The Defence Committee has questioned claims that the Type 31e is the “ideal platform to host an embarked military force”, noting that any force embarked would be “tactically negligible”.

In his Gallipoli Memorial Lecture, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, discussing the future of specialist multi-role amphibious shipping, said:

“The Type 31e General Purpose Frigate will also provide an ideal platform to host an embarked military force, forward deployed to British Overseas Territories, and to regions of concern to the UK.”

However, the committee noted that the outline specification for the Type 31e issued by the Royal Navy in September 2017 said nothing specific about amphibious capability. Space for an extra 40 personnel in addition to normal crew, was in the specification as an adaptable requirement it said.

With the understanding that the tender process for the Type 31e Frigate is still ongoing, the Royal Navy’s specification information for the vessel suggests that it would be able to embark only a force of tactically negligible size, let alone the equipment and supplies necessary to sustain a landing force ashore. While some capacity for aviation is also included in the Type31e specification, it is not at all clear how an embarked force would be moved to its objective.

We ask the MoD to give us further details on the amphibious role that is contemplated for the Type 31e, particularly in relation to the size of a landing force that could be embarked, the space for its equipment and how such a force might be delivered to its objective.”

Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:

“In January, we were told that the Albion and Bulwark were not due to leave service until 2033 and 2034 respectively. That such irreplaceable ships are in line for deletion fifteen years early demonstrates, yet again, the desperate inadequacy of the Defence budget. We must reinstate a target of around 3 per cent of GDP – the percentage which we spent right up to the mid-1990s, long after the ‘peace dividend’ cuts, at the end of the Cold War, had been made.

Gavin Williamson deserves credit for seizing back control of the Defence dimension of the NSCR process; but, ultimately, he will fail without extra funding from the Treasury. Unless he secures this, the Royal Marines will be reduced to a level far below the critical mass needed to sustain them as a high-readiness Commando force.

Nor can there be any substitute for the Albion-class vessels: the Committee is adamant that no other ships can be used as alternatives without assuming an unreasonable level of operational risk.

In initiating the Modernising Defence Programme, the Ministry of Defence now has an opportunity to take a different approach – and to open up these drastic and dangerous proposals to proper Parliamentary scrutiny.”

The full report can be read here.

35 COMMENTS

  1. Is this article serious, our half baked attempt to fulfil our escort problem is now an amphibious ship.

    As a bit of a fan of the T31 – even I am absolutely gobsmacked if this is actually what the FSL has said. A CB90 (or 2) out the back of all our escorts is a great idea in my books and it will project a small force, but it is in no way a replacement for brigade level amphibious manoeuvre without scale.

    Seems to me the FSL has given up on amphibious – doesn’t look good for the marines, which again is just crazy.

    • So I interpret his comment to mean if cuts have to come he would prefer to keep Type 31 rather than the LPDs. Just like the paras don’t use parachutes anymore the RM won’t use landing craft. Put this together with news like in flight refuelling for Merlin HC3/4 and you can see where this is going….

    • EVERYTHING GOES BACK TO LOSING OCEAN no replacement was ever going to be built but,as the u.k and others did in the early days of the aircraft carrier, i put forward the idea of converting a bay class as n alternative its not hard, if you look at ariel pictures and overall stats compared tocean. the removal of the superstructure on a bay, replacing it with a deck is easily imagined, i received a reply from the m.o.d , that my idea had been ‘passed on’ for consideration by i don’t know who

    • There is a solution

      The army is 4k headcount short – transfer the RM to the Army and transfer the 4k headcount to the RN for sailors. Win Win

      • How about just transfer the headcount to the RN for more sailors and marines and regnise the army is weak, poorly led and has no real purpose with no foreseeable use for a large scale conventional army. Hence why the army were so keen after SDR 98 which focused on a more traditional maritime strategy to get involved in two disasterous land wars. Move on a few years and they are suggesting that we should concentrate on a continental army facing off with Russia.

