Fantasy RAN thread (Surface Ships & LHDs only)

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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
1. The QUALITY of discussion on the RAN has dropped to the point that there is a mass exodus of knowledgeable members from the thread.

2. This cannot be good, in the long run for the forum. As a compromise, we propose the fantasy discussions be directed here, until the Australian Government or the RAN has news on changes. In the meantime, you are all welcome to indulge here, and discuss matters related to RAN Surface Ships & LHDs only.

3. All discussions on carriers moved to Fantasy RAN thread (Carriers only). In a near peer war, any proposed RAN carrier automatically become a high value target — for US super carriers to survive, even they need to operate in 3s in shifts. For the USN, if continuous operations is required, in their CONOPS, each carrier only conducts flight operations from 12 hours. Not sure how a proposed Australian baby carrier would really survive.

4. The Mods have created 2 threads on submarines, including one related to RAN Discussions on SSNs only, here and the other in Naval Ship & Submarine Propulsion Systems, here — which are still open for discussion at this time.

5. All other RAN discussions can be found in the
original mother thread.
 
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DDG38

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
They are interesting ideas, however I can't help but think of any iteration of an arsenal ship, especially an unmanned one, as nothing more than a floating magazine that will make a lovely fireworks show when just 1 stray ASM gets through point defence and hits it midships. Without a human damage control party, all the world's best remote sprinkler systems won't save it from being knocked out of action. And until drone data links are real world tested in contested environments I'm not convinced how robust they are either.
 

Mark_Evans

Member
The most sensible solution to our lack of magazine depth in the RAN, In this case you can call it the 'The loyal seaman', same process as the RAAF loyal wingmen. No brainer to me. No further mutilation of those poor Anzacs, we have done too much to them. Cutting them up would be high risk, expensive and take each ship out of action for years. Much better idea is small, unmanned platform about 35-40 m, commercial build, remote controlled directly from an Anzac, carrying 12 strike length cells, using the BAE deck launcher. I've been reluctant to say anything about an arsenal ship because it gets up peoples noses here, however it would be a much better solution in so many ways.
All a moot point i would have thought.
Australia actually having enough stock of strike missiles that we can even fill our existing VLS silos let alone have enough to put in an Arsenal ship of any sort.
Pray that might change if we can actually build our own missiles.
 

alexsa

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
The most sensible solution to our lack of magazine depth in the RAN, In this case you can call it the 'The loyal seaman', same process as the RAAF loyal wingmen. No brainer to me. No further mutilation of those poor Anzacs, we have done too much to them. Cutting them up would be high risk, expensive and take each ship out of action for years. Much better idea is small, unmanned platform about 35-40 m, commercial build, remote controlled directly from an Anzac, carrying 12 strike length cells, using the BAE deck launcher. I've been reluctant to say anything about an arsenal ship because it gets up peoples noses here, however it would be a much better solution in so many ways.
A strike length cell is 7.6m long and, while you are going to need some free board, a 35 to 40m is going to be quite deep and beamy to carry 8 to 16 Mk41 modules along with control equipment (noting unmanned will mean additional redundancy). More to the point we could only fire missiles that do not require an illuminator (SM-6 and ESSM Block II) unless the USV is right next to the controlling ship.

A 40m vessel is going to have some other issues (apart from the fact this thing will bob around like a cork in rough seas) as the unit will have very limited range if it wants to keep up with an ANZAC class frigate (unless the ANZAC tows it which I suggest is a bad idea).

Containerised USV for local area operations with towed array may be an option of expanding the ASW search foot print of a single frigate. This is being explored and there was some chatter in my old job of carrying such things on surface ships (the Hunters multi mission bay springs to mind). However most USVs currently being built are designed around very slow speed persistence. I see a lot of potential for these things as a surveillance asset.

Ocius launches latest USV - Australian Defence Magazine

I don't mind the idea of a OPV derivative with a bit more growth potential (these are being built in batches so if needs require perhaps this may be an option) but the growth would need to be supported by drop in capability such as SeaRAM (noting we don't have that system in use) to give a very basic self defence. But would that be an effective fighting or support vessel?
 

cdxbow

Well-Known Member
A strike length cell is 7.6m long and, while you are going to need some free board, a 35 to 40m is going to be quite deep and beamy to carry 8 to 16 Mk41 modules along with control equipment (noting unmanned will mean additional redundancy). More to the point we could only fire missiles that do not require an illuminator (SM-6 and ESSM Block II) unless the USV is right next to the controlling ship.

