Thiarian Cruisers and destroyers – modern era
C. 1980 - 2020
1. D-Class destroyers
During the oil boom years from 1973 through 1983, Thiaria quadrupled her naval budget. Two new large aircraft carriers were demanded in 1980, along with four large AAW destroyers to escort them, alongside the four C-class ships already available. While the carrier programme went through several modifications and did not really take off until 1985, the escort programme ran smoothly and on schedule. A design prioritizing range and seakeeping was drawn up in 1980. It betrayed some knowledge of the contemporary Soviet Udaloy-class, resembling it in size, underwater hull shape and dimensions (if marginally bigger), but differing in most detail solutions and specializing in another kind of mission. Particulars were:
Displacement: 7.050 ts standard, 8.600 ts full load
LOA: 164,75 m
Beam: 19,50 m
Draught: 6,15 m mean without sonar dome, 7,65 m deep load, 9,45 m maximum including sonar dome
Machinery: Two-shaft CODAG: Four CLTI RT2C-1 gas turbines (64.000 shp), coupled to four Nairn D34N-1D diesels (28.800 bhp), total power 92.800 shp
Design Speed: 30 knots
Range: 8.000 nm @ 20 kts
Unlike the Udaloys, which had an all gas turbine powerplant, the Thiarian destroyers employed a rather complicated, but very efficient CODAG-plant. The gas turbines were the same as in the Treighdin-class carriers, but only half as many; on Diesels alone, 20 knots could be achieved. The different powerplant reflected in uptake arrangement, which was asymmetrical, as on contemporary US and Japanese ships, and occupied less space as on Udaloy. Design speed was somewhat reduced compared to previous types, matching the 30 knots of the carriers, but was exceeded both on trials and in service; designed range was unusually large at 8.000 nm. The very large, high-boarded hull was flush-decked; habitability was much better as on previous ships, as they needed less crew than their partly steam-powered and less automated predecessors. Seakeeping was excellent due to high freeboard and two pairs of retractable fin stabilizers. They were the first Thiarian destroyers with helicopter facilities built into the design; two spacious hangars arranged side by side opened to a large flight deck, under which a modern VDS and a towed torpedo decoy were stowed. Helicopter complement was two Kamov Ka-25, but considerably larger helos could be accommodated. Forward of the flight deck, two 20-round ZIF-122 launchers (copied without license) firing R7S-2 missiles were arranged side by side, providing close air defense; they were controlled by two integrated directors between them, in a staggered arrangement that covered the side and rear arcs; they had a blind area forward of about 120°. The aft funnel was offset to starboard, the forward one offset to port; the boats were stowed beside the funnels on the respective opposite sides. Between the funnels, two triple 400mm ASW torpedo tubes provided close range ASW muscle, and four MM38 Exocet launch canisters offered a secondary anti-surface capability. Gunnery comprised a single fully automatic Trenhaile LC47T-1 130mm L/60 gun forward, a very powerful piece offering a spectacular ROF of 40 rounds per minute. Appearances notwithstanding, it is not a single-barrel copy of the Soviet AK-130, but rather a linear upscale of the French 100mm Mle.1968 Compact, using domestically developed long-range ammunition allowing for a surface range of 48 kilometers. This is useful only for shore bombardments; effective range against surface targets is 24.000 meters, and 16.000 meters against air targets (elevation 85°maximum). The magazine holds 400 rounds. Close defence is provided by four Trenhaile LC38T-3 20mm guns (cyclic ROF 2.000 rounds/minute) in modified Soviet AK-230 turrets. Main armament of the class is a twin launch system for the SCI R11S-1 air defence missile, fed from a 48-round magazine developed from the Soviet B-187A launcher and operating on a similar principle. The missile is an all-domestic Thiarian development; it was originally based on the Soviet Buk (SA-6) system, but as completed bears little resemblance to it. It is two-staged and capable of a maximum range of 40 nm at Mach 4; ceiling is 20.000 meters. Guidance was originally semi-active radar with a backup IR sensor; track-via-missile guidance was introduced with the R11S-3 version of 1993, offering much improved ECM resistance and enabling the system to engage multiple targets simultaneously. The ship’s masts were arranged along the centerline. The aft mast carried the commo array, the ECM system (still a rather clumsy update of a Soviet Original), two of four CIWS directors, two SATCOM antennae and the electronically scanned 3D air surveillance and target acquisition radar. The lower foremast carried the other two CIWS directors, a SATNAV antenna, a long-range air search radar, a navigation radar and a surface search radar. The directors for the R11S missiles were staggered atop the bridge structure, with the 130mm gun director in a dome forward of them. Alongside the bridge, two RBU-6000 (again, unlicensed copies) ASW rocket launchers and a pair of countermeasures launchers were arranged.
