While no frigates or destroyers are deployed, 13 Royal Navy surface vessels and submarines are currently deployed around the world.

Vice-Admiral John McAnally, president of the Royal Naval Association, said that the lack frigates and destroyers overseas was unprecedented and indicates the fleet is too small.

He told The Times:

“I am distressed and alarmed. I do not see that it is easily remedied. The only answer is an increase in the defence budget. It is too small to meet what government want the armed forces to do.”

All of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth, while 12 of 13 Type 23 frigates are either at Portsmouth or Devonport. HMS St Albans however is on duty in home waters as fleet ready escort.

An MoD spokeswoman said:

“The Royal Navy is deployed globally on operations and will be protecting our national interests throughout Christmas and New Year. There will be 13 ships and submarines deployed away and in home waters, as well as the at sea nuclear deterrent.”

Recently, HMS Diamond had to abort a deployment to the Gulf due to issues relating to her propeller shaft.

Former First Sea Lord, Lord West, said:

“It’s all very well calling it the ‘year of the Navy’ but there is insufficient money in the defence programme for the programme that is laid down.

There has been hollowing out of defence and in the Navy’s case this means that there is not enough training, there aren’t enough spares, the work that needs to be done on the 45s hasn’t been started on any of them yet.

There are insufficient people to man various ships – the hollowing out is very damaging, and in the Navy’s case it has an impact on our ability.”


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It suggests the type 23’s are too old if they are all in for maintenance or refit and the type 45 propulsion really is a disaster. They all need overhauled immediately rather than when funding eventually comea along in 5 years.


The problem with Type 23 is a shortage of particular trades especially engineering within the Royal Navy. It is so bad that an agreement was signed with the US Coastguard to take on some of their crewman to operate on the Type 23. Upping recruitment is not a cure as well, it takes decades to build up the skills. As for the cause you need to look back to the early 1990 and Options for change. The recruitment taps were switched off for a number of years meaning young men were turned away. The catch being the wet behind the… Read more »


yeah public sector pay especially in the south of England is just nowhere near the private sector and pays for f all. Especially once your in your 30’s and expected to be making a significant amount if you want a mortgage. Its not so bad in in the nhs when you can just import cheap labour you can’t exactly do that in the military. Public sector pensions seem to be killing them now in terms of what they can offer in terms of salary though based on the average salary its the equivalent to half a million in extra cash… Read more »


and yet this is a myth that keeps getting told over and over. The guaranteed pension that public sector workers get is pretty much the equiv of doubling their salary and yet it is never taken into account. For example when they benchmarked private against public sector nurses, the public actually got paid more when all benefits were taken into account and not just monthly in pocket wages.

The problem the military has and same across the board in the public sector, is people don’t value their pension as much as they should as it isn’t instant payment.


Isn’t just a British problem, a couple of other European defence stories from this week
Half of France’s military planes ‘unfit to fly’
Every German Submarine Is Out of Action

Daniele Mandelli

Exactly. I’m always saying to people who come on here. Yes, but compared to WHO?

More money needed no doubt and an overhaul in how Mod spend money and how government view defence.

But rarely is the grass greener elsewhere.


Good point – The USN has similar issues with their carriers and subs in particular.

I do believe though we need to build new – and sell at year 15 thereby foregoing a major refit and then expensive maintenance thereafter.

Good for Britain – good for our allies who will get much better second hand equipment.

Andrew Wild

This is an utter disgrace!!!! I have continually said in emails and correspondence to ministers that the defence budget should be AT LEAST 3 %. Probably 3 and a half %. I received a reply recently from my MP Julian Smith ( the newly appointed Conservative Chief Whip). I had raised serious questions about the VERY low number of Frigates and Destroyers in the Navy, and available combat aircraft in the RAF and said that nobody seems to take into account attrition in combat! His response was a masterclass in complacency and obfuscation. He ignored the attrition point and ignored… Read more »

Nick Bowman

It’s almost Christmas. Maybe the powers that be determined the immediate threat level to be relatively low, so they ordered as many as possible home to be with their families. The Admiral’s point about under-funding is bang-on, however.


Nick that was my thought. The RN is desperate to retain the people they have. Why cause tensions within families by needlessly deploying sailors overseas at Christmas and then end up with those same sailors feeling pressured to resign from families as they miss important holidays. If we were at war or there was a crisis then that would be different, but we are not at war and there is no crisis, so probably better in the long term to damp down activity at times like these and retain the goodwill of sailors and their families. Agreed the RN needs… Read more »

Mark L

Exactly, why not have the crews home for Christmas if possible? I have a feeling the same thing was done last year.

