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A senior Royal Navy officer has insisted that the Royal Navy has enough warships to protect HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Rear Admiral Burton, Commander UK maritime forces, said:

“We have enough frigates and destroyers to protect that task group. 

We will use coalition frigates and destroyers, but we have enough to deliver a sovereign task group. 

We’re building OPVs as well to deliver some of the capabilities that would otherwise be delivered by frigates and destroyers.

So I’m confident that with the eight Type 26s, the six Type 45s, the OPVs and the Type 31s that are coming online, that will be sufficient to protect the task group and deliver the other responsibilities that the department asks of us.” 

Recently, HMS Queen Elizabeth met up with the USS George H. W. Bush and her carrier strike group off the coast of Scotland.

The Nimitz class carrier has more than 60 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines on board, who have been working with their US counterparts to hone carrier strike skills ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s entry into service.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently on contractor sea trials off the coast of Scotland. This morning she met up with a taskgroup of ships taking part in Exercise Saxon Warrior.

Captain Kyd, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer, said:

“The USS George HW Bush battle group is an awesome embodiment of maritime power projection.

And given that the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group Commander and his staff are embedded on board the US carrier for Saxon Warrior shows the closeness of our relationship with the US Navy and the importance that both nations place on the delivery of the UK’s Carrier Strike programme. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth is at the start of her journey to generate to full warfighting capability, but we are working hard to ready ourselves to take our place in operations and the line of battle alongside our closest allies.”

As well as the USS George HW Bush, the group includes two Portsmouth-based Type 23 frigates, HMS Westminster and HMS Iron Duke, destroyer USS Donald Cook, missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad.

55 COMMENTS

  1. The folks at MOD and HM Treasury have forgotten that in 1982 four ships were lost in a matter of weeks. What would we do if that happened in new conflict, say to the other side, “Hang on chaps, stop the war for five years while we build some new ships.”? The concept of redundancy in numbers is being ignored

    • Do you not think technology has moved on , we lost HMS Sheffield because they had to switch off the radar to use the satellite phone the capabilities of defending ourselves against even technological enemies which are limited even in this day and age are far superior now than in the Falklands war , our biggest enemy 35 years ago was the Exocet which is still being used today

    • The principle ships lost were due in great part, to the lack of airborne early warning aircraft, because we lacked the Ark Royal carrier. If she had accompanied the fleet with Phantoms and Gannets, mainland strikes on Argentine airfields could have been a real option, for the fleet admiral Woodward. She would not have saved all the lost vessels, but the Argentine dominance of the skies, in terms of operational distance would have certainly been tempered.

        • I doubt that, if the RN had the Ark such an option would have been considered. After Sheffield and Belgrano the gloves were off, and the Phantom would have taken out the key Argentine Air Force fields. Okay, the Ragan camp would not have welcomed the tactics, but I believe it would have seen it as self-defence. Not withstanding the international ramifications, the UK would have escalated the conflict, that I have no doubt. The horrible truth about war is, there are no rules other than dropping nuclear bombs, everything else is on the table.

          • Agree about the problems with not having Ark Royal etc, but any attack on the Argentine mainland would have solidified support for Argentina (which apparently wasn’t all that strong) as it would seem the old colonialists were attacking the independent nations of S America.

      • Its not just argentina we need to be worried about. Any conflict with a nation possessing modern submarines could easily sink 3 or 4 vessels. Whats to stop Russia supplying subs to Argentina and providing ‘private’ contractors to operate them?

        • Not if the targeted fleet had the right countermeasures. The days of sub dominance are possibly over. By 1944 most U-Boats that set out to sea never made it back, as Coastal Command’s ability to seek out the U-boats, became almost totally dependable. Apart from ballistic nuke subs, the general purpose subs today are vulnerable to advanced anti-sub systems. Where they remain useful, is operating in the surveillance and undercover operations, plus cruise missile strike platforms.
          If the Ark Royal had been at the Navy’s disposal, apart from the option of bombing mainland airfields, the phantoms would have certainly been deployed close to Argentina’s coastline, to intercept outward bound strikes.

      • The UK had dominance if we the skies the only reason the Argentinians didn’t is because they used outdated and stupid tactics, not one harrier was shot down by air to air combat which is simply poor tactics the Argentinians has superior aircraft and a staggering number adv in the regions of 200 – 36 they would have won if they had not used stupid tactics and actually worked together

  2. Rear Admiral Burton, will probably wait until he retires before complain about the lack of support and investment.

    Like many of his colleagues he is in a leadership position but does not want to lead.

