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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2016 10:38 pm 
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I do like the numbers on those later Griffon Mossies; very impressive. The Swiftsure looks to be a very nice piece of kit, as do the Victorias/Victory bombers.

I didn't get to respond further to your outline of the economic situation due to work, but it seems to be a step in the right direction. It is still going to be very, very difficult to fund an RN and RFC/RNAS of great size in the 1960s. Not impossible, but a difficult matter of different priorities.

With all of the improvements described, a British GDP of ~$550 billion 1990 USD in 1960 isn't completely outside of the realms of possibility; it is ~20% in advance of the historical $452 billion. 10% of that gives $55 billion, which is a fair bit more than what Britain spent in @.

However, US defence spending in 1960 was ~$330 billion in 2004 USD, or $247 billion in 1990 USD; I use that number as it is what Angus Maddison's works on historical GDPs employ. Even with contributions from the rest of the Commonwealth and miscellaneous tweaks, the maximum British defence slice is several orders of magnitude below that of the US. The USN of 1960 is/was the closest force to measure against an RN of the size you outline:

6-8 CV + 1 CVN and 1 CVA
4 SSBN
7-8 SSN
28+ SS
7 BB (3 Lion, 4 KGV)
14 CA
9 + 3 CG
~30 CL/CLG

It could be just affordable, with a fair few of the earlier/warbuilt CAs and CLs on their way out or in reserve. There would be very, very little left over for the Army once the RFC take their slice and to afford the SSN/SSBN, CVN and CG programmes of the 1960s and 1970s, Britain would need to keep growing at 1950s levels. It would also need to cap education, welfare and health spending at around 4-5% each.

A Commonwealth-wide tax base would be difficult, given the different defence needs of Britain, India, Canada and Australia among others; taxation without economic union and subsequent political federation is a long shot. Some degree of joint funding is possible for various missile and carrier projects and the operational costs of joint fleet units at Singers et al.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:07 pm 
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Things have probably diverged far more than that by the sixties; In @, Britain left the first world war as a severely wounded country, much of the confidence knocked out of her, very little real achievement to show for it, massively in debt and whatever the reality of the 'lost generation', it felt that way.

Partly what happens here is that largely because of earlier American involvement, the war is pushed home where it is no longer possible to deny that it was a victory, if a painful one; the German army cannot sensibly claim to be stabbed in the back, when it was so obviously, thoroughly and repeatedly stabbed in the front.

Which amongst other things means that the coalition, later Labour, postwar government has no refuge and actually has to start making good on those promises about homes fit for heroes, for a start. (Also managing to pay off large parts of the war debt by doing a deal with the new German Republic that resulted in America being paid in British owed papiermarks didn't hurt.)

Forced draft industrialisation of India and the rest of the Commonwealth, not nearly as much driven by state terror as the Russian equivalent but not far short in extent, accompanied by protective tariffs, and avoiding the dangerously principled idiocy of going back on the gold standard, should help a great deal, to the point where at the shambolic end of the Second Great War, America may be dominant- but does not have a clear majority of the productive power of the world, amounting to some thirty- five percent, with Russia and the Commonwealth ahead of each other in some areas and behind in others around the twenty to twenty- five percent mark.

Essentially a four cornered cold war once China pulls itself together, even if it is a rectangle rather than a square, with two pairs of corners close to each other. With a four cornered space race, and all that implies- and when you start looking at the economic spinoffs of that, things get a bit chaotic. (There was a reason for Lake Ward, you know.)

Anyway,

IIIc1; carrier based bombers

Ship based bombers should have been the Royal Navy's bread and butter; instead they turned out to be the bane of it's existence. The navy began the thirties and the process of rearmament with the Hawker Osprey (the naval version of the land based Hart light bomber), for reconnaissance and littoral bombing, the Blackburn Ripon (which was not known as the rip-off, largely because it simply wasn't expensive enough) as torpedo type with several replacements already in the works.

It's re- engined direct descendant the Baffin worked well enough in peacetime, but was kept quite busy making sure that it stayed peacetime, and as the cauldron of European politics began to boil over it seemed that it was not going to be enough.

The failure of two overambitious monoplane designs, both essentially on deck handling and landing, (a Supermarine type that showed every signs of having been a Mitchell sketch on the back of an envelope and having been worked up to nominal practicality by distinctly lesser lights, and a Blackburn first attempt that looked more like a pug fitted with glider wings), left the navy grumblingly consenting to an apparent step backwards, Son of III- the Fairey Swordfish.


The Fairey Type III wasn't actually a 1918 aircraft- it was a 1917 aircraft; first flight 14 September of that year. The Swordfish was a biplane designed by people well aware that monoplanes existed, but still very clearly showed it's heritage, and exploited the configuration for all it was worth- very low landing speeds, excellent handling- the first recorded Spitfire actually shot down was a victim of friendly fire as a result of an overenthusiastic RFC pilot 'bouncing' a Swordfish with a new and twitchy telegraphist/air gunner-

excellent crashworthiness and damage tolerance for its' size (that being a product of bulk and quality), the ability to maintain the air in conditions where even the birds were walking, load carrying capability better than the first generation of RFC twins and in great variety, it was a truly great biplane, and the problem there is self evident- it was no longer the time of the biplane.

As a front line aircraft, it was clearly not cutting edge and was never really expected to be more than an interim stopgap, a placeholder until the actual new front line torpedo bomber came along. Perhaps the overstrained aviation industry simply needed time to breathe, an operational pause to digest technical change, but it did not get it, and oddly this area was probably the most critical casualty.

There were numerous attempts to replace the Swordfish, three of them from Fairey, an improved biplane that never really got off the drawing board before being ridiculed out of competition, a monoplane that looked as if it had been designed by locomotive engineers, and a leaned down version of an already obsolescent land based bomber, not the firm at their best.

Blackburn tried to turn a dive into a torpedo bomber, Avro produced an interesting kitbash based on the outer wings of the Manchester, most of the Army light tactical bombers took a turn at being tested for carrier suitability, but in general all the first generation of which essentially fell flat- and ultimately were thereupon steamrollered into pothole fillings by the success of a much larger aircraft that eventually forced a division of roles on the Navy.


Designed as a private venture, in the belief that it could be done, De Havilland's last-of-the-old-school type 98 was rejected vigorously by the RFC on the grounds of unsuitable, wooden, construction, and when asked to take a closer look in view of the thing's performance, rejected with considerable force again on the grounds that tactically it was quite outside what the RFC were looking for in a bomber.

Much of the theorising on this revolves around turrets, but in the official documents the biggest single issue was crew workload. The RFC simply did not believe that what were in their training scheme the jobs of five men- pilot, flight engineer, navigator, wireless op, bomb aimer- could be condensed into two aircrew- they had no objection to the thing's performance (although considerable doubts over serviceability), just doubted that it was humanly possible to fly the thing efficiently.

What objections lay behind the official reason, and in all probability the rumours are right about defensive armament and wooden construction being the main sticking points- and whether the construction of the things would remain stuck in the tropics for one big subissue- the Navy believed that it could cope, infamously Admiral Lyster pointing to the Samuel Pocock painting of the Glorious First of June, and proclaiming that the navy was willing to retain an open mind on the issue of wooden vehicles, and such a thing would be a great asset.


Up to a point, he was right. While the survivability in tropical conditions was definitely an issue, one that required the sort of technical chemical wizardry to resolve that could not be called upon in an instant, and there were many days-of-sail reminiscent interim solutions (including a classical education based revival of the Athenian secret for holding lightly built triremes together, internal tension rigging), the Mosquito- nearly named the De Havilland Duncan after the Admiral of the same name, despite not resembling him in the least- outperformed most land based interceptors to become a brilliantly lethal medium bomber, and part time fighter bomber even.

The drawback being, while neat and compact by land based twin engine medium bomber standards, it was by carrier aviation benchmarks a clumsy, unwieldy monster.

To go over the numbers again, the RN possessed the three first generation indian/pacific fleet carriers, the three Royalists, the four I class which would be there from the middle of the war onwards, the four V class which would not quite make it, all of which were more or less comfortable with Whirlwinds and Mosquitoes as main striking force; they were capable of handling more or less anything the war could produce, at least that only had two engines. Flying a Swiftsure off one would, admittedly, have been pushing it.

the three Follies and four Protector class before the war and the eighteen in total Island class in four major variants arriving during the mid to late war period,the squadron carriers as originally designated, light fleets by later standard, were more problematic. The griffon engined types, the mosquito marks XII and onwards and the Whirlwind V, were neither practically viable or truly reliable on the relatively small ships; Whirlwind III and IV could be trusted, to an extent, but the Mosquitoes were just too big and too twitchy.

The hopefully last of the biplane generation Swordfish could be trusted from the Headland, Bay, Ranger (otherwise 'er' class) and Ruler trade protection carriers, but was no longer really a front line aircraft, and the navy really did need a medium- high performance single engined bomber for the light fleets.


There was a brief interesting stopgap in the Batfish, which was another peripheral result over horse- trading with the Stirling; unwanted Boulton- Paul Defiant airframes, converted to the designed but not yet employed Sea Defiant standard, power turret stripped and torpedo shackles suspended from the structural mounts for the turret.

The only possible justification for this was that it was available, right now, minimally practical, and could fairly easily be kitbashed. Blackburn had attempted to design a turreted fighter for the navy, based on some theoretical study into the self defence abilities of dive bombers; had decided that to be more than a minor deterrent, multiple machine guns in a powered turret were really necessary, which precluded any real bombload- so the design split into an attack bomber and an escort fighter; at which point the Fifth Sea Lord's staff had sent them away with a flea in their ear.

The staff did not really believe in turret fighters, at this point or later, and also found it increasingly difficult to believe in the Batfish; little operational hangups like no proper wing folding mechanism getting in the way, and all that. It did serve, usefully but quirkily, Boulton- Paul weren't up to much else, and a properly converted Batfish TS.II was on the drawing board when, arguably thanks to the far eastern fleet, the thing found it's true and proper wartime role- using the turret for lateral fire in ground attack as a frontal aviation aircraft. Suddenly Defiants were in demand, and Boulton- Paul busy, again.

Back to plan C. Several candidates died in prototype, because by this point things were starting to happen, and combat experience from the Pacific starting to come in- in particular, how none of the contenders really had any survivability that mattered a damn, and only defenders' errors and strategic surprise prevented attacking forces from being routinely massacred.

Usually, the strategic surprise happened to the Americans and the defenders' errors to the Japanese, for the first bit of the war anyway. There were certainly lessons to learn from both.


In the end, it was Fairey that got the nod after all, although not with a bomber- they had a failed candidate for the long range naval escort fighter role that had been filled by the Whirlwind, which was also rapidly becoming the tactical bomber of choice; the Firefly was a single engined type, generally nowhere near the fighting qualities of the Whirlwind, but it was big, it had reasonable performance, a little getting behind Fairey and pushing and a bit of polishing and tinkering here and there, something could maybe be made of it.

The Firefly RT.I was a reasonable stopgap, by all accounts, a bit too strong on the fighter ancestry and possibly even too clean a break with the Swordfish, not quite the damage tolerance, cruising endurance and general abusability that the navy had wanted, but the already tortuous detail design of the Whirlwind's wing simply would not allow for the thing to sit tall enough on the deck to accommodate a torpedo, the other candidates were all far worse, and they needed something.

It used the phase one Griffon engine design, and really should have been available earlier, largely delayed by land based fighters- chiefly Spitfires'- priority claims on the engine. Despite this, it did fit as a reconnaissance/torpedo aircraft on the light fleet carriers, and was fast and long legged enough that at least it made escort more feasible, and it did serve through the rest of the Pacific war.


What was supposed to happen towards the end of the war was that new engine technologies would make new achievements possible, including the previously mythical one size fits all fighter-recon-dive-torpedo-bomber. This was to be achieved by the miracle of turbopropism, and if that sounds too much to ask from an inherently middling hybrid species of engine, you may be right.

Of the many candidates for the job, most of them never made it off the drawing board- of the three that did, two probably should not have. Blackburn had a fighter/attack type that was meant to use the same engine as the Victoria, but if a Griffon powered aircraft was iffy a Crecy powered one would have been nightmarish; it was reworked for the Rolls- Royce Clyde. It is debatable whether this was an improvement.

Supermarine produced such an offhand design that it was clear their minds were elsewhere thinking about jet engines; the quick and dirty jet kitbash of the Spitfire forward fuselage, wings and cockpit area into a tadpole with a Rolls- Royce Derwent engine, that inherited the name originally proposed for the laminar wing Spit, Spiteful (although it was inevitably known in service as the Sh*tfire), was probably more successful than it had any right to be, but their purposed multirole was a bit of a flop.

Westland in the end got it more or less right, ish, once beaten about the head (mostly metaphorically) with large rocks with 'simplify and add lightness' engraved on them, but the process of doing so pushed the Wyvern past the point where it could be in time to take any part in the war. It became increasingly prevalent in the savage wars of peace, though, most of the tidying up after the second great war being done by air groups consisting largely of Whirlwind III, IV and V, Wyvern and the early stages of the Fairey multirole family.


Carrier Based;

Blackburn Ripon, 1928-1932; Napier Lion powered, maximum 96kt, range maximum 356nm usual strike radius 125nm, crew two, single defensive Lewis, 18” torp or 1600lb bombs

Blackburn Baffin, 1931 to 1936; Ripon with Pegasus engine- maximum 118kt, range 426nm usual strike radius 150nm, similar otherwise

Avro Buffalo III; 1932 to 1935 front line service, to 1943 as trainer; initially failed candidate to replace Ripon, re-engined with Kestrel- top 127kt, range 580nm usual strike radius 150nm, 18” torp or 1600lb bombs

Fairey Swordfish I; 1935 on, Pegasus III powered 690hp, maximum 124kt, crew 2 or 3, pilot and observer/navigator, radioman/air gunner, or one crew doing all non-piloting jobs, ceiling 16,500ft, ferry 920nm, usual strike radius 200nm, single 18” torpedo or up to 2,500lb of bombs,

Fairey Swordfish III; autumn 1941 on, Pegasus XVIII powered, 955hp, maximum 132kt, usually crew 3, pilot, observer, radar operator, ceiling 18,420ft, ferry 1120nm, surface search radar, no centreline hardpoint, up to 2,000lb of bombs, rockets and depth charges

Fairey Dolphin; essentially Swordfish with floats and closed cockpit, antisubmarine specialist conversion with radar, less sticking out version, and hydrophones in the floats; winter 1942 to end of war

Boulton- Paul Batfish; winter 1940-41, conversion of unwanted Defiant airframes, without turret, to torpedo bombing role- maximum 258kt, ferry 890nm, usual strike radius 200nm, one pilot only, no defensive armament

Fairey Firefly; autumn 1942, early Griffon engine, maximum 287kt, ferry 1140nm, ceiling 28,000ft, gun armament removed, pilot and observer/navigator, 18” torp or 2000lb bombs to usual strike radius of 275nm

_________________
"Wisdom distilled from events which were unforeseeable should find expression not in criticisms of those who did their duty to the best of their ability, but in the taking of wise precautions for the future."-Sir John Jellicoe


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2016 9:09 pm 
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Yes, I know, story posts in waiting....still, typing this sort of thing up is almost therapy, of a sort. Early jets and turboprops this time.



The formative British experience in the Jet age was unfortunately not naval, but did have a great deal of influence over what the Navy chose to develop. With actual runways to play with the RFC could afford to be more expansive, to try out aircraft that would never have fitted on a carrier deck.

Not that they got any of them right to begin with. Gloster who were picked as the prime development firm because they had very little other work on- that should really have been a hint- turned out to be the exact opposite to the avant-garde, closer to a reincarnation of the Royal Aircraft Factory in pedestrian stolidity.

It is necessary to speculate what could have been done if someone more aerodynamically current had been given the responsibility only to a point; someone was, although not for the British. Westland, with a portfolio of successful designs, one service mainstay and a willingness to experiment, had been asked to assist the Black German exiles in coming up with something for the air wings of the new KGL.

The result was magnificent if almost too late to be of use; the Westland Westfalen owed more than a little to the Whirlwind, but used the power of twin Rolls- Royce Welland engines to afford to be considerably larger, simpler and more cheaply producable.

The Whirlwind had a notably gubbins- stuffed wing, slats and flaps and tabs and things everywhere, mostly to enable it to come and go from the ultimate short field of a carrier deck; the only design the Westfalen had much of a chance from would have been the Habbakuk, but at least that made it much less of a maintenance nightmare.

The shark- fuselaged, swept wing Westfalen was much faster than anything else in the skies at the time, but not a great dogfighter; Westland's influence made it into what it could be- a superb gun platform, much steadier in the air than the initial German attempts and with armament to take advantage of it, four long barrelled, high velocity 30mm revolver cannon that changed the game of air fighting tactics to a degree.

Like the American Lockheed Lightning and the British Whirlwind (and arguably Mosquito), the position of the weapons, in parallel, no convergence necessary, in front of the pilot, no prop in the way, and a much better cannon than the one step up from a mortar the Germans originally had planned, gave it excellent killing reach, often decisive.

(The infamously brilliant but unruly "south Canadian", Beurling, posted to JG2 Von Alten in the hope that they would bring some order into him, put in six kill claims for shots beyond 3,000 yards. He was given three confirmed and two probables. This sort of gun range became practical with digital computing sights in the late sixties, but was pure fluke earlier- for most people.)

