Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Choices for CSC Design?

A local paper has apparently just cottoned on to the possibility that an existing foreign ship design will be the basis for the proposed Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC). I had thought it had been public knowledge for some time now, but to be fair, they are having a bit of a staffing issue right now. 

The CSC ships are intended to replace the RCN's IROQUOIS class destroyers and HALIFAX class frigates. The former were refitted in the 1990s as AAW destroyers, and the latter were primarily designed as ASW frigates during the cold war, but were also fairly well rounded general purpose frigates that have become more so after their ongoing FELEX refit program.

Last remaining IROQUOIS class destroyer in commission, HMCS ATHABASKAN.
HALIFAX class frigate HMCS CHARLOTTETOWN, in her post-FELEX refit configuration. 
A number of the potential CSC candidates have visited Halifax over the last few years, with some of the visits possibly deliberate opportunities for the RCN to see them up close. I have managed to photograph a number of the candidates over the years, and it is as good a time as any to look back over them. I'm not up on the merits of each design, nor the RCN's specific requirements, so this will be mainly about the photos (but I will interject with ill-informed comments as I see fit).

The RCN requires as many as 15 ships, with a split between ships fitted for area air warfare (AAW) and general purpose / anti-submarine warfare (GP / ASW). Cost will be a big driver, as will the ease with which the design can be licensed to be built in Canada. Presumably it is a plus to have a design that is easily modified between the two versions required by the RCN, and even better if they are modular ships that can be easily reconfigured to suit the requirements of the moment. For instance, if a ship carrying the AAW fit goes into refit, perhaps the AAW hardware can be transferred to another ship previously configured as a GP ship. This flexibility would presumably come at a premium, however. 

I personally suspect the two leading candidates are the French/Italian FREMM type frigates, and the Danish combination of IVER HUITFELDT / ABSALON classes. 

FREMM class frigate FNS AQUITAINE.
FREMM class frigate FNS AQUITAINE.
FNS AQUITAINE was here in April 2013, the first visit for this class of ship. While good looking ships, I can't help but think they look a bit dainty, though the French surely know how to build seaworthy warships so that may be a bit misleading. They also look smaller than their Danish counterparts.

I tend to prefer the appearance of the Danish ships, but appearance doesn't necessarily translate into capability. The AAW version, the IVER HUITFELDT class, uses the APAR phased array radar system whose development Canada helped to fund quite a few years ago. In fact, sixteen years ago I assumed the same APAR / SMART-L radar fit when I created renderings for a then-rumoured AAW version of the Halifax class frigate (that never came to pass).

Rumoured PROVINCE class rendering. © Sandy McClearn.
A number of the Danish ships have also been here over the last several years.

HDMS ABSALON during the RCN's centennial celebrations.
HDMS ABSALON during the RCN's centennial celebrations.

A view over the foc'st'le of HDMS ABSALON.
HDMS ABSALON from aft.
While NIELS JUEL above has a single helicopter hangar, the basic design can accommodate twin hangars, as seen above in ABSALON. The Danish ships are compatible with the Danish Navy's StanFlex modular mission payload system, which allows for the easy swapping in and out of some systems.

Two other classes of European frigates also carry the APAR / SMART-L combination: the German Navy's F124 SACHSEN class and the Dutch Navy's DE ZEVEN PROVINCIEN class. I have not managed to capture images of the latter ships (in a strange twist, two of which carry reused 5" gun mounts from the RCN's pre-TRUMP IROQUOIS class destroyers), but the former has been here before. The Geman ships also have a near cousin in the F123 BRANDENBURG class, a GP frigate design.

FG Ships HESSEN (left) and FRANKFURT AM MAIN (right).
A possible in for the German ships is the fact that the RCN has already selected the German Navy's BERLIN class AOR (one of which is seen above) as the replacement for the PROTECTEUR class ships. A drawback would be that the BRANDENBURG class ships on which they are based were commissioned around the same time as the RCN's existing HALIFAX class frigates, which CSC is supposed to replace. The basic design is therefore a bit long in the tooth.

