France has offered the UK the use of French Navy amphibious assault ships should the Albion class be retired multiple sources have reported today.

According to two senior French military officials quoted in the Financial Times:

“We have three very capable ships. The idea is that in the case of one of the two countries having to reduce certain capabilities because of budgetary constraints we could mitigate the consequences by standing shoulder to shoulder.”

Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who served in the Royal Navy before being elected to Parliament, told Mail Online in one of their recent articles:

“The British and French navies, as close allies have cooperated for many years and I’m sure their offer comes in good faith.But it really does stick in the craw.

To see the Royal Navy, once the most powerful and feared navy in the word, begging and borrowing from our neighbours across the Channel would be a national embarrassment and would demean us in the eyes of our allies and partners. I hope the Government can put this to bed once and for all and guarantee the future of our amphibious capability, independent of other nations.”

What’s going to happen?

Simply put, very few if any people outside of Whitehall know the answer to this. A letter written by Minister for Defence Procurement Harriet Baldwin in January had denied there are any ‘current plans’ to retire the Albion class amphibious warfare vessels early.

HMS Albion pictured operating with Dutch Royal Marines.

However, the Minister refused to confirm that was still the case during a debate in Westminster Hall prompting fears this has changed. The letter deposited in the House of Commons Library in January, was written after the question of the future of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark was raised on the Floor of the House of Commons.

She said at the time:

“There are no current plans to decommission the ships early, and I can reassure you that their out of service dates are 2033 and 2034 respectively.”

The January letter.

Baldwin, when asked if this was still the case, appeared to entirely dodge the question:

“I can indeed confirm that I not only wrote those words but that I also I recall writing them.”

She later added:

“The work of the National Security Review is ongoing and no decisions have been put to Ministers.”

It would appear that decisions have not yet been made or at least, the decisions have not been made known.


  1. I’m against it.

    The UK is perfectly capable of having its own LPD capability should HMG be bothered to pay for them.

    • When asked about the lack of anti-ship missile capability from 2018 the MoD have downplayed the issue because our close allies do have this capability. Presumably meaning that the RN doesn’t need them when it could ask our allies to use theirs on our behalf. It would seem that borrowing ships from allies is just an extension of that policy. And what a terrible idea it is.

      • It also confuses me that with a emphasis on defence cooperation we chose a Carrier Design that doesn’t integrate well with our allies.

  2. nelson must be spinning in his grave the british navy being forced to defend itself by the support of the french, what next, renting indian submarines u disgraceful and embarrassing for th r.n and the whole nation.

  3. If we do this we will simply be given our marines to the french, as the dutch did to us in the 90s. A complete embarrassment.

  4. It is of course entirely logical from France’s point of view to make the offer and working together across the Channel is the future. But for the UK to abandon its own amphibious capability is monumentally stupid – given that we are presumably going to focus on limited-scale overseas interventions of a peace-keeping/disaster relief/short-sharp-shock nature, when having LPDs is exactly what we want.

    True we have had to rent in the past – such as German U-boats as we no longer have diesel electric boats to train against – but getting rid of LPDs (and then what price the RMs?) would be a tragedy and something we must avoid if we want to be seen as having any kind of joined-up defence forces.
    best Tim62

  5. and if the need ever arose who would man these the French or us,worse still if they got damaged and god forbid sunk who is going to pay for it…a similar situation happened during the Falklands when Ronnie offered the use of a carrier to Maggie but she had the for-sight to say no…another argument is if there is a conflict would the french say yes take them or say no sorry we don,t want to be seen getting involved….seems the Tories are thick,daft but utterly stupid,reduce foreign aid and stop this stupid idea of paying the EU 50 billion divorce settlement and leave the royal navy alone unless your going to make it bigger and better

    • andy – you were doing so well until you felt the need to throw in a political comment.

      Yes we all know the Foreign Aid budget is not a great idea but it is there. Live with it. There is no chance of anyone removing our obligation (written legislation) anytime soon.

