Author Topic: HMS Tiger  (Read 2414 times)

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Offline mrdj

  • Out of the Whiffing Closet
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HMS Tiger
« on: May 18, 2008, 10:31:18 pm »
I was looking on my shelf, and found myself staring at my old Matchbox HMS Tiger. The poor thing has moved one too many times about four moves ago. In debating whether to keep it or throw it into the scrap bin, I decided to Whiff it. The Tiger has always been a favourite of mine, both with and without the hanger. I just like transitional kit. I'll include a start picture shortly. Don't laugh, it's about 15 years old now. I did, however, come up with a quick background story.

During the Falklands war in 1982, some in the Admiralty decided to look at the lessons learned in the ongoing conflict, and begin implementing solutions before the end of hostilities. As the fleet was engaged in support of land operations, the war had turned from the modern naval war that had cost them the HMS Sheffield, to a low tech affair between the RN and the Argentine Air Force. A small group decided that the solution was to regress the fleet, to find an expedient solution to bringing heavy ship strength, and proven new technology to the South Atlantic. The best available solution seemed to be going through the ships in reserve, give them a quick refit, and send them south. It was felt that, if done quickly, a second task force could be sent to arrive by Sept. 1982.

To bring strength to the fleet, it was decided that older ships, made of steel and armour, would be a good replacement for the lightweight escorts slugging it out with the FAA. In looking through the listings, several suitable ships were found:

HMS Bulwark was not in the best of shape. The fire damage still needed repair, and corrosion was beginning. Thoughts also arose about refitting catapults and arrestor gear, but the lack of suitable aircraft and aircrew, as well as the lack of available equipment prevented this from continuing. In the end, Harriers and Sea Harriers would provide the air wing, operating with a ski ramp.

Initial talks with the Australians also commenced, to buy the recently decommissioned HMAS Melbourne. The deal was also to include her A-4 fleet, for training only. It was thought that adding friendly A-4s to the war would be more than a little confusing, and dangerous. The Australians had other ideas. To prevent their involvement in the war, they delayed the sale of the ship to a point where its use could not be guaranteed.

Several County class destroyers were available. HMS Fife was in refit, and would be ready for the second wave. HMS Kent and Devonshire would need to be revived from their current status. Their sister ships were already in combat and reports from their crews would be used in the refit program. Stocks of the Sea Slug were diminishing, so a sea Dart launcher was placed on the helicopter deck, feeding vertically from the magazine. Additional firepower in the form of multiple old Bofors 40mm cannon took the place of the Sea Slug launcher.

There were also several older destroyers and frigates being considered. But the ships that caused the most excitement were the cruisers Tiger and Blake. A mixing of several layers of technology, they held the most promise of adding something new to the fleet, as well as great diversity. They also had the size to add capabilities. Only recently decommissioned, they were in good shape, and were poised to make a big impact on the battles, both at shore and at sea. Both armoured and armed, they were the best of new and old on a tight budget of time and money. The twin 6” guns were retained, and it was felt that this firepower would be greatly appreciated by the troops ashore, who could only rely on one 4.5” per ship. The 3.5” was replaced by A Sea Dart Launcher. AA cannon, and chaff dispensers popped up across the decks. At the stern, provisions were made for Sea Harries, as well as converting the hanger to a basic hospital, with a helicopter to provide airlift.

Fortunately, the war ended quickly, and the “Old Dog” task force, as it became known, was no longer needed. The ships were returned to storage awaiting the scrapper’s torch, or sold. Most had not even made it to the shipyards for conversion. The two cruisers, however, had made quite an impression. Believing that smaller nations, such as Argentina, could pose a threat in a low-tech naval war, plans continued to modernize the two old warships.

With the time constraints lifted, the naval architects began a more thorough plan to prepare ageing warriors for the war of the future. As before, the twin 6” guns were retained, and the Sea Dart installed forward. The armour also remained. The Sea Cat launchers amidships were replaced by Phalanx CIWSs. Anti ship missiles, originally planned as Exocet, later installed as Harpoon, were mounted on top of the hanger. Chaff installations remained, but the AA cannon armament was reduced. Inside the hanger, a modular system was installed, allowing quick conversion from one role to another. Some of the options were hospital, troop landing, anti sub, anti surface, disaster relief, and air defense. A variety of aircraft, Sea King, Sea Harrier, Wasp, Commando, Harrier and Lynx could be carried.

In it modern role as Multi-Role Surface Ship, Blake and Tiger showed the flag in both peace and anger until 1993. At that time, the ships had aged significantly, and as had been proven in 1991, 6” guns from an old ship don’t have the reach or accuracy of a new cruise missile. They were quickly sold and scrapped with no fanfare, and not directly replaced.