The Royal Navy will at some point in the next decade need to consider replacing the amphibious assault ships which are due go out of service in the early 2030s.
A report by the Defence Committee has argued that a landing helicopter dock (LHD) design, combining the ability to operate landing craft and aircraft, should be considered.
The report states:
“We have recently reported on the continuing relevance and requirement for amphibious capability, concluding that the disposal of amphibious assault ships—reportedly being considered under the NSCR—was “militarily illiterate”.
Written evidence to this inquiry has largely supported these conclusions. The Royal Navy will at some point in the next decade need to consider replacing the amphibious assault ships which are due go out of service in the early 2030s.
A landing helicopter dock (LHD) design, combining the ability to operate landing craft and aircraft, should be considered.”
The Ministry of Defence’s Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) must address the challenges presented by the resurgence of state-based threats and be supported by a fully-funded and sustainable financial settlement, says a report published by the Defence Committee. The report, entitled Beyond 2 per cent, has been produced ahead of the anticipated release of ‘high-level findings’ by the MDP, towards the end of June. It examines how the process has proceeded and highlights areas, including capability, commercial practices, recruitment and international partnerships, which the Committee expects the review to consider.
Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:
“We hope that our report will assist in sparking debate and focusing minds on priorities that should be considered by the Modernising Defence Programme. The Secretary of State was right to remove Defence from the National Security Capability Review which would otherwise have resulted in further disastrous cuts to the Armed Forces, and we endorse his efforts to obtain a better settlement for Defence.
The Government now needs to look beyond the two per cent minimum on Defence spending, and begin moving towards a figure of three per cent, to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial ‘black holes’. Defence is constantly described as the first duty of government. The MDP is the government’s opportunity to show that it means what it says.”
We have previously argued that for the United Kingdom to carry on its status as a ‘Global Power’ and retain its ability to project power across the globe with a blue water navy it must have the assets to project its capabilities. This includes the capability of projecting air, sea, and land forces. Recently HMS Ocean was the flagship for a NATO exercise, and was deemed as being an essential asset.
The role of the Royal Navy is multifaceted, and for it to be seen as a credible force, it must match is credibility with the raw capabilities that it possesses. To put it simply, it must demonstrate a ‘conventional deterrence’ against potential adversaries. Therefore, it is my argument that the Royal Navy must retain helicopter functions and an amphibious capability – all of which can be served with a new class of ‘budget’ helicopter carriers with amphibious landing capabilities.
As part of our strategic national interest it is also important not to overburden those capabilities which we have such as our prized possessions the Queen Elizabeth class carriers which will have an operational lifespan for 50 years. This class of ship will be different.
Thus, a new ‘budget’ helicopter carrier would complement existing and new capabilities, by providing a logistical platform to deploy both Royal Marines and attack helicopters along with landing craft, and larger aircraft for carrying troops and supplies. This new class of Helicopter carrier, with either have Apache aircraft which are currently operated by the Army Air Corps, as well as other helicopters of the Royal Air Force, such as the larger twin rotor Chinooks.
This new budget carrier, will be a platform for multi-branch operations and indeed act as a command centre. Thus, the Royal Air force working together with the Royal Navy, and also the British Army Air Corps and the Royal Marines.