‘Why things don’t happen’ – calls for a cheap Frigate

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The RUSI has published another thought-provoking article on the state of Britain’s armed forces, that is bound to inform debate and discussion around the ongoing Strategic Defence Revew.

In ‘Why things don’t happen: silent principles of national security’, Jeremy Blackham and Gwyn Prins argue that the deepest issues in British Defence are the most silent – principally, the Royal Navy. The article argues that geopolitics makes a maritime framework imperative for the future of Britain’s armed forces. However, the Royal Navy has progressively – or regressively – become weaker and weaker, to the point of not being able to meet the challenges facing it.

The Royal Navy has often been called the silent service – it goes about its business quietly, efficiently, largely away from public gaze and without without blowing its own trumpet. However, in todays media-savvy world, has this led to the Royal Navy being quietly maligned? The Royal Navy, the authors argue, is the main force safeguarding Britain’s silent security principles.

The same authors argued in an earlier article that the Royal Navy was in danger of losing coherence, with ships that were largely a hangover form the Cold War reducing overall utility in a changing world. One of the other points made, that I totally agree with, is that the deeper principles of defence and security are drowned-out by inter-service politicking. And given that the Navy is overhwelmingly a platform-based service, it is at the mercy of funding and equipment issues.

That ‘hard power’ is being replaced by ‘soft power’ was suggested in a major speech by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007. Similarly to Tony Blair‘s Chicago ‘Blair Doctrine’ speech, Brown’s policy brought about consistent growth in the international aid budget, while the Defence budget became more and more squeezed year on year. Yet this naive believe in throwing money at developing countries (and countries that are richer than the UK, for that matter) is intellectually bankrupt if it comes at the expense of the defence that can safeguard humanitarian intervention. part of the problem, however, is that the carefree signing of cheques to foreign countries is so ingrained in decision-makers , that – in the words of the authors – “It demands a bonfire of current assumptions, plus the demolition and rebuilding of current institutions.”

The MOD’s procurement spending comes in for particularly harsh criticism – it is argued that up to a third of the MOD’s budget is wasted by indecision and delays. The problem is, however, that while the country is effectively at war in Afghanistan, peacetime constraints are still over-riding all decisions in Whitehall – primarily, a desire to cut costs at all times.

The authors also look at globalisation. The real impact of globalisation, they argue, is that states and societies are – more than ever – interdependent. Trade and economies are so interconnected that a small problem anywhere could spell disaster for other parts of the world. But this interdependence is subject to very few checks and balances, as the UN is frequently bypassed and ignored.

The Defence Green Paper’s suggestion that Britain align herself more closely with France is odd to say the least – Britain has since 1945 had wildly varying strategic interests with France. French politicians are hardly likely to take decisions with British interests in mind – De Gaulle is an obvious example.

The article goes onto look at a subject that has occupied much of my attention as of late – that of military tribalism. Although the Ministry of Defence has been the primary agency of Defence planning since the demise of the single-service ministries, it is still governed by a deeply-tribal system. The individual chiefs of staff are the tribal chiefs of their service, making it very difficult for them to agree to any decisions that reflect badly on them in this capacity. Against this tribal atmosphere, ‘jointness’ has been a policy used by the Treasury to divide and rule the services. Jointness may be anathema to many wishing to preserve their independence, but recent – and not so recent – history shows us that no operation in war is ever really not of a joint nature. Evacuations and Invasions are a prime example, and the Royal Marines usually exert an influence out of all proportion to their size. The argument is, therefore, that by protecting their independence, the services are actually shooting themselves in the foot.

The post-Cold War run-down of the Royal Navy has been conducted very much in a climate of ‘nothing ever happens’. Because no major or even medium level war has occured for some time, the assumption is that good order is now a constant. The authors argue, however, that this good order and lack of major conflict is precisely because of pre-emption and deterrent, both nuclear and conventional. The suggestion is that when something does not happen, it is because someone of something has stopped it from happening, or has made it impossible to occur in the first place. The example offered by the authors is that of world trade – if less ships were available to patrol the worlds trade routes, would threats emerge as a result?

