The Defence Procurement Agency Replacement Landing Platform Dock (LPD(R)) project will replace the Royal Navy’s existing assault ships HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid with HM Ships Albion and Bulwark in 2003. Albion’s primary function is to embark, transport, and deploy and recover (by air and sea) troops and their equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous cargo, forming part of an Amphibious Assault Force. The ship is also to act as the afloat command platform for the Commander Amphibious Task Force (CATF), which includes operational command of both the naval task group and the land forces while embarked.
Major improvements over the existing ships include much more extensive command, control and communications equipment and higher off-load speed due to improved troop handling arrangements.
A Design and Build Prime Contract for the ship-build was awarded to Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL) (now BAE SYSTEMS) in July 1996, following No Acceptable Price No Contract (NAPNOC) negotiations. As a risk reduction measure a separate contract for the design and production of the Integrated Communications System (ICS) had been placed with Redifon MEL in 1994. In May 1998, a further Prime Contract was let to BAe SEMA (now BAE SYSTEMS) for the production of 6 specialised Landing Craft Utility. A competitive contract for the procurement of 4 Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) is planned. Both types of landing craft are required for HMS Albion’s trials which are due to begin in February 2002.
Industrial loading difficulties at the VSEL Barrow shipyard have caused forecast delays to the Program Acceptance Dates for both ships. As of March 2000 the reported in-service date of March 2003 includes 12 months delay to HMS Albion. HMS Bulwark has been delayed by 9 months to December 2003.
HMS Albion was launched at Barrow-in-Furness on 09 March 2001 by HRH The Princess Royal. An extremely capable amphibious assault ship, she will enter service with the Royal Navy in 2003 once fitting-out is complete.
Albion is a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) - an assault ship with her own flooded docking area in the stern to allow landing craft to be loaded quickly and safely with the large number of troops and vehicles carried aboard. She also has a large helicopter flight deck, allowing troops to be landed ashore by sea and air simultaneously, and will be fitted with a state of the art Combined Operations command centre.
Each 50% larger than Fearless, Albion and Bulwark are the latest component in a major upgrade of the Royal Navy's amphibious capability. HMS Ocean, a helicopter carrier, joined the Fleet in 1998, and four Bay Class auxiliary landing ships are planned, to replace the Sir Bedivere class of Landing Ships Logistic, operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The LPD(R)s are the first large surface ships for the Royal Navy to be built at Barrow since the completion of HMS Invincible in 1978, and the first warships to be dynamically launched from the berths since HMS Talent in 1988 (RFA Wave Knight was launched last September).
Number 1 Deck and above on the LPD(R) – the ship’s superstructure – includes the Command and Control areas with some accommodation. Number 2 Deck is predominantly accommodation for the Ship’s Company and Embarked Military Forces with some office space and the galley. The Vehicle Deck is on 3 and 4 Decks forward. The floodable amphibious dock extends from 3 to 6 Deck aft. Stores, offices and ballast tanks are located to either side of the Vehicle Deck and the Dock. Number 5 Deck and below forward of the well dock consists primarily of machinery spaces and stores.
The size of the ship-lift and the bridge over the dock system made it impossible to build the LPD(R)s in the Devonshire Dock Hall (DDH). Therefore once the design was completed using the CAD package, the build started with construction of units within the existing steel fabrication shop (NAS), the transportation of these units to the DDH where they were combined into large blocks and outfitted to a high state of completion before transportation back to the berths where the blocks were combined before launch.
The blocks, although relatively light in weight (maximum 2400 tonnes) compared to the transport weight of the major blocks of a Trident submarine, represent the bulkiest loads ever moved on the public highway in the UK. Final outfitting will take place afloat within the Bucchleugh Dock.
HMS Albion and her sister HMS Bulwark will be pivotal elements of the UK’s powerful amphibious capability and will introduce a huge range of improvements over the ships they replace, the elderly HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid. HMS Ocean was the United Kingdom's first purpose built Landing Platform, Helicopter, designed to take Royal Marines and Army units anywhere in the world and land them by large helicopters and by landing craft. A very versatile ship, she cannot however land heavy tanks and for that role the Royal Navy looked to acquire replacements for Fearless and Intrepid (which are some thirty years old) in the shape of the two new Landing Platform Dock ships.
The biggest single improvement is to the command systems which support the two men who are in charge of amphibious operations, the Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG) and the Commander Land Forces (CLF). The 73-work station Command Support System (CSS) which will be used by the staffs of both COMATG and CLF is simply light years ahead of anything in UK amphibious forces. It will be the most sophisticated force command system and operations room the UK has afloat and it will help give us an operational edge and will permit Forces to reap significant operational benefits. The CSS will use the latest full colour flat-screen display technology and is located in the ship’s superstructure, along with a very sophisticated and powerful Integrated Communications System (ICS) which is the first digital system of its kind to go to sea in the Royal Navy. ICS will permit a wide range of communications between the assault ships and forces on shore, other ships in a task group and the UK.
Alongside these systems is the ship’s own command system, which has six workstations and is a development of those in service on Invincible class carriers. It controls the operation of the ship’s weapons and sensors to provide a sophisticated self defence capability.
The propulsion system represents the first fitting of integrated full electric propulsion to an RN surface warship. Electric propulsion reduces the number of marine engineering personnel by nearly two-thirds (compared with Fearless), to around 60. Overall ship’s company numbers are reduced through new technology and automation from 550 to 325 – a reduction of around 40 per cent.
Troop accommodation is connected to embarkation stations by assault routes wide enough for Commandos carrying full Arctic kit and weapons. Dedicated assembly areas are connected by assault trunks to landing craft points and the flight deck. Together these changes double the speed of troop disembarkation.
New roll-on roll-off “drive through” LCU Mk10 landing craft that can carry a Challenger 2 tank. The Ro-Ro design means the LCUs do not have to manoeuvre to re-enter the dock and this dramatically speeds vehicle disembarkation.
The floodable amphibious dock can accommodate four LCU Mk10s. The dock is fully enclosed.
Munitions and stores are moved around from magazines and stores areas to the landing craft using a system of overhead rails and gantries, significantly speeding the work of stores disembarkation.
Vehicles can embark from the dockside over a Ro-Ro side ramp on the starboard side, considerably speeding the loading and unloading processes in port. There is a ramp from the vehicle deck to the flight deck to enable vehicles to be transported as helicopter underslung loads.
The ship takes advantage of “stealthy” design measures to reduce its radar signature.
|Length Overall (m)||176||158.5|
|Length between Perpendiculars (m)||162||151.4|
|Maximum beam (m)||28.9||24.4|
|Waterline Breadth (m)||25.6||23.6|
|Hull Depth Amidships (m)||19.65||15.5|
(Crew and embarked troops)
|Displacement||18,500 tonnes Deep|
21,500 tonnes [approx] Docked down
|Length Overall||176 metres|
|Beam||25.6 Metres Waterline, 28.9 metres maximum|
|Military Lift||305 troops, with an overload of a further 405