    I understand that there is a balancing act, but clearly the reductions in the Escort fleet and massive capability gaps across the whole service mean that we do not have enough escorts to complete our duties and maintain troop morale.

    It is well known and documented that we do not have enough Frigates (parliamentary committees have stated this) so why a senior naval leader is making light of this situation just beggars belief.

    He could have said things are improving – but we have x standing commitments and y remit and we need more, that would have balanced this out for me.

    Factually we do have enough escorts – just don’t expect us to do anything else.

  3. …and only that. Unfortunately, more is needed to perform the plethora of other vital tasks the RN has to complete.

  4. All he said was that with the Type 45s, eight Type 26, six Type 31 and 5/6 OPVs we can form a Task Group and fulfill our other obligations and he is right. More ships would be better but we can’t crew them. Assumptions are that from a fleet of six, Type 45s four will be available for tasking (after completion of project Napier) and two in refit repair. Thats enough to cover Operation Kippion, FRE and escort a Task Group. As for Type 26 it will need to cover TAPS contribute to Kippion and escort the Task Group. Five or six available from eight can provide this. The Type 31s can cover APTS, APTN, NATO Task Forces 150/151. We will have five OPVs replacing four so gaining a hull that can cover low end tasks in place of Type 31 if needed. RFA vessels can also contribute to the low end tasks as well. We do however lack the ability to absorb losses as someone mentioned above. Eight Type 31s instead of six and eight hulls to replace Type 45s would give us twenty four escorts with fifteen to eighteen available at a time. A realistic target would be a fleet of 2 x CVF, 2 x LPD, 8 x AAW, 8 x ASW, 8 x GP (Light frigate), 6 OPVs, 8 MCM (globally deployable), and the 5 Survey ships. This would be backed by an RFA with 4 x Tide class, 2 x Wave class, 4 x FSS, 3 x LSDs, 4 x RoRos and a replacement for Dilligence. That would let us cover all our commitments as well as form an impressive RFTG and absorb moderate losses without collapse. It is also achievable and sustainable.

    • In an ideal world David I would agree with your assessment but this government simply has no intention of investing anything but the absolute bare minimum they can get away with on the RN. Where is Fallon’s response to the National Ship Building Strategy published last November and which was due in March? It’s now August and still nothing. Type 26 is already over two years late; virtually nothing has been done on Type 31; nothing on Harpoon replacement, no replacement for Ocean or Diligence and the list goes on. Mark my words – and it pains me to say it – there will be NO increase in hull numbers and no increase in manpower we would need to crew them or the ships we do have. This government and prior governments to be fair, should be ashamed of themselves!!

      • I agree with first David that that is an ideal list, but from a government perpective which hospital will be close to build a third of a frigate? Which entire counties secondary schola will we shut to build another? With a £50 billion gap in deficit still to close we are lucky to gain the year on defence increase we are getting.
        Personally, once the other side of Brexit and economy picking up following increased trade, we will be well into type 31 building programme by then, and will have economic growth to add two additional hulls to the plan. I wouldn’t be surprised to see two additional type 26s batch twos added if we gain strong sales aboard. Maintaining the current OPV fleet until the end of their natural service lives would help also, manpower permitting.

  5. Rear Admiral Burton’s answer was political and unfortunately plays to the ear of those in government who think everything is find and dandy with the RN – ref, Fallon, Baldwin and the like. Would be interested to see his response if asked how he is going to sink enemy ships after 2018!!!

  6. I imagine he would say we are working on it. Don’t be suppressed if we purchase LRASM. The RN has no intention of giving up Surface strike capability, it is being gapped for a few years. Not ideal but not the disaster some make out. Harpoon is obsolete and has to go. Why not wait until the US decides between LRASM and Tomahawk, then buy that? By the time Type 26 is ready one of those will be In production (in large numbers) covering both anti ship and land attack roles.The admirals answer was correct and I demonstrated why in my previous post.

  7. @David Stephen

    Whist the Rear Admiral is technically correct, we should be aiming for 2 carrier groups and an expeditionary capability. I do worry that whilst he is technically correct we don’t have the manpower or resilience to continue and whilst I think we can do more with a fleet of 75 vessels I do think he is being disingenuous to those who serve. We need to start double crewing and have a much better maintenance regime if we are to pull this off.