 The British Empire was largely built in seapower, which in turn was built on control of the oceans. Perhaps the modern public is seablind thanks to the growth of air travel, but the bulk of Britain’s trade – and crucial elements such as fuel – still comes by sea. And as much of this trade has to transit a small number of choke points – Hormuz, and Suez for example – it is highly vulnerable. Against this background, and that of Britain’s shrinking fleet, states such as India and Australia are expanding their naval resources. Japan is opening a naval base in Djibouti, in order to safeguard her shipping off Somalia.

And so to the size and structure of the Royal Navy. Whilst Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon justified the failure to build new ships, by arguing that as newer ships were bigger and more advanced, they would have more capability and would be able to take on the roles that strength-in-numbers would normally handle. Yet all common sense and logic suggests that a low number of high-spec ships are not ideal for policing the globes sea lanes. Crucially, however, the polarity between high and low intensity operations is seen as alarming – it should be seen more as a spectrum; a sliding scale.

A concise table in the article shows just how hamstrung the Royal Navy will be in future years. In 2010 it has 23 Frigates, with an average age of 15 years and across 4 types. By 2020 this will be 21 ships, with an average age of 21 – the age frequently understood to be the limit of a ships active service life. The perils are all too clear. This force structure has been largely built around the need to escort the two new aircraft carriers, yet Britain is very unlikely to go to war in a conventional manner with a full carrier battle group, and in any case European Navies have ample air defence escorts of their own that could be co-opted. The other problem is that the high cost of Type 45 Destroyers is likely to hamper the number of more useful Type 26 Frigates that can be procured. Such a building programme, the authors argue, effectively tells the world that Britain is ‘signing off’ from maritime security.

So, what steps can be put in place to rectify the slide? Firstly, that strength in depth is important not only for presence and replacability, but also for deterrent value – if the enemy know that you are unlikely to respond, they are more likely to act. And, ‘if you cannot afford to lose a ship, then you cannot afford to use it’. The authors would scap the Type 26 C2 design, and would replace them with 10 cheap Frigates within 10 years, effectively an equivalent of the Type 21 Class in the 1970’s. The Danish Absalon Class, and the Dutch Holland Class, are offered up as inspiration of what can be achieved at much lower cost than the Type 45 and 26 programmes. A cheap, multi-pupose frigate would be of far more use patrolling sea lanes and combatting pirates than a Type 45 Destroyer.

Interesting thoughts indeed…

Read the full article here

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41 Comments

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41 responses to “‘Why things don’t happen’ – calls for a cheap Frigate

  1. Cheapness should not be at the cost of survivability. If the Type 21 had been given better radar and a lighweight form of Sea Wolf, would ARDENT and ANTELOPE have ben lost in 1982?

    With respect to the role of protecting merchant shipping, I am reminded of the 1980s tanker war during the Iran/Iraq war – and would flag up the following US paper 9in PDF format):

    http://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/US-Iranian_Confrontation_at_Sea.pdf

  2. James Daly

    I think the problem is that there is always a risk that ships are going to get sunk, regardless of their weaponry – look at Sheffield, she was caught off guard, even with Sea Dart and more advanced radar than the Type 21, and similar with Coventry – the Coventry/Broadsword incident was one of those quirks of fate that goes beyond any kind of planning or technology. Would the Type 21’s have been OK with Phalanx or Goalkeeper CIWS in 1982? possibly.

    It should be possible however to put together a decent enough escort at a reasonable cost with off the shelf components – how about SeaRam SAM, for example? The problem seems to be that with every procurement project there is an uncontrolled creep upwards of technology and hence cost. And the political need to buy British always adds to the time and cost involved.

  3. x

    If you read military history a lot (as you do and I once did) you soon appreciate that success was is more about luck, mistakes, and happenstance, than a deadly combination of Top Trumps and chess.

    Sheffield was lost through internal error (radar off for SCOTT) and external error (801 CAP being moved.) Caught off guard doesn’t quite capture that. It could be argued that Coventry was lost because the ship was too cheap. Stumpy narrow beamed single anchored batch 1 T42 was/is a poor ship. Ardent that close in shore would have suffered even with SeaWolf. It is interesting to speculate how a Type 41 would have coped with two Mk6 mounts…….

