The planned decommissioning of the Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier HMS Ocean in 2018 without replacement is a nonsensical step and puts accountancy and politics above our nation’s security and our national interests.

Article by Oliver B. Steward, a Doctoral Candidate in International Security at the University of East Anglia. This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal.

It will leave a hole in our amphibious warfare and carrier based capabilities of our Royal Navy which will limit our operational range and effectiveness.

For a maritime nation is makes perfect sense that we invest and maintain our current force levels, if not to supplement it with newer ships, while refitting older ones. It is vital that our national and military interests are served by having amphibious warfare capability to enable the UK to launch far ranging geographical operations overseas.

Historically during 2014, HMS Ocean underwent a £65 million refit. The Defence Minister at the time Philip Dunne said

“I am delighted that this contract will not only ensure that HMS Ocean remains a significant, highly flexible and capable warship for years to come.”

Sadly this has become a testament to the all well known fact that rhetoric by many politicians do not match with practice.

While the MOD report it would maintain a “significant amphibious capability” including the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers – but even those large ships will not fully enter service until 2020 leaving a capability deficit (this means they will not have functional fighting aircraft and will not be on active deployment until that time).

It is worth noting that HMS Ocean as a ship has served our nation in an exemplary fashion, and all the crews that served on her. Her actions include those in Kosovan crisis, to the 2003 Iraq War, providing logistical and tactical support for the London 2012 Olympics as well as participating with NATO exercises in the Mediterranean.

My hope is that we will witness a reversal of this decision in the context of growing international security challenged and the government looks into possibility refitting this ship to assume a more multirole function with the possibility of accommodating F35 planes. This will enable this carrier to be kept it in service until the 2020s and beyond.

The Queen Elizabeth class ships are a tremendous asset to our Royal Navy, but I sincerely believe that the evidence points to a continued carrier capability during the building and testing of the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

If a conflict breaks out in 2018, the UK will not have a current carrier with training adequate to deploy aircraft to a conflict zone.  HMS Ocean should be kept operational for at least the interim if not the long term period.

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‘The planned decommissioning of the Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier HMS Ocean in 2018 without replacement is a nonsensical step and puts accountancy and politics above our nation’s security and our national interests’ –

that’s the standard tory approach to defence and security, illustrated time after time over the decades.


Maybe, but it’s usually because a Tory government is elected after a Labour one has succeeded in bankrupting the country once again, leaving the Tories to make the tough, painful decisions on how the Labour mess is going to be paid for.


Hi Mac, can you tell everyone the connection between Labour and the Lehman Brothers Collapse in 2008 that caused the global financial crisis, cheers.

Also could you explain why our debt is about to hit 1.9 trillion, and why it has risen more in the last 7 years than the previous 70, cheers.

Bill Kenny

Eh, Gordon Brown and his vain glorious claim that he had cured the ‘boom and bust’ economic cycle. That resulted in the UK going into the down turn with the biggest structural deficit in the developed world. Hence the retrenchment that needed to occur after his political demise.


The deficite has fluctuated since the Second World War, it was 5% of GDP in the 90’s, we had a surplus of 2% in 2001, went back into a deficite during Iraq war and then slowly declined to 0.6% before the crash.

David Cameron and most Tory MP’s voted with labour in deregulating the banks.

People really need to find out for themselves what happened in the 2008 crash and what our economy was doing in the years leading up to it instead of believing sound bites from Tory MPs trying to keep their jobs blaming everything on Labour.


The debt rise was caused by the deficit. The huge deficit was created by Labour – partly through totally inept management of national finances, and partly as a matter of policy. The surplus in the early 2000s was because Labour followed the Conservatives’ economic policies for their first term (see Brown’s speeches if you doibt that); they started ‘The Big Spend ‘in their second term so as to buy votes and future election victories from their new client state. Every time the Conservatives tried to cut the deficit, and therefore slow, then reverse, the rise in the debt, idiot Labour… Read more »


Why do people still believe this? Haven’t they looked at the evidence? Yes, Gordon Brown could perhaps have managed public sector spending better. Yes, some of Labour’s success in running a public sector surplus can be attributed to Ken Clarke’s policies. However, blaming the deficit entirely on Labour’s economic policies is simply inaccurate. Leaving aside the financial crisis, Labour’s record on the deficit is significantly better than the Tories’. From WWII to about 1970 governments generally ran fairly balanced budgets. In the second half of the 1970s, in a time of economic crisis, governments started running deficits. When Margaret Thatcher… Read more »


