A report released today has slammed the state of affairs leading to the Royal Navy having ‘too few’ warships.

Defence Select Committee chairman Dr Julian Lewis MP said:

“For decades, the numbers of Royal Navy escort vessels have been severely in decline. The fleet is now way below the critical mass required for the many tasks which could confront it, if the international scene continues to deteriorate.”

The recently released report ‘Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy’, concludes that:

“At 19 ships, the Royal Navy’s frigate and destroyer fleet is at a dangerous and an historic low. By giving a commitment to build “at least” five General Purpose Frigates, the SDSR implicitly acknowledged the need to increase this woefully inadequate total.

The Government has now set itself a target date for the start of construction of Type 26. It now has to demonstrate that it can deliver these ships, and the GPFF/Type 31 frigates to the timetable set by the out-of-service timetable for the Type 23s.

If the MoD does not, it will put at even greater risk our frigate numbers and the capabilities they provide. The SDSR 2015 undertook to modernise the Royal Navy, it is now time for the MoD to deliver on its promises.”

As of August 2016, there are 77 commissioned ships in the Royal Navy.

19 of the commissioned vessels are major surface combatants (six guided missile destroyers and 13 frigates) and 11 are nuclear-powered submarines (four ballistic missile submarines and seven fleet submarines).

In addition the Navy possesses a landing platform helicopter, two amphibious transport docks, 15 mine countermeasures vessels, 22 patrol vessels, four survey vessels, one icebreaker and two historic warships.


  1. our fleet is a disgrace,i blame Cameron and his close cronies,the got rid of the ark royal before we have a replacement,yes we are building 2 new carriers but they should have kept our last 2 in op condition,and got rid of them once both new ones were operational,or even turned ark royal into a hospital or logistic platform,6 destroyers replacing 12 is a joke we were promised 12 then ordered 8 to get only 6 and to top it off they have propulsion problems,the type 23 are ageing and should be replaced like for like but no we get less again,and to top it all off they are getting rid of anti ship missiles with no replacement in sight yet…people blame the mod but ultimately the book stops at the government,because they would rather waste money on foreign countries and their problems before looking at our own country and it,s problems….but lets be honest if that twit Corbyn gets in we won,t have any military at all

    • I agree – however, as a nation, we have lost touch with our armed forces and not supported them well enough.

      I have never served and, in the past, have loudly questioned why we were spending so much on defence (damn the American English spell checker) when we could spend it elsewhere.

      Every Government, including Thatcher’s, failed to invest in the armed forces. I would love to blame Cameron for everything but it would be unfair and incorrect. Ironically, Gordon Brown has done more for the Navy than any other PM since 1974 (signed off on the new aircraft carriers with a plan to replace the current ships upon commission).

      We, the people, need to recognise (English, not US) this. We need to celebrate our young people who enlist. It should be an honour (English, not US) to wear the uniform, not an invitation to hostility.

      We, the people, need to accept the cost of OUR armed forces.

    • Indeed, the harrier although old was still a formidable aircraft especially after the millions we spent upgrading them and then only to sell them to the yanks a few months later. It was a bad joke getting rid of our last aircraft carriers and then not having that capabilitie for the best part of a decade. Even the new carriers are a joke having hms Prince of Wales be more an ambitious assault vessel I believe is the plan atm, it just doesn’t work.

    • Why blame the tories? there were supposed to be 18 type 45’s then that got reduced to 12 then to 8 and then finally to the measly 6 we have all under a labour government

    • we’ve got 19 nuke subs lying around in rosyth and devonport, this has gone on for years 72 harriers sold to the u.s. who still see them as assets worth having for the price of two f35’s, not even built yet the origianal order for the t45 was for twelve! we got 6. 13 type 26’s reduced to 8, its not rocket science, the government has given BAE the monopoly on where the defence budget goes.we build (eventually) carriers with no planes, you couldn’t make this up its a national and people are getting away with it i was nearly killed on a hunk of rusty junk in the falklands, but if we had another episode like that one, we’d be a laughing stock.can you imagine a royal fleet review ? we’d have to paint the gosport ferry grey and pretend its a warship!

  2. This is insane.

    The type 26 is now an advanced design and superior to the US freedom class in most ways. Making a GP version is simply a matter of reduced capability, which can be added back if need arises.

    Yes, it costs money – but that is what happens when you do the job right. Downstream training etc. becomes much easier (and cheaper) by sticking to a single design. We should be doing 13+ type 26 hulls NOW.

    The type 45 inter-cooler issue is known, regrettable, and being addressed (although I think we should beat up the yanks on their shoddy crap). Solidify the upgrades and put them into the type 45 replacements as they come up for build – better still commission 4 upgraded type 46 destroyers.

    The River class should be reviewed to a 110/120m version with full helicopter hanger capability and increased main gun.

    Penny pinching now costs pounds later.

