Following the initiation of the National Security Capability Review in 2017, reports began emerging that substantial cuts in the Royal Marines and the disposal of both of the Royal Navy’s specialist amphibious assault ships fifteen years early were being considered by the Government as part of the review.

The Defence Committee resolved to inquire into amphibious forces and their importance to UK Defence. The Committee’s report, published in February 2018, concluded that such reductions would be “militarily illiterate” and “totally at odds with strategic reality”.  It emphasised that the UK’s amphibious capability is a military specialism of the highest value in current and future operations, and that further cuts to an already reduced force would end its status as one of the UK’s leading strategic assets.

 

It is understood that the Queen Elizabeth class carriers will embark more amphibious assault forces than HMS Ocean, a minister had earlier claimed. HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will take over the role of deploying amphibious forces as HMS Ocean was decommissioned in 2018. Former defence procurement minister Philip Dunne said each ship would house a force of 900 marines and aviation personnel – 210 more than Ocean.

The following is a response from last year, written by Philip Dunne to a written parliamentary question, the question can be found here.

As stated in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (Cm9161), we will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class (QEC) aircraft carrier to support our amphibious capability. Together with existing amphibious ships of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, this will provide the capacity and capability to deploy our amphibious forces. HMS OCEAN can carry up to 690 Embarked Military Forces (EMF) – Royal Marines and Aviation Group personnel – in addition to her ship’s company. She can deploy a variety of helicopter types in multiple combinations as required by her mission and role.

The QEC aircraft carriers can embark up to 900 EMF, in addition to their ship’s company, in support of their missions and tasks and a flexible mix of helicopters subject to the operational tasking.”

It is also understood that enhancing the vessels, means that storage for additional marines and more equipment will be provided and some key corridors widened too. HMS Prince of Wales will be first as she’s still in build and then HMS Queen Elizabeth will receive these modifications when in refit.

The Government’s response repeatedly re-states the Government’s commitment to the future of the UK’s amphibious forces but gives no guarantee that there will be no future cuts in the numbers of Royal Marines or amphibious ships.

The response seeks to maintain the Government’s position that the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers can take the place of specialised amphibious vessels, such as HMS Ocean which was recently sold to Brazil. The evidence the Committee gathered in the course of its inquiry clearly demonstrates that amphibious operations require specially configured warships manned by highly-trained amphibious specialists. Anything less results in exposing vessels and the personnel manning them to an unreasonable level of operational risk.

Although equipment and manpower requirements will vary with each operation, the response does not adequately address the Committee’s point that reductions to the amphibious force can only further limit the range of options available to a commander on operations. The diversifying threats that the UK is facing should mandate an increase, rather than a decrease, in theatre-entry capabilities.

Commenting on the publication of the Government’s response, the Chairman of the Defence Committee, Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis said:

“Through its ongoing Modernising Defence Programme, the Government has the opportunity to re-examine the assets that we need to meet our strategic priorities and ensure our national security. We hope that the Ministry of Defence will reflect on the flexibility and range of capability offered by the UK’s amphibious forces and make firm commitments that no further damaging reductions will take place.”

52 COMMENTS

  1. If LPDs don’t get cut what does?

    In a sensible world nothing but until HMG stop fussy footing around on defence, take it seriously and increase the budget then even if the LPDs don’t get it something will instead.

    Personally I think politicians of all shades and all parties are so PC riddled the defence of the realm is right down their list.

    And I still believe the amphibious ships are safe. The publicity this has had over the last 6 months would make it horrendous for the government to cut them now.

  2. Surely we can afford another Ocean.
    You need two carriers for constant use, one at sea while the other in maintenance.
    You cant have a QE as a replacement for Ocean in my humble opinion anyway…

  3. Build 2 amphibious ships and hand them to RFA. These are bought with the aid budget and in peace time are dedicated to disaster relief, they’re loaned back to the RN for training and requisitioned in times of war.

    • I wrote to DFID last year on this very theme. This was there reply summarised.

      1) Not within the rules
      2) Every mission / activity must be seen as best value for taxpayer pounds i.e. no cheaper way of doing it
      3) DFID don’t usually need their own ships
      4) We’re not interested in joining strategic dots – we operate as a silo
      5) Problems and shortages in the RN are not our problem

      Of course I wrote back and suggested that problems and shortages in the RN were precisely because DFID budgets had increased massively whilst the RN’s was cut. No reply :o/

      • And “not within the rules” is pretty lame when they presumably make the rules. It’s about as convincing as me saying I can never buying a round in the pub because it’s not allowed by my rules.

      • Similar response when I wrote in to say create two hospital ships that get used for DFID in peacetime advertising the nation for UKAID, and switch over to MoD when needed or used for disaster relief at home and abroad. Not too far from hospital ship to supplies/amphib. We do not connect the dots and we like to operate in a silo.

      • Not suprised the many of the NGO’s that this DFID budget supports are on a gravey train, I’ve seen them in action in countries around the world. I won’t say which organisation it was but shortly after the 2004 sunami in SE Asia I met one these NGO’s employee’s , he bragged about his kids being in private school paid for by the organisation and his 6 figure salary. The rules I believe are made by the UN, they have no interest in changing it.

    • The Julians are unanimous on this one :).

      I was just looking at the RoK Dokdo class after someone mentioned it elsewhere & got sidetracked into looking at LCAC. Even if we couldn’t afford them initially, even as a tag-on to the US SSC program, if by some miracle the U.K. did ever follow your suggestion it would be good to at least have the well decks designed so that they could accommodate SSC. That seems a good capability and if being able to stay OTH meant that building to less than full military standard was more acceptable it might even make financial sense.