Most amusing Lockie. Labour can’t be responsible for the current deficit because 40 years ago they did blah blah blah. The last Labour government followed the Conservatives’ economic policies for their first term. Hence, in their second term, they benefited from a strong economy partly due to Tory policy (and partly due to the Fed inflating a massive bubble post 11 September 2001 – but I digress). Also, as any fool knows, government economic policies take years to take full effect. You don’t look at economic performance during the exact years of a particular government to prove their effect, you… Read more »


I did go to university, and I studied economics there. I find it slightly odd you think that makes my opinion less, rather than more, valid. I don’t know you so I could be completely wrong, but based on your comments I think I’ve got much better knowledge and understanding of this than you do. We clearly disagree about this. The difference is that I’ve basing my opinions on evidence; you’re basing yours on your evident dislike of the Labour party. Stating that the deficit was created by Labour is simply not a view supported by the statistics and pasting… Read more »


Mac point scoring over labour is easy as you just did but the Tories can no longer be trusted to remedy the problems iwith any coherent plan and that goes for defence, policing, healthcare and prisons to name just 4 topic areas. Running government policy like you would a supermarket with accountants in charge has been proven to be folly with many of the cuts now being reversed. By the way I reluctantly voted Tory to keep the other idiot out.

Stuart Willard

Yes me too, first time ever but let’s be honest on the subject of defence niether party has any sort of record to boast about over the decades. Labour in the 60s makes me shiver to remember the indecision and waste.


Labour in the 1960s was making actual decisions, unlike the 1951-64 Tories who destroyed Britain’s aircraft industry and weakened military readiness. As Sir George Edwards pointed out himself, it’s “difficult to quarrel with Healey and Jenkins” (defence secretary and chancellor at the time) because the Tories would not make decisions; it was all-change with each new minister. The 1960s Labour government got the UK the Tornado, the Invincible Class and the Type 42.

P tattersall

Every labour government is a absolute disaster for all the UK ..


Tripe, as ever. Seen the increase in the national debt under the tories, as ‘austerity’ drove a recovering economy down. Don’t give me that rubbish about ‘Labour bankrupting the economy’, ‘maxing out the national credit card’, and ‘we’d be like Greece’ that the tories used to justify their ‘austerity’ madness, based on their shrink the state ideology. It was a banking crisis caused by deregulation that the tories voted for, and said hadn’t gone far enough.


HF – Well good luck with a bank if you ever need a bhusiness loan. You seem to not have the faintest idea about debt, deficits let alone borrowing. I have written a deatiled response to your mate Kieren’s nonsense which tripped the same soundbites you just did. Whether you like it of not Labour was in power for 13 years. For 3 of those they had an annual SURPLUS. (Because Brown followed Tory spending plans). They then went on a spending spree and blew the SURPLUS into an annual DEFICIT. which then apart from paying down our DEBT added… Read more »


So Labour only and three years out of thirteen running a surplus (some sources say four, it depends on exactly which statistics you use – 2002 either comes out as balanced or a small surplus). The Conservatives had run the country for the previous eighteen years, would you care to tell us how many years they ran a surplus during that period? We can’t really reach a proper conclusion without knowing that.


Lockhart – there you go again referring backwards to what the Tory Government did a decade before while it was managing its Labour inheritance. When Labour took Office in 1997 the annual budget was about ‘in balance’. By adhering to the Tory spending plans the economy created a surplus. That is the factual relevance. A Tory Government handed over an economy in very good shape. So good Labour promised to copy the fiscal policy! Roll forward 10 years and the abandonment of Tory policy and the replacement with ‘Brownenomics’ Labour hands over one of the biggest annual deficits ever seen.… Read more »


You seem to have looked at a long-running deficit situation, picked a moment about midway and blamed the people who started managing it then. What happened to all the debt the Conservative governments accrued between 1979 and 1997? Did it just disappear? You seem to think that just because the deficit was rather low in 1997 the Tories should be absolved of all blame despite the evidence that they’d been running deficits far higher than anything Labour did pre-crash. Ken Clarke did a good job on the deficit. Ken Clarke is not all Tories; not all Tories are Ken Clarke.… Read more »

Steven Jones

HF, i’m sorry but you simply must be a troll. Noone can be so dumb as to believe the crap that you are spouting.