A 40m vessel is going to have some other issues (apart from the fact this thing will bob around like a cork in rough seas) as the unit will have very limited range if it wants to keep up with an ANZAC class frigate (unless the ANZAC tows it which I suggest is a bad idea).

Containerised USV for local area operations with towed array may be an option of expanding the ASW search foot print of a single frigate. This is being explored and there was some chatter in my old job of carrying such things on surface ships (the Hunters multi mission bay springs to mind). However most USVs currently being built are designed around very slow speed persistence. I see a lot of potential for these things as a surveillance asset.

Ocius launches latest USV - Australian Defence Magazine

I don't mind the idea of a OPV derivative with a bit more growth potential (these are being built in batches so if needs require perhaps this may be an option) but the growth would need to be supported by drop in capability such as SeaRAM (noting we don't have that system in use) to give a very basic self defence. But would that be an effective fighting or support vessel?
No, it would use Deck launches, as you say hard to build a small craft to take those massively tall strike length VLS.
There may be others available, but BAE offer this - Adaptable Deck Launcher (ADL) | BAE Systems | International
This is the size of the BAE adaptive system Strike length (cms)
386.08 wide
807.72 long - uses a lot deck space, the tactical are shorter.
337.8 high
9185 t

The single initial aim is too provide long range antiship missiles to platforms that are constrained by size of their VLS, ie a little missile carrying buddy for the Anzacs, 'The loyal seaman'. Yes, you could try standard missiles with a Hobart but that would be down the track as would increasing autonomy and other capabilities. KISS principle.

Sea keeping not so important for silicon chips. Performance would be as for a 40m motor yacht except you could probably more than double the fuel because you have no folks on board, those size craft typically can cruise for 2000km or more. Double that and you are probably getting into the ball park for the Anzacs range. So i don't really see seakeeping or range as big problems.
 
They are interesting ideas, however I can't help but think of any iteration of an arsenal ship, especially an unmanned one, as nothing more than a floating magazine that will make a lovely fireworks show when just 1 stray ASM gets through point defence and hits it midships. Without a human damage control party, all the world's best remote sprinkler systems won't save it from being knocked out of action. And until drone data links are real world tested in contested environments I'm not convinced how robust they are either.
Manned, converted commercial ships. Add extra crew if you're expecting drama and want DC parties. And again, it doesn't have to be defenceless and not necessarily sent in harm's way, put it at stand off distances. Plenty of options.

I don't think we have the time (or budget!) for developing a large unmanned system.

As for data links, If the enemies EW is that good its cutting comms between 2 ships within LOS of each other (paired system) any regular MFU sensors are potentially going to be equally useless.

Cheers
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
No, it would use Deck launches, as you say hard to build a small craft to take those massively tall strike length VLS.
There may be others available, but BAE offer this - Adaptable Deck Launcher (ADL) | BAE Systems | International
This is the size of the BAE adaptive system Strike length (cms)
386.08 wide
807.72 long - uses a lot deck space, the tactical are shorter.
337.8 high
9185 t

The single initial aim is too provide long range antiship missiles to platforms that are constrained by size of their VLS, ie a little missile carrying buddy for the Anzacs, 'The loyal seaman'. Yes, you could try standard missiles with a Hobart but that would be down the track as would increasing autonomy and other capabilities. KISS principle.

Sea keeping not so important for silicon chips. Performance would be as for a 40m motor yacht except you could probably more than double the fuel because you have no folks on board, those size craft typically can cruise for 2000km or more. Double that and you are probably getting into the ball park for the Anzacs range. So i don't really see seakeeping or range as big problems.
The chipsets might (or might not, having seen what can happen to PCB's that get banged around too much) have an issue with seakeeping, but if a small vessel gets tossed about too much, then components of the vessel itself can become compromised and fail. Alternately, the smaller vessel might be bobbing about too much to manage a launch when needed. Imagine what might happen to such a vessel if a hatch were to fail during a missile launch, either due to prior damage from sea states during transit, or because of the sea state during an engagement. Not to mention even an unmanned, 40 m vessel is going to have some displacement limits, which in turn will impose limits on fuel bunkerage.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
Manned, converted commercial ships. Add extra crew if you're expecting drama and want DC parties. And again, it doesn't have to be defenceless and not necessarily sent in harm's way, put it at stand off distances. Plenty of options.

I don't think we have the time (or budget!) for developing a large unmanned system.

As for data links, If the enemies EW is that good its cutting comms between 2 ships within LOS of each other (paired system) any regular MFU sensors are potentially going to be equally useless.

