as needed, the Treasury believed that halving the number of silos would magically halve the cost of the ship. (The Franco-Italian Horizon we eventually extricated ourselves from got 32 cells, we got 48 with an easy route to 64 and also a relatively cheap way to quadruple capacity against easy threats)

    The Australian Hobart-class air warfare destroyers also only have 48 cells… and for less capable ships bought as ‘low-risk options’ they’re running 50% more expensive and a lot later than the Type 45s. Hardly encouraging for an off-the-shelf buy from overseas being faster, cheaper and/or better.

    Oh, and the USN worrying about conventional submarines (of which Iran have scores of the bloody things, from three Kilos with decent range and reach to dozens of Yono SSCs that are only a lethal menace in a confined chokepoint… like Hormuz)? Type 23 frigates with Sonar 2087 have become a key part of their answer to that. Turns out our ‘useless’ frigates are considered extremely valuable… if not by you, then by the USN.

  24. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “You claimed Type 42 suffered catastrophic price growth”

    No I did not. Why do you bother with such obvious lies?

    “Type 45, after two decades of politically-driven bungling to burnish our Eurodefensive credentials, ended up as a highly effective ship which the USN are keenly copying (their invitation for Daring to attend RIMPAC’s ballistic missile trial was practically a demand, and we’re leveraging the issue)”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it. You work for BAe. Your pension depends on this sort of sh!t. But it is not true. Everyone gets invited to Rimpac. That is kind of the point. Copying?

    “once we went independent and actually built what we needed, rather than what France and Italy would permit while demanding one-third workshares each for buying four and two ships respectively (while our buy was still, then, twelve).”

    What we needed? You mean the Aster missile? The main reason for the Type 45 class to exist? Which would be made by France. Or the radar systems, PAAMS. Which would also be French. Although obviously BAe had to get a slice of gravy train there. The only British weapons on the thing seem to be the helicopters.

    Needed for what?

    “Strip out the costs burdened by ministerial meddling and incompetence, and it’s incredible value for money compared to any peer competitor of anywhere near the capability, indeed even at headline cost it’s a bargain by US standards.”

    And we are back with the BAe press release. It would have been cheaper to buy an Aegis-type from someone else. The French and Italians can get their clients to buy some of theirs. Even the Saudis have turned their noses up at ours. We can’t bribe them to buy one. What is Australia buying?

    “We’re paying less for each Type 45 destroyer, than the USN is being billed for each Littoral Combat Ship of far less capability.”

    Sure. And the rocket programme cost more too. Compare like with like. I am sure we could all find equally badly run programmes on both sides of the Atlantic to make whatever point we wanted.

    “Is that yet another bizarre exception, or is it perhaps possible that torpedo boats actually were never cheap nor decisive?”

    Well they were certainly cheap. I don’t think anyone is claiming they were decisive though.

    “That you find it “hard to think of” doesn’t change the fact that four vehicles could do it easily”

    All you do is raise the number of cheap, simple, Chinese designed missiles the Iranians need to bring to the fight. Nothing more. Assuming they are capable of finding and targeting. They are a billion pounds a ship. They are not going anywhere near anyone who can fire at them.

  25. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “AEGIS with SM-3 has indeed hit satellites: Op BURNT FROST in 2008, for instance.”

    No it hasn’t. Or at least there is ample reason to be very cautious before assuming it has. For a start it relies on very interesting language from the military. Words like “hit” are usually notable for their absence. They have history of faking such tests. Their defense for doing it was specifically that unlike the Chinese test, it was at a low altitude because the satellite was re-entering on its own.

    “They’ve hit SRBMs, most recently off Scotland during the last JOINT WARRIOR.”

    So they claim. Again they have a track record. We won’t know until someone fires one in anger.

    “Type 45 is cheaper than an ARLEIGH BURKE, which is why the option of simply buying BURKEs from the US was carefully considered before being binned (45s are more capable in the areas we care about as well, but that’s a different issue).”

    What areas would those be? You can buy an AB cruiser from the US for $1.8 billion. The pound is all over the place these days but that doesn’t look cheaper to me.

