The First Sea Lord advises that 82% of the Surface flotilla is now available, reflecting an arrest of declining numbers, it is also understood that availability is projected to keep increasing over the next 6-12 months.

The Ministry of Defence have provided an update on progress on the priorities set by the Secretary of State for each of the Service Chiefs and whether these have changed due to, or been impacted by, the Covid-19 pandemic, the following outlines the priorities and progress made towards them by the First Sea Lord.

The following response was published today as a response from the Ministry of Defence  to follow-up questions to the Defence Secretary following a session of the Defence Committee on the 23rd April.

“The Secretary of State’s priority for the First Sea Lord (1SL) is, and remains, ‘Availability’ of our ships and submarines. He continues to hold 1SL to account on this through regular meetings and conversations. In meeting this priority, 1SL has refocused the Royal Navy on their contribution to Defence outputs and is driving greater levels of productivity from his force; 82% of the Surface flotilla is now available, reflecting an arrest of declining numbers, and availability is projected to keep increasing over the next 6-12 months. Growth in the Fleet has also continued with the second Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier now in service as well as new Royal Fleet Auxiliary shipping.

In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and any immediate impact on availability, the strategy for minimising risk to the workforce (Contractor, Military and Civil Servant), while maintaining essential outputs, has been successful. The workforce in the Naval Bases has been very carefully managed to maintain critical outputs through the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Industrial capacity dropped to 35% on the south coast and 55% in Faslane in those early weeks but are now gradually recovering.

It is acknowledged that COVID-19 is impacting on shipbuilding and refit programmes. While appropriate COVID-compliant working practices have been introduced to allow production to continue in accordance with Government advice, any modified working practices are, understandably, likely to be less efficient than pre-COVID.

The Royal Navy is continuing to deliver during the crisis, achieving their operational commitments while contributing to the Government’s COVID-19 response. This has included assistance to Aviation operations, providing medical support to the NHS, and Royal Marines deployed in support of testing. In addition, support has been provided in the Caribbean by RFA ARGUS with associated Aviation and Brigade capabilities. Training establishments have continued to deliver essential training, both to new recruits and to those already in the Service, to ensure that the RN can continue to deliver critical Defence outputs.

HMS Raleigh managed to maintain output at 90% throughout and is already back to 100%. HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH is conducting a period of essential sea training, with her whole ship’s company being tested before she sailed, and an Astute Class submarine and an Offshore Patrol Vessel have both been delivered out of build. The precautions and protocols implemented in establishments and on ships to reduce the risk of infection of Royal Navy personnel and to minimise the spread of COVID-19 have ensured that the infection rate across the Fleet has remained extremely low.”

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Excellent. Well done the Royal Navy and all civilian contractors.


82% seems very high. Is that the average availability of a platform that is at first / second level readiness (third level being in refit as I understand it)?

I.e. is doesn’t 82% of the fleet is avialable it means that the 60 or 70% of the fleet that is ‘operational’ is available at anytime, I think!? Otherwise a lot of vessels have suddenly come through their planned upgrades and refits!

Even so I think that have your high and medium readiness units achieving 82% availability is impressive and says a lot for the professionalism of all involved…

Cheers CR


Figures by class might be more useful. I assume there’s a big difference between an Archer and an Albion in terms of complexity of maintenance and hence challenges in maximising availability.


Availability takes into account planned maintenance, so ships in refit aren’t counted. Basically, 82% of what should in theory be ready is as such, which given that today’s smaller fleet makes individual issues proportionally larger a good achievement.

For a quick comparison from Wikipedia, the 10 T42s in 1998 achieved 85% availability. Obviously a much smaller sample of a single class, but it tells you that we’re on the right track.


Its a bit of a nonsense stat then. The only one that matters is how many ships are ready for war within a short period (1-2 weeks).

Robert Blay

it isn’t a nonsense stat, it’s a very important stat. and the envy of many other advanced Navy’s.


I doubt it. The problem with heavily caveated and tweaked stats like this is anyone can play that game and i am sure do.


If it’s 80% of the war fighting ships then very impressive indeed. If it includes Pembroke, Dasher and Landing craft then not so!

Robert Blay

Ok Steve, whatever you say 🤦‍♂️


The issue is we know the availability of the escorts based on the stats that were published the last couple of weeks here and general information on their status this year. If 82% of the fleet was really available it would be impressive, but reality is its way lower because they are stretching out repairs, mothballing etc because of manpower issues / costs. We would need to see full details of how that figure is calculated (what is and isn’t in scope) and then we could compare with other navies. Not saying it is or isn’t impressive, just saying we… Read more »


Well said Jack.

