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Grey Havoc

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In February 2019, the then Defence Minister, Gavin Williamson, announced the plan to rapidly procure vessels around which two ‘Littoral Strike Groups’ would be formed. Here we look further at the Future Littoral Strike Ship (FLSS) concept and at the design developed by Prevail Partners as one of the potential candidates to meet this requirement.


Background
Since the ministerial announcement, there has been limited further official comment about the FLSS concept, although the previous First Sea Lord was enthusiastic about “refreshing our littoral strike credentials” when speaking at RUSI in May 2019. £35M has been allocated from the MoD’s Transformation Fund for the development of FLSS although, at the time of writing, no commercial company has received a contract for detailed design work. The concept clearly makes sense but information in the public domain is sketchy.
The FLSS has been evolved from an earlier Multi-Role Support Ship (MRSS) pre-concept study undertaken between 2017-2018. Conducted by the MoD’s Naval Design Partnering (NDP) team, the MRSS study was tasked to consider options for replacing the LPDs, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark as well as other amphibious capabilities. The FLSS are intended to be procured quickly to complement the LPDs, rather than replace them. The FLSS is unlikely to fly the White Ensign and may either be operated as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary, or more likely run as a government-chartered vessel.
MV Ocean Trader is a merchant ship conversion belonging to the US Military Sea Lift Command and was perhaps the inspiration for the FLSS. Ocean Trader is not painted all-grey and looks like a typical merchant vessel in appearance. Iran also operates the MV Saviz, supposedly a general cargo vessel but in fact used as an offshore surveillance and special forces base, recently operating in the Red Sea probably supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen. At times there are advantages to not advertising the military capabilities of a vessel.
 

jsport

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MVs would make easy large Arsenal Ship conversions. They are also large enough for sub/orbital VGS w/ deep magazines.
 

uk 75

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PMN1

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Grey Havoc

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A little more information on the Prevail Partners' proposal:
 
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Foo Fighter

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A 'rented' navy? Now THAT is groundbreaking, not on though. What next? Hazard pay?
 

Grey Havoc

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It does have potential echoes of such fiascos such as the British Army's tank fleet contract.
 

Purpletrouble

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It does seem increasingly likely that the final ship won't be like this, but will replace Albion and Bulwark. they are conspicuously not in future graphics/presentations and so on.

Which sounds awful, but then the lack of a hangar really dooms these ships in their utility outside of a large formed group, i.e. in company with QE/PoW. Their crew is also quite large and the very large dock is sized around Brigade level vehicle assaults.

It would be nice to meet the people who deleted the deck and hangar in the early 90s as a (small) cost saving. Absolutely stupid, and the Falklands had just shown you literally could not even make enough helo carriers even with grossly unsuitable ad hoc conversions.

Like destroyers in the first/second world wars, there are never enough helos now. Which is an interesting thought, a Wildcat can pretty much do exactly what most classic DDs could do, a Merlin considerably better on the ASW front. Not so much on shooting down ac, but then, destroyers hardly actually did and the helo isn't sailing around waiting to be bombed.

In terms of FLSS - something with accommodation incl. empty command rooms (where the unit embarked brings its own server - laptops), small dock, large hangar, multi-mission boat space would be pretty good for the RM vision. Of course until they change this back to Bde level ops just as the ships complete....

Not sure on Phalanx? I suppose in case of rogue missiles, but this ship will hardly have a manned ops room with organic 3D radar and EW systems (ala T23) so unless you leave them on all the time, how would you even know anything was inbound until boooooom? I'm pretty certain they don't leave these in auto mode - there is a control desk in Ops rooms specifically for them. Which also points to just how far away robot warriors are...
 

Hood

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A littoral strike vessel?
Don't make me laugh, its a cargo boat with a big space in the superstructure for helicopters.

If this is a littoral strike vessel, then what is a pickup with a ZSU-23 on the back? An Advanced Multi-Role All-Terrain Aerial Domain Denial Vehicle?

A 'rented' navy? Now THAT is groundbreaking, not on though. What next? Hazard pay?

I have long speculated whether Britain will be the first nation to completely privatise its armed forces.
It is the slice of a rather growing wedge. We already plan on building glorified patrol boat 'frigates', so why not just let a contract for a firm to operate a fleet of OPVs?
Industry already maintains most of the RAF, why not get them to provide the pilots too? Once the UCAV generation arrives and pilots aren't needed then why bother with an RAF and just have a contracted UAV service?
Its not a million miles away from today and its not even parody sadly.
 

