Former First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin has stated that it “would be wonderful to have a bigger Navy” but believes the fleet can achieve its current taskings.

Earlier this month, during a meeting of the Defence Committee, the committee sought evidence for their report ‘The Navy: purpose and procurement’. For clarity, when speaking, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin was then-First Sea Lord.

Below is the transcript from the committee session.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin:

“I will always say that it would be wonderful to have a bigger Navy.”

Chair Tobias Ellwood MP:

“This is your opportunity to say it. I can feel it—you want to say it!”

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin:

“Do I want a bigger Navy? Absolutely, but I think the real question is whether we are being asked to do too much by our Ministers—more than we can achieve—and the answer is, “No”. If you go into Chris’s world, with the Tamar and the Spey, the traditional approach was that you would send the ship and then you would have to bring it back for its maintenance, or for the crew to get their downtime in the UK. We contract with blue chip companies, and there are some fantastic facilities all around the world, so we want to deploy the ships and keep them there for at least the next five years. That means that we then have to have a different crewing model, and it also means that we can get far more out of those ships, so that is what we are doing.

With our higher‑end ships, you cannot have those crewing models and you cannot have those maintenance support models, so you have a slightly different approach, but we have a more balanced approach to both crewing and support and how we deploy our ships, rather than one size fits all. That is allowing us to do a lot more. We are doing that because we have five more batch 2 OPVs, and that is not interfering with our core responsibilities in terms of NATO and the Euro-Atlantic. I don’t buy that we are under too much pressure and doing too much, and so we’re having to dilute in the Euro-Atlantic. We are able to do more because we have more ships and a different way of operating.”

Sarah Atherton MP:

“Would your sailors agree with you?”

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin:

“Absolutely. If you want to know what are some of the happiest ships to be on, it is the ones where sailors are having the deployments of a lifetime. They’re going off, in Tamar and Spey, to the Caribbean, through the Panama canal and across the Pacific, and operating in the Indo-Pacific, and they’re doing it on a routine that is probably closer to four months at a time. HMS Montrose is the most popular frigate that we have in the Navy, because we have a different crewing approach, which is four months on and then four months to take your leave and additional training.

That gets to some of the fundamentals that I think we were getting wrong, which was about the amount of churn and instability. Our sailors are content to be away, but they have been fed up with being messed around, so being able to say whether they will be back for their daughter’s birthday becomes really important. When they have said, “I think I’m going to be back,” and then, for whatever reason, they miss that birthday, that is when we start to irritate people and their families, and we lose too many people that way. This is trying to respond to some issues that I don’t think we have responded strongly enough on, and to crew the fleet in a much better way.”

Chair Tobias Ellwood MP:

“Those are really interesting observations. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I am going to try. In your reply to Sarah saying, “Would you like a bigger Navy?”, you said yes. I think, Minister, you would concur with that as well. But when asked, “Can you do all the taskings that are required of you, that the Minister sets?”, yes, you can. And then Ministers realise the limits of what the Navy can achieve. But I think that, in saying that you would like a bigger Navy, there is a recognition—going back to our global stability issue—that you would probably like to see Britain do more on the international stage were there an appetite to do so.”

Will the fleet grow?

The Type 32 Frigate is part of an effort to grow the escort fleet to 24 vessels. Up to five ships are planned, which, in combination with the planned five Type 31 frigates and eight Type 26 frigates, will grow the Royal Navy’s surface escort fleet from 19 to 24 vessels.

Radakin also reiterated the intent of the programme to provide “additional volume” to the fleet and embrace emerging technology. You can read more by clicking here or clicking below.

More details emerge about the Type 32 Frigate

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Robert Billington
Robert Billington
3 days ago

Ha ha Tobias got it right, Radakin did say in a way that he’d like more ships!

Ron
Ron
3 days ago

Yes the RN does need more surface combat ships, the T32s will be a useful addition. I keep coming up with 28 FFGs/DDGs as the ideal number. What the RN is in real need of is the following two extra SSNs or 6 SSKs, its Amphibious assault ships need replacing possibly with two Canberra type and four Dokdo type vessels. The MRSS needs to come on line six Ellida would be good and the RFA needs the FSS ships fast. I would like to see a repair ship added to the fleet. Possibly we could with some thinking use the… Read more »

Steve M
Steve M
3 days ago
Reply to  Ron

Good Balance so possibility of ever being achieved……………0 😡

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
3 days ago
Reply to  Ron

The previous national flagship was also listed as a ‘hospital’ ship. Incapable of actually carrying out that role on any sort of scale. Inadequate for the Falklands even!

Tommo
Tommo
3 days ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

So called fuelling issues with HMY Brittania Or couldn’t have blood on a wooden deck ,you’d never get it out Liz wouldn’t allow that

Peter Fearnley
Peter Fearnley
2 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

The Yacht used a totally different type of fuel to the rest of the fleet, the idea of sending an RFA just for the Yacht was dismissed, the other reason i think was that the Yacht would’ve made it the number 1 target so more escorts needed, a non starter. Just my thoughts.