    “They’re cheaper than anything the Koreans or Japanese would charge for export, though we did get the Koreans to build the Tide-class replenishment ships for us – because there they would sign up to a specification significantly cheaper than any UK builder.”

    Would charge? That means they are not cheaper but if we pretend they would gouge us, they will gouge us even more than BAe? The Japanese built their own for a lot less than we can. We got the Koreans to do it because the scandal of defence procurement is too obvious to pass.

    “The Australian Hobart-class air warfare destroyers also only have 48 cells… and for less capable ships bought as ‘low-risk options’ they’re running 50% more expensive and a lot later than the Type 45s. Hardly encouraging for an off-the-shelf buy from overseas being faster, cheaper and/or better.”

    Sure. Those are being built by a government-owned ship yard and BAe. Can’t think why that might be a problem. The fact that the Australians are more incompetent than us is not cause for congratulations. It means we should worry about the common factor – BAe for instance.

    “Type 23 frigates with Sonar 2087 have become a key part of their answer to that. Turns out our ‘useless’ frigates are considered extremely valuable… if not by you, then by the USN.”

    Yeah yeah yeah. Back with the press release. What answer? No one is trying to do anything about those Iranian subs. And neither the Americans nor the Royal Navy will enter the Gulf if someone might shoot at them.

  26. the Treasury believed that halving the number of silos would magically halve the cost of the ship

    There are people in my line of work like that. If you showed them a Range Rover with a price tag of £100k, they’d suggest removing a wheel and saving £25k.

  27. No one is trying to do anything about those Iranian subs.

    Believe it or not, that’s because we aren’t actually at war with Iran. And it rather depends on your definition of “do anything”.

    If you believe that, for example, HMS SOMERSET, isn’t actively tracking the Iranian Kilos when they leave port and she is in area, then you are barking.

    Torpedos are relatively short range, even the best submarines would be lucky to get close enough undetected, torpedos are more sub to sub warfare nowadays.

    More, yes. But quite capable of hitting a surface ship at what would be “over the horizon” distances if there was a horizon for a submerged boat.

    And, of course, sub-Harpoon and TLAM.

  28. @Jason: and no doubt there were people in 1945 who thought that battleships weren’t obsolete, but they were. They were ended by aircraft attacks, and even submarine attacks. It’ll be much the same for other surface ships: someone will learn how to saturate their defences. We came within an ace of losing the Falklands war to air attack on our ships, and that was from the feeble Argies.

  29. So Much For Subtlety

    Surreptitious Evil – “Believe it or not, that’s because we aren’t actually at war with Iran. And it rather depends on your definition of “do anything”.”

    You need to take that up with Jason. He thinks we are.

    “If you believe that, for example, HMS SOMERSET, isn’t actively tracking the Iranian Kilos when they leave port and she is in area, then you are barking.”

    I thought the Somerset was in Scotland? Wasn’t there a massive drugs bust recently?

  30. You need to take that up with Jason. He thinks we are.

    Citation needed?

    I thought the Somerset was in Scotland? Wasn’t there a massive drugs bust recently?

    Recently? April. Even a T23 can move a considerable distance in 8 or so months.

  31. SMFS,

    You wrote, I quote:-

    “The Type 42s started out at about £30 million pounds each – even though they had been promised for under £20 ml. They ended up about £120 million. The new Type 45s are a bit over a billion each. That is a lot of inflation.”

    If it’s an irrelevant number, why did you raise it as if it was significant? Still, if you think I work for “BAe”, that’s about as correct as your other claims.

    “Everyone gets invited to RIMPAC” – really? To the MDA’s ballistic-missile defence phase? With US observers on the ship and serious data sharing going on, as Daring tracked two TBM targets being engaged and destroyed? *Everyone* gets invited to that? That’ll surprise the US Navy… it’ll certainly surprise Angus, who was her skipper at the time. But of course he was merely there and commanding the ship, while an anonymous keyboard warrior is *far* better informed.

    The radar systems on Type 45 are not ‘PAAMS’, another schoolboy error: PAAMS is the entire combat system. The main radar, 1045, is SAMPSON – designed and built in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and an excellent system (It’s the Sputnik atop the mainmast). The area surveillance set, 1046 (the angled blackboard), is Dutch and is common to the other Horizon classes: the key difference between PAAMS(S) (British) and PAAMS(L) (Franco-Italian) is that we wanted an area air defence ship and they only wanted a point-defence frigate, hence they use their EMPAR radar instead and a much less capable combat system.