      And as for your “stop this stupid idea of paying the EU 50 billion divorce settlement” well it beggars belief. Firstly no one actually knows the sums involved and that ’50’ floated about was Euros not £ so equivalent to about 3 years current contributions. I have been anti EU from the early days of Maastricht and possibly longer than yourself (if you are) but whether we like the EU or not or how we were scammed into the next 3 Treaties by Blair (Labour I do believe) we have legal obligations. We are committed to some £20 Bn for the MFF (Google it) to mid 2020. And we have to pay pensions over the next 40 years. And if we do NOT honour our Treaty obligations to the EU I doubt any other substantial country will engage in any Treaties again with us. Like a Free Trade treaty? And of course after we do leave in March 2019 we will have an extra £13 Bn a year to spend on key essentials that WE think fit not what the EU thinks right (for them)

      And exactly how much ‘bigger and better’ than:
      2 new QE carriers
      7 new Astute subs
      8 new Type 26 Frigates
      5+ new Type 31e Frigates
      4 new Tide Class Tankers
      4 new Dreadnought Trident subs
      5 new OPVs
      New FAA F35B aircraft
      Merlins all transferred to FAA
      Albion major refit and return to Fleet
      9 new P-8A Poseidon MRA (OK with RAF roundels)

      Given we are still having to (excuse the metaphor) ‘run a tight ship’ economically as we seek to remove our deficit I think the UK has done the Matelots proud.

  6. Thr French are subtly encouraging us to cut our own legs off at the knee, further reducing what little influence we have in the World and therefor increasing EU prestige.

  7. Ffs really cant get any worse can it?

    Proposed cuts to Army, RAF and Navy while Putin orders the nations military manufacturers to produce at War readiness capability.

    Demands in Middle East, Korean Penninsula and our rediness here at home must ensure we are up to the job.

    Sad state of affairs the UK finds itself in.

  8. In 1976 Labour went to the IMF for a bailout loan because we couldn’t pay our way.

    In 2017 Tories are offered loan for vital navy ships because we can’t pay our way.

    The difference this time is it’s a choice which makes it a scandal of a different order.

    • Ian – Sorry but 1976 was due to ideological failure of a political dogma (ie Socialism).

      You then make 3 further assumptions:
      1. That this story is correct
      2. That this offer was requested
      3. That we cannot pay our way.

      1. This is the FT peddling a non story to set the hounds running. Nothing more.
      2. The French making an unsolicited offer is nice but means ‘not a lot’. And maybe should be seen in the context of the EU trying all it can to create difficulty for the UK Government
      3. Given our public finances are in a far better state than the French and we have a better and growing defence budget sadly you are wrong

      Let me quote some detail:
      The head of the French Armed Forces has resigned after a clash with President Emmanuel Macron over budget cuts. The cuts planned by Macron would see an €850 Mn (£752 Mn) slashed in the defence budget.

      France spends around £37.4 Bn on defence (2% of GDP), whereas Britain spends £48 Bn (2.2% of GDP). This puts Britain one above France in the world ranking of military expenditure. If the planned cuts go through French spending decreases to around £36.6 Bn.

      Maybe the FT headline should have read:
      “French beg the British to run the cost of Mistral ships as deep cuts take effect”

  9. Oh come on Chaps and Chapesses! Wake up and smell the coffee. You have been ‘had’ yet again. Your passion for the military and clear love of country are blinding you to this blatant piece of spin by a journal that was once highly respected.

    Once again the FT has achieved its rather dubious objectives of peddling stories to embarrass the Government at every turn by getting the hounds running. Its an old trick.

    The French ships may be very good but we have two excellent ships as well. They are called ‘Albion’ and ‘Bulwark’. Maybe we could do the same thing and publicly offer the French a QE as their one and only carrier is laid up in bits as usual …. Then see ‘Les chiens Francais en marche ‘

    • i still, and will keep on saying is that the ‘blinkered’ obsession with f 35 that has been responsible for a lot of the defense woes, p. Talk about a white elephants we’ll have too many elephants, and orders have been stopped or reduced because the Treasury is trying to find a way to fund it

    • Being ‘had again’ twice in fact, both by the americans1) selling 72 fully serviceable aircraft for less than the price of ONE of the replacement and2) falling for the spin over how good the f 35 is going to be perhaps. to see japen taking delivery of the f 35b that should, as the projects only level 1 partner, shoudl be going to us.