Other ships that might be considered might be the Spanish Navy's F100 ALVARO DE BAZAN class, which has also been selected as the basis of the RAN's new HOBART class destroyers. The F100 class is also the basis for the Norwegian Navy's FRIDTJOF NANSEN class ships. The latter have visited Halifax on a number of occasions.

The Spanish ships, and their derivatives, use the US Navy's SPY phased array radars and AEGIS combat system. I also have photos of a few less likely candidates, such as the USN's Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), of which I have captured two members. In their current configuration these ships are not suitable for the CSC program, but their builder has proposed a modified version to Saudi Arabia recently, and might so something similar for CSC. The Saudis, it should be noted, have recently rejected their LCS-derived proponent - due to cost I believe. I therefore believe that someone would have to seriously sharpen their pencils to have these ships considered for CSC. Never mind the ongoing problems with (and criticism of) both classes of LCS currently in service with the USN.

LCS class member USS FREEDOM.

LCS class member USS MILWAUKEE.
Another option I saw mentioned at one point would be a modified version of the US Coast Guard's National Security Cutter (NSC), the Legend Class ships. This is another paper proposal that I don't think has much chance of success.

One final potential proponent would be the Type 26 frigates proposed for the Royal Navy. These ships have not yet been built, so I have no photos. The RN's other recent ships, the DARING class AAW destroyers, are probably too expensive to be an option. Plus, I think they are rather ugly.

I don't think the British ships have much chance of being selected. The Type 26 ships are years away from hitting the water, and as a paper design, carry more risk than an existing, proven, design. For this reason I suspect the French and Danish ships (and to a lesser extent, the German, Dutch, and Spanish designs) have the edge here. These are all relatively recent designs, some of which are still being built for their country's navies, but have been proven to varying extents through actual service. Proven designs present less risk to a procurement program, especially one so historically apt to go over budget as a shipbuilding procurement program. The CSC program is already going through budgetary challenges before (and perhaps partly because) a design has even been chosen, so this will be a big consideration.

It should be noted that all of the above is merely my opinion, and as I have no inside knowledge of the procurement program in particular or shipbuilding in general, my opinions should be taken with a large grain of salt.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Working in India: Ponda Views (Part 4)

One of the great things of living in the Himalayas (or at least their foothills) for two years was the views that greeted me every morning when I left my room in Ponda for work. Views like this:

Looking southwest from my room at Ponda.
And the winter version:

Ponda view in winter. Precipitation would fall as rain below the snow line.
In the two photos above, you can see a large bare patch at the bottom, just to right of centre. This is a large landslide. Just above the bare area, several abandoned houses still stand, amidst what I suspect is the remains of a small apple orchard. The snow-covered area up and slightly to the left is another, smaller, landslide. Landslides were common, and frequently interfered with the roads and telecommunications to the area. Here is a closer look at the slide:

Large landslide seen from Ponda. It has grown over in the years since it occured.
Following are some of the other views from, and around, the Ponda camp where I lived for two years.

Wisps of fog would often stream over tops of ridges on the mountains around us.

View looking north over the expatriate camp. The camp was built on the side of the hill, and required several lines of retaining wall to provide enough level space for the camp.

Close-up of the mountain ridge in the background of the previous image.

A young boy poses for a photo with the mountain south of Ponda in the background.
Large fire across the valley from Ponda.
Man-made forest fires were not an uncommon sight in the spring, as local residents tried to renew the grazing areas for their sheep and goats by burning the grasses. These fires often got out of hand, like this one, and continued on into adjacent wooded areas and could burn for days. In the absence of wind from the sides, the fires would tend to go straight up the mountain until they ran out of fuel near the top or where the treeline ended, whichever came first. This fire was just south of Ponda Camp, but on the opposite side of the valley, and was probably the largest fire that I witnessed during my time in India. Goats and their human keepers were some of the most destructive forces in the Himalayas, besides Mother Nature herself. The goats would strip hillsides of vegetation, causing severe erosion, and their owners would light fires like the above. Trees would sometimes be killed by these fires, and when the dead trees could no longer hold onto the side of the mountain, they would sometimes come tumbling down. In one case while I was there, one of these falling trees hit a bus on NH 22, and knocked it over the side killing (if I remember correctly) upwards of 20 people. The driver who took me back to camp that night had passed the accident and tried to help - his shirt was spotted in blood when he returned to the office.

