Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said in Parliament that “a growing defence budget means more ships, more planes, more armoured vehicles and more cutting edge equipment for our forces” but is the Royal Navy really growing?

This statement was preceded by claims that the Government “are investing in a growing Royal Navy by building two aircraft carriers, the new Type 26 global combat ship, Dreadnought and Astute class submarines, and offshore patrols vessels.”

Again, earlier in the year while declaring 2017 as “the Year of the Royal Navy”, Fallon said:

“Britain’s new carriers, frigates, aircraft and submarines begin a new era for the UK, providing unprecedented firepower. We are investing billions in growing the Royal Navy for the first time in a generation – 2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.”

This isn’t true according to the the UK Armed Forces Equipment and Formations document released by the Government detailing statistics on vessels, land equipment and aircraft of the armed forces. It states:

“At 1 April 2017 there were 73 vessels in the UK Armed Forces: 64 vessels in the Royal Navy and nine in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). This is a reduction of three vessels since 2016 following the withdrawal of three RFA vessels: two Small Fleet Tankers and one Forward Repair Ship (RFA Diligence).

Patrol Ships (18 Inshore and four Offshore) make up the largest proportion of Royal Navy vessels, with 22, as shown in Chart 1 below.

The total number of Destroyers and Frigates (19) as at 1 April 2017 are also in line with SDSR Joint Force 2025 commitments.”

Further, according to the Defence Select Committee, the UK has a “woefully low”. Chair of the committee Dr Julian Lewis advised earlier in the year that the Government risked leaving the country with fewer than 19 frigates and destroyers.

“The United Kingdom will then lack the maritime strength to deal with the threats we face right now, let alone in the future. We are putting the MoD on notice that it must not let this happen.”

Additionally, Sir John Parker the author of an independent report on the National Shipbuilding Strategy, has indicated that the frigate fleet will fall below 13 frigates unless the Type 31 Frigate build starts soon, something that appears unlikely for a project described by a minister this month as still in “early pre-concept phase” with no design having yet been chosen.

Julian Lewis asked during a Defence Select Committee session on the National Shipbuilding Strategy:

“So what you are saying—and this is a critical point—is that unless we start building the Type 31e frigates in parallel with the Type 26s, there is little chance of not reducing below our existing figure of 13 frigates all told.

That, I must say, fits in with the projections I have seen and it follows from that, therefore, that we have to consider the best way of building two classes of frigates in parallel, rather than in succession.”

Sir John Parker responded with one word:


13 frigates are due to leave the service at a rate of one a year between 2023 and 2035. There remains serious concern about the funding and timetable of the fleet that will replace them.



  1. No chance of maintaining a frigate fleet of 13 warships unless their is a substantial increase of defence spending. There is no chance of that happening under any political party who could possibily form a UK government.

  2. our government,s past present and future could not careless about our defense as they 1) only care about themselves 2) the rich 3) foreign aid…plus they are relying on the USA like most of the EU members,the government say we meet the 2% GDP but they are including military pensions and compensation pay outs…which is why the spend has been with Brexit there will be more excuses added to all of that there is a manpower issue across all branches of our military the army because they get hounded by solicitors trying to make a fast buck youngsters only want to sit and play games or talk on social media all day so don,t want to break any finger nails,the wages are crap the accommodation is crap and they are using a private company to recruit and cook there meals..

    • The number of ships will decrease as the Sandown class will also exit on a one in, one out basis. It seems everyone is missing the point that the T26 will have a mine hunting role as well as everything else. So, a T26 equals a T23 plus a SRMH.

  3. The carriers were ordered, I believe, under the Scottish UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. It provided employment for Scotland. There was no military strategic or financial plan to enhance our military maritime capability, it was to keep jobs on the Clyde. There is nothing I would like to see more than a strong Royal Navy (and the rest of the military), but the successive governments have actually been lumbered with these carriers, in financial & resource terms, because we simply prefer to waste money elsewhere. They are fantastic vessels and what we need, but serious military underfunding & regarding them as a financial nuisance (which must be the Treasuries view), will lead to a pair of white elephants, without the required escorts & RFA support to make up a viable carrier group. I recall the days when we had Frigate squadrons. Long gone now.

  4. They will be up in number when they are sll built simple …And let’s face it only the yanks have modern sea forces and the UK second our enemies at sea like Russia are just old rust

    • Lol…. no… not at all.

      Russia is putting out new and very capable frigates and corvettes at a considerable rate.
      Most can launch cruise missiles, something no UK surface vessel can do.

      As it stands today, the UK is somewhere around 8th in world naval power… maybe worse than that.

      The UK as of today has 6 surface warships in operation.

      This is pathetic.

      • Agree completely. We need the 6 T45s and 8 T26s to be all they set out to be, with VLS, torpedoes, decent anti-ship missiles etc. If they then concentrate on carrier protection and defence of UK waters then that is enough. A credible T31 can fulfill pretty much all other commitments and for that I would say we need 10 to 12.

        Whilst I am at it another 3 Astutes please!

        • The strategy should be to build one destroyer/frigate per 1.5 years and one SSN/SBN per 2 years. Assuming a hull life of 30 years, that would give us an escort fleet of 20 ships and 15 submarines. Whilst I’m dreaming, maybe stop the practice of fitting out for and not with. A T45 without viable ASuW is embarrassing.

