Surface Forces: March 10, 2004

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Having taken a lesson from the near-sinking of USS Cole by an inflatable boat packed with explosive, the UK's Ministry of Defence (MOD) is stepping-up defenses aboard its frigates and destroyers against such attacks. The MOD is about to release an industry invitation to tender for a contract to replace existing small caliber weapons on its Type 42 destroyers and Type 23 frigates with new weapons to combat this growing threat. Since the attack on Cole, the French oil tanker Limburg and a number of other vessels have also been the target of terrorist aggression. Attacks by "boatbombs" against UK and US warships moving through the Strait of Gibraltar remain a concern.

Indications are that the most appropriate solution for Type 42 Destroyers would be the 20mm Phalanx 1B computer controlled automatic cannon, and for Type 23 Frigates, an automated 30mm gun. The Phalanx already fitted to T42s are principally for defense against anti-ship missiles. T42s currently have two Phalanx fitted, and the aim is to upgrade these to Phalanx 1B, incorporating a Thermal Imaging System. Type 23s currently have two 30mm guns fitted, and these will be replaced by the new procurement. Phalanx is not fitted to the T23s, so replacing the 30mm guns would be the most cost effective solution.

Other classes of ship may also get these upgrades, but none were mentioned by name. MOD is also looking to acquire a number of remote-control targets probably specially- configured rigid-hull inflatable boats -- for use in training crews to defend their ships against not only terrorist boats but the fast attack craft deployed by many Third World navies. The new weapons are to be installed by December 2005. The estimated cost is will be $110 million. -- K.B. Sherman

 


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