See above, HF.

– Debt is generated by the deficit.
– The deficit was created by Labour.
– Labour opposed deficit reduction, which had to be abandoned in the most part.
– So the government had to increase borrowing to bridge the gap.
– Hence debt rose.
– D’oh!

Hope this helps.

P tattersall

Yes all down to labour selling all our gold off on the cheap just before gold prices hit record levels and the interest a!one on the last labour government Dept’s runs in to billions each year that’s why Dept’s go up ask the man who created all the Dept’s Mr Brown you have a very sort memory remember the Note brown left no money left we have successfully bankrupt the UK again its all part of labour DNA Dept’s

Fat dave

Labour bankrupted the country and Thatch had to repair the damage. Blair and Brown did the same through unsustainable spending. And the Tories had to repair it again. Sooner or later, Labour will return to power, tax and spend again, undermine the armed forces, destroy the economy. And the whole cycle repeats.

As a serving member of HM Forces, things are always better under the Tories

Rob H

The 1958 White Paper, which probably did more damage to British defense and the British aviation industry than any other single act of government was of course a Conservative Government’s. The disastrous 1980 defense white paper which would have seen the sale of Hermes and Illustrious and signalled the withdrawal of the Ice Patrol ship from the South Atlantic, was of course a contributing factor to encouraging Galtieri to gamble on the Falkland’s invasion. The 2010 white paper saw the willful destruction of the finally about to enter service Nimrod MR4 and the sale of the Harrier GR9’s for peanuts… Read more »


Politics aside I agree with the author, HMS Ocean has been discussed on another thread, even when the QE class comes in, Ocean is still needed for proper amphibious assault. She cost peanuts £283m according to Wikipedia, if we could replace her, bulwark and Albion with a new class of 3 ships all helicopter assault for £250-£300m then the money should be found.

The Royal Marines are our best fighting force, they’re a small highly trained brigade and they should be coming off LPH’s with apaches and F35’s on the decks for CAS.

Geoff Goldberg

So maybe acquiring a Mistral or Canberra class might be the way forward? By all accounts, Ocean is falling apart at the seams


Think Canberra would be a bad idea – heard they were tied up dockside because of very major design flaws

Ocean is indeed falling apart. It is beyond it’s use-by-date by quite some way at this point. A replacement is needed.

Rob H

I seem to remember that Ocean was purposefully built to Merchant Marine standards rather than the Naval standards to which the superficially similar Illustrious class were built. But let’s be honest, has any military action of the last 20 years improved the security of the British Isles? Most have been to expand US political influence at a serious cost to the security of the British Isles. Furthermore they have considerably enriched the US economy to the serious detriment of the British one. We in the process of spending tens of billions of hard earned foreign currency on US military toys,… Read more »

John West

I’m sorry Mac but I cannot agree. Both parties make major mistakes but Labour has, historically, been better at launching defence projects that the country requires. The cost of the new carriers increased, mostly, due to Tory dithering (cats, sell to the French etc.). It is immaterial – both parties need to grow up and do proper thinking. Turning defence into a party political game is couner-productive.

David Stephen

Most of the cost increase in the carrier programme came from labours decision to slow the build.

P tattersall

John west are you having a laugh !!! Corbyn hates our armed forces he would stop all spending on defence full stop!! He’s totally disrespectful to the armed forces twice refused to attend armed forces day instead went to a CND anti war hippy concert the other time went on holiday ..The last labour government sent our troops to war in the gulf with no armed troop carriers ..Now corbyn wants them locked up for war crimes ..


Do you know who Harry Leslie Smith is?

P tattersall

Yes he writes for a extreme left comic paper .. A left wing paper that hates British culture


Harry Leslie Smith? A man who puts his name to articles written by staff at Icon Books. As a Labour supporting journalist said a while ago:

“I’ve met real Harry. He, understandably at 93, uses magnifying glass to read. This one can rattle out tweets every 30 seconds.”

Tweets that are typed out as fast as a 20 year old graduate from a Secretary’s college, with no errors. Sue, that’s Harry.

Other journalists have also said they have no doubt the articles and tweets “written” by HLS are clearly written by someone else. Nick Cohen for one.