Daniele Mandelli

That we have no surface escorts deployed does not bother me actually.

Where is the war at the moment?

Why must we always have ships deployed?

Do we always have fighter jets flying like SAC did in the Cold War with its B52s. No.

I’d like to see ships ready to go if they need to be and better training, maintenance and manpower.

Ben P

Nor me. There is however two points, one of our most important standing tasks is to provide an escort in the gulf, which we are apparently unable to perform at the moment, and we are not currently contributing an escort to Standing NATO Maritime Group, other than that I am happy that our ships are home for Christmas, and saving money… A RFA and four MC ships in the gulf as part of the mine countermeasure group, HMS Protector and HMS Clyde in Falklands, RFA Mounts Bay in the Caribbean, HMS Enterprise in the Mediterranean as part of NATO SNMCMG2… Read more »


There’s Ocean as well…isn’t she still leading a NATO force in the Med?

Daniele Mandelli

Yeah I was trying to get to the 13. Agree 2 SSN 1 SSBN.
Good points above too about Christmas.


I correct myself. Ocean arrived home today.

Ben P

SSBN is not included in the 13 ships figure. HMS Ocean returned home today or yesterday.

Daniele Mandelli

Yeah just re read mod spokeswoman, you’re right.


I notice that HMS Argyll has just finished Sea Ceptor trials north of Scotland. There was an interesting comment from an AAW officer aboard, I think, Westminster, another Type 23 recently fitted with Sea Ceptor:

“Whether it’s engaging multiple air threats or fast incoming attack craft, Sea Ceptor represents a massive capability upgrade for the Type 23 frigate.”

The mention of fast incoming attack craft stood out for me. Is it the case that Sea Ceptor can be used against small, fast naval craft as well as air targets?


Perhaps not yet, but hopefully very soon: the MOD’s spending £0.5bn to make it work against such targets.


Ben P

People like to go off topic alot here. I would suggest you sign up to http://ukdefenceforum.net/index.php. Can discuss your heart out.

Daniele Mandelli

That would be a plus.

Mark L

I wouldn’t be surprised, previous naval SAMs had a secondary anti ship role, Sea Dart especially.

Mike Saul

Sea dart could only be used in the anti ship role, if the target could be illuminated by the shipborne 909 radar.

That’s a pretty short range, say about 25 miles so in combat conditions ineffective as a anti ship weapon.

Mark L

It’s range would be limited by the radar horizon, as all ship launched anti ship missiles are effectively, without over the horizon targeting being provided by another source. I’m not convinced that the Soviets (who Sea Dart was designed to be used against) really could’ve done that properly when you bear in mind the limitations of their kit. Therefore, I don’t think Sea Dart would’ve been as ineffective against ships as you think Mike. Fortunately, we never got to find out so it’s all conjecture.

Mike Saul

Mark, of course a target has to be found this can be done from a variety of sources.

But for a missile like Sea Dart with semi active radar homing the target has to be constantly illuminated by an external source radar, in this case type 909.

Without this constant illumination the sea dart will not hit the intended target as it carries no onboard guidance equipment.

Missiles like Exocet have a guidance
system inertial guidance and terminal active radar homing and therefore not dependent on an external illuminating radar

Hope that clarifies the situation for you.

Mark L

I know how Sea Dart and Exocet worked Mike, I didn’t need the difference clarifying for me thanks. Perhaps you can clarify what difference the distinction between semi active and active radar homing makes to my earlier post? After all Sea Skua is a semi active radar homing anti ship missile, isn’t it?

Mike Saul

Sea skua missile has indeed a SARH which means it requires an external radar to illuminate the target, in the case of the RN a lynx helicopter. If the helicopter cannot constantly illuminate the target the sea skua misses the target. Of the greater thing about a helicopter it can adjust its altitude to gain the optimum firing point a ship cannot. Also the range of sea skua is also quite short around 25km. In practical purposes the use of a sea dart in the anti ship role is not viable, which is why the RN never ever test fired… Read more »

Mark L

I know about SARH and ARH Mike, and have done for many, many years. Despite what you believe, Sea Dart had a secondary anti ship role, and a test firing was made against a Brave class patrol boat.

Perhaps you should try Google yourself….

Oscar Zulu

The upgrade of the RAN’s Anzac-class frigates – once regarded as a second-tier warship, ‘fitted for but not with’ key weapon systems (sound familiar?) via the Anti-Ship Missile Defence (ASMD) program provides an interesting parallel to the Type 23 Sea Ceptor upgrade.