Which, being the heavy beast that it was, it had to really- it could run rings round Gloster's overconventional, and overly accident prone, Meteor, and contributed greatly to its' demise and none too soon, but it was a poor match for a properly done single engined jet actually built for agility. It could serve as a fighter- bomber, and did for many years after it's frontline career was over, but it could never have been a naval aircraft.

On the other hand, something of the sort was clearly necessary. Filtering was going to be the big problem- there was an explosion of paper designs as everybody tried to meet every imaginable tactical role in every way possible, including some that the services actually wanted, and sorting out what would actually do was a task and a half.

The most promising things on the drawing board were Supermarine's and Hawker's single engined fighters- Hawker beginning by using the same cannon set as the Westfalen, and a new axial- flow engine that became the Avon; the straight winged Seahawk prototype giving place to the swept wing Hunter, and the navy grudgingly and grumpily, after attempts otherwise, coming to the conclusion that they may have to use the same aircraft as the Army for once.

Supermarine still had a Mitchell shaped hole in the design team, and unfortunately started work on the Swift only half a step behind their own Spiteful, largely because they felt that the Spiteful was a bodge job, quick and dirty and slightly shameful, and they needed to do a proper one.

It turned out to be far worse- the Swift was begun too soon, intended to use centrifugal flow engines, and the butchery committed on the airframe to get an axial flow Avon into it made it a sadly ragged thing beside even their own propeller to jet Spiteful. It would come good, eventually, after such a comprehensive redesign that one wonders why they kept the name.

Gloster made the mistakes in design and tooling that cost them their independence at this point, a private venture to specification F.12/45- an arguably premature attempt at a supersonic service fighter that did convince Hawker's, who already had a controlling financial interest, to pull the plug.

Other interestingly doomed ventures at the same time included Saunders- Roe's seaplane jet fighter, which also caused the demise of the company, although for the opposite reason; it was a brilliant attempt to meet a fundamentally bonkers specification, which meant a design team singled out as worth their hire and a company with little production to defend itself with, being bought over by English Electric.

Miles did themselves in in much the same way, succeeding beyond their ability to consolidate upon, with a series of supersonic research aircraft and the world's first supersonic fighter, the Musketeer, which largely proved a false dawn, it being a long time before there was or could be a successful follow-up.

It was a land based fighter, though, for the good and sufficient reason that the short field performance was dubious in the extreme, which looked to be the major issue with early jets- arguably the Royal Navy was better off in this than the USN, having a smaller number of larger ships to begin with. Not that it was infused by a spirit of optimism or anything.

Great hopes had been held for the turboprop, at some points it had been expected to be the best of both worlds, but reality set in, the problems of supersonic propeller tips began to assume the proportions of a bottleneck, and it began to look as though there was at most going to be a generation of stopgaps before the new, jet, state of the art fully asserted itself.

The American Skyraider came from a similar vein of thought, and established itself as a benchmark to beat- there were actually larger and more powerful late prop jobs, but they too (like the magnificent but operationally stillborn De Havilland Hornet) were sacrificed to a sense that they were not where the future was.

Westland were at this point well into their own self- destructive phase, riding high in brilliance but without the productive assets to defend it- although they had certainly designed more good aircraft than Blackburn, they had relatively limited production facilities subcontracting extensively, and arguably did themselves more damage upgrading too drastically trying to develop them. (“Their” last and oddest, Warlock, was de facto an English Electric aircraft, produced under the old name to avoid the stigma associated.)

What emerged from the process, though, definitely benefited from being designed as if it was going to be state of the art rather than stopgap- the Wyvern single turboprop fighter bomber, shark- fuselage, low broad thin- chord wings looking for a sweet spot between speed and agility, pilot basically sitting on the engine in a high bubble for excellent visibility, provision for radar antennas in the wings for night ops;

Slower than the Whirlwind but more agile, more maintenance and pilot friendly and capable of operating off the light fleet carriers, it and the Skyraider competed for developing- powers' international sales, essentially the dividing line being that if the purchasers' likely enemies had any air power themselves, the fighter like qualities of the Wyvern carried the day, if air to ground was all that was necessary the Skyraider.

Subsequent developments reduced both of them to the same category, once all sides' jets had matured enough that they too began to be offered for sale, but for the late forties and early fifties the Wyvern served the Royal Navy well.

It was not a first-line fighter, though, nor could it be made into one; simply lacked the absolute performance for the job. De Havilland were busy doing themselves a great deal of damage at this point by deciding they had outgrown the old school and trying too hard to be different;

refusing to listen to the other pioneers in the fields and not learning from Miles and Vickers cost them arguably the chance to break the sound barrier, the chance to build a ground-breaking new fighter and a generation of leadership, two of Geoffrey de Havilland's sons being killed in flight testing.

The DH.108 Swallow was one of the purest examples of hubris of the twentieth century, and nemesis did follow in its' wake. It was not long before many were wishing the 110 had gone with it, albeit with less human cost if possible, the Vampire clearly trying far too hard to be out of the ordinary to the extent that it ignored good practice.

It could function from a carrier deck, it had a clear nose for radar and a reasonable reach for an early jet, it had the promise of being an effective all weather type, and it was different from the RFC's Hunters, but it was fragile, wobbly, bobbly, structural nightmare to look after, difficult of maintenance and a step behind in combat effectiveness.

After a few years trying, they basically gave up. De Havilland would have another chance, but the maintenance record of the Sea Vixen was what would destroy them eventually- one of the worst aircraft ever for that, setting the absurd record of one thousand maintenance hours per flying hour.

While it would have seemed at the time unthinkable to kill off a winning team, in hindsight the Hornet was their last really good aircraft and everything after only really brought pain to British aviation. After the stratospheric Vickers Victoria, fitting square cornered windows to an airliner was unforgivable.

Which still left the RN short of a credible carrier borne fighter, and although there were some calls to simply re- engine the Wyvern or at least produce a jet version, Westland were having problems at this point too, major artistic differences between Petter, the Black Germans, and the rest of the design team.

Blackburn were not to be trusted with a fighter design at this phase, the rather later FRS.3 supersonic Buccaneer being as close as they ever got; Fairey had a few bright ideas that ultimately led to a dubiously successful outer screen interceptor and a very successful Army medium bomber, and would before long provide the backbone of the navy's helicopter and rotodyne strength;

but all they had for the moment was one of the ugliest aircraft ever to fly, an attempt to get as much bulk as possible onto a single propeller (with hideously complex double turboprop arrangement driving contrarotating props, initially, subsequently replaced by single Rolls- Royce Clyde much to everyone's dismay- because that meant it would work and they would be stuck with it), for antisubmarine and airborne early warning purposes, the deeply unlovely Gannet. As mixed blessings go, it was a biggie.

As part of the fallout from Westland's internal feuds, a small group of Black Germans took an idea to anyone who would buy into it, and found listening ears in Bristol, who turned it into something the navy was interested in. The Bristol Billhook was almost but not quite a delta; sharply swept wings, lean, tapered forward fuselage, cockpit fairly far back, clear nose and aft- set engines in the fashion of the much later Warthog.

Two of the most interesting things the Billhook could do were in the field of agility- the second prototype introduced, or reintroduced, canards to British service; the third did something far more radical- graphite thrust deflector fins in the jet stream.

Several of the Russian- Red German, really- heavy artillery rockets were guided for the first portion of the flight, and that was the chosen means; it tended to fail too soon on more powerful rockets, but it might be a useful addition to the agility of a turbojet. It turned out that it very much was indeed.

The Billhook was competitive for agility with the late propeller generation, could run rings around the Vampire, Venom, and the rest of the early jets, and it proved the most successful of the carrier based first generation- for a while.

It was ahead of its' time in one very illustrative way; it was exactly what a large school of American minimalist/purist theoreticians were talking about in the seventies, the light weight, high energy, visual rules dogfighter. The circumstances of it's exit from service should have been better remembered at the time.

The Billhook was built around two late centrifugal flow Bristol Artemis engines, and a very tight, lightweight, very highly optimized design at that; the growth potential of the thing was too limited to keep it in service once more advanced jet fighter bombers and fighter- interceptors began to emerge. It was a great stunting aircraft, and used as an advanced trainer into the late sixties largely to keep it available for aerobatic displays, but like the Wyvern it was in many ways the last of an old school.

What succeeded it on carrier decks was, bizarrely enough, Swift FA.3. Supermarine were not too proud to listen, and had taken great interest in the whole transonic drag, area rule issue, and the 1953 Swift bore more or less the same relation to the 1948 Swift as the later American F-106 did to the F-102.

Why they kept the name the same after such a major redesign is the mystery, perhaps mainly to wipe out the memory of the earlier failure. If so, it was a risky business strategy, but one that paid off. Larger and heavier than the Hunter, it was a better weight lifter and could afford larger fuel fraction and payload, could be wired for early guided missiles, a solid multirole type, much to everyone's surprise who remembered the first attempt.

On the heavier land- based aircraft, the navy left the war with a relatively small collection of high performance but still propeller bombers and maritime patrol. At least that meant they could be replaced without having to sack eighty percent of the personnel involved.

After sitting down to have a think about it, the RNAS Modernization Plan reckoned several types were going to be necessary; being able to use the same medium bomber off carriers and for land based coastal defence, as the Mosquito could, was far too useful an advantage to throw away, so it would be designed primarily as a carrier aircraft, and needed to be a good one- interim conversions and stopgaps were better than settling before the state of the art was sufficiently mature.

Folding wing Canberras nearly happened, probably would have if Blackburn had not finally, after years of grotesque mediocrity, actually produced a genuinely great aircraft. Sixty shambling abominations were retroactively justified by the magnificent Buccaneer, and arguably they never really got over the shock.

On the main bomber force, in view of the threats starting to be arrayed against them, it seemed as if the route to survival was performance- greater than the rapidly changing state of the art could provide, unfortunately. There would be a need for an air freighter for distant operations support, parts and ground crew, there would definitely be a need for tankers, there probably wasn't a need for jet performance but there might be a business case for commonality of parts and stores for a jet MPA, all of this was going to be expensive.

So why not try to kill as many birds as possible with the first salvo of grapeshot, and order a first generation jet bomber that could serve as a learning experience, help push on the state of the art, and be later adapted into the support roles, tanker, airborne early warning and so forth, for its' higher performance successor- the older propeller types first doing the same for them?

The RFC found themselves doing more or less the same by default, there were brilliant things on paper but the state of the art would take a great deal more of a run up. The naval candidate was designed for a short span in the first line and multiple purposes in their second career; the RFC wanted a service bomber, but found itself doing the same as the defences thickened and the minimum necessary specifications rose.

Who did what was a great source of confusion and surprise; with the navy using Supermarine and Vickers bombers, Saunders-Roe and Shorts MPA, it was not the most likely possibility that got the nod. Vickers' Valiant was the most proficient candidate, but Shorts' Sperrin was the most solid- literally; designed with flying boat style structure to withstand decades of abuse as an airborne pack mule.

This did cost it in flying performance, being relatively little real advance over the Victoria- not as radical as jet propulsion should have made it by a long shot, but enough to justify itself for the time being, and it was quite active in the small wars of peace. More successfully so than the Valiant, actually, which was pushed beyond it's limitations.

Ambition and optimism and the pace of development outrunning materials science had left the Valiant with a dangerously brittle main wing spar- other aircraft had made the same misstep, although not the Sperrin- and while replacement was possible, it was expensive, enough so to be feasible for niche aircraft that could not be easily replaced, but for a first generation bomber needing other major upgrades, and with potential successors baying at it's heels?

The Sperrin was essentially done in by the Valiant's replacement, based on a civil airliner with a short- field performance requirement, capable of larger payloads carried sufficiently faster and more efficiently that it made good sense for the navy to replace their mules too.

Apart from the historic flight and air show appearances, Shorts' interim bomber was the last of the first generation to leave active service, the last of the turbulent generation which calmed down as benchmarks were established, practicalities grasped, aircraft lifespans lengthened, and the circumstances and times in which they might be used ticked closer to midnight.


Fighters;

Westland Westfalen; june '44 entry, twin Rolls Royce Welland engines, crew one, max 516kt, most efficient speed 396kt, ferry range 940nm, service ceiling 37,600ft, four long ER2 cannon with 110rpg, racks for up to 2,000lb bombs and rockets at severe price in performance

de Havilland Sea Vampire; RR Goblin engine, apr '46, max 476kt, ferry 1060nm, service ceiling 42,700ft, four Hispano cannon, 150rpg, up to 1000lb bombs and rockets

Saunders- Roe Saracen; jan '47 service entry, retires feb '51, twin Metro-Vick Beryl engines, max 445kt, ferry 850nm, ceiling 48,000ft, four 20mm Hispano w/200rpg, up to 2,000lb bombs

Supermarine Swift F.1; initially RR Nene, bodged into early Avon, service mar 1950- feb 54, maximum 556kt, ferry 760kt, ceiling 45, 400ft, twin ADEN 30mm and 150rpg, 2000lb ordnance, ranging gun radar only

Bristol Billhook; may 1951, land based from 1959, final retirement aug '69, twin Bristol Artemis engines, maximum 584kt, most efficient 490kt, ferry maximum 820nm, service ceiling 43,000ft, two 30mm ER4 cannon (30x184mm), 100rpg, no more than 1,000lb payload

Hawker Sea Hunter; 1952 service entry, 100- series Avon engine, maximum 605kt, ferry maximum 1450nm, service ceiling nominal 50,000ft, four 30mm ADEN cannon with 150rpg, four hardpoints for up to 5,000lb of bombs and rockets

Supermarine Swift FA.3; 1955 service entry, 200- series Avon engine, maximum 625kt, ferry maximum 1125nm, service ceiling 45,800ft, two 30mm ADEN, 150rpg and proper AI radar, up to 7,000lb of bombs, rockets and missiles including early AAM


Fighter/Attack;

de Havilland Hornet; service entry oct '45, serves until mar 52, twin Python engines, crew one, maximum 21,400lb, maximum 422kt, cruise 250kt, ferry 2280nm, usual strike radius 600nm, service ceiling 41,400ft, up to 6,000lb load including gunpod, two torpedoes, early ASM;

Blackburn Firecrest; A-S Python engine, service entry aug '46, leaves service nov '50, maximum 364kt, cruise 215kt, ferry range 950nm, strike radius 300nm, service ceiling 31,600ft, four 20mm cannon, up to 4,000lb bombs or rockets

Westland Wyvern; service entry feb 1948, replaced by Buccaneer, last leaves service apr '58, maximum weight 26,112lb, crew one, Clyde mark 118 turboprop, maximum 410kt, cruise 348kt, ferry range 1380nm, strike radius 400nm, either four 30mm ER2 cannon at 60rpg or four 20mm Hispano, 90rpg and AI mk.XVI radar, up to 4,000lb bomb, rocket, torpedo or missile payload (four Red Flash AAM possible.)

de Havilland Sea Venom; serves 1952-leaves first line 1958, attack trainer until 1964, DH Ghost engine, maximum 556kt, ferry 934nm, usual strike radius 225nm, four Hispano cannon at 150rpg, up to 2500lb bombs and rockets


Ugly Thing;

Too many Blackburn aircraft to count, specifications vary;

Fairey Gannet; single Clyde turboprop, maximum 292kt, ferry range 1580nm, service ceiling 27,000ft, crew 3 (two tandem and one in 'shed' just forward of tail), ASW version with small surface search radar, sonobuoys, magnetic anomaly detector and 2,000lb of depth charges or torpedoes; AEW version with air search radar that removes after weapon operator position to plant dish antenna with two crew on workstations in bomb bay; MR version with large surface search radar in bomb bay monitored from aft station; no attack version.


Bombing and maritime patrol;

Supermarine Shackleton MR.1; maritime reconnaissance adaptation of Swiftsure- the wartime equivalent being the MB.II; four Clyde turboprop, maximum 367kt, cruise 284kt, service ceiling 36,200ft, ferry range 3,420nm, usual 12 hour patrols, crew of eight, reconnaissance mapping radar, magnetics, esm and sonobuoys, usual up to 5,000lb torpedoes and depth charges

English Electric Canberra MRB.2; service entry 1949, maximum weight 56,000lb, two Avon mk.109, maximum 504kt, cruise 365kt, service ceiling 55,000ft, ferry range 3,010nm, normal strike radius 750nm, crew two, up to 8,000lb weapon load, options include sea surveillance radar pod and extra crewman

Blackburn Buccaneer S.1; service entry 1955, carrier capable, crew two, maximum weight 60,800lb, two Gyron Junior engines, top speed 564kt, ferry range 2,670nm, strike radius 800nm, service ceiling 38,750ft, up to 8,000lb load in internal bay and four pylons

Shorts Sperrin B.1, prot.1948, service preproduction 1950, service july 1951-march 1958 as bomber, tanker/transport versions until apr 1967; maximum takeoff weight 127,000lb, length 102ft span 106ft, 30deg leading edge 15deg trailing edge sweepback (significant change from prototype), four Avon mk 114, maximum speed 516kt, cruise 440kt, service ceiling 47,000ft, ferry range 3,490nm, usual strike radius 1,450nm, crew five (pilot, flight engineer, navigator, electronic warfare officer, bomb aimer), 24,000lb maximum bombload; as tanker stretched to 42,000lb dispensable fuel


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 7:09 pm 
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Intresting updates as always, is the Billhook a Folland Gnat by another name?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:31 pm 
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No, although it was probably replaced by the Gnat- quite likely the Gnat would have been, in this TL, designed as a rival to it; Petter would not have been a happy man after the arm twisting it took to get the Whirlwind developments out of him, and likely parted on very bad terms from Westland, even more determined to follow his own idiosyncratic path.