1.1. Batch 1
At the time these ships were designed, they were the largest destroyers worldwide outside the USA, second only to the Kidd-class, which were longer, but less beamy. Although they cost over 450 million dollars apiece - not counting development cost of their brand-new guns and missiles – the Oireachtas approved an initial batch of four to be built simultaneously under the 1981 budget, at a time when Thiaria was swimming in money. A second batch (see below) was approved in 1986. Although there were proposals to give these vessels traditional cruiser names due to their sheer size, they eventually observed Thiarian destroyer naming conventions and became known as the D-class. Dolubtha/S242 (Inflexible) and Dathuil/S243 (Beautiful) were awarded to the CSCA yard in Abertemar, to be laid down in 1981 and 1982, respectively; Doscriostha/S244 (Indestructible) and Diail/S245 (Excellent) went to the SCI yard in Abernenui (an amalgamate of the former private CTS and the old Navy yard, privatized in 1978), to be built in the same timeframe. CSCA as usual built faster and delivered the class ship after four years in October 1985.
The other three followed in July 1986 (Doscriostha), February 1987 (Dathuil) and April 1989 (Diail). The latter served as a trials vessel for the R11S-2 missile system with improved track-via-missile guidance, utilizing phased array directors of novel design. These allowed simultaneous tracking and illuminating of a dozen targets within the director’s 60°cone and allowed for engagement of targets the size and flight altitude of a Penguin or Sea Skua missile skimming the waves. Tests took a year and a half, delaying Diail’s commissioning as active-duty unit to November 1990. By that time, a new generation 400mm ASW torpedo was available too, and integrated into the ship’s combat system along the way.
The other three all accompanied the carrier Oirion to the Persian Gulf in 1990 on their international debut; they did not engage any Iraqi aircraft because none dared attack the Thiarian battlegroup, but during exercises with French and US forces present, they validated their capabilities. The R11S-1 guidance system, the old-fashioned search radars and the still partly analogue combat system were considered something of a letdown; as soon as the task force returned from the Gulf, the decision to retrofit the whole class with the R11S-3 (series version of the R11S-2) missile and its phased array directors was made. At that time, a vastly improved version of the R7S missile system dubbed R7S-4 had become available too, utilizing the same kind of directors and featuring a new fin arrangement for drastically improved maneuverability, shorter reaction time, yet improved ECM resistance and somewhat longer range. R7S had always been capable of hitting sea-skimming missiles, but R7S-4 offered improved minimum engagement altitude and hit probability, considerably exceeding the performance of Sea Wolf or any Sea Sparrow version. They completed acceptance trials in 1993 and needed minimal modifications to their ZIF-122 launchers. To utilize these improved weapons to the full extent of their capabilities, a new generation of air- and surface search radars were required, replacing the 1960s vintage originals, and the bridge had to be rebuilt for the new fully digital integrated combat system. Reconstruction started in 1993 for Dolubtha and took a year and a half; by late 1996, all four had been modernized.
The class took part in the New Portugal war of independence in 1997, where their R11S-4 and R7S-4 missiles impressively defeated some quite determined Brazilian attacks; between them, the D’s downed nine Brazilian aircraft and shot down over thirty missiles, half of them modern Sea Eagles. Doscriostha was also credited with severely damaging an old Brazilian destroyer with an Exocet, and her helicopter assisted in the sinking of a Brazilian Upholder-class submarine. Dathuil on the other hand was severely damaged by a Brazilian 250kg guided bomb, which was intercepted by one of her R7S-4 missiles, but not destroyed; it struck the destroyer forward of the gun mount, ripping off her bow and very nearly detonating her gun magazine, which had to be flooded. She was still under repair when Doscriostha and Dolubhtha took part in the Madagaskar intervention of 2000; the former downed three Lemurian aircraft, the latter one, and they participated in defeating a heavy attack involving over sixty old KSR-5 (AS-6) missiles fired by Lemurian Tu-16 and Tu-22M bombers. After that conflict, the class was again taken in hand for further upgrades. Most visibly, they landed their obsolescent 20mm CIWS and their RBU-6000 ASW rocket launchers; instead, they received three Spanish Meroka 12-barrelled 20mm CIWS which were procured under a counter-trade agreement some years earlier, after Spain had license-built six Thiarian frigates in the 1980s. They replaced their original ECM system with a new, domestically developed ECM suite, received a more powerful 3D radar with a larger antenna, a new countermeasures suite and a backup electro-optical targeting system for their guns. The R11S directors were upgraded with larger antennae covering an arc of 120° and overall enhanced capabilities; the missiles themselves received new boosters extending their range to 60 nm and their speed to Mach 4.5 (designated R11S-5). Their anti-surface punch was dramatically increased by replacing the old MM38 with twice their number of supersonic sea skimming ANS missiles, and finally, the decoy and countermeasures suite was refurbished to counter contemporary threats. Refit took two years each; Dolubhtha was the first to re-emerge in 2003, followed by Doscriostha in 2005, embarking brand-new EC225 Caracal helicopters, replacing the Ka-25s.