Lee H

Afternoon All What we are seeing now is a change in the way the government view “output”. It is no longer about the number of assets you have but the availability of platforms to complete tasks. There is no point in having 19 FF/DD if they cannot be utilised or are not available. You will soon see HMG, specifically the MoD start the move away from the legacy “we need 19 of this or 3 of that” towards a more task focused approach where available “sea days” become the measure and tasks being fulfilled by the right platform (a T45… Read more »


Interesting comment. Thanks.


Depends a lot on the definition of availability. If a ship is in a 4 week FTSP its still available at 47hrs notice for sea.
So managing the fleet to be able to sail at 48hrs notice is very do able. Even big jobs that take a vessels availability beyond 47 hrs probably only take it to 72 or 96 at most

John Clark

Interesting Lee ….

With my jaundiced cynicism however, I think the bean counters would see this as an excellent way of saving money …

Lee H

This is the challenge. I will be writing something later to better articulate my comments above, getting the “bean counters” on side is part of the strategy.

Rob Collinson

In detect a large amount of ‘spin’ in this announcement!! With declining numbers in actual numbers of assets following the end of the Cold War, the lack of availability of a single vessel will skew the numbers somewhat. (On the principle of a small amount of a little is going to have a disproportionately large impact than the same amount of a larger amount.). With the pressures of this moment, however, Covid-19 & significant fiscal situation since the 2010 Defence Review, it is still a creditable reflection of the hard work of the RN and the civilian contractors. The RN… Read more »


Like others have said, without context or background for this figure it is meaningless.
I assumed that ships out of routine maintenance were pretty much always available, bar the frigate alongside due to not enough crew and the 45s undergoing engine upgrade?
Would be genuinely interested to see the data behind this figure and what available counts as.


All I can say is well done, but I also noticed today reading the latest Navy News that not one T45 is on deployment. My concern with availability is that in the next few years the T23s will be for 30 years plus. They were built with a life expectancy of 18 years I hope that they are not coming to the point in life where they spend more time in the garage costing lots of money to keep them going. If that is the case then availability rates will drop dramatically, oposition MPs will be screaming at the government… Read more »


“I also noticed today reading the latest Navy News that not one T45 is on deployment.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A key point about the new forward deployment strategy is that scarce major assets can be more easily hoarded and preserved for “surge” operations. Daring and Duncan are both in major refits, the RN’s focus is getting the other four units fully worked-up and operational for 2021, which is set to be a very busy year. Dragon seems to be in the best shape at the moment, but sending her off now on a 6-9 month deployment would… Read more »

David Barry

What a meaningless statistic.

Are the Royal Navy now doing Govt spin? It is almost disgusting to think that a serving officer would pander to the whims of a Government who have singularly failed to invest in Defence and in the RN in particular. Then to combine the RFA into the RN as the ‘surface flotilla’ is a misappropriation of language that the Cons are becoming renowned for.

The stats published by this website not a month ago, provide the real truth.


1SL is a serial offender. Your comments are spot on. MY favourite is;

‘For example, do you buy an additional weapon system which may be ‘sexier’ and make a more obvious political statement or fit a sophisticated electronic warfare system that maybe virtually invisible but can have much wider tactical effects?’

Sensors without weapons. Great for wargames but beyond that?

A comment designed to distract and disarm criticism.

Andy P

“It is almost disgusting to think that a serving officer would pander to the whims of a Government who have singularly failed to invest in Defence and in the RN in particular.”

Not at all disgusting David, a chap has to look after his own career after all.

Don’t delude yourself that naval officers are any different to the rest of humanity, they’re just as petty and self serving as anyone else. The brown nosing that sometimes goes on is comedy gold.

David Barry

There are no likes on this forum!


Hey didn’t we keep Gibraltar’s dick? It would be really handy wouldnt it!


Jesus I meant “Dock”! Gibs dry dock, wouldn’t it be handy for royal naval vessels…


This is not a meaningless statistic, the 1SL has been given a simple target to work towards, this is a statistic which measures that progress.

Num Ships Available x Availability = What you can put to sea.

All the services were given a target like this by the Defense secretary when he stared his role, the Army’s target was recruitment numbers.

Well done Navy!

Robert Blay

Well said Andy. 👍

r cummings

This looks awfully like a political displacement strategy getting underway. If the shrinking NUMBER of hulls is causing concern and criticism, as it is among the Defence Select Committee and many backbench MPs and peers, switch the subject to ship AVAILABILITY, that is far harder for the fools to criticise. That’s what Dominic Cummings gets paid for, political spin, chicanery and deception. That is what this game is about. I see above that some who should know better have already fallen for it, the gullible, largely ignorant British public will swallow it whole. We know perfectly well that ship and… Read more »

Meirion X

A non milltary political adviser is not expected to determine the number of ships and personal to be deployed or available, that is for the milltary experts!
It is the process of procurement that things need to improve, e.g. to get time lines of equipment replacement and their value of money right and on budget.


