Assault ship HMS Albion is to join HMS Sutherland, with HMS Argyll due in the region later in the year.

In the coming months HMS Albion, alongside HMS Sutherland, will be contributing to the international efforts to monitor prohibited trading at sea by the DPRK, which provides a major source of funding for its illegal nuclear programme.

While in the region, both vessels will visit several ports and take part in joint training with allies and partners, including the US, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

HMS Argyll will arrive in the region later in the year, when she will participate in a Five Power Defence Arrangements exercise with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore before also travelling to North East Asia for further joint training and exercises.

The deployment of these three ships will mean that the Royal Navy will have a vessel in the strategically critical Asia-Pacific region for the first time since 2013 and will have an almost unbroken presence there this year.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today that HMS Albion has deployed to North East Asia to ‘safeguard free trade, partake in joint training and exercises, and support UN sanctions’ against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

“Our Armed Forces are at the forefront of Global Britain, and the deployment of HMS Albion, Sutherland and Argyll demonstrates our unwavering commitment to our international responsibilities and to maintaining peace, security and prosperity in the region. 

Until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions, the UK will continue working closely with partners and allies to keep up pressure and strictly enforce existing sanctions, ensuring not only regional security but that of the UK as well.”

In the words of her operators, the Royal Navy, the role of the HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion, is to ‘deliver the punch of the Royal Marines ashore by air and by sea, with boats from the landing dock in the belly of the ship and by assault helicopter from the two-spot flight deck’.

The LPDs can carry 256 troops, with their vehicles and combat supplies, and this can be swollen up to 405 troops.

The ships act as the afloat command platform for the Royal Navy’s Amphibious Task Force and Landing Force Commanders when embarked.

UK forces would be needed to evacuate UK citizens in the region in the event of hostilities, but a report released this morning states that there would be almost insuperable challenges for any evacuation to succeed if the UK further reduced its amphibious capability. The Defence Committee recently called on the government to give a categorical assurance that, as part of its Modernising Defence Programme, it has fully understood the essential role of amphibious capability in conducting civilian evacuations, as well as inserting troops from the sea.

The report points out that  the UK currently has very few forces in the region, with no permanent military bases in place. Earl Howe told the Defence Committee that a single frigate, HMS Sutherland, was currently on course to visit the region, with another to follow later in the year. The nearest British Army presence is a battalion of Gurkhas stationed in Brunei and there are no Royal Air Force units stationed in the area. It would also take time to deploy significant UK forces, particularly if they were already committed elsewhere. Earl Howe told the committee that:

“At present, as of today, it is clearly difficult for me to give you facts and figures as to what we could send, because we are committed in a number of parts of the world, but given adequate notice, yes, I am sure we could deploy forces.”

Sir Jeremy Blackham went into more detail on how long force deployment would take:

“We need to be clear that were we to try to move significant forces to that part of the world, we are talking in terms of weeks, not days. We are also talking about reducing our commitment to a number of other current commitments and asking ourselves whether we actually have the resources to deploy a significant number of forces—I am now talking about not just the hardware but the manpower, arsenals, maintenance and support for a
significant period of time.”

The MoD have confirmed that the UK has plans in place to deploy forces to the region if necessary. Earl Howe told the committee that the plans cover different scenarios but he provided no further detail for operational security reasons. The Minister did confirm that these plans include consideration of how long forces could be sustained and what forces could be deployed given the UK’s existing commitments across the world. For Britain, the largest rescue operation since the retreat from Dunkirk in 1940 was in 2006 in Lebanon­ with more than 22,000 British and dual nationals being moved out. Sixty were flown by RAF Chinook helicopters (pictured above) to Cyprus and others boarded Royal Navy vessels.

43 COMMENTS

  1. From the article…

    “The LPDs can carry 256 troops, with their vehicles and combat supplies, and this can be swollen up to 405 troops.”

    Those figures are very different from th Wikipedia one’s of …

    “405 Royal Marines (710 overload)”
    [ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albion-class_landing_platform_dock ]

    Wikipedia cites a couple of sources, e.g. http://www.military-today.com/navy/albion_class.htm, which seem to support it’s numbers.

    Who is right? I suppose maybe they both are and Wikipedia is in effect saying that the “swollen” number of 405 troops mentioned in this article can, in extremis, go even higher to an overload number of 710.

  2. Interesting comment by Gabriele on his Blog.

    Albion going to Far East.

    1 Bay in Carribean for 3 year deployment.
    1 Bay in Gulf supporting MCMV.
    1 Bay left in UK.
    1 LPD in Reserve.

    In effect we have no ready Amphibious capability already, the ships are deployed.

    Need more cheaper ships like T31 and River 2 ASAP.

    • Would you rather they were all laid up in UK harbours twiddling their thumbs?

      Its good that the majority of them are all deployed. Shows the RN still has the will and capability for power projection. Would be even better if Bulwark was taken out of reserve but needs must i guess if we can’t crew it properly.

