HMS Defender due into Portsmouth on Wednesday

 Type 45 Destroyers HMS Daring & HMS Dauntless

The fifth and newest Type 45 Destoyer, HMS Defender, is due to enter Portsmouth Harbour for the first time at 9.30am on Wednesday morning. The penultimate ship of the class to arrive, she will anchor up overnight in the Solent tomorrow evening, and should be visible from Southsea seafront.

Very nice ships, all with great names (well, except Duncan maybe!), but still too few of them – even just two more might have really made a difference. With Daring, Dauntless AND Diamond all away on deployments at the moment, and Dragon preparing to leave later this year, the operational tempo for escort ships is clearly creaking at the seams. It does seem a waste to use ships that were designed to provide area defence for 60,000 ton carriers chasing pirate Dhows.

History has shown that to keep one ship on station on deployment, you need four ships. Ships are normally in one of four states – on deployment (or transiting), working up, shaking down or in refit. Given that the average deployment to the South Atlantic or east of Suez lasts 5 to 7 months, working up and FOST can take the same kind of time frame, and comprehensive refits can take around 18 months, we can see quite easily that six ships will not be enough to everything that we want them to do. The bizarre thing is that everyone knows it, even amateur analysts such as myself. The Admirals definitely know it, but aren’t allowed to say so as it would embarass the politicians.

Such a procurement strategy does seem strange, when only a couple of weeks ago the Army managed to keep the vast majority of its tanks, which are only – on average – used once in a decade, and then in nothing more than an armoured brigade level. Destroyers and Frigates are like infantry battalions – on a never-ending deployment cycle that has no slack. Sure, ships cost money, but lack of ships when it matters can cost a whole lot more.

The other problem is one of strategy. What exactly do we want the Type 45’s to do? In conception, and in armament, they are powerful area defence Destroyers, with a very capable anti-air and missile system, and a very powerful radar fit. Is it a good use to send them patrolling? Granted, any military asset should be able to perform basic functions specific to its service in the short term – witness gunners and sappers, for example, operating as infantry in Northern Ireland. But it seems that the Type 45’s are very much written into the escort deployment roster. Things do seem to smack of short-termism.

Once the Type 45 programme has been delivered, attention shifts to the imminent arrival of the Carriers, in whatever shape or form that takes, and then the crucial Type 26 programme of future Frigates.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “HMS Defender due into Portsmouth on Wednesday

  1. Disclaimer: I highly respect the Royal Navy and the folk who serve, and am deeply grateful for their work.
    But jeez, those are some UGLY spuds! That tall, slab-sided superstructure with the golf ball on top? (Mind you, there ain’t much on THIS side of the pond that I don’t find more than a tad bit revolting. Gotta be fair and impartial!) And yes, I understand form follows function. After all, you won’t find a bigger fan of the A-10 than myself, and there is a DANG good reason they call those planes “Warthogs”! :D
    But remember, this does NOT alleviate you fo the responsibility for photos! ;)

    • James Daly

      See I like them, I think they look the business. Some of the RN’s post-WW2 warships have been decidedly yachty in looks – I’m thinking particularly of Type 21 and Type 23. Type 42 wasn’t much better either, and the Batch 3’s just looked like they’d been squashed in a vice. Only the Type 22 really struck me as warlike. Of course, it’s no good having a good looking warship if it can’t keep sea and/or it has a crap weapons or electronics fit, but once you’ve achieved that then surely it can’t be a bad thing if it looks like a ship you wouldn’t want to meet on a dark night. Pretty much every German warship springs to mind – they all seem to look like they have multiple convictions for interpersonal violence! Remember, in any war plenty of officers and ratings will be thumbing through their copies of Janes…

      • Are you implying that we Krauts can’t build a good-looking ship? See, THIS is what happens when you let a KID loose on the Internet. :p
        (Don’t ask me why, I just feel like harassing you today. On the odd occasions when my internet actually works, mind you. :D )

        • James Daly

          A kid? I’m counting down to a significant birthday I’ll have you know. And no, it isn’t 21 ;)

          I just like warships that look like they’re up for a fight. Now, if a yacht looked ugly, it wouldn’t work. Of course, if you can combine the two… HMS Hood, for example?

  2. John

    The reason that the T45 is the size and shape it is because of the need for the SAMPSON radar to be as high as possible above sea level to achieve the greatest possible range. See: http://navy-matters.beedall.com/sampson.htm

    James

    I don’t think that the deployed Type 45s do much pirate chasing. The T45, like any warship, is designed and built to fight, which means sensors and weapons – which is why modern warships cost so much more than ones from the 50s/60s. Think of potential adversaries in that part of the world. Remember too that non state actors may have access to advanced weapons, such as Hezbollah using Iranian anti ship missile during the 2006 Lebanon conflict.

    As for what the Type is really designed for – try these stories:

    HMS DARING providing command and control for US carrier aircraft operating over Afghanistan: http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/local/hms-daring-s-afghanistan-mission-revealed-as-ship-returns-home-to-portsmouth-1-4118560

    HMS DIAMOND practising protecting a Mines Counter Measures force against air attack: http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/sitecore/content/home/news-and-events/latest-news/2012/october/03/121003-diamond-f18

  3. But chasing pirates isn’t what the T45 is for – it is for things like proving command and control for aircraft on operations (see http://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/local/hms-daring-s-afghanistan-mission-revealed-as-ship-returns-home-to-portsmouth-1-4118560) or defending a group of minehunters from air attack (see http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/sitecore/content/home/news-and-events/latest-news/2012/october/03/121003-diamond-f18).

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