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.

However, the Minister refused to confirm that was still the case during a debate today 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.

Recently Lord West of Spithead, a Former First Sea Lord, has argued that Britain’s security and prosperity requires amphibious capability.

Writing in Politics Home, the former naval chief argues for the retention of the vessels that rumours say may be axed.

He states:

“Under fire particularly, it seems, is our invaluable amphibious capability. So what exactly is this amphibious capability? Britain’s security and prosperity requires unimpeded maritime access and transit. As an island nation, the country needs a broadly maritime strategy – one that has sea control at its core, but which enables power and influence to be projected inland.

Indeed, being an island, all operations beyond our shores are expeditionary and demand theatre entry. Strike carriers and amphibious forces are the enablers for this theatre entry capability. The true fighting power of a navy is its ability to ensure entry around the world using carrier air and amphibious forces and to cause sea denial using carrier air and SSNs.

Since 1945 this entry capability has been used over 10 times including Korea, Suez, Kuwait (1962) pre-empting Iraqi planned invasion, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Sierra Leone and the Al Faw. And the Royal Marines have been in almost continuous operations consisting of 30 different campaigns.”

It was recently reported by multiple sources that Brazil and Chile have been given notice of “potential availability” of Royal Navy warships.

Most notably reported by IHS Jane’s Navy International, it has been claimed by the outlet that Brazil and Chile have “quietly been given notice of the potential availability of RN frigates and amphibious ships”.

Janes report that UK officials have “discreetly advised” that some of the frigate fleet in addition to the two Albion class landing platform docks could become available due to budget cuts.

Even the Americans have weighed in on the matter with Colonel Dan Sullivan reportedly saying cuts to the Royal Marines and the loss of two amphibious assault ships could impact the defence relationship between the US and UK.

The Ministry of Defence is reportedly examining options aimed at  the manpower available to the Royal Marines or cutting HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion.

The Times reported him as saying:

“My message is to articulate how important having that capability in our partner is and how damaging I think it would be if our most important coalition partner potentially takes the hits that are projected right now.

If you want to be decisive you have to be able to project power ashore at some point. From a military standpoint as the UK continues to diminish and as the Royal Marines in particular take a hit, I think that our view of what we will be able to do together in the future changes.”

23 COMMENTS

  1. It cannot surprise anyone if they are cut. This is what the brass do whenever the trough runs dry. The battalions, Squadrons and ships of our armed forces are like hostages to be threatened when outsiders start asking questions about what they do with the billions we give them. The MoD needs someone willing to go after them. But they will not go quietly. You can’t expect to drag the pigs away from the trough without a lot of squealing but unless we do it will continue.

  2. This would be very, very bad news. Yet another capability gap if it happens. I suppose the only crumb of comfort might be that sometimes capability gaps are just that, i.e. gaps in a capability rather than losing it forever. Fixed wing carrier capability would be an example and also a stern lesson about how long it can take to regenerate a complex capability after it has been gapped for too many years.

  3. Nothing has changed.

    She can hardly be seen to favour certain things in the military. If she did it leaves her open to accusations of favouritism.

    I think such as stink has been released regarding cuts to these ships they will leave well alone.

    Lets just wait and see what happens, and if Superman GW can get some more cash out of the treasury.

    • True, I see the new Def. Sec. is now appearing to be pushing treasury for £2 billion extra to cover the shortfall that has created the dilemma for the Albion class (and 1000 marines).
      Isn’t it super that French have three nice new 21000 tonne Mistral class vessels, and we are barely holding onto the two we have…

        • So because the French have inadequate (in your view) Mistral vessels we should get rid of our two Albion class?
          The topic is about the potential lose of our Albion’s, the French (and other comparable navies) still owning similar vessels is the point, not whether they are adequate.
          Having this class of vessel in other countries navies indicates how important to those countries it is to keep such vessels.
          It is a point worth noting, not the merits of the adequacy of the vessel.

        • How are the Mistrals inadequate? Superficial googling says they have comparable vehicle landing capacity to Albion class but can host 16 helos and have 6 helo landing spots versus Albion’s 2.

          • Paul P and IvanOwl exactly!
            Some people around here really seem to think France is still some kind of rival.

            Or maybe given we might well lose our amphibs and more RMs (God help us if we do) then there’s an understandable inferiority complex arising in some people this side of la Manche when they look at La Royale’s Mistral’s. I’d be very happy if we had them!

  4. HMG should stop risking the security of the nation & scotch the fears of cuts to the RMs & amphibious ships. Palace of Westminster subsidies should be scrapped & MP wages rises limited to 1% for a start. Funny how cuts never affect those at the top.

  5. Any ministerial statement about anything is only as good as 24 hours. The grey suits don’t really understand defence, other than its a bloody nuisance. If only America would do it all for us, how much better our balance of payments would be, anyway, the public doesn’t care about defence. Remember, talk of little tanks, swooping jet fighters and bobbing warships is always an entertaining subject around the Cabinet table, during tea and biscuit break, and should not be confused with real ministeries, like Health and Education, which always has the voter’s ear.

  6. If these cuts go ahead then the future of the Royal Navy as a credible fighting force once again comes into question defence policy has too long been treasury lead and senior officers too compliant with political wishes.

  7. I don’t know what will happen but I think Lord west should keep a very low profile after all many of the problems faced now by the Royal navy have there roots with the labour government which Lord West was part of. Where was he then ???

  8. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker
    who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast simply because I found it for him…

    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this issue here on your web
    page.

  9. I think the British people are sick of cuts to our important services. Lets re-visit overseas aid £12 billion would go a long way to plug the gaps we have in all our public services.

    The idea of Brexit is to take control let’s step up and do it now politicians!

    Has anyone noticed the warship build rate in China!

  10. Odd though how HMG after years of belt tightening and austerity can suddenly find greying on for another £20billion of our cash for the EU but defence is taking a kicking again.
    I thought 2017 was the year of the Navy. What utter rot. The escort fleet is tiny at 17 so now they’re cutting into the amphibious side of the Navy. What is the 1SL saying about this? Not much it would appear. When is he going to get a grip and start defending his people?

  11. Out of interest
    Ocean is going, so with no operational fleet units, just escorts, what will the fleet flagship be?
    Aĺl the 45s seem to be Pompey residents so will it be a 23?

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