Royal Navy ships at sea without Sea Dart guided missiles - to save money - but helping Sebastian Faulks make lots of it
Captured by the Iranian Plod. HMS Superb hitting the rocks and her crew hitting the headlines. "Rusty Lusty" HMS Illustrious off to the Indian Ocean sans her complement of Harriers, sorely needed in Afghanistan - where the intense heat and dust is shortening the life of equipment in a way not expected on the Lunenberg Plains, more T class subs crashing .... nothing about the Senior Service surprises any more.
Now the Portsmouth News tells us that prt of what is left afloat of the mothballed Royal Navy is sailing without armaments.
Royal Navy Type 42 destroyers HMS Exeter (Motto Semper Fidelis ) and HMS Southampton have been working without their Sea Dart guided-missile system since before Christmas. They have been removed to save cash. The ships carry a 4.5 inch medium range gun, which is maintained for use at any time, and, with a Lynx helicopter embarked, the ship gains further offensive power with Sea Skua anti-ship missiles, Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Mk 11 depth charges.
The Royal Navy Type 42 website says (very first sentence) ,"The Type 42 Destroyers form the backbone of the Royal Navy's anti-air capability"
The Sea Dart missiles, for protection of the ship and any accompanying larger aircraft carriers (?) against air attack, have been put in store. HMS Exeter has however sailed on exercises to the Mediterranean twice and joined a NATO-led operation in that time. She is the only remaining warship in service to have served in the Falklands War ( also she is the oldest general service warship in the Fleet). She is today entertaining the public at the Barrow in Furness Festival of the Sea , Buccleuch Docks, from 10am to 4pm and Sunday 8 June from 10am to 4pm.
Perhaps more memorably ,on May 27th Captain of HMS Exeter (Commander Paul Brown - who was awarded a prize on the Anti Air Warfare Officers’ Course, as top student of 1998 ), author Sebastian Faulks and members of the Fleming family were aboard HMS Exeter in the Pool of London to receive copies of the new James Bond novel, "Devil May Care" from lissome blonde improbably named Tuuli Shipster with legs all the way up to her bottom. (More pics)
Removing the missiles has, not surprisingly provoked anger from defence sources who claim the navy is suffering from short-term cost cutting. Editor of Warship World, Mike Critchley, said: "As a taxpayer it is not reassuring to see an expensive destroyer like Exeter engaged in not much more than a PR tour."
Sea Dart – first used successfully in the Falklands War in 1982 – will be phased out as the new Type 45 Daring class destroyers come into service, but Southampton and Exeter are still supposed to be fully operational until 2009. The first of Type 45's , HMS Daring, is currently undergoing her sea trials they will be eqipped with the much admrd and much hyped Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS) joint French / Italian / British Aster 15 and longer range Aster 30 missiles which use the Windows 2000 based command console (let's hope they never upgrade to Vista). They operate using the BAE /Thales S1850M Long Range/Early Warning Radar which will also be used on the monster Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
HMS Southampton's website claims ;" Our principal armament is the Sea Dart anti-air warfare guided missile, an asset that can protect a surrounding fleet from any airborne threat up to 40nm away from the ship. The team, led by a CPOWEA, keeps the system at top line performance."
A Royal Navy spokesman said: 'I can confirm that Sea Dart was deactivated in both ships last year, as part of a short-term financial planning decision to save money.
'It was carried out in Exeter during the summer, and then in Southampton after her deployment to the South Atlantic at the end of the year.
'The ships have a specific operating staff for Sea Dart and they have been transferred to other ships, and the missiles have been moved to storage. (They are visible on this shot of Exeter abaft (behind) the forward Gun turret.)
‘However, (continues the PR bullshit man ) the firing equipment has remained in the ships and that means Sea Dart can be reinstated if operational priorities change.(Probably difficult with bandist at 2 zero) ‘With regards to HMS Exeter and her visits to the Mediterranean, a risk assessment would have been carried out and the level of danger was not felt to be excessive.’
Sea Dart is a British Aerospace (BAE) surface-to-air missile system which has been in use since 1977. Two missiles occupy a cradle and a specially-trained and expert weapons crew and warfare team operate the system, which can protect a fleet from aerial threats up to 40 nautical miles away. Sea Dart was used veryeffectively during the Falklands War and is credited with 7 kills, including a British Gazelle helicopter downed by friendly fire.
One kill was against a high-flying Learjet reconnaissance aircraft beyond the missile's stated technical envelope. A high-flying Argentinian Canberra bomber was also shot down and other successful strikes were made against low-flying attack aircraft. The Argentinian Navy was also equipped with Sea Dart missiles and knew their capabilities. Because of this Argentinian planes, chose to fly below the Type 965 radar ("sea skimming"), frequently dropped bombs which failed to explode: The arming vane on the bomb had insufficient time to complete the number of revolutions required to arm the fuse, in which case, the fuze remained in safe mode and would not function on impact.
It was originally fitted to both the Type 42s and Invincible class aircraft carriers, but was removed from the carriers during refits between 1998 and 2000 to create space on the flight deck for the RAF Harrier GR9 aircraft - which now darken the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Since then the destroyers, which are supposed to support and protect the carriers, have retained the system.
The Sea Dart continued to be used in the 1991 Gulf War, and HMS Gloucester was credited with the first validated engagement of a missile by a missile when it downed an Iraqi silkworm weapon. The Type 42s have a range of other weapons including the Phalanx gun which is a rapid fire weapon that puts up a shield of metal which not only destroys but acts as "chaff" to confuse incoming missile telemetry.
HMS Southampton is currently in dock having one of the twin Rolls Royce Tyne engines replaced. The Tyne engines (5500SHP) are used as a ‘low’ power alternative to the mighty Rolls Royce Olympus (25000 SHP) as they are more economical and provide greater endurance for normal running.
No doubt her Commanding Offier since 2006 is anxious for this to be completed. He is Lieutenant Commander Morris trained as a Warfare Officer, specialising in Above Water Warfare and was awarded the Commander Egerton and Saint Barbara Association Prize for 1998.
"...a risk assessment would have been carried out and the level of danger was not felt to be excessive." ... welcome to the Pick'n'Mix school of Naval Warfare and Parsimony and landing leggy models bearing books for promotion. Forgive them oh my Father ......