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.


  1. Priority. The RN. Carriers. Carrier Aviation. Amphibs & RM. SSN. RFA + Escorts.

    Then the RAF. ISTAR. Transport. AAR. SHF + Fast Jet Force.

    Then the Army. 1 War fighting Division. 16AA Bde.

    Alongside the RN in priorities are the Deterrent, UKSF and the Intelligence Community.

    This is how I would like to see HMG set up our military.

    We are not a continental land power, never have been. Our strengths should be in the RN and the RAF.

    • Very much agree but does this ducks the hard choice of sacrificing a deployable division to enhance the maritime posture. Unless you mean a division in purely administrative senses consisting of rapidly deployable light to medium ground forces. I can’t see the budget getting higher than 2.5 per cent.

      • Currently we have 1 deployable Division at the moment in 3 (UK) Division.

        1 (UK) Division is a shell, 6 or 7 Infantry Brigades of Light role battalions with no support to form proper deployable brigades.

        They of course are useful and battalions are deployed as garrisons, public duties, and the rest but I think savings can be found here somewhere.

        I’m not sure I would sacrifice the one war fighting division we have to enhance the other two services, no. More money is needed from somewhere.

        The UK could dispense with Tanks and all types of armoured vehicles and just go to the Rapid Reaction light to medium division as you suggest to enhance the RN and RAF but, even I, who really believes in power projection through air power and the RN over land forces am reluctant to support such an extreme step.

        • Giving up armoured units would he absolute folly. Amongst those who want to cut funding there is this sudden strange belief that seems to have cone out of nowhere that that tanks and atmoured units are obsolete and we can get rid of them.

          In reality it is yet another government cost cutting exercise disguised as military strategy. What if the airspace was denied to us? Our most likely adversaries all have superior anti air systems and if we don’t have the US on our side then we wouldn’t have a superioty in airframes either. Then our land forces are rolled over by armoured divisions and we hear about how ‘lessons have been learned’.

          Every single major nation on the planet is developing next generation tanks. Why do we in the UK suddenly know better?

          • Its not folly. Not a single tank, AS90 or MLRS is needed to defend the UK or likely to be needed in the lifetime of those platforms. If a single enemy tank makes it ashore then we’ve already lost air and sea dominance and the show is over.

            So it’s about what contribution we make to defending allies, invading other states and stabilisation missions. We will be doing this in the context of rock solid alliances with capable partners who will normally have their own skin in the game first.

            We don’t need to deploy our two armoured brigades to protect Estonia, stabilise Sierra Leone or invade a captured British overseas territory. What we need is to use what resources we have to invest in versatlie capabilities that allow us to best to achieve our foreign and defence policy aims. A little bit of everything makes no sense in the current geo political context.

          • Agree with Anthony D on this. Excluding the US there is in aggregate a lot of heavy armour in European armies, just look at Poland for example. Sure not all of it is modern and quite a lot is in reserve, but just like Russia. Anything the UK might justify to increase current levels would make little difference to overall European levels. Also bear in mind that Russia can’t leverage all its assets towards the West, thus leaving the East exposed, in case China suddenly discovers a new map with dashes on it going up to Siberia.

            It seems wrt to airframes that you are not including those from European allies?

  2. Daniele is right. To qoute Churchill if we have to choose between the land in Europe and the Sea, we will choose the sea”
    We are a maritime nation. This is no “wish list” this is how the RN should be set up by 2030
    2 QE carriers
    In build or in service a replacement for Ocean as an lphd, ideally 2 such vessels that can contribute to ASW task forces.
    6 revamped type 45s with mk41 vl system + dragonfire
    8 hopefully more type 26 frigates (hopeful with Australia selecting the design and Canada likely too as well that we can get unit price to circa £750-800 million each hopefully allowing a 9th vessel to be shoehorned back into the programme.
    8-10 type 31s progressively upgraded
    2 Albion class
    3 Bay class
    A fleet of MCM warships with Uuv mine hunting drones 10-15 vessels
    7 Astute class
    2 retained Trafalgar class for long range lower threat area deployments eg Falklands, Indian ocean, far east
    6 enlarged Wyvern design SSKs
    4 SSBNs with Dreadnought class entering service
    10-12 more Merlin ASW
    An active fleet of 96+ F35Bs in service.
    This would all be acheivable with 3000-4000 more RN personnel and a defence budget of 2.5-3%

    • Very much like this force structure. But could MCM be done via uuv off any platform rather than dedicated vessels. Also for inshore submarine capability (e.g. Baltic sea) why not let the locals lead. Finally I could live with 12 astute with nuclear cruise with permanent presences in artic, pacifi, Indian and Atlantic oceans instead of dreadnought. I know the last one is a step down but I think worth the enhanced numbers and usable capability.

      • Agree with MCM as an unmanned vehicle based mission module used primarily from OPV and T31 as well as other RN and RFA platforms, or shore based, as appropriate.