      • Also River class would be the wrong type of vessel for a long deployment prowling around the Pacific looking for North Korean ships. They are better suited to operations in littoral waters. But yes i agree with you that this would be the perfect deployment for a type 31.

      • No Chris. I wouldn’t.

        Agree with the ability to power project.

        But.

        It emphasises how stretched the RN is and the need, as stated for more general escorts.

        River I mentioned because they could relieve other assets in areas like you specify, enabling such to then go to other areas like the Pacific.
        Where did I say a River could be used to sail to the Pacific!? I did not.

        Agree we need Type 31 ASAP and in greater numbers.

        • The Royal Navy needs lots of multipurpose frigates built quickly and cost effectively. The T31 is best way to achieve that, the T26’s are too expensive and because of that there will only ever be a small number of them. The a Royal Navy needs to start growing again for our Allies to take us seriously.

  3. Is Albion given this assignment bcause it has C3 capabilities or because we are short of frigates? I assume we are not planning a RM assault on North Korea.

        • I cannot see why we would need C3 capabilities on station.

          What the RN needs now is presence.

          It will have its CBG.
          It will ( hopefully ) have its amphibious group.
          It will have continuous Nuclear deterrent.
          It will have the SSN’s.
          it will have first rank ships, limited in number but of quality for its KEY roles.

          I’m looking for expansion of the RFA and increased personnel and Type 31, River, and autonomous systems.

          • Maybe not C3 capabilities but an ideal vessel for enforcing a blockade would have at least one helicopter.

            Maybe it is going to perform the command and control role.

    • Afternoon
      HMG is getting the fleet out there, fleet managers are working with the assets and the manpower available to satisfy increased demand.
      Let’s see if she is deploying with helicopters and let’s see what she’s carrying in the dock.
      Sanction busting ships do not necessarily need frigates and destroyers to stop them, what stops them is presence and the ability to react quickly to good intelligence.
      We now have an LPD east of Suez, who would have thought that possible 6 months ago?

    • C4I is a big plus on the RN LPDs.

      The nearest comparison I have is the war room in the classic movie Wargames.
      Ships OPS Room is half a dozen consoles for radar, CWIS, EW and the PWO.
      The main room for the battle staff has massive projection screens, individual consoles for over 50 people filling various roles.
      There are 2 other very large rooms that also take around 30 people.
      All this is linked into a comprehensive comms suite that gives you the ability to take LINK of various forms, VHF UHF HF comms, Sat Comms (with a very large data pipeline) and all the Coalition Data feeds from numerous secret or greater systems.
      Add to that the embedded Int cell capabilities, 4 LCUs that can act as mother-ships to smaller ribs/ORCs, a twin spot flight deck, Helo data link, possibly a drone fit and a bunch of booties who can do opposed boarding’s if needed then its a very capable platform for monitoring illegal sanction breaking.

      • Wow. I had no idea the main room for battle staff was on that scale. I’m beginning to understand what a big loss Albion & Bullwark would have been had they been lost – hopefully it is “would have been” and that particular cut has been avoided.

  4. Hopefully this safeguards Bulwark and Albion against the July cuts, they’re positively indispensable. Interesting also to see how much the MoD has been work recently to foster relationships with Japan

    • As they should i believe. The Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force is going from strength to strength and is arguably the most capable in the Pacific. In the future i would like us to start sending actual ships to the RIMPAC exercises instead of just observers. These are the kind of defence relations that we need to be fostering.

      • Look for the next iteration of JMSDF aviation centric “destroyer” to be a full sized CATOBAR carrier / s. The JMSDF will gain carrier ops experience with the conversion of the Izumo’s to operate F35B’s and then build / transition to a full deck conventional unit with “C” models. All with the enthusiastic support and backing of the USN IMHO. Wonder how they’ll fit “destroyer” into THAT ship description? 😀

        Cheers!

  5. All middle ranking civil servants need a military awareness course. We need people to be thinking in terms of how conflicts require UK to think and act.

  6. A pretty pointless deployment, from a military perspective. I doubt it is fully loaded with marines or helicopters and not enough escorts with it.

    However, politically, this is a master move by the Navy/MOD, to show that these ships are too important to lose.

  7. Can somebody clarify, to what extent are Albion, Sutherland and / or Argyll going to be in theatre at the same time, and to what extent are they going to be cooperating?

  8. Morning
    All ships will have there individual programmes but we can see the RN exercising its reach capability in readiness for a larger deployment sometime towards 2020/21 timeframe.
    Long lead items are quietly being ordered and these will be prepositioned in places like Singapore ready for use if required. This is what makes navies truly global, not the number of ships it has but it’s ability to deploy them thousands of miles from their home port and fully support them.
    The RN is slowly recovering it’s global reach, expect the RAF to start travelling further afield as well (Japan is an example), testing their new force packages and their ability to deploy them.

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