The Billhook is actually descended from a napkinwaffe (for looks, the @ Ta-283), a flight of German fancy that went elsewhere as part of the fallout from Westland's design team's internal feuds following Petter's departure, and the almost too sensible Bristol kept the best bits and threw away the raving lunacy, performance overestimates and collections of small moving parts; at that, it probably is too complicated and high maintenance for a light fighter.


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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 9:23 am 
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The second and third generation;

Given the terms the Second World War ended on, it seemed as though there were going to be a great many chances to live up to the Navy's official motto, and technical progress could not be allowed to stand still. No matter how happy the navy was with it's range of aircraft, there was always something more to do. Always a little further.

'Per Caelum Ad Decoquo' [through the sky to bankruptcy] at times seemed far more realistic than per ardua ad astra, and the RN nearly won it's perpetual battle with the Treasury by finally horrifying them into giving up, quivering in a corner and actually spending money. But not quite.


The Swift was, as improved, a reasonable fighter/light attack aircraft, with the Sea Hunter as second and land- based version, rather easier to look after; Spitfire and Hurricane in modern guise, it was often said- but for all the action they actually saw, in the various 'conflicts of settlement' that followed the second great war and the new political polarities of the world, the bloody friction that came with adjustment and realignment, there was a large and increasing distance between them and the frontier of the possible.

Miles' Musketeer was fairly capable in raw performance, but it was dubious in terms of armament and in no way sea- going or remotely practical for carrier operations. English Electric's Lightning was already slated to succeed it, but whether that was any more naturally a naval fighter- fractionally less impossible was probably the best term.

It was also an actual step back in armament from the Swift, with fewer missiles and no cannon to begin with, and arguably a less effective air intercept radar; not the natural seed of a next generation. That and it had a considerable amount of maturing to do before reaching anything like a definitive variant.

As a light attack and day fighter, the Swift would do for the moment- what it could not reasonably be stretched to was a night/all weather, medium range radar guided missile armed, fleet defender. Which would have ideally also been supersonic.

In some ways, the success of the Swift may actually have been counterproductive; it took perhaps too much of the pressure off the fleet defender type, and meant that seriously optimised designs became feasible, unbalanced oddities that really should have been better worked out before making it to service.


Considering what the rest of the world was up to, the Russians had huge gaps in their structure- no equivalent of the Swift or Hunter at all, they had purebred fighters that were reasonably capable in daylight, with the bare margins of air to air missile capability but no strike at all, strike fighters that were helpless against any moderately capable defence, and were making a beginning on radar guided air to air- but mostly with scaled down or modified tactical bomber designs with no close- fighting capability, or for that matter ability to defend themselves against intruder bombers.

The Americans, on the other hand- still largely potential rivals rather than enemies- were leaning quite hard on the future, with the supersonic but short- range armed F-100, 101 and 102 in land based service, and the brilliantly bonkers F-103 a crazy dream that, it looked then, might just possibly be made to work. (As pathetic as it's armament was and as wide it's turning circle, the main advantage of its' speed would have been the ability to go home, refuel rearm and come back for another go. Its' operational procedure would probably have been an armed variation of circuits and bumps.)

At sea, the USN was in a transitional period, with it's mainstay Grumman, leaving straight winged jets, F9F-2 Panther and kin, behind for swept wing subsonics, F9F-6 Cougar, with supersonic gun and short range missile fighter F-11 Tiger in near prospect, and side contributions from Vought, which had produced one late prop design (the magnificent but unruly Corsair, brilliant in the air but a real challenge to get it safely there and back again) and one somewhat mad early almost- delta jet (Cutlass- the later version of which was theoretically Sparrow capable, but deeply dubious as an aircraft), trying again with a conventional airframe that actually succeeded rather well- the Crusader. Douglas had another delta, supersonic but again basically a day fighter.

Great things were, however, not far away, Douglas and McDonnell planning a merger that could result in the effective USN weapons system being grafted to a USAF ambition- driven airframe, and that would potentially be a world class fighter- which indeed it turned out to be, a little further down the line.


They were probably more committed to the idea of a fleet interceptor than the RN, strictly speaking, Commonwealth forces being all too well aware of the frequent need to close with and visually identify targets in the smaller, scruffier wars around the fringes of Empire, particularly as between Arab or African factions who may be using exactly the same aircraft apart from the national markings.

Telescopic optics to do this from range and their necessary stabilisation gear would fit much more easily on a bomber than fighter airframe, which was another interesting thought; but a genuine fighter-interceptor was some distance, perhaps two generations, away. Or should have been.


Interim solutions were possible, but there were three primary candidates for a naval heavy fighter; Gloster had put forward a large- radomed delta wing fighter, running out of good G- names they had called it the Javelin, for the same operational requirement that the Lightning- with an inferior but not massively so weapon system on a vastly more capable airframe- had won.

Buried in the submission was a plan for a second generation, thinner winged, much faster version, and after seriously shouting at them for not bringing that one up to begin with, the RFC turned their back on them, and rather short of money at this point (close to being wound up entirely by Hawker-Siddeley, who held controlling shares), they had a go at turning it into a naval fighter.

The Gloster Harpoon, as it became, was not far off a British Cutlass unfortunately- reasonable weapon system mated to highly dubious airframe, there were a number of basic inadequacies with the Javelin's control setup and hydraulics that were actually magnified when it was redrafted to a supersonic design, and what was initially written down as teething troubles unfortunately failed to go away.

Attempts to palm it off on the RFC failed, and the type was not so much withdrawn from service as allowed to lapse- the maintenance requirements were indecently high, and it was much simpler to not bother repairing them and just phase them out. Several served as target drones, and apparently gave much more satisfaction in that role than they had as fighters. Much the same happened to the parent company.


They may, however, have been better than what replaced them. de Havilland had a twin engined, twin boom and slab tail type, running out the last of the configuration, the Sea Vixen which earned a reputation as probably the second worst maintenance headache the RN ever deployed, shattering records in the field of needing to be reassembled after every flight. (Good training for Space Shuttles, it was later said.)

The number of man hours it took to get a Sea Vixen ready to fly again after a barrier patrol would have sufficed to build a Mosquito from scratch, according to legend- and nearly accurately, too. Engine stripping was proposed to replace field gun racing at the Royal Tournament, and ruled out on the grounds that the public could not be kept in their seats for the best part of a week.

Nobody expected de Havilland to produce something quite so hopelessly gremlin- ridden; a great deal of thought, discussion and design effort had gone into the Vixen, it looked excellent on paper, and it's increasingly miserable record in practise was more of a shock than a disappointment to begin with.

Its' problems could no more be managed and tamed than the Harpoon's could, despite effort; eventually, by dint of enormous, untiring effort on behalf of legions of air mechanics, and mirror images on the other side- Russian doctrine being to win as far as possible on the first move, axe theory- if their first stroke could be met by serviceable Vixens, that should be enough and they could safely be put back together while the russians were reeling from the failure (hopefully) of their opening gambit-

eventually, the number of hours required to keep them in the air was brought down from the dizzyingly gargantuan to the merely horrific, just before it was decided they really weren't worth the candle. They had more room for search radar and avionics than they had electrical power to drive it, and their lifting capacity was unreliable, loadout was always on a case by case basis. And there were better options on the drawing board.

In fact, looked at one way, the fleet interceptor mission did have an inherent lethality about it, in that it killed off more British aviation companies than anything except World War III. de Havilland became a faint shadow of their former selves after that, Gloster were gone, and certainly the next contestant suffered by it.


The RFC was going through a range of experimentals at this stage, arguably suffering from too many bright ideas all at once and certainly far too many prototypes; borrowing one of them seemed a distinct possibility, but what? Straining budgets and tired maintenance crews were as much a factor- more- there than they were at sea, and they had more good ideas than they could afford to bring into service or really had roles for.

One of the most likely, and probably the one that got away, was the Hawker P.1121 Halberd; originally an interceptor design, based on the general plan of One Big Engine, with underfuselage intakes and a solid radar nose; a little behind the Lightning in development, stretched for an attempt at the outer barrier role but ruled out as single engine, single crew, and revised again as a battlefield fighter.

The Halberd was easily supersonic, initially slated for a Gyron engine, that overtaken by the rather more mature and efficient RB106 Moray, had the raw power for considerable payload, and looked promising enough to replace most of the existing battlefield types and light bombers. The main problem was that the RFC wanted all of them.

The other, and arguably more serious problem was that it would be a major dent in the Navy's already overstrained and rapidly depleting supply of one armed paper hangers. Hawker's design was very overambitious, in the field of pilot workload; arguably it was a fighter- interceptor, medium range missiles and barrier patrol capability, at least a generation too soon- needed at the very least a weapons officer to manage the search radar and missiles.

Partly because of this, its' deck landing qualities were execrable. The RFC found it a handful too, and operated it in harness with Lightning and Arrow interceptors for many years until it eventually flowered into its' full potential in the age of solid state electronics.


What the Navy could get their hands on was a blue sky design from Supermarine that they were quite surprised that anyone was interested in; originally intended to be a twin engined Swift, with vague hopes of getting the bomber gig that the Buccaneer nailed down- it was more of a strike fighter than a bomber, really, more agile but less stable, in the same realm of flying brick- hood (which was simply more believable in a Blackburn than a Supermarine aircraft, so it never really got full credit for that), but basically redundant. Didn't really have the payload at the strike radius to qualify.

Second place to the Buccaneer wasn't that bad on any absolute scale, could probably afford to lose a little structural weight actually, and the aerodynamics didn't look too bad- given a decent engine fit it might turn out to be quite useful until the next generation came along. Looking around for said engine, the obvious did indeed occur- the Buccaneer was getting Speys, so why not go for commonalty?

It was lighter than the Bucc, usually operated in thinner air, and the Spey proved to be perfectly capable of supersonic flight; fixing battle damage was difficult, but routine maintenance was easy enough- a blessed relief after the Vixen. (It might have been capable of sustained supersonic flight in dry thrust if fitted with Morays, but never got that much investment.)

It did have a very strange radar fit- almost a step back, a large emitter antenna in the nose and receptors on the wingtips and tail; this made for a simpler main installation, that could have decent levels of power put through it, and surprisingly good resolution- it was quite jam resistant, and an electronic support version was a fairly easy conversion.

The basic problem with the Scimitar is that it was designed as a stopgap. It had the structural strength and robustness, and the engine power, to be potentially at least a rival to the Phantom- the American fighter may have had the edge as an airframe and as a fighter-bomber, the Scimitar with complex weapon systems- but it was never fully developed as such, and indeed never really pushed to the limit until it was already on it's way to the breakers.


Which a great many regretted, particularly as it's fleet interceptor/heavy fighter successor was by a long margin the absolute worst maintenance abomination the RN ever expected its' air wing crews to endure. It should have been no surprise that walking right out on the bleeding edge came at a price in blood, sweat, toil and tears.

It really was a English Electric design, albeit based on a Petter back-of-envelope, itself based on an idea Westland had had back in the twenties, but it was produced under the Westland brand- name partly for historical resonance, partly because it was obvious even then that a monster was emerging from the drawing board and English Electric felt their domestic business might be damaged by association.

The Warlock's essential problem was that it was not designed as a stopgap. There were two alternative routes, an interceptor, large, fast, stable and heavily electrified, or a dogfighter, energetic, nimble and agile, and the Warlock's essential seed of disaster was to try to produce a large, fast, energetic, agile aircraft with long range missiles and advanced avionics. To the limit. No compromises. The worst thing the project could have done was to succeed.

It combined the pilot- eroding qualities of the Halberd with the maintainer- eroding qualities of the Sea Vixen, if not actually worse. It was expensive to build, too- the only flat surface on the entire aircraft was the face of the instrument panel, supposedly (not far from the truth, at least in aerodynamic terms), complicated and difficult, especially in the advanced metals that proved necessary, and it's only saving grace, the only thing that saved it from a rapid trip to the scrapyard, was that it delivered.

It could outmanoeuvre almost anything else in the sky at that date, being almost a repeat of the Whirlwind in how gizmotic it was- flaps, slats, canards, boundary layer control, puffer jets and main motor vector thrust all tied in to the normal flight controls and usable in manoeuvring. As slick a design as it was when tucked in, it was also exceedingly fast- joining the MiG-25 in potential airframe melting territory. And it retained a degree of agility at speed that made it almost impossible to touch with beyond visual range missiles for many years.

Which it carried in abundance, internal weapons bay and semi- recessed, and a large and highly credible radar with infrared and optical support systems; it was more than world class, it was the class of the world. The main problem was that it's crews thought it even more of a nightmare than the enemy.

The reason that Warlocks came in squadrons of twelve, it was said, was so that two of them might be operational at any given moment. The reason they remained in service for any length of time is that those two had a decent chance of going out and doing a squadron's job of work anyway.

Worse than not working, being unable to fly, is the state of just being a little bit broken, of being a maybe, of having some part of the appallingly complex flight control system down, but enough of the rest up that it might be feasible, and depending on how necessary it was to take the risk, well... the Warlock had an accident and incident rate that looked like something from the 1920's.

How many were actually genuinely lost in action, as opposed to having the wrong bit break at the wrong time when it happened to be in a war zone, is highly debatable. The debit side of the balance sheet is deeply unclear, and there is a distinct possibility that the type remains technically undefeated in air to air combat, although there were certainly a few that fell out of the sky in places where operations were being conducted.

The oddest thing it achieved was the survival of the British car industry; it was specifically worse than the Vixen in skilled hours, did not need mechanics to look after it, it needed engineers- the number of ground crew that achieved high qualifications as part of Warlock squadrons simply so they could do their jobs, and then burnt out and left the navy looking for other work, may not have literally saved Britain as a manufacturing nation, but certainly contributed.

It may also have been responsible for the Royal Navy's rum ration surviving into the mid- eighties. Captain Ward's comment that “On the day World War Three breaks out, I want one. For all the long years of standing guard to make sure that it doesn't, dear God keep me away from the bastard things.” goes far to explain why.

It was a shattering tactical success at an extremely high technical price, and it's eventual departure from service had more to do with the damage it was doing to recruitment than any loss of military standing. A simpler successor was desperately needed.


Fortunately, they were not the only kind, breed or class of fighter to fly off RN decks. In addition to the heavies, there were on most first line fleet carriers, and the older carriers and later escort types deployed solely with, a body of multirole rotary wing and a body of light fighter/attack, to make up the numbers for routine operations and low intensity.

That had been the Billhook, and the way the large fleet carriers scaled the Swift could fill the role there for a while, but Hawker's bonkers ideas division had a plan. Considerably aided and abetted by Bristol, who had looked at these newfangled helicopter things, decided there was no frontier in them, and they could come up with something that would do much better, provided they could give it enough oomph.

The idea of a vertical launch and landing jet fighter, with jet combat performance as opposed to the interwar- esque numbers even the best of the rotary wings were giving off, was so obvious and so potentially brilliant, at first glance it really is amazing how few other people managed it. It becomes less amazing when looking at the problems the Kestrel, Harrier and Harrow encountered in development.


Unicycle configurations simply did not work- far too easy to fall off the thrust column, and any damaged or malfunctioning aircraft could not be brought home; two was worse, almost as unstable and with an additional set of things to go wrong; most aviation firms went millipedal, attempted to get by with separate lifting jets, which could work but would be pure dead weight in normal flight.

Rolls- Royce were being a little bit malicious, selling things that wouldn't work to people who didn't know better- they had an interesting line of lift jets- and Bristol were being ambitious but (potentially) rubbish, pursuing diverging lines of effort, and for once it was not the Admiralty that banged their heads together and told them to get on with it, it was the RFC.

Put the Rolls- Royce work on airflow diversion together with the Bristol work on semi- automatic engine control, and something viable might emerge, they thought- and they were more or less right, although not immediately. Initially it was hoped that the Kestrel would have a supersonic dash capability, this rapidly went away for airflow reasons, it turned out that vector thrust or not, tailplanes were still not merely optional.

The Harrier that emerged as first viable V/STOL was actually the scaled down version of the dream; the Pegasus could move the volumes of air required, some nifty ductwork mean the thing could be balanced in the hover, but the sides of the fuselage, and the aerodynamic control surfaces, tended to melt and go runny on reheat.


Names, incidentally- it was originally supposed to be Kestrel proof of concept/trainer, Harrier supersonic fighter, but the chamber burning issue- too often, it did- meant that the four nozzle subsonic version got loaded out with fighter avionics and acquired the Harrier name; when the BS100 Sleipnir (Odin's horse, maintaining the theme) succeeded with a three nozzle layout, burner in the aft third, it needed a new name, and partly because of the trouble it had been, partly for ground attack purposes, became the Harrow.

It very quickly became obvious that it was not a simple aircraft by RFC standards, that the idea of rough field deployment, camouflage hides, so on was somewhat mistaken; “if you really wanted to be able to do that, mate, I've got a set of plans for a Sopwith Camel stashed around here somewhere...” there was more to a viable airfield than just a set of runways, a high performance aircraft needed more technical support than most open fields could provide.

