Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Jack Of All Trades, Master Of Fuc...

Over at Think Defence the admin has produced a very comprehensive post on the possible features of the future Type 26 frigate. From experience I can tell you that such an article takes an astounding amount of time to put together, predominantly because of the demands for accurate research followed by the difficulty in finding the right words to express your opinion. Even the process of typing itself is laborious; this paragraph alone has taken me nearly five minutes to type, even with a 50-60 word per minute typing speed, partly due to the need to go back and edit mistakes and re-write sentences till they make the most sense.

So on that note I take my hat off to him. I however, wish to take this debate down a slightly different path.

As you might expect a debate has been raging back and forth in the comments section of that article as everyone wonders what equipment will be included, what capabilities the ships will bring to the table, what performance characteristics they will demonstrate, and of course in this age of austerity, how much will they cost? Should it just be an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Frigate? Should it carry "strike length" missile cells for using the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM)? Does it need a main gun, and if so what size?

And it's that cost/capability balance that I want to peer at for a little why.

Not just in ships though. For several decades now we've seen the rise of the multi-role/swing-role aircraft, and on the ground we've seen various companies try to capture the utilitarian spirit of vehicles such as the Willy's Jeep and the M113 armoured personnel carrier with "families" of light and medium vehicles.

It's all the rage in the modern world and not without reason. Common platforms capable of performing multiple roles can save a hefty packet of money and inconvenience. The common supply chain of a "family" of vehicles is designed to reduce the burden on logistical forces, leverage savings from the supplier through high volume production, and reduce the cost of training support personnel who only have to learn to repair and maintain one set of spares.

On top of this support saving, you also have reduced cost in the initial purchase and front line training. If you only build one aircraft to cover a wide range of combat roles, then you only have to spend once every twenty to thirty years on development. You can order a high number of aircraft/ships/vehicles that will leverage a significant saving in the initial production costs (through construction efficiency) and you only have to train your front line users such as pilots/drivers/helmsman on one set of systems, instead of concurrently training multiple streams.

At least that's the theory. There are two potential problems with this approach;

1) Just how much of a saving is actually generated?
2) How much capability is lost?

Perhaps one of the better illustrative examples of multi-role equipment replacing single role equipment was the US Navy's decision to adopt the F-18E/F Super Hornet as its primary fighter and attack aircraft, along with the EA-18G "Growler" electronic warfare variant.

The list of aircraft previously used by the US Navy to fulfil the various roles now taken on by the Hornet/Growler combination is quite impressive (though not all were operated simultaneously); A-1 Skyraider for Close Air Support (CAS), A-4 Skyhawk for light attack, A-6 Intruder for medium attack, KA-6 Intruder for "buddy" tanking, EA-6 Prowler for electronic warfare, A-7 Corsair/F-4 Phantom/F-14 Tomcat for air superiority, and the S-3 Viking in the Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) role. Additionally the Hornet will take over the Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD & DEAD respectively) roles from aircraft such as the Skyhawk and Phantom.

When first implemented it was estimated that this would save the US Navy between $1-2 billion annually. The question is how much of that saving has actually been realised, and at what cost in capability?

Without hard figures it's difficult to tell, not least because one of the savings that such programs make is invariably to reduce the number of airframes (literally the total number, not just different types) which is sort of a dishonest saving in a sense, as you could just as easily reduce the fleet size of the previous aircraft and achieve the same effect.

Then you have to consider the savings offered simply by replacing old with new. New engines are designed to be more fuel efficient and benefit from advances in technology and design that make them more reliable. New airframes are typically constructed of lighter materials, further improving efficiency. And new equipment simply doesn't have the wear and tear on it that old equipment does, requiring the old kit to be serviced and tweaked on a more regular basis.

Next is the issue of commonality. This argument would tend to heavily favour the F-18 and in general you can't argue too much. But you can argue a little.

The A-6 Intruder for example was powered by the Pratt & Whitney J52, which was also used in the KA-6, EA-6, and the A-4 Skyhawk. The F-4 Phantom was powered by the General Electric J79, which was also used on aircraft like the F-104 Starfighter and the IAI Kfir (Israel). The F-14 Tomcat was powered by a General Electric F110, also used on the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The high production runs brought about by planning across the whole fleet, and indeed across the whole spectrum of US defence (see, Congress can be useful for some things) means that the impact of having a single aircraft type now across the whole US Navy is somewhat reduced.