    Our version of the combat system is entirely UK-specific, and is developed and maintained by MBDA Briston, in building 20Z on their Filton site. (But apparently a Eurocollaboration would be cheaper and better, so it was mandated for years until it became too obvious to ignore that it was failing badly). PAAMS(L) gets you the sort of capability we’re putting onto Type 23 and Type 26, self-defence and goalkeeping for one or two other ships: PAAMS(S) gets you task force air defence. Why does that matter? Because we actually do task force operations, unlike the French or Italians…

    Buying an AEGIS-type from “somewhere else” was investigated carefully, and no, it wouldn’t be cheaper, nor more capable (as the Australians are currently and expensively finding out). As usual on a US contract, the headline numbers look nice until you discover they exclude key GFE – and that’s before discovering that you cannot change a single line of code, nor even discover what the system will do under stress. To avoid that, you need to be a partner rather than a customer (hence our input to the F-35 programme, which means we’re actually able to look inside the black boxes and confirm what it does). We could have done that for AEGIS, which was the Navy’s preferred option, but it was decided in Downing Street to go European instead.

    And since you’ve gone from saying “they can’t do X or Y” to “they’re lying when they claim they have”, I think we’ll simply have to agree to differ: if your response to any dissenting opinion is to claim the holder is a paid shill for “BAe” (srsly? so 1990s!) and that any information you disagree with in the public domain is simply falsehood, then you can declare yourself winner of the internets, and rearrange your tinfoil beanie into a veritable victor’s crown.

    There’s glorious amounts of waste and stupidity in defence procurement and equipment support, which provides ample remuneration for those willing to try to attempt damage control – but much of it is driven by folk with SMFS’s mindset, (some, indeed, in uniform), whose confidence far outstrips their understanding.

    Hence the insistence on NFR90, then Project Horizon, that a collaborative programme would be “cheaper” than either partnering with the US or staying independent, that experimental recuperative gas turbines – previously rejected by several other navies and all commercial users – *must* be subsidised and fitted to catalyse the surely-inevitable massive export sales, that a bespoke, unique SYLVER launcher system would be ‘better’ than the proven US Mark 41… Trace the paperwork back and, oddly enough, all these decisions are festooned with ignored warnings from mere engineers that they will be more expensive for less capability, and bake problems into the ship for some time to come… but then, without politicians making silly decisions for short-term gain, they wouldn’t then need folk like me to pick up the pieces and see what can be salvaged.

  32. Dearime,

    The battleship didn’t become obsolete because it was vulnerable (aircraft carriers and submarines are somewhat easier to sink once you hit them): it became obsolete because its job of battering other battleships with shellfire at a range of five miles became irrelevant.

    For as long as we want to move stuff by sea, we’ll need to at least dispute sea control: which means we’ll need ships or something like them, until something changes and we don’t. The trouble is, manned aircraft were declared obsolete in 1957: seems the memo didn’t get read. Surface ships would die if a missile boat got within twenty miles, as of 1967… turned out it wasn’t so simple. Tanks were meant to be irrelevant after 1973; again, they adapted and learned instead. There are many prophets out there, most wrong to a greater or lesser extent.

  33. Yes a second thanks for the entertaining thrust and counter thrust of Jason and SFMS. I managed to avoid being hit by stray missiles from either side.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on what is the solution, or a meaningful partial solution, to the clusterfvck that is defence procurement, particularly in the UK (I imagine the winding up of BAE might be one proposal)?

  34. BraveFart,

    BAE are a symptom, not a cause. They act the way they do because it’s a very efficient means to make money: if you don’t want to hosepipe cash at them for nothing, buy from them in a sane and sensible manner.

