RFA Argus and French Navy ship Dixmude were sailing together Caribbean Sea as a multinational response to the COVID-19 pandemic assembles in the region, say the Royal Navy.

The Royal Navy say that the UK, Netherlands and France have all sent ships to the Caribbean to stand ready to support overseas territories during the COVID-19 pandemic if required.

“Now a combined French, Dutch and UK team has been established to operate from Fort de France in Martinique, giving the three nations more agility and flexibility to respond to the spread of coronavirus throughout the Caribbean. This was inspired by lessons learnt from military cooperation in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017.”

“And as support ship Argus – which is in the region primarily ahead of the approaching hurricane season but also in readiness to support any coronavirus response – sailed in international waters off the coast of Guadeloupe, she linked up with amphibious ship Dixmude to carry out radio checks and Officer of the Watch manoeuvres. The two sailed together, making sure they are up to scratch to work together in the future, before they continued on their respective missions.”

“It was a real pleasure to link up with FS Dixmude,” said Captain Phil Dennis RN, commander of the Royal Navy Task Group in the region.

“Like us, she will be able to provide vital support to the overseas territories during this difficult time. Multinational coordination is always very important during times of crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different as it is a challenge that effects everyone, everywhere.”

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Those French ships really are exceptional value for money. I know they where built to commercial standards to save money (like hms ocean) but when you see how useful they are in peace time as medical ships and providing aid in the carribean I really do hope we can fund something similar for the RFA.


Well let’s hope we get enough solid support ships first to replace the outgoing 3 or 4 ships. Then we need Argus replaced along with a few other ships in future like Albion and Bulwark. Hopefully they will be replaced.


I’d like to see Albion, Bulwark and Argus replaced on 1 common’ish hull as they are pretty similar in size anyway, 2 with dock, Argus repplacment could then still have a hanger deck instead of some vehicle storage and dock of the LPDs would be.


Agreed. The MRSS is an option with a common hull, which could facilitate an Bay class and Argus replacement. However, something a bit larger may be needed to replace Albions (if that ever happens).


I should specify Multi Role Support Ship


Indeed. About £440m when delivered?

Unfortunately I believe that we are not just limited by tight budgets but by dogmatic thinking and a destinct lack of imagination.

On top of that our defence spending is currently running at 1.8% of GDP having discounted the cynical accountacy tricks like adding pension spending, whereas the French spend 1.9% of their GDP on defence.

As the Defence Select Committee said;

‘Without these new inclusions, defence spending was just 1.8% of GDP in 2017/18, marking a continued proportional decline from around 6% in the 1960s, 4.5% in the 1980s and 3% in the mid-1990s,….’


Corrections – the French spend is closed to 1.8%


Typo idiot today, closer to 1.8%


So France and the UK spend roughly the same proportion of roughly similar GDP’s on defence (2019: UK $2.824, France $2.778). But the French seem to get considerably more for their money……

Steve R

The reason for that is that France operates a mixed force of hi/low tech equipment. Take their air force fighter fleet for example. Om one hand you have Rafale, very similar to Typhoon. On the other you have Mirage. Our problem is the insistence on everything being shiny new and gold-plated, and the result is we get less than we need. 160 out of the originally committed 232 Typhoons, and probably only 80 out of 138 F35s. The result being that we end up with an ever shrinking fighter fleet and end up using £75million Typhoons or £100 million F35s… Read more »


Just so. And that’s before you come to the Army…..


Isn’t the pension costs allowed under NATO rules and therefore i would be surprised if France wasn’t included it also, so taking the cost out of the UK and not France is not a fair comparision.


My theory is that because the UK has been fighting wars for pretty much the last 20 years constantly and they have involved pretty significant deployment, a lot of the defense budget has gone to cover the upgrades/replacements in gear plus increased salaries etc involved, why France is only now being involved in a large deployment. We will see over the next decade if that deployment results in a hit to their capability.


On a tangent its a pit the US pulled the plug on the light attack aircraft project, I would have liked to see how that did in uncontested air space. A Spectre (admittedly twice the cost of a Typhoon) might have been good if stationed more locally.