  10. Well I wouldn’t rule this out sharing resources in extraordinary circumstances makes sense. For example the French are reliant on our C17’S to move heavy kit to Africa etc and the USMC will fly some of their F35’s of Q.E and P.O.W until we have a full airgroup up and running. But we have Albion and Bulwark and even if 1 is mothballed or in low readiness at any given time. Which actually could make sense. I refuse to believe that HMG and/or the RN would be so stupid as to sell 1 of them never mind both. Between now and publication of the review there are going to be a lot of kites flown and this is one. Optimistic ? Maybe. But if the people running the armed forces are truly that daft the level of def spend should be the least of our worries.

      • @Andy. Indeed, the idea that there will be a unified EU army is a non-starter – but that the EU nations will assign assets to an EU HQ as and when makes sense – sometimes Europe can be less confrontational to others when it’s not part of Nato. Something which has long been acknowledged. The real issue is a lack of spending whether it’s badged ‘EU’ or ‘Nato’. I know the chimera of an ‘EU army’ gets some here excited but it’s a non-story.
        best Tim

  11. This is hideously embarrassing for our once great nation. The gutting cuts the Torys have levelled at our armed forces are directly linked to our drastic decline on the world stage in the last 10 years

  12. The irony is that last year one of the many mis-placed arguments for Brexit is that there must not be a pan-European force. Is this proposal not the start?

    • Once the NATO tasking is newly revealed showing who is expected to do what, we’ll see a change send e due expectation for the UK to monitor and if necessary plug the Greenland gap and maintain control of the sea lanes past Gibraltar

  13. navy you have turned this nation with its proud history into a national laughing stock. don’t fob the people off with rubbish about the global combat ship 13, cut to 8 the type 45 destroyer order 12 and cut to 6 and get conned into selling 72 harriers to the u.s for less than the price of ONE of it replacements fulfil the nato role in securing the greenland gap against a russian submarine breakout into the atlantic, secure the sea lanes? we couldn’t defend the gosport ferry, the cheapo frigate will be another disgrace won’t it? you ammuters should hang your heads in shame, you are todays letter to the m.o.d
    n insult to those in service an insult to those with the heart to still campaign against the treatment of the senior service. you insult those who those who gave their lives for our nation who served in the finest navy that the world his ever seen. from the tea lady upwards you are an embarrassment an insult and incompetent fools playing games with nation’s existence hang your heads in shame and fill in your next expenses form, and think of whose book will be the next one you will stick the knife into. the f 35? open your eyes, its price tag shows this nation has been done up like a kipper’ and YOU ARE THE IDIOTS THAT HAVE LET IT HAPPEN. and if you have the nerve to reply to my rant, make it quicker than your other dri

        • Not at all but sometimes a full on rant loses some of it’s impact when passion overtakes the poster.
          Everything he says I agree with,just felt a little pedantic.

          Meanwhile below the Troll from under the bridge (TH) has surfaced so at least some real sport is available. 😊

  14. Aircraft carrierswhat aircraft? Paper ones, or ones in ministers dreams? Because reality looks more like a nightmare I’d love it if her man decided it was time she reviewed the fleet, imagine the panic!! i’d pay to watch the panic, they’d bee painting the Gosport ferry gray and putting a fake gun on it. trying to pass it off as a frigate

  15. I suspect that the French offer may actually be in good faith. The CDG is getting on and has not been a model of reliability. Spain’s Juan Carlos and Italy’s Cavour are good, but relatively small. Apart from the UK, they are the only other European operator of a large aircraft carrier. Economically, it would make sense for France to use UK carrier capacity. Politically it also makes sense if the French feel they will be forced to build another carrier to support Europe. Offering their amphibious capacity might simply be an opening gambit.

    • Indeed, it may be an opening gambit. F-35B might be able to fly off CDG or even Mistral, but Rafale can not fly off QE class. Some intriguing options.

    • John – The French missed out on their PA-02 carrier when they bailed out of their agreement to build a third QE class carrier with us. Its why they are in such a parlous state with their carrier capability. Never trust the French as they have proved on 3 joint venture programmes now

      So I think we should smile sweetly, shrug in a Gallic sort of way and just quietly file the invite in the long grass……

  16. And when WILL YOU ALL face reality? No point having a go a me either. Have a go at the Government. OMG, this is utterly hilarious. The Royal Navy depending on handouts from the French just as the UK goes bankrupt in the face of a £50 billion plus bill for stupidly crashing out of the EU. This is better that Viz, it really is!