    I am constantly amazed at the cost of designing these modern escorts, well any modern ship. If you watch one of those “coffee table” Discovery documentaries about ship building there will always be a sequence showing computer modelling. Contrast that with those pictures of pre-war ship design offices with huge rooms filled with drawing boards. Yet it seems to take just as long if not longer. Compare how long CVF is taking to how long it took to design QM2. I think all the profit must be at the design stage. And because government have to control spending there is nothing like a commercial urge to get the hull into the water. Therefore either by design or accident the cost creep up. Add in a change of government or a shift in the strategic picture and it isn’t hard to see where the extras get added in. (Look at Eurofighter. Look at USMC EFV with the panic about IED proofing it.)

    Another thought often occurs to me that even ships like a T45 are too small. I will qualify that. Compare the experience you have aboard a ferry to that you have on a warship. Note on the former it is like being in a hotel lounge. While the latter everything is crammed and shaped to fit the full; look at the twists and bends of all the pipe work. What I am trying to say imagine if warships were big and square. Imagine how easier it would be to do stuff with that handicap. Imagine how easier it would be to do refits if “cabins” could be built shoreside, like with cruise ships and slid into place. That is true modularity, not a missile stuck in ISO container. Of course bigger ships allow for big bunkers, more water tight zones, etc. etc, (Remember float, move, fight!!!)

    Bigger ships take us back to the stumpy narrow beamed T42 because the steel was cut (or not) because small ships are of course cheaper. Even though steal is the cheapest part of the whole; remember only 40% of the cost of a ship is its hull, machinery, and “hotel services.”

  4. James Daly

    Also, I think its very important to not see technology as a panacea – platforms are nothing without well-trained men to fight them.

    The thought about computer design had also occured to me – look at how quickly wartime emergency escorts were designed and built. OK its easy to say that nowadays we have missile technology and all the associated electronics, but HMS Warrior, HMS Dreadnought and similar projects were of equivalent nature in their time but nobody spent the best part of a decade lounging around design offices – they just got on with the job!

    I haven’t heard many good words about the T42, especially the first batches. My Dad worked on Sheffield, Coventry and the other early 42’s in Portsmouth Dockyard for 6 years up to 1982.

    • x

      I know that testing for “electronic interference” must take time. Switching things on and off in varying combinations at different powers and frequencies must take an age. But there must be a significant body of knowledge as “to what does what to what.” Further most military systems are hardened to stop interference. And surely a lot of it testing must be automated; there can’t be a tech’ sitting there incrementing stuff cycle by cycle. It would be interesting to know how much ship side electronics have to get turned off when a FOST team gets taken out to sea in one of those PFI helicopters (I can’t remember who has the contract.) And it would be interesting to know how many days of trials those “private helicopters” went through before they were cleared for use aboard HM ships.

      • James Daly

        I do wonder – and this is me being cynical – if private companies involved in testing, design etc are taking the piss, knowing that the MOD are under political pressure to buy British? It wouldn’t be the first or last time that the private sector dragged things out for a few more bucks. Imagine someone from MOD procurement asking for a quote, and being told ‘oooh, it’ll cost ya… we need to get the parts in…’ and so on.

        Might be wrong, but just a thought…

        look at the BBC programme about the ‘reversion’ Chinooks – QinetiQ had two shifts working round the clock on it, because its high profile. So thing can obviously be done quicker if the will is there.

  5. x

    That last “How to Build” programme was depressing; especially as the other two really did show British engineering at its best. The Rolls Royce programme was fantastic.

    The fact that the state broadcaster could show footage like and there wasn’t a storm of protest about the costs is stunning. There in glorious colour were technicians on good pay (and why not?) working around the clock to correct an almighty procurement cock-up. (I wonder if anybody got the sack for that. I wonder if it was an MoD decision or a RAF decision…) It just shows that outside a narrow community there is little understanding of defence issues. Then again I think there is little understanding of any issue of government by the general public.

    I have no doubt that for most senior BAE employees the company’s bottom line comes before national interest.

