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.”