    Personally, I would dispense with all MHVC/MCM assets and replace on a 1-2-1 basis with T31 operating the recently ordered Arcims remote solution (a few years away from now – but the way to go).

    • I agree but think the fleet architecture I proposed above allows this. What about two identical RFTGs working on a six month on six month off basis. One RFTG is at sea January to June while the second taking over for July to December. With each group having a six month period to cover leave, maintenance and pre deployment FOST. With constant running maintenance we might be able to reduce the need for long refit periods. Each RFTG would include 1 x CVF, 1 x LPD, 1 x LSD, 1 x Point class RoRo, 1 x FSS, 1 x Tide class. This might be a better way to show what I mean.

      2 x CVF – 1 assigned to each RFTG
      2 x LPD – 1 assigned to each RFTG
      3 x LSD – 1 assigned to each RFTG (3rd to APTN during hurricane season)
      4 x FSS – 1 assigned to each RFTG and 1 assigned to Operation Kippion (releasing the LSD)
      4 x Tide class – 1 assigned to each RFTG, 1 assigned to Operation Kippion
      2 x Wave class – 1 supporting APTS
      2 x Point class RoRos – 1 assigned to each RFTG
      2 x Point class (converted to auxiliary aviation platform with 6 Merlin and 500 troops)
      8 x AAW – 2 assigned to each RFTG, 1 assigned to Operation Kippion and 1 as FRE
      8 x ASW- 2 assigned to each RFTG, 1 assigned to Operation Kippion and 1 as TAPS
      8 x GP (Type 31) – 1 assigned to NATO 150, 1 assigned to NATO 151, 1 assigned to each RFTG and 1 for APTS
      8 x MCM – 1 assigned to each RFTG, 2 assigned to Operation Kippion and 1 for each of the NATO standing MCM groups
      6 x OPVs – 3 assigned to Fisheries Protection (as now), 1 as FIGS, and 1/2 for APTN

      All commitments would be met and the RFTG on deployment would be a potent collection of power. Capacity for over 60 aircraft, at least 10 landing craft and 2000 troops, escorted by 5 high end warships and an MCM vessel.

      • I have no problem with your “fleet” David

        It passes my asset test of can it achieve what I (we the uk) want it to.

        I would however state that that the MCM piece should be done by Atlas Arcims from more T31’s and I personally hate OPV’s which should also be more T31’s

        all minor personal points as I would want to standardise far more than most.

  8. First you define the policy and strategy, then procure the equipment to meet those needs.

    A recipe for disaster is buy the equipment then try and fit a strategy around it.

    Given that the 1998 SDR called for a defence policy that required two strike carriers, 12 destroyers and 20 frigates what has changed to that strategy where we only get 6 destroyers, 8 frigates and 5ish light frigates?

    UK defence is a mess and will continue to be so until someone acknowledges that we a new more limited defence strategy/ policy that can be afforded and deliver.

  9. These comments from Rear Admiral Burton seem little other than another manifestation of the ‘snatch landrover’ mindset. This is where senior officers see any criticism as an attack on them and their efforts and is therefore to be roundly rejected. Whilst this no doubt gains favour with their peers and political masters it often does not serve
    the purpose of the service.

    • The Type 31’s will be “snatch landrovers on water” if they’re not capable war fighting frigates. We will waste billions of pounds in the process.

  10. Current Treasury policy is to release funds for one complex warship every two years. I don’t see any push from within the government to change this policy. So it will be 2037 before the Admiral gets eight Type 26s and by that time the six Type 45s will be scrapped.

    • Hi Marcus

      So the National Ship Building Strategy was a waste of time then…… which explains why we have heard nothing fro Fallon viz-a-viz a formal response – which I might add, was due in March. Perhaps he forgot to say WHICH March!

      • It was announced (on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess, coincidently) that there is to be a SDSR2015 mini review, I suspect in light of the often reported £20billion black hole in the defence budget, but under the announced vague rationale of a changing environment post Brexit and with a new Government etc….so the NSS will form a part of this review and we will not see the response to this until the SDSR mini review is published likely in October or November.
        I am optimistically hoping that this results in increased funding for the RN (and defence more broadly) but the pessimist (realist) in me expects cuts and pushing programmes back…..

    • That’s not the case. We launched six Type 45s in four years. There is a realisation that Type 26 build schedule will need to speed up or Type 31 needs to be built concurrently to stop the escort fleet falling below the current 19. One of those options will happen.

