With some commentators, rightly or wrongly, arguing that it’s “embarrassing” the Royal Australian Navy will be ordering more Type 26 Frigates than the Royal Navy, some perspective is key. 

We all want a larger fleet but in this instance, embarrassment isn’t warranted.

The following was sent to the UK Defence Journal via our contact form and was penned by a user on Reddit. I thought I’d share the comment here, enjoy.

Not embarrassing at all. The Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy are two very different navies, quite literally a world apart. The challenges that they face are very different and so both the structure and composition of the two navies reflect those differences.

The Royal Australian Navy has to deal with the vast Pacific ocean, the huge amount of commerce that travels through it and upon which they are reliant. They also have to do their part to constrain China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea and the wider Pacific. For this reason they need a large number (relative to their countries size and defence budget) of capable, long range endurance, surface warships like the Type 26.

The Royal Navy on the other hand is a true blue water power projection navy, that provides the UK with the means to deliver its army (and air force) anywhere in the world. It’s also has the ability to constrain the passage of Russian warships through the GIUK gap or the Strait of Gibraltar – and by extension the Atlantic sea. The Royal Navy also has the UK strategic nuclear deterrent in addition to a large fleet of nuclear hunter killer submarines.

It’s very crudely comparing apples and oranges to simply total up the number of a single hull type. What the RAN doesn’t have but the RN does is a comprehensive nuclear deterrent, the ability to really project power or the means to physically control access to the seas around their homeland. Likewise, trying to replicate the RN isn’t going to help Australia achieve their goals – they don’t need aircraft carriers, what they need are frigates and plenty of them.

It’s also worth pointing out that the RN plans to order a further 5 of the Type 31e Frigate. The RN dwarves the RAN both in tonnage and hulls.

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But it is an easy public way to force the treasury to fund maybe one or two more.


its not embarrassing, its just plain wrong.


And we are an island. An island that now needs to protect its fisheries along with Gibraltar. And without the P-8s (yet, and when they get here its too few), decrepit E-3s and aircraft not equipped with a credible anti-shipping capability, its arguable how well we are carrying our present duties.


And Australia isn’t an island?


More of a continent than an island!


smallest continent in the world and the largest island in the world Also you may have SSN’s but you will only have 7, for which the RAN are planning 12 long range SSG’s submarines to which balances out the T31-e. The RAN has superior amphibious warfare vessels with the Canberra class compared to the current Albion’s LPD but the RN has accesses to a superior logistical fleet with the RFA than the RAN. each has its pros and cons, you talk about the strike carriers that Australia does not need which I disagree, the RAN needs to be able to… Read more »

David Steeper

Why are you guy’s arguing ? Seriously you remind me of the old joke about the man who could start an argument in an empty house !


Let’s see the UK do a deal and build a third QE for Australia and forth one for Canada too. Both Countries are our brothers and need to be strong.


P8s are better than nothing though.
Each one far more capable than the previous fleet.
Not to mention the MOD looking at wedgetail too.

Mike Saul

It is important to note that Australia never suffered a recession following the banking crisis of 2008.

As a result it did not cope with a huge deficit in Government finances which required big cuts in planned government expenditure.

I hope the RN is able to increase its surface fleet numbers, but given the current and possible threats it would be more beneficial to order more T31e ships rather than the more expensive T26.


Yet Theresa May just found 20Bn extra to spend on the NHS…. It’s not that we don’t have the money – we do – this government (and prior governments to be fair) is simply choosing to not spend it on defence. It’s absolutely scandalous and unforgivable but that’s where we are.


Hi TH – you are not wrong in what you say but I for one would pay more in tax if it meant our Armed Forces received proper funding. In addition, I don’t believe the British public understand the true state of our Armed Forces as they are feed a bunch of lies by HMG. E.g. everyone in the know is well aware that SDSR 2015 isn’t – and never was – fully funded. As opined often here (and just below), the Foreign Aid budget is ridiculous at 14Bn/yr. How can this be justified? – and ring fenced at that!… Read more »

Nigel Collins

Slightly off topic, but the news appears to be good news!
I’ve been banging on about this for months.


Foreign aid definitely has to be reduced, it is far too high.