It did, however, have major potential advantages as a naval aircraft, serious effect from compact decks, and it most certainly was a simple aircraft by RNAS standards- the supersonic Harrow was the only thing that came even within an order of magnitude of the heavy interceptors. Warlock maintenance technicians transferred to a Harrier squadron considered it light duty.

The Harrow did have a nasty habit of melting older flight decks, the modern fleet carriers' heavier structures could cope as could some land bases, the Harrier was kinder, easier to look after, and far from the subsonic type being replaced by the supersonic as most expected, the Harrow served predominantly as the utility filler- in on large carriers, and as spearhead/defence suppression for shore based units, and the Harrier much more numerous, on escort carriers, in RFC service, and frontier forces.

Forward basing was never possible to the extent originally envisaged, but the work done on mobile servicing facilities did bear fruit to a degree- merchant carriers would become vastly easier in future, if they were ever needed again. The hardest place to base a Harrier would probably be on a medium warship, one of the Cruisers, whose flight deck and stores space were all taken up already with more conventional, rotary, vertical flight.

Tactically, what the Harrier and Harrow do is raise the bar; they are more than capable of dealing with the second line, counterinsurgency, second hand relics- they make brushfire wars significantly more dangerous for the opposition, and there are a good number of small conflicts they have helped keep a lid on. How well they would really do against the latest offerings of Mikoyan and Sukhoi- or McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics for that matter- somewhat debatable.


In bomber terms, the Buccaneer was maturing rapidly, and it's two most serious problems had become sufficiently evident that sensible, unequivocal things could be done about them. A few wild- eyed design studies that would have to be followed up later, but a good interim solution would be an engine upgrade, to something more appropriate for a bomber for a start, something that could give greater payload, greater reach or ideally both. A fully laden S.1 could not be got reliably off the deck with Gyron Juniors.

Bypass engines- turbofans- were starting to appear, although the first was a civil engine, like a bomber engine but not quite as heavily built, and far too large for retrofitting to any existing type; the idea of a Canberra with Conway engines has some appeal, but would have needed major reengineering.

It might have been a better enduring brushfire war type than the RFC's TSR2, but that could come later- the main need was for a primary deterrence bomber, world war III capable, the small war and peacekeeping needs could be filled in later. It was also a major sidetrack that happily lasted just long enough for Rolls-Royce to produce a smaller low-bypass turbofan that could be crammed into a fighter or tactical bomber airframe.

The RB168 Spey was a natural adaption for the Buccaneer S.2, needed some slight structural and a lot more internal- gubbins rearranging, but with only a small rise in maximum take off weight- up from 60,500 to 63,600lb- added four thousand pounds to the maximum payload, pylons to allow a broader selection of missiles to be carried, and four hundred nautical miles to the strike radius, and considerable margin of operational safety.

The other major issue the Buccaneer had was avionics. It's performance took it into realms where the human hand and eye were barely up to the task- it was tasked for naval land attack as well, and hurdling far- foreign treetops at 560 knots with pen and paper navigation was not the most reliably target- hitting procedure in the world. (Albeit still better than RFC Bomber Command.) Guided weapons needed something to guide them, as well.

Improvements in missile guidance bled across, but it was a real test of a crew's sense of humour to be told their attack navigation package was a modified version of that for the Blue Steel standoff bomb. The attack radar was also more of an adaptation than an innovation- the TSR2 was in severe trouble at this point, being essentially overloaded with avionics that tended to interfere with each other and present an almost unmanageable workload.

Ferranti were actually quite happy to get a chance to try out the system in relative isolation from the secure datalink that kept modulating it and the deception jammer that kept frying it, and Blue Parrot found a new home on the nose of the S.2- albeit with a more generous radome and more need for guided standoff, the naval and land versions did quickly diverge.


It was, generally, a very successful and very satisfactory aircraft; the only reason to replace the S.2 was that something more was possible, not that it was necessary. And its' replacement on the large fleet carriers turned out to be an upgraded Buccaneer.

Blackburn, too, had originally proposed a supersonic version, the P.150, but that it would need more development work before being practical; much of that work had been done as a result of other projects, and there was certainly a viable engine for it; there was very little parts commonalty between the S.2 and the FRS.3, and it nearly did change name, but the strongest voices against it were the test pilots. It just flew like a Bucc. With, admittedly, extras.

Such as a more than merely nominal air to air capability, in theory about fighting through to a defended target but which rapidly expanded in practise for essentially Warlock related reasons to being able to function as a backup fleet defender; four semi-recess missile slips sized for medium AAM, with recon or jamming pod alternatives; far more thrust that did more than merely push acceleration up a bit, allowed for an almost doubling of effective payload; in addition to radar improvements, a more extensive countermeasures and signal- sniffing suite; and so on.

In fact the FRS3's avionics suite was designed backwards from the Warlock's; calculating how many maintenance hours could reasonably be spent on it, and
how much looking after each bit of kit took, and how much of the wish list they could actually afford to carry. (Several cartoons emerged around this point showing Buccs with AWACS radomes, magnetometers, towed arrays...)

They got most of the useful bits, anyway. The FRS.3 was a bit optimistic in description, though- it could certainly do the strike part, recon with a reasonable set of gadgetry was fine, but fighter? Interceptor, perhaps. Speed, but the boundary- layer system was, after the Warlock, resolutely not attached to the control column, the various carrier- operation lift enhancers were to remain precisely that.

The upper air was never it's natural home- like all the variants of Bucc, it was optimised for very low level, high speed flight, under the radar, in terrain clutter by land; the main difference being that the FRS.3 was supersonic at sea level, if carrying only bay and recess weapons. For efficiency the high approach, let down under the radar horizon, launch underwing missiles to strip the target's defences ahead of low, fast bomb run seemed to work.


Probably the most ridiculous thing the Navy ever had seriously designed for it was a post Second World War jet flying boat bomber, the Supermarine Seascale. This did exactly what it sounded like.

It was a product of that brief, largely non- professional driven, moment of pro- nuclear public feeling, and the momentary fad for nuclear aircraft engines before the drawbacks became painfully obvious. The biggest single obstacle in the way of the viability of such a thing, of course, actually being shielding.

The American project PLUTO was, on paper, feasible, because it was not only unmanned and needed no biological shielding (although the effects of radiation on valve technology flight controls were underestimated- they are not large, but more than zero), and because the airstream flowed directly through the reactor core, leaving a wake of poisoned air behind it.

The Seascale, on the other hand, like everyone else's similar attempts except the Tu-95LAL, was closed cycle and dependent on heat exchangers, and adequately (by the standards of 1954) shielded, the weight and efficiency of which as well as the structural requirements of a flying boat meant that the thing would probably have been capable of about two hundred knots at best- assuming it could get off the sea at all.

It got as far as a plywood mockup and some further sketching along the lines of 'all right, if this won't work, what will'-what works with next to no speed and immense endurance? MPA, ASW, air sea rescue?- the design improved to something that would have been almost acceptable at the start of WWII before being, and for once quite deservedly, cancelled.

Rumour did, however, insist that the work done on compact thermal reactors did serve, by being redirected towards beyond- the- atmosphere operations; the prototypes, documentation and many of the design team disappearing in the direction of Lake Ward.


What made somewhat more sense was a jet MPA based, not as had been more than half expected on the Sperrin, but on the first really effective jet civil airliner, de Havilland's Comet. Partly because having saved de Havilland from embarrassing and possibly terminal mistakes- square windows, really?- the air development unit felt the company owed them, and a Comet hull based MPA could be had relatively cheap.

A Sperrin based MPA would be too much of a heavyweight, being first generation it had been if anything considerably overbuilt, and the civil airliner probably had performance closer to requirements, including an exceptional patrol range when converted for military purposes.

The fascinating thing being that avionics are surprisingly light; the lifting capacity of an airliner being largely unneeded, most of it can be used for fuel, the Nimrod having a far greater effective range than the Comet it was based on. (Military absence of health and safety standards helps, too.)


Unfortunately for the Nimrod, there were other later airliners that turned out to be equally convertible, and the RFC needing a replacement for it's own creaky, cracking Valiants in their second life support role seized on the best of them, Vickers' awkward-corners-of-Empire offering, the relatively high performance VC-10- which did far more service, in the end, as a military aircraft than it did as an airliner.

The old Brythonic god of hunting got a look in this time, and the Herne was duly adapted to suit the Navy as well as flying corps versions emerging, some equipment sets being directly carried over from the Nimrods, the older aircraft being converted to tankers mostly. It was an incremental improvement, having more room to lay out equipment, more electrical power and more growth potential.



Fighters;

Gloster Harpoon, subsonic RFC version proposed 1948, prototype 1952, rejected 1954, supersonic RNAS thin wing version proposed feb 54, initial service aug 56, retired feb 60; two crew, maximum 1067 knots, most efficient cruise 589kt, ferry 1250nm, service ceiling 62,150ft, four 30mm ADEN, 32” radar dish 35nm against fighter target, four missile hardpoints, four Red Flash, or two and two Blue Jay or Blue Glass

de Havilland Sea Vixen; after many prototypes, enter service sep 1959, drops below one thousand maintenance hours per flying hour jan 1963, withdrawn from service oct 64, crew two, maximum 986 knots, most efficient 600kt, ferry 950nm, service ceiling 51,400ft, 29” radar scanner with unusually wide sweep, 30nm against fighter target, six hardpoints, in theory capable of up to 4000lb bombload in attack, usual armament four light missiles (almost invariably Red Flash), two medium, usually Blue Glass, wired for Blue Schmoo although retired before it's introduction

Hawker Halberd FA.1; enters service with RFC april 62, one pilot/observer, RB106 mark 145 engine, maximum 1480kt, most efficient 610kt, ferry 1320nm, service ceiling 58,400ft, 32” concentric-rings radar scanner 40nm against fighter target, four hardpoints under each wing, up to 7500lb payload, two ER4 long 30mm cannon, usual payload two drop tanks, four medium missiles and two light, many later versions

Supermarine Scimitar; fighter version initial service may 63, retired 74, twin Spey, crew two, maximum takeoff 41,000lb, maximum 1240kt, most efficient 600kt, ferry 1430nm, split radar with 36” 150kw main dish, 64nm against fighter target, up to 6000lb payload, two ADEN, usually four medium four light AAM

Westland [English Electric] Warlock; service entry Jul 1968, crew two, twin RB106 Moray mark 174, never-exceed 1,892 knots at altitude, 820 knots at sea level, supersonic on dry thrust, ferry 2,680nm, ceiling 70,000ft, Blue Lancer airframe-integrated radar, broad side sweep, nominal 135nm against fighter target, track while scan, telescopic camera system and IRST, single 30mmx198mm ER5 cannon, internal bay four medium AAM, two recesses and two pylons under each wing, recesses rated for heavy AAM, outer two rated for medium, usually light in service

Hawker Harrier FA.1; entry 1964, crew one, Pegasus engine, top speed 635kt, ferry 1850nm, usual strike radius 250nm, ceiling 51,400ft, 28” radar dish 45nm against fighter target, 120nm in surface search, twin ADEN cannon, up to 5,000lb ordnance on four pylons and belly- usual load as fighter two Blue Glass or Blue Schmoo, two Red Flash

Hawker Harrow FS.1; entry 1971, crew two, Sleipnir engine, top 945kt, normal cruise 580kt, ceiling 58,600ft, ferry 2,310nm, 33” dish 72nm against fighter target, twin ADEN, up to 6,500lb ordnance on belly and six wing pylons- usually two drop tank, two Blue Pelican, two twin racks for Red Flash


Bombers;

Buccaneer S.2; entry 1960, crew two, twin Spey, maximum 612kt, normal cruise 560kt at low level, ferry 3800nm, strike radius 1200nm, service ceiling 47,500ft, Blue Parrot N radar with 45nm against fighter target, 120nm in surface search, up to 12,000lb in 8000-lb rated bay and three hardpoints under each wing rated 2000, 2000, 1000lb

Buccaneer FRS.3; entry 1968, crew two, 35,600lb dry, maximum 80,000lb, twin RB106 Moray mark 162, maximum 1447kt at altitude, 780kt with internal stores at sea level, transonic normal cruise, ferry w/drop tanks 3600nm, strike radius 1140nm, service ceiling 64,000ft, Blue Foam radar with 40” dish, maximum 70nm against fighter target, 200nm against medium warship in surface search, TCS, IRST, four recesses each rated 750lb under wing roots for AAM, jamming, recon pod, up to 21,000lb total, in bay (four 2000lb or similar shaped missile, or ten 1000lb or similar discrete-finned missile) and three pylons under each wing (inner rated 4000lb, mid 3000lb, outer 2000lb)


Maritime Patrol;

Supermarine Seascale; not procured, would have been 1959, single Harwell mk 15V (partly deceptive numbering, partly paper versions) shielded liquid metal cooled reactor feeding four Conway- based turbofans, crew two pilots, four flight engineers, twelve mission specialists, maximum speed 312kt, service ceiling 39,400ft, logistic endurance 20 days, variety of sensors planned including AEW- class (350nm?) air search radar, probably same model of surface search as actually employed on Nimrod, extensive electronic intercept gear; probably 20,000lb payload for sonobuoys, torpedoes and depth charges

Hawker- Siddeley Nimrod; entry 1958, crew twelve, four Spey engines, maximum 505kt, cruise 425, ferry range 7,650nm, service ceiling 44,000ft, surface search radar good for perhaps 220nm against medium warship, 20nm vs. periscope target, IR, magnetic detectors, ESM, 20,000lb in bomb bay including sonobuoys, depth charges, torpedoes;
post-1970 tanker version carries 75,000lb transferrable fuel

Vickers Herne; entry 1968, VC10 based, four Conway engines, maximum 550kt, cruise 495, ferry range 10,125nm, service ceiling 54,000ft, maritime patrol version surface search radar good for 360nm against medium warship, IR, magnetics, ESM, 32,000lb in bomb bay and underwing pylons, fitted for drone launch; AEW and tanker versions exist




Air to air missiles

Red Queen- artillery rocket with early infrared sight coupled through autopilot to fins- June 1944 deployed, 500lb, motor good for 4nm, sight good for about 1.5, wildly unreliable, widely used but retired postwar

Blue Spear, beam riding rearward firing bomber defence missile, first to have modern research driven rocket motor- Feb 1948, 700lb, effective (theoretically) to 6nm, but highly toxic and real handling problem.

Red Baron, delta miniature-aircraft, apr 1951, 685lb, command flown to point where it's own infrared sights enabled, (Cmd/TIRH), good idea but too much weight and complexity of guidance system, needed separate WSO and largely a failure anyway, theoretically good to 10nm mostly in glide phase

Red Dean- heavyweight, long range terminal active radar AAM intended for outer barrier role- complete failure in design phase, written off 1956 as unable to produce an acceptable weapon at an acceptable weight- the “At least I learned what not to do, and that is always something” factor was its' only real contribution.

Blue Jay- began as Blue Spear III, quickly adapted to forward firing fighter based missile, 1953 entry, 650lb and good for 8nm, not so much less toxic as better sealed, two stage weapon- separate booster and attack stage, beam rider with operational drawbacks that implies

Red Flash- third attempt at infrared guidance and first really successful, learning from previous errors- first 1954 version 300lb, that then becoming the standard for a 'light' AAM, 4.5nm and rear aspect only, but would actually chase a target- reflex pursuit guidance; much elaborated in many versions, used as test body for innovations several of which found their way into the production weapon- the 1962 mark III has larger wings and moves to twist-and-steer, still tail chaser but good to 12nm; the 1964 mark IV reduces motor and warhead weight to fit larger guidance section, all aspect capable for 8.2nm, mark VII and after use a lifting body airframe and really should have been renamed.

Blue Balloon- failed project, overly ambitious; independently terminal active radar homing missile, capable of searching for and acquiring it's own targets- effectively a scaled down Sea Squirrel, which did not scale well and it didn't really work in the larger version anyway. Of developmental use.

Blue Glass- benefited from previous failures to be first actual semi- active radar homing missile, smaller version of Blue Balloon missile body, 1955 service entry- quickly adapted into stopgap naval SAM; good for 15nm in mark I, 680lb from air launch, medium speed missile- large sustainer motor; mainstay fighter missile for about a decade

Blue Hebe- evolved version of Red Hebe, itself a scaled down and de- frilled Red Dean, in fact almost completely different- only the missile body diameter remained the same, guidance, motor, warhead, steering, length, weight, all rearranged to fit. 1958 entry, 1100lb, 34nm, mach 3.4 at launch, beam rider radar homing, large aft delta fins- data may have been stolen for Bisnovat R-40, improved later versions- 52nm in mk IV; oddly never converted to SARH.

Blue Boar; began as ramjet version of Blue Glass, design elaborated to match new motor, and it crept over the established weight limit into use as a bomber defence weapon- still semi- active, 800lb, 1962 service entry, pop- out wings, good for a slow 32nm, but with a lot of terminal agility- the range was arguably insufficient.

Red Feather- began as infrared homing version of Blue Hebe, quickly elaborated and diverged to suit the guidance system, and plan A went largely out of the window as that changed too- it was repurposed as a passive radar homer, optimised to seek and attack mostly Russian interceptor search radars. The complicated and expensive electronics this involved made it much less popular with armourers, accountants and service chiefs than bomber crews, it was a technical success but operationally and logistically dubious; 1140lb, 38nm, 1964 service entry.

