Richard Drax, Conservative MP for South Dorset, spoke in Parliament to demand reassurances that the Royal Navy would increase in size and capability.

“I must declare an interest, Mr Speaker: my grandfather and father both served in the Royal Navy, and both would be turning in their graves at the size of the Royal Navy. Although I quite accept the financial difficulty that the Minister has, does he accept from me that the threats from around the world—not least from China, which is talked about too seldom—are growing? 

We are sending one ship, I think, across the waters to the south of China. I ask the Minister, please, for an assurance that the Royal Navy’s size and capability will be increased.”

Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, responded:

“My hon. Friend will be aware of the recent deployment of HMS Sutherland, and there will be further such deployments in future to that part of the world.

For the first time in a generation, the Royal Navy is actually growing. It grew in manpower last year and will continue to grow over the next couple of years, and not just in manpower—the size of its surface fleet is also growing. The latest of the offshore patrol vessels arrived in Portsmouth only this weekend.”

Recently, earlier concern over the speculated cancellation of Astute boat number seven was eased by a defence minister.

New defence procurement minister Guto Bebb informed MPs in a written statement:

“The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received approval in principle from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to recognise new contingent liabilities associated with the Astute Boat 7 ‘Whole Boat’ Contract.”

We understand that this announcement paves the way for the formal contract to be signed before the end of the financial year.

The scrapping of the seventh Astute Class submarine under construction had been “actively considered” it emerged earlier in the year. A leaked document seen by The Sunday Express stated senior officials read:

“In the long term the delay (or cancellation) will ease the pressure on manning, but we must not be seen to welcome this situation. Any loss of capability will impact on operations.”

Barrow MP John Woodcock said at the time:

“This leaked document is confirmation that scrapping Astute boat seven is being actively considered by the government. There is embarrassingly flawed logic within the decision but it shows just how much pressure there is to find any route out of the cash crisis that is gripping the MoD.”

Woodcock later tweeted:

“To be clear – we are not there yet. The defence secretary will clearly fight for the funds to cover the defence equipment programme, including boat 7. But the fact our submarine programme is under threat shows the terrible funding pressure being imposed by the Treasury.”

This comes not long after the fourth Astute class submarine, Audacious, which is being built by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy, completed her first ever dive.



  1. Afternoon all
    So that battle begins, the RN recovering from the supposed “Year of the Royal Navy” with lots of press and supportive MP’s asking questions prolong enough so that a minister can answer it without promising anything but giving the view that all is well.
    Will it be the RAF next, especially is this Y100 for the service or will the Army steal a march?
    Change is coming, who is it going to change most?

    • Ha! I did that in 2004 with the “New Chapter” to the 98 SDSR and look how that went.

      I’m happy to do it again but quite sceptical they will listen.

      • For what its worth I think HM gov is open to constructive ideas. With this Salisbury business the gloves have come off. I think we will see at least a firming of defence spending.

        • Hope so Paul. The way things are going with Russia HMG will look even more hypocritical cutting to the rafters.

          • We need to spend what it takes to secure our way of life. Putin is an arsenist lighting fires in Syria, Crimea, Ukraine plus social media cyber fires plus a continual stream of provocations; airspace incursions, Russian navy sailings, assassinations. How many people are involved dealing with Salisbury? Massive cost and disruption for pretty minimum effort. This is how he works.
            The Gulf gas is strategic for us and is being secured with Jafar, the minesweeper squadron, maintaining good relations with KSA, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar.
            Special forces are key. They are largely recruited from the RM. This is why I am not worried about losing the RM. Flares are being bought for the C130s. Refuelling probes are being fitted to Merlin HC3/4. The signs are positive.
            Ukrainian sovereignty is where we need to win by training Ukraine forces, substantive materiel and pushing for a peacekeeping / humanitarian presence in ‘disputed areas’ to flush out the Russian ‘volunteers’.
            As to the LPDs they may go. They are far and away the most expensive RN ships to operate. Albions annual running cost equals 2 1/2 Astutes. I am waiting for the MARS Solid support ships proposal. Maybe they can find a way of replacing Albion and Bulwark with more affordable LPDs.

          • Agree re SF and the RM.

            I was not aware refuelling probes were being fitted to Merlins.

          • Amphibious capability is not something we want to lose. Our military power has historically always been sea based, its only really during the Cold War and the following wars in the Middle East that the army has had a more prominent role.

            In terms of combating Russia, we need to look at where we can have the most impact. We have a continent of land based allies between us and Russia, so a large conventional army is fairly pointless. Where Russia can really hurt us, and where most of Europe is lacking, is at sea. We need to be able to secure control of critical supply lines, take out opposing vessels, and land the troops to secure important objectives like ports. The best platforms and troops to accomplish that? Assault ships with marines.

