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.