- Various, edited by Conrad waters
Richard Beedall provides an insightful look at the RN in its ‘year of the Navy,’ and his assessment is to the point. Despite ambitious big-ticket programmes such as ASTUTE, DREADNOUGHT, QUEEN ELIZABETH, Lightning 2 and Type 26/31 escorts, and lots of innovation in terms of unmanned platform development, the RN continues to suffer from insufficient platforms and crewing for its commitments.
Mrtiyunjoy Mazumdar has contributed a particularly relevant and timely article on the Republic of Korea Navy. Recent posturing by Trump and Kim Jong-Un and the continuing rise of China have tended to mask South Korea’s growth as a major regional power. The ongoing naval arms race in the Pacific Rim, particularly the submarine arms race, features heavy South Korean investment and rapid development. The key example that Mazumdar brings forward is their newly-constituted submarine command, currently fielding 1980s-era Type 209 conventional submarines, being replaced by Type 214 air independent propulsion (AIP) submarines, to be replaced in turn by indigenously designed and built AIP submarines. The ROKN lost a surface combatant to their Northern adversary in 2010, and are constantly threatened by aggressive unconventional submarine operations. They are serious about submarine warfare.
Vessel class studies for the 2018 edition include the ARLEIGH BURKE-class destroyer, the German F125 ‘stabilisation’ type BADEN-WURTTENBURG-class frigates and the Royal New Zealand Navy OTAGO-class multirole Offshore Patrol Vessels. The US Navy continues to adapt and upgrade existing designs where possible to offset the eye-watering costs of developing new platforms and capabilities. The German Navy has moved further towards a global reach with the large and capable multi-role F125, very similar in design ethos to the Danish IVAR HUIDFELDT, while the OTAGO-class is a niche OPV design intended to support the RNZN’s unique demands and operational environment. Both the F125 and the OTAGO projects have embraced lean crewing and high levels of automation to ensure high levels of utilisation, with the RNZN operating a 2 crew system to each vessel along the lines of a missile submarine’s ‘BLUE’ and ‘GOLD’ crews, while the FGN has adopted an 8 crew system similar to the Royal Navy’s Mine Countermeasures flotilla, where several crews rotate through training and deployment. In addition, both the F125 and the OTAGO programs have seen fairly ruthless decisions taken about which capabilities have been added and which have been deleted; the F125s lack any meaningful ASW capability and the OTAGOs have minimal armament.
Lean manning, recruitment and retention challenges, soaring programme costs and the budgetary need to prioritise what capabilities are fitted to platforms - these are the key issues that are captured over and over again in SWNR 2018. 5/5 mushroomheads for the lucid, varied and detailed Seaforth World Naval Review 2018, which remains an affordable cornerstone of well-balanced insight.