Home » Royal Navy » How to Supercharge the Royal Navy

How to Supercharge the Royal Navy

by John Brian Shannon

It can’t be emphasized enough that the United Kingdom is an island nation and that without a respectable sea power component, the country would have missed becoming one of the greatest powers in history. All that success was accumulated courtesy of the unprecedented level of trade from 1546-onward with virtually every nation on the planet. (1546 was the year the Royal Navy was created)

Not that the UK should become a militaristic country, far from it. But because it relies on free trade for its survival (and that means keeping the sea lanes open, no matter what) Britain must always stand ready to defend its territory and its legitimate economic interests abroad. If the UK ceases to do that; that will be the day it’s no longer a sovereign country. That’s what’s at stake for the United Kingdom.

Other countries may have the luxury of being located on continents with many other countries to buy from and sell to, and could, if required, source everything they need from that continent and sell all of their exports within that same continent. But for the UK, that option doesn’t exist.

Therefore, the UK must have the best-trained, best-equipped, and best-led navy in the world. There is simply no alternative.


Two More Aircraft Carriers, Please!

By 2020, both of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers (HMS Queen Elizabeth ‘R08’ and HMS Prince of Wales ‘R09’) will have joined the fleet and the navy’s only other aircraft carrier HMS Ocean ‘L12′ will have been retired; leaving the UK, a country completely dependent upon seaborne trade, with only two aircraft carriers. (Which makes for a nice peacetime aircraft carrier fleet — but if war strikes, it would be 4-years before even one aircraft carrier could be produced!)

It should be noted that pink slips will be handed to almost everyone who worked on the two carriers by July 2018 now that construction on both R08 and R09 is nearly complete, with only sea trials left to perform before both ships enter full-time service. Thousands of engineers, electricians and labourers will no longer be required.

What really needs to happen is that two more Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers need to be built, and high on the list of reasons to build them must be to keep a continuous production line operating until more destroyers or frigates are required (and don’t kid yourself, they’re required now, just that the government isn’t yet convinced of the need) and the proposed ships could fulfill different roles than R08 and R09.

R10 could be fitted-out as a helicopter carrier / humanitarian aid / hospital ship — with 15 fighter jets for self-protection because R10 itself could be attacked and must be able to instantly defend itself.

R11 could be sold to India which would buy one very quickly(!) as its navy has the formidable task of policing an Indian Ocean that’s only slightly smaller than the Atlantic.

The selling price (to India) of such a carrier would pay for the construction of the proposed R10 for the Royal Navy (not including the aircraft) and require millions of person-hours to construct both R10 and R11. Seems a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

From a jobs and economy perspective, the UK needs to build two more aircraft carriers — only one of which it needs for itself — while the other is sold to India.

That’s how to afford a world-class navy in the 21st-century!


Keep it Going!

Next on the agenda must be new Type 45 destroyers that are fitted-out for UAV duty in addition to the other duties the Type 45’s perform.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles need to become a major part of RN destroyer operations as the future of naval warfare will be tilted toward UAV’s for surveillance, for Combat Air Patrol duty (to protect the naval task force at sea) and to drop munitions on targets that are very heavily defended — too heavily defended to risk losing a multi-million pound sterling aircraft and its pilot.

Not only can UAV’s do that, the UK’s new UAV’s in development for the Royal Navy should have a refuelling version with the ability to fly up to 500 miles to refuel fighter jetsinstead of those jets having to return to the aircraft carrier to refuel, or having to fly large fuel tankers near the combat zone — which is dangerous as they’re manned by live pilots and carry tens of thousands of gallons of fuel.

Also, by having UAV refuelling units accompany fighter-bomber jets, it can extend the range of the bombers (bombers use astronomical amounts of fuel when they’re carrying thousands of pounds of bombs) and UAV’s can be programmed to refuel any type of jet (en-route or returning) at a predetermined location allowing them to make it all the way to the target and all the way back to the aircraft carrier which may have moved hundreds of miles in the meantime to avoid enemy submarines.

Aircraft carriers can’t always remain in one place waiting for their jets to return and other factors can come into play in a conflict situation such as ‘Country B’ suddenly withdrawing permission to use their territorial waters to launch and recover UK aircraft. That’s just how war goes.

Keeping warbirds of all types in the air longer and with plenty of in-flight refuelling availability close by removes the need for them to fly all the way back to the aircraft carrier for fuel, resulting in a huge increase in the efficiency of man and machinery. Unprecedented efficiencies await!


Ten More Type 45’s with the UAV upgrade, Please!

The UK needs four more Type 45’s and all existing destroyers must be upgraded to the UAV standard — and other Commonwealth nations need Type 45’s too.