Penny is trying bless her. I wish she would resign and say the Aid budget is unjustifiable.


not too sure if that’s true. but please tell me it true £14bn is a absurd amount when it is going to the likes of china and India who have active space programmes and open handily take our money


Actually I believe both countries have asked the UK to stop, but the UK insists on providing “aid”. We would be far better providing countries with British produced container homes, Food, mechanical equipment, transport and medical supplies, delivered by a fleet of British built Helicopters (puma fleet initially whilst 50 Merlins are built) from the decks of British built humanitarian aid and hospital ships (say 8) based upon the Karen Doorman design. This would give British industry a nice kick start and our military a reserve force if needed. Instead of trying to please a nominal sum given by the… Read more »


I am. Embarrassed. They are a lynchpin of UK defence. Anyone who says T-31 isn’t because of budget is havin a laugh. Embarrassed. Still.


While a huge matter of commerce clearly flows through the pacific some of that flow heads in the direction of the UK and that same commerce has further to travel to our shores without which we would cease to function so as a seafaring trading nation where up to 90% of our imports arrive from the sea I would say while not embarrassing is nowhere near enough to keep an island nation afloat. Dover I believe is still the busiest shipping lane in the world so a large number of escorts both high and low end are required not to… Read more »

John West

Oh come on.

Yes, I know that 9 frigates will be Austrailia’s total frigate force.

Ours should be 13 – not 8 A class plus 5 C class.

Whatever happened to not having a “2 tier” Navy?

Tim Cook

How many destroyers does the RAN have? LPH, LPD?


Not really embarrassing. The UK has just under twice the GDP of Australia but more importantly has a fraction of the debt, meaning they have more buying power than the UK. They also have a huge amount of natural resources, meaning they don’t need to buy in raw materials. The reality is until the UK gets its debt under control, we have to accept cuts and should interest rates raise, those cuts could get pretty significant. The big problem for Australia is their armed forces are about 1/4 the size of the UK, based on key manpower and their population… Read more »


Australia has a fraction of the debt I mean, 104% of debt compared to 28%.


Of course it is embarrassing, the UK is the world’s 6th biggest economy and is buying 5 substandard Type 31 patrol boats because it declares that it can’t afford 13 Type 26.

It’s HUGELY embarrassing.


A little embarrassing, however we still have more destroyers and overall frigate force will be larger. Not to mention 2 carriers. What I am hoping is that we will get a boost in sailors in the next defense review, so we can actually put all the ships to sea, which would be a big boost in capability. If the threat raises with Russia or elsewhere, there is still a chance that a few of the t23 can be maintained for longer, to fill the period until further frigates can be built, however no point having more frigates than can put… Read more »


Yup – Ron that about sums it up…


We may have the 6th largest Economy but we have a crippling debt to service day after day. Imagine you earn a figure that equates to the UKs Economy but a Mortgage the size of the U.K. Debt. How are you going to buy a new car, pay all of the running costs of a modern family with that debt around your neck and it’s interest.

Mike Saul

Ron5 obviously upset that BAE systems will not get the T31e project now decides to call it a substandard warship.

I think the T31e will a useful ship for the RN and export markets. A new dawn for UK designed warships.

Not everyone can afford to spend £20bn on 9 warships.

Paul Courtenay

It is embarrassing, we as a nation should be able to purchase a round 16 ( we originally had 16 x Type 23 until 3 were sold). Added to that the Aussie vessels will be a better breed equipped with Aegis which will give them a vastly superior Anti Air capability whilst we make do with Artisan and Sea Ceptor………


I am not embarrassed by this as the facts will speak for themselves over time. The UK will end up with at least 13 T26 as I believe this is the platform of choice to replace T45, which is coming to its mid life point quicker than most would imagine. Add in a better radar and T26 becomes a Burke class destroyer, something I have advocated for some time. If we go with Arrowhead 140, this is allows us to have an already proven and large secondary platform for all other duties, if we can get 25 of these into… Read more »


“The UK will end up with at least 13 T26 as I believe this is the platform of choice to replace T45”. Maybe, but I’d love Gunbuster to jump in here because I have one potential concern about T26 in the AAW role. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% with you and want it to be practical because of what I assume would be economies from using the same basic hull & propulsion design but my hopefully unfounded concern is the radar. T45 is arguably the best AAW out there and it has not only Sampson for tracking but… Read more »


Julian, I did think about this before posting actually, I think the follow on batch of “enhanced” T26 can easily accommodate the S1850 Radar on top of its hanger, and dont actually rule out an arrowhead AAW either. that was actually my real point, by moving to these 2 world class platforms (huitfeldt is already world class – I hope we improve it further) we give ourselves a massive ability to get scale into the fleet and our industrial base, and can choose what we do with each. My personal view is that we should use the T26 hull etc… Read more »


