Journal of the australian naval



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Naval weapons

Bofors has a long and respected history of manufacturing anti-aircraft systems and other naval armament. The 40 mm and 57 mm guns produced today, combined with new types of ammunition and loading systems, have been developed into highly effective, all-round guns for use against air and naval targets.

The Bofors naval product programme also includes anti-aircraft missile systems, weapon systems for sub­marine hunting, illumination and chaff rockets and sea mines.

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AB BOFORS

S-691 80 BOFORS. Sweden

Telephone . 46-586 81000

Page 8 November 86. Journal ol Itie Australian Naval Institute

in the operational force — a figure which would equate to the RN's strength after the postulated 1987 reductions.

One cannot blame the Ministry, aside from the expensive fiasco of the Nimrod AEW, because the Type 23s priority does not admit of a higher place in the ladder of defence commitments to be met within the reduced budget. It would appear that most of those concerned were prepared to live with a reduced frigate force if the replacements for Hermes. Intrepid, and Fearless could be worked into the Long Term Costings. This should happen, although there is little doubt that some of the eagerness to dispose of Hermes to India was due to a fear (hat while she remained on the effective list no more aviation support ships on the lines of the newly converted (and apparently highly capable) Argus could be obtained. Whether there will be a combination of further aviation support ships and simple dock down transports to carry on from Hermes and the LPDs is not yet clear, but it is almost certain that there will be something.

This pragmatic solution, bareiy satisfactory as it was, counted without two important factors. The first was the state of the British shipbuilding industry, the rump of which now depends almost wholly upon naval or fleet auxiliary orders for its continued existence. The drop from 2-3-2-3-2-3 to 1-3-1-3-1-3 would force the closure of one of the remaining major yards because there would simply be too little work to go around. With all the Government's rhetoric about the improvements in the industry and the considerable efforts to increase productivity and quality control and reduce industrial unrest it would not look well if thousands of the jobs which remain in the industry were to go in spite of all this endeavour in the best traditions of free enterprise. Further, the Government would be faced with new redundancy and unemployment charges costing tens of millions of pounds a year — if not more. This would make Westminster's unwillingness to allow increases in defence expenditure appear a false economy indeed.

The second point was that Mrs Thatcher has given her word to the Chief of Defence Staff and the First Sea Lord that her Government is committed to the fifty ship force. It appears that she intends, subject to certain conditions, to keep her promise. The Prime Minister's reaction to the plaint that there was not enough money in the defence budget for the Type 23 was to direct the Cabinet to find it, if necessary by means of grants-in-aid from those Departments which would otherwise be spending funds to cover the social problems resulting from the loss of jobs in the already depressed industrial areas of the north.

This surprising (though not illogical) solution has not borne immediate fruit for the Royal Navy and it is still possible that economic circumstances (for there will still be a substantial call on the defence budget) might combine to prevent the extra orders. There were suggestions that the Secretary of State for Defence, George Younger, would announce orders for as many as four or five Type 23s when he rose in the House of Commons in July. There was however, too little time between the Prime Minister's intervention and this announcement, which had to be made before the end of the month lest the tenders lapse for the three frigates already planned.

The negotiations between Departments will obviously be awkward. In addition, tenders will have to be called on the extra ships and the most likely result is that two or three units will be ordered in the middle of 1987 — rather than the single frigate which the Ministry of Defence felt was all it could afford.

The prospect is still by no means rosy. The conditions of the Prime Ministerial commitment are in fact those which had already been admitted by the MOD to be necessary to maintain a forty four strong escort force, let alone greater numbers. The age for replacement will rise above the eighteen years officially stated some years ago to apply to those ships now in service. The programme of refits and modernizations will probably undergo some revision, with more emphasis on the by now essential structural and mechanical work and less upon the expensive weapon and sensor revisions. Although the fleet has gained a great deal of new and markedly more effective equipment in the wake of the Falklands, this period is now at an end and it is likely that a number of systems which could only be improved through extensive modifications will be allowed to remain as they are.

Altnough one long term problem may have found a solution, there remain considerable difficulties for the fleet as a whole. Despite the reduction in the number of operational escorts, there has still been no corresponding reduction in the commitments met by the Royal Navy In particular and in spite of what were apparently the strongest submissions from the Ministry of Defence, the long foreshadowed force level reductions in the Falklands have not taken place. Two frigates or destroyers with accompanying auxiliaries are still required on station and there is, of course, an equivalent force detailed to the Armilla patrol.

How long, given tne progressive reductions in the ships available for employment, both tasks can continue without an embarrassing shortfall

November 86. Journal ol the Australian Naval Institute — Page 9

occurnng in NATO operations remains to be seen. It is perhaps significant that Dumbarton Castle, one of the two largest and most weatherly OPVs. has appeared at sea blossoming with Chaff dispensers and a search radar. The completion of the enormous Mount Pleasant airfield and its accompanying facilities must allow a change in the reinforcement programme planned for the islands in the event of an emergency and must increase British confidence in the abilities of land and air forces to constitute an effective and rapidly strengthened deterrent without the need for naval forces in support on such a scale as hitherto.

Personnel problems continue, although there is. at least in the case of officers, a cunous parallel with the situation of the Type 23 in that the prospect of finally achieving a sufficiency of senior seaman lieutenants and junior lieutenant commanders can be entertained with some confidence — for 1996. It appears that within the last two years the MOD accepted that the entry of officers to BRNC Dartmouth was. for whatever reason, not producing enough survivors' some seven to ten years later to tram as Principle Warfare Officers, let alone to allow any margin to select for such training amongst those who were suitable and willing and those who were not. In all charity, it must be said that the penny dropped rather later in Whitehall than it did in the Fleet since the warfare officer and bridge watchkeeper shortages had been apparent for some years before this, the only possible effective remedial action, was taken

The solution is a simple one. albeit demanding in its execution and delayed in its effect. The entries for the relevant lists and specialisations have been increased by a figure in the region of 30 percent The recruiters have worked hard to

achieve the increase in numbers, studiously (and apparently successfully) avoiding the disastrous step taken in the early 1970s of reducing the qualifications for entry. It seems an irony that BRNC Dartmouth is now entering and training more Royal Navy officers than it has ever done before.

The Fleet, of course, is now facing ever increasing numbers of officers under training and, shortly, would-be watchkeepers. The musical chairs process (not for nothing is the Fleet schedule for OUTs appointments known as the Carousel') required to find sufficient spaces will be familiar to all in the RAN. There will be some discomfort, not to mention the heavy load placed upon internal training facilities and the personnel involved, but there is at least some satisfaction to be gamed by the thought that there will, one day. be enough qualified seaman officers to go around.

Which is all to the good.




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