RogerBW's Blog

One for the Brow part 3: weapons 25 April 2014

Many designers of fantasy fleets like to come up with all sorts of plausible-sounding technological developments. I'm mostly going to borrow ideas which historically worked for the Americans, and transfer them to the British with appropriate modifications.

After all, the reverse brain drain has to have some effect; all those American engineers look at the lack of military spending and decide, in much the same way that British aero-engineers did historically when the TSR-2 was cancelled, that their chances are better across the Atlantic.

The main change I want to make early on is to introduce a VLS launcher for Sea Dart (designated GWS.31). The historical Sea Dart is not at all a bad missile for its day, but the launcher mounts caused endless difficulties as late as the 1980s. Going with a vertical launch system will not only remove these problems but enable a great deal of flexibility.

As HMS Bristol is being designed, her architects look at the Sea Dart and Ikara mounts, and think: wouldn't it be better if we could fire both of these missiles from the same launcher? And, while we're at it, we could load anti-ship missiles like Exocet too.

Ikara needs to be slimmed down slightly, but can be lengthened at the same time, so performance won't change significantly; the launch/storage tubes need to hold a longer missile in order to accommodate a VL Exocet (the French obviously aren't going to redesign their missile to suit the RN, but Vickers will happily reverse-engineer it and redesign it slightly for vertical launch under the name Flying Fish).

(As a side note, while exocet in French does indeed mean flying-fish, the Greek etymology could just as well have it meaning "sleeping with foreigners". I'm sure a less polite translation will be common among the matelots.)

Sea Wolf will also be fired from its own, smaller, VLS. (This is actually historical; it was tried that way first before the switch to the relatively ineffective six-missile launcher, for reasons which are unclear.) But that's only just coming into service by 1975.

(Next: the carrier and submarine force)

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