    One of things I don’t understand is how we can be one of the world’s leading arms exporters yet our own armed forces are so poorly equipped. (I know it is all about subsidiaries etc. I am making a broad point.) Look at Franco-Italian FREMM. I know make work projects increase pubic spending which isn’t good. But you have to wonder how with a little navy the Italians can afford (well they can’t really) to make their own SS missiles and advanced guns etc. The only purely British weapon on Daring is the MK8 Mod 1 gun, the basis of which goes back 40years. And it true British fashion it is a very tawdry system.

    The trouble is if we returned to ships being in “Royal Dockyards” would the situation improve? I doubt it.

    • James Daly

      re the Royal Dockyard, probably not, sadly. There is a lot of romanticism about them but they were woefully inefficient. OK so they did manage to get Hermes, Invincible, Fearless and Intrepid ready in remarkable time (not something that could be done nowadays). But that was a real one-off event – everyone I know who worked in Portsmouth yard talks about how they would spend nice summer days sunbathing on mothballed ships, how some colleagues simply ‘disappeared’ for the summer, and promotion was by dead mans shoes alone. And then theres the gambling, drinking… and so on.

      • x

        Well there is nothing better than being on HMG’s payroll. I live in area that once had mines. And I grew being told about how poor were the miners. Yet all I knew was the miner’s kids got everything they wanted, miner’s had new cars, miner’s went on foreign holidays, miner’s had meat every week (sometimes twice.) My father was an electrical engineer who back in the early ’90s struggled to clear 18k. If I had worked down the pit he would have made over 40k and spent most shifts asleep, leaving the days free for what we here term “foreigners” (or jobs on the side.)

        A few years back I did some work at National Grid Gas. The fitters there told me in the old British Gas days they started at 08:00 with an hour’s breakfast, did two jobs, stopped for an hour at eleven for tea, did one more job, and then disappeared off to do foreigners.

  6. The Italian Navy isn’t that small.

    I wouldn’t describe the 4.5″ gun as tawdry…

    Anyway, with regard to the Type 45 and its weapons, I presume that a lot of the Sea Viper system is British. The SAMPSON radar is, I assume many missile components and sub assemblies are, and many cabinets, interfaces, and so on are.

    I feed a bit sad that the days of UK only systems like Sea Dart and Sea Wolf seem to be over, but surely BAe Dynamics merged with part of Matra Defense to become Matra BAE Dynamics, which later joined Aerospatiale Matra Missiles and the missile part of Alenia Marconi Systems to form MBDA.

    Confused? I am! But the UK is still involved in missile projects.

  7. James Daly

    We’ve got to be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that just because a weapon system is old it is not effective. The 4.5in Gun may be pretty old, but according to the people who are using it they are quite happy with it – the mechanics of the system itself are improved by the electronics that work it. The 4.5in Gun radar actually has an offset built in, as in the Falklands it was found that NGFS was TOO accurate. Another example is the Browning .50cal – the same weapon essentially that was used on B17’s in WW2, with a few minor modifications is being used in Helmand. And the Phalanx CIWS works on the same principle as the Gatling Gun, only with the addition of the R2D2 radar.

  8. x

    Perhaps I was getting a bit negative. Sorry. I do like to dig myself into a pit of despair.

    For the record I don’t belong to the old-is-bad school of thinking. If I can attempt to redeem myself I am fan of 40mm Bofors. Actually I do think of myself as disciple of St Barbara!!

    I think my ire comes from “frustration” with BAE at not being able to quickly field a 6in piece. And even though old-isn’t-bad when you look at the fleet crying out for equipment it gives me little comfort that probably the best system (yes better than SeaWolf) the Fleet fields is 40 year old gun.

    And yes I know about NGFS during the Falklands War and how successful the Mk8 mount was. Though I think the RA FOO teams would say it was there excellent direction.

    • James Daly

      At Navy Days the warfare officer on HMS Dauntless told the story of how 4.5in rounds were landing in exactly the same hole, which was not particularly effective from a harrasing fire point of view as the incoming was predictable to the Arg troops. The offset with the 4.5in system now allows them to program in a small margin of error which will make the enemy keep their heads down that bit more.

      • x

        I believe towards the latter stages of the Falklands War the Argentines had become somewhat inured to NGFS. And it could be argue that some of the NGFS missions timetabled by Flag did put escorts at unnecessary risk.

