A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan for 2023-2033 has highlighted a significant operational limitation for the UK’s Commando Force.

The report points out a stark funding gap, indicating that the Commando Force is currently not funded to operate from the sea in high-threat maritime environments.

The NAO report explicitly states that there is a lack of financial support for the Commando Force to operate in high-threat maritime environments.

Commando Force is not currently funded to operate from the sea in a high-threat maritime environment”, adding “Funding of £0.7 billion for the modernisation of the Royal Marines, which will enable Commando Force to operate from the sea in a high-threat maritime environment, has not been included”.

Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, expressed grave concerns over the unaffordability of the Equipment Plan in the report, which can be found here.

“The MOD acknowledges that its Equipment Plan for 2023–2033 is unaffordable, with forecast costs exceeding its current budget by almost £17 billion. This is a marked deterioration in the financial position since the previous Plan. Deferring choices on spending priorities until after the Spending Review, while understandable given the government’s ambitions expressed in the updated Integrated Review, risks poor value for money if programmes continue which are later cancelled, scaled down or deferred because they are unaffordable.

The MOD should consider how future Plans can achieve their core purpose: providing a reliable assessment of the affordability of its equipment programme and demonstrating to Parliament how it will manage its funding to deliver equipment projects.”

Brief summary of projects either not Included or partly included in the Equipment Plan

The National Audit Office report on the Ministry of Defence’s Equipment Plan 2023-2033 reveals several critical capability requirements that are partly or fully excluded from this year’s plan. These exclusions, despite being integral to the UK’s defence strategy, have no funding allocated in the equipment plan.

Programmes Not Included in the Plan:

1. Land Environment Capability Assessment Register (British Army):

  • Unfunded Gaps: Significant gaps in lethality, air defence, C4I systems, logistics, CBRN, and mobility.
  • Internal Balancing: The Army is conducting an internal exercise to modernise forces within existing funding.

2. Warrior Armoured Vehicle and Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank (British Army):

  • Costing Uncertainty: Extensions for Warrior and Challenger 2 are still being costed, potentially leading to unfunded pressures.

3. Land Precision Strike (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Requirement: A need for a ground-launched precision guided weapon with at least 80km range.
  • Funding Status: Programmed for the end of the decade, but no financial commitment yet.

4. SPEAR Cap 3 Electronic Warfare Air-to-Ground Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Programme Status: Initial low-cost capability demonstrator under negotiation; full programme confirmation pending by the RAF.

5. Meteor Air-to-Air Missile (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Mid-Life Upgrade: Funding of up to £2 billion required for mid-life upgrade, currently not included.

6. Test and Evaluation Contracts (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Funding Shortfall: Insufficient funding to replace two contracts ending in 2028; development and procurement funding gap exists.

Partly Funded Programmes Included in the Equipment Plan

1. A400M Transport Aircraft Additional Purchases (Royal Air Force):

  • Funding Status: Some funding held centrally; sufficient but does not align with later years’ spending needs.

2. F35-B Combat Aircraft Third Front-Line Squadron (Royal Air Force):

  • Capital Budget Shortfall: Increases by £0.1 billion between 2023-24 and 2026-27.
  • Operational Funding Gap: Lacks £0.4 billion needed to operate the squadron.

3. New Entries into the Shipbuilding Pipeline (Royal Navy):

  • Projects Included: Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance ships, Type 32 Frigates, Multi-Role Support Ships, Type 83 destroyers, Future Air Dominance System.
  • Financial Shortfall: Costs are £5.9 billion higher than current budgets.

4. In-Service Extension of RFA Argus (Royal Navy):

  • Implementation: Extension of the primary casualty receiving ship is underway.
  • Budget Issue: No additional budget was received for this extension.

5. Mine Hunting Capability (Royal Navy):

  • Plan Inclusion: Second phase included in the Plan.
  • Funding Shortfall: No additional budget for this phase; additional funds sought for Hunt Class vessels until new capability is operational.

6. Future Commando (Royal Navy):

  • Modernisation Funding: £0.7 billion required for Royal Marines modernisation to enable operations from the sea in high-threat environments.
  • Budget Exclusion: This funding has not been included in the Plan.

7. Directed Energy Weapons (Strategic Programmes Directorate):

  • Status: Novel capability with assessment phase funding.
  • Review Pending: MOD to review at the end of the assessment phase; may replace or supplement other capabilities.
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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Robert Blay
Robert Blay
1 month ago

11 of that 17Billion is inflation alone. Hence the urgency to get Inflation under control.

