The Ministry of Defence has recently confirmed that both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark will remain in service, but questions linger about whether these vessels will see active deployment again.

This topic came to the forefront following written questions by John Healey, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, directed to the Secretary of State for Defence.

Healey asked, “Whether he plans to take (a) HMS Albion and (b) HMS Bulwark out of extended readiness,” and “when will (a) HMS Albion and (b) HMS Bulwark return to active service?”

James Cartlidge, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, referred to a previous response given on April 17, 2024, regarding the ships’ statuses. Cartlidge stated, “For reasons of operational security, we do not disclose timetables of future readiness levels for Royal Navy (RN) vessels. However, I can confirm that, as has been the case since 2010, one Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship will be held in extended readiness so that she will be capable of being regenerated if we have strategic notice that she will be needed.”

Cartlidge further elaborated, “As such, HMS Albion will take HMS Bulwark’s place in extended readiness and HMS Bulwark will be regenerated from extended readiness and maintained so that she can be ready to deliver defence outputs if required.”

Despite the government’s confirmation that both vessels will remain in service, this arrangement casts doubt on whether they will actually return to active sailing. HMS Bulwark, initially set to return to the fleet after completing maintenance and upgrades, will now be maintained in a state of readiness, ready to be deployed only if necessary.

Both HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark have previously faced potential decommissioning, but public and defence community outcry led to their retention. Now, their future remains a topic of debate, with extended readiness serving as a stopgap rather than a full return to operational status.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Bulkhead
Bulkhead (@guest_821751)
1 month ago

Blah, Blah. 😎

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_821757)
1 month ago
Reply to  Bulkhead

The hollowing out of this country’s armed forces continues scoop by scoop. So much for the talk by our political class of the increasingly dangerous world!!

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_821756)
1 month ago

If the do build more ( which they should without a doubt) the Fesrless concept has IMHO a lot of merit.
A fast cruiser sized heavily armed ship . That can operate independently, can get in, drop off the marines and get out FAST!!
A modified commercial hull will not cut it. Whether their lordships see it that way or the treasury, remains to be seen.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_821784)
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Hannah

And IMHO that isn’t going to happen as the recent split away from the joint project with Netherlands confirms due to very divergent requirements. NL want to combine fast raider style Amphibious with a replacement for their large OPV ships The RN 1SL has clearly stated we need something bigger that can operate Aircraft and UAV as well as well as conventional Amphibious Operations. Odd thing is Fearless would be an excellent choice of design for the Netherlands requirement and a larger 15/16K tonne version of regular DAMEN MPSS 9000 would suit ours. It’s just really a Bay with a… Read more »

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_821835)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

I cannot disagree about politicians which is why I want Defence to be taken out of one parties hands.

SailorBoy
SailorBoy (@guest_821839)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

What I found on the Netherlands equivalent of Navy Lookout here: marineschepen.nl/nieuws/Meer-details-Amfibische-Transportschepen-090424
was almost exactly the opposite. The Netherlands doctrine is for a lightly armed ship that either works as an OPV with drones and helicopters or is escorted in combat/amphibious ops by a frigate.
We seem to have indicated to the Dutch that we want a more heavily armed conventional LPD that can operate in areas with the risk of attack without needing to spare a frigate to help.

Mickey
Mickey (@guest_822071)
1 month ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

The HNLMS Karel Doorman is scheduled to have RAM missiles and a 76 MM gun installed in the next year or so.

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_821941)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

To equip it as the ‘littoral strike’ ship to lead a LRG, I think Argus received ‘LPD like’ command and control capabilities, in preference to one of the Bays. The ‘Bay with a flight deck to port and superstructure to the right’ you describe – 15/16k tonne version of MPSS 9000 – sounds essentially like an LHD. I would agree that if we only get 3 MRSS then this would be the way to go, replacing the LPDs and Argus- perhaps a bit bigger, say 20k tons with self defence. I would retain 3 x Bay LSDs in addition.

SailorBoy
SailorBoy (@guest_821920)
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael Hannah

Listening to Steller’s own representative describe the concept on Naval News, it differs quite a bit from your summary. It sounds like they want the ship to be able to complete all stages of the operation, starting with acting as a surface combatant and firing missiles to push back A2/AD bubbles, then launching raids with fast boats on defences ashore and finally using the lane metres and rear ramp to unload a permanent force ashore. It makes a lot of sense and is much how I had imagined the Marines working in future but all capabilities are rolled into the… Read more »

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_821942)
1 month ago
Reply to  SailorBoy

Apologies for not giving a more complete summary. I gave the just . She can function independently in high threat environments. Given they are concerned about the anti ship threat to the carrier and the current doctrine is for it to hide in the ocean.
It makes sense that a vessel that delivers the Marines, is fast, heavily armed and can also do other duties .