Then we have to consider what might be termed "dead weight", for want of a better term. The F-18E/F Hornet carries - like most modern fighters - an X-band radar designed for air to air combat. The radar is there to detect, track and engage airborne enemy targets at Beyond Visual Range (BVR). But all the while that the aircraft is conducting ground attack missions, the radar's utility is somewhat reduced.

This issue is less apparent in modern Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, which are demonstrating the secondary capability to be used both passively as radar warning receivers, and also as communications relays, receiving and then re-transmitting data as part of a wider, connected information network.

Still it does beg the question; does every aircraft need a radar? An aircraft that is used predominantly in the attack role could save both initial purchasing costs and continued running costs by deleting this very expensive piece of kit. Similarly, attack aircraft tend to use smaller, less powerful engines, as the need for high speeds/high power is greatly diminished.

This extends into the general design of such aircraft. An attack aircraft generally requires different characteristics compared to a fighter. Fighters need to be fast and highly agile, often favouring sleek, low drag designs for supersonic flight that often have the side effect of reducing fuel capacity, and in the modern era it is almost unthinkable that a fighter would be built without being designed to be inherently unstable, requiring complex (and stunningly expensive) fly-by-wire systems to help the pilot control the aircraft.

By comparison, dedicated attack aircraft tend to be built the other way; inherently stable, without the need for complex fly-by-wire systems, and designed for subsonic cruising with heavy payloads and without much attention paid to supersonic performance, and generally with a greater provision for carrying fuel internally for long missions.

This of course is not an absolute rule, such as demonstrated by aircraft like the Panavia Tornado and SEPECAT Jaguar, both of which were eventually designed for high speed, low altitude penetration of enemy defences.

The question does have to be asked though; are the commonality savings generated by having a single fleet (such as Typhoon) actually offset due to the "over engineering" of large chunks of the fleet when performing tasks other than the very high end fighter roles? Operations over Afghanistan for example can and are being managed by aircraft less advanced than Typhoon.

Swapping hats though for a moment and joining the opposite side, supporters of multi-role aircraft would argue that aircraft like Typhoon reduce the need for so many airframes in theatre and give commanders greater flexibility.

Let's say hypothetically you deployed 12 aircraft to a theatre, with eight active and four reserve aircraft. Those eight aircraft can initially conduct Combat Air Patrols (CAP) armed with a full air to air weapons load and drop tanks for additional range. Once the threat of enemy aircraft has diminished by whatever means, some of those eight aircraft (or even all of them) can switch to attack operations. Theoretically, as swing role aircraft, they can go armed to carry out either role, especially thanks to the unique design of Typhoon that permits the carriage of four BVR missiles without interfering with the main wing pylons.

If you didn't have Typhoon, the alternative would be to deploy 6 fighters and 6 bombers, possibly working all of them to the limit. Assuming you only used four active (with two spare) from each group, that would severely restrict the ability of the force to conduct and/or contribute to CAP missions and then later strike missions.

Thus, in order for single role (we'll leave out ancillary missions like reconnaissance for now) aircraft to be viable, they would have to cost around half what a multi-role aircraft does. Even if we discount development costs for two aircraft types versus one, and the need for two pilots versus one, it's going to be a serious struggle to achieve those kind of economies.

You'd have to build around a relatively cheaper engine like the Rolls Royce Turbomeca Adour, as used in the Hawk trainer. For the fighter you could try and build a modern version of something like a MiG-21 (from an aesthetic perspective one of my favourite aircraft), but you would inherit the same sort of problems that aircraft has; short range, low weapons carriage and little room for a radar.

Perhaps you could integrate some of the design features of the Typhoon by having pylons blended into the body for BVR weapons while short range missiles were carried under the wings, but you're still going to struggle to find room for fuel and the radar would have to be a small job (you'd be lucky to get one comparable to the F-16 in there).

God only knows what you'd do for the attack version. Perhaps a wider winged version of the Hawk with the second seat replaced by a fuel tank? Will the engine cope with all that added weight? It's certainly a dilemma that would appear to favour the multi-role/swing-role aircraft in practice.

What about ships? Here I'm gradually starting to think that swing role favours the Naval environment even more. With aircraft there is at least the balancing act that can take place with size and speed, allowing a smaller aircraft to achieve comparable speeds to a larger one as long as the design and power-to-weight ratio is taken into account, as well as a larger margin of error for allowing some aircraft to fly slower than others.