According to the times the royal marine commandos along with all their gear is going to be scrapped

Lee H

It begins, always in the The Times – read by dusty old Generals and their lobbyist friends. Surprised it took so long, stand by for the season of reports that This is going to be cut or that is going to be reduced – then find someone to blame, let’s called him Dominic for example and then talk about his lack of military knowledge. Standby for Lord West to be pulled out of the locker telling us all how I’ll equipped the military is now let alone when the mythical “Dominic” starting culling it. Tedious news from a forgotten newspaper… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Evening Lee.

Concur. Nothing is ever as good or as bad as reports suggest. Let’s wait and see.


Unfortunately even with 100% availability the fleet is too small to cover both escorts for a carrier strike group and all the standing tasks / flag waving stuff. We will make a big thing of the carrier strike group next year and how the navy is adequately sized to create it without hitting other standing duties. The reality is all the maintenance etc is all aligned to ensure pretty much all frigates/destroyers are available for this one PR stunt, and then a few months later it will be back to one escort as the handful of ships that are available… Read more »


Obvious nonsense, even if you deduct ships in refit and “extended readiness”, there is no way the RN can equip, man and deploy anywhere near that number. Are they doing it by tonnage, because they have 2 massive empty and unarmed steel boxes in the carriers?We know that at least 3 t45s will be unavailable for some time.1st sl needs to be careful with this sort of BS, if you declare that you are coping fine the politicians will conclude that they can squeeze a bit harder.


This is the problem the people that make it to the FSL are effectively politicians and act like it, telling their masters what they want to hear to keep their gravy train going (can’t really blame them as its their job and they probably would be sacked if they spoke up). That leaves it to the retired FSL etc to speak up on their behalf, but that just sounds like sour grapes / personal PR stunt to sell books etc. Until we get someone with the guts to say the truth at the top and someone that is clever enough… Read more »

r cummings

Senior serving officers are not allowed to speak out publicly. If they dare to do so and criticise HMG’s official spin, they will be removed and replaced promptly. If they are removed, they cannot continue to defend their service, which I have no doubt they have to fight for daily against the oppressive weight of politicians, treasury hatchet men, MOD civil servlce bean counters and the rest of the wreckers. It is well-known that the Army’s Armoured Vehicles budget has been raided umpty times to pay for expensive new toys like the carriers, hence our ageing Challengers, AS-90s, FV-432s etc.… Read more »


I wonder if the politicians actually know the problems. If the top brass keep twisting the truth during defense committees etc, how would they? They keep getting told by the brass that everything is fine. You could blame the politicians for not pushing the points to get to the truth behind the answers they get (as they should know more than anyone what a spun answer looks like), but they aren’t interested enough and there are too many topics related to government expenditure for them to understand each part, and still get re-elected (be seen to be asking difficult questions… Read more »

Mark B

Are we sure we are not over-thinking this.

Ensuring as many assets as possible remain operational seems sensible to me and by setting it as a priority for the 1SL will focus military & civil service minds alike.

Politicians have called upon military assets a lot in recent years. They are probably just keen that the assets will be available when needed.


“It is well-known that the Army’s Armoured Vehicles budget has been raided umpty times to pay for expensive new toys like the carriers, hence our ageing Challengers, AS-90s, FV-432s etc.”

For God’s sake what the Army have done with the budget for new vehicles since the start of the century? What output came from it?

How much money was put into FRES? Output? Zero.


My point made many times in the past. We will now pay in hardware yet again for mismanagement and the sheer incompetence of the MOD and the procurement agency. This is one reason Cummings wasn’t sacked. He has work to do, reducing us to a third rate, laptop, drone based power. Broken promises by Boris. Quel surprise.

Meirion X

Wrong again! Another T45 out of refit, last week,
two more due out of refit by end of year.
Speaking of Yourself as usual!


You forgot about the one laid up on “training duties “. Concentrate instead of trolling.

Meirion X

Really! And Wrong again second time!
The T45 you refer to, is in the last stage of its refit right now.
You haven’t learned much have you! How many umpteen times you been told! Dear, Dear!

Best to stick to you know best, which is? Just speak of yourself!!


Go on then, name more than 3 t45s(50%) that will be in service any time soon

Meirion X

HMS Defender, HMS Dragon, HMS Diamond!


As I said, at least 3 t45s (50%,total of 6) unavailable for some time.

Meirion X

No Navy in the world has 100% availability of warships! If you think there is, go find one!
The RN would have had 4 T45s available now, if one had not been sent for a engine
Upgrade, which would have to be done in the future anyway. An extra diesel generator is to be installed. I hope they get a laser gun in the future.