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Rear-Admiral Alex Burton, commander UK maritime forces, has reportedly decided to resign from the Royal Navy in the face of mounting speculation over cuts.

News broke last week that the two Albion class assault ships could be axed as the Royal Navy struggles for resources.

Responding to a tweet by Labour MP Luke Pollard, Rear Admiral Alex Burton said he could not enter a war zone by sea without Bulwark or Albion.

According to the Daily Mail (this same Daily Mail), the Rear Admiral has been “reminded” of what it is appropriate for serving personnel to say on social media.

An MoD spokesman said:

“In the face of ever-changing threats, we are contributing to the cross-government review of national security capabilities and looking at how we best spend our rising defence budget to support that.

No decisions have yet been made and at this stage, any discussion of the options is pure speculation.”

 

The Albion class consists of two vessels, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

Both ships were built by BAE Systems Marine at the former Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering yard in Barrow-in-Furness.

Albion was commissioned in 2003 and Bulwark in 2004. Each of the ships has a crew of 325 and can accommodate up to 405 troops. Thirty-one large trucks and thirty-six smaller vehicles and main battle tanks can be carried inside the vehicle deck. To disembark troops and vehicles, the vessels are equipped with eight landing craft.

76 COMMENTS

  1. Rear-Admiral Alex Burton, commander of UK maritime forces, who would lead a naval task group into war, handed in his notice three or four weeks ago, according to two defence sources. A third source confirmed that he was quitting. The sources did not give a reason and a spokesman for the navy said it was “a private matter for the individual”.

    Fact or speculation?

  2. Good on him, although a little late. I understand that the Generals are in a difficult position of having to balance morale and openness, but no one is really fouling for the party line that the cuts are straregical and are not simple cost cutting exercise resulting in capability loss.

  3. This is a rabble rousing article and entirely speculation. Pulling a Tweet out from July is hardly substantive evidence of his resignation. Many two stars resign form all 3 Services at the end of their appointments… often as there is no further appointment awaiting them. It’s in the nature of business st that level. Scurrilous nonsense.

    • Buxton retweeted the statement on Friday.

      Whatever the truth is it is not rabble rousing or entirely speculative or scurrilous nonsense.

  4. The loss of Albion and Bulwark let alone no replacement for Ocean and 1000 Marines, would be devastating for RN littoral capabilities whether in peacetime or war.

  5. We are all responding to the press again but just for interests sake I wonder what choices we would make if it was down to us, leaving aside,of course, the desire to build everything. So would we
    a. keep the Albion’s as now but no further changes.
    b. Let them go in exchange for one or two new Ocean type vessels.
    c. Loose all of these but buy 20 plus Osprey to operate from the QE’s
    d None of the above but build the escort force up to 30 ships.
    I know this is all a bit of nonsense but I would be interested to know. Other thoughts welcome!!

    • Keep Albion is the only responsible choice. There is not going to be a replacement for Ocean/Albion within the next 5-10 years, so we keep what we already have or we cripple our capacity to project power and deploy assets overseas.

      Ospreys would be good but not at the expense of other assets, and 30 escorts is never going to happen.

      • I can not understand why such valuable assets should be axed? The UK government would be wise to commission a study into ship preservation, that could store vessels safely yet enable rapid recommissioning if required. After WW2 many capital ships were withdrawn but retained as reserve assets for at least 5-10 years. To decommission a naval vessel is a relatively easy exercise, however, once lost that’s the end of it, unless you are willing to wait at least five years for a brand new one.
        There is enough naval anchorage around the UK to store ships of all sizes however, the Admiralty would always support the build of a new vessel than retaining an older ship no matter its capability. Maybe, minds have to change on both sides of the defense community.