        Have you ever played with SeaArcher? That is super.

        Once again sorry for the derogatory comments Mk8.

  9. James Daly

    I suppose Glamorgan is a good example. Providing NGFS close inshore, the temptation seems to have been to stay on station longer than planned into daylight, and thus end up having to run risks such as cutting the corner of the exocet box. Similar with Arrow at Goose Green, even though she got away unscathed. Actually, we were probably lucky that we didn’t lose more escorts in such a way.

    I haven’t played with SeaArcher, I must confess I don’t actually know anything about it! lol

    PS – no need to apologise, nothing wrong with saying what you think!

  10. x

    Brown in “The Future British Surface Fleet” proposes that NGFS did little in the Falklands War. And as I said the evidence that the Argentines became inured to the shelling. But I don’t know. And I am not sure about the tales of the Mk8 shooting down Exocet….

    I think we are all aware that in conflict sometimes subtleties play a greater part than “actuals.”

    I still feel guilty about deriding the Mk8. If there is a Navy Day in Guzz next year I will go and give one pat!!

    • James Daly

      I think there are probably two ways of substantiating Brown’s argument – the opinions of the land forces, and some kind of survey. Actually three – the Args themselves.

      I guess as well that the effects are beyond whether they actually hit anything – did it boost the morale of the Paras, Marines, Guards and Gurkhas? Did it keep the Args heads down? Neither of which are easy to substantiate.

  11. If the Argentines had not consider naval shelling to be an issue, then why go to the trouble of removing Exocets from ships (that were not putting to sea after BELGRANO was taken out), fitting them onto trailers, working out how to tell the missile that it had a valid target, and flying them to the islands.

    They didn’t like all those 4.5″ shells being lobbed at them.

    Oh, and the amount of land based artillery that the land forces had was limited, and NGS supported every land battle.

    • James Daly

      I’m not sure I would enjoy having 4.5in shells lobbed in at me, even if they were landing harmlessly in the peat bogs, if one landed to the left, then the right, anyone would be bound to think of their own mortality.

      Interesting as well how after the Falklands the Type 22 was changed – removing the Exocet, substituting with harpoon, and adding a 4.5in for NGFS… the RN obviously thought it was worthwhile.

      Also interesting to speculate how useful NGFS might have been in shooting in the landings at San Carlos if they had been opposed – Antrim’s twin 4.5 certainly dealt with the Arg post on Fanning Head.

      I have a copy of Martin Middlebrook’s ‘Argentine fight for the Falklands’, based on interviews with Args who were on the Falklands, I will have a look and see what they think.

    • x

      No. The Argentines were heavily schooled in US operational thinking. And it could be easily argued that the best large land force formation they had were their marines. All the evidence suggests they were expecting the British to mount a US/WW2 style direct landing in the immediate environs of Stanley. That is why Excocet was placed on to trucks; if it dissuaded fire missions from our escorts that was an added benefit.

      You know I don’t sit here making this stuff up. I have studied the Falklands War now for nearly 15 years. Apart from the official histories I have nearly every book on the conflict. And lastly I have a solid academic record in history.

      • x

        The above was directed at WEBF not you Mr Daly.

        Yes the Mk8 was added to Batch 3 Type 22 because NGFS was of some use. But it wasn’t a battle winner. With limited CAS and limited armour fire support options were limited.

  12. x

    Yes, I know the Argies expected aa landing directly at Stanley – possibly early in the war. Sandy Woodward comments on this in his book.

    The Mk 8 gun was also used for the only surface to surface action of the conflict – ALACRITY engaged and sank an Argentine tanker.

  13. x

    The sinking and passage up Falkland Sound were described by Craig himself in his book “Call For Fire.” This engagement shows how difficult it is to sink even a (smallish) hull by gunfire; especially considering the ARA Isla de los Estados’ cargo and her being a simple merchant ship. (Remember some equate an Exocet to a 16inch shell so it shows how a survivable a modern eggshell hull can be if you look at HMS Sheffield.)

    One of the “what ifs” I have consider is how much an impact the 6″/50 (15.2 cm) QF would have on affairs. Especially if there had to be a surface engagement to counter the southern Belgrano pincer.