Black Arrow; ambitious decoy, consisting of an air- launched antiballistic missile improvised out of a Black Brant III sounding rocket; potentially it might have worked, if the guidance system had been remotely up to the task- “equal amounts of prayer and wishful thinking, with traces of electronics” being the line at the enquiry. Largely a strategic bluff, used to create uncertainty. 1820lb, maximum altitude 220nm, 1965

Blue Schmoo- anglo-canadian reworking of Sparrow missile (AAM-N-6B) for compatibility with Canadian aircraft, chiefly Avro Arrow; adds weight, larger (folding) fins, 560lb, 25nm semi- active radar homing, monopulse seeker considerably more ECM resistant, 1966, proliferates throughout British service with several later versions

Red Gravel- medium- long range infrared homing ramjet missile on improved Blue Boar frame, actually using seeker head details stolen from R-40 in reverse technical piracy; basic problem being aerodynamic heating, with the burn time of the ramjet it probably set a record for longest minimum range for an AAM, 700lb, 1967 entry, 40nm, minimum probably 20nm in Mk I, later versions are better cooled, ~5nm and a maximum reach of 50 in mark III

Vermillion Kestrel; electronics advances made anti-radiation homing practical on a smaller chassis, not necessarily cheaper but the price of the targets was going up as well so that was all right. Folding winged ramjet with multiple rings of receptor antennae around nose intake, 600lb, 30nm, 1971, largely replaces Red Feather on bombers and intruders, later versions increase in weight and reach

Blue Pelican; more conventional semi-active releasing to terminal active radar homing missile, based on stretched Kestrel missile body- 700lb and less weight and complexity of guidance, 45nm, 1972

Blue Riband, codename for what began as Sky Dart, 1200lb semi- active ramjet in mk I form, 100nm nearest round number, more or less depending on headwinds, follows development of the surface to air version including cavity-cast booster; sheer size of guidance radar required, especially in later versions, makes it a bomber defence missile largely by default, first deployment 1972

Red Nimbus; slightly modified version of air to surface Red Hand, intended to make good on the promise of a long range infrared homing missile, designed to be lobbed ballistically into the target area, activate it's seekers and second stage motor, hunt independently; midcourse command, may have (officially denied) loiter mode, 1400lb rocket, 90nm nominal range. 1975

Blue Bauble; new standard medium range missile, lifting body vector thrust steering ramjet, midcourse datalink with terminal active homing, unifying several advances- a leap ahead that lands on solid ground; 700lb, 60nm nominal, service entry 1978

Red Brick; first of many design attempts to ease out of the shadow of Red Flash, 150lb vectored- thrust dogfight IRH missile, all aspect, optimised for agility, frequently used for carriage by armed drones for use on enemy examples of same, nominal 6nm, 1980

Blue Oolong; technical espionage driven- albeit there probably was a bit of paper in there somewhere- scaled down copy of cancelled American Pyewacket lenticular bomber defence missile; naturally had to have a tea related codename. 500lb, semiactive radar, awkward shape for a bomb bay- carried in large numbers or not at all usually, mainly by intruder bombers, good for perhaps 40nm, British version is conventional warhead- uses similar principle to sea dart, thin layer of explosive intended to fragment the missile body and rocket casings as shrapnel, 1981 (American use 1983)

Blue Scorpion; radar guided version of Red Brick airframe, intended for positive control, positive interception of incoming missiles- rival to Blue Oolong project, but whether this is electronically feasible is debatable as it requires all round search and designating radar that smaller bombers cannot afford space and weight for, the weapon itself is the most discrete part of the system. 150lb, 1984

Black Rose; serious attempt to make good on promise of Black Arrow, using aircraft large enough to carry upward looking acquisition radar and battle- management staff for an actually effective antimissile capability; three stage weapon, optimised for air launch with nozzles to shape, gel fuelled, maximum engagement altitude 420nm, 2500lb, nominal entry 1986 with a lot of bugs still to work out; Black Rose IV is optimised for orbit to orbit

Green Gauntlet; large turbojet engined missile- air to air cruise- intended as airborne command post killer (with possible secondary defence suppression role), fairly advanced and very expensive weapon with interesting aerodynamics in motor duct, antiradiation with home-on-countermeasures improvements, 320nm? Foldout wings, 2000lb, Mach 3.5, limit of engine- 1989 entry

Tangerine Butterfly, two stage gel fuelled lifting body rocket, similar engagement pattern to Red Nimbus, medium weapon- 700lb, infrared primary, passive radar secondary, 80nm? 1993


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 8:30 am 
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A nice amount of detail combined with an acerbic style that doesn't pull punches in describing the more eccentric moments of design and procurement.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:35 pm 
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If you think that's eccentric, wait for the next chapter of Admiral Jellicoe's memoirs (due in a week or so, btw). When all is said and done, the Royal Navy has produced a rich crop of eccentrics down the centuries, at all levels of the system; both because of the mysteries and wonders of the sea that set us apart from land-dwelling men, and because of the life of a ship- living so close to one's fellows, one has to be tolerant, put up with their quirks and foibles and their moments of madness, and in return they will support you in yours.

It takes a very great deal of history by land, more than most people's heads can hold, to inculcate the same degree of tolerance, and most landsmen never see the full flower of the result- only the drunken maniac rampaging down the rue d' argel. I say that that is the glass darkly, and, well.

There is a north European proverb, that it would be a wonderful thing to have a giant's strength; but it would be ruinous tyranny to use it as a giant would. The greatest gentle giant I know is Jack Tar, and there are moments when even an Admiral of the Fleet has to hold himself to rigorous inspection as to whether he is living up to that standard.


In any case, eccentricity is the fun part. It is the sliver lining around the cloud of quotidian humdrum life, the thread that carries us through the mundane and sometimes on to higher things.

And oh, dear. Destroyers. More than enough of it there. Up to the end of WWII.



“Before Agamemnon”; early torpedo boats

Grasshopper class torpedo gunboat; all out of service by the start of the war

Sharpshooter- class torpedo gunboat; thirteen built 1889-91, significantly larger than early TBDs at 735t displacement, 242'x27'x8'6” and 91 crew, 19kt and 2500nm at 10kt, bow and two twin trainable beam TT, 14”, two 4.7” guns;
five surviving at start of WWI, used as home- waters clearance minesweepers

Alarm class; eleven built, 810 tons, slightly greater draft than Sharpshooters, class begins with similar torpedo armament, later members go to single trainable beam tubes for 18” torps, similar gun armament, eight survivors at start of war, six converted to sweepers, two submarine depot ships

Hazard class; five built 1893-4, 1070 tons, 262'x30'6”x13ft, crew 120, 18.2kt and 2.750nm at 10kt, two 4.7”, bow and two twin trainable beam 18” TT, four conversions to minesweeper and one to depot ship by the beginning of the war


First Generation;

TBD's, as designated, starting with the six 26- knotters, actual speed varying greatly depending on sea conditions, three pairs from three different yards- Daring, Havock and Ferret classes- each interpreting the specifications in their own way; all roughly 270 tons, single 3” 12lbr plus initially three 6lbr, initially three 18”, torpedo tubes- fixed bow and two trainable, modified to give up the bow tube for two extra 6lbr; the specifications were not necessarily completely outdated by 1914, but the hulls were, having suffered sufficient wear and tear as to be removed from service 1912.


The fleet reorganisation of 1913, with war considered imminent, sought to put a great many experimental ships on a sounder footing by grouping them together; what emerged as the grouped A class consisted of the 27- knotters (only in very, very fair conditions), built 1894-6, thirty- six ships, from the lightest at 220 tons standard to the heaviest at 310, 200' to 210' long, 46 to 54 crew, all very wet seaboats, usually capable of 650-750nm at 10kt, similar standard armament of one 12lbr 3”, five 6lbr, two training 18” TT;
only eleven still in service, wear and tear mostly, at the beginning of the war, used as harbour defence for the most part.


The grouped B class began construction in 1895, immediately on the heels, through to 1901- with two exceptions, later boats built in 1907 to the original specification to replace peacetime accident losses; all still VTE powered except the last pair, built to a 350 ton standard in the hope (partially fulfilled), of greater endurance and better seagoing qualities as a result. Twenty-four total, twenty- two in service at the beginning of the war.
Thirty to thirty-six knots in absolute flat calm, eighteen to twenty- two in sea state 4 and advised to head for safe harbour in sea state 6 or worse, they did not really have the ocean going abilities to be fleet escorts, and were generally confined to the narrow seas and harbour defence, as they grew older and more tired. Active service finished them, the survivors being scrapped 1919-20.
Armament the established standard initially, some were modified, losing one torpedo tube for an ASW mortar, and one or two 6lbr for paravane trials.


The grouped C class that followed were the nominal “30-knotters”, hydrodynamic and structural improvements, ranging from 390 to 440 tons displacement, still vertical triple expansion engines apart from a handful of builders' specials, constructed from 1896 to 1902, forty built, four peacetime losses, and still the turtleback bow that actually dug in and made them wetter; armament persisted, single 12lbr 3”, five 6lbr (on a broadside of four- two abeam the tower, three on the centreline), two trainable single 18” TT;
again they were only capable of top speed in nearly perfect conditions suffering greatly from the condition of the sea, their increasing tonnage did buy them greater endurance at around 1400-1500nm at 10-11kt and as such they were the first type that were more of a help than a hindrance as fleet destroyers, one flotilla of eighteen serving with the Grand Fleet and one as east coast defence at the beginning of the war.


The ten- ship grouped D class' main distinction was one funnel fewer, still turtleback bowed, same standard first generation armament, and they never actually served as a flotilla despite being much closer to each other in specification than the B's and C's; they were chosen to be penny- packeted around as tenders to shore bases and harbour guardships around the Empire, and as such had widely divergent careers, two being lost in peacetime accident and the rest scrapped shortly after the War.

116 craft, 77 saw war service, last deleted 1920


Second Generation;

The thirty-six grouped E (or River, that being their naming scheme) class, 1904-6, were a major hydrodynamic step forwards- a much more conventional bow design, eliminating the turtleback and not a moment too soon; the primary need behind the specification was an attempt to produce a genuinely ocean- going destroyer, an improvement on the C class that would produce fewer constraints on the movement and seakeeping of the ships they were supposed to protect. They gave up on the quest for a high paper specification for a greater practical performance in rough weather, having a legend speed of 25.5kt which they were actually capable of in a moderate sea, and a range of 1680 to 1870nm at 11kt; they were generally considered to be first generation when built, but refit and revision of armament made them early-second generation.
Initially the standard 12lbr 3”, five 6lbr with a broadside of four, two trainable 18” TT; two cycles of modification, one post Russo-Japanese War, resulted in the removal of the 6lbr and replacement with three, two beam and one aft, additional 3”; the 1912 estimates removed one of their trainable torpedo tubes, fitted a twin in place of the other, and used the deck space and weight for an ASW spigot mortar.
One flotilla Mediterranean Fleet at the start of the war (largely as a result of the senior destroyer officer mediterranean, de Robeck, who had demanded the design), one with the Grand Fleet.


The grouped F or Tribal class were not a step forwards, they were a stumble that fell flat on it's face. Hard to disagree with the basic logic behind them, the tactical importance of speed in torpedo warfare and the need to produce a destroyer that could accompany and shield dreadought armoured cruisers, but they asked too much too soon, and the most dangerous sacrifice they made was endurance.
Twelve ships from eight separate yards, 1905-6 built, each interpreting the specification slightly differently but each coming up against the same basic problem- boilers driving out bunkerage. The first fully turbine fitted class, they developed the same horsepower as the older cruisers, could make very high speed for their day- 33 knots- and keep it in moderate to rough seas, but at the price of a radius of action that meant they could not cruise with the fleet, nor conduct patrols at any practical distance from home. Something definitely went wrong with their back end also, as they were legendarily bad for tactical handling, huge turning circles and marginally effective steering- only the very early K class were worse.
They were large for destroyers of the time, 860 to 940 tons, 255ft, crew of 86, but only 700 to 1000nm at 14kt, armament varied, the early members of the class having five single 12lbr 3”, the later seven having two single 4”BL mk VIII, all with two single trainable 18” TT; their war service was mostly channel and southern North Sea, forming the backbone of the Dover Patrol.


The single experimental flotilla leader HMS Swift appeared at this point, very large at the time- 1825 tons standard, crew of 138, 353'9”x34'6”x10'6”, built 1907-8, and in practical terms resembled a repeat Tribal, but much worse. Fast, but not as fast as she was supposed to be, with appallingly high fuel consumption at full speed (only six hours' bunkerage) and limited effective range, if this was the alternative she actually went some way to justifying the scout cruisers. Capable of 34 knots (as opposed to the design 36 and hoped for 38), four single 4”BL mk VIII, two single trainable 18” TT, she was a real practical disappointment in service.


The Cricket or Insect class of coastal destroyers were intended as part of the same building programme, a coastal defence destroyer; quite why they were needed in view of the muliplicity of existing types without discernible ocean going performance is something of a mystery, as was why anyone should actually want what amounted to a turbine powered repeat B class.
Thirty- six built, and notorious for never being in the right place at the right time- the number of occasions on which they failed to meet Admiral Hipper is indicative of structural deficiencies in the RN's system of coast defence. Their main practical use was as a first command and learning experience for young officers at the beginning of the war- and a handy place to retire on active duty those who could not make the grade, as the war went on.
They were mostly converted into minesweepers from 1917, where their small crew numbers counted in their favour.
255 tons standard, 180'x18'x6', crew of 35, maximum 26kt range 800nm at 12kt, two 12lbr 3”, three single trainable 18” TT


the grouped G or Beagle class was more like it, sixteen ships built 1909-10 and a successful practical design, a similar hull to the Tribals but a more sensible engine arrangement with more than twice the bunkerage- of coal, alas, but it was too much to expect to get everything right at once.
860 tons, 275'x27'6”x8'6”, crew 96, 27kt top speed and 1600nm at 14kt, single 4”BL mk VIII, three 12lbr 3”, first to use 21”- two single trainable tubes; served half with the Grand and half with the Mediterranean Fleet to begin with, leaving for the Med as more third generation ships became available, modified in the course of the war to one twin 21” TT and an ASW mortar.


the grouped H or Acorn class, twenty ships built 1910-11, did take that extra step, being oil fired, actually slightly smaller, needing fewer crew- 72 thanks largely to reduced engine room complement- 780 tons, 27kt and 2200nm at 14kt, two single 4”BL on improved pedestal mountings, two 12lbr 3”, and two single 21” TT; the reduction in crew made them more habitable, and they were more extensively upgraded in the course of the war, acquiring light AA, and shifting to one twin TT (more accommodating of later and more capable weapons), and an ASW mortar or depth charge fit; began the war with the Grand Fleet, transferred as the third generation arrived.


The grouped I or Acheron class, twenty- three ships built 1911-12, began as repeat Acorns largely, but the Admiralty allowed much more variation in the way of builders' specials with them. Designed for 27 knots moderate- weather speed, most of them exceeded this a little, one of the Specials reaching 35 knots; handling was variable but generally good, better than the early third generation, similar endurance to the Acorns, armament layout to begin with differed only in the 12lbr being better positioned for forward fire, diverged as the war went on, most being outfitted for minelaying; began as Grand Fleet, later detached to other theatres.

Totals; 1 leader, 107 fleet, 36 coastal ships, most last less than a decade, out of service by 1921



Third Generation;

the grouped K or Acasta class were the first of the third generation, designed on the results of fleet exercise as it seemed increasingly likely that in any major clash a destroyer's first opponents would be her own kind on the other side; any attempt at torpedo attack would very probably be preceded by gun action.
Twenty ships, built 1912-13, a single flotilla of eighteen plus two accident-insurance spares, eight of them builder's specials including the first longitudinally framed, with no lighter guns apart from refit AA, and three single 4” QF, firing much faster and effectively tripling the ship's gunpower over earlier BL armed destroyers, ammunition supply issues permitting.
934 tons, 267'6”x26'6”x9'6”, 29 to 32kt, 1600nm at 16kt, crew 77, initially two single 21”TT, three 4”QF mk IV, single 2lbr pom pom mk II
Their most major problem seems to have been steering issues- ranging from poor to atrocious, one ship setting a record with a tactical diameter of 1808 yards. Considerably improved in later members of the class, but they were not lucky in action and their relative inefficiency in evading fire may have been at the root of this. Possibly the specification may have taken the idea of a steady gun platform too far.
Grand Fleet service, most of the battleships capable of out-turning them, possibly again for that reason relatively little upgraded in the course of the war- landed one torpedo tube and sometimes after gun for depth charges.


The grouped L or Laforey class were the last fully prewar design and the first with a consistent alphabetical naming scheme- the K class had names beginning with K picked for them but not assigned; twenty-two built 1913-14, slightly larger and not quite repeat K's, attempts to cure the steering issue were not entirely successful- performance varied widely across the class, some actually quite good and others teetering on abysmal, and a factor of three difference between them. Modifications to cure this were generally more successful, and the type more successful as a class.
965 ton ships, 29 knots reliably, up to 32 in excellent weather, 1,720nm at 15kt, same gun armament with slightly improved mountings and fire control gear, and one major improvement in that they were the first class to be fitted from the beginning with twin torpedo tubes, 21”.
They also had the odd feature that they all had small minelaying rigs, usually four early mines- subsequently converted and improved to depth charge droppers on all, sixteen charges.