The other two followed in 2006 and 2008, by which time all had EC225 helicopters. By that time, they were twenty years old and still in good shape, which was a good thing because no new destroyers were laid down for the Thiarian fleet between 1990 and 2003, when economic growth had slowed down and come to a temporary standstill around the turn of the century. With the new E-class entering service not before 2010 and two ancient C-class ships urgently needing replacement, the D’s needed to remain in the front line till 2015, when Dathuil – the lame duck of the class after the structural damage taken in 1997 – was retired at age 28. At that time, the other three had received a new electronically scanned air/surface search L-Band radar forward and had two Austrian-built Camcopter UAVs added to their air component. Since 2012, the class also mounted four 12,7mm HMG mounts with remote control capability for self-protection against asymmetric terrorist attacks.
Dathuil has been scrapped by 2020. Dolubhtha is scheduled to retire in 2021, Doscriostha in 2023 and Diail in 2024; one of them will likely be retained as a stationary training ship assigned to the Naval Academy in Noyâlo.
1.2. Batch 2
As the D-class destroyers were the designated escorts for the Treighdin-class carriers, the upscale of the carrier programme from two to three ships did not fail to impact the destroyer programme too. As soon as funding for three carriers had been approved under the 1985 budget, a second batch of D-class destroyers was proposed to provide four AAW destroyers per carrier. At that time, Thiaria’s immediate environment was hostile as hardly ever before; Brazil was the traditional enemy, South Africa had been antagonized by Thiaria’s support for Angola during the Agaidh Dearg years, Chile by Thiaria’s neutrality during the Patagonian war, and Argentina was in internal turmoil after its disastrous defeat in that conflict. On the other hand, money was still abundant in 1985, and another four D’s were approved under the 1986 budget. The private yards had done a good job on the first batch, so CSCA was awarded Doshasta/S247 (Implacable) and Dothreaite/S248 (Impregnable) to be laid down in 1987 and 1989, respectively, and SCI laid down Danartha/S249 (Fierce) in 1988 and Dioghair/S250 (Vehement) in 1990. Construction of this class took place towards the end of Thiaria’s 1970s/80s economic boom; the first gulf war had resulted in a sharp drop in oil price, inflation was picking up, the carriers ate up a sack of money, and billions of state investments were needed to diversify Thiaria’s industry away from its dependency on oil. These factors combined to delay the second batch; they were laid down considerably behind schedule, and gestation times averaged seven years. On the plus side, some new technology could be built into them, resulting in a wholly changed armament. In 1992, SCI presented a workable VLS for the R11S missile complex; it could hold 64 rounds within the same space and at less weight than the magazine-fed twin launcher used on the first batch, apart from the obvious advantage in ROF. A VLS for the R7S missile had been developed for the Treighdin-class carriers, and two 24-cell units replaced the ZIF-122 launchers. Total number of SAMs thus increased from 88 to 112, and these ships carried the R7S-4 missile from the beginning. Both systems were equipped with phased array directors, which were re-arranged (one each for the R11S and two each for the R7S, fore and aft) to eliminate the blind areas which had plagued the first batch. Instead of MM38 SSMs, two quad launch canisters for MM40 Block 1 missiles were installed. The 130mm gun was retained, but the 20mm CIWS were replaced by three Trenhaile LC50T-2 57mm mounts (two abreast the bridge, one center aft between the hangars). These guns had a cyclic ROF of 240 rounds per minute; with four times the effective range of the old 20mm CIWS and excellent reaction time and accuracy, they were well suited for anti-missile defence. Doshasta was completed to this standard in May 1995.