Nonions
Nonions
1 month ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

What steps has the government actually taken to do this though? My understanding is that since it’s due to global factors they basically can’t do anything and are simply seeking credit for when it will likely fall.

Exroyal.
Exroyal.
1 month ago

As a nation we need to be able to deploy the equivalent of a PHIBRON.
Sadly it’s been a long time since we could. I can’t see it ever happening again. The Marines have the Manpower, however the Navy lack the platforms. What there is afloat today all needs replacing on age alone. The type of ships involved don’t need sophisticated and wide ranging weapon systems. Self defence is all that’s required. So in the scale of warships in cost terms should be at the cheaper end. I just can’t see it happening.

ChrisLondon
ChrisLondon
1 month ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

We have six amphib ships which should ensure four in service at any time. In what ways are their abilities less than a US PHIBRON? I just checked and a typical USA unit would have one 40k LHD and 2 x 25k LPD.
The Bays and Albion/Bulwalk are all 19k and Argus 28k.
The only big difference I can see is far better helo provision on the US ships.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago

Austerity and the ‘Peace Dividend’! We need to work out what we want to do, and then fund via taxes accordingly. Cutting taxes to suit the greed of a few does not solve public service crises.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

To be fair Nick, a lot of this has been brought on by years of bureaucratic political ineptitude, ordering bespoke equipment that immediately flew over budget, over and over and over again.

Whilst both parties are responsible, the current bloody mess is squarely on the Tories after 13 years in charge.

John Clark
John Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Just to add, the next government really are screwed, no money in the pot for defence, so what options do they have???

Expat
Expat
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

The next government is promising more bought from the UK so I think history will repeat itself.

Mike Warr
Mike Warr
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Also by procrastination over which equipment to have. What is needed is a proper procurement process under which each supplier of land equipment has to supply two examples of the required equipment for testing and assessment. The set arrange the price for the whole purchase with production cost overruns being funded by the manufacturer. The fiasco of Ajax perhaps would not have occurred if this had been done. Also get the people who are going to use the equipment to do the testing and assessment

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Purchasing ineptitude and over specification design expectations do not helo certainly but the lack of proper funding is at the heart of this. The gold plated if not solid gold user demands on the face of it are fair, especially as people’s lives depend on the equipment but even the basics need to be provided, and as for cutting back on and disposing of capital equipment…… At least Russia had the sense to keep old gear in store. The focus on global interests doesn’t help either, we don’t have the equipment or manpower to support immediate needs let alone those… Read more »

Louis
Louis
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

All the defence issues go back further than the 13 years the Tories have been in power. Just like Labours inevitable issues in the years to come will be because of decisions made during the Tories years in charge.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  John Clark

Stand by for 20 expensive Westland helis!!

Expat
Expat
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

The problem isn’t cutting taxes, it’s our complete lack of ability to create new wealth in our economy. Create new wealth and no one needs to pay more as the pot you take tax from is bigger. The only way we’re growing is by adding people which all need to have access to schools doctors hospitals etc so any tax we take from them is already spent. Essentially the economy is broken and the two main parties are so focused on their outdated thinking they will never fix it.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  Expat

The difficulty is that cutting taxes has an immediate effect and stagnates the economy and causes backlogs in and a reduction of public infrastructure. Cutting taxes is fine but only if the country can afford it. Waiting for growth can take years. The short term effect of cutting taxes only benefits those who are already wealthy enough. At the bottom or middle end of the salary range the amounts seen are negligible. Cutting taxes panders to the selfish greed of those at the top. Taes should be set at a fair level according to ability to pay for public infrastructure… Read more »

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

It is culture. The budget it is what it is due to country culture.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Which speaks volumes about the state of that culture, me-me-me, greed, corruption, dishonesty, lies. And that is just our leaders!

