The assault vessels are often the subject of rumours, this time it’s speculation surrounding the early selling off of the warships .

Luke Pollard, Shadow Minister FOR Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asked via a written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether he plans to vary the published out of service dates for (a) HMS Albion and (b) HMS Bulwark.”

James Heappey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, responded:

“There are currently no plans to vary the published out of service dates for HMS Albion and Bulwark. They remain 2033 and 2034 respectively.”

What do the ships actually do?

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.

A former Defence Secretary had warned that withdrawing the Albion class would ‘end British amphibious capability’. Lord Hutton was speaking during a debate on British defence forces in the House of Lords where he said:

“I am absolutely opposed to the United Kingdom acting unilaterally—for example, by announcing the end of our effective amphibious capability. I do not believe that the QE2 class carriers—they are brilliant ships and I am proud to see them serving in the Royal Navy—have the equivalent capability. Neither do the Bay class ships. They are incapable of supporting and mounting large-scale amphibious operations with the fighting vehicles that the Army now has.

Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan led us, rightly, to conclude that they needed to be better protected: they needed to be stronger, heavier vehicles. We need “Bulwark” and “Albion” to retain that capability. So we must tread pretty carefully. I am all in favour of the defence industry co-operating with government in the efficiency review: I think they should. I am certainly in favour of our thinking carefully about how we use the overseas aid and defence budgets together to secure greater security results.

HMS Albion operating at night.

But it is hard to avoid the obvious conclusion that we will need to spend more now to preserve UK effective capabilities. The painful lesson from history is that spending less on defence does not make us more secure; it does not make those threats go away, it just makes us less able to deal with them.”

Not long ago, American Colonel Dan Sullivan said cuts to the Royal Marines and the loss of two amphibious assault ships would change the military relationship between the US and UK.

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.”

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Helions
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Helions

Hope the MoD is already planning a follow-on class. The 2030s are going to come quickly. Look at the convoluted process of trying to replace the USNs Tico class… Lord…

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/20160/heres-the-navys-vision-for-a-new-cruiser-to-replace-the-aging-ticonderoga-class

Cheers.

Callum
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Callum

If they’re due out of service in 2033 and 2034, construction on their replacements ideally needs to start somewhere around 2026/7 to avoid a gap in capability.

Spitballing ideas, what form do we think those replacements will take? Something on the scale of an America-class seems improbable and unnecessary, but likewise another class of LPDs seems limited by it’s lack of aviation. The Mistral seems like a good place to start, but are the increased aviation facilities an unnecessary extra cost given that, unlike the French and Russians, we have a permanent big carrier for aviation?

Helions
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Helions

How about something along the lines of a couple of improved Oceans?

Cheers

Callum
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Callum

The issue with Ocean is that she lacked the Albions’ ability to land vehicles. Of course, the question is under what circumstances do we expect a future amphibious assault to take place? Realistically, from my perspective at least, against a peer foe any assault is going to be conducted at either a lightly or undefended part of the coast and attack from there. Heavy landing craft loaded with battle tanks are too slow and vulnerable to modern and future precision weapons, and their cargo is too expensive and scarce to risk in such a way. A lightning assault by air… Read more »

Helions
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Helions

Hi Callum, I should have been more precise – I was thinking along the lines of the Ocean class being redesigned to military spec with a well deck in the same manner that the America class was. LHA 6 and 7 have none while LHA 8 (Bougainville) onward return a well deck. I understand some hull form modification would have to be done as well to improve sea keeping capability from what I’ve heard (but that could be answered by one of our resident experts in the matter). Best of both worlds there as well as a design the RM… Read more »

Ron
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Ron

Hi folks, ever thought of the HMAS Canberra. That would fit the bill.

Paul42
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Paul42

The last time we went to war with Amphibious ships in 1982 we learned a hard lesson – we desperately needed an LPH!! Hence Ocean was born. The best replacements for Albion and Bulwark are Wasp type vessels along similar lines to the Mistrals?

Helions
Guest
Helions

Per Ron’s suggestion above, the RAN Canberra class would definitely be an option IMO. Especially if the deck and ramp are reinforced from the start of construction to allow “lilly padding” of the F35’s. Would be very handy.

Cheers

Paul42
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Paul42

The Canberras fit the bill pretty well, specially with strengthened F35B capable flight decks!

John Clark
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John Clark

I would agree, a modified Canberra class would be perfect, even allowing light aircraft carrier operations with F35B’s embarked.

It’s vitally important that new equipment is procured with multiple roles in mind.

A modified and stretched increased displacement Canberra class design would be extremely useful.

Along with this, make all procured future helicopters ( RAF/ Army) maritime capable assets, with manual folding blades, tie down points, ship compatible avionics and corrosion resistance.

Create truly flexible purple assets.

Callum
Guest
Callum

I agree in principle, but there is the risk that forcing all of our land based platforms to be naval-compliant we drive up costs and mechanical complexity for something we don’t necessarily need. Some unique assets (Chinook and Apache primarily) need to be naval compliant though, since th FAA doesn’t have or usually need them but does occasionally have need for them.

David Stephen
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David Stephen

I would go for an evolution of the current design, beefed up to 30,000 tonnes with a hanger for 3 HC4 and a Chinook capable flight deck and troop capacity increased to 750 (1000 Over load). Another pair could replace 2 of the Bay Class without the C4 facilities and a well dock half as long, the additional space used for increased vehicle storage. Keep the 3rd Bay and refit it to replace Argus as PCRS.

Callum
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Callum

Interesting proposal, although perhaps a bit on the large side for our needs. For reference, the USN’s latest LPDs are 25,000t and carry about 700 soldiers.

Replacing auxiliaries with true warships also seems excessive, although your suggested modifications are logical. Personally I’d favour another purpose built auxiliary of a shared design with some of our allies to keep costs lower.