They were followed by the enormous wartime- standard M class, the type the bulk of the initial war emergency orders were for- a single flotilla available at the start of the war was rapidly followed by more, seventy-nine standard, constructed may '13- dec '15, and twenty- eight builders' specials, although so many of the war emergency orders went out at first to companies not used to building warships that probably many more than were officially admitted as such were practically speaking specials.
(The four Medea class building for Greece were essentially M's with different labels on the dials, and even considered as specials they were close to Admiralty standard.)
The hull design was more or less got right this time, very roughly thousand ton ships, and they proved an incremental improvement over their predecessors, slightly superior in handling to the I class (on average, with fluctuations) and capable of 34 knots flat out, 30 knots to 600nm, and 1890nm at 14kt; standard third generation armament with slight fire control improvements, three 4”QF mk IV, two twin 21”TT, crew of 80, usually two single 2lbr QF mk II pom-pom, did not repeat the L class' small minelaying rigs, most converted to ASW escorts had to land their after gun for any more than a nominal depth charge capacity.
The seventeen Yarrow M builders' specials were distinguished by a higher top speed- 36 knots- and slightly larger fuel tankage, giving them 2100nm at 14kt, and were generally considered to be the most successful of the class.
There were no N, O, P classes, the destroyer- suitable names in that list being assigned to the later M's; they replaced the earlier destroyers with the Grand Fleet and BCF as they became available, relatively few seeing Great Fisher Bank, but most ready for Jutland and broadly speaking the backbone of the WWI destroyer fleet.
ASW conversions followed, generally losing the after gun for a spigot mortar and bombs; most of them were worn out in service and did not survive long into peacetime, brief service as training ships before retiral.


The four ship Faulknor class were large Pacific- ocean destroyers being built for Chile at the outbreak of war, taken over by the RN and converted to flotilla leaders; 1700 tons standard load, with decent room on board to think and plot, but still essentially coal powered with oil spray at best- good endurance despite that, 4200nm at 14kt, but large crews, 205, and and a strange armament layout almost bone shaped, side by side pairs of single 4”BL mk VI fore and aft, and two centreline amidships. The older pattern did them no favours, and they were useful enough to be worth tinkering with to make them more so, rearmed with single 4.7”BL mk I fore and aft. The survivors were sold for a peppercorn to the Chileans after the war.


The four ship, 1100 ton Talisman class were being built for the Turks, and were seized (rather than being paid for) and likewise made flotilla leaders out of; three shaft, five gun ships- two side by side on the foredeck, one aft, two centreline midships- and two twin 21” tubes, good hull form but small bunkerage, evened out, 2045nm at 15kt- helped inform the later and similarly sized (1100 ton) V&W class. 138 crew, thanks likewise to the joys of oil, and also sold to the Chileans after the war.


Seven Lightfoot or Marksman class- supposed to be the latter, HMS Lightfoot made it into commission first- 1600 ton, four gun destroyer leaders followed, and were actually the first ships intended in that capacity for the RN since Swift. 324'x31'9”x12', crew 116, four single centreline 4”, two twin 21” TT, capable of 34 knots, or slightly more in trials conditions, bunkered for 3875nm, and probably not enough to go round considering the increasing realisation that 18- ship flotillas were simply too clumsy and too slow to manoeuvre as a body. Reasonably effective in themselves, though.


The sixty- two ship, general service grouped R class designed after initial wartime experience, ordered from spring 1915 onwards and the last completing in spring 1917, were basically improved M's- specifically in using geared rather than direct-drive turbines; this increased fuel efficiency and hence range considerably, and made them more deployable ships- 2,640nm at 15kt, substantially more than some of the ships available at the beginning of the war.
The first flotilla of them available screened the BCF at Jutland, and did quite well considering; the rest initially used to replace losses before progressively being moved from fleet to convoy escort duties, on the basis of their endurance.
Built with little slack, they had to give up some of their armament in order to do anything different, usually losing their stern gun for mine or depth charge racks, their aft torpedo tubes for an ASW mortar, no ship had both.
Built with mostly standard third generation armament- three 4”QF mk IV, fore midships and aft, single 2lbr pom-pom mk II, two twin 21” in a new model of torpedo tube that allowed depth, speed and gyro settings to be adjusted before launch, adapted as the war went on, mostly put into ordinary rather than broken up, but poorly looked after, only twelve recommissioned as ocean escorts in 1938.


six Parker class destroyer leaders completed 1915-16, and they introduced one of the main features of the fourth generation- superfiring forward guns. 1600 ton ships with 116 crew, standard, 325'x31'9”x10'6”, better seaboats in dubious weather but with a calm top speed a little below their charges, 34 knots and 2,940nm at 15kt, four 4”QF mk IV, two 2lbr pom pom mk II, two twin 21”TT, two depth charge racks, among the first surface ships to be fitted with hydrophones.


The sixty- seven ship grouped S class actually came after the beginning of the fourth generation, and were largely a quest for presence in numbers in view of the rising size and cost of the type- a low end partner to the V's and W's. Initially intended as repeat R's, they incorporated a range of wartime hard- won common sense and treasury born economy measures, enough to justify the distinction.
Ordered somewhat late in the day, autumn 1917 onwards, 36 knot top speed, 2,750nm at 15kt, crew 90, the first forty were in time to see some of the war, the later twenty- seven missed the Great War- but made the majority of the thirty that were recommissioned as ocean escorts for WWII after having seen some interesting experimental uses along the way.
They were probably the first type designed for ASW from the start, with one twin 21”TT fitted and two depth charge racks, two depth charge throwers; brief consideration of an additional pair of 18”TT was met with the thought that there were better uses for the weight. Gun armament included the by now standard pom pom, and the first half of the class had their forward gun on an experimental DP mounting, that proved too clumsy for use in any kind of weather and was refitted to standard CP.IX.

The WWII recommissioned ships, and the twelve R class brought to the same specification, lost their midships gun for two twin pom-pom, offset, added active asdic but not passive hydrophones, lost a boiler for greater bunkerage- in states of wear that left them capable of 27 to 30 knots depending, 4,600nm at 14kt- had their forward gun replaced with a, themselves superseded in capital ship use, 4”/45 QF mk V on HA mount, and their stern gun for depth charge stowage or, in about half of them, an ex WWI spigot depth bomb mortar.


Totals; forty-four early, one hundred and seven middle, one hundred and twenty- nine later third generation fleet destroyers, twenty-one flotilla leaders, 301 total craft; 274 saw action in WWI, 48 in WWII



Fourth Generation, late WWI and interwar


The V and W class, like many things, seem straightforward to begin with and become progressively more intricate the more closely they are examined; numerous evolving variants as the class went on, they were meant for the later stages of the war, primary opposition the German jeune ecole, destroyers and torpedo boats, capable of fleet service as well as like against like, small ship combat. Ordered nov 1916 onwards, completed may 1917 to end of war.

The main distinction is the armament; the mark of the fourth generation is two pairs of guns, AB(superfiring) XY(superfiring) pattern- two each end and a broadside of four. The first of the class received a new mark of gun, the faster loading 4”/45 QF mk V; which was later replaced by 4.7”. Possibly of greater significance was the fitting of some measure of rangefinding and director gear for the first time, bringing destroyers into the realm of scientific gunnery.

The class existed in several variants, the initial five Admiralty V Leaders and twenty- three Admiralty V's being very similar apart from the extra room for command staff on the Leaders, four 4” and two twin 21” TT, with, after some shouting, depth charge racks (two thrower, two drop chute, up to 64 charges) and paravanes as standard, 1200t to 1090t, crew 115, 312'x26'9”x11'4”, top speed of 34kt, chosen as acceptable without taking up too much room for weaponry, 3500nm at 15kt- propulsion plant actually based on the R class with greater tankage.

They were followed by the Admiralty W, twenty- three ships (two flotillas of nine, again, plus accident and refit cover), still with 4” but, the main difference, moving to triple instead of twin 21”TT, slightly reshuffled engine room resulting in five fewer crew; 110 total.

Six W Leaders- Thornycroft specials converted to the purpose- followed, slightly higher freeboard and a higher pressure boiler resulting in a top speed of 36 knots, the last pair making one major change- from the 4”/45 QF mk V, ten to fifteen rounds a minute depending on loading arrangements and elevation, the last pair of Thornycroft mod W's introduced the 4.7”/45 BL mark I, slower firing at five to seven rounds per minute, but significantly harder hitting and better adapted to director firing- more likely to destroy a small enemy torpedo boat than merely disable and possibly leave still dangerous.

The Admiralty mod W class was the last wartime version of the type, and combined the 4.7” and triple torpedo tubes; with some anti- mine and antisubmarine capability, it was the best that had been done so far, and intended to be constructed as a standard type as long as the need for them existed. There were many on order when the war came to an end, in various states of completion, and most were cancelled, some broken up on the stocks, and when some adding was done and the awkwardness of the numbers looked at, a small batch actually reordered to make a reasonable round number of thirty ships, with some optimism as to serviceability three flotillas, actually completed.

The eighty-seven V&W's were retained as the main strength of the postwar fleet, earlier ships retiring to reserve or being scrapped, and through to 1927 as they came due for refit were upgraded and standardised on the Mod W- just as the interwar experimentals began to make them look quite badly out of date. The sort of flanks of the battle fleet operation they were designed for looked rather uncertain, and anti- air and anti- submarine operations rather more likely- as well as operations away from the air cover of the main battle fleet.
Flotilla size shrank- from nine and a leader to eight including a leader, partly for reasons of providing peacetime commands to those otherwise too senior, partly for ease of tactical handling, and half- flotilla operations more common than operating together in practical terms.
Several schemes for upgrading them existed, most were tried out and many collided in practise, broadly speaking two subclasses emerged, long ranged antisubmarine escorts and short- medium ranged antiaircraft escorts.

The long range escorts achieved that by losing one boiler (the class had three, two in one engine room and one in the second) for tankage and accommodation space- very broadly 25 knot ships, 5,080nm at 14kt- one set of torpedo tubes for an ASW mortar, the after gun for increased depth charge storage, sightly improved ASDIC sets and surface search radar;
the AA escorts, mainly in service in European waters, lost both sets of torpedo tubes for quad pom-poms, and fell rather short of the ideal in being rearmed with a motley collection of 90mm, 3.7”, 4”, 105mm and 4.7” on whatever high angle mountings could be collected or cobbled together; being relatively low priority, they got the leftovers and international- market oddities.


Several later destroyer leaders followed the first of the V class into service, despite the decision already being made that future leaders were going to be modified examples of the main type, easier to look after and less distinctive as targets; still, it would have been silly just to throw them away. Particularly as they were actually quite good.
The Thornycroft type- Shakespeare class, in service- were 1480 ton (standard) ships, looking a bit like a pulled W class with an extra midships gun, ABQXY, 4.7”/45 BL mk I, same torpedo fit, a single 3”/12lbr HA, 329'x31'6”x12'6” (much of their displacement in draft), 36 knots in service condition and larger bunkers for 5100nm at 15kt, 164 crew, the increase mainly staff, seven ships total- three too late to see action and the others very little of the war; made useful escort group commanders in the second round though.
The Admiralty-type leader- Scott class- eight completed, were essentially to the same specification, coming out a little beamier, a little shorter and a little heavier, but with the same complement, endurance (differences in individual mechanical state being greater than differences in principle), performance and armament.


A class (1924); several objectives overlapped with the first postwar design- consolidation and economy were certainly among them, but perhaps a little outvoted by the need to produce something capable of escorting the G3's and similar ships of the future fast battle line (which turned out to be mainly carriers, in the event.) Four builders' specials were ordered, Amazon, Adventure, Alclutha and Ambuscade, from Yarrow, Thornycroft, Denny and Hawthorn, with the intent of mass producing the best, with the particularly good ideas of the others folded in.
This turned out to be somewhat tricky, as they were only superficially similar. Two had higher pressure boilers- of two different designs, Babcock and Vickers- one was longitudinally framed, one was turboelectric, one clipper and one bulbous bow, very little about the four was directly combinable. Various attempts were made on paper, causing a minor scandal when a particularly outrageous draft design, almost certainly intended to show why a particular combination of features could not be done, of “HMS Assortment” was leaked to the papers.
In the end, after considerable tinkering, retrofitting and general messing around, the first of the interwar generation turned out to be 1,240-ton ships, longitudinally framed, bulbous bowed with ASDIC transducer in the bulb, similar armament layout to the Admiralty Mod W class- four 4.7”BL mk II, two triple torpedo banks, two depth charge racks and two throwers, two twin pom-pom, paravanes; 30- atmosphere Babcock boilers doing little for speed, 36 knots light, but pushing endurance to 4,800nm at 15kt, some of the increase in size intended to make them more habitable for extended periods; sixteen built, and the four prototypes being slightly rebuilt as flotilla and half- flotilla leaders.


B class, 1926; a single flotilla- nine ships hopefully producing an operational flotilla of eight- repeat A's


C class, 1927; two flotillas, nineteen total, supposed to be simplified and lightened from the A class, lower pressure- 25 atmosphere- boilers, cheaper but more fuel hungry and less economical in the long run, less deployable in war, 3,800nm at 15kt, the experiment not repeated. Did introduce quad 21” TT.


D class; essentially repeats, back to 30- bar boilers and 4,600nm at 15kt, the major experiment of the class was with welded hulls; two flotillas, 18 hulls


E class; single flotilla, nine ships, repeat D's mostly, main change is that the quad 21” were replaced with triple 24.5” torpedo tubes


F class; repeat, one flotilla of nine, all- welded with 35-bar boilers producing 36.5kt and 5,600nm at 15kt


G class, two flotillas, twenty ships, quad 24.5” TT, and second flotilla attempts DP mountings, not entirely successful; otherwise repeat F's


H class; one flotilla, nine ships, triple 24.5” to save weight for fitting four twin pom-pom, almost effective DP mounts, repeat G's otherwise


Fourth Generation Totals; eighty-seven Great War, fifteen similar- vintage destroyer leaders, a hundred and thirteen evolving interwar types, 215 total

The fourth generation's usefulness ended with the Second World War, really- they were too small and mostly far too hard worked to survive very long after, or be worth refitting for the demands of keeping the peace. Many lost at least one torpedo bank for additional light AA, four twin 20mm often, or 24-cell 7” mk II rocket. Paper plans were drawn up for more radical conversions, mostly apparently as training exercises for naval constructors as nothing was actually done.



Four and three half-th generation (or 5.5 in metric);

Not really fitting into the development schema in any neat or coherent way, the brief outburst into trying to leap to the end of the developmental ladder of a class of super destroyers, initially a plan for a fleet light cruiser with rate of fire a priority, then a cruiser-destroyer hybrid, then admitting that they were really big destroyers, was almost a return to Fisheresque manic determination. Shame the navy appeared to by trying to curse the design by repeating the naming scheme of the Tribal class.
Their design study also spawned, after a little delay, the Dido class. Which would seem to be that, but the Didos were going to be quite fiddly and quite delayed- there was no intent of a low end partner this time. Numerous paper Tribals occurred as the design was played with, the Admiralty being in the end unwilling to compromise, willing to sacrifice numbers for a genuine fleet heavy destroyer with pacific endurance.
The 1850- ton, four turret penultimate draft design gave way in the end to a 2,680-ton, five turret version; a pair superfiring forward, two turrets superfiring aft and the fifth at the same level as X turret, back to back essentially with the aftermast and director tower in between. (Somewhat similar to the American Fletcher class.)
The plan of salvo firing designs trying to straddle and zero in on the ideal was eventually rumbled, but only after it was rather too late to stop.
Three boiler designs, the large Admiralty IIc running at 45 bar, unit propulsion and compartmentalisation became possible with the larger hull, and helped considerably with survivability against underwater damage.
As large as they were going to be, it was obvious that they would be prime candidates for independent operations, and would require to be able to defend themselves against air attack; it was not so much the gun as the mounting that would be absolutely critical, and what emerged was possibly something of a mismatch- twin heavy fixed- ammunition, 62lb shell total weight 98lb, 4.7”/50 QF mk XI*, on DP mk XXI mounting, power elevation, training and ramming. The mark XXI was obviously sneaked through the Treasury after a long liquid lunch; it was actually quite good, and hardly suffered from penny-pinching at all- maximum 14 rounds per gun per minute. They were fitted with full electromechanical fire control systems and gunnery radar.
Being primarily gun destroyers they carried only one torpedo bank, four 24.5” mk IV, making room for an antiaircraft armament of one quad 2lbr QF mk IX pom-pom (Tribals being the first to mount them and the Navy cheerfully ignoring the existence of the light Army tank gun that theoretically bore the same designation), centreline between the funnels, and four twin mounts, same arrangement as the H class, one each beam alongside the foremast, one alongside the aftermast.
The 2lbr mk IX has been described as an attempt to avoid paying Bofors royalties, but it may be more complicated than that. Abandoning water cooling for a stiff, heavy barrel, able to stand prolonged continuous fire, seemed like a good idea at the time; abandoning the old ammunition for a new shell, 40x298, essential to improve performance, essential. They were effective, for their day.
Oddly, for a ship that was never really intended to be that good at it, they were very useful minesweepers- bulb bow and a new mark of ASDIC coupled with ahead throwing spigot mortars either side of the bridge just forward of the pom- poms, old school 250lb bombs, the active sonar had the resolution to pick up moored and drifting mines; needless to say it was too expensive to fit to actual minesweepers. (Rumours of the spigots being used for what amounted to clay pigeon shooting as a training exercise are quite true.)
Occasional escort group flagships, rarely if ever members, they were predominantly employed with the battle fleet, offensively, strikes and sweeps and squadron patrols- especially in the Pacific, where they made their mark in scores of small island actions, developing a particular association with the KG V class, thrown in at the deep end at every practical opportunity.

