HMS Duncan (D37), the Royal Navy’s sixth (and final) Type 45 destroyer, conducts her first gunnery shoot. Twelve of these destroyers were originally planned (as one-for-one replacement for the Type 42). The number was cut to 8 in 2003 and to 6 in 2006.
Duncan blazes fire and steel during destroyer’s first gunnery shoot
Britain’s final Type 45 destroyer fired up her guns for the first time with sustained period of shooting off the Dorset gun.
Every one of the Portsmouth-based warship guns was fired – from her hand-held General Purpose Machine-Guns and Miniguns, through the 30mm automated cannon and the main 4.5in which can hurl a 40kg high-explosive shell more than a dozen miles.
With a flash of fire exploding from the muzzle, a shell leaves the main gun of new destroyer HMS Duncan for the first time.
Over the past few weeks Britain’s sixth and final Type 45 destroyer has been testing her advanced gunnery systems off the Dorset coast – the first occasion when she’s truly proven she’s a warship.
Every one of the Portsmouth-based warship’s guns was fired from her hand-held General Purpose Machine-Guns and Miniguns, through the 30mm automated cannon and the ‘crowdpleaser’, Duncan’s 4.5in main gun which can hurl a 40kg high-explosive shell more than a dozen miles.
After arriving in her home base for the first time in March and commissioning in September, Duncan – named after the Scottish admiral who decisively beat the Dutch Fleet at Camperdown in 1797 – has been preparing to join her five sisters on the front-line.
The first four Type 45s have carried out deployments – twice in the case of HMS Daring – while HMS Defender is due to sail on operations for the first time next year.
Key to any of those deployments is the ability of the guns to provide accurate and effective firepower – hence several days on the ranges in the Channel for what’s known as Sea Acceptance Trials (Gunnery).
In Duncan’s spacious, hi-tech operations room Lt Tuijo ‘TJ’ Thompson – a Royal New Zealand Navy officer on exchange – the ship’s principal warfare officer took charge, ensuring the destroyer was is in a safe position to operate the weaponry and fire it at selected targets.
In support of any firings by the 4.5in ‘Kryten’ (so named for its angular casing resembles the Red Dwarf character of the same name) PO ‘Daz’ Hickling, the captain of the turret, sat in the gunbay beneath the weapon overseeing the safe loading and operation of the main gun as it hammered away.
Duncan was making use of the ranges off Weymouth, run by 148 Battery Royal Artillery, an Army Commando unit who help to target the guns of the Fleet in times of war such as Libya and Iraq.
“They were very impressed by the ship’s display of Naval Gunfire Support, stating it was the best they had seen in years – not bad for Duncan’s first effort under the White Ensign,” said Cdr James Stride, the destroyer’s Commanding Officer.
The 30mm cannon shoot proved particularly successful – Duncan became the first Type 45 destroyer to successfully engage an aerial towed target.
Just for good measure, the machine-guns and Minigun (a manually-operated Gatling Gun) were flashed up under the supervision of experienced gunner PO(AWW) Jamie Phillips.
“By proving that her various guns work as they were designed to do, Duncan will now be able to go on to support operations worldwide by providing Naval Gunfire Support to forces ashore, engaging surface targets that pose a threat, and play a part in defending the ship from air attack,” Cdr Stride added.
A “must listen” BBC documentary uncovering clear culpability of the French government and (state-owned) defence contractor Dassault in Argentine Exocet attacks on HMS Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor.
Document – French Involvement in the Falklands War
Mike Thomson returns with Radio 4’s investigative history series, examining documents which shed new light on past events.
In the first programme of the new series, Mike investigates the role played by the French Government and defence industry during the Falklands War.
30 years on, it’s well documented that French President Francois Mitterrand was supportive of the British war effort – not least in the memoirs of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Yet Mike discovers papers which suggest there was a deep split within the French government.
