Type Designation: Landing Platform Dock (LPD)
Guns: 2 Goalkeeper CIWS; 2 single 20mm GAM-BO1 guns
Programmes: A decision was taken in mid-1991 to replace both existing LPD's. Project definition studies by YARD completed in February 1994
after a years delay caused by attempts to introduce commercial
shipbuilding standards without compromising safety. Invitations to
tender were issued to VSEL and Yarrow on 18 August 1994 with an
additional tender package to Vosper Thornycroft in November 1994.
In March 1995 it was announced that only VSEL would bid, the contract to
build the ships was awarded on 18 July 1996.
Known as Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) (LPD(R)), these ships are replacements for HMS Fearless and Intrepid which have been in service since 1965 and 1967 respectively.
Albion’s primary function is to embark, transport, and deploy and recover (by air and sea) troops and their equipment, vehicles and miscellaneous cargo, forming part of an Amphibious Assault Force. When the ships enter service they will provide the Joint Rapid Reaction Force with effective amphibious capabilities, including heavy lift, and provide a base from which the Commander Land Force (CLF) and 3 Commando Brigade can rapidly deploy into theatre to conduct a wide range of amphibious operations. The ships will also to act as the afloat command platform for the Commander Amphibious Task Group (COMATG), which includes operational command of both the naval task group and the land forces while embarked. These vessels will form the centrepiece of UK amphibious assault efforts and will provide a platform for the planning, command, control and communication of amphibious operations. Major improvements over the existing ships include much more extensive command, control and communications equipment and higher off-load speed due to improved troop handling arrangements.
Although a design specification contract was awarded to YARD Ltd as far back as 1991, there has been continuous delays to the program, mainly due to budget restrictions as the cost of the original design was priced by shipbuilders at £373 million, far in excess of the MoD's budget. There then followed very lengthy efforts to reduce the cost to within budget by a combination of cutting corners, cutting capability (e.g. the hanger was deleted), adopting off-the-shelf commercial items and construction standards, and tough negotiation. A contract valued at £449 million for the design, build and support of two ships was finally awarded to Marconi Electronic Systems, Marconi Marine (VSEL) Ltd (now part of BAE Systems) on 18th July 1996. Including separately procured items, cost increases and inflation, the actual final cost of the two ships was expected to be about £631 million - Albion £359 million and Bulwark £272 million. In March 2003 the government stated: "The maximum estimated cost to the Ministry of Defence at contract award of the Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) programme was £819 million, including the associated landing craft; the current estimated cost to the MOD is £790 million. The Prime Contractor has reported losses on the LPD(R) programme but there will be no additional costs to the MOD under the contract." The £790 million figure was the expected total cost to the MOD of the LPD(R) capability including design and development costs, landing craft, and all command, control and communications systems ordered under separate contracts. The actual, final, 2004 figure was slightly higher.
The two ships were both built at the BAE Systems Marine (ex-Marconi Marine (VSEL)) shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. First steel was cut for HMS Albion in November 1997 and unit fabrication began in February 1998. The "keel" of HMS Albion was symbolically laid down on 23rd May 1998 and 5 of the 7 large block modules she's assembled from were constructed in the covered Devonshire Dock Hall before being moved out for assembly on the slipway.
At the time of ordering it was stated that Albion would enter in to service (ISD) in March 2002 and Bulwark in March 2003. Unfortunately construction work was soon badly behind schedule and by January 2000 their official ISD's had slipped to 31 March 2003 and December 2003 respectively (12 and 9 months late).
HMS Albion was launched on March 9, 2001. In early November 2001 the MOD asked BAE Systems to expedite the completion of HMS Albion, and 180 people working on Bulwark were transferred to Albion with the hope improving her ISD by at least 7 weeks. Although this was not achieved, HMS Albion continued to have priority over Bulwark until her completion.
HMS Albion finally put to sea to begin her Phase 1 of Contractors Sea Trials on 16 December 2002, and was handed over to the Royal Navy at Devonport on 4 April 2003 and formally commissioned by the Princess Royal on 19 June 2003. She is currently completing the Safety and Readiness Check, trials and operational training process, with an expected In-Service Date (ISD) of July 2003. In early February 2003 her Commanding Officer was quoted by the BBC as saying : "The focus at the moment is for the work to be completed and the crew to finish their training. .... it is fair to say we are some way from being fully operational yet. More than 60% of the equipment on the ship is new to naval service. Achieving operational status by the end of July  will be challenging enough".
HMS Bulwark was launched on 15 November 2001. At that time she was scheduled to commence sea trials in February 2003 but additional delays to her completion due to the priority given to HMS Albion meant that they did not begin until 31 March 2004. She was delivered and commissioned in 12 July 2004, and entered service in December 2004.