    • Calm down TH, this is only a story in the Financial Times. You need to learn that stories in newspapers aren’t the same thing as reality. Also, a 50 Billion Euro (not £) bill spread over many years wouldn’t “bankrupt” the country. You really are a journalists dream, so easily led…..

  17. My God, is this some sort of sick joke? It’s all over the press and media everywhere!
    What the devil is going on? The Royal Navy I was once a member of is fast becoming a laughing stock. This is quite possibly the most embarrassing news I have ever read in respect of our once great armed forces. My MP has responded by saying that the results of this ‘review’ are keenly awaited. I bet they are! This is a sick joke!

  18. Sell Ocean to Brazil for £80million. Buy Mistral replacement from France for 1 euro ( the price Egypt paid). What’s not to like?

  19. First things first, it is great the French have offered this, the military relationship between the UK and France is very important, and both face budget constraints. The Charles de Gaulle for instance has been escorted by a T45, and I think by T23s. It’s what you could call “Smart Defence” which is what NATO is all about, and what allied countries can be about as well. One filling gaps in another’s capabilities. If you take SNMG1 for instance, even though often operating in the north, the UK rarely provides a ship. On the other hand currently Ocean is in SNMG2. So there’s nothing in itself wrong with the principle, it allows budget savings and keeps overall coverage, perhaps even broadening it.

    If Bulwark and Albion were retired, the important thing would be to keep the Marines and keep the capability of running future amphibious assault ships, both for skills and logistics. And perhaps to incorporate the ability into the new RFAs, or a future large deck multi-purpose design air (handful of F35-B) and amphib.

    On its own Albion and Bulwark going would be a disaster, but that can be mitigated by inter-nation co-operation. That’s the reasoned sensible pragmatic answer I’m giving, I did however sign the petition against it of course!

    • Agree. What the proposal does is to provide an option which unlinks the selling or mothballing of Albion and Bulwark from the fate of the RM. Of course they would have to eat French cuisine on their way to an assault; could slow them down on the beaches.

      • There was some defence chief meeting 2 or 3 weeks back between the UK and France about more co-operation, and this is probably the first fruits of that. As you suggested above, perhaps this is the opening gambit, with perhaps France wanting some F35-Bs to fly off a QE in the future, similar to the USMC. It’s the way to go, optimising budgets, and avoiding unneccessary duplication.

        Not pretty, and some will feel mighty upset, as above! The upside is better communications, more flexible control and command functions, and communications.

        • In a way it would also vindicate the UK decision to go for 2 carriers and STOVL. If I remember the alternative French proposal to reduce the costs of owning carrier strike capability was 1 – 2 UK QE with cats and traps plus French CGG and new nuclear PA2 with cats and traps but both flying Rafale and/or F-18, since CDG can’t support F-35C. As things have turned out if F-35B can match F-18F for range and payload it looks like the UK made the right call: to share costs across RN and RAF rather than between UK and FR.

  20. A sensible arrangement, should they go and no replacement is available.

    It does however make me wonder what we offer the French. Thanks to the decision not to go cat/trap, the carriers are useless for them, unless we also bring our jets.

    They currently need our heavy lift planes, but they have their own incoming soon.

    Sig int is still a strong point i guess.

  21. I single alarmist report in the FT sends the world into meltdown.

    Will be interesting to read the naysayer posts when the real cuts come.

    Until then, so many here actually get off on speculation and rumour, while one poster gets off on the despair of others, but that person truly has issues.

  22. If true this would be beyond parody. Trusting another Nation to provide equipment so we can carry out a defensive operation. Emergencies meaning a requirement now and should that happen and even if France can be trusted to provide such equipment could they give it a drop of a hat. The whole concept is whacko
    How about the Falklands when getting support room our Continental “Allies” was almost impossible EG Belgium was asked for Artillery ammunition and refused . Some alliance

  23. If the Bright UK government have no need for this capability ever, why do we need any help from France, as it is not required? I don’t need this football as I don’t play football. Can you lease me this football, as I play football?

    • I mean, is this just the continued piss-take of this Country, her armed forces and forcing on us this eu wide defence, as in eu army and future eu navy?


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