David Stephen
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David Stephen

As long as they carry 750 troops,4 LCUs, 4 LCVPs and 3 HC4 then I’m happy. The 2 ships replacing the LSDs don’t need to be warships but I figure it would be cheaper to scale back the LPD replacement design rather than go for a clean sheet LSD.

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Ocean was a disaster of a ship to sail on, especially in any large swell. The only thing really going for it was the large deck area. I’ve heard good things about the Canberras from the Aussies, once all the teething problems were sorted! They have the room to put a couple of Chinooks in the hangar, minus blades and operate four from the deck. Which is only one short from Ocean’s 5 (ready spots). Having both a well deck and an uninterrupted flight deck should be the main requirements for the LPD replacement. When not used for amphibious operations,… Read more »

David Stephen
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David Stephen

An uninterrupted flight deck would indeed be better for Helo Ops but history tells us as that as soon as the Treasury see a flat top they will bin a carrier. Also with 2 carriers and my proposed 4 ships with 12 Helo spots and maybe 2 LSS (converted Points) in a Navy with 30 HM2, 25 HC4, 25 Wildcat and 48 F-35B should be enough 🤞🏻

maurice10
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maurice10

Their replacements may be a combination of landing and disaster relief, more so, than the current design allows for? With Global Warming becoming a faster and more alarming event, the RN will be increasingly at the forefront of relief operations. GM will be a factor when designing future warships, (combatant and logistic) as they could be called to assist anywhere around the globe. I know the Type 26/31 has flexible payload built into their designs, but is it enough? The prospect of future naval vessels being deployed on relief operations could become its prime function, and not an occasional reassignment?

maurice10
Guest
maurice10

When you read GM it should be GW……………..sorry.

Trevor
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Trevor

I’m sure the they would work well for disaster relief. But I do wonder what has happened to all our foreign aid that we gave away (even) since 2000. Ought not the world be better for what even we alone have been spending? It will be tragic if we waste more on “global warming”.

Callum
Guest
Callum

I’m not particularly religious, but there’s a very good metaphor in the Bible for that. To paraphrase: give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for life.

All that foreign aid and disaster relief, all those “fish”, were addressing the short term impact of disasters and poverty. It’s important work, but it’s never going to solve the problem. To really sort the issues, it requires a fundamentally different approach.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Its “democracy”. That is like teaching how to fish. Corruption and totalitarianism is what stunts aspiration.

Callum
Guest
Callum

Agreed. Tragically, we live in times when the oppressed are crying out for liberty, while the free are clamouring to be controlled. We’re getting a little off topic for a post about assault ships though

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

Yes we should stick literally to littoral matters.

andy reeves
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andy reeves

if the marines lose these assets then they may as well be disbanded and an army regiment, taught to do their skills as well. if the government cut anymore branches off the tree that is the Royal marines, it ill die and fall over all together the R.M must be equipped as much as any other arm of the u.k armed forces, they bring a unique skill set with them.

ChariotRider
Guest
ChariotRider

Agreed. The marines being the smallest of the branches were always the most vulnerable to cuts, but apparently they now represent 20% of naval personnel as the rest of the Navy has been cut even faster!

All of our armed forces have been cut beyond what is safe. Every politician says that ensuring our security is their first duty and then in the next breath they are talking about ‘efficiency’ – nuts!

Time to rebuild across the board…

Mark B
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Mark B

No surprise there. Top priority now in my view would be get what you have working properly and keep what is working. Then do a gap analysis and look into different ways of doing what needs to be done.
On that basis inject some urgency into the T23s and T45s now then start planning for the future.

Matthew Smith
Guest
Matthew Smith

If true and remains true post SDSR this is good news and I hope that both return to active service. The direction of travel is becoming clear with the discussions on the Future Commando Force, replacements will not be large LHDs, but more numerous smaller LPD (maybe with small hangars) type vessels that can get close to shore to launch raids, control the Littoral strategic areas or at extremes open the door for the Army to land a force through the RFA. Both should be returned to service right now as the requirement is there today also.

julian1
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julian1

so Albion class goes out of service in 2033/34? why is it that one of the two is always in a “mothballed” status and moored up in a quiet inlet somewhere away from the strains and stresses of the ocean? surely then we are using this class at 50% capacity which should double their lives? I know it doesn’t work quite like that but surely the vessels could reasonably have a life extension program since they have been underused and therefor last another 10 yrs or so…

Gunbuster
Guest
Gunbuster

Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Equipment obselesence is the big issue, not the Hull. Getting spare parts for equipment that is no longer manufactured makes supporting such vessels no longer cost effective. An example would be the original comms system on an LPD. Whilst it was cutting edge when the vessel was built it became a nightmare to maintain as parts became scarce. The Power supply units on the HF transmitters for example where designed and built by a small company that was no longer in business 10 years into the vessels service. Trying to get parts for them… Read more »

Paul.P
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Paul.P

Can the Karel Doorman design or modular modifications thereof perform FSS, LPD, LPH and Argus roles?

Rob
Guest
Rob

Excellent news because these ships are key to enabling expeditionary ops. It should be noted however that we have actually lost the vertical assault capability that was provided by HMS Ocean. Now I know the RN are saying that they can use a QE class carrier in this role but that is not ideal. It means the carrier isn’t doing what it is designed to do which is to launch a carrier air group and it also means it is exposed to attack in the littoral environment. The best option would be replace Albion & Bulwark with 2 Canberra type… Read more »

andy reeves
Guest
andy reeves

sick of this subject repeatedly coming up

Frank62
Guest
Frank62

Time then to be planning the next amphibuous class, preferably a couple of LHA with wet docks, before we end up extending the OOS dates to cover our incompetance.