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Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessels - MCM

The Hunt Class are the largest warships ever constructed out of Glass Reinforced Plastic [GRP]. Although orginally built as dual purpose Minesweepers and Minehunters, the class are currently configured to function only in the Minehunter role. As Minehunters they 'hunt' for mines with a high definition sonar and then destroy them using explosives placed either by the Mine Clearance Divers or by the Sea Fox Mine Disposal System . In addition they are equiped with: a single 30mm gun, two Miniguns and three General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs). This equipment fit enables the Hunt class to function in a Secondary Role as very potent patrol Craft.

The f30M price tag on a Hunt Class MCMV made everyone sit up and take notice, not least the MCD officers themselves. A few of these kept their heads out of the water and recognised that with the spotlight turned on them they were going to have to answer some very searching questions; most importantly, why such an expensive ship was now necessary and how it should be employed. In the event, they argued their case in the Ministry to considerable effect, and made such a favorable impression that they have markedly enhanced the status of their subspecialisation, and their own promotion prospects.

A large slice of the cost of the Hunt Class has gone into the research and development of the Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) Hull. Non-magnetic and strong enough to withstand the explosive shocks likely to be encountered in Mine Counter Measures activity, this revolutionary concept has demanded the development of entirely new skills and techniques in both ship building and ship husbandry. The primary reason for having a GRP Hull is to reduce to a minimum the magnetic signature of a ship. Great care has been taken to measure and then annul the magnetic effect of all machinery and stores within the ship, and the noise signature has also been reduced to a minimum by tuning and matching all the main machinery and by taking great care with all resilient mountings.

Powered by two Deltic diesel engines driving fixed pitch propellers through ahead/astern clutches and reverse gearboxes the Hunt Class has a top speed of 15 knots. To facilitate the slow running necessary for mine warfare a third Deltic provides power via hydrostatic transmission systems, air clutches and main gearboxes. The problems of maneuvering at slow speeds are overcome by the use of a hydraulic bow thruster thus doing away with the requirements for the activated rudder system found in conventional sweepers and hunters.

Hydraulic winches enable the sweep gear to be handled efficiently and quickly. The high definition sonar is capable of detecting small objects on the sea bed in greater depths and over longer ranges than previously achieved. The Remote Controlled Mine Disposal System Vehicle is virtually a small submarine controlled from the ship and capable of laying explosives to detonate mines or surveying the sea bed using television cameras. The sonar is a high definition that is capable of defining the size and likely material of an object on the seabed at a distance that allows the ship to remain safe should the mine detonate.

By 1999 the in-service date for the Hunt Class Sonar 2193 was 2003, with a 2 year fitting program for the whole class. This is the first change to the ISD since the project's inception. The original in-service date was 2001. Sonar 2193 has been designed to replace the existing Sonar 193M mine-hunting sonar in our Hunt class mine counter-measures vessels. This new system will maintain the effectiveness of our forces in this increasingly important area. As of 2001 it was planned that the first equipment will be installed in a trials vessel in 2002 and the system will enter service in early 2004.

At the same time, the Navy took the opportunity to replace the Command System in the Hunt Class. The new system will be developed from the NAUTIS system which is already fitted in our Sandown class ships. These orders safeguarded jobs at Thomson Marconi's sites at Cheadle Heath in Cheshire and at Templecombe in Somerset, as well as at a number of sub-contractor sites around the UK. The work maintained UK industry's capabilities in this important technological area and, for the mine-hunting sonar, could lead to considerable export opportunities.

The Mine Clearance Diving Element consists of an Officer, sometimes two (Either the Executive Officer - Second in Command - or the Operations Officer), a Petty Officer Diver (The Coxn - Ships Policeman) a Leading Diver and Three Able seaman divers. The Officer and Petty Officer Diver are both fully Qualified Bomb Disposal Officers with a further qualification in dealing with influence ordnance (Explosives that see and sense your presence). In addition they are also qualified in diving to 80m (240 feet), the use of mixed gas diving, Pure Oxygen attack swimming apparatus, SCUBA and Surface Demand diving equipment. They are qualified also to supervise both diving and therapeutic decompression using the onboard recompression chamber. The Leading Diver and AB Divers are Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians and are qualified to dive to 80m and use all the equipment stated above.

The actual cost per annum of operation (a) Type 23 frigates, (b) Type 22 frigates, (c) SSNs, (d) Hunt Class minehunters and (e) Sandown Class minehunters will vary considerably dependent on the tasking/maintenance undertaken. Indicative annual costs, including manpower, fuel and stores only, would be in the region of 16 million for a Type 23 and a Type 22 frigate, 11 million for an SSN, 3 million for a Hunt Class minehunter and 2 million for a Sandown Class minehunter.

HMS Bicester (M36), a Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessel (MCMV) of the British Royal Navy, was sold to the Greek Navy in 2001 as Europa. HMS Berkeley (M40) was sold to the Greek Navy in 2001 as Kallisto.

The White Paper "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence Review" (Cm 7948), presented to the House on 19 October 2010, explained the Government's intention to make certain changes to the armed forces in order to deliver the force structure we require for the future and to help address the legacy of unaffordability in the defence budget. The Sandown and Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels will remain in service and start the transition to a future capability from 2018 as part of the Mine countermeasures, Hydrographic, Patrol Craft (MHPC) project.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:37 ZULU