Swarm Carrier, a new form of commando assault warfare backed by a new form of private sector financing. A new “disruption” in Royal Navy Marine Commando warfare.

This is a brief introduction to a new concept in the design and operation of commando assault warfare units, single or multiple battalions, carried and supported by a novel new form of commando carrier. Underlying this are a range of innovative technologies blending old, proven ideas with new ideas for the 21st century.

Supporting this is a new financial model for government approval, which brings private sector funding into UK defence culture through an independent agency to supply the majority or all funding to build and deliver this concept immediately. Unlike the political/administrative processes of government this model, with senior government approval, can release funds and undertake design and delivery without delay.

Michael Bond, October, 2022

The Swarm Carrier

We have seen over the last few decades the rise of automation technologies for the delivery of force against opposition, through precise targeted weapons (missiles, shells, etc.), and guided systems culminating (to-date) in the development of drones and (potentially) artificially-controlled platforms.

Rather than see these as replacing personnel on the ground I see this as an opportunity for force multiplication, to give individual teams or personnel much-enhanced resources at their immediate disposal, for example, an air drone under the direct control of one team or person on the ground.

Such forces need a nearby base of operation, control, support and deployment for rapid response and delivery. This is the swarm carrier.

Here, onboard the carrier, can be maintained the resources for scores or hundreds of air drones, one or more battalions of marine commandos and mobile ground or amphibious equipment for wide-ranging, high mobility warfare. This is the swarm carrier, from which swarms of drones, commandos and amphibious vehicles can be launched across large areas of coast and inland.

Carrier Design

In the Swarm Carrier I envisage the creation of a vessel New Panamax in scale, approximately 1,160 foot in length, 160 foot beam and suitably provided with full-length flight deck, ski jump, etc. However, this is not for Royal Navy use of fast jets, the bulk of the hangar space is for drones.

An F35 fighter jet costs in the region of $80 million apart from endless servicing costs. For this you can obtain well over 20 modestly-budgeted drones, spares, 3D print facility for spares and much more. Drones being more compact there ought to be sufficient space in hangars for well over 100 drones for immediate use, and potential storage for another 2-300 spares ready-to-go at short notice.

We have already seen the use of drones in Ukraine and although this is a relatively unique situation, which is unlikely to be repeated, we can learn the lesson of drones as a valuable asset to commando operations and the carrier’s own defence against air and submarine threats.

Under the hangar deck(s) we have space to accommodate commandos and flight controllers for the drones. Drones are operated from suitable control rooms to conduct support operations, independent strikes or carry out “cab rank” style of support. Cab Rank was used in WWII to provide continuous support to forces by queuing aircraft to sustain air support over the front line, calling on them whenever an obstacle was identified. Here, today, we have two opportunities to queue drone support for commando teams, or the opportunity to hand control over to a commando team, use it and hand it back for return to the carrier. With a high number of small, low profile/stealth drones overhead or nearby at all times, rather than one big, very very expensive fighter, a commando team can be reassured of non-stop air cover/support throughout the day and night.

Down to the waterline, below the commando and command decks, we have space for a landing craft deck to deploy the commandos ashore in amphibious vehicles. Forget landing craft, there is another, better, British option.

Landing Monitors

Royal Navy history has included many innovative and remarkable achievement in the past and one of these was the creation of the monitor, a shallow draft, broad beamed vessel for shallow waters and just large enough to mount a battleship turret with 15 inch guns.

These unique ships brought tremendous naval gunnery firepower close inshore where overly expensive battleships never dare to tread, and one or twice in the Great War they turned battles and changed history.

It’s time for the monitors to return. On skirts.

Hovercraft, which blend a landing craft’s forward load bay, a midships control and power centre and a aft-mounted artillery turret for a long (60-100 calibre) barrel, high elevation 155mm artillery piece.

This is the new monitor, and each commando team gets one to play with.

Hovercraft are amphibious, fast, highly agile, summer or winter, wet or ice they are not stopped in carrying, dropping-off and supporting troops anywhere around a coast and upriver. They could easily obtain 40-60 mph or more and, with suitable hull design, form a low radar profile, quiet, fast approach craft. And if the opposition take notice, the craft and commandos onboard, have a swift answer with a big gun.

As commando teams are deployed inshore, gun ranges of upto 40-50 miles might deliver continued support for them against opposition, while the highly agile mobility of the craft reduces the effect of hostile counter-fire damaging the monitor or its support.

I imagine a Swarm Carrier will be capable of housing and supporting eight to ten Landing Monitors of about 50 x 90 foot dimensions, plus additional elements squeezed into free spaces and the escorting support vessels.