  5. The number of vessels might not increase but the capability of the navy will dramatically increase over the year’s to come. T45 T26 T31 Astute class ,future Dreadnought class plus the f35B and the new carriers, crowsnest, merlin mk4, wildcat, ospray possibly.All far exceed the capabilities of current equipment. It may be small in numbers but some serious capabilities. And who else has all that except the Americans. The Navy needs more personal, badly, but still much potential on the horizon.

    • They may have better capacity but they can’t be in two place at once. Its all well and good saying that all these vessels will have “greater capabilities” but what you forget is that if we simply don’t have enough vessels to fulfil are many requirements than what’s the point.

      • I agree but would say our surface ships could and should be even better if fitted with the equipment as planned from the outset – all we get is a 1Bn destroyer ‘fitted for but not with’ and a 3Bn aircraft carrier with NO self-defence missile system. After next year none of our escorts will have anti-ship missiles…. when does the decay stop?? The Chinese and Russians must be laughing at us – and I don’t blame them! Sheer lunacy!!!

  6. If the new build frigate programme cannot be accelerated then the only other possibilities for increasing the numbers are firstly, to extend the life of the last build Type 23’s with a late life upgrade and beef up the weaponry on board the new OPV’s to make them more useful at the lower end

  7. Cant but think the combined T26 and T32 combined will in the end work out more expensive than the same number of T26. It will certainly be claimed in Parliament at some stage, its purely a matter of the timing.

  8. I know this is a dozy question, and I may be lampooned for it, but can someone please explain to me what the actual benefit of the T31 is going to be? We have a design for the T26 – everything I have seen indicates it will be superior in operations to any proposed T31 design. Surely the cost of developing the competing T31 designs, and the inevitable delay in getting them to build, is going to outweigh any potential savings?

    • I don’t think the design costs are the expensive part, we could end up with a shortened version of the type 26.
      The expensive part is the wide variety of sensors built into a single ship that may not require them if its primary role will be to chase pirates, drug smugglers, fishing vessels and third world navies. The Type 26 is built to combat any possible scenario which costs a fortune if its not going to be necessary for the majority of its service life. Think of it as an F16 compared to F15, sometimes additional numbers is better than additional capability.

  9. Rob is 100% right. Well done.
    The RN needs a minimum of 26 escorts and 10 SSNs if we are going to be able to provide a carrier battle group and some additional deployments such as Nato standing groups, gulf patrol, falklands etc.
    How to get to this, well 6 type 45s (all need their propulsion fixed and the mk41 strike length system fitted at the same time) 8 xtype 26s (built at a rate of 1 a year not the lethargic one every 18-24 months currently programmed) 12 type 31s built concurrently and at a rate of 1 a year alongside type 26. Without an acceleration of the type 26+ type 31 frigates the RN will drop below the utterly inadequate 19 frigate and destroyers currently.
    The RN needs 3-5000 more personnel. Note HMS Daring now laid up alongside at Pompey in a “training role” (this is a £1 billion advanced air defence destroyer) as we do not gave enough personnel to operate her and the rest of the fleet. Personnel have been taken off Daring and immediately redeployed and scattered around the fleet to plug gaps in ships crew throughout the fleet.

    we need to retain the youngest 3 Trafalgar class SSNs, after a refit, to extend their service life by 10 more years. These are still capable subs easily able to face down Russian and Chinese surface groups and current subs. Only the most recent Yassen class represent any mild superiority to Trafalgar class, but retaining Trafalgar class provides 10 SSNs until we can build a 2nd batch of astute class (ideally 4 subs) and should provide 10 SSNs once all astutes in service thus enabling Trafalgar class to be a 2nd line SSN used in lower threat areas and for special forces deployment, periscope sub course, training and threat simulation in exercises etc, freeing up Astutes for anti sub patrols and shielding Dreadnought/ vanguard ballistic subs on exit/ entrance from patrols.
    Will any of this actually happen?
    Hell no! our politicians pay lip service to defence and are utterly blind to the perilous state of the Royal Navy. As a nation we prefer to give free of charge and without any oversight £13 billion away every year in foreign aid.

  10. P tattersall, please read journals like warships ifr, or jane’s defence website. The Russian current fleet is being modernised with Oscar class ssgns representing a long range saturation missile attack capability. New frigates and corvettes entering service in reasonable large numbers all able to launch anti ship missiles (a capability the RN will lose in 2018 when harpoon retired without replacement) as well as land attack Kalibre cruise missiles.
    Then there are the modernised Kirov and Slava class cruiser re-entering service not to mention the new Leader class nuclear powered cruisers currently forecast to start serial construction in 2018/2019 with a fleet of 10-12 of these huge strike vessels forecast.
    yassen and B class subs (SSNs and SSBNs respectively) are all entering serial production modernising the Russian submarine arm. So yes although currently old the Russian fleet at least brings weapons to see and has capabilities we are about to lose (eg cruise missiles and anti ship missiles)

  11. One of two things need to happen. Either MP stop pretending that where a super power, and stop acting as if we have decent a military. Or the defence budget must be increased to at least 3% of the GDP, and commit half of that solely upon the navy.

  12. It is growing because the ships are getting heavier so in the language and spin of the politician that is a correct statement.


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