Ships have a more difficult time of this, not least because neither an ASW ship or an Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) ship can afford to slack too much on the high end speed. These ships, at least as the Royal Navy requires them to be used, need to be able to achieve long ranges without constant refuelling. Thus given the size of the engines, the size of the fuel storage, and the size of the crew, it's almost impossible to build a small ASW or AAW ship to Royal Navy specifications.

So now we have either our ASW or AAW ship ready for its own task, what now separates it from serving in the others role? In the case of the Type 45 she isn't optimised from a sound perspective to conduct the ASW role, which means she would be relatively easier to detect for hostile submarines, and lacks the ability to carry and deploy a towed sonar like the Type 2087.

Looking at the designs for the Type 26, which is optimised for quieter running and for towing sonar arrays, what now stands in the way of her performing the AAW role? The answer would be that she lacks the Type 45's Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS), consisting of the more expensive and capable SAMPSON radar, the S1850M long range/wide area search radar, the combat management centre and the provision for carrying the Aster family of air defence missiles.

Thus it would appear that the future for the Royal Navy may very well be found in combining the two ships into one design. Essentially we would be talking about a Type 26 that replaced its currently planned Artisan radar with something like the SAMPSON (which BAE claims does not require back up like the S1850M), the Type 45's combat management centre, and Sylver silos to accommodate Aster 30 medium range weapons.

Of course this would reduce the number of ships needed in service as it would combine the two roles, but that takes us back to the perennial problem of having enough ships to fulfil all of the required tasks. Making one ship or one plane perform two roles is fine and can save you money, but in order to realise that saving their has to be a reduction in the fleet size. At a time when those in the RAF and Royal Navy are complaining that their numbers are being pushed too low, multi-rolling may actually be detrimental to their long term capability.

Firmly on the ground, things get more complicated. No land vehicle is really multi-role or swing role in the same sense as an aircraft or ship. You can have a common platform on which many variants are based, but it's not really possible to have an ambulance that's also a mobile command post, that's also a recce vehicle, that's also an anti-tank vehicle.

In theory you could build a vehicle that can be quickly switched from one role to another, in the same way that aircraft can change out their payload on returning to base and thus effectively switch roles, but it's not especially an ideal circumstance. Typically vehicles are going to be on the move constantly during a campaign, away from any formal servicing area, fulfilling specific tasks for the battle group that offer little opportunity or indeed need to flex back and forth.

It's perhaps here that specialisation and single rolling for vehicles has the most capability benefit, especially if you can use a common engine or drive train to reduce down some of the support costs. Of course just to be a fly in the ointment, this is also the place where a common platform finds its greatest financial leverage as production runs can reach into the thousands.

In conclusion, it's not an enviable job by any means to be someone that has to work on these kind of projects. The trade offs from building a reduced number of expensive, multi purpose platforms versus cheaper, but very focused platforms seems to vary strongly between the various air, sea and land domains, while the number of platforms required seems to also have a large impact on whether one can afford to take the single purpose versus multi purpose route, but only up to a point where the very high volume production would swing back to favouring multi purpose equipment. Total force numbers and whether they can be reduced or must stay the same adds an additional layer of complexity.



  1. Hi Chris - gone are the days when we could afford specialist platforms for each role. Off the top of my head, I think we sent four classes of frigate and three of destroyer when we went tearing off down south in '82. Now ship classes only overlap as one replaces the other. I think had we made T45 into a genuine allrounder then this would have impacted on the proposed numbers of T26. Perhaps the RN is being sneaky with "fitted for but not with." Get the hulls in the water, then argue the toss for upgrades with successive ministers for defence and chancellors!

  2. Hi Chris

    I am amazed by the detail in some of the posts and completely believe that a lot of time and effort has been put in to some posts, for which I take my hat of to you and others. The post you talked about on TD must have took ages, though I found it very informative and was very impressed.

    Before I comment on this post I will say I am biased. I believe that we have gone too far trying to make one airframe,ship etc perform to many tasks. I think that having multi-role platforms like the typhoon and F-35 (in the future) will see them performing tasks like Libya. In these situations they will be much more than what is required and just burning up their airframe hours which could be done by a much basic cheaper plane like the A-10.

