Innovative Features in Britain’s New Frigate

The Brits are planning a new class of frigate, the Type 26, that has some interesting features.

The ship is going to be a close contemporary of the Offshore Patrol Cutter with both the new frigate and the OPC programs scheduled to deliver their first ship in 2020. The Type 26 is expected to displace 5,400 tons full load, so it is about 20% larger than the National Security Cutters and perhaps twice the size of the  OPC. Still some of the thinking might be applicable.

Propulsion:

“For propulsion, BAE has opted for a conventional but upgraded hybrid system combining gas turbines for top speeds and diesel generators for a fuel-efficient quiet mode, and these generators will provide significantly higher speeds than those of the Type 23.”

The 4,300 ton Type 23 cruises 7,800 miles at 17 knots so presumably they are talking about 20 knots or more on diesel-electric alone, for this relatively large ship. Like the now 22 year old type 23s, they will replace, the Type 26s’ generators will supply power for both propulsion and hotel services.

Boats, Mission Modules, and Aircraft:

“For greater flexibility of the combat systems, the ship will have an integrated mission bay and hangar, allowing the Navy to more easily deploy varying numbers of helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and boats according to the situation.”

The frigate, like many new designs, incorporates provision for reconfigurable space. What they have done differently is make this space adaptable for trade-offs among helicopters, unmanned vehicles (air, surface, and sub-surface), and boats.

Computer Systems:

“This basically means having a single computer system that can support the multiple pieces of software used throughout the ship, rather than installing separate hardware systems and local area networks from each supplier.

“Using blade server technology originally developed for the banking industry to provide reliable, high-power processing, the computing environment will be able to run different “virtual” operating systems to cope with the variety of programmes the ship will use, from navigation to combat management.”

Common hardware sounds like a great idea, but some are already questioning the choice of a Windows operating system.

More:

There are lots of conceptual drawings, a couple of videos, and additional links along with exhaustive comment (over 500) here.

Icebreaker Envy

Ryan Erickson has published the Arctic SAR boundaries on the Naval Institute Blog. Looking at this chart got me thinking about ice capable ships. That of course lead to looking for similar information on Antarctica, so this is going to be a survey of What nations are interested in the Polar regions? and What do their ice capable fleets look like?

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A Very Different Coast Guard

In Science Fiction, an “alternate reality” is a common plot device. It allows you to think “outside the box” and sidestep some of your preconceptions. A recent post, “Maritime Security Operations and the ‘Myth’ of Piracy,” allowed me to look at how Coast Guard missions are done in an alternate reality, the UK. I’d like to recommend it, not because I agree with the conclusions, but because they are so different.

What would be Coast Guard missions in the US, are fractured among several agencies in the UK. Many are done by the Royal Navy and fixed wing Maritime SAR has been done by RAF Nimrod ASW aircraft (Just as it is done by CP-140 Auroras in Canada). Deep defense cuts in the wake of a defense review, are taking away many of the resources that have done these missions. The RN is loosing many of its older smaller frigates that have done law enforcement. Towing vessels are being discarded. The new generation of Nimrods, now almost finished at great expense, are to be discarded. This raises the question, how will these missions be done in the future?

They have a Maritime and Coast Guard Agency, but it is very small, unarmed, civilian, and relies heavily on volunteers. They do SAR with surface assets, Merchant Vessel safety, and marine pollution prevention, but no drug or fisheries enforcement and no buoy tending (this seems to be handled locally although there seems to be a bill to establish nationwide funding and oversight). They have a UK Border Agency (analogous to Immigration Customs Enforcement) that works with police to do drug and migrant interdiction, and they have more than one fisheries enforcement agency including a separate one for Scotland. None of these agencies appear to operate aircraft.

Among the comments were calls for an American style Coast Guard, but the post proposes something the author considers less radical, using the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA, a rough equivalent of the Military Sealift Command, MSC) to man ships and put them under the authority of the Coast Guard, Customs, and Fisheries Agencies, “In UK waters Fisheries officers could be carried, and Customers officers in the same way.  In the Caribbean or off Somalia I would suggest the boarding parties should be made up of Royal Marines.

And rather than use small Offshore Patrol Vessels, he proposes using Naval Auxiliaries, “I am not a big fan of smaller less flexible vessels, so lets go to the other extreme and examine the use of really big RFA’s for these maritime security operations.

“As the RN surface fleet has shrunk, RFA tankers and the auxiliary landing ships of the Bay Class have been used on the Windies Guard Ship’ and other duties. While some have questioned the veracity of using a tanker to do anti-drug runner ops’ I say “so what?” – it’s a flexible asset, use it for whatever you can.

That is a very different view. There has been a lively response to the post with over 90 replies. We have had our own experiment with manning ships for other agencies. Depending on the National Science Foundation to fund the Icebreaker program is what got us in the current situation.  The poster never addressed who he expected to do air ops for his coast guard.

Looking at this alternate reality makes me appreciate what we have in terms of the opportunities for synergy, flexibility, coordination, and efficiency.