        • Rover 10+ A very sensible reply, totally agree about keeping Albion’s as reserve assets to increase manpower for the carrier. Ocean replacement not really necessary if we still have 3 Bays, 2 Albion’s, some extra RFA marine capability, part time use of one of the carriers in an amphibious role and of course STUFF (Ships Taken Up From Trade) Completely forget Ospreys, they are far to expensive to buy and operate, at about twice the cost of a Chinook, for to little operational gain. We have many Chinooks which are flexible and can cover a lot of the Ospreys proposed work load. I would think that the priority should be to increase the number of mission capable escorts in the 3 to 4,000 ton range, though getting 30 of them may be a bit of pie in the sky, 25 might be a more realistic target.

      • If funding is now so tight the RN has to scrap a fundamental capability to crew the carriers then there is no excuse for not axing the foreign aid budget dramatically or at least funding the entire RFA out of it and every RN deployment overseas.
        HS2 should also be scrapped when the business and economic appraisal was so weak and flawed.

        • First you determine what your defence strategy is, I do not think the UK has had a credible policy since the 1990s.

          We need to list our defence priorities are and then decide which we are going to maintain and fund.

          For example I would rate global carrier strike and amphibious expeditionary capability lower than UK home defence, maintenance of the nuclear deterrent and NATO.

          Others may have a different view on priorities.

        • BB85 – I am right with you regarding the Foreign Aid (FA) budget especially as some foreign body now tells us we cannot spend our own money on assisting British territories in the Caribbean. Of course some RFA and some RN operations should be FA funded.

          And then you got to throw in the HS2 nonsense. This is a project that is direct investment in huge infrastructure providing thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new training positions. It more than doubles the rail capacity for North / South traffic. It frees up thousands of paths on the West and East Coast lines for more freight and commuter traffic thus reducing HGVs on our roads and increasing mobility so people can take more jobs.

          The HS2 business case is far from ‘weak and flawed’. Unless you have knowledge that has escaped three main political parties, many Parliamentary committees and hundreds of local consultations and examinations. So how else do we move double the number of rail passengers and freight that has already doubled in 20 years?

          Maybe stick to Navy funding and the stupidity of financing African girl bands while we are looking to scrap capable and unique ships….

        • Having extensively worked oversea, 50% of the time in 3rd. World countries, I have to completely agree with drastically revising our overseas aid budget. I think we should cut it in half and use the Japanese method of dispensing aid. From what I have seen, the Japs do not generally dish out money to those in need, but supply specifically required infrastructure items e.g. Roads, Bridges, Railways, Hospitals, Houses, etc. These projects are then contracted to and built by Japanese companies directly paid for by their government thus substantially eliminating a large proportion of the epidemic corruption that generally exists in the overseas aid world. It would be a massive win win situation all round i.e. a huge reduction in waste and corruption, significant required infrastructure aid delivered, significant assistance to the donor country’s own export industries and a massive drop in the overseas aid bill allowing more for the defence budgets.

    • Of all the Navy’s capabilities, I think that amphibious assault is the one that could most easily be provided by ships taken up from trade. Obviously, Albion and Bulwark have considerable command and communication assets, but most of the troops and equipment could as easily be put ashore from ro-ro ships using mexefloats. The idea that we’d try to attack a defended beach using landing craft in this day and age is not credible.

      • Only in the most favourable sea states. You really need the welldocks on the LPDs and LSDs to ensure operations can be done when needed not when weather permitts. And it depends what you mean by “defended beach” we won’t be doing a D Day style assault but San Carlos was still an opposed landing and we managed rather well. The enemy cannot defend every possible landing site with heavy forces.

      • They way things seem tone going, they seem to be the most viable sacrificial lambs. just not credible to keep the capability. Sell they – buy 2-3 extra C-17s for extra heavy lift.

        Leave the RFA assets to do the ‘beachey stuff’.

        Keeping them does seem too be a bit like that bit in West Wing with the ‘Base Closing Commission’ – do we still need that base in up-state New York for snow invasion training or the base in New Mexico for desert type training??? (like that’s not going out of fashion any day soon!!!)

