Select Committee on Defence Tenth Report


Type-45 Destroyer

60. In our inquiry this year we have taken the opportunity to get a progress report from the MoD on the programme we examined last year—the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), and its 'PAAMS'[244] missile system and 'Horizon' warship components. In our report we called on the MoD to distil lessons from the failures of the CNGF programme, and the MoD's evidence to our current inquiry includes the results of that work.[245] Our report last year also examined the MoD's plans to acquire a national fleet of Type-45 destroyers in place of the aborted collaborative Horizon frigates.

61. Since our report, the MoD has let the prime contract for the Type-45 programme to Marconi Electronic Systems (now part of BAE Systems) to complete the ship's 'preparation for demonstration' stage. The MoD sees this selection as minimising project risk and maximising the opportunities for taking forward the work that the firm had invested in the now aborted Horizon project,[246] 70% of which is now expected to flow into the Type-45.[247]

62. Later this year, the MoD aims to let the prime contract for 'demonstration and first-of-class manufacture', which will involve Vosper Thornycroft at Southampton and Marconi Marine (YSL) Ltd on the Clyde to allow the possibility of ship construction at either yard.[248] The MoD intends to keep control of the competitions for follow-on ships, as our report last year recommended.[249] CDP described how these measures were intended to maintain competition for the production of the Type-45—

    ... competition does in many ways stimulate innovation. We have learned from that and we will insist on competition for the Type-45. As you know, many years ago it was designated that the first [vessel] would be built at Yarrow. You cannot have a fair competition between one shipyard that has built one, and one shipyard that has not. ... Although BAE Systems are the prime contractor ... an absolute condition of that is to involve Vosper's in the design team first of all to give Vosper's absolute transparency on what is going on in terms of designing the ship ... By having Vosper's present in the design team we will ensure first of all that this ship will be built, can be built, at both shipyards. We are also now moving to quite an interesting idea, that bits of the first ship, which we call intermediate products, that is to say blocks, large chunks of hundreds of tonnes, could be built at Vosper's. We have not settled that yet. We thought that might be quite a neat way of getting them into the construction processes for this ship ... That way we think we can envisage a strategy for building these ships where there is competition both for final assembly and to build these intermediate products.[250]

63. The contract for the first-of-class would be for one, two or three vessels.[251] The first vessel should be available for sea trials in late 2005 or early 2006, but the contractor (rather than the Royal Navy) will be responsible for the successful completion of these trials (probably over a period of about 15 months) and for meeting the vessel's 2007 target in-service date which is defined in terms of its availability for operations.[252]

64. In our report last year, we recommended that the MoD should take full advantage of the opportunities now offered by having a national rather than collaborative vessel, including designing-in the possibility of fitting missile launchers which could house a wider range of missile types, and not just the anti-air PAAMS 'Aster' missiles. Specifically, in our report we highlighted the advantages of later Type-45 vessels being able to use Tomahawk land attack missiles, in view of their successful use in the Kosovo campaign.[253] Although there are currently no plans for the Type-45 destroyer having a land-attack capability,[254] we were pleased to be told that it is 'being designed from the outset to allow the fitting of a vertical launcher suitable for a variety of weapons (including missiles such as Tomahawk) to every ship in the class, should a funded requirement be raised for this capability'.[255]

The Future Carrier and the Future Carrier Borne Aircraft

65. In this inquiry we also briefly reviewed the position regarding the future carrier programme and its aircraft. The two new carriers and their complement of aircraft were amongst the most important elements of the Strategic Defence Review, central to the UK's concept of expeditionary warfare, and in our report on the SDR we undertook to monitor progress on these programmes on an annual basis.[256] With an in-service date still 12-15 years away, work so far has been focussed on studies to determine the broad parameters of each programme. It is likely to be a focus of our monitoring exercise next year, however, as these decisions become closer. In the meantime, the Committee is visiting the Carrier and Future Carrier Borne Aircraft (FCBA) project teams in the near future to discuss the current work.

66. The next important stage for these programmes comes at the end of the first phase of the Carrier's 'Analysis of Options' studies, currently being undertaken by the two competing contractors for the carriers—BAE Systems and France's Thomson-CSF. At that point—'late 2000/2001'—the carriers' aircraft will be selected, allowing the second stage of the Analysis of Options to focus the ship design on the requirements of the selected aircraft.[257] The design of a carrier to accommodate a 'short take-off and vertical landing' (STOVL) aircraft will be very different from one for a conventionally launched and recovered aircraft, and this will be the driving factor in their design. Admiral Blackham told us that this was, for example, the main determinant of the likely size of the vessel—

    I know there is a great fascination with the tonnage of a ship which personally I do not share. The key issue is what is the aircraft going to be, and what numbers are we going to deploy. ... Once we have decided on the aircraft we will have to build a carrier to accommodate it. ... Depending on the size of the aircraft we will have to consider the size of the flight deck and the size of the hangar arrangements. ... It does not make sense to determine exactly what the size of the carrier will be until we know what the aircraft is.[258]

Similarly, CDP told us—

    A carrier is not a complicated ship, it is basically a big box with a big hangar inside it and a flat deck and a sufficient degree of command and control arrangements to enable the ship to communicate, as it has to. It is not going to have lots of other weapons. It is not full of systems like a destroyer that is stuffed full of the most complicated electronics, etc.. When you go on board a carrier it is basically empty, it is just a box. What is complicated is the aeroplane. I do not want to allow us to create an impression in your minds that the construction of the ship is an immense technological achievement.[259]

67. The short take-off and vertical landing version of the US-led Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme is currently 'a strong contender' for the FCBA, with 'other options being studied in order to compare them with JSF'.[260] There have been press reports that the US Department of Defense are encountering technical and industrial problems with the JSF programme and may delay their selection between the bids from the Boeing and Lockheed-Martin consortia. Admiral Blackham acknowledged that if such a STOVL aircraft were chosen and a STOVL-compatible vessel had been selected, and the aircraft programme then ran into serious delays, there would also be difficulties for the carrier programme.[261] If the STOVL route were chosen, it would also be more difficult to switch to an alternative aircraft programme.[262]

68. In practice, we were told, the FCBA decision could involve two consecutive selections—first, whether to take the JSF or an alternative aircraft such as derivatives of the Eurofighter, Harrier or the F-18, and, second, whether it should be a conventional aircraft or a short take-off and vertical landing aircraft.[263] The JSF programme involves both sorts of aircraft, and although development of the lower risk 'conventional' variant is being pushed ahead of the other one,[264] we were assured that at the moment the US remains committed to the STOVL Joint Strike Fighter.[265]

244  'Principal Anti-Air Missile System' Back

245  Ev p 88 Back

246  Ev p 78, para 8 Back

247  Ev p 79, para 23; HC Deb., 10 January 200 c91w Back

248  Ev p 78, para 9 Back

249  Eighth Report, Session 1998-99, op cit, para 35 Back

250  Q 262 Back

251  Q 249 Back

252  QQ 249-253 Back

253  Eighth Report, Session 1998-99, op cit, para 31 Back

254  HC Deb., 18 May 2000, c205w Back

255  Ev p 94, para A7 Back

256  Eighth Report, Session 1997-98, op cit, para 236 Back

257  Ev p 54, para 10 Back

258  Q 286 Back

259  Q 288 Back

260  Ev p 62, para 2 Back

261  Q 279 Back

262  Q 280. The only STOVL programmes are the JSF and a possible Harrier derivative Back

263  Q 275 Back

264  ibid Back

265  Q 276 Back

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