            Also, is that a mistake where you say you’re NOT worried about losing marines? You correctly point out that special forces are key, but cutting their recruitment pool does nothing but seriously hinder them. The SBS would either have to lower its entry standards or accept a reduction in manpower due to insufficient acceptable applicants

        • the fleet is growing? my ars* another o.p.v hardly looks the answer to fleet numbers. all it means is, that we hhave another ship to enforce fishing protection. if they fitted the o.p.v with a 76mm cannon, as the thais have done
          would look like a serious move.

        • @Callum. Just to clarify the reason I am not worried about losing the RM is that I don’t believe it will happen.

    • I’m sure the readers of ukdefensejournal can come up with something that HMG would find worthy of consideration.

      Perhaps it might be enlightening to some of us, to consider the tradeoffs that have to be made every day.

      I read countless compaints and bashing of MOD and HMG here every day, so lets document your solutions and suggest them. Otherwise maybe you shouldnt compain so much in the future if you are not willing to help out now.

      I would be more than happy to provide resources for the effort if there is a decent interest.

      • Morning Andy
        Happy to help as long as there were ground rules in place and a structure (themes) that other readers could work within.

      • i’ve lost count of the times i’ve had my local m.p to forward my latest rants, he call me admira. i say to him , we’ve no problems in that area.they’re everywhere.

      • Hi Lee and Andy.

        I can start a collaborative document in quip (, everyone here will be able to see it and contribute to it i hope.

        I will also start a ground rules doc, so we can decide what they are. We have to be careful to keep it ogranised and productive and dont go too far into ranting and raving.

        I’ll even make a fantasy fleet part so anyone that wants too can add their ideas there.

        Can we have some sugguestions for ground rules please?

        Here are my suggestions….

        – we recognise that many mistakes have been made in the past and agree this is not the place to discuss them, this proposal is constructive and advisory, crowdsourced by passionate citizens in support of our armed forces and security services

        – we assume the defence budget will not be cut and will remain at worst case at 2% of gdp, increasing by 1% per year in real terms

        – we dont cut other services to fund the navy

        – we dont blame the nhs, eu or welfare on the state of our armed forces

        Let me know your thoughts please..

        • Fantasy fleet part a great idea.
          Themes based on what we expect our military to do:
          Defence of the U.K. mainland
          NATO member
          Expeditionary ability – and why
          Things like that
          Global Britain
          RDEL vs CDEL
          International by design
          Designed in U.K. built overseas

  2. The RN growing?
    Why was it announced yesterday that Babcock are to lay-off 500 yes i did say 500 workers from Devonport Naval Base
    They must have heard that the Albion and Bulwark are going along with all the Marines and landing craft that they use as well
    Which means that there is hardly anything based there now
    So to save money the place will go
    Was this in the news ? No it wasnt as it was the forgotten part of the UK The South West

  3. There need to be military aware MP’s in the house to call out crap statements from ministers that the RN is growing there and then.

    What did it grow by? A few hundred ratings I believe by reducing officer ranks.

  4. FFS the conservatives are a disaster on defence.
    The UKs armed forces have been slashed back to pathetic levels.
    Not that current Labour party would be any better.
    We need some new more sensible political leaders that actually understand defence and the need now more than ever to have a capable armed forces.
    Everyone in parliament and the MOD seem to forget the cold hard fact, you fight wars with the personnel and weapons you have to hand. That is why we are in trouble now. Not enough weapons not enough ships, not enough subs, not enough jets, not enough personnel.
    Get real…go to 3% GDP to defence right now and put trident replacement and pensions right back onto the treasury not the core defence budget.

    • Spot on. I would be amazed if all that happened though so lets be realistic and hope for at least some improvements here and there and extra money per year to remove the threat of cuts.

      Biggest win would be Successor removed from core.

  5. Its a shame no one in parliament challanges the whole growing navy topic. It seems to me that over the last few years a rather large number of ships have silently gone out of service and a lessor number have come into service.

    The only way it seems to be growing is tonnage, but would be the worst case of stat manipulation.

    • 5 River 2’s in 3 River 1’s and Clyde out.
      4 Tides in 6 + Rovers and Leaf Tankers out.
      2 QEC Carriers in 3 Invincibles out. ( Big capability increase though )
      HMS Ocean out.

      Post 2010 SDSR.

      4 Batch 3 T22 out.
      HMS Dilligence out.
      1 RFA Bay LSD cut.
      RFA Fort Victoria cut.

      Lost count of the number of Hunt and Sandown deleted and sure there are others, that list was just off my head.

      Agree it is political speak. When one conducts a FOIA request as I used to do regularly you need to word carefully otherwise they wriggle out. Growing being a typical example.

      • there is 1 river 2 in so far. how many mine hunters have gone the last couple of years? add ocean gone and the refit vessel (forget name). Yes some more are coming but not arrived.