        I see a major advantage in the flexibility this offers wrt to host vessels i.e. the ability to use more general purpose and broadly useful platforms such as T31 which helps drive higher T31 numbers instead of dedicated “single task” platforms. Also the ability to deploy by air with a dedicated team to anywhere a host vessel may be if a rapid response is required.

        I suspect the MCM National Shipbuilding Strategy decision point in the next few years was set up with the idea of evaluating the T31 platform to determine if a dedicated platform or more MCM orientated platform such as BMT’s Venari 85 makes sense or not. With 20 years of experience with mine remote vehicle detection and destruction and the recent reintroduction of sweeping using remote vehicles the RN seems well prepared to move from dedicated platforms.

        The appropriate additional submarines seem more of a challenge. We have to assume the primary aggressor to counter would be Russia so any sub has to be capable of addressing the most sophisticated Russian craft because we don’t get to pick and choose what we’re up against. In addition we need flexibility, we don’t want to limit such submarines to a range that means they are only practical for addressing Russia, that’s too similar to how T23 were originally too focused on just one threat type. The world changed a lot in the last 30 years and may do so again in the next 30-40. In my view this means a higher spec AIP solution, more like BMT Vidar-36 rather than BMT Wyvern. Something like Vidar-36 also has torpedo tube launched missiles. But of course now we’re probably looking at more like £500M+ per sub.

        I am against nuclear cruise as primary defence because regardless of whether it could penetrate opposition air defenses or not there is the potential perception that it would not, or not in enough numbers, leading to a degrading of MAD and a correspondingly heightened risk for an independent deterrent. BMD is still a far tougher nut to crack with assured success in my view.

        • U may be right about cruise, although it only takes one to inflict catastrophic damage on a capital city. Would any state risk that and to what end? If we could build enough SSN to permanent presence in four oceans it might be worth the trade off. Bearing in mind deterrence is not limited to ICBM but also includes cybe, conventional and alliances.

    • Finally a “fantasy fleet” list that I believe is realistic, with a few enhancements over what we already have.

      I would even drop the SSK wish to maintain the rest. The extra Merlins could be the 8 HM1 not updated, unless they are beyond help now cannibalised?

    • “Daniele is right. To qoute Churchill if we have to choose between the land in Europe and the Sea, we will choose the sea”

      There is that quote being wrongly used again, it’s ironic that you use something Churchill said on the eve of 60’000 British troops landing on the European mainland in a single day, to somehow justify not being able to doing anything significant on the European mainland.

      Churchill would be turning in his grave at the state of the British Land army today.

      And he certainly would never, ever advocate Britain being in a position to not be able to make a significant, if not decisive involvement on the European mainland.

      That quote you used only became popular during the EU referendum, when it was stitched together with two other parts of different Churchill quotes separated by decades to make the most anti-european quote, was pure propaganda.

      He actually said to Charles De Gaulle in an argument about American involvement in D Day

      “We are going to liberate Europe, but it is because the Americans are with us. So get this quite clear. Every time we have to decide between Europe and the open sea, it is always the open sea we shall choose. Every time I have to choose between you and Roosevelt, I will always choose Roosevelt.”

      There it is, no speech or article, it was during an argument where Churchill wanted to show loyalty to the US.

      Churchill was a massive advocate of all European involvement, that’s why he has a building named after him in Strasburg at the European parliament.

      His last official words on Europe..

      “The future of Europe if Britain were to be excluded is black indeed.” 1963

  3. The heading pic is my screensaver. Imagine that beast bearing down on you! Also note the similarity in the profile of the ship on the starboard side with the outline of the Rock in the background. recurring patterns in nature!!

  4. Very much agree with much of Mr Bell’s assessment. The real key is numbers, or has been said quite a lot lately in an Army context, mass. More ships means better equipped task groups, and the ability to be in more places to exert your influence. With the Australian order now starting it is possible to look at the T26 batch 2/3 as being in the same mould, more capability giving greater flexibility. A DDG 51 for the 21st century.
    I also like the idea of having one or more LPH type ships, although We really need to replace Ocean it would be good to have more than one to use in a sea control function as well. It could be useful to have a lower threat answer than a full carrier task group, rather along the lines of the US SCS of the 1970’s, or indeed the original concept for Invincible. However this is rather getting into the area of Fantasy Fleets, and I can’t see it happening any time soon!
    It would also be good to see more naval forces structured towards the Baltic, which may well be the next flashpoint for Putin’s little green men. But again, we can’t be everywhere.

  5. Totally disagree. I love the RN. I remember in 1982. They said we will keep a surface fleet of 50 shop’s we all know what happened there. The country needs a strong. Army, Navy and RAF. To the detriment of none. Each are dedicated to there own tasks each are no good without the other. I read and learn a lot from all of you on this site. Daniele on this point for me you are wrong.


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