    "Ships have a more difficult time of this, not least because neither an ASW ship or an Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) ship can afford to slack too much on the high end speed. "

    I don't agree with this comment. The AAW destroyers only need to be able to keep up with the fleet they are escorting. This will normally contain auxiliary vessels so that's an economically speed of 15-20kts max. Above this why do they need to go any faster? Ships from 1940 could reach speeds of 30 kts so modern military ships aren't exactly pushing the boundary on speed. The Frigate(ASW ship) is slightly different, it needs to be able to keep up with nuclear powered submarines so does need a top speed of ~30kts.

    The royal navy has made 6 destroyers for ~ £6bn it plans to make 13 type 26 at ~£5.2bn that's a total of 19 ships for £11.2bn. Assuming that they made a ship to do both roles and due to savings and economies of scale the cost of each ship would be less than £1.4bn ,the price of making a destroyer and frigate. The problem is that this class of 19 ships would have to cost less than 59% of the price of type 45 for this navy to be cheaper than the current RN approach. Now the only way for it too work is for the RN to buy in such large numbers that the multi-role platform works out cheaper to purchase than buying single role vessels. Though of course this doesn't work out either as the multi-role platform is a lot more expensive to run. As well as this the RN doesn't have the budget to buy a class of ships on a large enough scale to get even the manufacture costs cheaper. The best example is the Aegis Burke class destroyers. Also would you as an admiral rather risk a £400m frigate in a littoral environment to clear the way for an amphibious operation or a £1bn + multi-role vessel?

    I think there needs to be a balance. I don't think you need to go back to WW2 style RAF, when you had one type of plane for every single role. But I don't think we should go to the point where we have one airframe/ship do every role. It needs to be some point in-between. Currently I think the UK has gone too far to that extreme though ironically with the war in Afghanistan the army has gone the way of too many different vehicles.

    1. Afternoon Gents,

      WiseApe - That's the issue with multi-role platforms as far as the Navy is concerned, they generate savings by reducing the number of hulls. That's a tough ask of the Royal Navy, to reduce total platforms any more than we have already.

      Mick - I remember writing a guest article for TD that at one point required about an hours work just for two paragraphs, as I wanted to make extra sure that all the facts were correct and up to date. Much of it depends on the nature of the article. Opinion pieces are a little easier, because you're typing stuff as it comes into your head, whereas data related articles (or sections) take a lot longer; at least they do if you have any notion of wanting the information to be factually accurate.

      As for the speed issue, much depends on the operating environment and how we use our vessels. In the future Type 45 will be required to escort carriers into action. That might mean the commander opting to run the Carriers temporarily up to speed to launch or recover a strike package. That would require Type 45 to use its speed to be able to stick with the carrier and protect it.

      Then you have the issue of Type 45's deployed independently, either as pickets or in an interdiction/ambush profile. They might need that speed to dash into an advantagous position.

      If escorting a slow moving convoy/task group, they might need that speed to dash forward and assume a new position based on a warning about a possible axis of attack. Can't ask the rest of the group to slow down just so they can reposition.

      The RN has identified a need for speed and those extra Knots can have important tactical implications.

      As for the cost, you're never going to make a multi-role ship cheaper than a single role, while still achieveing the same degree of capability. The multi-role is always going to turn out more expensive. The saving comes from reducing the total number of ships/planes/vehicles. So you wouldn't replace 19 escorts with 19 swing-role vessels. You'd replace 19 with say 16 or 14 etc, based on the economies of it.

      That's why I'm not sure if swing-role/multi-role is really right for the Royal Navy. The required reduction in vessels might be too much, at least with tasking levels as they currently stand.

    2. "The RN has identified a need for speed and those extra Knots can have important tactical implications."

      I didnt mean that the destroyers should have a max speed of 20 kts but they should be their economical cruising speed.I have heard that the maximum speed of the carriers is around 25kts and the type 45 max speed requirement was only 29 kts, like i said before neither is pushing the technological boundaries.

    3. Hello Mick,

      Don't forget we often provide cover for American vessels as part of coalition operations (see the USS Missouri and the British Sea Dart that protected her from an Iraqi Silkworm). American carriers are faster than the planned QE-class, so the speed on Type 45 comes in useful there.

      And just generally a high top speed provides a lot of utility to a Destroyer commander. As long as the cost is not prohibitve, I feel more comfortable knowing our Destroyers can "race" about the battlespace.

