Last week saw the official launch (BBC News) of HMS Dauntless, the second of the state-of-the-art Type 45 air defence destroyer. This follows almost exactly a year after the launch of the first ship, HMS Daring, which is due to enter into service with the UK Royal Navy in 2009.
The Type 45 destroyer will replace the ageing Type 42 destroyers (such as HMS Gloucester which successfully performed an air defence role in the Gulf War), and will provide significantly greater capability, including providing close in-shore air defence cover to land forces. Type 45 achieves these capabilities through a number of state-of-the-art technologies: the SAMPSON Multi-Function Radar (MFR), the sophisticated Principal Anti-Air Missile Systems (PAAMS), and advanced sonar and countermeasures, and signature reduction technology. (I will resist the temptation to bore you with the finer points of the technical details, but I will recommend the following web pages on the Wikipedia, Royal Navy and Naval Technology websites).
The Type-45 development and construction programme will last over ten years, and the ships are likely to remain in service for around twenty-five years, which raises some interesting questions:
How can Type 45 enter into service with state-of-the-art technology when it has been in development and construction for ten years?
How will Type 45 maintain its technological advantage through its in-service life time?
Of course, many long-term A&D programmes have already faced similar issues, but Type 45 has been designed for future capability upgrade; and is also proactively addressing technology obsolescence through planned technology refresh cycles. These approaches sound simple in principle, but can present significant challenges in the practice, especially when when technologies which are regarded as state-of-the-art today can become legacy burdens in years to come; but the adoption of an appropriate standards-based approach to hardware and software systems (as discussed by Alex Wilson in this blog) can aid backwards-compatibility and interoperability to help overcome these issues.
I’ll be looking forward to the Type 45’s entering service.