AlexS
AlexS
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

No i am not talking about your leaders. If it was not for your leaders you wouldn’t not have nuclear deterrent, neither the 2 carriers,
The navy would have a couple frigates, the army will be for humanitarian proposes and the air force will be smaller. Basically the force would be just to have a card to NATO club.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  AlexS

Huh? How is your comment related to the thread? ‘Your’ or ‘Our’ leaders? What is the point of aircraft carriers in a North Atlantic context? Not sure what you are actually talking about or where you get your assumptions from, or have they just been invented to support whatever unknown fixed opinion you have? What is so wonderful about the nuclear deterrent? I don’t think you’ve put much thought into analysing your cognitive dissonance! I was referring to the fact that budgets have been cut over succesive decades to allow some people to pay even less tax from their burgeoning… Read more »

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
1 month ago

During his resignation speech in parliament, Ben Wallace noted (some would say boasted) that during his tenure as SoS Defence he had obtained an extra £24bn for his department Where exactly has this money gone? £24bn is a sum larger than the defence budgets of many NATO members. Now, while the Army has been cut to the bone and the MoD has increased it’s headcount from 62,000 in 2021 to 67,000 this year, they are saying they need about £17bn more just to stand still How many more times do parliamentary committees have to bang on about this sort of… Read more »

Mike Warr
Mike Warr
1 month ago

The best way to fund the Royal Marines is to get rid of 30% of the expensive MP’s in Parliament most of whom are English ones. The other 3 countries in the UK have their own Parliament and therefore only Ned representative MPs elected from their ow elected parliaments

Cripes
Cripes
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Warr

MPs already represent about 80,000 voters , which is a big constituency caseload. Increase that to 100,000+ and few would want the job.

And cutting 95 MPs wouldn’t pay for one Marine company. The issue here is anyway not personnel numbers, it is how can one justify building 5 or 6 expensive amphib warships just to land 100 or 200 Marines for a brief raid? There are a lot of urgent equipment priorities and 6 MRSS looks rather over the top for such a limited military capability, there are less expensive ways of achieving the same goal.

Last edited 1 month ago by Cripes
Michael Warr
Michael Warr
1 month ago
Reply to  Cripes

You make a good point, However when you look at the net worth of a lot of individuals who voluntarily put themselves forward to be MP one wonders why they cant afford to pay their expenses. for those who volunteer to represent the people of this country they should consider it a privilege and have some respect for that privilege and the people they represent to do so. As reported in the Guardian recently there are many MP,s who have unregistered wealth in the form of shares in banks, building company’s, Defence, Energy, and in Supermarkets meaning that can influence… Read more »

James
James
1 month ago

What a surprise used forces made to depend on their own aftercare from service via charities. Is it any surprise all essential services are underfunded which.probably hasn’t been missed by our enemies and Spain and Argentina. The British “blimp” mentality self inflicted and disalusional. Money wasted and giveted to Tory sponsors is just a joke as is the entire line up
of the Tory cabinet.

David C Stevens
David C Stevens
1 month ago

I think that they need a “looney tax ” in Canada to fund thier militairy.Every Canadian citizen pay a “looney” a month for militairy spending.It would be like a “war tax” so England could tax every English citizen say 5 Bob a month to pay for thier militairy shortcomings.A good and prudent investment.Maybe England should stay “closer to home”and not repeat the mistakes of WW2 .Transferring thier Pacific fleet and Gulf fleet into the North Atlantic shipping lanes might prove more fruitful then the biblical Armageddon of 1/3rd of thier ships in Davey Jones Locker.I think the Pacific and Gulf… Read more »

John mckenna
John mckenna
1 month ago

This is a disaster waiting to happen,underfunding and mismanagement of available funds needs to be resolved in order to improve the ability and readiness of our armed forces.

Pacman27
Pacman27
1 month ago

I find it really disappointing how we don’t seem to value our RMC capability. It is an excellent high end capability that very few countries can match and should be expanded to Divisional size imo Done properly we could definitely recruit the numbers – but need to offer far better employee offering (across all services – but navy especially) If the forces heads had been true leaders – they would have transferred the headcount the army couldn’t fill (82k – but has been around 75k for several years now) and move it to the RN / RAF. perhaps this is… Read more »

Kgn25014024
Kgn25014024
1 month ago

Unfunded Gaps, Costing Uncertainty, Funding Shortfall, Capital Budget Shortfall, Operational Funding Gap, Financial Shortfall, Budget Issue, Budget Exclusion.
These may be buzzwords for “The Board of Directors and Oligarchs are getting a pay rise” at Home Bargains and Heron Foods, but this is the British Army FFS!

Marked
Marked
1 month ago

Hardly anything is funded to operate in high risk operations. Under manned, fitted for but not with, no resilience, no ability to absorb attrition. Our military is simply not fit for purpose.

D WESLEY
D WESLEY
1 month ago

I SERVED WITH 42 BACK IN 78. IT WAS FUNDED ON A SHOESTRING THEN AND IT IS NOW. BUT ROYAL WILL STILL TURN OUT.