A case study by Australian defence think tank ASPI, provides insights into integrating the CEAFAR radar and ESSM missile on the Anzacs and how it almost never happened.

Recommended reading for anyone interested in the politics of defence procurement that beset all modern militaries.



Very interesting to me in the context of T31 where quite a few people are concerned that if RN only gets the core spec for £250m with a load of FFBNW items it will be a disaster. My take-away from the RAN Anzac-class story is that if the buy-core-spec T31 scenario does come to pass then, taking a longer view, all might not be lost and there might still be a happy ending somewhere in the future. That would of course rely on the U.K. having the same commitment, willingness to fund and other good attributes that the Aussies have… Read more »


This is a great article and story, good on the Aussies. Its also a way forward for us as it seems we can have a viable T31 for £250m with the right attitude and order volume. One point I did pick up on is that BAE seemed to come in for most criticism as well as the Defence supply organisation and this does seem to be where the UK is at – at the present time. I would not complain if our T31 had this solution implemented in full (including the SAAB system) but would clearly like to see the… Read more »

Mike Saul

I thought we were suppose to be in the premier league of global military powers?

After decades of the armed forces being hollowed out due to a lack of adequate, chickens are coming home to roost.

Put whatever spin on it you like, but the truth is we are incapable of global military operations.

Daniele Mandelli

As far as I’m concerned we are Mike. Again it depends how you define it. How many nations do you want in your premier league? We’ve had this before, you could only name the superpowers, India and Israel in a higher world standing in numbers and capabilities. The UK is not and does not need to be in the USA Russia China India level, nor could it be given size, wealth, political constraints, and public attitude, often typified by one infamous poster here who seethes hatred for his her own nation, which I despise. This is not a race. It… Read more »


well said… i applaud and agree!

Mike Saul

One person’s negativity is another person’s honesty about the real state of our armed forces. Core capabilities in several key areas have been eroded to such an extent they are no longer combat effective. Yesterday you used the word “defeatism” isn’t that what Hitler said to his military commanders when they told him the truth of the German situation. In Iraq the British army couldn’t even hold Basra when confronted by the criminal gangs, in Afghanistan the British army was forced to retreat against the Taliban in 2006. Real examples of our eroded military capability. I know what it takes… Read more »

Evan P

I agree that our armed forces have been quite ruthlessly cut in key areas, but I don’t think that having all those escorts in their home country is a bad thing. We’ve said before that our ambitions of controlling territory in far-flung places should be reconsidered i.e. forgotten, since we can’t realistically keep it up due to the budget, and if the government did decide that it wasn’t so interested in putting a T45 where it doesn’t need to be, this would be the result: more ships at home. That means that there are many sailors who get to spend… Read more »

Mike Saul

You forget that for our forces to combat effective the training must hard to replicate the conditions that these forces may have operate in if the worst happens.

It seems to me that some are prepared to believe any good news story and dismiss bad news.

Best way to preserve the peace is to prepare for war. I don’t see the current and deployment tempo training regime preparing our forces for war.

Daniele Mandelli

I resent that, Mike. I don’t see where I’m being dishonest. I despair at cuts like anyone else. As usual though I see balance between positives and negatives, in all things. Your comments on Iraq and Afghanistan are hardly convincing examples either. The USSR could not defeat the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan so how does 1 British Brigade with all the rules of engagement restrictions. And unless the British army in Basra was allowed to operate like the 6th Army at Stalingrad by lining up the AS90’s and blowing the place to hell with air attacks how does anybody without vast… Read more »

Mark L

Well said Daniele.

Mike Saul

You can resent that as much you like, but my comments stand.

Happy Christmas.

Oscar Zulu

The RAN’s Anzac Class Frigate HMAS Warramunga is currently deployed in the Middle East as part of Operation Manitou, the Australian contribution to the US-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) anti-piracy anti-terrorism operation. The RAN has essentially maintained a frigate on continuous rotation since 1990 with the current deployment the Warramunga’s third and RAN’s 66th frigate rotation to the Middle East. In September and November the RAN deployed a task force (exercise Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017) visiting Japan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Thailand, Cambodia and the Federated States of Micronesia. The task force leaving Fleet… Read more »

Mike Saul

Got to acknowledge that Australia backs it’s military with money and viable defence strategy, rather than posturing about some worn out post imperialist fantasy.

I also understand that any serving member of HM forces with right qualifications and experience will be willing accepted into Australian military on considerably better conditions and pay than currently receive in the UK.


Almost did that wife and kids ruined it,good chance missed.

Mike Saul

I remember the South African government (1990) was keen to recruit British Army personnel and were offering was seemed to be fantastic life style with abundant riches.