  3. If you are in command of a single purpose ship. All the time you must be worried about what is out there you can't see or hear. Talking about sending a ship into waters because it is cheaper to lose is a conversation that no one has in public. We here in the US are going through that with the LCS. More and more countries are buying advanced aircraft and submarines and I think what ever you buy as far as ships goes has to be able to deal with those threats. A cheaper ship is fine and good in peace time. But as soon as the shooting starts and you loose it to whatever it hasn't been designed to defend against you no longer have that ship. I think the thing to many forget is that a high end whatever can deal with low end threats but a low end whatever can't deal with high end threats. The current drone fleets everyone is buying is a good example of that.

    1. Can even the US now afford to build enough multi-role vessels to meet all the USN's taskings? Wasn't LCS supposed to be a cheap and plentiful "presence" ship, a sort of tripwire to put in the way of a potential opponent, with the tacit knowledge that engaging the LCS would trigger the use of a much heavier response?

    2. When the shooting starts. Problem is that most of the time there is no shooting,so your expensive kit is costing three times as much to fulfil a role than needs to be spent. As you only have your expensive equipment you have to use that for all the jobs, but you cant afford many in number, so you end up having less of these high-end equipment to deal with the threats than if you had gone for a hi/lo mix. As for the LCS that's for another topic.

  4. Hi Chris,

    I am fine with the notion of combining ASW and AAW into a single platform, and I can swallow the notion that the increased flexibility might justify dropping from 19 escorts to 17, but........

    as long as complex warships remain a strategic industry then will still require a drumbeat of at least a new design every nine years and a new hull in the water every eighteen months, which i given an approximate fleet of eighteen escorts with an average life of 27 years leaves three types in service at any one time.

    The numbers can be juggled a little, put push it too far off-skew and we ending adding costs rather than reducing them.

  5. @ Anon,
    I think it depends on what "low tier" vessels such as the LCS would do in wartime. It would be a quite remarkable situation for something like the LCS to find itself ambushed by a submarine or air attack, as if that kind of threat is expected, the LCS should be nowhere near the theatre. I would not want an LCS cruising around the Persian Gulf right now for example. I think something like the LCS can have a value if utilised in the proper environment, to allow higher end vessels to be deployed in adequate numbers elsewhere.

    Much depends on the needs of the various nations fleets and the tasks they anticipate taking on.

    @ Jedibftrx,
    Hmm, I look at the Arleigh Burkes as a guideline. They've kept that production run going for a long time now, making changes as they go. I could see an era in UK shipbuilding where the Type 26 becomes something of a baseline, with design work focusing on how to upgrade and improve the Type 26 design, which would eventually morph over time as new sections are added or removed and bits of it are redesigned (hangar for example, widened for two Merlins?) so the original design could keep evolving. By the time the final Type 26 enters service under current plans, the Type 45's will have been around for twenty some years and that would be the next thing on the "to do" list.

    Thus maybe a gap could be filled by some new amphibious vessel, with a refreshed Type 26 design following on that became a more dual purpose ship. I think the economics are worth investigating in more detail.

  6. One of the problems with not maintaining "drumbeat" particularly of design, is that the collective MoD/DoD and industry knowledge base forgets how to do ship design (and aircraft and armoured vehicle design for that matter). Partial redesigns can do some of this, but eventually, the core "clean sheet of paper" / why/how do we do this? design questions and answers need to be exercised. the longer the interval between these serials, the harder it is to actually execute them.

    The evidence for this is all over the design evolution and costs for AStute, QEC, T45 and T26 and to a lesser extent for LPD. If you look at what is happening in the US, similar factors are at work wrt DDG1000 and LCS, not to mention the flight III Arleigh Burkes.

    It is more likley that the big savings to be made are in equipment support. The T21, T42 and T22/1 & 2 all had effectively teh same propulsion and electrical generation systems. Major savings in log support across the board. The same can apply to smaller components (pumps, valves, fuseboards etc) provided that we pick appropriately rated OTS hardware and stick to it, rather than trying to re-invent a niche RN product line.

    1. I always assumed that the RN would use generic pumps and valves across the fleet, providing that they could handle the required stresses. That they don't comes as something of a shock!

      As for design... hmm, not overly convinced. I think when we look at Astute, QEC, T45, DDG1000 and LCS there are a number of factors that have driven up their respective prices.

      With Astute it was handing the contract to someone who couldn't handle it in the first place, and then using software utterly inadequate for such a complex task. If you have a design body who does regular minor updates to current vessels, they might have understood the scale of what was being asked and not used such inadequate tools?