BBC Radio 4
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Original broadcast date: 05/03/2012
On face value it would be tempting to dismiss this article as a hatchet job by a Texan blogger. I’m sure that many American readers of Foreign Policy are going to reblog it with glee. (Because, you know, ‘Murica showed up in two world wars and saved Yurop’s ass, right?) But I genuinely don’t think that was Beckhusen’s intent. He’s merely cataloging facts that any observer of British naval policy already knows. He’s cataloging those facts for an audience (Americans) that might not be paying that much attention. They’ve got their own budget battles, procurement snafus, ship decommissionings and operational overreach to worry about. So if, charitably, 1% of the article’s American readership actually pays attention to what Beckhusen is trying to point out, then that’s a bloody good thing. The other 99% can repeat the hackneyed trope of “savin’ Yurop’s ass” and we needn’t worry about them. So… here’s the article:
Here Are All The Things the British Military Can’t Do Anymore
In late September, the Royal Navy unveiled its latest nuclear-powered Astute-class submarine, HMS Artful, and also “christened” the hefty but sleek Daring-class destroyer HMS Duncan — the sixth and last of its class. Aside from the United Kingdom’s aircraft carrier program, these represent the two most significant naval shipbuilding programs happening in Britain at the moment. And two of the most controversial.
The vessels are impressive on the surface, but each ship originates from troubled development programs which — although coming with creature comforts and advanced technology — turned out to be less than impressive when put to the test.
New submarines running aground, older subs breaking down and destroyers put into service without adequate defenses against enemy submarines. It’s not completely surprising. The Ministry of Defence’s budget is half that of 30 years ago.
Perhaps more troubling for the Royal Navy: the vessels tasked with carrying Britain’s military into the 21st century have sacrificed key systems needed to defend against attacks, while suffering limitations in their ability to strike back at enemy planes and missiles.
Meanwhile, Royal Air Force ocean patrol planes that once buzzed the ocean scooping every signal they could detect have been cut altogether, meaning the surface ships are sailing blind — and Britain’s nuclear-missile force is sailing without escorts.
Here’s what Britain’s military can’t do. Or if it does do it, it doesn’t do it well.
Absent frigates and troubled destroyers
This is the Daring-class destroyer. It is one of the most embarrassing military programs in the British armed forces.
It wasn’t meant to be this way. Intended to replace the Type 42 destroyer which first entered service in the 1970s, the Daring class was envisioned as an 8,000-ton, 152-meter-long vessel with anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities par excellence. The centerpiece: an anti-aircraft system called Sea Viper with a Sampson dual-band radar capable of tracking 1,000 objects the size of a tennis ball as far away as 400 kilometers.
The system also has two different types of anti-aircraft missiles: the Aster 15 medium-range missile and its long-range cousin, the Aster 30, which can travel up to an impressive 75 miles. There’s also a 4.5-inch main gun for surface targets.
The Royal Navy is acutely aware of its need for robust destroyers with advanced anti-aircraft systems, principally owing to the Falklands War. Two Type 42 destroyers, the HMS Sheffield and Coventry, were sunk during the war by low-flying Argentinian aircraft. The Sea Viper system is also a big improvement over the Type 42’s radar.
But the Royal Navy built a ship with major weaknesses where it should be strong. For one, Sea Viper’s planned inter-ship communication system was to be added later, meaning one destroyer can’t share information via a satellite network with other ships. The complexity of all the new electronic systems and shoddy oversight also led to repeated delays and ballooning costs.
And there’s a problem with the missiles. The Aster 15s are fine for a lone incoming anti-ship missile — the Aster 15 is highly maneuverable and functions as a both short- and medium-range defense weapon. But the missiles take up a lot of space and can’t be “quad-packed” into a missile tube.
This reduces the number of available Aster 15s to a mere 20 missiles compared to the 96 missiles carried by the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. The number is even fewer than the advanced (but much smaller) Sachsen-class frigates of the German navy, which carry 32 missiles — and that was already on the low-end. In the event of an enemy saturation attack — like a blitz but with anti-ship missiles instead of linebackers — the air-defense-focused Daring class could be in serious trouble.
Radar-guided Phalanx guns, which throw up a wall of 20-millimeter rounds as a last resort against incoming missiles, were not installed on the lead ship of the class until this year. Oh, and unlike the Type 42, the destroyer has no torpedo tubes to defend against attacking submarines. This job is left for the destroyer’s helicopters and — either a single Merlin or a pair of Lynx choppers — and a torpedo decoy system. The ship has no missiles for attacking land targets.
The Royal Navy has also built fewer Darings than it ever did for the now-retired Type 42. Cost-cutting measures forced a trim to the number of planned destroyers from 12 to eight ships, and then to a final number of only six ships. (The Royal Navy built 14 Type 42s.) So the Daring class is an anti-aircraft ship that’s fewer in number than its predecessor, with several major anti-air weaknesses and the ship has a major weakness against submarines.