  11. Yes, we have the ships to protect the Q E, its the Royal Navy…….the whole Royal Navy!! We are woefully lacking in the numbers game. Politicians are clueless and have caused more damage to the armed forces over the years than any foe has caused us. The enemy within!

  12. You have read what the Admirable has said. It’s not going to change no matter how much you write and dream. The Andrew struggles now to operate without NATO support. The escort fleet will drop below 19 when the 23’s start to go. Face reality.

  13. We do have enough frigates and destroyers to escort a carrier – provided those frigates and destroyers stop doing all the things they do now. The idea of back-filling low-intensity operations with OPVs and RFAs isn’t a bad one. Some roles, e.g. participation in NATO exercises and standing forces, will require frigates or destroyers, though. The point about redundancy is also well taken. The fleet of frigates and destroyers should be a little bigger, but not vastly bigger, in my opinion. We need more F35s, more MARPAT aircraft, an improved SSM and more infantry. That’s about it.

  14. I have read what the admiral says and I don’t remember the bit about the escort fleet falling in numbers. I do remember the announcements that there will be eight Type 26 and six Type 31 which by my count is fourteen, one more than the current thirteen frigates. Face mathematics. First Type 23 is out of service in 2023 and the rest follow at yearly intervals meaning we need one new ship a year from then on. This is perfectly achievable by one of the two methods I mentioned previously. Now since you do not yet know the build schedule of Type 26 and or the strategy for building Type 31 you don’t know if the escort numbers will drop. So face reality and stop talking like you do. With the facts as they are and the announcements on he subject I think it is much more likely the numbers will not drop.

    • I read that a year ago. What’s your point? That artical has no mention of the build schedules for the two frigate types or any talk of a drop below nineteen escorts. Also the ships laid up are in that condition because we are short of crew. That pressure eases as we retire and replace Type 23s with types 26 and 31 as they have smaller crews requirements.

  15. This admirals answrs are 100% politically motivated. As a military leader he should be fighting for the RN future not being a political lap dog.
    The parliamentary defence select committee state clearly the minimum numbers of frigates and destroyers the RN needs just to meet current commitments is 26.
    26 not 19 (which is actually only 17 as 2 ships are in mothballs as harbour training ships due to RN manpower problems)
    Also whilst we are at it 7 SSNs is not enough, 10 subs is the minimum number we need.
    the current force levels provide zero redundancy should any of our warships be sunk or damaged in combat.

    • The sad fact is many very Senior Officer’s are far more interested in their careers than the service they represent, blindly following a script put in front of them that they know full well is total crap.

      They should resign on mass and carry out a press conference, really embarrass the Government and shine a bright spotlight on the state of the RN.

      The Silent service needs to get far more vocal….

  16. I can see the Type 31 programme not happening and reverting to the Type 26 general purpose vessels being produced.

    Pity the River class didn’t have a hanger and have an option for a StanFlex System. Even better for the same money was to have continued with the Khareef-class corvette with 3 or 4 vessels for the RN.

  17. i never said what motivated the admirals comments just that it was correct and he is. I would like to see a larger fleet but the manpower problems are not going away anytime soon. If we had 26 escorts now 13 would be mothballed due to lack of crew. A more long term view is needed to fix the issue so replace and expand (16) the frigate fleet by 2035 when St Albans retires, then go straight to replacing the Type 45s with a class of 8 destroyers. This gives us time to increase recruitment and improve retention. It might be that the manpower issue is here to stay as it becomes harder and harder to entice today’s younger generation to join up. With the replacement of Type 23 by types 26 and 31 we will free up a lot of crew which will help but I still can’t see us managing to crew 26 full fat escorts both carriers plus hopefully both LPDs and a bunch of OPVs and MCMs. We could probably crew another SSN but increasing overall submariner numbers will be even harder than it will be for normal sailors.

  18. Hi David Stephen … Just wanted to say i agree with most of you’re comments, well balanced and realistic goals. I think we have to be realistic about the future size of the Navy it will be a similar size to the current RN with perhaps a few more ships one day but enhanced with potency by the new ships that will be coming into service. The navy should be able to manage it’s tasks with the support of other NATO and friendly escorts, mcm vessels and so on..

  19. The bit that offends me the most about this statement is that the same person will complain about the lack of this and that in their memoirs.

    David Cameron was right – they all wait until they leave before moaning.

    At least the French chief of staff had the balls to resign.

  20. Defence spending will stay at the 2% of GDP figure, unless full scale war breaks out.

    People can wish for this that and the other but the reality is constrained by lack of money.