dc647
dc647 (@guest_821764)
1 month ago

We don’t need them😂 the RM are good swimmers🏊…. As for the equipment it won’t need taking anywhere because we won’t have any…. Please note this is total sarcasm…..
RMs need assault ships as much as the Para’s need Planes

Last edited 1 month ago by dc647
ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_821769)
1 month ago

Like everyone in an ideal world I’d prefer Bulwark to return to Active Service, but it may be a sensible choice. I would guess it’s all down to the never ending Trilemma of balancing Risk, Costs and Resources. Risk.Is there any immediate need for the U.K. to be able to carry out an Amphibious Landing at very short notice ? Nope but if Bulwark is kept in a maintained condition of readiness (power plant and HV system is vital), then she can be used if we really need to by generating crew from reservists. Costs. By not operating Bulwark does… Read more »

John Clark
John Clark (@guest_821795)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Emm, does Mr Healey mean will the ships be fully manned and deployed in the next 6 weeks???

After that, it’s a question of looking in the mirror and asking himself some searching questions I would think….

Dern
Dern (@guest_821802)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

So, just to clarify Rodney, you’re saying we should be looking at a ship that has about a 20,000t displacement, a through flight deck with plenty of helicopter landing spaces, a crew of about 160, a well deck, a large hangar and vehicle park?

Sounds positively French!

sjb1968
sjb1968 (@guest_821830)
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

If we cannot find enough crew for one of the LPDs when we only have 15 escorts whilst the stated requirement is for 19 and ultimately 24 it tells you something about the manning crisis we have. Only last year we had an LPD, 2 carriers and 17 escorts. The same goes for the RFA with Tide class vessels now laid up. There is a real problem and it is about paying people realistic money and looking after them as a good employer. I am hopeful about Bulwark coming back into service when QE goes in for her 2025 refit.… Read more »

Martin
Martin (@guest_821905)
1 month ago
Reply to  sjb1968

QE 2025 refit? she is for ever in dock any way, what will they do in the refit? any ideas? polish the clean engines?

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_822048)
1 month ago
Reply to  sjb1968

It’s going to be interesting over the rest of the decade crew wise. If they want to go up to 24 Escorts they will have to increase the numbers of personnel. We will know if they are serious if the 1st 5 new Frigates enter service without a matching T23 exiting ! But one thing is for sure HMG will either have to order extra follow on Frigates or throw Rosyth under a bus. As for the Carriers having both in active service at the same time is pointless without 2 Air wings. To do that you would need to… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_822302)
1 month ago
Reply to  sjb1968

LPDs require bespoke courses and maintainers to crew them. You cannot put people on them with zero systems experience. Doing that gets people killed or seriously injured. Good example is the various unique lift systems (It happened…someone was seriously injured and that was Post Haddon Cave!) My Pre-Joining Courses as the Warrant Officer Weapon Engineer was over 3 months long and that was on top of all the other courses I had done and was qualified for as a WO on T23s. Unique propulsion systems. Unique electrical system Unique Ballast and docking down system Unique LCVP davits Vehicle deck ramps… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Gunbuster
sjb1968
sjb1968 (@guest_822872)
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

A good friend of mine is a WO1 who has served on Sandowns, Hunts, T23’s, T22’s, in Basra and is now I believe on Glasgow. He stressed that the problems of a lack of trained personnel was across the board and the deterioration had been accelerating for several years and some branches had not recovered from the redundancies of 2020. From memory Marine Engineering was one of those branches, which is pretty fundamental to getting a ship away from the quayside. What is your take on it ?

Martin
Martin (@guest_821903)
1 month ago

Two big under armed targets, the new concept of ship looks a wiser choice. If it ever gets past the wish list stag. A lot of things going on with the Navy, any thing grey is way beyond my grasp.
As always lets wait and see as words are easy but hard contracts are not.

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_821938)
1 month ago

Yeah well the battle lines are drawn for the election. Tories are supporting an increase in spending (modest though it is at the moment) whilst Labour think they are assured of victory so they simply talk in vague terms committing to nothing.

Dave
Dave (@guest_822024)
1 month ago

Frankly until government decides that China is on the war path, Iran is already at war with the west, north Korea is a major arms supplier to the rest and that Russia has not only sparked a major war in Europe but is comprehensively out manoeuvring us, out producing us, out thinking us and WILL invade more – after all it has apparently already decided to alter the Baltic sea to its liking, we are doomed to see the tiny i significant navy, army and air force reduced still further. Context here, we don’t have enough of any of them… Read more »

Simon
Simon (@guest_822106)
1 month ago

I would think one of the biggest problems is finding enough sailers to crew them

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_822341)
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon

Qualified to crew them. Lot of bespoke courses to join an LPD. You cannot cross from a T23/T45 /River to an LPD without doing them.

Simon
Simon (@guest_823016)
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Good point, and once trained you want to keep hold of them. I expected all that is factored into the cost of running an LPD as well