      • HMS Roebuck gone, seven Hunt class vessels decommissioned, four Sandowns decommissioned (although one Sandown and one Hunt remain as static training vessels), loss in helicopter numbers, and a decrease in personnel.

        The loss of RFA vessels such as Largs Bay and Diligence are some of the worst. The Bay class have proven themselves in disaster relief and supporting the minesweeper role. Diligence has been crucial for operations since the Falklands. BMT (the designers of the Tide Class) offer a vessel similar to Diligence – why not modify it and place an order for one?

        Similarly, I’d advocate ordering more Tide’s. When not in use, they can be loaned to commercial operations, or foreign navies, to facilitate operations – like we used to do years ago. And if we do ever want to grow the fleet, we’ll have the RFA futureproofed.

  6. Building more ships, but less capable ones cheaper is the political excuse of the government… It completely shows what the government thinks about it’s people and that of the United Kingdom, not being capable of critical thinking.. I say it here, and I say it now as an example of the right critical thinkers of the nation that even one Type 26, is value for money, is worth more than 5 Type 31E, in it’s capability alone, it’s deterrent factor not included.. You can’t weigh tonnage and capability in the same sentence, and call it an increase in capability. It’s all a built up illusion in order to confuse the rabble which they think incapable of critical thinking.. I’m hear too tell them they are wrong… Who’s with me?

  7. So, leaving aside the Tories and Labour, who do we vote for? And don’t say UKIP, they’re mad as a box of frogs, right wing nut jobs, fast falling apart, stabbing each other in the back whose former millionaire non event of a claim filling MEP Farage and his foreign wife has really lumbered this country with multi billion pound bills to settle and made us a laughing stock.

    • I just could not stay quiet.

      Firstly – I was pulled up on another article about apparently being insulting to you. I even apologised, even though I felt I did not have to. But I suspected by the tone of your comments since you appeared on this site what you were. And boy how I was proved right judging by that tirade of yours above.

      I hope the person who said I was being insulting also notes how many people you just insulted by your comments concerning UKIP members. One rule for one and one for another maybe?

      Lets examine what you say. I just have to reply, on behalf of all UKIP members I know.

      “Right Wing Nut Job”

      How do you define that?

      How many UKIP members have you met?

      Of the hundreds I have met or known personally I can honestly say not one gave the impression of marching around in jackboots shouting “Sieg Heil”, an image so beloved of the left which is thrown around like mud at every turn. That there are indeed “some” with more extremist views should not tarnish the rest, but it suits you to do so of course.

      People who were totally normal, in varied lines of work, many elderly, many war veterans, sick to death at what has happened to their nation and who want to do something about it and change it for the better, taking on the establishment in their cosy little box and unassailable by design with the “First Past the Post” system of voting.

      Without that little set up 4 million odd votes in 2015 would have given UKIP more than a paltry 1 seat, and that being a Tory defector.

      By comparison the SNP and Lib Dems got less votes combined and wield how much power in the Commons and Lords?

      And what a SLAP IN THE FACE they got at the Referendum for leaving the EU result.

      Next Comment.

      “Mad as a box of Frogs”

      Some no doubt! And that could apply to ALL parties, but for UKIP obviously it is highlighted with searchlights and shouted from the rooftops. Personally I’d think Labours treatment of Jews, attempt to subvert democracy with the referendum, and silence amongst their councillors at Asian Grooming Gangs in Rotheram is also ” Mad as a Box of Frogs” but hey ho you lot have your priorities.

      “Fast Falling Apart”

      Without a doubt. Nigel Farage was impossible to follow, and not surprisingly.

      “Stabbing each other in the back”

      What like the Tories did to Thatcher in 1990? Happens in other parties too.

      Your section ranting about Nigel Farage deserves little more comment. Though I will say it was notable you emphasised his wife is foreign. Oh! You have an issue with foreigners eh?
      I thought people screamed and shouted that was UKIP’s premise.

      That he has, or had a German wife and indeed a french sounding name hardly makes him the seething xenophobe people love to make him out to be. And he is not.

      You lot just cannot handle that the majority of the nation agreed with UKIP in 2016.

      You may well subvert the Brexit vote, we shall see, but do know that Nigel Farage has more pride, loyalty, patriotism, and love for his country and people than you have in your little toe.

      Disgusted quite frankly.

    • Peder, “right wing nut job”? You sound like one of those left wing wimps, the type of little wimp who would just keep allowing immigration until we are outnumbered in our own country. It is left wing, politically correct wimps like you who have ruined our country.

  8. I’m hoping we are just starting to see the tide turning and our polititions waking up. We have fantastic capabilities but no strength in depth to survive in a major conflict. Let’s hope we get some positive news of a plan for growth soon. Or maybe I’m mad…

  9. Richard Drax is the grandson of Admiral Drax who was sent to Moscow in 1939 to negotiate an alliance with the Russians. He’s an interesting character to read about, should you enjoy that kind of thing.