Purpletrouble

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it is a stupid title yes.

I don’t get the renting obsession either. I think it is purely because in year 1 it is cheaper to rent than pay the capital, even if after uear 10 (or5) renting has become more expensive.

I also suspect politicans are fed up with the time and cost the MOD take to do anything, so the rented options look good as contractors when given that free hand (note not when having to work closely with MOD) tend to deliver quite quickly and the politician has a sense of actually influencing things in their timeline.

However Senior Officers seem to see privatisation as (a) a way to get rid of people in cap badges/branches/divisions that aren’t their own thus freeing resources for their own and (b) revolving door.

So really it is a fit up across the board. Output doesn’t really feature!
 

JohnR

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They should have learnt from the various PFI fiasco's; if it costs £50 to change the lightbulb in a static school how much for a moving ship?
 

uk 75

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I have made this point elsewhere, but it seems to be more of a problem for the RN than for the RAF or Army. Nearly all the duties assigned to the RN in peacetime do not require heavily armed or capable warships.
The RAF uses its Typhoons with full AAM load to patrol airspace. The Army is using a variety of its weapons in NATO, UN and bilateral operations as well as potential anti terrorist duties.
The RN does have its submarine force. A V class boat still carries the national deterrent. A T or A class boat may from time to time fire Tomahawks at someone. They also work with the USN patroling against the Rooskies.
The surface ships, however, are not going to fire a Harpoon at boatloads of migrants (Sorry Home Secretary not legal) or down a hijacked plane with an Aster.
The amphibious warfare ships are a legacy of Suez and the Falklands. Marines are more likely to fly out from Brize Norton than storm ashore from Bulwark.
 

swerve

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The amphibious warfare ships are a legacy of Suez and the Falklands. Marines are more likely to fly out from Brize Norton than storm ashore from Bulwark.
Yes, but a local airport in friendly hands isn't guaranteed, & nor is access to a local port. The LPDs & LSDs could be very useful for landing & supplying troops & their equipment, even where there's no need to storm ashore on a defended beach.
 

uk 75

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swerve The problem is that this capability has been rarely used. Airfields and runways are much more widely spread than they were in the 50s and 60s. Heavy equipment can be airlifted by the RAF or even civilian contractors.
I agree if resources were available the capability offered by an modern LHD such as the Mistral class would be "desirable". But it would come at the price of items such as frigate/destroyers or SSNs which I see as "essential".
The current RN is greatly distorted by the CVF programme just as France's was by the Charles De Gaulle.
The RN also pays a heavy price for being the "national deterrent". Sadly unlike V Bombers, SSBNs are "one trick ponys".
 

Hood

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So the Littoral Strike Ship is still a Ro-Ro ferry then with a couple of Phalanx bolted on and a strike capability if you happen to drive the right lorry trailers onto the top deck. Essentially this mirrors the current USMC ATACMS strategy, which even they seem to have doubts about without a longer-ranged munition. Also, Britain doesn't have any Tomahawk TELs.
Rather than parking some Brimstone Ajaxes or even Ajax with hypothetical CAAM-ER land-attack missiles on the deck (which you can't if its cluttered up with Chinooks) I'd still favour packing that kind of firepower onto a frigate with decent VLS silo numbers.
Why bother with this when we still have the Point-class for surge Ro-Ro capability. Just build a couple of LPD, it can't be that hard surely?
 
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DWG

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Rather than parking some Brimstone Ajaxes or even Ajax with hypothetical CAAM-ER land-attack missiles on the deck (which you can't if its cluttered up with Chinooks) I'd still favour packing that kind of firepower onto a frigate with decent VLS silo numbers.
MBDA were pushing quad-packed vertical launch Sea Spear a few years ago (SPEAR 3 in naval uniform), definitely superior to anything currently on an Ajax*, but lacking if you need something with a Storm Shadow scale warhead. I don't see FLSS going anywhere without an escort, and if that escort happens to have strike length VLS cells, then there's MdCN (and eventually Perseus) if they're Sylver, or Tomahawk if they're Mk 41. If it doesn't have strike length cells then quad-packed Sea Spear is still a better option. If the FLSS were to have VLS silos of its own then that makes things a bit more interesting.

* If you went CAMM-ER, then the Sky Sabre TELs would make more sense than Ajax, at worst you might have to extend the wheelbase a metre or so, but it's possible the ER cannisters will fit the baseline vehicle.
 

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