    Can anyone tell me of a political party that will increase defence spending that has a chance of power in the UK?

    A Corbyn led government despite his promises would slash defence spending as his socialist polices destroy the economy.

      • Geoff
        Cut the health budget and a good percentage of the population dies and we have a public health disaster of epic proportions, or we go to a private health system which will cost the country twice as much and still kill off a good wedge of the population that can’t afford to cover the the many thousands of pounds needed per person per year for private (inefficient) health care ( say 20k per year for a family of four), remember the great USA pays around 7.5-8 percent of its GDP via public funds and 7.5-8 percent via private funds for its health care! That’s four around four times more per person that the NHS charges. Your clever solution is pretty much guaranteed to screw our country up in short order.

  21. TH

    The economy is not going to crash – where is your evidence for this please?

    The UK is at or above EU wide growth figures and is a serial over achiever in economic terms.

    Whilst I personally disagree with Brexit and believe their will be an impact this will not result in the economy crashing.

  22. Peter is right supporting a QE carrier battle group theoretically is possible with the current navy fleet but leaves nothing left for other commitments and no redundancy for damaged or sunk warships.
    26 frigates/ destroyers should be where we are as a force level. How to fund it? to go along with previous comments that say it is not viable (utter tosh by the way) simple
    cut the flippin foreign aid budget. Our country is willing to just give away £13 billion a year free of charge to failed or corrupt states or India that does not even ask or want the aid. We can easily afford a much larger navy. Navy manpower needs to go up by 4-5000 personnel. The recruitment issue would be solved if it was clear that an enlarged navy represents career development, better terms and conditions of employment and by having a reasonable force size the overstretch on current personnel and equipment would be significantly reduced.
    summary: either raise taxes or cut foreign aid but sort the royal navy out before something terrible happens, never known the RN to be so weak and in such a perilous state.

  23. If only Mr Bell. The manpower issue will not go away. We cant increase the size of the navy by thousands of sailors as the young people simply dont want to join like they used to. This generation lack the patriotic virue of thier parents. I am not a fan of the foriegn aid budget but you cant get rid of it completley. A hefty redirection of some of the funds would be a very good thing though. Carear development could be enhanced by cutting the stupidly large number of admirals.

    • The armed forces need to look at and modernise themselves as an employer, unfortunately this will mean changing and getting rid of some long held traditions. Modern workers want and need flexibility during their working career. Things they could do:

      1) Skills and knowledge are now far more important than then they were. Therefore the forces need to remove the very early retirement options for most of there skilled and knowledge based career paths. As an example nurses once retired at 55 now it’s 66 as a minumume with options to work on after retirement to retain skills and knowledge within the system, why ? Because what’s in the brain of an experienced nurse is now more important that physical fitness and you can manage your skill mixing better.

      2) More flexible working, in the modern world people like the freedom to change jobs and move around, the perception is the forces lock you in. Make it very easy to leave and come back or move around within the forces, sometimes people just want to spend a year working in Australia or try out a different job….. Let them, most come back with even more skills.

      3) Hierarchy, Although all organisations need structure the organised Hierarchies in the forces are a creation of a social history in which society was divided into a powerful elite and everyone else, with not access for the majority to join the elite and social exclusion between the two. The perception is this has not been modernised in the forces. As society has changed we are only happy if we precieve there are no glass ceilings or social exclusion within our work environment.Take an A+E departments it has a very defined structure and roles during time critical emergencies, if you watch a trama call everyone knows their place and follows the orders of the trauma leader ( they may offer observations but we all follow the instructions without pause, unless the trauma leader is about to make an obvious mistake that will lead to death), but outside of emergency situations the Hierarchy reverts to a team approach amd there are no social barriers, you also know the most junior member of the department, is empowered to offer there views and may one day be in a position to manage the department. My NHS career started as a care/kitchen assistant through to managing A+E shifts ( including DRs,Nurses, physios ect) onto to strategic senior manager jobs with the potential to end as a Director or even a Chief exec (if I’m very lucy/good and can be bothered to study again) this is the same for all people starting a career in the NHS, we all know this and it helps recruitment and more importantly retention when your moral is in your boots and the shit piles high.

  24. This is what happens when you have corporate Admirals in charge. They would gain more respect if they were to actually stand up for the RN rather than cowtow to the politicians party line. The only time the RN can support the carriers is if they are tied up alongside.

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