In a quiet ceremony in Portsmouth on Thursday two more Royal Navy minehunters joined a long list of their predecessors to be ‘salami-sliced’.

The joint ceremony, which featured former crew members and commanding officers from both vessels, was controversially held behind closed doors with no room for media attendees. HM ships Quorn and Atherstone, both of the Hunt class of mine countermeasures vessels, were identified for premature decommissioning during cutbacks earlier this year. At the time the decision to axe them was made Quorn and Atherstone were both due for refits with provisional work already having commenced.

Just twelve months ago much attention was made when they were the first vessels to be moved into the newly refurbished Minor War Vessels Centre of Specialisation at Portsmouth, expected to provide 190, 000 hours of work and support hundreds of local jobs. The refits, to be conducted by BAE Systems, were scheduled to replace their entire propulsion systems, machinery controls, surveillance systems and include an upgrade of the galleys.

The so called ‘salami slicing’ of mine countermeasures vessels has been a recurring trend in all recent defence reviews, with vessels being taken out of service one or two at a time in nearly every round of cuts. As minor vessels they are often viewed as a less controversial option than scrapping major warships or amphibious vessels and an easy way to make quick savings. After these latest two vessels have decommissioned the Royal Navy fleet will sit at thirteen mine warfare vessels in active service, six from the Hunt class and seven from the Sandown class.

Despite this ongoing trend of cuts in recent years the Royal Navy has managed to retain a senior status in conducting this niche area of operations. The standing deployment of four mine warfare vessels, plus a mothership, in the Persian Gulf has been a highly regarded capability with allied nations – particularly the United States. Now that commitment’s future remains in doubt with indications the Royal Navy may have to drop down to two vessels in the region to ease budgetary pressures. The Royal Navy also commits vessels to both NATO standing mine countermeasures groups; such as HMS Enterprise which has served as flagship for the Mediterranean flotilla for most of this year.

It is unclear what the future will hold for the scrapped vessels. Their sister ships decommissioned in previous rounds of defence cuts have been sent in pairs to the Greek and Lithuanian Navies with a fifth, the former HMS Brecon now serving as a training ship at HMS Raleigh. Other decommissioned minehunters from the Sandown class have gone on to see service with the Estonian Navy, so sale to a foreign navy is possible.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Here are two vessels that could be recommissioned to patrol vital undersea cable routes, with some modifications. But no, they will be sold or scrapped as per (illogical) reason and the MOD will continue to plead for more cash. All that is really required is some innovative thinking, as we do so well when our backs are against the wall.

    • And this is what happened with the OPVs which had many years of good service remaining, at a time when we are crying out for hulls. It is far cheaper to refit and modify than to scrap and build new.

  2. Yes, we have an army mike.. Some 120,000 including fully trained reserves, and the 1,200 army personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan i would hardly call border force troops (HF). But like everyone else hope there are no more cut’s would be a dreadful mistake.

    • Agree with the thrust of the comment John but total is well down on that.

      HFs comment, while despairing at cuts, is typical of the whinge whinge whinge on this site.

      How can 3 (UK) Division be compared to a border force?

      Let’s have some balance.

    • Yes I know John, my son is one of them.

      And I can tell you the British Army is poorly equipped (driving around in 50 year obsolete vehicles, radio systems are rubbish, etc) low morale, failuring to hit recruitment targets, pay rise delayed, further cuts to come, 20% of regular strength unfit for combat and reserves are in the majority also unfit for combat due to inadequate training.

      I am an old soldier myself and I know bull manure when I see it.

      God help our soldiers if they get into a real shooting match.

      And a happy Christmas to you.

  3. Morning Daniele.. I think there are some 74,000 army regs plus some 2,900 Ghurkas and some 27,000 trained army reserves also military provost guard mobilised ex regular reserves and so on. To add to that trainees reg and reserves including phase 1 trained.

    Well according to the monthly MOD personnel figures anyway..

  4. Another two hulls down in a world leading capability.

    Slice, slice, slice..

    I hope everyone saw the defence expenditure report last week which showed clearly that the carriers and the navy are not the drain on the MoD budget some would like us to believe.

    All for the Typhoon expenditure BTW, I think the combination of F-35 and Typhoon weapons platforms will be world class – but to be world class takes money.

    Money no political party looks willing to invest.

  5. This is not the worst decision in the world, given the FSL is on record as stating he is looking to Bring the Atlas MCM suite live ASAP.

    If this means that in the long run we get more T31’s with the MCM suite than that will be worth the pain.

    I just hope we are not in the same situation as we are with ASW in 10 years time, but remain hopeful that the FSL has an actual strategy and is following it ruthlessly.

  6. What is a trained reservist? Several weekends and evening training slots does not make a combat effective soldier. Regulars have to complete intensive phase 1 and 2 before posting to a regular unit where they undergo further training to bring them up to the required standard.

    I recall trained reservists called for Iraq 2003 had to undergo several weeks of full time training before being allowed to leave the country.

    Reservists work well if they are ex regulars, but putting civilians in uniform and giving them a weapon does not make them combat effective on the battlefield.

    • What is a trained reservist? Several weekends and evening training slots does not make a combat effective soldier.