The LPD(R)s have a standard displacement (fully manned and stored) of 14,600t, and the full load displacement (with fuel, ammunition, stores, water) is over 18,000t. The fully-integrated diesel electric propulsion system will be capable of speeds of about 17 knots. Each LPD has a complement of 325 crew, including crew for the landing craft, 20% of the accommodation will be suitable for female crew members. Each ship will have a military lift capacity of 305 embarked military personnel, or up to 700 assault troops for short periods, together with all equipment and up to 6 main battle tanks, 6 light guns and 67 vehicles and trailers.The two-spot 64m long flight deck supports operation of two medium support helicopters such as the Command Sea King HC.4 and can take Chinook and Harrier aircraft. The LPD(R) will also be able to operate the future Support Amphibious and Battlefield Rotocraft (SABR) which is due to enter service in 2008. No hangar is provided, however the design does include provision for deck stowage of a third medium helicopter and equipment needed to support aircraft operations such as Flight Service Control, Ground Support Equipment Handlers/ Maintainers Ready Room, and an Aircrew Briefing Room.
Each LPD(R) carries four Landing Craft Utility (LCU) Mk10 in a floodable dock and four Landing Craft Vehicle & Personnel (LCVP) Mk5 on davits. The docking system is located at the stern of the ship. Flooding of the docking area which is normally dry is achieved by ballasting the stern of the ship which allows the landing craft to float. When the ship is berthed vehicles can also disembark through the side ports.
The design and build contract for ten Mk 10 LCUs was placed with BAeSEMA (now part of BAE Systems) at Glasgow in May 1998. The craft were to built by Ailsa-Troon in their shipyard on the Clyde under a £20 million sub-contract, however the yard went in to liquidation after delivering only the first two. In November 2000 the contract for the remaining 8 units was re-awarded to BAE Systems Govan at a revised cost to the MoD of £30 million! Each LCU is 30m in length and displaces about 170 tonnes light, 240 tonnes fully laden. Typical payloads include a main battle tank such as the Challenger Mk II; or four High Vehicle Equivalents; or 120 troops and two over-snow vehicles; or equipment and vehicles. Payloads can be taken from either the LPD(R) to other amphibious shipping, or to the shore.
These will be the first RN LCUs to have a drive-through, roll-on, roll-off capability, which will greatly increase the speed and ease of loading and unloading of vehicles. The programme involved the design, build and trailing of the first two prototype craft, which were delivered in November 1999. The trials were conducted at the Amphibious Trials and Training Unit Royal Marines (ATTURM), Instow, North Devon and ended in early 2002 with interface trials (right) with the still building HMS Albion. Upon completion of evaluation the craft were returned for modifications. Following acceptance of the design, work on the final eight production LCUs commenced with deliveries planned between December 2001 and February 2003.
HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark also each carry four Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel Mark 5 (LCVP Mk 5), 12 were ordered from FBM Babcock Marine Ltd at the Rosyth Royal Dockyard, near Edinburgh, on the 6 August 2001 in a contract valued at £9 million. An earlier batch of the vessels has already proved highly successful during operations from the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean.
The LCVP Mk5 is carried on davits on the superstructure of the ships. The LCVP Mk 5 is constructed of aluminium and is expected to have a service life of about 20 years. The LCVP's have a maximum loaded displacement of 24 tonnes. They are 15.7m long and have a breadth of 4.3 m. They have a top speed of 24 knots and a range of 210 nautical miles. They are crewed by three Royal Marines and can carry a Royal Marines Commandos rifle troop of 35 men or two light trucks.
Integral to the role of the LPD(R) as the Command Ship of an integrated amphibious force, the ship will be fitted with comprehensive command, control and communications systems, including: the GEC-Marconi ADAWS 2000 Combat Management System (CMS), the Command Support System (CSS), the Integrated Communications System (ICS) and the Marconi Scot Satellite Communication System.
The ICS provides integrated internal and external communications system which will facilitate effective communications between sea, air and land forces. A cut-down version will be fitted in the LCU Mk 10. The initial ICS contract, valued at £35 million, was awarded to Redifon MEL and its consortium partners BAe Defence Systems and Thomson-CNI in August 1994, the production contract in July 1996.
The contract for the CSS was awarded to EDS Defence Ltd in May 1996. The CSS is to be fitted throughout the Royal Navy fleet and also in some operational land-based headquarters. The LPD command support system fit will comprise 73 workstations with the latest full colour flat-screen display technology for use by the staffs of COMTAG and CLF. The software is Windows based and the system design is based on commercial off the shelf hardware. The CSS system is compatible with the Joint Services Command System at Northwood.
Alongside these systems is the ship’s own ADAWS 2000 command system, which has six workstations and is a development of those in service on Invincible class carriers. It controls the operation of the ship’s weapons and sensors to provide a sophisticated self defence capability.
Key improvements over the Fearless class ships include:
The ships are based at Devonport.
Last revised: 19th December, 2004
© 2004-10 Richard Beedall unless otherwise indicated.