Monday, November 21, 2016

Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy - UK

Though sadly much smaller, the Royal Navy continues to be the best outside benchmark when it comes to ideas from theory to shipbuilding. As such, its developments are important to watch and read as it is to watch what comes out of OPNAV.

So, add to your reading list today the 15 NOV 16, Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy, from the House of Commons
Defence Committee
(full PDF at the link and below).

Just a reminder of scale. As we talk about building our fleet from ~270 to ~350, with a present fleet of 63+ DDG, 22 CG, & 8+ LCS as our primary surface combatants, here is our rump Royal Navy;
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is embarking on a major modernisation of the Royal Navy’s escort fleet. It has undertaken to replace the thirteen existing Type 23 frigates with eight new Type 26 Global Combat Ships and at least five new General Purpose Frigates, provisionally referred to as the Type 31. At the same time, the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers are about to undergo a major refit of their engines, after serious and repeated power failures.
The last part is a bit of bother and really a scandal. If nothing else, it is good to know that others have a less than perfect record. Technology is hard.

What is even harder is the human capital part of shipbuilding. They bring this fact out in the second paragraph - a topic that should always be top of mind.
Delays to the construction of the Type 26 have had a negative impact on the skills of the shipbuilding workforce,and could have major implications for costs and availability. The National Shipbuilding Strategy must provide industry with the certainty it needs to plan and develop a stable, sustainable and highly skilled workforce. If it is to be more than a statement of aspirations, the Strategy should set out clear, timed production schedules for the delivery of both classes of frigate.
This doesn't just focus on the surface force, but reviews the strategic reasons for a fleet. Example;
The Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015 noted that the Royal Navy delivers the UK’s nuclear deterrent, projects our maritime power and provides world-class amphibious forces.5 Given that the UK is an island nation, the importance of these tasks cannot be overstated. Indeed, our first Report of this Parliament, Flexible response? An SDSR checklist of potential threats and vulnerabilities highlighted several potential threats which would require a response delivered entirely or in great part by the Royal Navy, including:

  • Growing instability in the Middle East and North Africa;
  • Potential for conflict in the South and East China Seas; and
  • Potential for Russian aggression in Europe and the High North and possible dilution of the commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. 
In relation to those threats, the Report also highlighted a number of vulnerabilities which the SDSR had to address, which included:

  • Inadequate training opportunities for UK Armed Forces; and
  • A lack of numbers in UK Armed Forces as well as gaps in capabilities.
Before we go, let's review the issues with the Type 45. Again, this is from the first page of the summary, and the authors should be given credit for such open and direct critique of their own program;
As well as delivering the new frigates, the MoD has been forced to refit the engines of all six Type 45 destroyers. The ships have suffered from serious engine failures as a result of shortcomings in specification, design and testing. Blame for those failures can be attributed both to the MoD and its contractors, but the taxpayer will have to foot the bill. The refit of the Type 45 engines should restore confidence in the reliability of the ship but it must be carried out in a way that minimises disruption to the availability of an already depleted number of destroyers.
That, my friend, is how it is done.

That should be an inviting taste for you. Now, take some time to read the whole document. There is a lot here is worth absorbing as we look to rebuild our own fleet.

H/t LandSharkUK.

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