RogerBW's Blog

Type 26 Global Combat Ship early impressions 18 November 2015

With the Queen Elizabeth carriers now afloat, the next major shipbuilding project for the Royal Navy will be the Type 26 "Global Combat Ship", a replacement for the Type 23 frigates.

I should first make clear that as usual I have no inside information; I'm speculating entirely from public sources.

The name is the first giveaway: this is a hull designed to boost BAE Systems' export sales, with everything except the hull an optional extra. Power plants, sensors and weapons are all to be specified by the eventual buyer; a country wanting an impressive-looking ship on the cheap can go with conventional diesel power with top speed a few knots lower, while a coastal sprinter could go for pure gas turbine power.

The RN version will have CODLOG, combined diesel-electric or gas. The system as proposed has two operating modes, either with the gas turbines (probably Rolls-Royce MT30s) driving the shafts directly, or with the diesel generators powering electric motors. Yes, or. This is cheaper and lighter than CODLAG, "and gas", which allows simultaneous use of all power sources; the disadvantages are a changeover time while switching from one to the other, and probably just a little bit of top speed and acceleration. This seems a frankly perverse decision considering that the Type 23s have got on well with CODLAG for many years, and I'm very surprised to see a modern warship design taking a step back from that rather than one forward to an integrated electric propulsion system (all the combustion engines drive generators, and the propellers are driven only by electric motors, which removes the need for a long shaft piercing the hull). The Queen Elizabeth carriers and Type 45 destroyers have IEP… then again, the UK can't afford many of either, and this was clearly a reduction in capability in return for lowered cost that someone thought worth making.

There's obviously some question about main armament. This is planned to be 16 or 24 cells of VLS, the bog-standard Mk41 that's been in American service since the 1980s. Probably not a bad choice, though the only actual anti-ship missile to fit it (the LRASM) is still under development; it's sufficiently standard that third parties will have incentives to build weapons to use it. Yeah, it's still a high-subsonic missile rather than a 21st century supersonic design such as likely opposition will be using, but that's what you get for sticking with American tactical doctrine; there's no supersonic alternative being proposed in the West. Well, there may eventually be Perseus.

A separate smaller VLS will carry anti-air missiles; the main gun, ending years of British tradition, is to be a 5" gun (probably the /54 the US Navy uses) rather than the 4.5" Mk8. To be fair, that's a distinctly better weapon in many respects, and at least it's not a terribly high-tech unproven one.

For the anti-submarine role there's a 2087 towed array on some ships, and (probably) two Wildcats or Merlins; there may be Sting Ray launchers; and the VLS can hold ASROC. That seems reasonably well-arranged.

The main innovation is the "mission deck", essentially a large empty space just forward of the hangar. This was originally going to be right at the stern with a well deck for UUVs and swimmers, but is now basically a large empty space amidships. I suspect that this will silt up with the things that were inevitably forgotten during the design process, rather than being readily filled with things for a particular mission, but I'll be glad to be wrong; modularity is a good idea in principle but doesn't seem to have done well in practice (the Danish StanFlex modules aren't moved around all that much, and the US LCS project has now given up completely on module swaps as far as I can see), and this approach of just allowing things to happen within the space rather than requiring special heavy containers to be loaded in and out may be a more successful one.

While there are definitely some problems, the design as currently proposed doesn't look too bad. I'll be interested to see what actually gets built.

Tags: naval

  1. Posted by John Dallman at 09:07am on 26 November 2015

    Some updates on Type 26 in the Royal Navy section of this write-up on the new Strategic Defence Review:

    http://ukarmedforcescommentary.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/sdsr-2015-what-does-it-say-what-does-it.html

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:12am on 26 November 2015

    Thanks. Yes, it looks as if only the ASW version is now to be built, and more of the design is still subject to negotiation than one might have thought.

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