Danartha followed in February 1997, Dothreaite in October 1997 and Dioghair in July 1999. Doshasta was present during the New Portugal war of Independence 1997, shooting down three Brazilian airplanes and four missiles; Dothreaite and Dioghair took part in the Madagaskar intervention of 2000, claiming 11 Lemurian aircraft and over 20 missiles between them. These figures impressively confirmed their capabilities; the Lemurians had actually considered the Thiarian squadron the weak part of the UN fleet and singled it out for concentrated attack, with disastrous results. Despite convincing performance, they were thoroughly kept up-to-date. Between 2005 and 2008, they received ANS supersonic sea-skimming SSMs, R11S-4 SAMs with bigger boosters, EC225 helicopters, a new 3D radar with improved performance and much longer range, an all-new ECM and countermeasures suite, improved directors for their R11S missiles, IRST, and backup electro-optical targeting systems.
The refit was hardly complete when a much more thorough reconstruction was approved in 2012 in order to extend the service life of these ships to the early 2030s. They received a completely new foremast with four planar antennae of a combined search/target acquisition/tracking/illumination AESA array, and a yet again modernized ECM suite; the aft mast was cut down and CIWS directors and commo antennae were re-arranged. The integrated combat system was upgraded with ten times the computing capacity as previously, and a new secure datalink dome was added. The new main radar made the R11S directors redundant; the R7S directors were however retained and modified to act as backup directors for the main missile complex if the main radar was disabled. Two Camcopter UAVs were embarked, and two remote-controlled 30mm automatic gun mounts (ROF 1.800 rpm) were added forward to deal with asymmetrical threats. These guns could also be coupled to the CIWS fire control system and add their firepower when the ship came under missile attack. The first unit to complete this refit was Danartha in 2016.
Doshasta and Dioghair followed in 2018 and 2020; Dothreaithe will follow in 2022. The last two differ from their sisters by receiving new gun mounts for their 57mm and 130mm guns, which are capable of operating without turret crews. Four 12.7mm MG mounts have also been added.
As of 2020, three are in active service and one is under refit. After their refit, they are cleared for a total service life of 35 years and will operate till 2030 at least.
Throughout the cold war era, Thiarian destroyers were plagued by frequent changes of design and the necessity to install equipment that either was not up to date or became quickly inoperable when technical support dried up. Even the D-class, shipbuilding-wise a world-beating design, had featured a curious mix of indigenous, Soviet and French gear of inconsistent performance levels and needed frequent refits to keep up with foreign developments. But when the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1996 and everyone started to cut defense spending, the Thiarian Navy sensed a chance to catch up with foreign development and launched development of a big stealthy missile destroyer in 1999. In 2000, the following particulars were set:
Displacement: 7.650 ts standard, 9.000 ts full load
LOA: 168,00 m
Beam: 20,40 m
Draught: 6,20 m mean without sonar dome, 7,80 m deep load, 9,15 m maximum including sonar dome
Machinery: Two-shaft CODLAG: Four CLTI RT2C-4 gas turbines (64.000 shp), coupled to two OSD E-175 diesel generators, powered by 4 Nairn D42N-1 diesels (32.000 bhp), total power 96.000 shp
Design Speed: 30 knots
Range: 8.000 nm @ 20 kts
Externally, the ships are obviously based on the successful layout of the preceding D-class, which in turn had influenced the French Horizon-type; they are the second Thiarian surface warship class with a stealthy hull shape (after the 1995 vintage Caitriona-class frigates); RCS is 10% of a D-class ship. Machinery is diesel-electric up to 20 knots, with gas turbine boosters for higher speeds. Their engines are less powerful than comparable US, Japanese and South Korean AEGIS destroyers, but more fuel-efficient; 30 knots is easily attained and considered sufficient. The plant operates considerably quieter than the geared CODAG on the D-class, and noise levels have been generally reduced to a quarter. A prairie/masker equivalent is installed to further reduce acoustic signature. ASW equipment includes a VDS and a towed torpedo decoy, stored beneath the flight deck. There are no trainable torpedo tubes, but two fixed 324mm tubes on either side fed from two magazines, each holding up to 30 torpedoes or supercavitating anti-torpedo hardkill drones. Two EC225 Caracal helicopters can be stowed in the spacious hangar; unlike the D’s, there are no individual hangars for each helo, but a single one with the hangar door offset to port. Main armament is the CPAC integrated combat system, consisting of a Thiarian-designed four-panel AESA targeting and illuminating radar, a