NOTE: There is an option to create a larger hovercraft/monitor, in line with Russian and American military scales and the original British civilian designs of the 1960-70s. This would have to be hangared in the stern of the carrier and support ships, with the hovercraft measuring either 150 or 170-180 foot in length.

Commando Landing Monitor

Detachable Mobile Weapons

The historic lesson of the monitor influences my thoughts on how such innovation is practical with modern technology: detachable weapons. Rather than an investment in a single huge vessel, a battleship, you have a mobile support, repair, maintenance base, the carrier, and a swarm of detachable weapons, the drones, the commandos and the monitors, to spread out and confront the opposition wherever required.

Dismounting the weapons from the large platforms makes for new battlefield geometries, new forms of movement across and around the battlefield in response to a threat. A single large vessel is limited in its mobility, but the detached weapons are far more mobile to respond to far more threat or opportunity.

Similarly, the small scale of each individual unit, a single monitor, a single drone, is far less than an entire vessel in contact with the opposition. This means a small contact point, smaller visibility and a smaller target to hit.

Meanwhile the Swarm Carrier becomes the over-the-horizon highly mobile control and support hub for all activities.

(I appreciate that the carrier itself remains vulnerable, but there are numerous ways to reduce this threat within its design and escort group.)

Littoral Warfare – An Alternative

One trend in recent naval thinking is the need for close inshore ships to support onshore activity. Forget it. This is too much cost and equipment moved too close to shore with a high chance of loss. Unless you are building heavy armoured cruisers for inshore support the swarm is a far better alternative – just move the men and weapons and keep the hulls and resources slightly farther out to sea until its safe to snuggle up closer inshore.

The concept of the littoral warship still places substantial material, cost and risk in a single vessel at a single point in the contested region. In comparison the Swarm Carrier remains offshore and deploys only the minimum, smallest, stealthiest, most agile weapons platforms and teams, each a specialist element of the overall presence in the field. Smaller elements are potentially less vulnerable and present the lowest cost of risk and failure compared to a larger single vessel, and their high numbers provide the opportunity for distributed, highly mobile, all-angles attack across a wider territory.

Aircraft Carrier v. Swarm Carrier

The aircraft carrier is now over a hundred years old and remains a principle form of offensive long range conventional heavy Navy strike short of atomic weaponry. The Swarm Carrier offers a new dimension in carrier warfare for the 21st Century. While the aircraft carrier remains remotely distant and safe from immediate contact with shore-based opposition the Swarm Carrier gets up close and personal under a cloud of dispersed weaponry to overwhelm the opposition in all dimensions with immediate effect.

Here the Swarm Carrier offers a more effective form of direct tactical air and fire support over an aircraft carrier’s distant strike aircraft. The Swarm can respond quickly and intimately, often with direct control by ground commando forces, rather than have to wait on delayed responses from a remote aircraft carrier.

In the meantime the aircraft carrier is released from immediate tactical support to engage long range key targets and provide an overhead anti-air umbrella for the larger force.

Price & Provision

The Royal Navy has a very long tradition of starvation. From the first Elizabethan age, against pesky Spanish Armadas, through to today’s lack of support ships for the QE carriers, there are endless tales of starvation, mutiny, foreign powers sailing into British harbours to burn the navy’s proudest ships down to the waterline and more. And yet there are numerous ways to overcome this challenge today.

At the heart of many financial problems lies the dependency on HM Treasury and Parliament to supply the funds for the Navy, when they have the spare budgets. The current economic crises hammering the UK (2020-2024) make this a tremendous challenge for Parliament to afford anything but the most essential investment. There are other ways, as has been demonstrated over the centuries, to feed the Navy, and the other branches, to pay the price of the Swarm Carries, their equipment, supply and escort groups. As in past centuries there are “privateer” options, if permitted, to deliver the provisions needed for the Navy and others. This is what I offer.

Private Sector Funding

As Prince of Wales King Charles once commented how essential it was to engage with the private sector to solve the climate crisis, on the basis that while government dealt in billions the private sector deals in trillions and that’s how much would be needed to solve such monumental challenges facing the world. There is comparable money for other challenges. It’s here…

The modern buzzword is “disruptive”. This is the biggest disruptive financial and administrative innovation in centuries, since at least the times of Samuel Pepys.

Having spent over a decade working on the fringes of the banking and finance sector I have identified sources and means of funding my Swarm Carriers and their kit. Depending on the approvals needed from government it is entirely possible to raise, release and deliver the funding, either partial funding for a modest programme or full funding, for the largest scale of investment. This may total up to a hundred thousand million pounds of investment in UK manufacturing, technology and resources for all the designs I have proposed and the associated support groups. This will be entirely independent of the Ministry of Defence or HM Treasury.