        Let us concentrate on what our enemy IS and IS LIKELY TO BE. We have no need for a MASSIVE blue water force as the Cold War has ended. Defence spending has necessarily come down.

        What are we fighting now and are likely to be for some time? Middle East/ North Africa. Carriers have value for Force Projection over the horizon. T45s Air Defence – Fine. T26 Underwater protection – Fine. SSBN just incase Trump/Kim do wish to destroy them and us. T31 GPF – Fine. I would welcome more Patrol boats – counter piracy and drug patrol/ Fisheries protection

        We have to be realistic, though. We need to have a military to fit our adversary or a realistic future adversary. Whether we like it or not, that does really mean seem to no longer need the type of force projection these assets provide any more.

        We must cut our cloth accordingly. Sorry iff that may upset someone on the site

    • Option A. Giving up the LPDs would start us on a slippery slope that would probably lead to further cuts down the line. We can’t do an amphibious operation without the LPDs so do we need the LSDs? Probably not and they would go next. If we can’t deliver RMs ashore except via helicopter do we need 6000 of them? or even 5000? Probably not so they would face reductions as well. With 5 less samphibious ships do we need 6 tankers for 19 escorts and 2 carriers? Probably not and the Waves go without replacement mid 2020s. Lets not kid ourselves either we would not get anything back in return, no extra frigates or helicopters just less capability and numbers. I really hope this is just speculation as I think it would finish the RN as a top level operator capable of global power projection. The carriers are not enough by themselves, sea power must include the ability to effect events ashore and sometimes this means landing not only troops but heavy equipment which can’t be done with helicopters alone.

  6. The top brass of the three services should threaten to resign on mass if these cuts are driven through, the government needs a hard slap across the face!

    So what do we think will go guys, Albion class, perhaps Bay class too, along with big cuts to the RM’s, sold as ” its all old hat, its over the horizon, assault from Helicopters ” from now on, marvelous new capability in the Carriers blah, blah blah…

    It seems sometimes, Its only a few of us in this country that grasp the utter insanely of any further reductions!

  7. Can’t keep blaming the press, big defence cuts (or political speak adjustments) are coming just a case of where the axe will fall.

    Fantasy purchases of new equipment are just that, a fantasy

      • No mainstream UK political party has a good track record on defence or even a credible defence policy.

        The same old line is spouted out we will have a defence review once in government, to me this is unacceptable.

        They need to state at the election what they are going to do and how they will fund it.

        It’s question of who will do the least damage to our armed forces.

  8. I wonder if these stories are buttering us up for other news i.e. selling off or mothballing POW to keep the Albions. I did think this whole story was overblown in order to people to accept lesser cuts when announced but this resignation makes we wonder whether if all of it is on the cards. It sounds as though it is!

  9. People complain about the cost of the carriers but can we not forget that a large portion of the current budget problem is because Osborne in 2010 shifted the cost of renewing trident from the government/treasury over to the MOD. The cost been between 30-40 Billion, nearly a years worth of funding for the whole armed forces. This compounded on top of the massive cuts that they had in the 2010 review. Trying to build the dreadnought class and regain lost capabilities has put the military in serious trouble, if the government does not increase funding then we can expect massive cuts in the near future.

  10. Cannot see the LPD’s going myself.

    I thought Oceans crew was being used to man POW.

    I can however see a further reduction in RM numbers.
    40 and 45 Commando now in front line role mirrors the 2 Para Battalions in 16AA.
    They should remain as without them no need for the Carrier Enabled Power Projection multi role capability of the carriers we keep hearing about, and no need for 845. 846 and 847 NAS, nor the ASG, CLR, or supporting regiments from the army.

    42 Commando being switched to special Ops role might mean a big reduction in FPGRM.

    Bays already used for a variety of other tasks.

    I big cut to the RM will surely have an effect on recruitment for the SBS.