The total price for the ships is now $10.35 billion?-?$2.4 billion more than anticipated — and was enough for one U.S. Naval War College report to describe the Daring class as “a symbol in the United Kingdom for mismanagement of procurement.”
That’s not all. The Royal Navy has retired the anti-submarine Type 22 frigate and doesn’t have the money to replace it. Also first dating to the 1970s, none of the 14 Type 22s are still in service — the last four of the line were sold for scrap in 2011. Thirteen Type 23 frigates are still in service, though.
But the Type 22 was Britain’s primary anti-submarine warfare ship. The Type 22 also doubled as the Royal Navy’s ship-based signals intelligence force. The ships contained the “only combination of systems enabling wide ranging monitoring of the frequencies and wavelengths of the Electromagnetic Spectrum of the sea,” Parliament’s Defense Committee noted in 2012. Now that’s gone.
Maritime reconnaissance planes turned to scrap
Let this sink in for a second. The United Kingdom has no dedicated maritime patrol planes.
That’s a pretty big deal. Patrol planes are more or less a requirement for a navy worth its sea-faring salt, and many coastal countries without sizable navies have at least some planes for ocean patrol missions. Even Denmark and Peru have maritime patrol planes.
They’re the eyes and ears of a fleet, and use a combination of radar, sonar buoys and other sensors to detect enemy ships or conduct search and rescue missions. The U.K. has also long used maritime surveillance aircraft to track Russian submarines navigating north of Scotland, peeking on naval maneuvers in the Arctic Sea and escorting the Royal Navy’s own ballistic missile subs.
For much of the Cold War, the Royal Air Force tasked this mission to the Nimrod MR1 and MR2 planes, which first entered service in 1969. An advanced aircraft for its time, the older Nimrods were eventually retired in 2011 to be replaced by the modern Nimrod MRA4.
The new Nimrod was supposed to be a major upgrade, and entailed rebuilding the plane from the inside out. There was going to be new engines and larger wings. New sensor systems would let the MRA4 see from longer distances, and the design enabled it to travel up to 2,500 miles further than its predecessor.
Upgrading the Nimrods proved to be an impossible task for an absurd reason. The planes are based on the de Havilland Comet, a 1950s-era commercial airliner which had been transformed over several generations during military service. But the Comet was never built to a standard — they were custom made. This means each plane is slightly different than the others, and thus exorbitant to upgrade when installing millions of dollars worth of advanced electronics.
Only one MRA4 was ever built. “The single MRA4 aircraft that had been delivered to the RAF was so riddled with flaws it could not pass its flight tests, it was simply unsafe to fly,” Liam Fox, the former British Secretary of Defence, wrote in the The Telegraph in 2011.
Fox was attempting to justify the complete scrapping of the program?-?it wasn’t easy. Twelve under-construction MRA4s were disassembled, and more than $6.3 billion went down the drain. The U.K. is now considering buying P-3 Orion patrol planes from the United States to fill the gap.
Rusty and broken submarines
In theory, the Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine is the most advanced British submarine ever built. In reality it’s underpowered, prone to numerous technical problems and is far behind schedule.
A replacement for Britain’s Trafalgar-class submarines, the 7,000-ton Astute class uses a Thales sonar — touted by the Royal Navy as the world’s best (which it might be) — while packing a combination of 38 Spearfish torpedoes and/or Tomahawk missiles. The sub also does not have a conventional periscope but a photonics mast, like a digital camera capable of seeing in infrared. There have been two Astute-class subs commissioned, the HMS Astute and Ambush. Four more are under construction, and a seventh is planned.
But neither Astute nor Ambush have become operational, owing to a number of problems and delays leaving the Royal Navy with only five aging Trafalgar-class subs in service. These older subs will be gradually decommissioned over the decade, and there’s rarely a time when a single Trafalgar-class sub is operational at any given time due to maintenance issues. HMS Tireless was put out of action earlier this year after a reactor coolant leak.
But what’s the problem with the Astute class? The main problem — and most serious — is that it’s achingly slow.
Designed to travel faster than 30 knots, the sub tops out below that (though how far below hasn’t been revealed). This means it can’t keep up with the ships like the under-construction Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers it’s meant to protect. In battle, that’s a potentially fatal flaw for the submarine and the carrier.