T26 with CEAFAR 2 L would give you 2 radars on one mast…oh and its Australian made…that’s a coincidence isnt it…with them buying the T26 design… The CEAFAR1 fit gives you a phased array radar for similar performance as say Artisan. The CEAFAR 2 L fit gives you another row of phased array panels that give you long range air search. The disadvantage is that its a big fit and heavy so it cannot go as high up the mast as say Artisan. That gives you a reduced radar horizon. On a T26 hull its not a hugh issue because… Read more »


Thanks. CEAFAR 2 sounds good. If the UK were to adopt CEAFAR 2 after the promised RN/MoD evaluation though I would still be much happier if it ended up being CEAFAR 3 (for want of a better name), a blend of Aussie antennae technology and next-generation Sampson back-end architecture and software if that was practical. I fear that simply adopting CEAFAR 2 for our next AAW would effectively be the UK walking away from maintaining a high-end radar design and build capability and be another world-class competence left to wither and die.


If if if?


Indeed AC, but I dont see anyone coming up with a better plan in the halls of power. We really need to have a plan now for replacing the whole fleet over the next 25 years and this should be a rolling 25 year cycle. We have spent a fortune designing the T26 platform and need to get the most out of that investment, T45 is coming to its end of life around the same time the 8th vessel will be coming off the production line, so it makes sense But you are right – if, if ,if ….. someone… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Pacman27, I would agree that the MCM vessels go in favour of the flexibility of deployment and capability of USV and UUV countermeasures deployed on frigates, OPVs, RFA vessels as well as shore based, although note we now have 13 rather than 15 commissioned vessels. Not so sure we replace OPV capability with more expensive and greater manning requirements of frigates given they seem well employed on constabulary and other low threat theatre operations but clearly a frigate platform gives far greater flexibility. Where I would differ though is to scale back T31 from your 25x (probably by quite a… Read more »


I am a fan of these, as long as our strategic nuclear building is left intact and indeed enhanced (7 astute is too few on their own and the bare minimum for blue water.. I think we could have 7 of these for the northern gap and an added bonus is that they provide a great lead in to the nuclear fleet from a training perspective. Not against this at all, and actually we wouldn’t have to reduce the volume of T31 to fund it, as it only costs circa £150m per annum if scheduled into the build, or to… Read more »


50 Mk 6 Safe boats would cost north of 700 Mil dollars…the USN pays 15 Mill each for them and we are not going to get them at that price. Add into that the logistics, spares crew etc and its never ever going to happen.
Plus they are not that good…They have limited rage and endurance and being aluminum hulled that brings hull fatigue and erosion into the mix.


Fair comment GB. but surely we can get something similar to replace the P2000 but offer us something a bit more substantial in the 30m range.

I take your point but we could do a composite hull at this size of vessel and design our own version. I am not sure when the P2000’s are due for replacement but potentially the tender for the Gibraltar squadron should lead the way, something a bit more substantial, but not too expensive £15-20m seems about right price to me.


Here’s a crazy idea. The UK has a maritime history and still has a flourishing industry for mechanical design, materials science, engines etc (e.g. a huge number of the Formula One teams are based in the UK, Graphene was invented at Manchester University, lots of automotive and aero engines etc etc). How about HMG awarding some design contracts to encourage UK industry to come up with a worthy contender in this space. If the Mk 6 Safe boat isn’t that good then that sounds like a gap in the market and an interesting export opportunity (not saying that the USA… Read more »


I dont think its crazy at all Julian, I think the MOD should have a design competition for a 30m vessel and a 100m vessel and then put that out to tender. A 100m spartan for instance would surely be a great British success and perhaps could be built in large numbers to replace our OPV’s, border force etc as well. First though we need to decide what we actually want and for me its fewer hulls – maybe a little over specified for the lower end types, but able to do more, and then we need fleet management discipline… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Pacman27, I have to say that I wince when I see mention of “amphibious landings in contested littoral” I suppose it depends what you and others mean by that but frankly sending any troops up a contested beach in this day and age seems insane to me. I’d far rather have the equipment and the strategy to put the troops where the enemy isn’t at that point in time, either landing them inshore or farther up or down the coast, or all three. They can then address the enemy on a more equal footing or even with superiority to enable… Read more »


P2000 are ok at what they do. They can take a 20mm fwd if required (FFBNW) and carry a small( Very small!) rib aft. They can carry a respectable number of bods onboard and are OK in a seaway. As a CPO in Collingwood I used to assist in taking baby RN apprentices out for a few days on them. The boats belonged to RNR or University Boat Units. The big problem we always found was the main engines which where underpowered for the hull and limited top speed…not that doing 25knts in the Mersey estuary in a 30m boat… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I look at the whole picture.

