The most serious maritime issue currently facing the UK is the need for greater anti-submarine warfare capacity, according to a report.

The Defence Secretary has described how Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic has increased tenfold in recent years.

The outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff, says the report, has recognised the threat this poses to the sea lines of communication across the Atlantic and to vital undersea communication cables. The UK lies close to the main transit routes that the Russian submarine force can use to project power into the Atlantic from its bases in the Arctic and High North, a region that is seeing increasing military activity.

Hostile submarine operations also have the potential to endanger the security of the nuclear deterrent. ASW is a complex and resource-intensive exercise, and the world-leading capability which the UK maintained in the Cold War has been substantially reduced. Many of those who submitted written evidence argued that the Royal Navy’s numbers of attack submarines and ASW frigates were far too low. This problem has been compounded by the late arrival into service and low availability of the highly capable Astute class, which has caused a temporary reduction in the number of attack submarines.

The committee say that particular concern was expressed about the probability that the forthcoming class of Type 31e frigates may have only minimal ASW capability. As the Royal Navy is currently finding in mine clearance capability, the use of unmanned systems or manned-unmanned teaming may be the future of ASW.

17 COMMENTS

  1. ASW warfare just to be the raison d’etre for the RN, now, it is little more than an after thought.
    ASW surface and sub surface capability has been slashed to the bone, going forward we will have just eight Type 26 ASW capable frigates and seven Astute hunter killers. The addition of the P-8 Poseidon will help but we likely need a dozen or more not the nine on order.
    Finding additional hulls is going to a challenge, additional funding might allow for an ASW fit to the Type 31, but is the Type 31 design going to be quiet enough or suitable for an ASW role? Unless we build this requirement in now, a low cost patrol frigate like the Type 31 is unlikely to be a suitable ASW platform. We would either need a Type 31 batch 2 (optimized for ASW) or an increase in the Type 26 order.
    The costs associated with increasing the ASW force are going to be a major challenge;
    at least three additional P-8’s, at least two new hunter killers and at least four or five competent ASW escorts.

  2. We need more info on the potential T31 offerings asw abilities. If the Arrowhead could be fairly easily quietened and produced for around £400 million it would give us the quickest and cheapest way to increase capability.
    Is it just me, or are the defence committee making a lot of statements regarding our gaps in capability at the moment? Is there something afoot? I live in hope it is a precursor to a change coming.

  3. We need additional Merlin HM2s , probably given the poor state of the stored Merlins , new build. Given the costs of T26s may be a second batch of 5 ASW t31s and 7 ssks would support the 8 T26s and 7 Astutes. But that would need serious money.

  4. If this is the most serious maritime issue. Which I think he is right about. Then why has the MOD cut the order for the best ASW frigate in the world, the type 26 to just 8. Put in money, manpower to uplift the order back upto 13 or more and get it done a damn sight quicker than our current anaemic construction rate.
    Also order more astute class. 7, is not enough.
    The best ASW weapon is another SSN lurking off its base and sinking any sub entering or exiting key choke and assembly points. The astute class is probably the only weapon the Royal navy has that they fear.
    I am beginning to like Williamson, if we can get to 3% GDP to defence ratio and close the budget hole on the defence equipment budget we might actually have started to turn around the rot of decades of defence and capability cuts.

  5. I concur. All ASW assets, whilst best in class are numerically a long way short.

    Mr Hammond tonight tho says there is no more money for anything after Theresa’s botched NHS funding announcement.

    MDP about to be exposed as a triumph of experience over hope.

  6. Whilst handing out 18.5 Billion Pounds in Foreign aid this year alone and potentially a further £40 Billion pounds in the Brexit divorce settlement .
    What an absolute bloody joke. It’s time May and Hammond moved on and very quickly.

  7. We certainly need more submarines but short of canceling Dreadnought class we have no way to get any for over a decade.

    Best to develop an underwater USV like Boeing Echo Voyager. There is no way we can counter large number’s of crap Russian diesel subs with Billion pound destroyers or SSN’s on their own.