Rob H

‘Armed Forces Day’ is a filthy importation of a jingoistic US celebration. We properly commemorate our’s and other nation’s young and old in war on November 11th. No other commemoration is needed nor wanted by any truely patriotic British person. Good for Corbyn for standing for true British values against quislings who to seek to serve foreign masters and dress it up in false flags.
Standing silent to reflect on the terrible losses of war with representatives of all who shared in that loss, is the only valid commemoration we need.

P tattersall

Corbyn would lock all our troops up for war crimes .. He is still banging on about bring members of the SAS before the courts for war crimes ..

A. Smith

I and many others have said and continue to say that with a National Ship Building Strategy we would have had a plan and timescale for a HMS Ocean replacement. In my opinion the second carrier (HMS Prince Of Wales) should not have been built. We should have built HMS Queen Elizabeth with two new helicopter carriers (similar to the Mistral) and then decommission HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion. There would then be no loss in capability using HMS Queen Elizabeth and two new helicopter carriers. After various discussions in these forums a better idea was proposed, but… Read more »


That’s interesting, that could of worked because with 2 LPH’s as well as a carrier we would have a constant carrier capability, if the LPH’s could fly the F 35b.

Would be good to hear the better idea also whoever came up with it ?

A. Smith

See Pacman27’s comment below for the idea.

Rob H

Surely Albion and Bulwark can put armoured heavy equipment and numbers of equipped troops ashore that no helicopter carrier can. If we wish to maintain a capacity for military intervention, that capability to put a small but properly balanced force ashore has to be maintained, or we might as well wind up the Royal Marines, flog off the aircraft carriers to a growing global economic power like India and accept that, like other former Imperial powers such as the Netherlands or Sweden, we should concentrate on our immediate territorial defense needs. It would have been far more sensible given the… Read more »


Kieren – Please don’t insult our intelligence with this Leftie nonsense about what is causing our debt to rise. As I have pointed to you many times on here we add to our National DEBT by increasing BORROWING which is driven by a DEFICIT. The amount being borrowed each year has been reduced from 9.9% of GDP when the coalition government took power in 2010 to 2.6% of GDP in 2016 under the Tories. In other words the ‘rate of addition’ is 75% LESS per Annum. Debt is therefore still increasing but by a substantially less amount than what they… Read more »


You need to read Lockhart’s superb reply above.

You’re fake news Chris.


Kieren – Oh look he uses a trigger phrase in a two line response to a 27 line detailed analysis with two supporting independent sources! How really really clever. And not ONE factual rebuttal can be found. And yes I read Lockhart’s excellent posts. He actually makes the point better than you ever would Old Son but he is still fundamentally wrong even if he presents well. He tries to build a reasoned argument on a failed premise: Labour is fiscally responsible. And fails

So I just destroyed his further arguments …

Enjoy the read.


Just so everyone is clear do you still think Theresa May won a landslide General election? and 55 more seats out of 650 is 22%?


You cannot fathom the fact that it was the global financial crisis that caused the huge deficit. I said fake news because you conveniently forget to mention that the deficit reduced from 5% to 0.6% of GDP going into 2008.

You cherry pick statistics to suit your narrative, you’re the definition of fake news.


Kieren – When you have to totally misrepresent what people have said elsewhere with no link so people can check shows the depth of your nonsense. And given its you using the ‘Fake News’ trigger words that is a bit bloody rich! What I actually said was: Theresa May won 22% MORE SEATS THAN LABOUR. Not as you try to mislead ‘22% OF THE AVAILABLE SEATS”. Prat! Which she did. And given that margin yes it was a landslide victory over Labour the second largest party. Who barely managed 4 more seats than that illustrious economic guru Gordon Brown managed… Read more »


Chris it’s just another example of you cherry picking to suit your narrative. You leave out everything you can’t answer because you don’t have an answer. You can’t explain why the deficit was reducing before the financial crash. You blame the global financial crisis on Labour because that’s what you wanted to have happened. In fact you do worse than that, to you and other people with Tory tinted spectacles on the financial crash never happened, you never talk about it or explain it, neither do Tory MP’s, because then it will blow your propaganda about labour ruining the economy.… Read more »


Kieren – And this is all you have left? First the ‘fake news’ trigger words and now no proper discussion just the stereotypical ageist personal abuse: “You’re a classic example of a stubborn elderly man” And NO apology for misleading everyone over what I had ACTUALLY written? And then carry on misinterpreting. That is pretty shabby Kieren and doesn’t make your arguments the slightest bit more believable. A 22% margin of victory has nothing to do with whether a Parliament is ‘hung’ or not! Because there are 6 other parties involved. You sort of forgot to mention that bit Kieren.… Read more »