Satluj River looking north east from Sholding. The green water of winter would give way to increasingly brown waters in the spring and summer, as the river went from maybe 300 cubic metres per second to roughly 2000, and sometimes up to 8000 cubic metres per second in a flood.

One of many sunsets I witnessed there.

Power transmission lines take power west from one of the hydroelectric projects further up the river.

Bands of cloud made for interesting photography on many occasions.
While I don't miss the isolation, I do miss these views.

HMCS TORONTO tour - Propulsion Machinery

HMCS TORONTO in January 2015, returning from her last deployment prior to her mid-life refit.
As the last HALIFAX class frigate to enter the midlife FELEX refit program on the East Coast, TORONTO was the last ship of the class here in Halifax remaining more or less in her original configuration. She was therefore my last opportunity to photograph the interior of this class of ship for posterity prior to some fairly major changes.

The propulsion plant of the HALIFAX class represents somewhat of a departure from earlier RCN surface warships. The three earlier classes (Tribal, St. Laurent family, & IROQUOIS) were fitted with two pairs of steam or gas turbines, for cruise and boost power (though in the case of the ST. LAURENT class, they were designed with cruise turbines that were either later removed or not fitted at all to later ships of the class). The HALIFAX class, while retaining two gas turbines for high speed, uses a single diesel engine for fuel efficient operation at cruising speeds. They also have a unique gearbox arrangement to allow a CODOG (Combined Diesel or Gas) arrangement. I believe these ships were the first RCN warships to use diesel propulsion since a batch of BANGOR class minesweepers commissioned during the Second World War.

Also unlike previous ships, the cruise and boost powerplants are installed in separate compartments. The propulsion diesel is situated in the aft engine room, and the gas turbines are fitted in the forward (and larger) engine room along with three gearboxes. 

While I was doing my tour, the diesel propulsion engine was actually being dismantled piece by piece and removed through a hole in the deck. 

Looking down into the aft engine room.
Looking down into the aft engine room, but from one deck lower.
A series of "soft patches" in the various decks above the engine room can be removed to allow the removal of engine components. We were there just in time to see one of the turbo-chargers being lifted out. In contrast, I believe the gas turbines can actually be removed more or less in one piece, up through the funnel - thought it requires disassembly of the enclosures and trunking. This has allowed gas turbines to be replaced in foreign ports during the extended deployment of some ships.

Turbo-charger being removed by FMF Cape Scott personnel. A turbine on the exhaust stream powers a compressor that increases the amount of combustion air in the diesel's 20 cylinders, allowing the engine to produce more power.
As I recall, SEMT-Pielstick (recently rebranded as MAN Diesel) designed the 20-cylinder, 8,800 shp, propulsion diesel specifically for this class of ship - I don't know if it has been used anywhere else. This led to some teething issues early in the life of the class. The engine is normally hidden inside an enclosure, but during my visit the enclosure was opened up and the engine partly torn down. (Clarification: the engine block itself was not removed, but the engine was stripped down prior to the refit.)

Partly torn down Pielstick diesel inside its enclosure. To the left of the photo is the forward bulkhead.

The yellow-and-black port propeller shaft runs aft in the aft engine room. I had wanted a good picture of the "El Diablo" artwork seen here in the background, but unfortunately the enclosure panel it was on was the one removed to access the diesel, and was partly obscured. It appears in a Combat Camera video taken during one of TORONTO's extended deployments just prior to her refit.
The diesel's drive shaft leaves the engine and heads to the forward engine room, where it intersects with the centreline of the ship's Royal Schelde cross connect gearbox. The cross connect gearbox allows the single diesel to drive both propellers.