  3. The fleet is too small. The carriers when they come into service will require escorts which will only further reduce the number of available platforms.

  4. And while I’m at it – the RFA.

    Why in the name of God would we build these ships abroad? Yes, UK workers are more expensive BUT maintaining their skills is critical.

    The cost per ship is far outweighed by the cost of supporting highly qualified engineers without a job, the Navy has direct access to personnel for training and this can be shortened (and cheapened) with a shorter duration.

    Plus, keeping support secrets away from foreign powers can only be a good thing.

  5. First comment missed:

    The Type 26 is a mature and excellent design. The type 31 should be a de-kitted version of the type 26 that can be kitted up if the need arises.

    With the greatest respect to BMT et al, a different design adds complexity, time and therefore cost. I like the BMT design but think it should be matured for T26 replacement.

    We should lay down 13+ type 26 hulls with a portion being ASW designed for but not included.

    We should plan a River class 110/120m boat with helicopter hanger facility and increased main gun for home/prime territory protection.
    Order 10+ for Sovereign and territorial (Falklands/Gibraltar) area

    We should plan a type “46” with a replacement to the American (Northrup/Grumann) inter-cooler/upgraded diesel – better still, order 4 immediately, 1 every 2 years.

    This will cost money/ but standardised build costs are always cheaper than training.

  6. HMG has absolutely no intention of fixing the problem and will merely continue to drink their own cool-aid that since we have the 5th largest defence budget in the world, everything must be ok. Everything is NOT ok! That 77 ship total is soon to dwindle again as Ocean will be paid off – early – in 2018 with no replacement. In addition, Diligence will also be paid off from the RFA – again 4yrs early and with no replacement. Throw in the unforgiveable situation with Harpoon’s OSD of 2018 – AGAIN with no replacement… it just boggles your mind! When our carriers do enter service, they will be the only aircraft carriers in the world without their own point defence missile system – again, due to a lack of money. The government also recently agreed to allow USMC F-35Bs to fly off them; to me this is NOT in the name of interoperability as we have been told but instead a disguised cost cutting measure so that HMG doesn’t have to buy as many as they said they would. All due respect to our American cousins – whom I respect immensely – but in my opinion, it’s a national disgrace to allow another country to essentially base it’s aircraft on our carriers!

    To say there is no money in the kitty is in my mind incredulous as we can still somehow find 11bn to give away EVERY year to countries who don’t appreciate it, who would stab us in the back in a heart beat and the kicker is – many have as big and some arguably better equipped militaries than we do!

    Like I said, don’t expect any changes and don’t expect any good news from the National Ship Building Strategy that is due to be published soon. We need a serious increase in hull numbers NOW and not in 20yrs!

    • It is all very well saying we need to increase hull numbers but have we all forgotten the dire warnings made on this site about the lack of personel to fill RN & RFA hulls!

      On a side point – why in earth do we have the RFA? Surely these vessels should be moved in to the RN?

      What about bringing back National Service! That will increase service numbers across HM Services! (I note that I will be too old!!)

      • @Rob

        I think David ha a real point and as much as people have a go at me the USMC does an amazing job with a much lower budget and has a larger airforce than the UK and more personnel than the UK total armed forces. These personnel are better equipped and all of this is done on a fully audited budget.

        The RN needs an annual budget of £10bn p.a. and 30,000 personnel (Not including the RM).

        I have just seen Lord West on the news and it is simply incredible that this guy should stand their and complain when he did nothing when he was 1st SL.

        The Navy has 77 ships but actually on the subs are capable of sinking another ship or offering any offensive capability and out of the 77 only 19 are capable escorts – most are smaller than Sunseekers.

        Time for a massive change in direction and a commitment to building 3 Escorts every 2 years for the next 25 years. If BAE won’t do it at the right price then time to get someone else in and national the yards. After all the Yanks had to help out with astute, why not the guys behind the danish or norwegian ships. A fully loaded T26 should cost no more than £650m so one and a half a year is £1bn, hardly break the bank time in a £40bn budget.

        Whilst I am at it – the DFID budget should be used to fill this gap and old kit and rations should be used for foreign aid, with the military providing transport.

        We have lost the plot in this country I am afraid

          • @Rob

            Your assessment on the RFA is valid in my view, especially from a ship perspective on the other hand the guys in the RFA are doing a very similar job nowadays just under different contractual terms.

            On National Service I am not with you, the professionalism of our small force is based on people wanting to be there and the quality of new recruits is poor (as it is for non military roles in the main).

            I would however like to see a military career be more attractive to those from poorer backgrounds and potentially military scholarships and boarding schools for kids being removed by social services in order to give them a chance in later life.

            Ultimately the MOD has cocked all its spending up and needs to refocus on 3 things only, Equipment, Facilities and personnel welfare and it needs to spend big on all 3.