It is difficult to discuss this subject here, but the management and delivery model I propose is fully-capable of bringing this funding into the UK’s defence needs without the long-winded procedures of MoD procurement or HM Treasury’s limitations. From my past experience in the international financial community I am fully-aware of the enormous potential of the UK economy and financial sector if harnessed to unleash its capabilities to deliver this solution. I will leave this subject to later discussion with senior figures in due course with the one point I make here that funds can be made ready for release to this project far more quickly, weeks, than under the restraints of government procurement and budget processes and current (2022) economic conditions, years.

(NOTE: This IS NOT a blank cheque to purchase favourite kit from other sources, whether British or foreign. This is only for the technology approved and developed through my office for this programme. Any other kit required by MoD shall be paid for by MoD as being outside the scope of this financial and supply programme. As far as possible every single penny of this money shall be invested in and spent in the British manufacturing economy.)

Political Economic Considerations

As I’ve pointed out there is a tremendous opportunity to use my programme of design and construction to deliver a huge stimulus to the UK economy, with new technology, engineering, investment in manufacturing improved technologies for the civil economy as much as the defence sector. Here is a simple example: the Navy seek more efficient and carbon-friendly hybrid engine systems for future ships. There is a way of achieving this across the full range of vehicles in this proposal, from the drones, to hovercraft, through new onshore vehicles and the ships, all sharing a core common technology which is already being explored in my concepts for the Rumbler SUV project (see below and the rest of this site). This technology can be adapted and scaled for all applications and manufactured in the UK for this and a wide range of civilian projects.

Another aspect of this programme is to partly address the new challenges from the Ukraine crisis, which brings a broader threat to UK security through Scandinavia and the Baltic, where the Swarm and its technologies could be exceptionally useful on the vast borderlands of Eastern Europe and Finland. Beyond Europe there is equal potential value in this technology if China has to be confronted in the Pacific region. If the Ukraine crisis is, as feared, going to last many years then there will be increasing need to boost the range and mobility of UK forces to Swarm our opponents.

Let me know if you wish to discuss further. Michael Bond 07977931191


FOOTNOTE: Private Sector Initiative – Rapid Production Plan

As already noted, this project proposal is based on the disciplines of the private sector rather than public sector purchasing. As has been repeatedly demonstrated over the years the public sector processes are riddled with failure, most recently, as reported in the Telegraph newspaper, the failure of the Ajax procurement. Unlike such initiatives the development plan here aims to deliver a solid, reliable basic hull structure as quickly as possible, not a gold-plated project in ten or twenty years. There are limits to providing the ultimate state-of-the-art for every sector of the defence community and I believe it is far better to get hulls in the water with sufficient space and design for constant up-grading when required. Thus, the Swarm Carrier is a canvas on which future requirements can be written, with ample space for a wide range of modifications, technologies and transformations when needed over the long lifespan such hulls may be expected to achieve. Then we will recycle them into the future generations of ships.

FOOTNOTE: Hybrid Engine Design – All Applications

The MoD recently launched a market exploration into Hybridisation of the Naval Fleet. In early 2022 I undertook a study into creating a novel new hydrogen fuel cell as part of a project plan to create a hybrid powered ambulance for the NHS. Incorporating a new high-efficiency low carbon engine with a new hydrogen fuel cell the aim would create a new affordable hybrid ambulance design.

This hybrid concept remains available for study and adoption across the full range of vehicles described in this proposal, from the largest application of ship power, through hovercraft down to drones and light vehicles the same core engineering elements may be developed for all uses.
Benefits from such a new technology include standardisation throughout all equipment and vessels of this proposal and creation of a new, or expansion of existing, all-British manufacturing capability in the fields of new low carbon engines and hydrogen fuel cells.

We should also consider whether a hydrogen fuel cell might provide a better alternative to gas turbines in warships when needing quick brief sprint performance.

Hybrid power may also incorporate stirling engine elements to make use of surplus heat from the ship and the outside environment to create secondary and back-up power generation in the hull.

Longer term, other than compact atomic power, I will need to investigate the practicalities of creating and shipping synthetic fuel for all these engines.

FOOTNOTE: Environmental Energy Efficiencies

I have mentioned stirling engines as one means of tapping into thermal differentials between cool sea and hot ship, especially in the tropics. There may be a wide range of novel innovations to capture, store, distribute and use thermal and electrical energy in and around these ships. For example:-

  • Solar panels on upper exposed surfaces.
  • Solar collectors to redirect sunlight into key interior parts of the ship for light spots or just areas for crew relaxation.
  • Thermo-electric generation.
  • Thermal storage of excess heat for emergency uses.
  • Solar cookers for BBQs on the flightdeck, but that’s only on off days.