    The problem is one of long-standing, and I offer special pleading as an engineer: the MOD has spent a lot of time and effort driving out experienced professionals from its procurement process and its technical analysis. The civilian ‘engineer’ working the technical side of a project team will be a C2 on £30k (half the going rate for a decent CEng these days), a C1 on £36k for a really high-budget one; the commercial officer responsible for the contract will be a C2 or a D (on £24k or so). As a result, they’re rarely particularly experienced, and the longstanding squeeze on pay and progression actively punishes those who stay in role; so nobody hangs around long enough to *become* experienced.

    So, it’s remarkably easy for either a politician, or a military desk officer – the worst offenders are the thrusting OF3s needing a “crunchy Abbey Wood tour” tickbox for their promotion board, and Army officers on air or maritime projects particularly dangerous in my experience so far – to impose a Commanding Officer’s Really Good Idea on the project on the basis of either commercial blandishments, personal prejudice, or sucking up to their reporting officer. A typical ABW CS, not long out of university and already regretting taking the job and looking to move, is usually more interested in not rocking the boat and jeopardising their chance to move on, than in arguing with the person in uniform using assertive language, bags of confidence and plenty of Sandhurst karate (and lest I be accused of mocking the military too much, at weekends I’m one myself, plus they actually do tend to really respect a good argument properly evidenced – the technical staff are *meant* to do that, we’ve just decided to squeeze out the ones who can)

    And all this before you get into simple mistakes, or being outmanoeuvred either technically, commercially or both.

    Because nobody stays in role, nobody is held to account and nobody remembers what happened three years ago, so you often get repeated cycles of failure: the current example is trying to update the armament on Challenger 2, which is stuck with a 1980s-vintage gun whose ammunition is going out of life and which is no longer confidently overmatching the threats out there. For over a decade, desk officers have arrived, launched a study, discovered it’s a very hard problem to solve and the solution is a new tank (hardly unfair now, CR2’s been in service twenty years) which is dismissed as “doesn’t suit the optics/not a priority/not funded this year”. The next step is a life extension project to at least keep it running (metaphorically, replacing the Betamax with a Blu-Ray or at least DVD). Launching this in a flurry of Powerpoint and MODAF with BAE acting as prime contractor counts as a success for the desk officer, who moves on with relief. It’s their successor who discovers that there’s no industrial capacity to do the job at an acceptable price, so launches a study to fix Challenger’s gun… which reports that it’s really expensive and difficult… so the cycle repeats again as the tank continues to age out and options to replace it (such as low-mileage Leopard 2A5s from Germany) are lost. (We’re currently on the fourth iteration of this, with BAE having gratefully been paid for their support each time and awaiting the fifth cycle – they have no way to *make* MOD act like that, but no incentive at all to stop the stupidity). If I really lacked integrity I’d be latching onto whatever CLIP, CSP, CEP, or CLE has become this year, having failed early this year and already being retendered – I’m offering ‘Future Upgraded Challenger Kinetic Energy Replacement’ as the next project title.

    If that’s part of the problem, how would I fix it? Accept that if you want competent staff, you need to pay appropriately, no matter what the Daily Mail squeals. You could get away with rather fewer numbers, if you used people with decent skills and domain knowledge (instead of parachuting a newish graduate in and hoping they’ll pick it up on the way) which would reduce the cost (and you’d also need fewer contract staff, who are heavily used to disguise how weak the skillbase has become)

    And the flipside of more money, would be to demand longer time in post (need to reintroduce progression for that, though) and, crucially, accountability: it should be possible to trace a decision (or, often as crucial, a refusal to decide) to an individual and have that information follow them.

    It’s not all bleak, at least: One positive step, that’s had good effect on the maritime side, has been delegating funding to Front Line Commands and ending the clawbacks of savings: so if Navy Command HQ can find a clever way to save money, they get to keep it and invest it in something they want but couldn’t previously afford (that was part of how we got Phalanx fitted to the Type 45s, for example). Once it’s “their money” being spent, rather more care gets spent on it, and there’s more attention paid when an analyst or a tactical developer points out “sir, with all due and proper respect…”

    Dominic Cummings has some interesting opinions, especially at

    many of which apply with equal force to defence.

  35. Because nobody stays in role, nobody is held to account and nobody remembers what happened three years ago, so you often get repeated cycles of failure:

    Oh, I do love the oil business. What, you’re talking about military procurement? Sorry, carry on.