Cheers
Comms do not need to be 'cut' for datalinks to be disrupted. This is particularly true with the ideas proposed above, and in the past regarding an "arsenal ship". Anything which introduces signal interference or noise can reduce the effectiveness of data transmission, or even something along the lines of an EA targeting the converted merchantmen. In the event of something like an EA, unless a fair bit of coin was invested in modifications to harden various shipboard systems, any carried VLS could potentially be shut down. At that point, it would also likely make a fair bit of sense if the converted merchantmen was also fitted with a sufficiently capable sensor suite and CMS so that it would not be completely dependent on another vessel for target detect, tracking, engagement and ordnance guidance.

Something else to consider, if such a vessel were to be brought into service, and need to deploy within close proximity (visual horizon or closer) to an actual, purpose built warship, then IMO it would be more likely that hostile forces would be able to detect the ex-merchantmen/warship pairing, as civilian vessels are not exactly designed or built in a manner which would reduce various signatures that modern sensors would look for.

There is also the whole matter of the costs involved, particularly when weighed against the capabilities gained. The missile loadout cost for an 8-cell VLS loaded with quad-packed RIM-162D ESSM Block I is in the vicinity of USD$32 mil. or roughly USD$1 mil. per missile. Change the missile and/or increase the loadout count, and the costs change. This is all before any costs to purchase the vessel, or make the modifications necessary so that a VLS could be fitted, and then receive remote guidance/firing instructions.

Once again, it does seem like there would be too many points of failure, and/or limitations on service, for adopting such a modified civilian vessel. Not at all unlike how the 'arsenal ship' concept still has yet to see development into an actual vessel.
 

alexsa

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
No, it would use Deck launches, as you say hard to build a small craft to take those massively tall strike length VLS.
There may be others available, but BAE offer this - Adaptable Deck Launcher (ADL) | BAE Systems | International
This is the size of the BAE adaptive system Strike length (cms)
386.08 wide
807.72 long - uses a lot deck space, the tactical are shorter.
337.8 high
9185 t

The single initial aim is too provide long range antiship missiles to platforms that are constrained by size of their VLS, ie a little missile carrying buddy for the Anzacs, 'The loyal seaman'. Yes, you could try standard missiles with a Hobart but that would be down the track as would increasing autonomy and other capabilities. KISS principle.

Sea keeping not so important for silicon chips. Performance would be as for a 40m motor yacht except you could probably more than double the fuel because you have no folks on board, those size craft typically can cruise for 2000km or more. Double that and you are probably getting into the ball park for the Anzacs range. So i don't really see seakeeping or range as big problems.
I admire your optimism but, Ignoring seakeeping (which I think you under estimate), just how much fuel are you going to have on a 35 to 40m vessel after you take away the weight of the weapons, launch system and combat system (you still need one) ... and the need for redundancy (this thing is no use if it can be made ineffectual through a single failure).

So a 35 to 40m vessel may displace around 200 tonnes (Fremantle PB were 220 tonnes at 42m). They had a 5000nm range at 5 knots. Well that was nonsense as it was based on the APE which was rarely used (I was XO on one of these boats). At any speed the fuel disappears at a very fast pace and these things need to be able to maintain and average speed of advance of 15 to 18 knots if they are going to be with the group or units they are intended to defend. The FCPB used to operate on one engine on long distance voyages for an 11 knot speed.
  • Looking at Mk41 - each 8 cell unit .. empty .... weighs 15 tonnes ... missiles add more .... and will change the stability of a small vessel when fired/
  • Looking at the adaptable deck launcher that takes up a tonne of real estate ................. all mounted high on the vessels (above the freeboard deck. .... at least in this case firing may help stability.
Your fuel is going to be in double bottoms so you have an issue with how much you can carry (Mk41) and the stability impact (Deck launcher ... and Mk14). Topping up would appear to be problematic as RAS would not be a real option (nobody onboard ... 40m ... light weight ... self tensioning winches ..... what could possible go wrong).

Vessel capability is based on its capacity. I would argue this is why front line combatants are now grow in size as the weapons and systems evolve.

With regard to converting a merchant hull. I expect that a large slow speed two stroke diesel engine that needs to operate close to the 'controlling' combatant would be a god send to any submariner. (and I have served on them as well).

PS: I apologise for the sarcasm but I get very frustrated with concepts that have no practical application in reality. Vessel size, hull form and propulsion defines its capability. These are fixed laws ..... and cannot simply ignore the physics.
 
