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Future Surface Combatant (FSC) Program

The pre-design stages of the Future Surface Combatant began with Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) undertaking trials with the only steel construction powered trimaran in the world, the 90-meter long RV Triton. This was to see whether a trimaran design would be more suitable for any future warships. Other designs being considered for FSC is a ship modeled on either basic Type 45 hull or another mono-hull but fitted out for anti surface (ship and ground) and Anti submarine warfare.

Plans envisaged a new class of surface combatant which would enter service from around 2013 when the later Type 22 and Type 23 frigates pay off. The UK expected a contract for the Future Surface Combatant to be placed with a prime contractor in 2007 following competition. The FSC should benefit from the innovative ideas arising from the Type 45 and CVF procurements and it will also exploit emergent technical innovations and concurrent engineering practice to achieve SMART procurement objectives. The cost of replacing 20 Type 22/23 frigates in the Royal Navy after 2010 falls within the responsibility of the Chief of Defence Procurement and Chief Executive of the Defence Procurement Agency.

By 2001 it was becoming clear that a more general purpose design was required, with better anti-surface and shore bombardment capabilities. A variety of advanced designs were proposed by industry, including several multihulls of 6000-9000 tonnes, and even a "mothership" carrying four smaller ships of 1500 tonnes. However budget pressures escalated as the cost of the new carriers and Type 45s became apparent in the early 2000s.

In November 2004 the MOD cancelled the big Future Surface Combatant as it had been envisaged until that point. The DPA announced on 25 November 2004 that it was developing ideas for a possible two-class solution to the requirement for a multipurpose warship, having decided not to proceed with the FSC as originally planned. The FSC concept had grown continuously in size, tonnage, scope, capabilities, technology, sophistication and projected cost since its origin as simply the next class of frigate to succeed the Type 23.

After the Future Surface Combatant (FSC) program was restructured, three other projects were considered in its place, they are the Medium Sized Vessel Derivative, the Versatile Surface Combatant, and the Global Corvette. The project was reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options was considered. The project was still in its concept phase and no decision had been taken about the time scale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution.

The Type 23s were having a much easier life than originally planned, and would last into the 2020s if given appropriate mid-life upgrades. In August 2008 it was announced that they will receive the new Insyte Artisan 3D search radar. However the four remaining Type 22s would still need replacing between 2015-2020. Work on replacements continued, but at a low intensity. In March 2005, the plan was for a two-class solution, a cheaper Medium Sized Vessel Derivative entering service in 2016-9 and a more capable Versatile Surface Combatant entering service around 2023.

In November 2006 Naval design consultancy BMT Defence Services Ltd completed a Balance of Investment (BoI) study on a possible Future Surface Combatant warship for the Royal Navy. The Defence Procurement Agency's (DPA's) use of BMT, strengthens the company's reputation and presence as a key player in supporting the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in determining the UK's future fleet make up. "This was an excellent opportunity to help the DPA in providing a robust understanding of the cost and program risks involved with procuring complex warships. As one of the world's leading independent naval design houses, our technical understanding matched with our knowledge of the art of the possible made us a unique MoD contractor in carrying out this work," says Roger Cooper, Managing Director of BMT Defence Services.

By early 2007 studies conducted under the UK Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2) program formulated a three-tier plan to recapitalise the Royal Navy's (RN's) surface fleet through to 2035. The new strategy envisages a Future Surface Combatant (FSC) capability delivered by three distinct ship types, optimised for high-end warfighting, stabilisation operations and a miscellany of constabulary and minor war vessel tasks. The plan we have developed takes eight existing classes down to just three. In early 2008 QinetiQ signed an initial 11 month contract with the MOD as part of a £2m pilot study which will see a new joint MOD / industry naval ship design office established in Bristol, to be tasked with the design of complex naval ships for the Royal Navy, such as the Future Surface Combatant. The Naval Design Partnership (NDP), with its 'rainbow team' of talent, which includes Thales, BAE Systems, VT Group, Babcock and BMT, will allow greater innovation and pull-though of new technology and will cost effectively manage the translation of maritime capability requirements into warship product specifications. It will also enable MOD to reinforce in house Naval Architecture and related specialisms through a collaborative design approach.

In 2008 BMT Nigel Gee Ltd, a subsidiary of BMT Group Ltd, introduced a new high-speed Pentamaran concept to the large yacht market, Project Véloce, a 130 meter long vessel capable of speeds of over 40 knots. Conventional stabilised monohulls typically require relatively deeply immersed and long sponsons to meet damaged stability requirements and these can incur significant resistance penalties. The Pentamaran overcomes this by having two pairs of sponsons; a very short and shallow pair aft and a forward pair clear of the static water surface. These forward sponsons only become immersed as the vessel heels, consequently stability characteristics are maintained with no resistance penalty.

In early 2009 BAE Systems unveiled a technology mast demonstrator designed for future warships, required to meet increasingly complex operational demands. The mast is a critical component of a modern warship and the technology mast demonstrator has been designed to combine long-range radar, numerous high power sensors and communications antennae and equipment in a way that minimises mutual interference. Other advantages of the mast are that it is light, tall, yet almost invisible (stealthy) to an enemy radar. The technology has been developed as a private venture by the company, in keeping with the MoD's Smart Procurement approach. The demonstrator mast will act as a test structure for the forthcoming Sampson radar to be installed in the Royal Navy's next class of Destroyer, the Type 45, for which Bae Systems is Prime Contractor. It is also is suitable for evaluation at sea on trials vessels such as the DERA trimaran. Although the technology is designed primarily for use in the next generation of British warships, Type 45 Destroyers, Future Carrier and Future Surface Combatant, it could also be incorporated into the current fleet to maintain their operational effectiveness. The new mast is designed to form a key component of the ship's upper superstructure. It comprises a steel substructure clad in advanced Fibre Reinforced Plastic composite panels, which incorporate radar-absorbing layers. Sensors are installed in interchangeable modules mounted within the cladding. The philosophy of this mast is intended to support future surface warship designs and retrofit to existing ships.

As of November 2008 the Future Surface Combatant program was scheduled to achieve initial gate approval in mid-2009, after which it will enter its assessment phase. at that time The first of the vessels was expected to enter service late in the next decade. It is departmental policy to release in-service dates only for those vessels for which the main investment decision has been taken. The Future Surface Combatant program has not yet reached this stage. However, on current plans, MoD expected the first vessel to enter service around the end of the next decade - 2018.

In February 2009 the Royal Navy took the first major step towards developing the next generation of warships with an agreement with BVT Surface Fleet to assist in the development phase. The joint maritime venture between BAE Systems and VT Group, which holds a monopoly over nearly all major naval projects, will work with the Navy to develop a concept for the Future Surface Combatant (FSC). BVT will lead the design and production of the FSCs, taking over responsibilities from the Naval Design Partnership.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:58:48 ZULU