        • I feel a Brexit deal coming on. We pay the EU for a trade agreement and they pay us to station troops and tanks in Germany. What goes around comes around?

  2. Land 40 marines without anything but what they can carry on their backs into a hostile environment? In a emergency such as an embassy evacuation understandable. But as a matter of standard planning, whoever thought this idea up needs to hanged for conspiracy to commit murder. I would say they would also need to be buying bodybags in lots of 40 but their would likely be no recovery of remains.
    Again landing men without artillery not even mortars, no machine guns heavier than a LMG, likely very little to no AT-T capabilities and only shoulder launched AA capabilities. This is a recipe for “We regret to inform…” letters the first time they are ordered in to anywhere with something resembling armed resistance.

  3. Can it be argued that the first sea Lord just delibrarly lied to the defense committe? Anyone with a modicorum of sense and knowledge of the military would laugh at the notion that a stripped down frigate would be in any way able to carry any sort of force that would be in any way useful, and laughably so in the implied use of an amphibious capability.

    It’s incredible that the man who in the whole country should be most knowledgeable about such matters is proposing something so ludicrous. The MODs hand is obvious in this, properly trying to make it more palatable to scrap half the fleet.

  4. Is this possibly a case of (willful?) misinterpretation? FSL talking of ’embarked military force’, Defence Ctte talking about ‘amphib capability’?

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see they are fundamentally different, and a T31 is not a landing ship.

    A small embarked military force does not necessarily mean ‘tactically negligible’. Pebble Island and South Georgia proved that. It’s the kind of function the RN and RM have been performing for centuries.

    I think the T31s having the capability to insert a SF team will be very useful. The role is to hit a point of our choosing and run, not invade.

    The debate about the Albion and Bulwark is a separate discussion to T31 in my eyes.

  5. Type 31 is a waste of money. It means costs for development, planning etc. etc., before we even get to the hulls. It would make much more sense to scrap a potential “5” useless frigates and have another 4 Type 26 (total 12). Then if we want something to show the flag in foreign parts and impress local pirates buy some off-the-shelf corvette type vessels. Just a gun, some space for small drones, a few lightweight canister mounted SSMs and maybe a CIWS.

    • i’d like to see the following, scrap the astute programme they seem to be jinxed like the 45’s
      the return to conventional boats is gathering pace take for example the new german type 214 ,which has more tubes iscruise/ tomahawk capable, costs a third of the price of an astute faster to build, yet has a crew lower than forty.cancel the f 35 remove the ramps from q.e and p.o.w fit emals and an arrestor system, and go for the rafale or sea gripen saving godzillions on the total cost of procuring the f 35 google amarg inventory and see where the u.k should be shopping for its air force, merge the f.a.a and R.A.F,the s.a.s and s.b.s, use all the money saved long term for the surface fleet. radical i suppose, the traditionalists would go mental, but i honestly think the only way forward for the armed forces is, a fresh approach, decide what they want quantity or quality(you can’t have both) disband the M.O.D as being unfit for purpose. get a mates ‘rate’ on all retiring american kit i’d imagine the army would love a few abrams tanks , the r.a.f 20 or so f1 6, or f 15’s and the navy a couple of hazzard class guided missile destoyers’s pick some of the 1000 stored aircraft to replace tornado. there are over 400 f 16’s in storage and at least 100 f 15’s

  6. The T31 are to be the navy general purpose frigates not amphibious assault ships also the Royal Marines have always been the navies solders and as such the UK spearhead in times of emergency
    ready to land from our amphibious assault ships an increase to 3% of GDP for defence is desperately
    needed.

  7. I think FSL comments have been taken out of context.

    The embarked military force could be smaller numbers of RM conducting the dirt of duties 42 Maritime Ops Commando has been configured to do, Counter Piracy and Force protection, not a landing role as wrongly interpreted.

      • I see.

        So, the above discussion in parliament is moot…. given that this ship is not going to be used by the Royal Navy… but rather some different spec.