      Mike,
      I’m an ex PSI, and unfortunately that is a viewpoint held by many and for a lot of people it is true. However things are changing and the Reserves are /have become more professional.
      For example most Reserve soldiers have to complete a minimum of 29 days training a year. A lot do more , a number do 29 dead and a few do less. (However they don’t qualify for their bounty)

      When Reserves deploy, they will spend the year before training at least one weekend in a month on the upcoming deployment. Then a good 3-4 months before, they become full time soldiers and train full time for their deployment. What we end up with is a keen soldier who is alot more mature than your average reg. They have to pass all the same level 1 MATTS as the regs and if they don’t, then they don’t go.

      To be honest, I’ve had a lot of ex regs who have been worse than their civy counterparts. Not saying all, but a large number. There’s good and bad on both sides of the debate, but at the end of the day the Reserves serve their country just as good as any regular.

  7. Cannot agree with you about the trained reservists comment mike.. The training is a lot different now, read recently about a company of reservists that had been training over in the USA with army regs. I remember also reading last year about UK regs and reservists training in Spain, after a senior Spanish officer talked to the troops saying ‘he could not tell the difference between who was a reg and who was a reservist they both performed extremely well’ But yes totally agree they need certain types of new equipment. Appreciate the fact your son serves in the armed forces and all he is doing, my family also has a long history with the armed forces too.

    Happy Christmas to you too.. Lol

    • Ok to disagree it’s just my opinion based on experience and what I am being told.

      Just think those that serve in HM Forces deserve better than the current load of old rubbish they currently get dished up. I don’t trust any of the mainstream political parties to change the current state.

      A fundamental rethink is required how we train reserves is required. My opinion is that all reservists should complete the current full time phase 1 training schedule, which is about 13 weeks from memory similar to the Swiss model. However this would create problems with their civilian employees, no easy answers I am afraid.

      • Hi Mike – thank you for your and your son’s service. I too have family currently serving and have seen the penny pinching over the years. Unfortunately there seems to be no end in sight…..

        In my opinion, we have the finest Armed Forces in the world that are under appreciated and taken for granted by our political class. They should be ashamed of themselves – the lot of them!

        Merry Christmas to you!!

  8. Yes Mike, I’m completely with you when it comes to the comment about the politicians. My trust in the Conservatives or Labour when it comes to defence is extremely low.. Just hoping the new defence Secretary can stop some of the cut’s from happening.

    Some of the new equipment that will be coming in will certainly enhance things over the coming years. Hopefully these new pieces of equipment will still arrive ‘fingers crossed eek’

  9. Thanks for the kind words they are appreciated.

    I am sure most of us want the very best for our armed forces, trouble is who (politically)can deliver?

  10. Evening all
    So we have the “re-formation” of 12 Sqn one day and the quiet removal of 2 Hunt class MCMV the next. Oh and the announcement of F-35 no.14.
    The slight of hand moves like a 3 cup trick when it comes to hiding bad news.
    MoD ending the year on a high 👍🏼

    • I know its spin Lee.

      The cost of that single F35 could keep those Hunts going for how many years?

      But the F35 is now and is needed. Autonomous MCM deployed from escorts seems to be the way things are going.

      I’d certainly re role them though for border patrol.

  11. These ships are a core asset and very much needed in the direct defence of U.K. ports and undersea assets but they are not glamorous so are easy pickings. How about shutting the army’s stables and turning their 700 + occupants into dog food. If London want the tourists let their Mayor pay for them.

    • Steady on! I agree with keeping the Hunts but I don’t agree with your suggestion for the poor horses.

      It’s not a case of London wanting them they have a state role supporting our sovereign which I for one fully support!

      As for the mayor, no comment on that individual.

      • Guys come on 700 + horses in the 21st century for supporting our sovereign when 1000 RMs could be made redundant? 70 perhaps 100 but 700!
        Then reduce top brass numbers along with subsidised schooling. That would be an easy start. As with other posters on here I have worked on many MOD bases over 30 years and the waste is eye watering with a bureaucracy only matched by the NHS.

  12. Well, just about every navy needs minehunters so there’s probably not a world shortage and there’d be a potential market for these two. I daresay the RN will move over time to less minehunter ships and more to a few ships plus drones.

  13. A random thought thunked me earlier today as it does sometimes, and I wonder if there’s scope for moving the forces closer to corporate bonding and teambuilding exercises to mutual advantage?

    My idea is that for certain corporate work like trouble-shooting, having a tight-knit and well-disicplined unit could work well. So the forces would get part crews, units, subsidised or even fully paid for by the big corporate for 2 years, perhaps on a part-time or year-slice basis, and the corporates would get the military standard of training and discipline for certain functions that require burnout type work rather than office politics. Tight budget time, think out the box.

    Something to chew on over the turkey and stuffing – and port for naval types.

  14. HMS Atherstone. Saw her launched, won the trails on board her (near to a fire up her uptake during trial) for a competition, nearly spot on for all three estimates for launch when 13-14 years old, thought I could be half decent at Naval Architect), took the wheel for 2 hours, had a steady hand and good feel for her, now sad. Good luck for her future. Does not seem that long ago.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here