    These are all options leaked to the media. Lets hope the leaks have the effect intended.

  11. The idiots in charge where doing this two years before ww2,so nothing has changed and it will not no matter who from any party is in charge. The idea that a mass registration would happen is frankly laughable,one officer at the end of his time is all we will get. May is too busy hanging on to care or more likely does not even know.

    • You couldn’t be more wrong John. After W W 1 no sensible government wanted to spend money on arms, having lost millions of people. That was followed by the greatest recession in history. It was not until 1937 when Chamberlain came to power that rearmament began. A lot of modern historians believe that far from being defeatist with “peace in our time” he actually bought Britain the time needed to face the Germans when the time came. The air and naval build up was huge.

  12. Isn’t there much more of an issue doing beach assault than there used to be? For example
    https://dohanews.co/qatar-signs-deal-new-coastal-defense-system/
    Poland is buying the Kongsberg NSM for coastal defence.
    Couple these threats with small inshore corvettes with ASh missiles, mines and traditional artillery and it seems to me that with the exception of special forces insertion the future norm will be helicopter borne assault with RM being airlifted in Chinooks and Merlins from QE carrier safely positioned out of range of ASh missiles and protected by Type 45 and Type 26 After the beach defences have been cleared by RM and air support or a port secured the Bays or new FSS can use their cranes or Mexfloats as appropriate to land the heavy vehicles.

    • The issue with that is once a shot based missile batterie has opened up or even lit up its targeting radars. They would reveal themselves to aircraft, cruise missiles and the guided shells from 5in guns. Helicopters however are vulnerable to MANPADS. A example is the USMC landing in Lebanon back in the 80s the presence of dispersed AA forced the Marines to land by watercraft instead of the helicopter assault planned. When a USMC assault group sails it usually leaves with both a LHA/LHD and a LPD that way circumstances can dictate which landing method is used. If for instance a NSM batterie lit its radar up either Harriers from the assault ship or fighters from a carrier if present will suppress them.

      • Got that. So really its not either / or. We need the ability to choose. What about the Bays? I know they are not hardened warships and do not command and control capabilties. Could they do the job?

  13. If the LPDs go, then the Royal Marines as an amphibious force are next. No point in having them as a bespoke, maritime infantry if they can’t get off the ships. Slippery slope…………..we’re on it already

  14. Heres a controversial thought. How about instead of killing an essential capability the goverment slightly increases the defense budget to properly fund the two ships? Would it seriously be that bad? Just take half a billion out of foreign aid and problem solved.

    Truly this goverment is completely pathetic.

  15. All of the above comes down to one thing…money, pure and simple. We are apparently the 5th largest economy, and yet we are reduced to penny pinching on defence. Pathetic! How can you choose a party to defend us? Conservative and ‘death by a thousand amendments’? Labour and Corbyns radical left wing disarmament policies? Liberal ‘scrap Trident and pull up the drawbridge’ approach? Only the UKIP weirdos seem to give a monkeys about defence and they stand about as much chance of forming a government as I do! Strange and dangerous times, ladies and gentlemen…

    • I’m kinda bored of people quoting the 5th largest economy mantra without context. Just how many nations have a better geared armed forces than the UK? Of that list how many are in the western world and so have vaguely equal man power costs / health and safety costs etc. How many have a free public health system or state pensions. The list goes on and on and that is before we talk about the shocking position of our national debt or consider the tiny size of the country which limits manufacturing. This is why the term lies, darn lies and statistics were created.

      We live in live in a world where pretty much everyone is cost cutting whether it’s governments or listed companies.

      • add to that the reality that we have been pretty much at war for 20 years constantly and that costs a huge amount compared to countries that have armed forces but don’t use them.

