In a significant development for the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA), the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced a shift in how naval readiness is reported.

The announcement came in response to a question by Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, John Healey MP, and was delivered by James Cartlidge, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence.

Historically, the MoD reported the number of days each Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship spent at sea. However, following a comprehensive review, it has been decided that ‘sea days’ will no longer be the standard metric.

“The review also considered the ever-changing threat environment to ensure that the information published remains appropriate and does not prejudice the security of the Armed Forces. The MOD considered security as part of its review and has determined that sea days are no longer appropriate for publication, therefore henceforth, the MOD will publish “readiness days” rather than “sea days” data.”

I’m not sure why, either. But still, the MoD will use ‘readiness days’ to provide what it calls “a more accurate” reflection of operational effectiveness and capability.

Understanding ‘Readiness Days’

‘Readiness days’ encompass the days when ships are available and delivering operational impact, irrespective of whether they are at sea or docked. Cartlidge explained, “This is a significant step in ensuring our naval metrics accurately reflect the modern operational realities. Readiness days will capture the true essence of our naval capabilities, even when vessels are not at sea.”

Here’s a table showing Royal Navy and RFA Surface Fleet Readiness Days, 2013-2022.

  • Afloat Support: 2013 – 2487.2 days, 2022 – 1192.8 days.
  • Carriers: 2013 – 365 days, 2022 – 599 days.
  • Frigates, Destroyers, and Offshore Patrol: 2013 – 6633.8 days, 2022 – 5757.8 days.
  • Inshore Patrol: 2013 – 730 days, 2022 – 368 days.
  • Littoral Strike: 2013 – 1904 days, 2022 – 1473.8 days.
  • Military Data Gathering: 2013 – 1670.2 days, 2022 – 1431.8 days.
  • Seabed Warfare & Minehunting: 2013 – 4692.2 days, 2022 – 2869.2 days.

Examples of Readiness Days

  • Frigates stationed in strategic locations, like Norway or the Gulf, ready for immediate deployment.
  • Offshore patrol vessels in the Caribbean or Africa, prepared for disaster relief operations.

While the shift to ‘readiness days’ is presented as a move towards greater accuracy and transparency, there is speculation that it may also be a strategic manoeuvre to avoid negative publicity. Historically, reports of Royal Navy and RFA ships spending zero days at sea would lead to adverse headlines and public perception issues.

By adopting the ‘readiness days’ metric, the MoD might be cleverly sidestepping this problem. Although officially attributed to security concerns, some analysts express doubt, suggesting that the change serves more as a public relations tactic than a response to security needs.

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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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Jim
Jim (@guest_766155)
6 months ago

This makes sense, we need more ships in home waters and at key strategic locations ready to go to action rather than sailing around for little reason. A ship ready to go on short notice is just us useful if not more than one sitting with an undefined mission at sea.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_766245)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Why do we need more ships in home waters? Is there an invasion to repulse?

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_766267)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Sorry is a ship in it’s home port an easier target in this surprise attack we seem to be expecting in our home waters? Isn’t a good part of our duties to deter aggression around the world?

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon (@guest_766373)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Agreed. But in strategic locations, which I assume you intended.

Last edited 6 months ago by Gavin Gordon
Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_766565)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim

I think we should moor up all the ships and send the crews to work from home. It’ll save a fortune and do away with the need for the MOD to fiddle the figures about which ships are available, otherwise why make the changes.🙄

Martin
Martin (@guest_766176)
6 months ago

fiddling the numbers, the top brass in the navy are deluded and weak.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay (@guest_766187)
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

They are anything but Martin.

Martin
Martin (@guest_766429)
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

well how did they let the navy get in a bit of state, on their watch

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_766270)
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Nonsense. Readiness should be recognised and is important as is ‘at sea’. Personally I think it would be simple to report the days at sea, the days at readiness and the days in maintanence.

Last edited 6 months ago by Mark B
Martin
Martin (@guest_766273)
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

agreed,

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_766566)
6 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

Which is what they were doing!

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_766636)
6 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Really. I thought they were combining readiness with ‘at sea’ which is not the same as ‘at sea’, readiness for sailing and maintenance. Or am I missing something?

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_766301)
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Learn about Operational Capability. Its been the metric the RN has used internally for ever and a day. Days at sea means diddly squat except to ill informed commentators and MPs.
You can be at sea with little to no OC beyond doing SAR. You can be alongside bombed up and equiped with loads of FTR and have a metric s**t tonne of OC.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon (@guest_766378)
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

No, they are making the best use of what kit they’re given. Yet still, when grilled the Top Brass do their best to shield Ministers, the principal culprits, from rightful blame.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766207)
6 months ago

I think there’s some good reason for this. The point made that HMS Spey alongside in Tonga conducting tsunami relief doesn’t count for sea days is telling. I think having a fleet ready escort is of use, even if it isn’t racking up the sea days. If you want a measure for usefully deployed or deployable, this could well be the way to go. However, no single metric is perfect and at least sea days was easy to understand and hard to fudge. There are various levels of readiness. Ready to sail within the hour or within the week? Are… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_766209)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon

The problem is that this is easy to fudge.