The reason for the trouble is believed to be incompatibility between the sub’s steam turbines which were built for the Trafalgar-class, and its nuclear reactor which was built for the giant Vanguard-class ballistic missile subs, according to The Guardian. Among other problems include corrosion, faulty monitoring instruments for the submarine’s reactor and even flooding during a dive. Astute also quite literally ran aground in Scotland in 2010 and had to be rescued.
Left out of this, of course, is the Harrier force. The Royal Navy’s carrier-launched jump jets were retired in late 2010, meaning the U.K. no longer has fixed-wing jets capable of operating from Britain’s one remaining ski-jump carrier, the Illustrious. However, the Royal Navy has pledged to buy F-35s for the Queen Elizabeth class. It may want to reconsider before more problems arise.
Robert Beckhusen is a collection editor at War is Boring, the site that explores how and why we fight above, on and below an angry world.
‘Were I to die at this moment “want of frigates” would be found stamped on my heart.’ Horatio Nelson, 1798.
In 1983, 30-years ago (which scarcely seems credible to this old fart), in the midst of the it-seemed-hot-enough-at-the-time Cold War, in the immediate aftermath of the Falklands Conflict, the Royal Navy planned for a force of 50 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc661-737).
In 1993, post Cold War, already in draw down and reaping the so-called peace dividend, the Royal Navy was facing reductions to a force of 40 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 25 February 1993 vol 219 c717W).
By 2003, in the midst of the Global War on Terror and with the Iraq War coming to the fore, the force had been reduced to 31 frigates and destroyers… of which only 26 were operational (HC Deb 12 May 2003 vol 405 cc47-50W).
Today, 2013, realpolitik, Spain rattles its sabres over Gibraltar, Argentina remains bellicose over the Falklands, there is continued instability in Libya, Syria and Egypt, there are standing demands for counter-narcotics patrols in the Caribbean and counter-piracy patrols off the coast of East Africa, and the war of terror continues, and there is always the need for a Fleet Ready Escort… well… we’re down to just 19 frigates and destroyers (13 surviving Type 23, 5 Type 45 in commission, 1 Type 45 undergoing sea trials).
Just 19. And not a single Type 26 on order. Talked about, but not ordered. Spec’d, but not ordered. Number to be purchased undecided.
I don’t want to think about how things will be in 2023.
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Admiral Sir John (‘Sandy’) Woodward
Admiral Sir John (‘Sandy’) Woodward, who has died aged 81, commanded the carrier battle group Task Force 317.8 during the Falklands conflict.
In March 1982, shortly before the outbreak of hostilities, Woodward was serving as a rear-admiral and as Flag Officer, First Flotilla, commanding a group of ships on their spring exercise off Gibraltar.
As the news from the South Atlantic worsened, on March 29 Woodward received a routine visit by helicopter from the Commander-in-Chief Fleet to his flagship, the destroyer Antrim. That evening, along with Captain Mike Clapp, the captain of Antrim, they discussed their options if the Falkland Islands were to be invaded and they were asked to re-take them.
Argentina had long claimed the islands, and on April 2 1982, impatient at the progress of diplomatic talks, and wishing to distract their people from domestic woes, the Argentine junta ordered their forces to invade.
During the passage south Woodward visited as many ships as he could, though his message to the various ships’ companies of the destroyers and frigates, was uncompromising: “You’ve taken the Queen’s shilling. Now you’re going to have to bloody earn it. And your best way of getting back alive is to do your absolute utmost. So go and do it.”
The conflict was a maritime campaign from beginning to end, characterised by a struggle for air superiority between Woodward’s ships and the Argentine Air Force, and in its later phases by a series of amphibious landings.
On April 25 British forces recaptured South Georgia after sinking the Argentine submarine Santa Fe. Five days later Woodward’s ships got within gun range of the Falklands to begin a bombardment, and Sea Harriers from the carriers Hermes and Invincible attacked several targets, while an aerial battle continued over the islands; three Argentine aircraft were shot down.
On May 1 the submarine Conqueror, on patrol south of the islands, sighted the light cruiser General Belgrano. Woodward sought a change to the rules of engagement which would allow Conqueror to open fire, as General Belgrano was considered a threat to the Task Force. Conqueror, controversially, sank the Argentine warship, but as a result the Argentine fleet remained in port for the rest of the war.
Two days later, an anti-ship missile, launched from the air, struck the destroyer Sheffield, one of Woodward’s previous commands, setting her ablaze.