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Comms do not need to be 'cut' for datalinks to be disrupted. This is particularly true with the ideas proposed above, and in the past regarding an "arsenal ship". Anything which introduces signal interference or noise can reduce the effectiveness of data transmission, or even something along the lines of an EA targeting the converted merchantmen. In the event of something like an EA, unless a fair bit of coin was invested in modifications to harden various shipboard systems, any carried VLS could potentially be shut down. At that point, it would also likely make a fair bit of sense if the converted merchantmen was also fitted with a sufficiently capable sensor suite and CMS so that it would not be completely dependent on another vessel for target detect, tracking, engagement and ordnance guidance.

Something else to consider, if such a vessel were to be brought into service, and need to deploy within close proximity (visual horizon or closer) to an actual, purpose built warship, then IMO it would be more likely that hostile forces would be able to detect the ex-merchantmen/warship pairing, as civilian vessels are not exactly designed or built in a manner which would reduce various signatures that modern sensors would look for.

There is also the whole matter of the costs involved, particularly when weighed against the capabilities gained. The missile loadout cost for an 8-cell VLS loaded with quad-packed RIM-162D ESSM Block I is in the vicinity of USD$32 mil. or roughly USD$1 mil. per missile. Change the missile and/or increase the loadout count, and the costs change. This is all before any costs to purchase the vessel, or make the modifications necessary so that a VLS could be fitted, and then receive remote guidance/firing instructions.

Once again, it does seem like there would be too many points of failure, and/or limitations on service, for adopting such a modified civilian vessel. Not at all unlike how the 'arsenal ship' concept still has yet to see development into an actual vessel.
I would hope our established data links for targeting etc are hardened enough already but we'll move on.

The idea that they'll be easy to target is a given, it's a warship, be it in pairs or a TG is will be like the proverbial dogs balls if things go south. I'm not aware of any reduced signature in the ANZAC class-other than them being small :) Again it depends on how you use them-hiding in the littorals maybe?

Missiles are expensive, yes.

Given the challenges of warfare everyone mentions, I'm surprised we even try to do anything.

Cheers
 

protoplasm

Member
With regard to converting a merchant hull. I expect that a large slow speed two stroke diesel engine that needs to operate close to the 'controlling' combatant would be a god send to any submariner. (and I have served on them as well).

PS: I apologise for the sarcasm but I get very frustrated with concepts that have no practical application in reality. Vessel size, hull form and propulsion defines its capability. These are fixed laws ..... and cannot simply ignore the physics.
Thanks Alexa for bringing this up. There is absolutely no point in introducing any unmanned or minimally manned naval vessel into a contested area that isn't "quieter" and "stealthier" than the fully manned combatants it is with. Otherwise all it is doing is making the enemies job easier to localise and prosecute our forces. All of these suggestions are not really gonna work unless the vessel is very carefully designed. An 8-cell Mk41 is going to weigh nearly 25 tonnes if filled with quad-packed ESSM. If there was 4 blocks this is over 100 tonnes, this is going to be a significantly bigger vessel than what has been thrown around to accommodate the VLS and enough fuel to go the distance. This is not going to be a cheap and cheerful merchantman and be quiet enough to work with other naval vessels.
 

Todjaeger

Potstirrer
I would hope our established data links for targeting etc are hardened enough already but we'll move on.

The idea that they'll be easy to target is a given, it's a warship, be it in pairs or a TG is will be like the proverbial dogs balls if things go south. I'm not aware of any reduced signature in the ANZAC class-other than them being small :) Again it depends on how you use them-hiding in the littorals maybe?

Missiles are expensive, yes.

Given the challenges of warfare everyone mentions, I'm surprised we even try to do anything.

Cheers
It is not 'just' that a converted merchantmen-turned-missile carrier will be a target, it is the reality that virtually all ocean-going merchantmen are going to be large, easy to detect targets using a variety of methods and by a variety of assets available to hostile forces. If it becomes known that Australia has one (or more, please no...) such vessel in service, and it is also known that the vessel is effectively helpless/useless without an actual warship present to provide the needed combat data, then a hostile force would have an easier time locating both the TF, and then the actual warship.

As for signature reduction efforts on the ANZAC-class FFH, I do recall that there were at least some efforts made on the later frigates, prior to the replacement of the mast and installation of the CEAFAR panels. One example being the Mk 45 gun was fitted with a different, more angular shaped turret, to reduce the RCS compared to the prior turret shape. I would expect that greater work was done on the Hobart-class, and the such work is also being done for the upcoming Hunter-class. Actually for the Hunter-class it has already been announced that a great deal of work has been done to reduce the acoustic signature, to aide in ASW operations.