        • Steve
          Still doesn’t compute – how can retiring a few ships and axing a couple of hundred marines save the kind of money the MOD needs to balance the books? It would make more sense to keep the RM and axe the RAF Regiment and how do the Army’s tanks get to the field of battle without traveling by sea? May as well get rid of them, too! (perhaps they will) The list goes on and on. And by the way, health, state pensions etc are NOT free! We all pay through the nose for them.
          The fact is that we ARE a wealthy nation, it’s HOW we spend the money that’s the problem. Governments that make decisions for the short term (5 years in power) should consider the consequences of removing an entire capability for the future.

          • no question but we have never had a single joint up armed forces plan, it’s always the 3 services fighting each other for money. The army are too busy fighting against their own costs to worry about what is going on with the navy etc. The nations finances are mess and cuts are needed, just as normal they aren’t thought out with a coheriant plan for what the overall military need a to operate.

  16. Politicians should have very little influence on the military. They should simply set a budget, and layout a basic plan of what they think the military will be doing. Then leave the rest to the armed forces. Get rid of the MOD along with those useless defence ministers, and simply have a senior officer represent the armed forces in parliament.

  17. The way things seem to be going, they seem to be the most viable sacrificial lambs. Just not credible to keep the capability. Sell they – buy 2-3 extra C-17s for extra heavy lift.

    Leave the RFA assets to do the ‘beachey stuff’.

    Keeping them does seem too be a bit like that bit in West Wing with the ‘Base Closing Commission’ – do we still need that base in up-state New York for snow invasion training or the base in New Mexico for desert type training??? (like that’s not going out of fashion any day soon!!!)

    Let us concentrate on what our enemy IS and IS LIKELY TO BE. We have no need for a MASSIVE blue water force as the Cold War has ended. Defence spending has necessarily come down.

    What are we fighting now and are likely to be for some time? Middle East/ North Africa. Carriers have value for Force Projection over the horizon. T45s Air Defence – Fine. T26 Underwater protection – Fine. SSBN just incase Trump/Kim do wish to destroy them and us. T31 GPF – Fine. I would welcome more Patrol boats – counter piracy and drug patrol/ Fisheries protection

    We have to be realistic, though. We need to have a military to fit our adversary or a realistic future adversary. Whether we like it or not, that does really mean seem to no longer need the type of force projection these assets provide any more.

    We must cut our cloth accordingly. Sorry if that may upset some on the site

  18. I think it a great shame that Admiral Burton feels compelled to resign over this. He is clearly one of the Royal Navy’s highest of high flyers. If you read the short bio available on the RN’s website, you’ll surely come to the same conclusion.

    Having said that, I do think that there is too much emphasis on amphibious warfare in the Navy. Surely, it would be preferable to land marines and their equipment miles inland rather than have them assault a defended beach? We couldn’t do that on D-Day because helicopter technology was in its infancy. If fleets of helicopters had been available, assaulting forces could have been landed behind the fierce coastal defenses. During the Falklands, Sir Galahad was hit by bombs on two separate occasions while close inshore and difficult to defend. The task force was short of medium- and heavy-lift helicopters after the sinking of Atlantic Conveyor. If sufficient helicopters had been available, I’d argue that Sir Galahad need not have been. Now that we have two carriers coming into service, each capable of embarking scores of Chinooks and Merlins as well as Apaches for close protection, why would we conduct a traditional amphibious landing?

    I would rather devote resources to the carriers and new escorts rather than maintaining a capability that seems to be of dubious value. Fly the Marines in!

    I’m sure Admiral Burton would provide a convincing counter-argument. I think he’d be much better placed to make his argument if he remained in the Navy. The Hansard recordings evidence (very) senior officers directly advising politicians at defence-related committee meetings. Why couldn’t he make his arguments in an appropriate manner at those meetings?

    • One may assume that he had reached the end of his personal tether. He had probably be making his view heard but ignored in many meetings?

      However, I couldn’t agree more with your comment, ‘I would rather devote resources to the carriers and new escorts rather than maintaining a capability that seems to be of dubious value. Fly the Marines in!’