DAvid Branney

It’s amazing that Lord West and Vice Admiral McAnally now have the gall to issue warnings and complaints in the Broadsheets. When they were serving did they have the moral courage to stand up and be recognized – NO! When they were serving and being questioned by the Defence Select Committee, they were silent and towed the party political line. I have absolutely no time or faith in ex -senior military leaders who spout off once the horse has already bolted from the stable; when they themselves were in post and had the ability to do something about it!

John Clark

Agreed David…


said for a long time now that as the US’s closest partner we should receive military aid much like the Israelis do..

our diplomatic core “soft power” needs it and right across our armed forces.

im just stunned at what’s happening.


Maybe I’m missing something but why would the US donate some amount of military aid to the U.K. rather than spend that same amount of money directly to boost the US military? They already have plenty of overseas bases so the UK’s location is already something that they are able to benefit from. For Israel it is different because spending defence Dollars with Israel gives the USA something it wouldn’t get by spending those same Dollars directly on the US armed forces. The Israelis are willing to do things that the USA might want to do but politically not be… Read more »


The Israelis buy large amounts of American equipment and have many of their own designs made in US factories. Israel does not question the sovereignty of the United States at the UN the UK does. The IDF is willing to do what is necessary against terrorism the UK is not. The State of Israel complies completely with extradition requests for criminals the UK does not and dictates conditions under which we have to trial the criminals if we want them. Now why would the US give the UK any aid? Much less anything approaching the Israelis amount. Much more useful… Read more »


not sure how much of the above comments are true but I think Lord West would be wise to keep a very low profile after all was he not part of the government when many of these problems started to arise. Where was he then ????


I think there may only of been one or two Destroyer/Frigate deployments over Christmas last year! The Type 45 that had to come back to port because of having probs i guess makes the main difference this time.. So not all that surprised most ships are back in port for Christmas!

Happy Christmas too all who serve in the Royal Navy, Army and RAF all doing a fantastic job as always.

Best wishes for Christmas to everybody on UK Defence Journal too.


“The only answer is an increase in the defence budget”

I think this is a good line to push, to counter possible cuts. One of the things Ex’s can do that serving brass can’t.

I wonder if the RN can use this home porting as a “reset” point, to catch up for years of over-deployment of the surface escorts, ready for the QE (and PoW).


No Pyongyang Russian trolls average smarter than you.

Mark L

In English would be nice Elliott.


How was my English difficult?

Mark L

Your previous post doesn’t make sense “No Pyongyang Russian trolls average smarter than you”.


Pyongyang = North Korea.

Mark L

I know where Pyongyang is. Try actually reading what you wrote – it’s a garbled string of words that doesn’t make sense.


Bit concerned that all the other RN ships have no warships to come to their aid if war broke out or a terrorist attacked them. But merry xmas to all who’ll get leave as a result.

He is spot on to highlight the plight of the RN & danger the UK is in due to cutting too far. Investment in our trained personal is as important as warships-we need both.

The only thing Brittania rules now days is sound bite spin.

Anyone know when the QE gets its Phalanx, Bushmasters & miniguns fitted? Surprised to spot none yet on pics.

Mike Saul

I did see some GPMGs on her when she entered Portsmouth NB, of course they were not loaded therefore not ready for action.

Eddy B

Not sure how much of the above is true but I do think as I have said before that lord west would be better not commenting after all al was he not part the government when these problems started to arise

Robert R.

I wrote to my MP this year regarding the dreadful state of the Royal Navy and its equipment,I received a rubber stamp reply quoting the MOD mantra,”£178 Million on defence………..blah,blah,blah….”….Absolutely clueless,I am appalled by the lack of knowledge or even the slightest interests shown by our so called representatives,it verges on the criminal…..I agree with Putin in describing theQE 2 as a good target,it is virtually defenceless….The MOD seem to churn out masses of documents on Diversity,equality etc…..I bet the Defence Catering Manual caused The Russians some sleepless nights….MOD marks for Waffle,10/10 …..and 2/10 for ensuring we have actual combat… Read more »


The truth would set them free “We had an ageing fleet suitable for the Cold War, and are renewing and upgrading it over time, but are not there yet.” Dual purpose, it highlights the importance of keeping the budget going.

But the QE2 is only really a “good target” in an all-out world warfare scenario, and even with double or triple the surface escorts – and SSNs – there’d still be a lot of sinkings.

Mark L

Given that the Russians played silly games over Christmas, sending ships into the North Sea that we needed to monitor, perhaps it’s just as well these ships were at home…