Sketch showing my understanding of the ship's propulsion layout. (P) = Port, (S) = Starboard, PD = Propulsion Diesel, PGT = Propulsion Gas Turbine, Prop = Propeller, GB = Gearbox, CCGB = Cross Connect Gearbox, ER = Engine Room. The dashed line represents a bulkhead.
Looking forward in the forward engine room. The Royal Schelde cross-connect gearbox is in the immediate foreground, while the port and starboard gearboxes and gas turbines are partly hidden behind piping.
In the forward engine room, there are two General Electric LM2500 gas turbines that provide 47,500 shp to take the ship up to 30+ knots. They are installed side by side immediately forward of their port and starboard gearboxes. Aft of the port and starboard gearboxes is the Royal Schelde cross-connect gearbox, from which the propeller shafts exit. The gearbox setup is intended to allow the following configurations:
  • diesel engine driving either or both shafts
  • port gas turbine driving either or both shafts
  • starboard gas turbine driving either or both shafts
  • both gas turbines driving both shafts simultaneously.
In a CODOG powerplant, propulsion diesel and gas turbines can not power the propellers at the same time.
Port gearbox looking forward.
Starboard gearbox looking forward, with the back end of the gas turbine enclosure visible.
In the event of engine or gearbox failure, considerable redundancy is provided. Some examples:

  • If the diesel engine fails, either or both gas turbines can be used for propulsion. 
  • If either gas turbine fails, either the diesel or the remaining gas turbine can provide propulsion.
  • If the cross connect gearbox fails, the gas turbines can be used through the port and starboard gearboxes (although they are dedicated to a single propeller shaft). 
  • If either or both port and starboard gearboxes fail, the diesel engine can still work through the cross-connect gearbox, or a remaining gas turbine can work through its gearbox.
  • If either propeller or shaft experiences problems, power can be routed to the remaining shaft.
I'm sure there are additional failure modes here that I have not considered. Machinery in previous classes of warships were designed to operate with partial submersion of the engine room, so these ships may also be so designed (although the diesel and gas turbines of modern warships may or may not be more susceptible to submersion than the steam turbines of previous warships). The engines are all shock mounted which also reduces sound transmission.

Looking forward, the starboard propeller shaft leaving the cross-connect gearbox.
Port propeller shaft leaving the cross-connect gearbox. When the ship pulls into port, and stops her engines, the ship's company holds a 50/50 lottery on which number each shaft will stop on, with part of the proceeds going to charity.
Port propeller shaft looking aft.
The GE LM2500 gas turbines belong to one of the most widely-used families of marine gas turbines. I once heard an RCN commander comment in the mid-2000s that he was surprised that GE got the contract, where such things normally go to the lowest bidder, and the LM2500's had been so reliable to that time. They are installed inside enclosures that provide sound and fire isolation, to prevent detection by sonar and provide a measure of containment in the event of fire. There are fire suppression systems inside each enclosure.

Looking aft between the two gas turbine enclosures. The two doors visible access the interior of the enclosures.
Looking through a window in the enclosure at the compressor stages of the starboard LM2500 gas turbine.
As with the IROQUOIS class that I have written about earlier, the cruise and main engines can be controlled locally (via the local control panel in the aft end of the forward engine room), from the machinery control room (MCR), or from the bridge. 

Looking to starboard along the catwalk at the aft end of the forward engine room, with the local control panel to the right.
Head-on photo of the local control panel.
The local control panel in the forward engine room is part of the Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS). This panel can control and monitor many pieces of equipment, from the three engines and three gearboxes, as well as the hydraulics for the controllable pitch propellers. If you look at the top of the panel, you can see the schematic outlines of the two gas turbines, with the various gearboxes outlines below.

As with the previous IROQUOIS class, the HALIFAX class has two controllable pitch (CP) propellers. The propeller blades can be controlled to provide different degrees of forward or reverse thrust. The engines, and in particular the gas turbines, generally have speeds at which they are more efficient than others. The propellers allow the engines to be kept within their most efficient operating parameters, by controlling the propeller pitch rather than the engine speed. The CP props are also useful in transitioning to reverse thrust - gas turbines only spin in one direction.

Although many systems are being replaced as part of the mid-life FELEX refit, the engines and gearboxes shown here will continue to propel these ships into the third decade of this century.