The First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones, spoke today at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
Jones attended alongside the US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson.
He spoke of a Royal Navy “operating in every ocean in the world” and sharing “the US Navy’s operational focus about the importance of presence”.
“This year the Royal Navy has been out and about, perhaps at greater extent than for over 10 years. Operating in every ocean of the world, trying to address the strategic challenges of today as seen from the United Kingdom, and part of a collective effort with all of our allies to maintain freedom and security on the high seas”
However, Jones also spoke of “the breadth and depth of security challenges” in 2018, and argued that to counter these threats, the UK needs a Royal Navy with “a full spectrum of world-beating maritime capabilities”. He spoke positively of the Modernising Defence Programme (MDP), stating that it’s “enabling” the navy to fulfil its purpose.
He mentioned the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, stating that when the UK is able to deploy “continuous carrier strike capability as part of a globally deployed maritime task group”, it’ll be a “significant” moment for the nation.
He notably reminded the audience that the Royal Navy has been “delivering continuous at sea deterrence, unbroken for 49 years”.
Jones spoke of our partnership with France, allowing for the formation of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force which exercised off the Brittany coast last month. He also mentioned a new tri-lateral arrangements between the US Navy, Royal Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force. He announced that the three nations would be meeting again later this year, in Japan, “to cement our plans”.
“The UK is the only Tier 1 partner in the F35 programme. As much as our new aircraft carriers will sit at the heart of the UK’s Joint expeditionary force, so too will they be ready to work with our American counterparts from the off. And you’ll see us doing that in 2021 when we first deploy that carrier operationally”.
Most notable perhaps of all, Jones argued that the UK is a “Tier 1” power, directly contradicting Prof Malcolm Chalmers, the Deputy Director-General of RUSI who instead argued that we’re a “Tier 3” power.
Jones’ speech appeared in some ways to be subtle support for increased defence spending, implying that don’t currently have “a full spectrum of world-beating maritime capabilities”.
This is supported by the Defence Select Commmitte’s report ‘Beyond 2 per cent: A preliminary report on the Modernising Defence Programme‘. There were also hints of the ‘tri-service budgetary competition’, referenced at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference last week.