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.
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.”