It would be interesting to know why that decision was made. It seems to me that we haven’t seen the end of insurgency warfare and a turbo props ability to stay on station for way longer than a jet or apache seems to be proven as effective with the A-10.

John Clark

Absolutely Steve,

It seems our defence procurement is mainly run for the benefit of BAE Systems shareholders.

Tail wagging the bloody dog…..


I wonder what their nuclear weapons cost them. As far a I know they use their own warheads and develop their own missiles. I imagine that this might be cheaper than buying off the Americans. Additionally the French government owns significant stakes in its defence industries. Perhaps this ensures better prices.

David Flandry

Supposedly the UK has assumed primary responsibility for UK and French nuclear weapons design and some production.


I believe that the thin striped line blog was critical of media own criticisms of its comparisons of defence budgets.


I suppose that most governments bullshit about their defence (and other) budgets making worthwhile comparisons difficult.


All you can really compare is the output of the expenditure. Although even then its difficult, as which is better a Typhoon or a Rafale with the missiles available for each country, no one knows as they haven’t been put up against each other in real combat. Even if we did have the data, then it would come down to what type of combat they are engaged in, logistic chain, amount of ordnance in available in stores, etc etc. Things like 1 carrier vs 2 carriers, having 2 means one is always available, but the french one being cat/trap means… Read more »


It would be interesting to play out how each would do in a falklands esk do it yourself conflict If we say that the carrier was available, it would be 2 vs 1 but the UK doesn’t have the planes to fill even 1. So win France. Attack subs – pretty much equal, so draw Amphibious assault ship – France 3, UK 2, but UK has 1 in extended mothball, so 3 v 1. UK also has 3 bay classes, so probably a draw. Destroyer/air defence – 6 vs 3, win UK, plus probably more capable individually Anti-sub – 8… Read more »

Steve R

There are ways around the issues of fuel/payload and of lack of AWACS cover the French get on their carrier.

Crowsnest on Merlins is an alternative, though I think maybe we should buy ourselves a few V22 Ospreys that we could integrate Crowsnest onto for a platform with greater range and duration.

Likewise, V22s fitted as refuelling aircraft would do wonders for the F35s’ range. If they need to take off in beast mode, fully armed, they can do so with minimal fuel to conserve weight and then top up once airborne.


V22 is a potential option but still has not been tested or fully developed and also we don’t have any, so massive cost issue.

Crowsnest isn’t a great platform, it’s radar is dated and limited range plus it’s time on station is lower, meaning we would have to commit a lot of Merlin’s to keep 24/7 coverage


Last time I tried to find out, it was unclear if the radar would be good enough to use to fire the astar missiles, I’d not then it doesn’t help a huge amount as the ships radar would need a track to fire.


I don’t think v22 is an option due to the cost and even then as you say the development hasn’t been done. We also investigated it early on in the hunt before merlin was chosen. Ultimately I’d say if Valor proves to be what is claimed then it could well be the way to go, especially if the drivetrain plan works, I’ve seen claims of 150hrs maintenance for 1 hrs flight on the earlier V-22s and that’s just not sustainable in the size fleet we would buy. Bells specs for the Valor 520kts, 2100nmi range, 25000ft ceiling and 5500kg usable… Read more »


I thought the whole discussions around way the bays were in the Caribbean during the storm season vs the albions etc was that the bays were better suited for the operation.

Is Argus better suited that the Bays or is this just a case of not enough assets to cover, so whatever available was sent?

Admittedly for the virus, clearly Argus is better suited, but that wasn’t the reason it was sent there, just a happy coincidence.


I’d say the Bay actually turned out to be better for long term deployment than the Albion’s to the region. Argus has much better aviation facilities than the Bays but the MexeFloat and landicng craft we’re very useful too, personally suspect it’s come down to needing to rotate the Bay class through long term maintenance.


Would it also be the case that the bays were maybe cheaper to have in the Caribbean than the Albions?


I just bought a brand new BMW after having made $6375 this past one month and just over 12k last 4 week. This is the best and most financially rewarding job I’ve ever had. I actually started this few Weeks ago and almost immediately started to bring home minimum 74BUCKS p/h…………..…====►► Read More