Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Pick your light frigate

Great summary over at SaveTheRoyalNavy on the options the Royal Navy is looking at for what I call a "light frigate" program to compliment their larger Type 26.

They're down to three;
The designs from two of the candidates are already well known; the Babcock-led ‘Team 31’ consortium with the Arrowhead 140 and the BAE Systems / Cammel Laird consortium with their Leander design. The Atlas Elektronik UK / Thyssenkrup Marine Systems bid is a new entrant to the competition, although the company says their bid has been quietly in development for some time. Each of the competitors will receive around £5 Million to fund detailed design work.
The AEUK/TKMS bid is likely to be based on the MEKO A-200 which is already in service with the South African and Algerian navies. The modular MEKO (Mehrzweck-Kombination – multi-purpose combination) warship concept was developed in the 1970s and has a strong export heritage, many MEKO variants have been sold to a variety of navies. At this stage, there are no specific details of the design or even a name for the proposed Royal Navy version. The latest A-200 sold to Algeria is a general purpose 3,700-tonne vessel featuring Combined Diesel and Gas Turbine (CODAG) engines with water-jets propulsion making it a quiet ASW platform, something neither of the other Type 31 candidates offer. The hull and superstructure feature an X-form shell design which gives the vessel very low radar cross-section. There is no funnel and engines exhaust horizontally below the waterline for an exceptionally low infrared (heat) signature. We can look forward to more details of the UK armament and sensor fit emerging soon.

AEUK and TKMS are both German-owned companies. AEUK has recently been partnering with the Royal Navy developing unmanned systems but has no history of warship building. Parent company Atlas Elektronik is a global business which supplies mission systems, sonars, torpedoes and mine warfare equipment to navies across the world. TKMS is a large warship building company but has had a troubled recent history and is undergoing a major restructure after financial problems and serious issues with the F-125 class frigates they constructed for the German Navy. The Atlas/TKMS bid proposes to use Ferguson on the Clyde and Harland & Wolff in Belfast to construct the ships. This demonstrates a certain pragmatism amongst the shipbuilders as both Ferguson and H&W are also partners in the Babcock ‘Team 31’ consortium.
The Atlas Elektronik UK offering of MEKO (Algerian version pictured above) is probably the "safest" option from a technology risk POV, but BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK are all strong players and their offerings all bring good options.

Here the BAE Systems Leander;


Interesting stern view of Babcock Arrowhead 140 frigate design, derived from the Danish Navy's Iver Huitfeldt hull form. Smart way to hold down cost.

As a decision is due to be made by the end of 2019, we should see plenty more coming out with this program. Should be very interesting to see the solution here in parallel with the USN's FFG(X) selection.

With the discussion yesterday here and for part of Sunday's Midrats about survivability - it would be helpful to see a comparison of the three designs' damage control strengths and weaknesses. 

I would offer that this concern should get greater weighting among variables.

UPDATE: for those on twitter, EngagingStrategy has a superb thread here.

Really appreciate this side-by-side;

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