      • shame ticondarogas are getting retired by the yanks, we should ask for a ‘mates rate and have a few of them , even though the hulls are 30 odd years old, at least they’re technologically current and we’d get them to sea faster than waiting for’jocky mctavish to get his spanners out and put us a ship together

  7. It’s a disgrace how SUCCESSIVE governments have neglected the Royal Navy and equally a disgrace that no one making these decisions in government ever examined the long term implications of what they were doing. No asset was safe when they decided they wanted to save a few pennies.

  8. Here we go again. moan, moan,moan. Any of the doom merchants checked the following recently.

    The two largest carriers in the world outside the U.S. will enter service in the next couple of years with their 24 F.35’s and helicopters and they will receive point defense systems. We have six Type 45’s. Agreed, eight would have better but they are world class. Our thirteen Type 23’s are about to undergo major modernisation and will be replaced by even more powerful Type 26’s(8) and Type 31’s(10), all with LRASM? Add in six patrol ships, seven Astute class and the recently announced Dreadnoughts and it sounds like a shipbuilding programme to me!

    As for the much vaunted Russian navy we have a clapped out 35 year old carrier belching black exhaust that is accompanied by it’s own tug. With planes that crash on their first outing. Back this up with an equally old battle cruiser and a handful of destroyers and you have the Russian surface fleet. Given that it has just been announced that the Russian defence budget is to be slashed my bet is with the Royal Navy.

  9. The fleet is too small and what there is has insufficient weapons. The Type 45 destroyers (soon to be without the Harpoon and Sea Skua missiles) could not conduct effective offensive operations against other vessels. Yes, the Type 45 can defend itself against missile and aircraft attack but is almost useless in offensive operations.

    The future aircraft carriers cannot defend themselves against a concentrated aircraft and missile attack as they lack Aster 30 missiles that have the range to knock out aerial threats at a great distance before coming into range of the carriers Phalanx CIWS unless of course the carriers are protected by Type 45 ships. The assumption is that each carrier has to be accompanied by a Type 45 to counter the aerial threat as it cannot be assumed that the limited number of the F35B aircraft will be able to destroy threats from surface vessels.

  10. Do you laugh or cry at the argument over numbers when for many years the ships won’t actually be able to defend themselves against other surface vessels. Is it actually worth having bigger numbers of sitting ducks? It seems we have learnt nothing from those staggeringly embarrassing days in the eighties when specialist anti aircraft ships had to be protected from air attack by what were specialist anti submarine ships.

  11. All I see on here and similar sites is a constant list of complaints, with few if any practical solutions? The £40bn budget has to go four or five ways, if you count RN, RAF, Army, Nuclear, Special forces command. And more ways once MOD, pensions and others taken into account. Somebody above mentioned a £10bn operating budget for the RN which sounds about right, which out of its £12bn share doesn’t leave much for new ship construction, especially with refits to fit in at great expense.
    It’s quite clear we can’t have/afford everything at once. Our carriers come before the planes, our Trident before the subs and now type 26 before the Harpoon replacement. This is where we are at.

    Someone also mentioned the UK US comparison in military forces, when in reality comparing us to California would be more accurate. We aren’t doing too badly for our size, but with ships costing a billion a piece, what could we do?

    * Not buy British Steel would help a lot. With the price of Chinese steel low should we not stock up on it? Is the cost saved by buying cheap steel abroad offset by the redundancy of 20,000 steel workers when we close them down?

    * Buy ships aboard? This has been suggested, and the Holland class and others seem very capable ships for their price, it would be very easy to get our Type 26 built by Damen at the 2 a year rate required and for a cheaper price, but it would come at the cost of putting BAE out of business and again a lot of redundancies. With one class of ships we would lose our ship building capability forever, could we pay that price?

    I want the 24 Frigates, 12 Destroyers, 12 Frigates and replacement helicopter carrier that we need, but which hospital or secondary school will you close to get them?

    The further problem is, that if the US navy gave is these additional ships as gifts, with the £200 million a year running cost and manpower issues we couldn’t afford to operate them. We would have to DOUBLE the defence budget to operate a force that we all want, and that the print media say we need…but people needing a cancer operation today will always be a priority over defence equipment “just in case” for tomorrow.

    • Aaron – with respect don’t harp on about what we can and can’t afford. The primary responsibility of the government is to PROPERLY defend the country. Somehow we can still find 11bn to give away each and every year much of which is wasted and given to countries who would stab in the back in a heartbeat. Defence just isn’t a priority for the government. It’s well documented that the books have been cooked to meet the 2% GDP for the NATO minimum and George Osborne moved the nuclear deterrent from the Treasury to the MOD budget which chews up 8% of the available money before we start. As for Type 26 before Harpoon?? Tell that to the sailors who would have to go toe-to-toe with an enemy who HAS an anti ship missile to our gun! It will put lives in danger when there is money elsewhere that could be used and that is completely irresponsible!


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