  8. The crap Russian kilo and improved kilo class can be handled by Poseidon MPAS, Merlin’s and frigates. The higher performance and newer Russian nuclear subs are the real threat. For those you need an astute.
    We could easily build more than 7 astute class, just build them concurrently with the new Dreadnought class. A further 3-4 astute class or long term retention of the last 3 Trafalgar class is needed to match sub hull numbers to our peacetime commitments.
    It is just a numbers game the navy want another 12-14 Merlin’s for ASW work. The RAF state 9 Poseidon’s eventually in service by 2023 will not provide enough MPA cover and a further 6-9 aircraft are needed for a viable force level.
    The navy states 8 type 26 are not enough for really deadly ASW specialised work and reverting back to 13 is actually necessary, judging by the level of threat from submarine proliferation, especially in Asia and by Russia. The new air independent propulsion subs being built for India, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, China, Etc are all capable weapons platforms and are being built in large numbers. Obviously many of these nations are our allies but some are not.

    • For nuclear submarines you need highly paid nuclear crew, no money.

      The Trafs are kaput.

      For more FF you need more crews, no money.

      More merlins and P8s, you need more crews… guess what?

      • The money can be found if it’s needed and wanted, it’s needed, but politicians don’t want to spend the money, if the pressure is there and I believe it is then it’s possible, but I’m an optimist.

  9. If there is no extra money or manpower then in my opinion the only realistic option is this:

    1) cancel Drednought and if you want a minimal nuclear deterrent then it’s the RAF with f35a.
    2) order instead 4 additional Astute, and 6 ssks.3 additional t26s. Plus 24 Merlin. Triton have to work with Poseidon.
    3) order anti ballistic missile system for UK air defence.
    4) redistribute remainder of the money across whole defence budget

  10. While the RN could stand to increase ASW capability the implied assumption from many comments that this is Russia vs UK-only is rather unlikely. Ignore the US and just look at what the rest of Europe can bring to the ASW game with aircraft, submarines and ASW frigates today and planned over the next 5-10 years. France, Norway, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and maybe even Germany can get some boats back in the water 😉 Clearly the naval assets will be split across Baltic, Atlantic and Med but will include state of the art AIP submarines, Fremm frigates etc etc.

    If the RN does beef up ASW capability then it seems to have quite a few options, not everything needs to be state of the art £1B frigate based. On helicopters it might add Compact Flash sonar to Wildcat like the ROK Navy have. Instead of Thales Captas 4 used on the T23/T26, T31e could use Captas 1/2 including containerized options for littoral and shorter range applications.

    One reason not often discussed for increased ASW need is the greatly expanding offshore wind power assets and associated energy security needs. The UK has some of the best resources in the world for offshore wind but it is vulnerable in ways that offshore oil and gas were not since the latter could at least be sourced from elsewhere should a production facility go down. Not so easy with wind generated power.

  11. There is nothing new in your last statement regarding the unique vulnerability of the U.K. to not totally controlling the sea at the very least around our island. It always has been if you care to read some history. What is unique is the modern belief of many that this isn’t the case. The technology and means might change but not that rule. A strong RN is as important as it has ever been.

  12. It’s not possible to build anymore subs unless dreadnought were cancelled, even if it were your still looking at a decade at least to get another 2-3 just to sea trials. Quickest way to boost asw is more p8 (and quicker)more Merlin and faster t26 build rate. Slep the Trafalgar class and buy a few de subs for uk costal protection. None of these options would be cheap but we better hurry because the fan is going to be hit a lot quicker than we think

    • Agreed re Dreadnaught, I would like to see that program delayed by 10 years and a further refit of the V class.

      That would open the possibility of ordering 3 more Astutes.

      All our anti submarine assets need beefing up with additional numbers and added capability (Wildcat for instance).

      Labour and the Tory’s are both to blame for starving the RN of resources to pay for the Afghan and Iraqi wars.

      They have both left us dangerously under equipped, really clever for an Island Nation entirely reliant on its Sea trade!

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