These may appear minor issues but offer ways to create novel emergency backup energy and provide tiny additional energy sources to overall demand in the ship. The investment in these technologies may offer other applications outside this programme for national economic growth.

FOOTNOTE: Micro Technology

There is a tremendous opportunity through this programme to invest in a revived British micro technology industry and increase our economic independence from dependency on far eastern supply, especially of micro processors. Although it take a long time to build new factories and capability in this sector the demand for a high volume of computer controllers in this programme makes it worthwhile investing in this for future need.

FOOTNOTE: Double-Acting Arctic Hull

If worse comes to worse the Swarm Carrier and her support group may be expected to operate in extreme arctic conditions, either in support of Scandinavian partners or Canada against appropriate foes. The most effective solution for operation in such extremes is to make the hull design that of a double-acting form, in which ships are capable of moving in reverse, rotating external propeller pods and using the stern in the style of an icebreaker. No additional cost is required for this if approved at the start.

Good for several foot of ice and the ability to transit from the Atlantic to the Pacific, better than US carriers and supports.

Pros & Cons of the Swarm Carrier

Too big for many ports and shallow waters.
Very easy target against well-equipped opposition.
Higher cost of operation, crewing, etc., in peacetime.
Time to construction & delivery may not meet immediate demands in Ukraine crisis (unless it lasts for years).
Will require two to three years’ to train up all industrial sectors to meet demands for all incorporated technologies: ship-building, drones/aerospace/hovercraft, heavy engineering, electronics, weapons systems, etc.
May be difficult to sell it to political decision-makers without senior support on the grounds of its innovative and disruptive nature.

Huge lift capacity.
New-generation lift and tactical surface and air capabilities through new hovercraft and drones.
Long range and high speed of hovercraft, covered by drones, allow ship to stand offshore (in moderate seas) until beachhead is secured.
Hovercraft could have very high speed and long range (100 mph x 500 miles) in modest seas (upto 5 foot waves).
Hovercraft may be enhanced and made seaworthy for slightly heavier seas (5-10 foot waves).
Hovercraft may be more resistant to many forms of mines and IEDs, being lifted several feet off the ground/surface.
Hovercraft could be stealth(ish), with new design forms and suppressive techniques for sound, heat, electromagnetic emissions.
Ship may be equipped with multi-layered armoured hull from keel to flight deck and active defences against hypersonic missiles and supercavitating torpedoes.
Could make exceptional civil disaster relief vessel, especially if hoverdeck is used as emergency shelter/hospital.
May be ice hardened for operations in Scandinavian/Arctic waters.
Double-acting hull gives the ship arctic capability in modest ice conditions, especially for transits between Pacific and Atlantic regions.
New mobility offered to commando teams to range deep inland on rivers, fjords, etc.
Rapid support from high speed auto-piloted drones for supply, reinforcements, casualty evacuation.
New Panamax-scaled hull, fits through Panama canal for rapid transit between Atlantic & Pacific (think China).
New environmentally-friendly low carbon/carbon neutral hybrid propulsion system scalable from ships down to drones and basis for new civil manufacturing export of high technology, synthetic fuel, support services, etc.
Massive boost to UK manufacturing economy.
For manufacturing efficiency the support ships for this grouping could be shortened versions of the same carrier hull.
HIGHLY DISRUPTIVE FUNDING AND DESIGN MODELS, SUBJECT TO UK GOVERNMENT APPROVALS: Cost is Nil. All costs may be covered by private sector funding, with immediate start guaranteed on a delivery versus payment basis from formal approvals and release of approved licences to take action. MoD and Treasury do not have to be involved at the financial/management level.

All right, we could call it a Hovercarrier if you’re a big Marvel Avengers fan.

Modular Monitors

The Landing Monitor is not a rigid design. Within the aft section there will be the facilities to mount/dismount a number of weaponry and service sections, modules. Although I feel the 155mm artillery option is the best general purpose choice for long range fire support there are other options for those enthused by the action of rocket launchers in Ukraine, or desire a range of sophisticated missiles or other uses. These modular compartments would be quickly replaced inside the carrier or onboard the support ships, which shall also have the facilities for substantial restoration and repair, such as replacing the gun barrels after they are worn out at the hands of enthusiastic commandos.

Guard Monitors, act as close-in protection for the carrier and its escort group when closer inshore, in moderate seas. Their speciality modular weapons packs, mounted forward, might incorporate a launcher bay to drop anti-torpedo/submarine torpedoes against incoming attack, while the aft-mounted heavy gun provides anti-air defence and ability to bombard onshore well over 40 miles inland. Guided shells might be co-ordinated with drones for over-the-horizon interception of incoming aircraft or missiles. They may also have a little space for search and rescue duties at sea for anyone lost overboard, downed pilots, etc.