  4. Surely using your most valuable ships for amphibious landings is an extremely risky strategy. Personally I’d never risk bringing them close to shore unless absolutely necessary, better to keep them out of range of shore based radars and anti-ship missiles.

  5. I think a San Antonio class LPD from the Americans would be a good purchase. Its not worth designing a whole new class of ships just to build one or two. San Antonio’s can be had for I think around 1.6 billion USD.

  6. HMS Ocean could have been handed over to the RFA as a replacement for Argus……but there was no money to upgrade her accommodation to RFA standards, but there was money to spend on an extensive refit for Argus……absolute lunacy!! The real problem in the UK is that we just don’t have anyone at the top who actually understands what the Military actually needs!!

    • Ocean for Argus would be like for like in that it would have been one mechanically F***ed vessel for another mechanically F***ed vessel.
      Ocean was well past its sell by date and was costing a fortune to keep going.
      Like the T42s prior to T45 you get to a point where it does not make cost effective or operational sense to keep throwing money at something that is not going to get better.

  7. Always about value for money for taxpayer. Was the taxpayer asked about foreign aid etc etc. Nhs tourists.! Our subs fire rockets into dessert to knock out a couple of trucks. Should be firing torpedoes at other subs
    Value for money. Lol.

  8. What a state the country ‘s in if we can’t afford to protect our national interests,stop funding tin pot dictatorships and countries who put rockets into space .We need to make sure all our armed forces are well equipped with latest technology and weapons

  9. Every corner of our military is be slimmed down. Soon we will have the TA as our only defence force in rubber dingies and cap guns.
    Its about time we slimmed down the house of lords and the commons or maybe they should join the front line in the next political fubar we send our forces into.

  10. Every corner of our military is be slimmed down. Soon we will have the TA as our only defence force in rubber dingies and cap guns.
    Its about time we slimmed down the house of lords and the commons or maybe they should join the front line in the next political fubar we send our forces into.

    I’m an Army brat spent most my life in bases. Seen my dad demobbed after 22years. Brother made redundant after 9years in RA. Both my older Brothers left as they seen no long term carrier in the Army.

  11. Well the Albions dont look very modern to me, they look a bit puny compared to whats out there now.

    We should cut them and rethink what is an amphibious ship.

    Are OPV’s? They can deliver plenty of marines ashore to where we are likely to need them. Same for the RFA, and types 26 and 31.

    Add all that up and it fits nicely with the size of the Royal Marines. The marines will be more lethal when delivered from coordinated distributed assets rather than monolitic ships.

    • I’m sorry, an OPV is an adequate amphibious landing boat now? Maybe for small scale special ops but nothing else. They cant even protect themselves, it would be suicide.
      Agree with a fleet of medium sized multi role amphibs as a back up but nothing can support a full scale land invasion like an LPD

    • You obviously have no clue about Amphibiosity and what is involved in landing and (here is the important bit) SUPPORTING an assault force ashore from a vessel standing 20 miles off shore.
      Sticking Royal on a beach with his bergen and 20 mags of 556 via a rib is easy. If you want him to stay their, move around in vehicles, operate artillery, conduct operational maneuver etc then you need LPDs.
      LPDs give you landing craft and the support to keep them going ( Fuel, Maintenance crew etc). LPDs give you munitions, food, water, fuel for vehicles, engineer vehicles, BVs , Tanks, BARV, trucks, Land rovers…the list goes on and on….

      Then there is the command and control element and Battle Staff facilities, the comms alone on an LPD dwarfs anything else in RN service (Including a carrier). The Bowman fit is massive and that’s before you include the regular ship comms and Satcoms.

      You cannot get any of that from an OPV or a frigate

      • Couldn’t agree more! That why you need a LPH, plus the Albions, plus the Bays. They are all essential and complementary to each other.

  12. Here we go again ,clowns to the left jokers to the right oh they are called Tories (destroyers of UK armed forces)get rid of these useless cretins and get people who can run our country and look after our defences ,let the queen be our leader or our next king ,ruler for life,not idiots who know nothing about defence

  13. This country needs an effective surface fleet like when I was in the Royal Navy, which means a two carriers and two lph’s like ocean and two lpd’s like fearless and enough destroyers and frigates and rfa’s as needed to support these vessels with the required naval, marines and army personal with equipment that is needed for any operation at all times

  14. Select committee only concluded what every half-wit in the world already knows: an aircraft carrier does not an amphibious ship make! Never mind it’s total lack of suitability for the role in functional terms, but the simple fact that nobody would risk a carrier in an amphibious role in anything other than a benign environment rules it out. The saddest part is that some Lt Cdr in some desk in MOD wrote the answer for the Minister to give. How he/she can sleep comfortably at night I don’t know. I don’t suppose he/she does – was told to do it. And that’s why morale is low and people are leaving the services…

  15. All good points gunbuster, merely landing marines via helicopters does not an amphibious assault ship make.

  16. Foreign Aid is extracting the urine. We are paying one country aid who have a Space Programme with a budget of $1.8 billion per year and their Nuclear Weapons programme budget is close to $2 billion. If they have money to finance these to programmes then they should not have a single penny in aid.

    • Right! The two biggest foreign aid recipients are India and Pakistan. Both spend billions on their defense including large numbers of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Pakistan aims to have more nuclear weapons than Britain, and India will follow suit. Take their aid and spend it on UK defense.

    • Our aid buys influence, and it comes with conditions, like don’t nuke India. You have to look at the bigger picture. Our foreign aid budget gives this country far more influence than the Navy having a couple more frigates ever could.

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