    I didn’t get a copy of Woodward’s book for a long a while (and only in paperback.) It is a surprising volume to say the least.

    For somebody who is pro-gun, I don’t sound to pro-gun.

  14. James Daly

    I’ve often wondered how effective relatively small calibre guns are against surface ships, if we look at the huge shells lobbed by WW2 era battleships (admittedly, they were firing against plate armour). Can one 4.5in ‘broadside’ really do much? Compared as well to some of the anti-ship missiles out there? I guess the 4.5 is very much a fall-back.

    • x

      Well as I said Sheffield is the proof of this; it isn’t unreasonable to think an Exocet/Harpoon would just obliterate a small ship. Rather like when you see footage of a ship hit by a torpedo (as her midships are pushed up as her back is broken.) Yet Sheffield survived to float, if not fight on, for some hours more. A bigger hull and if some of the lessons learned during the conflict had been known before who knows……..? Or am I perhaps wrong in thinking that floating is survival? One for me to ponder.

      I know I find the inert shells near St Barbara’s and HMS Excellent’s quarterdeck sobering when I have been in HMS Bristol………

      • James Daly

        What do you think about the issue of whether the warhead exploded in the Sheffield incident? If it didn’t, we can only guess at what might have happened if it had…

        • x

          Without wishing to sound like an episode of Mythbusters explosives are funny things that don’t always act like your intuition tells you they should. Brown doesn’t say the warhead didn’t explode, but neither does expressly say it does. But I don’t think there would be much mileage in covering up a failure for the missile to explode. Even though the Sheffield stayed afloat she was unable to continue to fight. (Yes I have been pondering whether floating is enough!!!) So to all intents and purposes the Exocet had done its job (a la Geneva Convention blunt bayonet and FMJ bullets etc. etc.) And we must also consider the damage to HMS Glamorgan; though Counties were stiffer ships of different era than the T42s. I don’t think Jack would have been less “concerned” knowing the Exocet in Sheffield may not have exploded. Atlantic Conveyor completely different kettle of fish. What you need to consider is stuff like reactive armour. And that the main reason why a modern torpedo destroys ships is because of the way the blast wave propagates through water. Remember sound travels at 4 times the speed in water. So the blast wave makes the water into effectively a solid block. It could be also said that explosions like water and mechanical effort looks for the easiest route. Giving the blast wave something to act on would be doing it a favour. A cabin or flat in small ship would probably be strongest in its corners who are being supported(stressed) by structure not in direct line of the explosion….

          I am not explaining myself too well. I had better stop.

          Of course the best lesson on “can a small ship survive Exocet?” wasn’t taught in the icy South Atlantic but in the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf. Go and google USS Stark………. :)

  15. James Daly

    I get what you’re saying x, ballistics eh? Plenty of variables there that produce different results, and you can’t legislate for all of them all of the time.

    Like how if the Args had cottoned on earlier to the fact that their iron bombs weren’t fused properly for low level, how many ships should or could have gone down? – Glasgow, Broadsword, Plymouth, Argonaut, Antrim, Bedivere, Lancelot by my reckoning. Glasgow would have been a big loss, and even more so Broadsword. We were within a couple of bombs of losing the war, if the Arg armourers had been more on the ball.

  16. x

    Well more gas dynamics than ballistics. In different environments gases do all sorts of strange stuff. What I am trying to say is that given space to expand how much force was lost. And then there is entry hole to consider; Sheffield wasn’t a sealed box at that time. Lots and lots to consider.

    Armourers canny? Or were Clapp, Thompson et al just at the top of their game? Or what if 800 NAS had their CAP at low height?
    It goes on and on and on…….

  17. James Daly

    I guess another thing to consider in the survivability of modern RN ships is the recent incidents where ships have run aground on uncharted rocks of the like, they usually involve the damage control parties working through the night to save the ship. And they’re accidents, not missile strikes. My Grandad always tells me how his dad and brother had to go through ‘the tank’ exercise when they joined the Navy, and how powerful the sea is. You only need to look at Glasgow to see what happens if you put a big hole in a ship near the waterline – even if it doesnt sink, its a dockyard job.