British troops landed at San Carlos Water on May 21, and by June 14 the Argentines had surrendered. Woodward was seen by many as the architect of victory, although there were some who, from the outset, had thought that the Flag Officer Third Flotilla (in charge of carriers and amphibious shipping) should have commanded the the Task Force, and made some criticism of Woodward’s tactics.
Woodward was appointed KCB in 1982.
John Forster Woodward was born on May 1 1932 in Penzance, the son of a bank clerk, and educated at Stubbington House school, once known as “the cradle of the Navy”, and the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.
As a junior officer Woodward spent time in the Home Fleet, before specialising as a submariner in 1954. He served in three generations of submarines: the Second World War vintage submarine Sanguine; the post-war, diesel-powered Porpoise; and Valiant, the second of Britain’s nuclear-powered submarines.
In 1960 he passed the Navy’s rigorous submarine command course, the “perisher”, and given charge of the diesel-powered submarines Tireless and Grampus.
Subsequently he was second-in-command of Valiant, before promotion to commander when he became the officer-in-charge (or “teacher”) on the “pePrrisher”.
In December 1969 Woodward took command of Warspite, which was newly repaired after an underwater collision in the Barents Sea with (according to official sources) an “iceberg”. Several members of the crew were still shaken by the incident, and Woodward did much to restore their confidence in the safety of the boat and its manoeuvrability.
In submarines he was nicknamed “Spock”. “I was quite pleased,” he said, “because Spock does everything by logic.”
Promoted to captain in 1972, Woodward attended the Royal College of Defence Studies, where he disliked all the paperwork, and in 1974 he became Captain of Submarine Training. In 1976 he returned to general service, for the first time in more than 20 years, to command the Type 42 guided missile destroyer Sheffield.
As Director of Naval Plans from 1978 to 1981, during the Strategic Defence Review (also known as the Nott Review) in the first term of Margaret Thatcher’s administration, Woodward unsuccessfully opposed John Nott’s determination to make severe and “disproportionate” cuts in the Navy. The cuts included one-fifth of its destroyers and frigates, one aircraft carrier, two amphibious ships, and the ice patrol ship Endurance, whose declared withdrawal from the Antarctic encouraged the Argentine invasion of the Falklands in April 1982. Woodward felt keenly the irony that as Flag Officer, First Flotilla, from 1981 to 1983 he should have to clear up the mess created by politicians.
After the Falklands conflict Woodward was Flag Officer Submarines and Commander Submarines Eastern Atlantic in 1983–84.
Although Woodward had made prolific use of the radio-telephone during the Falklands conflict, talking to some of his subordinate commanders and to the Task Group Commander at Northwood, he had never spoken to Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, he did not come to know her until he was Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Commitments) during the period 1985–88, when he attended several Cabinet meetings.
At his first meeting, the Prime Minister’s advisers had not even sat down when she announced that she had read all the papers and explained what the government should do. Woodward realised that she had missed a point of detail and raised a hand to attract her attention. “If looks could kill, I was done for,” he would recall. “But I persisted, gave her the information she had missed and bought time for the other officials to gather their wits before further decisions were made.”
Later, when a senior civil servant told him: “You were very lucky today. You interrupted the PM – most don’t survive that,” Woodward replied: “She was talking – and needed some fearless advice, which she got.”
Woodward respected Mrs Thatcher, but had little time for most politicians, believing that they did not “have a clue about defence”. He was a stern critic of the Coalition government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010.
While his detractors thought him somewhat cold and arrogant, those who knew him better insisted that he was modest, sensitive, humorous, clever and self-critical. He had been a gifted mathematician at school and was an avid bridge player from his school days.
Woodward’s memoirs, One Hundred Days: the memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander (co-written with Patrick Robinson), are a frank account of the pressures experienced by a commander fighting a war, and is told with self-deprecating humour.
His last appointment in the service was as Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command (1987–89). He was appointed GBE in 1989.
Woodward left the Navy at the age of 57, and in retirement was chairman of the Falkland Islands Memorial Chapel Trust, which raised £2.3 million. The chapel, at Pangbourne College, was opened by the Queen in 2000.
He settled at Bosham, near Chichester, West Sussex, where he could indulge his life-long passion for sailing in small boats.
Sandy Woodward married, in 1960, Charlotte McMurtrie, with whom he had a son and a daughter. They later separated, and since 1993 his companion had been Winifred “Prim” Hoult.
Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, born May 1 1932, died August 4 2013