      QEC, the government has had just as much of a hand in that programs delay and cost. Not to mention that the declared winner was eventually shunted to one side in their own program, resulting in significant design over hauls.

      DDG1000... I don't even know where to start? Have they taken that test hull out onto the open ocean yet? I know they gave it a run around on a calm lake somewhere and then professed how brilliant the sea keeping was, but I'm still going to be pretty nervous for the first few months when that thing finally takes to the sea.

    2. All of which have a fundamental common root. The people doing the initial "basic" design did not understand the relationships between the requirement, the functions of the ship / boat and the systems. You don't get this from doing "minor updates", which tend to be constrained and while the designer may understand "what" is happening, he generally has no time, funding (or inclination) to understand "why".

      The issue with the software on Astute was also similar to that on LPD. Not so much that it was inadequate - rather that it required far too much input early in the design, which leads to an awful lot of nugatory work as the design spiral is negotiated in the early stages. This is compounded if the people doing the design don't know what they're doing and don't understand this latter point.

      For QEC the "design over-haul" was largely non-existent. At that stage, both designs were at a fairly immature stage with varying degrees of detail developed. Once the ACA construct was announced, there were a number of iterations to try and reduce cost, but again to one degree or another affected by lack of expertise.

      DDG1000 is the ultimate triumph of hope over experience. A ship optimised above all else to minimise AW signature, yet retain all offensive and defensive capabilities. The thing is the size it is because the requirement for signature reduction driove adoption of the tumble-home form, which required significant increases in both beam and draft to allow the ship to pass the stability criteria. At some stage, a competent ship designer should have stopped and queried just how much value the low sig requirement was going to get them. Either he didn't, or the NAVSEA or OPNAV head-shed told him tehy didn't like that answer and to come back with an answer they liked......

    3. Morning NAB,

      "The issue with the software on Astute was also similar to that on LPD. Not so much that it was inadequate..."
      -- Rumours abound that once things got more complex, the update rate for the software was on the order of 5-10 minutes for every change made? I wonder if a team that was regularly doing small design updates to an existing design(s) would have avoided this by using their own, existing, tried and true software?

      "Either he didn't, or the NAVSEA or OPNAV head-shed told him tehy didn't like that answer and to come back with an answer they liked"
      -- Neither of which bodes well. I feel sorry for the first crew that have to take that thing out into rough seas for a trial run.

    4. The software update issue tallies with what happened. However, what makes you think that those doing small updates to current ships and boats use anything other than AutoCAD 2D and a LOT of calculation documents? That's because the majority of documentation and drawings are maintained in that form, or worse, scanned TIFs!

      None of these are suitable for a modern CADAM environment, but they are generally sufficient for TL support.

      You may be surprised to know that submarine structural analyses are undertaken at Barrow using software dating from the 60s that runs on a VAX, or is it a UNIX - can't remember, computers not my strong point.

      As for DDG1000, the seakeeping will be fine. Whether it's worth the cost it added to the ship is another question entirely.

    5. "As for DDG1000, the seakeeping will be fine"

      I'll have to take your word for that. I'm going on the principle of "if it looks right, it'll sail right". It don't look right!

  7. Hi all! I'm new to the site but enjoying catching up. Also, I'm from the U.S. side of things so I can't really address RN topics. That said, the issue of multi vs single role is one the U.S. is also wrestling with. From the U.S. perspective, we've gone too far down the multi-role path because we've tied multi-role to fewer numbers, as Chris alluded to.

    The problem with replacing a dedicated ASW ship and a dedicated AAW ship (to use the conceptual example) with a combined ASW/AAW ship is that you've gone from two ships capable of being in two places at once, performing two functions, and replaced them with a single ship that can only be in one place at a time. In this age of budget restrictions, numbers matter.

    Now, if we were replacing one ASW and one AAW with two ASW/AAW, that would be a different and probably beneficial move. In the U.S., we're not doing that. We're reducing total numbers.

    So, setting aside the cost issue and looking at it just from a numbers perspective, multi-role, as implemented by the U.S., is a path of diminishing presence and capability.

    Just my thoughts from the U.S. Love the debate!

    Navy Matters

    1. Ah ha! Navy Matters!

      I was sent a link to your site a week or so back and I've been trying to squeeze in time to have a read. Liking it so far. I'm probably going to stick you on my blog roll under "interesting links" if that's ok with you?