      As I have already stated we need to have a force which matches need better.

      Perhaps we should be looking at a more advanced transfer of troops from ship to shore? Maybe we could go for the V22 but would prefer the V-280 Valor. Much more cost-effectiveness than the V22.

      • helicopters have a big weakness in that they can be shot down very easily with light anti air missiles. Landing crafts can take a battering for light arms and heavy arms are not moveable and can be removed by shore bombardment.

        Realistically if we ever needed to attack a coast again, we would need options to allow us to handle what defences we find ourselves against.

  19. If indeed a helicopter only assault force is envisaged, then why dispense with the one specialist ship?
    Keep Ocean, lose Albion and Bulwark should have been the plan in that case. But all three? At least Ocean could provide cover for when one QE is in maintenance/refit. Maybe the powers that be have reconsidered following Oceans obvious utility in the Caribbean and substituted the two LPD’s for retirement instead. Far from ideal, but at least it would represent some kind of thought-out plan for once. However, locking our forces into a ‘helicopter or nothing’ scenario by removing options for a beach assault, makes us SO predictable and ferrying men, stores, equipment and vehicles ashore and supporting them will tax the available rotary recourses to the maximum.

    • HMS OCEAN was not built to full naval specifications but rather to commercial specs to enable her to be built quickly and reasonably cheaply for a vessel of her type and is coming up to her end of service life.

  20. of course we are assuming the two things are connected. it is entirely possible he was already planning to resign and is now taking advantage of that decision to speak out. It wouldn’t be the first time a General has tied the party line of everything is fine until they step down at which point the decisions are all a mess and I need to speak out.

  21. The ships have to go as I have always said. They are not needed and the greatest threat to this country is economic collapse. I am so happy to see reality is being faced as I have always predicted it would in the end. Next mission is to dramatically cut the overall frigate and destroyer numbers and to fully privatise the RFA. Hooray. Common sense at last!

    • T H if your not the least bit interested in the defence of the U K can I suggest you find yourself a la la land site somewhere and leave the rest of us alone.

      • But I am interested. I would like to see the UK have the defences it can afford. As for la la land mmmm. All the childish waffle on here yet I forecast the scrapping of Bulwark and Albion months ago along with other coming cuts. No, who’s in la la land Geoffrey? Me who realises that the country is in unsustainable debt or you playing with boats, soldiers and planes that will no longer exist in the near future?

        • I don’t think many will argue that we are in a healthy financial state – if they do then I am not sure what they are looking at TBH.

          That said, your comments wouldn’t generate such derision if you didn’t sound so smug and happy at the thought of cuts. Your comment about 2000 BAE jobs going for instance. Reacting with glee to people losing their livelihoods, people with families, mortgages etc was just plain offensive.

  22. i am wondering if this is a deliberate false flag operation. Leak information about major cuts, picking the 3 biggest ships of the navy to get people talking and then when the real cuts come which are less serious they suddenly look like a positive or at least less negative.

    • PM still says retirement of A & B is pure speculation….we’ll see! Fallon has crowed so many times about the ‘growing Royal Navy’ that perhaps it really is only scaremongering.

    • TH can you explain how in a country that borrows £billions
      1. To give away in foreign aid
      2. that subsidies home buyers to purchase over priced dwellings built by plc house builders
      3. To bail out bankrupt plc banks which should have been wound up.
      why scrapping a couple of ships bought and paid for is facing economic reality? Because in my mind until the UK stops this type of crony capitalism and faces some hard facts cutting a couple of quid from defence is just incoherent rubbish from our totally incompetent so called leaders!

  23. Some speak about not needing the Albion and Bulwark, but drone warships. Drone warships of all sizes, with little ones carried in bigger ships, that could be drones or manned. Like the Albions? This very website reported only a few months ago about the refit of the Albion which cost 90 million. Someone in jest (or serious speculator) said the government will probably sell her soon.

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