        • It will be. They will be decommissioned mid life and sold on to save expensive record and replacements ordered.

          • the sale of ocean to brazil should have seen the return of the two type 22 frigates ex hms broadsword and brilliant, the return of these ship would have been a quicker cheaper way to add to the fleet, useful high quality ships perhaps even get our t22’s and 23’s back from chile( they’d be cheaper than 1 new build t26.! i’m too radical i think i best shut up and eat my tea.

  8. For long term missions across the world at the island dependencies, the French vessels “Bâtiment multi-mission” make sense.

    Hi availability, low maintenence…. can embark 20 men and 2 vehicles for Gendamerie missions.

    €100m-ish each

      • Pretty similar in reality…. though I don’t know if the River is quite as ‘ocean going’…. and could do with a bit more stowage space.

        Certainly the T31 shouldn’t be tasked with such matters.

  9. With all this debate around expeditionary capability I think we are in danger of taking our eye off the ball, Mr Putin and his ego. He wants to return the lost sheep as he sees them, Ukraine, the Baltic states and maybe Romania and Bulgaria to the Rissian fold, and become a hero to his people in the process. In selling missiles to Turkey and in his dealings with them in regard to Syria he is successfully undermining Nato unity. IMO our defence spending priorities should reflect his clever asymmetric aggression. This would probably put the LPDs quite a way down the list of priorities.

  10. It is a great shame that it is now part of Admiral Sir Philip Jones’ job to soften us for the loss of the Albion class ships.

  11. It would be a very odd thing to scrap the albions just when everyone is worried about Russia.

    Losing the amphips would be madness….Western Europe only has two countries able and willing to agressivley deploy forces to counter threats to Europe, Us and the French.

    The simple truth is that Germany is ( for the forseable future) not going to be a position to deploy significant ground forces anywhere other than on home soil or very close to home soil, this is both due to material deficits ( 1.2%GDP anyone) and completle expeditionary blindness in its population (their own soldiers are still seen more as potential murders than protectors). Every time Russia pushes Germany will back away ( its voting population considers anything else to be war mongering.

    Therefore the only real signifant deployable and more importantly aggressively countering forces covering the Northsea and Baltic are the Royal Marines and deployable elements of the army, lose the RNs amphips and we are saying something very dangerous to both Russian and our northern allies in NATO.

    All this talk of keeping the army in Germany is Missing the point of where Western Europe is at its weakest against Russia ( apart from the EU and NATO having a bizarre bipolar agressivley political and economic expansionist view without any form of understanding of potential military responces from those feeling threatened). Any forces the UK deploy to Central Europe would be a negligible contribution and Germany can very easily focus its defence spending to protect Central Europe. We should focus our contribution what we are good at and can really impact on and that’s on the geopolitical Threats to Northern Europe and wider expeditionary capacity to support our national interest across the world.

  12. Since there is no budget for the Type 31 it would be a no brainer to build more Type 26 at lower cost. This goes like this: The more you build the lower the cost; the more yards that bid to build the bits for them the lower the cost. You start mass producing bits in other yards and assemble them in Clydeside to keep the promises made to Scotland.
    Government sends in independant auditors into the Clyde yard to determine whether the costs are being kept under control.
    This is a cost control excercise to ensure BAE doesnt rip off the UK.

    • Exactly. The Type 26 is a design ready for production the 31 is not. In the export market you need to have a ship in the water or everyone you pitch the desig to will be wary of being the “first” buyer.
      So the goal should be to get 1: get more Type 26 and 2: more importantly accelerate the build of the first unit as much as possible. The Type 26’s biggest issue to overcome in the US FFG(X) program is no current units in service. Which equates to NAVSEA seeing one of two thing depending on the officer either they see levels of risk to great in terms of both capabilities and cost or that the supplier wants the USN to pay for final development and spare parts.
      Can it still win? Yes. If it is seen as good enough to rationalize the risk. In addition to the first unit has already being produced or is at least nearing completion to show that most build issues have already been worked out.

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