Sea Days were easier to audit as you could roughly work out where a ship was from public source data.

Now you have no idea if a ship is really deployable as it may be labelled as deployable but its main radar is supported by a crane or its GT’s are being worked on alongside……

This is not a good idea.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF (@guest_766249)
6 months ago

Ah yes, the three categories of untruths: lies, damnable lies and statistics. A true bureaucrat, observing unfavorable trend data in a metric, does not propose a change in reality, rather a change in metrics. Interesting to note that this practice is evidently migrating to your side of the Pond; age old practice and high art form in the former colonies. Parliament, in response, could simply mandate reporting both metrics, allow natural progression, and await convoluted explanations of apparent (or real) inconsistencies or unfavorable trend information. Still doesn’t change reality; however, amusing to observe discomfiture of said bureaucrats. 🤔

Ian
Ian (@guest_766281)
6 months ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Regardless of your metric there’s always the problem of Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure”.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_766303)
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Because you can measure something doesnt mean you have to…

John Manger
John Manger (@guest_767317)
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Or, put another way, Numerical objectives cause dysfunctional behaviour.

Jon
Jon (@guest_766253)
6 months ago

I’m not so jaded to think they will outright lie by choice, but if the measure is ambiguous, every bit of leeway will be used to show the most favourable interpretation and there will be no consistency. We really need a full set of publicly available metrics provided annually, with concrete definitions and year-on-year comparability. We need to figure what can be allowed in the public domain and make it available properly rather than letting it dribble out in bits as FOI responses and Parliamentary answers.

Alas, Santa and I are not on speaking terms since we installed central heating.

Louis
Louis (@guest_766293)
6 months ago

The RN doesn’t use ‘sea data’ as it’s meaningless.
It’s something used so that people can understand. A shift away from it is not a bad thing.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_766302)
6 months ago

A ship can be at sea in the Med for 3 mobths doing sneeky stuff with only 3 of its 4 GTs actually fitted onboard(the other being sent to Brazil to fix one of their ships). So days at sea acheived but not reflecting actual OC which was reduced redundancy and performance restrictions on propulsion.

And yes thats a true dit… Been there did that…

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_766319)
6 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I know it is true.

I was referring more to tied up alongside with things in bits and no real chance of a rapid deployment.

That would be more like the ‘old days’ when fleet numbers were inflated…

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_766421)
6 months ago

Alongside with stuff in bits is a regular occurrence. In a maint period you always have a Notice for Sea stipulated…48hr, 72hr, 96hr. If you need to exceed that Notice for Sea through in-depth dismantling, you need to push it up the chain of command first before you get permission to start. Fleet HQ knows what every units OC and NFS is real time. Thats how it tailors’ units for tasks. Most jobs you can put the kit back together and the ship can sail within the NFS. OK the crew may still be fixing it as you pass Drakes… Read more »

Steve
Steve (@guest_766383)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jon

On paper it makes perfect sense, but the question has to be why now and not before and is it a coincidence that after several years of the numbers drooping they decide to change the basis.

However if there is a proper solid definition for what is classified as ready then sure why not. But also publish historic data so it can be compared against.

I strongly suspect its not a solid definition and very fluid to make things look better than they are.

Paul42
Paul42 (@guest_766214)
6 months ago

Cooking the books lol…. someone once said you can make stats say anything you want them to say, and paint positive pictures of negative situations, it’s just a case of how you choose to record and present them……

MattW
MattW (@guest_766217)
6 months ago

George needs several dozen little friends with drones …

Jack
Jack (@guest_766236)
6 months ago

Naval cooking of the books.

Ian
Ian (@guest_766240)
6 months ago

Given that there may be sound strategic reasons why ships need to be ‘at readiness’ in port rather than sailing around for the sake of it, it probably is a more useful metric.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore (@guest_766244)
6 months ago

I favour the new metric. If few ships are tasked to sail, then a low ‘sea days’ figure would be shown, which would be criticised but it would paint no picture of readiness for operations.

My background is army – the key metrics always related to readiness for operations rather than a figure indicating how many soldiers were actually on operations or exercise.

