Type 45 Destroyers face further worries

The Portsmouth Evening News for today includes an in-depth investigation into the problems that are plaguing the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers.

Reportedly the Navy is planning to take old Phalanx close-in weapons systems from old Type 42 Destroyers as they are scrapped and fit them on the Type 45′s. Why they were not planned to have a close in system such as Phalanx or Goalkeeper in the first place defies logic and demonstrates the extent to which Ministry of Defence procurement policy is about cutting costs at the expsense of lives. The Falklands War demonstrated that even modern weapons systems are not 100% reliable, and was exactly the reason why close-in weapons systems were fitted in the first place.

Sources have also admitted that they are still no closer to establishing why the Sea Viper missile system has failed in 50% of its test-firings from a barge off the south coast of France. News that the Phalanx system is to be fitted to the Type 45′s might suggest that the Navy is planning to deploy the Daring’s without Sea Viper operational – given the shortage of escort ships there is a real prospect of a 7,500 ton, £1billion Air Defence Destroyer being used as a patrol boat, with an add-on close in weapon system in place of a defective missile system.

New reports have also surfaced regarding the Type 45′s new communication system, which is intended to allow them to see what other ships are doing and to co-ordinate action. Apparently the cut from 12, to 8, and then to 6 vessels was not important, we were told, as 1 ship could do the work of 2 or 3 anyway. Yet, unbelievably, a contract has not even been placed for the CEC (Co-operative Engagement Capability) system. The MOD procurement department is yet to decide whether the system will be ordered from British or American suppliers.

These new reports cast a dark shadow over MOD policy. That ships were planned without standard close-in weapons systems, that the main missile system is not yet operational, and that the ship’s main computer system has not even been ordered yet, beggars belief and could suggest that it will be a matter of years before they are able to perform their intended role in the Fleet.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Type 45 Destroyers face further worries

  1. They did similar with the RAF’s Typhoons. They were not to be fitted with the Mauser cannon to save money. However, it was realised that removal would affect flight characteristics so it was to be fitted but not used. This was becuase of the believe in the missile, I think that one has been argued before in the 60′s! However, eventually the decision was taken to maintain them and use them. As you say problems with cost cutting and requirement. We must remember much of this is caused by strategic decision making at the policy level and much of that has been dictated by the Teasury. I think we should remember that most new weapons systems have there teething problems.

  2. James Daly

    Very good points as usual Ross.

    I think its incredible how they planned to bring a class of Destroyers into service without close-in defence. There was a mad scramble to fit ships with Phalanx after the Falklands when it became clear that missiles were not always reliable – Sheffield was lost when the threat was picked up too late for Sea Dart and Coventry was lost when Broadsword’s Sea Wolf was unable to fire. You wouldn’t want to rely on Phalanx or Goalkeeper, but the radar-laid Gatling-gun principle is a sound insurance policy.

    I do agree that a lot of the problems in British defence are a reflection of broader Government and especially Treasury policies. I don’t think you can run Defence as if it is any other arm of Government, you can’t buy Destroyers in the same manner that you would buy a batch of mops for the Ministry of Silly Walks!

    Another example, the SA80 rifle… I know a lot’s been written about it, but am I right in thinking that the MOD went with one supplier for political reasons, when Heckler Koch offered the best product? When the original version proved defective (to quote my uncle, ‘a bag of shit’!) Hechler Koch were eventually brought in to refine it, resulting in a much better weapon.

    There does seem to be a theme with British Defence procurement…

  3. Ever heard of the phrase “spoiling the ship for a ha’penny’s worth of tar”?

    CEC was cancelled some years ago – mad, considering the network centric nature of modern things. As for the CIWS, like you say, they are a reasonable back up.

    Remember when the Government said it was getting rid of the Sea Harrier (discussed as huge length at various places*) Ministers claimed that the Type 45 (twelve planned back then) could do the job of a fighter, clearly ignoring the differences in range etc. CEC would help greatly though.

    They key lesson from 1982 was the need for defence in depth, with overlapping layers to both deter and inflict attrition. However, many of the lessons from the South Atlantic have been ignored…

    Such as http://www.pprune.org/forums/showthread.php?t=98152

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Type 45 Destroyers face further worries « Daly History Blog -- Topsy.com

  5. Jed

    The plan was always to take the Phalanx from units being retired – why not ? It makes sense. What is more worrying is that Phalanx 1B with its 20mm cannon is more useful for ‘asymmetric’ warfare scenarios, such as small boat swarms, or small aircraft or helicopters, it is no longer a ‘top of the range’ anti-missile system.

    This becomes an issue if there really is trouble with Aster / Sea Viper – but I don’t think 50% of the trails have failed, that is the first time I have heard that number.

    As for cancelling or at least not ordering CEC – well all of us with any brain cells at all know that the old “this brand new whizzy super ship can do the job of 3 old ones” is political BS – what do you expect from the UK MOD / Govt ???

  6. James Daly

    Jed I took the 50% figure from the Portsmouth Evening News of 18/01/2010, which stated that 2 out of four trial firings had failed. Regrettably I cannot find an online link to the article. Of course the News have not cited their source, so its not necessarily gospel.

  7. Grim

    James, the 2 firings that failed were both testing the system against the most complex kind of attack it can face (multiple incoming targets in one go). They’re not sure why they failed, but they know that except in the worst case scenario, the system will work as advertised.

    …It’s not great but it’s better than nothing.

    And Jed is right, the plan was always to take the CIWS of T42′s as they retired and put them on the T45′s (who had the points preprepared for their placement.

    As a side note, they always knew the Aster system would not be ready for the ISD of Daring. It is currently planned for 2011 if the recent failures dont push it back further.

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