32 built commissioning 1937-42, 2,680 tons standard, 3,580 tons deep, 392'x38'6”x11'7”, crew 208, some habitability measures, 3 boilers 2 geared turbines 2 shafts, twin rudder, tactical radius 540yd, 37.2kt trials, 33.5kt deep load, 7,500nm at 20kt, 5x twin 4.7” DP, ABQXY, 320 rounds per gun, splinter protection and 1” over magazines, essentially cruiser fire control, one quad, four twin 2lbr QF mk IX, one quad 24.5” TT, no reloads, two 250lb ASW mortar, 32 bombs

As the war went on, the survivors were progressively refitted, losing either Q turret, the torpedoes or both for 7” RP mk II, for greater antiaircraft, specifically anti- Kamikaze, capability, more modern radar and sonar, and acquiring light AA; six or eight pairs of Oerlikons most often. They were also used to experiment with the very early wartime SSMs, replacing their torpedo banks with them, HMS Gurkha famously crippling HIJMS Haruna at the Battle of Aneghowhat with a command guided, pulse jet Phalarope missile- the only time anybody ever hit anything other than the sea with one. Sea Gerbil was more effective in principle, but they had rather run out of targets by then, and reverted to RP.

A second group, probably Clan class (MacDonald, Mackay, McLeod, etc) was cancelled in view of the then- perceived lack of need of another heavy surface combat type. Probably in error; as useful as they were, more would have served a purpose.



Fifth Generation;


J class; large destroyers, the size of a previous generation flotilla leader, (1750-1800 tons standard), laid down 1936-38, partly for pacific viability but mainly because the job of a destroyer was simply becoming more complicated. Between high angle guns and the control system for them, minesweeping gear, depth charge rig, light antiaircraft to accommodate, they simply needed that much more room.
The defining layout of the fifth generation is a shift away from surface action to anti air and anti- submarine use; initial plans for the J class included three twin HA mounts, BQX, with ahead- throwing mortars in A position and depth charges in Y, no torpedo armament at all with light AA in it's place. Something of the sort would be done, although not here- that was a layout more appropriate to a convoy vessel, a large sloop or, the term was coming back into use, a frigate, not for a multipurpose fleet destroyer that would have to face enemy warships.
The escort sloop design branched off- eventually becoming the Hunt class frigate- and the J class started to look a great deal like an economy Tribal; three twin turrets- ABX- with a main AA mount forward of X, initially octuple pom-pom mk VIII, and depth charge throwers and racks on the quarterdeck in Y position. Two quad torpedo banks for the fleet role, and two twin pom-pom, one either side of the forward superstructure.
The most unfortunate aspect of this was the turrets, which were probably an economy too far. The mk XIX mount was designed to be affordable in bulk, and made some very strange design decisions to do it- being essentially annular, the gun platform and house rotating around a central stalk ammunition lift and loading gear. The result was bulky, overweight, and only theoretically dual purpose- too slow to train to be practical. Worse, it also involved stepping back to an older mark of gun, with an older, less aerodynamic shell.
The mark X was the same as used on the Saints class, 50lb shells with fixed brass cases- the theory being that power loading would overcome the problems of the heavy fixed round, and could be retrofitted to the postwar generation if it worked. It proved not to be entirely accurate- the theory and, unfortunately, the weapon. Mostly the mounting- the battleship version had a heavier retaining structure and more reliable training motors.
They did have essentially Pacific endurance, 7,400nm at 18kt, the now- standard 36 knots light ranging to 32 knots deep top speed, and were generally successful apart from the turrets. Two flotillas, eighteen in total, were built.


The K class were mostly repeat J's with an attempt at a better turret, lighter and with a new mark of BL with three- motion breech, separate ammunition and a new, more aerodynamic 50lb shell- 4.7”/50 BL mk III on mk XXII mount, hand transferred and power rammed, up to 18 rounds per minute per gun; They also lost one torpedo bank and the aft depth charge capability for a cluster of four spigot ASW mortars; two flotillas were built.


The L class short- circuited the gun problem entirely by being repeat K's with Tribal turrets, and exchanged the octuple and twin mk VIII pom-poms for one quad and two twin mk IX; useful fleet types. One flotilla built.


The middle part of the fifth generation were larger ships, around 2000 tons standard, giving up torpedoes for increased light antiaircraft- standard fit of the new M class being two quad mk IX pom-pom, two twin, with one quad 24.5” torpedo bank, and oddly choosing to mount the BL mk III on the Mk XXI mounting, slightly tinkered to fit. The additional size was mainly used to gain habitability for the Pacific- endurance essentially unchanged from the J's. Two flotillas, eighteen built, of M class.


The N class were otherwise repeat M's with the important difference of losing depth charges for four light, 250lb, ASW spigot mortars capable of ahead fire. This fitted submarine hunting duties better, the two systems having long coexisted in the fleet, the decision was definitively made at this point. The biggest single issue with the M's was, again, the guns.
At this point the RN had, apart from the legacy types, three alternatives that could be plausibly fitted to a brand new ship, the high velocity, heavy shell mk XI, which needed an expensive mounting if it was to be of any dual purpose use; the medium velocity, medium weight mk X, which had many of the same problems without the strengths, but was cheaper; and the BL mark III, which fired medium weight shells incompatible with earlier guns.
The obvious thing to do would be to design a fourth; standardisation being quite a low priority- and when one looks at the experimental calibres in the same general class being played with, 4.5”, 5.1”, 5.25”, it could easily have been so much worse.
Fortunately temptation was resisted, and the treasury fought off- the superior lethal radius of the 62lb shell on the mk XI proving the decisive argument. There were many weeps and wails on the subject that destroyers were no longer small ships, requiring increasing amounts of sophisticated ordnance engineering and electronics, but that was simply the way the war was going. Two flotillas of N class.

The two flotillas of O class were the subject of great controversy at the time, as they avoided the pitfalls of an economy type by simply pretending that no such type had been contracted for, and largely repeating the N class, the only major change being one quad mk IX pom-pom replaced by 7” UP mk II.


The Late Fifth Generation was really only the four flotillas of the S class, being essentially the ambitious advanced drum- fed automatic cannon of the Sixth Generation in a fifth generation layout,three pairs, growing to 2,350 tons to accommodate them- probably not enough- and losing a good deal of other armament to accommodate their hastily- rethought loading gear and ancillaries- twin mounts did seem to work more effectively.
They sacrificed all massed light antiaircraft, being reduced to two twin mk IX pom-pom abeam the bridge tower, and only one bank of torpedoes which frequently disappeared in favour of rockets; many proved suitable for retention.


Fifth Generation totals; 135 ships, built in and for Second Great War, 36 arriving fairly late in the day.


Sixth, last gun, Generation;

the dominant feature of the sixth generation is the quest for rate of fire, and the resulting experiments in ordnance, seeking a way to shoot down the tactical surface to surface missiles the Russians and Red Germans were increasingly dependent upon after the collapse of their bomber arm. Saturation fire- short very intense bursts- seemed to be the most efficient and economical solution, rockets which were effective against incoming aircraft were not necessarily so against the speed of a tactical missile- an easier guidance problem, it was the brute force part of the solution that was not up to the task; the problem being on the 'rocket' side rather than the 'guided' side.
The idea that worked in the end had been codenamed Ratefixer, the army version was Green Mace, and differed in several important respects- the army version was a discarding sabot light-medium piece, 4” calibre, designed for a direct hit with extremely fast shell to simplify both the fusing (no complicated, expensive proximity fuses) and the target tracking problems; the navy version was larger shell and drum, not saboted, proximity fuse- and that if anything would have been the moment to use one of the newer calibres, that would have been it. For once there was no good reason for consistency, and not merely for once, with absolutely typical contrariness, the Navy decided to be consistent and build the thing in 4.7”.
(Worth noting that the 5.5”/56 RF mk I used an entirely different feed mechanism, being essentially conveyor fed, and was a separate project.)
4.7”/60 SL (self loading) mk I used the same 62lb fixed ammunition as the mk XI, two thirty- two round ammunition drums, and could manage ninety-six rounds per minute, a rate of fire so unbelievable that, considering the problems of the P and R classes, it is probable that the constructors responsible did indeed refuse to believe it and failed to devise a decent loading system for the ammunition drums.
It was effectively impossible to reload the guns in combat, required some very interesting rope and pulley work and frequently the use of the boat davits out of it, and was generally a bastard of a job. Each drum weighed more and had considerably greater bulk than a torpedo, and one flotilla of P class destroyers was built before the problem became obvious; the second flotilla, Mod P's, had kitbashed derricks for ammunition handling alongside the turrets, but it was still a major evolution.
What had been designed to happen was a relatively conventional ammunition hoist lifting rounds to the turret where they could be manually inserted in the drums, topping up the ready- use magazine as it went. The hoist was slow, the process of feeding the drums slower especially if the loaders liked their hands and forearms, and it is doubtful whether firing by that procedure was even as fast as the 4.7”/45 BL mk I.
The two flotillas of R class destroyer were designed to pass empty ammunition drums down to the magazine for refilling and haul up full ones, hoists that would not be unlikely on- and in fact had largely borrowed the design from- the K1 ¾ class battlewagons; guns splash and splinter shielded only, too much bulk to make a fully enclosed turret feasible. The technical problems of an exposed mount powerful enough to manoeuvre the mass of the gun barrel, breech and drums sharply enough to make use of the rate of fire were substantial, and contributed greatly to the eclipse of the calibre in favour of much more weatherproof 5.5”/RF on the large destroyers of the Cold War.
Designed as five turret ships, the fifth turret quickly disappeared for topweight reasons, leaving two superfiring pairs, superficially returning to the V&W layout; one torpedo bank, the room for a second being taken up with ahead throwing spigot mortars, two twin mk IX pom-pom each beam. Designed to 2200 tons standard load, they were probably undersized for their weapons, and seakeeping suffered as a result; rather like the Flowers, they had an excellent record on paper- nobody ever fell off one- but they pitched and rolled wildly enough to make many wish they would, death being potentially an improvement. Two boiler unit propulsion, 50- bar Admiralty III standard, 34 knots trials speed, over 3,000 tons deep load, 6,820nm at 20kt.

A total of thirty- six ships built.


Under construction at the end of the war, what would have been a seventh generation, T and probably U class, three thousand ton ships with pacific endurance and global habitability, three twin turrets of yet another new type of gun, a conveyor-fed piece similar to the 5.5”/RF mk I, downrated in shell size to probably 50lb fixed for increased reliability, probably with rocket armament in place of torpedoes; cancelled in view of the end of the war.


The main criticism that can be levelled at the late- fifth and sixth generation was that because of the cost and lead time of their complex weapons and their ever- increasing electronic load, there were not enough of them to go round. The RN's mulish resistance to countenance a second- class or war emergency destroyer type may have served a purpose in making sure it received an adequacy of first line vessels, fleet destroyers that contrary to the popular conception of destroyers as essentially expendable, were not easily lost. How many of a force of war emergency ships there would still have been floating at the end of it, debatable- but fortunately the navy did not have to find out.

Worth pointing out that the RN possessed a great many ships that in American service would have been considered “escort destroyers”, but for the RN were frigates, sloops and corvettes, minelayers and sweepers. The absence of second class destroyers may have been largely terminological, in the end.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:18 am 
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Cold War types

early conversions;
the late fifth and entire sixth generation had a great deal of topweight that could safely be dispensed with- their guns. Green Mace/Ratefixer was very troublesome in service, magnificent when it worked properly, and actually surprisingly reliable if banging shells out of the front of the gun is the only measure, but the mount itself being unstable topweight, complicated, time consuming to look after, unreliable even then and dangerously inaccurate. Green Mace might have been highly effective as a secondary on a large warship, battlewagon or heavy cruiser; it was misplaced as a destroyer main gun.

The twin turrets of the S class actually seemed to be more functional than the single guns of the P&R class, provided they were fired one gun at a time, the other acting as a steadying mass. This had not quite been the design objective.

There was a customer for the removed and replaced gun mounts- getting increasingly desperate for Christian ecclesiastical names, the Royal Marine Artillery and the divisional field gun regiments of the Royal Artillery mounted a Green Mace on a stripped down Centurion chassis, as the Heliodromus- “Sunrunner”, named for one of the cult degrees of Mithraeism; the primary use was intended to be counter- battery fire, but the stabilising jacks and ground anchors necessary made shoot and run a little tricky- other applications were however soon found.

(As a convoy escort vehicle, the effect of a Sunrunner loaded with all flechette shot was, to say the least, spectacular. For some reason they were remarkably popular as base gate guardians.)

Landing Craft Gun, on the other hand, was not really one of them. If a destroyer was not capable of mounting the things efficiently, a three hundred ton wooden shell had no chance. In the amphibious warfare of the eastern Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, this became uncomfortably obvious.

For naval warfare the things were neither fish nor fowl; any ship large enough to mount them and serve them properly would be looking to a larger calibre of gun to begin with. The ideal place for a hail of light- medium fire was from a destroyer, which was where the problem was. The land based version was more successful.

That left, counting the survivors of war and accident, thirty 2200 standard ton hulls, twenty- six 2350 ton hulls, to be fully refitted and repurposed.

After some consideration it was decided that they should retain one gun mount, usually B position, reinforced to hopefully cope with the recoil, 'A' position used for surface to air- some were fitted with Seagull during the war, Sea Scorpion afterwards; oops.

Sea Snail was a more successful adaptation, but the rounds were only a minor improvement over the shell drums; usual carriage was twelve rounds. Sea Breeze could be fitted in place of a twin turret on the S class, with eight, and more successful in the purely anti- aircraft role.

Torpedoes were removed, those that had not already been fitted for 7”RP mk II were, and depth charges not really being enough to cope with the evolving enemy, they were stripped for more modern antisubmarine weapons, frequently wishing they hadn't got rid of the torpedoes as it was only really after the war that acoustic homing became practically reliable.

Ahead throwing ASW mortars were fitted to most, increasing worries about homing torpedoes coming the other way largely met with the idea that they expected this batch to be relegated to second line escorts by new construction fairly soon. After its' being pointed out that the crews of Monmouth and Good Hope could have said the same, two generations of installation were provided- the early version being two twin tubes each side of the quarterdeck for mk 24 FIDO wartime acoustic homers, subsequently replaced by triple 21” mk 18 (just to be confusing) CORGI passive sonar homing torpedoes- not long before it was realised that it was vastly more likely that in a torpedo duel the sub would get the first shot off anyway, and such a thing was at best a close in, self defence- or posthumous revenge- weapon, not really a hunting tool. Most of them retired in the early sixties.



The survivors of the Tribals and the fifth generation, new J through O classes, 2700 and 1700-1800 ton hulls, had actually been more successful as gun destroyers. They had also been very hard used. Minimal refit, to retain some viability until purpose- built missile age escorts arrived, was the order of the day; one and a half flotillas, twelve ships, of surviving Tribals, of the eleven flotillas of J through to O class built five passed survey or were cobbled back together well enough to endure to the beginning of the missile age proper.



the first purpose built class of missile age destroyer was the sixteen ship County or Devonshire class, completing 1954-57; the first hulls embarrassingly arriving a year earlier than the main armament. (if it had been the other way round, they would probably have been cancelled.)
The choice of a traditionally cruiser naming scheme was intended partly to soothe those localities that did not have a ship in the previous war, partly because they were almost ridiculously large for destroyers, but in fact came out feeling more like adding insult to injury. The size being a consequence of the armament- it seemed that missiles were going to turn out to be light but bulky in comparison with an old school gun armament, and steel being cheaper than electronics, a six thousand ton destroyer made sense.
Also, the Type system established that a destroyer, in modern parlance, was an ambidextrous escort; a go anywhere, do anything kind of ship, much like the smaller cruisers of the previous generation, which was certainly the ambition for them.

The design was much played with under construction, but the full magnitude of the problem was not realised until they were fitted with their primary weapon. Sea Slug truly lived up to it's name, being a monster of debatable efficiency- initially intended to carry forty rounds and an aft twin launcher, with an ASW or dual purpose rail launcher and automatic gun turret forward, helicopter deck midships, and light self- defence missiles on the beam, the main missile rig quickly grew to eat the available space- from being considered open water destroyers, practically equivalent to a small cruiser, they were nearly downrated to frigates, and definitely to twenty- eight rounds.

Sea Slug mark I, GWS-16, made torpedoes look compact and robust; stored in a single magazine deck, the trolley system that ran them out to the launcher was, it was said, cobbled together from spare bits of the London Post Office Railway. Probably untrue; if it was, it would actually have worked. At least it left room for them to be worked on- albeit that was probably the cause of most of the malfunctions.
The missile itself could, well, occasionally it headed in the direction of the target. Improved somewhat with technical solutions, and rather more with practise and experience, but it was never a natural winner. Most were fairly quickly refitted with a third missile director.