Tommo
Tommo
2 days ago
Reply to  Peter Fearnley

The Argies did state that they would have liked too have got Sub Lt Andrew Windsor as well plus painting the yacht white with a big Red Cross also a non starter Peter

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 day ago
Reply to  Peter Fearnley

Also it was earmarked as a relocation site for HM The Queen in case of global war, a real possibility in 1982.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 days ago

This can do attitude could always be their downfall. Why not say “no, we are starved of resources, you have cut us to ridiculous proportions over the last 30 years to the size of the tasks we may have to undertake in war, we are too small”

I finally listened to the whole session yesterday. There was a great deal of waffle on both sides, even Radakin.

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 days ago

I know what you mean there’s not enough ‘speaking truth to power’ in the Services or almost any bureaucracy. Most can see a program or strategy isn’t/cannot work but say nothing for fear of career consequences. It’s about covering your back when the shit inevitably hits the fan. It’s at it’s worst in the Army but it’s everywhere. To be fair though in the Services it’s also about doing the best you can with the budget your given. On that Radakin has been a stand out among the Service chiefs. It doesn’t attract much comment but he’s increased the at/or… Read more »

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
3 days ago

I feel the thing he left out was that although there is enough for the present tasks there isn’t any slack to respond to something unforeseen.
I’m positive about the new crewing system but it says a lot that the RN has been overcommitted for so long that it’s had to innovate to adapt.

Lusty
Lusty
3 days ago

“…And T31/T32 is the way we’re going to realistically scale the escort fleet fairly quickly at a low cost and with the perspective of through-life upgrades WHILE helping your national shipbuilding strategy! We want eight of each and we won’t wait!”

(There’s a reference there from naval history) 😉

David Steeper
David Steeper
3 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Hah what was it the treasury wanted 4 and the navy wanted 6 so they compromised on 8 !

Lusty
Lusty
3 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Hah, not far off! It’s from the Anglo-German arms race. The Admiralty reversed its plans for reduced construction and planned for six dreadnoughts. A whole bunch of people pushed for the renewed construction, including King Edward VII. They wanted eight, rather than six. I believe a Tory MP ended up using the phrase “We want eight and we won’t wait!”, which became stuck in the public’s mind, largely due to the sentiment at the time. The compromise was to build four, with an additional order of four if they were required. Winston Churchill noted, “The Admiralty had demanded six ships;… Read more »

Last edited 3 days ago by Lusty
David Steeper
David Steeper
3 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

LOL

Tommo
Tommo
3 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Its Murray or None

Lusty
Lusty
3 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

👍

Tommo
Tommo
3 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

I just went Nelsoninian, for some reason but cheers for the thumbs up Lusty

Lusty
Lusty
3 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

No worries, mate. I noticed you were going very old school!

Tommo
Tommo
2 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

👍

Jonathan
Jonathan
3 minutes ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yes but it was “none” and he missed becoming immortalised into the national gestalt.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
3 days ago

The question is not whether it can achieve ‘current’ taskings but does it have the capacity to deal with reasonable predictable unforeseen requirements! Much as most of this current useless government who completely fail to understand the need to have over and spare capacity to meet contingencies and additional demands.

James
James
3 days ago

24 is a low number with the way the UK is behaving trying to play a global role . The UK must aim at least for 30 ships and have 2 full carrier strike groups with no less than 30 jets each to be taken serious . This illusionary behaviour that rivals are not aware of that the navy has low escort numbers and not enough F35s on board the carrier’s must end! They are fully aware and monitor daily UK weaknesses. I think Radakin should fight for the navy and not shy away just because he was promoted and… Read more »

Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
2 days ago
Reply to  James

Hello James, there in lies the problem of the UKs armed forces. To get to a top spot in the forces you have to be politically groomed, and if you are unable to fit into the political mindset then you are either get a side ways promotion or will leave the forces.
Constructive criticism is only constructive if the people being criticised agree that they are in the wrong, other wise it is just seen as yet anouther negative issue to deal with so it is better to get someone who will be a nodding donkey.

Tomartyr
Tomartyr
3 days ago

Anyone know how the T31 will be crewed?
It feels like they’ll be swapping out crews like the B2 given they’ve pitched it as halfway between commercial and military.

Last edited 3 days ago by Tomartyr
Jon
Jon
2 days ago
Reply to  Tomartyr

I don’t think it’s been announced. It looks like Radakin likes the double crewing model of Montrose rather than watch rotation like Echos or Rivers. But he’ll probably be a crossbencher in the Lords by the time they get forward deployed, so it’s anyone’s guess.

Cripes
Cripes
2 days ago

Sure it would be great to have a larger fleet. It would be equally great, and strateically rather more essential, to have more than the derisory figure of 6 RAF fast jet squadrons. We are fifth out of the five leading European nations in number of combat aircraft, which is pretty dismal. It would be equally great to have more than 5 army field brigades, where again we are fifth among the five leading Wester European nations and can contribute little to NATO. The navy is currently the teacher’s pet with HMG as it is being used politically to suggest… Read more »