Mark B
Mark B (@guest_766274)
6 months ago

If you look at the Russian fleet I suspect they might claim many of their ‘ships’ are at readiness but in reality are as good as dead. We can tell when they sail that they can at least float. In the RN It might be a useful strategy for each type of vessel to set expectations for maintenance, at sea and at readiness so the the fleet can be measured against that.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_766277)
6 months ago

This really is about hiding and lack of accountability…there are some metrics that you can use that show the health of a service and for the RN they used sea Days….some vague readiness day reporting allows for hiding shitness to be honest.. You see the same in the NHS the government has lots of measures some are just rubbish but some are really profound indicators of how well a system works ( these tend to get buried for obvious reasons) …the best metrics for understanding how well something works are the ones where everything has to work to make it… Read more »

Louis
Louis (@guest_766296)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

‘Sea days’ is a statistic used so everybody can understand. The MOD and RN won’t use it.
A ship on FRE for example might have no ships to escort so is alongside.
Every single available ship cannot be at sea at the same time or the RN would mutiny and the ships would break.
A ship alongside in Portsmouth not receiving upgrades will be ready to deploy in 24-48 hours maximum.
The entire army doesn’t have to be deployed to have troops ready for deployment.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_766324)
6 months ago
Reply to  Louis

That is what I said Louis you do not set unrealistic expectations…but if you don’t measure theses things correctly you end with perverse incentives..…a navy that does not measure and report its at sea days…but just availability could spend it entire time in port…and if senior leaders are pushing the metric that perverse incentive will occur ( it aways does). Measuring is alway a balance as are targets…and the measure should reflect real life and the needs the service has to achieve.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_766305)
6 months ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Because a ship is at sea doesnt mean it has a great level of OC. It could be at sea carrying major OPDEFs that affect OC and delivery of capability.
Thats why OC is always a better metric

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_766323)
6 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Fare point but if you only use that metric it can hide a navy that never leaves port..if your going to be accountable ( and all public services have to be) you metric set needs to be open and not potentially protectionist. So it’s fine to have an OC metric but not having a sea day metric sounds iffy to me. It could drive a perverse incentive of a navy that spends its time being ready but never doing..after all doing at sea days do affect availability….

maurice10
maurice10 (@guest_766282)
6 months ago

Oil may be on the water between the US and China following recent talks but the long-term prospects for oceanic shipping, especially east of Suez will require a more sustainable RN presence Globally. The current shipbuilding programme goes a long way towards the required hulls yet, I fear future governments will mess with the dynamics?

Frank62
Frank62 (@guest_766284)
6 months ago

It’s not as though HMG/Treasury has fiddled the figures before to give a rosier picture to the naive public. … oh wait!

It’s a fine sounding argument tio use a new metric, but the question is why do they no longer want to give sea days? Crews need to exercise at sea to become fully operational. I would think sea experience is vital.

Tom
Tom (@guest_766325)
6 months ago

I know the MOD keeps certain things from ‘prying eyes and ears’, but the above is a load of crap. Surely this kind of ‘nonsense’ reporting, will do no more than ‘egg’ some people on, in order to find out the truth?

Martin
Martin (@guest_766388)
6 months ago

I used to manage a standby power station we were available to operate at under 2 hours notice 365 days per year but actually only operated to check things worked 4 hours per month. A complex ship needs more training and practice time and may need more unavailable time when it’s not available but an at sea figure of 90 days per year and 270 days per year available for operations would seem a reasonable figure to me for the majority of the fleet. Some vessels might have many more days at sea if doing overseas cruises and others may… Read more »

Rob
Rob (@guest_766412)
6 months ago

Let’s play numbers games because we can’t afford the fuel to go to sea. This explains why the tiny fleet is tied up alongside so much. Now they can say “yes but have you seen the readiness numbers?” Man, that is really some really sad stuff.

Last edited 6 months ago by Rob
Howard Jones
Howard Jones (@guest_766433)
6 months ago

It’s interesting that offshore patrol vessels are lumped in with destroyers and frigates. As has often been pointed out in these pages, OPVs are not war fighting vessels and their role is different.
This seems odd. Should we smell a rat?

Andrew D
Andrew D (@guest_766447)
6 months ago
Reply to  Howard Jones

Anything to make the numbers look good 😉

Gareth
Gareth (@guest_766435)
6 months ago

This sounds like a Sir Humphrey on manoeuvres

Nigel Carter
Nigel Carter (@guest_766473)
6 months ago

Not sure when/why this changed. Ships were always assigned to a readiness state with the RN required to provide a number of ships in each state. It became slightly problematic with the arrival of the Type 23 as they proved (generally) more reliable than their predecessors so it appeared that we needed fewer of them.
Provided ships meet their annual training requirements and any “soft diplomacy” commitments there should be no problem.

donald_of_tokyo
donald_of_tokyo (@guest_766673)
6 months ago

Why not BOTH?