The second octet of the class, and the earlier half as they came due for refit, had Sea Slug II, GWS-17, with up to a thirty mile effective range, and somewhat more responsive to guidance- but still essentially a very early generation weapon.
The rail launcher disappeared, the helicopter pad was very radically scaled down, from a heavy type, possibly rotodyne, to a light, and moved to the quarterdeck- a failure of procedure (or of the supposedly flash resistant hangar doors) could fairly easily result in the weapon scoring a kill it wasn't meant to- and the type's primary antiship weapon became the twin forward turret, 5.5”/60 RF mk II- scaled down, less ambitious versions of the mk I designed for the cancelled A class antiaircraft cruisers at the end of the war.
Antisubmarine capability largely came from the helicopter, and a very little changed stick bomb thrower good to perhaps 2500 yards in a well in the bows forward of the turret, occasionally described as the SSM fit. Not the ideal place to put it, but perhaps a little better than under the plume of the rockets. Sea Cat launchers were fitted on each beam, for what they were worth; subsequently replaced by Sea Flash.

They did accommodate one important mechanical feature- the first gas turbine powered class in the fleet, with separate cruising and sprinting engines on each shaft. Cross- connectable albeit through an eye- wateringly complicated gearbox that was probably the biggest weak point of the system, they proved their doubters wrong- about the only part of the ship that did. Their seakeeping was definitely in the cruiser class, and the low power turbines remarkably fuel efficient- maximum 31 knots, capable of 6,500nm at 15 knots- but the high power turbines, adapted Bristol Olympus, were phenomenally hungry, the ship's endurance plummeted above 18 knots. The batch twos were eventually re- engined, but not the first half of the class.

Sea Slug was phased out from 1970 on, and the Counties converted not to the newer missile that replaced Sea Slug, but were essentially razee'd to helicopter and rotodyne carriers, considering the air to air fit possible on the Fairey Fisher fleet multipurpose rotodyne that may actually have improved their anti- air capability- fitted with outrigger flight decks (112ft beam), capable of holding up to four, two assembled and two folded, which genuinely did make them much more deployable and more useful in the small wars of Empire than they had been as missile ships.



City class- designed closely on the heels of the Counties, they were significantly delayed as the problems with the primary weapon became evident, then shoved through, twenty- four ships being built from 1956-1962 as the greater problem of having far too few ships to meet obligations thanks to the block obsolescence of the emergency- program destroyers became more urgent.

Not entirely successfully; they were still too large, although that had ceased to be the primary driver of costs, and they were probably still far too few.
Initially intended as convoy escorts, smaller and less powerful with greater endurance, they were the first type really to swell in physical size under the notion that electronics are expensive but steel is cheap- 6,700 ton ships, and a result of that was that they were the first that could really be described as 'comfortable'- much more habitable than their predecessors. They were also a return to steam, oddly relying on much of the metallurgical improvements that had been forced by turbine engines- four Admiralty V standard, 80- bar, boilers.
Cantankerous to begin with, the very high pressure Admiralty V gave excellent returns when the crew had got the hang of them, thirty- three knots nominal full speed and 9,200nm at 18kt- very usefully deployable. Steam did mean a larger crew though- 324, almost a generous amount of space per man. Almost.

They did have a more efficient launching system, vertical silos for 32 Sea Slug II aft with two director radars, and room for a properly multirole secondary weapon fit- twin 5.5”/60 forwards, again, in B position on the same level a rail launcher with below- deck magazines for up to fourteen missiles, antisubmarine Blue Duck standoff torpedo, ~10nm with a 14” lightweight homer, when commissioned, or Green Flash SSM- originally an army missile whose guidance proved incapable of picking targets out of ground clutter, more functional at sea. Abeam- mount Sea Cat launchers were backed up by initially quad wartime surplus 2lbr mk IX, with a small helicopter deck aft. They may have been a functional improvement on the Counties, despite being supposed to be the low end version- certainly enough so to be upgraded when the Counties were not.

The Sea Slug VLS was stripped as they came due for their first major refit periods, and replaced with the successor Sea Dart, significantly smaller- part of the space being used for increased stores and spares though. Forty-eight rounds and three directors for Sea Dart were carried, considering that it was less than half the weight of Sea Slug still a great improvement, even if VL Sea Dart was not entirely reliable to begin with.
Sea Cat was replaced by Sea Rapier, two quad box launcher Sea Flash were found room for (a considerable pK advance on Sea Slug), and the relatively slow firing, proximity detonating 2lbr replaced by much faster, revolver ER4 30mm cannon, of which there were many surplus- it had been a standard WWII aircraft type.
Blue Duck rounds were replaced by the more powerful, more ballistic Blue Bone, good to the first convergence zone supposedly, the early valve age Green Flash was replaced with the lighter and more sophisticated, but more comical (until it hits and sprays unburnt fuel all over the place,) Green Vole.

With the space they had available on board, they drifted towards flotilla and half- flotilla leader roles, with their electronics fit kept rigorously up to the mark to serve the purpose; their main drawback, operationally speaking, was their lack of rotary wing capability- the refit made room for a landing pad, but not for a hangar and servicing facilities.



The District class, five flotillas of forty total, laid down 1963-66, completed 1967-70, were designed around Sea Dart from the beginning, and may have been a bit too enthusiastic about saving weight and size- they appeared to be an attempt to cram the City class weapons load into as small a hull as practically possible, and in fact add a bit. Hydrophones from surface ships had never been entirely successful, but someone did come up with the bright idea of towing a cluster of transducers on a sweep, or something very like it- getting them away from the noise of the carrying ship. Something similar had been done in the Great War, by the Americans in fact, but the idea had largely lain fallow until remembered and revived by the Submarine Service initially.

By this point Fairey had hit its' stride, the twin Tyne engined Fisher rotodyne starting to appear in the fleet, making itself too useful to ignore, and the District class had to either grow or look distinctly overloaded. Political pressures prevented much in the way of real growth, and what got left behind in the end was the anti- ship armament, no gun, no surface to surface missile capability- dependent on Sea Dart fired in surface to surface mode or antisubmarine rounds set to run shallow.

They represented the opposite end of the ongoing steam debate; while many in the admiralty still felt it had many years yet, the Districts were turbine engined, two shaft, separate cruising and sprinting engines- unlike the Counties, this time the upper end was got right. Adapted Avons for cruising, as reliable as a brick, and the consumption no object, performance at any price early military Olympus, derived from the version originally intended for TSR2, were replaced with the much more mature version of the same engine originally intended for Concorde.

They were indeed something special as regards speed- a conventional displacement hull could not really make full use of the power from twin Olympus 610, and the Admiralty never admitted to more than “over 30 knots” (hull design being complete and frozen before the engines were upgraded, for one thing), but when it came to patrol, peacekeeping, interdiction actions- the sort of thing that physical speed was good for- they could keep up with hydrofoils in anything more than a flat calm, and outrun most supposedly fast patrol boats. Unfortunately this was also the sort of mission that tended to need a gun. (in practice, top 38 knots nominal, 43 light draft and overload power, cruising endurance 8500nm at 20 knots.)

It was also very much at odds with the anti- submarine side of their mission, where quietness at low to medium speeds is paramount. It's quite hard to escape the conclusion that the District class did not entirely add up to a coherent whole; that they were designed in sections without mutual reference, and then the sections put together to see what happened.

4400 ton standard, low, compact superstructure, nearly had a midships helicopter pad- would have if operating something smaller; twin rail for thirty-two Sea Dart missiles forward, two directors (later refitted with a third), midships twin rail launcher for sixteen Blue Bone missiles, close in performance to the American SUBROC with fortunately more conventional options, a quad 30mm ER4 point defence set on each beam alongside the forward superstructure, a manually reloaded quad Sea Rapier each beam aft, and a large aft helicopter deck.



The Town class, four flotillas of thirty- two craft in total, completing 1972-77, were meant to get it right this time, and benefited from the solid state electronics revolution but more from some forethought and strong project management with the intent to produce a complete, rounded, multifunctional warship. Ideally. Within budgetary limits. More or less.
They grew a little, to 4,800 tons standard, shrank a little in crew size to 220 due to more mature turbine installations, and rather more in practical outfitting- acquiring a single 5.5”/64 RF mk III remote power turret forward of a twin rail Sea Dart launcher with forty horizontally- stored missiles, a tiered forward superstructure to allow a three director radar setup from the beginning, with four being preferable but not yet achievable; up to the point where they start interfering with each other, more is definitely better, but three seemed to be it- so far.
Quad 30mm ER4 revolver cannon- the whole setup achieving a rate of fire around 6800rpm- as the by now usual close defence mounts, the Town class marking the point where- by progressive refit- they reached autonomous status as point defence robots, alongside the bridge; initially planned for a combined installation of Sea Flash and Sea Rapier, they were the first to mount Sea Wolf in sextuple box launchers alongside the after structure;

antisubmarine missiles could be fired adequately from a rail launcher, but antiship missiles could not if they were to arrive in enough numbers to batter through the target's defences, and after several paper plans, two small clusters of vertical launch cells for larger rounds emerged as the best option, a twelve round bank on each beam alongside the funnel, each usually nine Blue Nizam and three Grey Swan missiles-

Blue Nizam having a deservedly short life as a ship launched missile though, a very stupid round (supposedly improved with solid state electronics- but so did the defences), very easily jammed, decoyed and confused. It made more sense from air launch, where the carrying aircraft could command guide it more of the way, but it was a dangerous thing to try an over the horizon shot with. Subsequently replaced by the larger but much more intelligent Blue Reiver.
Grey Swan began as a two stage Blue Bone, was kitbashed into a secondary antiship function, and then only mounted on ships that had SSM arrays anyway- in theory capable of 65nm, out to the second convergence zone.

Rather more attention paid to underwater hydrodynamics to reduce flow noise, still not practical to make the same optimisations on a general purpose destroyer as on a specifically sub- hunting frigate though; 35 knots trials speed, 31.5 deep load, engines tinkered with for fuel economy at that, first across what would have been the old cruiser deployment horizon- 10,200nm at 18kt;

retained the towed array, large helicopter pad aft with an odd sort of half- hangar, one end of the air detachment could be brought under cover and the other dependent on awnings. Rather dubious with something the size, weight and above all potential variety of loadout as a Fisher, more usually operated with one large or two medium helicopters.



The Shire class, four flotillas, thirty- two ships in total, commissioning 1980-85, were mostly evolutionary with one major step forwards; vertical launch systems predominated, around a blocky superstructure that was starting to look very like every other western AAW ship, as the American idea of phased array radars caught on and the structural requirements of such a thing tended to make them all quite difficult to distinguish by visual means. The basic difficulty in a ship with launchers fore and aft is where to put the flight facilities; shades of boat handling and spotting tops in funnel plumes, again, and the best theoretical solution was the one the navy kept ignoring, midships. In practise a hangar superstructure aft of the antiship launchers, with a forward bulkhead resistant enough to keep the tail flare out and the quarterdeck as landing pad, was what evolved.

5200 tons standard, gas turbine powered, single gun forward- 5.5”/64 RF mk III in a slightly improved turret mount, forty VL Sea Dart in array, three directors, two quad ER4 point defence mounts, midships alongside the funnels two twelve- cell VL Sea Wolf, twenty- four cell VL system aft for Grey Swan and Blue Reiver missiles (eight and sixteen, usually), large helicopter pad, usually operates two medium



Just as the design had stabilised, things got confusing again with the imminent obsolescence of Sea Dart and the appearance of two potential successors, completely incompatible one with the other. The Province class was originally proposed to mount Sea Arrow, potent but inordinately large and complex for a supposedly tactical missile, but the double ended, cruiser, Sea Arrow ship, Commonwealth class, was beginning to prove out the difficulties of that; probable that a destroyer would have a very limited loadout, perhaps only twenty rounds.
Sea Krait, based on a supersonic- airflow ramjet, Bristol's Njord (named for the norse god of the deep sea and patron of sailors going far away,) is a more natural successor perhaps, capable of being carried in sufficient numbers, but a more challenging development and a possibly considerably delayed system.
Either way the Province class are likely to be a new, larger hull, perhaps back in the 6,000-ton range, but sharing most of the secondary weapons, engines and systems with the otherwise satisfactory Shire class.


- - - - - - - - - - -
Smaller escorts;

it is simply not practical to cover the enormous multitude of antisubmarine and mine- warfare ships of the first and second world wars- there were thousands of them, in dozens of varieties, and most of them straightforward enough.

Most of the second world war escorts were vertical triple expansion, turbines only where available and very low priority, mostly antisubmarine, and generally a corvette was a single screw ship, about as fast as a large modern merchant, and a frigate was a twin screw ship that could maybe have kept up, for brief periods, with the Grand Fleet. Very few of them were worth keeping on in and of themselves, and they were only really a mechanism to allow hostilities only officers to retire gracefully.
The gun escorts, sloops and frigates usually, were anti- aircraft but also anti- coastal forces, usually equipped with high angle 4”, usually turbine powered, and somewhat more capable- the main difference being that a sloop was built to warship standards of structure and compartmentalization, a frigate to merchant standards; they tended to be retained longer.

In the missile and nuclear- submarine age, things did get a little more straightforward.


The first modern merchant- escort class were the Black Swan ASW frigates, which were actually batch three of the hull design, the earlier marks being refitted to the definitive standard- first produced 1951, last 1964; 2800 tons, a remarkably quiet turboelectric steam plant producing a top speed of 29 knots and a range of 5,500nm at 15kt, and surprisingly good habitability for a small escort; not quite RFA standard, but ahead of most of the fleet.
Armament was revised considerably- the definitive load, which most of them spent most of their careers operating with, was a single war- surplus 4.7”, either BL mark III in manned or QF mk XI in remote power control turret, a single arm Blue Duck launcher with eight rounds, medium helicopter deck and hangar aft, two twin 30mm close defence, twin arm Sea Flash launcher firing from the roof of the hangar with 24 rounds; crew of 160, well liked and useful.


The Castle class AAW frigates, 1968 onwards, were based on the Black Swan hull, same engine plant although less necessary for an anti- air ship, stretched forwards and slightly rearranged aft, and lost the gun, existing launcher and Sea Flash for a much more pared down outfit of twin rail and 28 Sea Dart, two directors, two of the lightweight, twin, 30mm CIWS, quad Sea Rapier firing from the hangar deckhead. Primarily meant as convoy escorts.


The Alacrity or A class ASW frigates, first built 1962 last 1970, were built around their flight facilities; starting with a pad, repair facilities, aviation fuel and magazines big enough to work a Fairey Fisher from, then seeing what the hull necessary for that made room for at the pointy end.
Not very much, as it turned out- they were quite minimalist, 2,700 ton ships, one quad ER4 mount above the hangar, eight round box launcher for Blue Bone forward, octuple Sea Rapier forward of that, almost all the work would have to be done by the rotodyne.
They were leaner manned in the engine room, being gas turbine ships- 28 knots maximum, 4800 nm at 16kt, but more compact and easier to look after than the Black Swans; but the number of flight crew more than made up for it.


The Broadsword or B class that followed them were less strictly flight optimised, larger and quieter, 3200 ton gas turbine/electric, gun armed- 4.7” QF mk XIV, a conveyor- fed automatic fairly similar to the 5.5”/64 RF mk III, and relying for longer range air defence on the later marks of Sea Flash then available which did have some head- on intercept capability, twin rail launcher and 24 rounds on the foredeck; large helicopter pad and hangar aft, arranged for two mediums, and equipped with the Orange Starling catapult- launched turbofan ASW drone, much more successful as a flying machine (being basically a kitbashed target drone) than the earlier and largely failed helicopter versions of the late fifties; could shoehorn two in, or replace one helicopter with four, and it was usually the helicopter's job to go and retrieve landed drones- they were fitted with flotation bags, that being much safer than either stopping to bring them aboard or rigging arrester wires to the helicopter pad.
They were lucky enough to coincide with the solid state electronics revolution, and major advances in sonar and radar signal processing; they received a new generation of sensors to take advantage of it, many of them being equipped as escort flotilla leaders and the newer kit being progressively backfitted to older vessels.


The Loch class AAW frigates are based on a Broadsword hull with flight facilities replaced by the primary weapon, Sea Tiger. Whether this genuinely counts as antiaircraft is debatable; whether it works considerably more so. The acquisition and guidance radars are oversized and look somewhat comical on a frigate, and the entire thing is basically a treaty loophole- a floating point defence ABM battery. They retain the gun and Sea Flash, but have no aviation facilities, and cause considerable concern among the anti- atomic types, considering Sea Tiger's warhead. With everything else except the bombers there is at least a maybe, but the Loch class are the most protested against ships in the Navy. (Just as well they kept the gun, really.)


The Cumberland or C class are larger and just after the navy had come up with a really useful frigate- class gun, they decided to do away with it again, they are open ocean convoy escorts and rationalised to that end. Engine layout is combined diesel- electric cruising and creeping engines, sprinting gas turbines, as usual the gearbox is complicated, expensive and of about the same criticality as the keel, lose it and write the ship off. They are extensively quieted, oddly thorough for what started as an economy design. 3600 ton ships, 31 knots maximum, 7200nm at 15kt, large helicopter pad aft and hangar set up for two medium helicopters- Lynx being the standard medium, 12000lb being the reference weight, 'heavy' being nominally up to 24,000lb, light a nominal 8000lb and the overall trend only being upwards; octuple Sea Rapier aft above the hangar, octuple box launcher for Blue Bone forwards of the bridge, sextuple Sea Wolf forward of that, any shooting needing done would necessarily be by the helicopters.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 5:03 pm 
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A marvellous amount of detail; I'll have to add more on the weekend, but brilliant stuff as always.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:48 am 
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Agree with that. Always impressed with the level of detail in this factoid files.

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