long-range 3D air surveillance radar, a datalink system for cross-feeding information between various ships, and the ASTER missile system, whose development Thiaria had joined in 1992. The missiles are stowed in a domestically designed VLS developed from the one used for the R11S; as these Thiarian destroyers are much larger than the European ASTER platforms, they pack twice the number of missiles: 64 forward and 32 aft right next to the hangar, for a maximum loadout of 96 ASTER 30 missiles, capable of Mach 4,5 and a range of 65 nm, with unsurpassed accuracy against targets of any size and speed, traveling at any altitude between sea level and 20 kilometers up. This was pretty much what a late R11S could do as well, but unlike the R11S, ASTER 30 is fully TBMD capable, and the CPAC combat system is designed to make full use of this capacity. The forward VLS tubes are deeper than the aft ones and can accommodate SCALP-Naval ground attack cruise missiles instead of ASTERs. Gunnery is the same as on the second batch of the D-class, but in stealthy mounts capable of operating unmanned at twice the reaction speed of the previous generation. The aft 57mm mount has been moved from the amidships position (as on the D-class) to starboard because of the asymmetrical hangar arrangement. A new type of phased-array director has been introduced (four units – one forward, one aft and two at both sides of the foremast) which is capable of controlling not only all gun systems embarked, but can also provide guidance for the ASTER 30 system if the main AESA radar is unavailable. Each director can handle 20 targets in an 90° arc. Two remote-controlled 30mm autocannon abreast the mainmast, which can be linked to the fire control system, and four remote-contollable 12.7mm MGs (two at the rear end of the hangar, two in the bridge wings) are available for defence against asymmetrical attacks. Unlike the D’s, anti-surface punch was not added to these ships as an afterthought; they mount no less than twelve ANS supersonic sea skimming missiles amidships from the start. They can deliver a 165kg shaped charge warhead over a range of 100 nm, traveling at Mach 2,5 at sea level.
After lengthy debate, the design was approved in 2002, and an initial batch of four ships was ordered under this year’s naval estimates. After the venerable CSCA yard, responsible for some of the most iconic Thiarian warships of the 20th century, had gone bankrupt in 2001 and been taken over by SCI, all four were contracted to that company, Thiaria’s last remaining builder of surface warships. Construction went ahead slowly in order to keep the shipyard continuously occupied in a time of poor business. Ealaionta/S251 (Artful) was laid down in 2003, Eascardiuil/S252 (Hostile) in 2005, Eachtach/S253 (Adventurous) in 2007 and Eirimiuil/S254 (Clever) in 2009. When Thiaria’s economy picked up momentum after 2003, a second batch was approved in 2008. The economic crisis starting that year affected Thiaria less than most other western nations, because Thiaria was only moderately indebted at that time and had not run up a real-estate bubble either, and the programme, though postponed for five years, survived intact. Eagnai/S255 (Wise) was laid down in 2013, Eolgaiseach/S256 (Skillful) in 2015, Eifeachtuil/S257 (Effective) in 2017, and Easca/S258 (Quick) in 2019. Ealaionta was completed more or less on schedule in 2009.
She was fitted for, but not with four additional 16-cell lightweight VLS, to be mounted forward abreast of the main ASTER launcher. This VLS could hold either VL Mica close defence SAMs (Range 12 nm, capable of engaging supersonic sea-skimmers like Oniks/BrahMos) or wire-guided Polyphem lightweight antisurface missiles for dealing with threats up to 32 nm out and not worthy of spending an ANS on them; they also had loitering capability and could double as short-range surveillance drones. This system became available in 2016; none of the first batch was completed with it; Eascardiuil completed 2011, Eachtach 2014 and Eirimiuil 2016. The first E-class ship mounting it was Eagnai, which completed late in 2019; she toted no less than 172 ready-to-launch missiles. She also was the first one to embark two Znamenany L4Z-1 UAVs. Their prime role was surveillance, but they could carry two Trigat ATGMs each, of which the ship embarked a dozen. Her ANS missiles are Block 2, available since 2017, with ECM, active stealth and swarming capabilities similar to NSM.
The last three are scheduled to be completed in 2022, 2023 and 2025, respectively. They will remain Thiaria’s primary surface combatant till the 2050s. Future upgrades will include Aster 30 Block 2 with the capability to intercept ballistic missiles before atmospheric re-entry at altitudes of up to 80.000 meters; range against normal air targets will exceed a hundred nautical miles. They are expected in service by 2025. Also in the pipeline is ANS Block 3, effectively a completely new missile, passively stealthy and capable of Mach 4 over a distance of 120 nm, to be deployed from 2028.