  36. So Much For Subtlety

    Jason Lynch – “If it’s an irrelevant number, why did you raise it as if it was significant?”

    It is significant. It is just not what you claimed it was.

    “To the MDA’s ballistic-missile defence phase? With US observers on the ship and serious data sharing going on, as Daring tracked two TBM targets being engaged and destroyed?”

    So now you are changing what you claimed. Great. As we move along. Of course the US is going to invite one of its two major Naval allies along. What they are not doing is buying any. If these systems were so good, they would.

    “The radar systems on Type 45 are not ‘PAAMS’, another schoolboy error: PAAMS is the entire combat system.”

    Gee thank you for that.

    “The main radar, 1045, is SAMPSON – designed and built in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and an excellent system (It’s the Sputnik atop the mainmast).”

    So your whole “we get what we want” comes down to what again? A French is it? owned company designing a radar in Cowes?

    “Buying an AEGIS-type from “somewhere else” was investigated carefully, and no, it wouldn’t be cheaper, nor more capable (as the Australians are currently and expensively finding out).”

    The Japanese seem to disagree. Again the common problem here seems to be BAe.

    “As usual on a US contract, the headline numbers look nice until you discover they exclude key GFE”

    Which is rich coming from a British contractor.

    “And since you’ve gone from saying “they can’t do X or Y” to “they’re lying when they claim they have”, I think we’ll simply have to agree to differ”

    Well no. That is not what I said. I said they have a track record of lying about such tests. Whether they are on these ones or not is another matter. The sensible option is to look at that record, and at the technical problems involved, and assume they have not.

    “There’s glorious amounts of waste and stupidity in defence procurement and equipment support, which provides ample remuneration for those willing to try to attempt damage control – but much of it is driven by folk with SMFS’s mindset, (some, indeed, in uniform), whose confidence far outstrips their understanding.”

    Indeed there is. But it is not driven by people like me who object to it. It is driven by mindless flag wavers like you. Flag wavers for BAe, not for the Services. What damage control? You are still claiming the F-35 is the best thing ever. We need to do something about defence procurement. Simply claiming that everything is for the best and every cost overrun is peachy is not doing something.

    But congratulations on trying to claim my argument.

    “Hence the insistence on NFR90, then Project Horizon, that a collaborative programme would be “cheaper” than either partnering with the US or staying independent”

    Something has to be done. Everyone loves collaboration. Lots of trips to France. They never work. We can agree this is not likely to be a solution. But something has to be done. Going with the US is probably the best option.

    “that a bespoke, unique SYLVER launcher system would be ‘better’ than the proven US Mark 41…”

    And just two posts ago you were insisting that we could not go with the US and needed our own bespoke unique systems. Not even that long ago. These things are easy to predict once they have happened. Predicting the future is hard. Although the sensible rules are – collaborating with the Europeans does not work, nor does anything BAe has anything to do with. Buying off the shelf from someone else usually does.

    “but then, without politicians making silly decisions for short-term gain, they wouldn’t then need folk like me to pick up the pieces and see what can be salvaged.”

    The politicians don’t carry all the blame here. They are regularly duped by Service Chiefs who know better and contractors who know a good thing when they see it. There is ample blame for everyone.

    Jason Lynch – “The battleship didn’t become obsolete because it was vulnerable (aircraft carriers and submarines are somewhat easier to sink once you hit them): it became obsolete because its job of battering other battleships with shellfire at a range of five miles became irrelevant.”

    Because there were better ways to sink expensive ships at 250 mile ranges. With airplanes for instance. They did actually very suddenly become vulnerable.

    “The trouble is, manned aircraft were declared obsolete in 1957: seems the memo didn’t get read.”

    Cavalry was declared obsolete some time around 1919. The memo did get read.

    Jason Lynch – “BAE are a symptom, not a cause. They act the way they do because it’s a very efficient means to make money: if you don’t want to hosepipe cash at them for nothing, buy from them in a sane and sensible manner.”

    Which is pretty much what I said. Except they also lack proper managerial control. They screw up even when there is not a lot of money involved. Everyone is to blame here. A good solution is no more contracts for BAe.

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