Ageist personal abuse, behave yourself, you’ve consistently called me a “leftie” “corbynista” and “momentum moron” so it’s you who’s dished out abuse. I am not apologizing for anything because it’s you who is misleading everyone trying to say 22% more seats is a landslide without using any other figures like.. Con – 13,669,883 Lab – 12,878,460 Con- 318 Lab – 262 Con – -13 Lab – +32 Con – 42.4% Lab – 40% Con – +5.5 Lab – +9.5 Do yourself a favour and google general election results 2017 and on every single result you will find the election results… Read more »


Monstrous lie? you just proved my point with your figures.

2005 – 43.577
2007 – 36.335

That is a reduction and seen as the economy grew by just under 10% in those years it was a massive reduction as a proportion of GDP..which is what i said! surely using 5% and 0.6% would of been a bit of a giveaway seen as your such an economics guru.

Epic epic failure on all counts.



ps there is a longer reply awaiting moderation for some reason. I would wait to read that as well before you reply.


Kieren – are you a wind up merchant or what? So let me get this right? you think having destroyed a £17.2 Bn annual SURPLUS and created a £43.6 Bn annual DEFICIT in 4 years, is not an increase in either Deficit, Borrowing or Debt? You then select 2 years and make out that represents the whole period in office? And then quietly forget the following year’s 2007 / 08 figure was an increase to £40.4 Bn. Sleight of fact Kieren or just another deliberate attempt to mislead? And what is utterly staggering is you have NO acceptance that every… Read more »


I asked for you to wait for my proper reply which is as long as yours with links etc, it’s not just based on 2 years, it’s awaiting moderation. All that little reply did was prove my point in that the deficit as a proportion of GDP had been reduced, I have did mentioned anything else, you’re arguing with yourself Chris. Wait for my proper reply to get through moderation for links and proof that debunks the myth that the conservatives are better with the economy. What is absolutely staggering is you trying to make out like you have a… Read more »


Whilst the QE class are undoubtedly superb vessels I cannot help thinking a more realistic approach for the UK would have been 4 ships (2 LHDs and 2 LHAs) all based on a single hull type at say 30,000+t. These 4 ships would have replaced the Invincible class, Ocean and the LPDs. All capable of carrying about 800 Royal Marines. These ships would give us some flexibility, increasing our fixed wing aircraft numbers when required (over the Invincible’s) and also enhanced our Amphibious capabilities. An opportunity lost I believe.

Steven Jones

And those four ships would have cost less purchase and maintain than the two QE-class ACs.

John Clark

We do enjoy a heated debate don’t we …. This so called austerity is smoke and mirrors, we still spend more than we earn every year, by quite some margin….so what austerity? It is imperative as a Country we get our borrowing under control for many very good reasons, one being if we want to attract foreign investment and forge new post BREXIT partnerships, we need to show a well balanced economy with its finance’s under tight control. That’s a simple stark fact… Let’s be absolutely clear here, politicians of both colours have badly let defence down, Labours terrible mismanagement… Read more »


I dont think we need a direct replacement for these vessels and would go further. A tide based Kare Doorman Joint support ship class could replace many of these large assets and with some additional thought provide more than what Ocean, Bulwark etc are offering. KD JSS has hanger facilities for 6 merlins or 2 chinook with more on deck or stored. 2 landing craft, 2000 lane metres and a steel beach – and a load of fuel and water. I also think it could be engineered to deliver a fleet of 12 CB90’s each holding 22 marines and 2… Read more »

A. Smith

It’s a great idea and we could build these ships to a planned schedule and replace all the RFA ships as well as HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion with one hull / design, which can be configured to our needs. This idea could potentially save millions. Also use commercial off-the-shelf parts where possible, the same engines / turbines, maintenance would be cheaper and crew would need less time training.


I like the Karel Doorman it could definitely replace the Bays, but I think other navies are going in a more helicopter assault route, look at the America class 45,000 tons, the Canberra and mistral classes. The problem is if going in by beach cannot be done it needs to be done by Chinook, that exact thing happened in the Iraq war and our marines had to go in by about 40 or 50 Chinooks from Ocean and the present Wasp classes, that’s why I prefer a large fight deck on amphibious ships because it ticks every box. The problem… Read more »