With respect to hardened datalinks... I would expect that the kit for such in use aboard proper warships would be fairly robust, with the ability to put out a powerful enough signal to punch through at least some jamming, and onboard combat data systems to make more use of information that comes from ESM, on/offboard sensors, etc. However, unless the merchantmen were to be fitted with a full suite of sensors and electronics suitable for a warship, it will be lacking that. TBH, if one were to go through with the time, effort and costs associated with mounting the electronic systems of a frigate into a converted merchantmen, it would be better IMO to just build a proper warship, as that can have the speed, signature, and survivability needed for a warship.
 

Unric

New Member
Converting a merchant vessel is probably an act of desperation with many drawbacks as highlighted. Hopefully we're not there yet. As I see it, for a loyal seaman you need something big enough to carry 8 - 16 strike vls, that did 25+ knots with decent range, and was quiet enough to not draw extra attention. $64 million question is whether cutting all other complexity and cost by doing things like leaving out almost all sensors and using commercial standards would actually reduce the costs enough to justify it? Especially when you weigh that up with the reduced mission flexibility from such a specialised platform.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
My 2 cents worth, history has shown that any belligerents merchant fleet is going to be targeted. During both world wars belligerents merchant vessels were sunk on sight. If / when a hot war erupts in the Indo-Pacific between the PRC and the US, the US will take out the PRC energy supply anyway it can. That's SOP and if you look at your history that's how they strangled Imperial Japan. It is also a time honoured naval strategy. Doesn't matter how you deny the enemy their seaborne trade; sink their ships, capture them, whatever as long as they don't reach their intended destination and you deny the enemy of their cargo and use.

Which brings me to the point of a merchant vessel based arsenal ship. If it's painted grey and sails under the white ensign it's a legitimate target. If someone gets all cunning and disguises it as a merchant ship, sailing it under the red duster, before it opens fire it is required to strike the red duster and run up the white ensign, just like the RN Q ships. So it's still a legitimate target. Granted that modern naval warfare is fought BVR even more so. However it is really moot because the PRC will most likely not observe the accepted rules of war or the Geneva Convenvtions. They haven't previously and nothing has suggested that they will in the future.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I would imagine belligerents have numerous flags and ideas on disguising merchant vessels but none of it would matter, the when in doubt sink it rule will apply.
 

John Newman

The Bunker Group
I was about to sit down and write a detailed reply to some of the recent RAN ‘fantasy fleet’ posts, but then I thought, screw it!

No point getting my blood pressure up trying to get some sense and reason into this fantasy fleet discussion.

Think I’ll give myself a little holiday from reading, replying or commenting to this tread, at least until it ends up back on an even keel (pun intended).

See you in the Spring ....
 

MickB

Active Member
The Mogami (or something very like it) is very much what several posters have argued is needed, not to fill the OPV role of the Arafura, but to supplement the MFUs and increase the overall size of the RAN.

Low crew numbers.
In service design so low risk.
Blocks can be made at multiple shipyards around Australia.
Whats not to like.
 

alexsa

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
The Mogami (or something very like it) is very much what several posters have argued is needed, not to fill the OPV role of the Arafura, but to supplement the MFUs and increase the overall size of the RAN.

Low crew numbers.
In service design so low risk.
Blocks can be made at multiple shipyards around Australia.
Whats not to like.
OK ... important point. Who is going to pay for it? The cost per unit is not small either and the budget is limited. COVID and international relations will not help that. We have a defined ship building capacity and introducing a new design (which has a displacement of over 5000 tonnes full load) will displace the current build programme. This is for a ship with less capability than the Hunters being planned. If you want more combat hulls I suggest you fight for an increase in the number of Hunters and a higher drum beat. At least that build programme has started and you can leverage off efficiencies in scale.

Also I note there is no definite information on range. Range is pesky ... with you are tied to a tanker or you give up space and stability for fuel.

In fact I cannot find a public site that deals with range. Give the hull size and installed power I suggest this vessel will not provide the range required by the RAN. It appears to be a very capable combatant in the short to medium range situations the JSDF will find itself in if current tensions boil over.

If the vessel is constrained by range it is no use in the RAN context.

PS: dispersed block building was not taken up for the Hunters because is proved difficult with the AWD programme. The Osborne shipyard is designed to build the structure on site. If you want to add a new design you may need a new yard (noting the Osbourne upgrade for the Hunter cost over 0.5 billion) which will add to the cost.
 

Lolcake

New Member
Any news on increasing the VLS capacity on the Hunters?

@Lolcake You are a new poster on here. One line posts aren't acceptable. I suggest that you read the rules to ensure that you get grumped at by grumpy Moderators.
 
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