Australia, Canada, and India could put those extremely capable destroyers to good use and retire their obsolete and expensive-to-maintain destroyers.

By building more destroyers than it needs, six Type 45 destroyers could be sold to Commonwealth nations which would allow the Royal Navy to afford four more destroyers at no cost to the RN, while providing millions of person-hours of work for Britain’s workers.

When the UK shipbuilding and submarine building industry measurably adds to UK GDP, you know you’re doing it right!


Summary

There is a difference between ‘just getting by’ and ‘succeeding’.

‘Just getting by’ means continuing to do things the way it’s been done in the postwar era, while ‘succeeding’ means building a modern Royal Navy and substantially adding to the capabilities of Commonwealth of Nations member countries by using a sustainable economic model that keeps thousands of workers in the UK shipbuilding industry permanently employed.

What could be more important for new-ish UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson than protecting the UK (#1 priority) strengthening the Royal Navy (#2 priority) and recreating a thriving shipbuilding industry model (#3 priority) that measurably adds to Britain’s GDP and helps Commonwealth partners to succeed?

Watch the video!


6 Comments

  1. Tim Walker says:

    UXV Combatant

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UXV_Combatant

    A carrier to be based on the Type 45 hull. Seems similar to the old “Sea Control Ship” or “Harrier Carrier”, but with the addition of drones.

    • Hi Tim,

      I suppose that version is possible, however, it didn’t get approved the first time it was presented, so to my mind, it’s doubtful that it would get approved during a 2nd attempt. Which is unfortunate because I feel it was a good design.

      What I envision is an exact copy of today’s Type 45 destroyers, but with one upgrade — a long, internal ‘hallway’ running from the very front of the ship all the way to the rear of the ship that is closed off from the rest of the ship — and that ‘hallway’ or ‘tunnel’ would serve as the runway/catapult to launch UAV’s out the back of the ship.

      It could even be angled upwards (from, say the waterline at the bow of the ship to just below the helicopter deck at the stern) to allow the drone to gain altitude faster and to more easily clear the water during launches in stormy weather.

      Also, such a tunnel could have an electric catapult system installed that allows the UAV to already be travelling at 300 knots as it exits the rear of the ship.

      If the tunnel is as wide as a normal shipping container, dozens of UAV’s could be loaded onto the ship in only a few minutes while in port, as several should be able to fit inside a shipping container.

      Finally, I wouldn’t recover every UAV, rather, I would launch them in support of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, and programme the UAV’s to land on them, for two reasons:
      1) After completing its mission, the UAV could be tracked by the enemy back to the destroyer. If it’s going to be tracked, then it’s better that an aircraft carrier recovers the drone as it can deal with multiple inbound aircraft much better and faster than a Type 45.
      2) If the drone returns to the destroyer it would need to land on the helicopter deck thereby tying-up that very high-demand part of the ship and in the event of a UAV crash landing — you can’t launch or recover helos for a while. “Yikes!” said every destroyer captain ever.

      Therefore, UAV’s can always be launched from destroyers but it should be the rare time that they return to the destroyer, except when they’re in a shipping container ready for next use.

      The UAV’s could perform a variety of functions; Reconnaissance, Protection of the Type 45 task force when they’re sailing without an aircraft carrier, Refuelling fighter jets within the combat zone, dropping bombs on targets, BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) missions, Surveillance, Sovereignty Patrols, Anti-Piracy Missions, and more — and all of the collected data stored in the onboard computer could be downloaded upon landing on the aircraft carrier — which is who really needs that info anyway.

      (I agree with realtime wireless information being sent from the UAV back to the destroyer or aircraft carrier during peacetime — but guaranteed(!) in wartime (and probably on the first day of the war) that encryption will be hacked or electronically jammed. If the UAV is recovered by the aircraft carrier, the information can be manually downloaded upon landing)

      Thanks again for you great comments and links!

      Cheers, JBS

  2. Tim Walker says:

    There are a number of online articles that are describing new development UAAV’s (unmanned aerial-aquatic vehicles). Drones that can both fly and dive into the water.

    • Hi Tim,

      That is a very exciting technology and it would be great if the UK and its Commonwealth partners could lead the world in such technology.

      Thanks again for your insights! JBS

  3. Tim Walker says:

    Article online-“Build All-UAV Carriers”. https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017-09/build-all-uav-carriers

    Rear Admiral Chris Parry (retired from the Royal Navy) has some interesting videos on YouTube. He believes that we are on the verge of a “dreadnought moment”.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for the link!

      (And I couldn’t agree more) Drones are going to revolutionize naval surveillance, refuelling missions, attack missions (dropping bombs on land targets and torpedoes against enemy ships and submarines) and BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) and CAP (Command Air Patrol) that protect a naval task force at sea.

      All the best! JBS

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