    I think our politicians sense that the voters have little appetite for increased defence spending. While that may be true, it is no excuse for an abdication of the duties of leadership. Clearly, the Royal Navy, in particular needs more fighting ships. Our politicians need to explain that inescapable fact to the electorate. Unfortunately, most seem unwilling to grasp the nettle. They are not making the effort to understand this complex subject sufficiently to guide the electorate that trusts them, or ought to.

  10. The ‘navy is growing’ line? I thought they gave that lie up with the disaster that was the ‘Year of the Navy’.

  11. The RN may or may not be ‘growing’. But it is certainly being recapitalised with new carriers, Opvs, Type 26 and Type 31 to come. Restructuring may be more accurate. Bases in the UK are being rationalised but Gulf bases like Jaffair and Duqm are growing. And the UK is keen to expand into Kuwait. Would be interested to know what the UK contribution is to these large construction projects and whether any of it is coming out of the defence budget, a significant item in which is facilities.

  12. It is possible that we may see an increase in defence spending. Although HMG is still running a deficit in its budget each year, it’s now only due to capital/ investment projects. In other words the U.K. has a surplus on its OPEX budget but this is less than current CAPEX spending for the first time since before the Crash of ‘08. With interest rates so low it is arguably a good time to borrow cash to invest in infrastructure and other capital costs.

    That said. The interest the U.K. pays on its current debt mountain is equivalent to the entire annual defence budget. So had the last Labour Government not run up such a huge debt then it would be possible to double defence spending.

  13. I see in the newspapers today some talk that Trump is talking about giving exemptions from the US steel and aluminium tariffs to those allies who are spending at least 2% of GDP on defence. With some statistics claiming that the U.K. isn’t actually meeting its 2% target (I’ve seen 1.96% mentioned) maybe this could be an impetus for the U.K. to at least make sure the target is very clearly met by all measures and hopefully a small safety margin on top to make a statement that we are not only meeting but exceeding the 2% however modestly.

    We have to accept that we are in a precarious situation financially with not only the military but also NHS, police and other areas underfunded so I think 3% of GDP on defence is never going to happen unless a closer-to-home war breaks out. I did think though, after reading the Save the Royal Navy article about how much the RN did in Feb 2018 even with its equipment and funding constraints, just how much impact a relatively small injection of extra budget could make.

    At a budget now of about £40bn a year just a 5% increase from 2.0% to 2.1% of GDP would give an extra £2bn a year. Allocate half of that to increases in personnel and other annual running costs across all three services (which would really help alleviate the staffing shortages) that still leaves an extra £1bn a year for incremental new equipment purchases. Say the RN got half of that, and using Pacman27’s favoured 20 year drumbeat, that’s an extra £10bn of equipment purchases over the next 20 years. That actually buys quite a lot of stuff. No, it doesn’t get us to some of the fantasy fleet numbers bandied about here but it’s definitely enough to add an extra Astute, a couple more T26, a few more T31 and even some extra budget per T31, including the 5 already announced, to make sure they are credible and still leave cash left over for other stuff besides. Plus the Army and RAF also have another £10bn equipment budget to split between them.

    Small increases could make a big difference.

  14. First thing they need to do is to give military a decent remuneration package.

    Every trained military person with two years service should be on a minimum of £25k and once they have completed 9 years satisfactory service they should be eligible for an training package which include exemption from tuition fees and a maintenance grant for up to 3 years.

    Then we can focus on the equipment, as long as the equipment needs human being to operate and maintain it then the humans come first because without the first the second is useless

    • Agree with this.

      Wish lists for equipment all well and good but uplift in manpower and better pay and conditions vital to retention.

  15. For the people thinking of writing to your MP or whoever…please do it but make it constructive. As some of you may have noticed I had a submission paper here a few days ago about our amphibious capability.
    What you may not know is that it started as a paper to the Defence sub committee and was taking on board as part of their review, included in the full report, along with others, and subsequently published in the Parliamentary Review which is received by all MP’s and is available to both Houses of Parliament.
    My “amateur” paper was taken seriously throughout and I am now preparing for submission to the SOS regarding the upcoming defence review. I think we have a lot of friends and allies at Westminster so go for it.

    • Hi Geoffrey
      I would also suggest utilising your enthusiastic band of commentators, by the looks of things we have a wide service, crown servant and industry base of individuals who are all keen and passionate about the defence of the realm (that includes TH oddly enough).
      Once the paper has been agreed this could then not only be submitted to SoSD but mailed to our MP’s asking for their views and support.
      SoSD is ambitious, MP’s by their nature are ambitious and like to work in groups, they just need a common cause, with strap lines that they can repeat.
      Happy to help


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