Carriers? SSN? SSBN? Amphibs? RFA? T45 Sea Viper? Royal Marines?

What are the Aussie equivalents?


In regards to carriers the RAN and their Canberra class are capable of operating F35 bs due to their ski jump but at the moment are only ordering the A variant making their the class more of less equivilant to our Albion class. They have no Ssns or Ssbns but do have 6 (in future 12) ssks. In regards to amphibious warfare apart from the two Canberras they also have an ex RFA bay class and a modified vessel of our Round table class so in regards to amphibious warfare the RAN and RN are broadly similar. The RFA massively… Read more »


Chris, The real point is the the “Effect” the Royal Australian Navy (ADF) are trying to achieve! Australia is at the junction of two of the great oceans of the World the Pacific and Indian oceans through which over 60% of the world’s trade travels. What are their risks; PLAN’s submarine force is the second largest submarine force in the world today. The PLAN currently operates four different classes of conventional submarines: Type 039A submarine (NATO designation Yuan-class) – 15 in active service. 5 more under construction. Type 039 submarine (NATO designation Song-class) – 13 in active service. Kilo-class submarine… Read more »


I see they are guaranteed to use Australian steel

Mike Saul

Australia is spending £20bn to get 9 T26 frigates. The UK is spending around £10bn to get 8 T26 frigates and just over £1bn to get 5 T31e frigates. The Australian deal incurs additional costs for equipment such as CEAFAR, which is more expensive and superior in performance, plus a local build using locally sourced products where available. Importantly the Australians have taken a strategic decision to create or maintain a modern shipbuilding industry and are prepared to pay for it. The UK doesn’t have the money or political will to incur similar costs, so we end up using foreign… Read more »


You could look at it the other way. Australia is spending £20bn + additional costs for 9 x T26 and we are getting 8 for “only” around £10bn. Yes, we have had to make compromises and the UK ones aren’t going to be as well equipped as the RAN ones but we are getting almost as many ships for about half the cost and it’s not as if the RN ones are going to be by any means rubbish – far from it. I do admit that it stings with me a bit too to see the RAN version with… Read more »

Jack Wyatt

CEC is overlooked when discussing the RAN frigate. In terms of cooperating with the US, South Korea and Japan it is a significant force multiplier and boost in capability.


Total life costs across 30 years – so it isn’t costing them £2bn per ship – its costing them £2bn per ship over the ships lifetime. Not a bad deal at all when seen like that.


Yes people tend to forget the RAN and RAAF have tendencies to list the through life of cost of weapon systems.
One side effect though is it looks terrible whenever they have a plane crash or catch fire. As the news will report the total costs over life instead of purchase price.


We’re notch better – I believe our costs include the first 10 years of operations (but could be wrong).

Sceptical Richard

Lots of ifs, ifs, ifs. We are where we are. First, I’m surprised Oz has gone for the T26, although very pleased. Surprised because it is a very high risk project. Very high risk, especially given the U.K.’s glacially slow build programme and having to integrate a complete new radar and combat information system. But they’re obviously very concerned by the Chinese submarine threat, forcing them down this route and also the 12 SSKs. Secondly, I notice a very wise decision by the RAN to fit their T26s with the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) system – the single biggest force… Read more »


anybody know if the RAN have selected the helicopter for their T26s. nice photo of a Merlin in the header. !!!

Paul T

whigrubber – the RAN currently use Sikorski MH60R helicopters,these are relatively new so would think they are what will equip their T26’s.


Australian here, delighted the T26 got the nod. Our government understands the need to keep an industrial base after the loss of our commercial car industry in SA and Victoria in 2017. Like the UK we had the ability to engineer and build a vehicle from scratch. I believe this has weighed on their decision as well as increasing concern over the militarisation of Asia. T26 seems a good choice if the T23’s anti-submarine capability is anything to go by. For Australia this is important, for it confirms the decision to sustain a defence industry that can build from the… Read more »