    Its always seemed to me that the Falklands War is the best example of both how right and how wrong things can go in war. In some battles everything goes right (D-Day), and in some everything goes wrong (Arnhem), but somehow in the South Atlantic good fortune outweighed the bad – just.

  18. x

    I would like to see RN ships with double bulkheads and “box girders” like the Sachsen Class. Size matters too!!! Longer means water tight zone and greater separation for systems and more importantly personnel. That is why I have trouble with Mike Burleson’s little ships are better philosophy.

    Double bulkhead are designed to “break” the blast wave. Metal is surprisingly soft and malleable; I want to say “elastic” but that isn’t quite the right term. You have to look at a picture of a frigate and see the “ripples” in the hull plate.

  19. James Daly

    I get what you mean about the problem with little ships, its the one drawback that nags at my mind… especially the images of Ardent being pounded relentlessly.

    The amount of cheaper aluminium used in Sheffield and the LSL’s contributed to the fires – the boards of inquiry make interesting reading in this respect. Then look at some of the beatings British ships took in WW2, to fight another day. And even the Cod Wars, how many ships came back with holes in their bows but somehow still floated?

    At the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson they have some armour plate that has had tank rounds fired at it, you can see how the shock waves rippled the metal. Sightly different mechanics but the same principle I guess. You’re not just trying to blow it to kingdom come, but to use natural physics to your advantage. Like, why bomb the shit out of a bridge, when you can place one small shaped charge in the right place and let physics do the rest?

  20. x

    Yes I have seen those armour plates at Fort Nelson (which is one of my favourite places.)

    One of the advantages of those trimaran designs is that you get a big ship for little steel; that is to say the space the ship occupies is greater in volume. And you can have water tight zones in three zones. Though of course in the sponsons they won’t have much beam; especially on smaller vessels like the technological demonstrator Triton, but on a bigger ship who knows? Further it is interesting to note that the new Dutch Holland Class have light armour. I wonder if they would be any benefit to having this light armour on the outside of a trimaran’s sponsors. (Think about the depth of lateral as well longitudinal watertight zones on a frigate sized trimaran on the decks that stretch across all three hulls.) Of course with all these modern ships supposedly patrolling about a yard of offshore perhaps there is need for some armour because of small arms fire!!! You only have to look at the bashing the RM gave that Argentine corvette on South Georgia.

    I note that the Wikipedia article on the sinking of HMS Sheffield says the Exocet didn’t explode. I think I need to spend some time “revising” the war. I don’t appear to have command of all the facts all the time. I apologise for this.

  21. James Daly

    Of course the problem with armour is the weight – look at HMS Hood, they up-armoured it so much they had to forego deck armour to retain speed. Unless with modern technology we can have more lightweight armour? I can’t believe that with developments in kevlar body armour and reactive tank armour we cannot do something similar for warships?

    My feeling, having looked at all of the eyewitness accounts, is that it probably didn’t explode. But of course, even the people onboard Sheffield at the time weren’t sure if it detonated, so how can we be? We don’t have the luxury of having the hulk to examine either. My feeling though, having looked at the clips of exocet strikes and the pics of USS Stark, are that if it had gone off they would have known about it.

    My favourite quote of the Falklands War…
    Capt Barker (Endurance) to Lt Mills: ‘about half an hour should do it’
    Lt Mills: ‘I’m gonna make their f***ing eyes water’

  22. x

    Actually I read the Stark evidence the other way round. The list to the port is down to USN damage control. But heck they got her safely to port.

    The armour on the Holland Class is some 10-20mm in thickness. I am not advocating torpedo bulges of rolled armour. What I talking about is judicious use of light ceramics, angled hardened steels etc.

    If it were up to me I would give GPMG/mini-gun teams some substantial shields; perhaps collapsible to be stowed away when in the friendly climes.

  23. x

    Oh my favourite Falklands quote; I should go and look it up but…

    It was when that SAS mission went a bit awry. I think it was the pilot who said something like “It’s Chile..” And one of the SAS men replied “Chilly? It’s f***ing freezing!”

  24. James Daly

    I love the story of the Marconi engineer being onboard Brillant… Coward: ‘first class guy, can’t fault the after sales service’ :D

  25. x

    There were men from Ferranti down south as well.

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