At the First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference 2024, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps outlined a comprehensive vision for the future of the Royal Navy, emphasising modernisation, technological advancements, and international collaboration.

Shapps began his speech with references to recent military engagements, underscoring the Royal Navy’s readiness and resilience.

“Two weeks after I became Defence Secretary, a Storm Shadow missile slammed into a Russian Kilo-class submarine in an occupied naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea,” he said. He also highlighted the USS Carney’s interception of missiles and drones launched by the Houthi militant group in the Red Sea, and HMS Diamond’s engagement with multiple Houthi attack drones during Operation Prosperity Guardian.

Emphasising the changing dynamics of maritime security, Shapps noted that modern threats are reshaping traditional naval strategies. “It is clear, very clear, that we are operating in a new military age,” he stated, pointing to the impact of inexpensive drones used by the Houthis and the significant damage to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. He questioned how the UK can avoid similar pitfalls in future conflicts, asking, “How do we ensure we don’t find ourselves on the back foot in any future naval conflict, just as Russia has in the Black Sea?”

To address these challenges, Shapps announced several proactive measures, including a faster and more agile pan-defence procurement model and the allocation of at least 5% of the defence budget to research and development. “These steps will help deliver the technological edge we need in the years ahead,” he explained.

One of the key technological advancements Shapps highlighted was the DragonFire laser system, now expected to be delivered five years ahead of schedule by 2027. He also reaffirmed the importance of the Continuous at Sea Nuclear Deterrent, describing it as “the cornerstone of our national defences and of our national security.”

Shapps detailed significant investments in the Royal Navy’s capabilities, including up to £41 billion for the next-generation Dreadnought fleet and ongoing production of Astute-class submarines. “Five [Astute-class submarines] are now complete and able to hit threats on land with Tomahawk cruise missiles and threats below the water with Spearfish torpedoes,” he added.

Highlighting the importance of international alliances, Shapps cited various collaborative operations with global partners. “I believe we are more integrated with a wider range of global partners than ever before,” he stated. He mentioned NATO’s Exercise Steadfast Defender and operations in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Indo-Pacific as examples of effective cooperation.

Addressing recruitment and retention challenges, Shapps noted improvements in Royal Navy applications and training facilities, as well as initiatives to enhance service conditions. “We have committed to invest over £4 billion in military accommodation over the next decade,” he said, also mentioning increased remuneration and flexible career options for service members.

Shapps announced the acquisition of up to six new Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) to replace the current amphibious fleet. “These ships will ensure our extraordinary Royal Marines have the versatility, the heavy-lift capability, that they need,” he stated. This move is part of a broader effort to expand the Royal Navy’s fleet, with 28 new ships and submarines in design, on order, or under construction.

Furthermore, Shapps revealed plans to equip Type 26 and Type 31 frigates with land strike capabilities, enhancing the Royal Navy’s operational flexibility. He also noted the success of UK naval exports, stating that “over the past decade the value of naval exports from UK shipbuilders has been greater than any other country in the world.”

In conclusion, Shapps reiterated the government’s commitment to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, delivering a £75 billion boost to defences over the next six years. “Those listening know that the defence of the realm is quite simply the first job of any government,” he asserted.

Expressing gratitude to Royal Navy personnel, Shapps said, “Thank you for everything you do and will continue to do. Not just for our security, freedoms, and prosperity – but the security, freedom, and prosperity of people right around the world.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Jon
Jon (@guest_818605)
3 days ago

I suppose one of the impacts of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the definition of defence spending is that ringfencing 5% of it for R&D will see that increase significantly. In 2023 R&D expenditure was around £2.1bn, and if we hit the ringfenced target we’d expect it to be £3.33bn next year, growing to £4bn by the end of the decade.

Bulkhead
Bulkhead (@guest_818606)
3 days ago

Blah, Blah. When I see it……..😎

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_818796)
2 days ago
Reply to  Bulkhead

Shapps will be out of a job shortly. So he can make whatever claims he likes. The fact he was quickly exposed did more harm to the government and blew Sunak’s “ the country is safe with us”
Tell me Mr Sunak, if you are such a safe pair of hands, why does the Russia report on Kremlin interference in the UK remain unpublished?

Paul
Paul (@guest_818619)
3 days ago

You seriously can not beleive anything this government says about increasing our armed services or increasing ships planes tanks. All this government has done is loe for 14 years and cut everything to the bone.

James
James (@guest_818624)
3 days ago

‘At least 25 new warships’ says Shapps. How many are being decommissioned, will the fleet be any bigger afterwards???
Smoke and mirrors….

RB
RB (@guest_818632)
3 days ago

“over the past decade the value of naval exports from UK shipbuilders has been greater than any other country in the world.” I’m sorry but I don’t believe that. It’s over a decade since a UK shipyard has built anything larger than an OPV for export. France, Italy, Spain, China and Germany all blow us away year after year in terms of export orders. Maybe Schapps is thinking of the T31, GCS/T26 and AUKUS sales, but the total billed value to date of these to UK shipbuilders can’t be more than a few £ hundred million. Non-UK suppliers in Germany,… Read more »

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker (@guest_818737)
2 days ago
Reply to  RB

I love to see his maths on this one. I’m not going to call him out as wrong as I don’t know.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_818634)
3 days ago

It is anathema for me to say anything positive about any UK Government for the past 40 years, it’s been a never ending stream of cuts dressed in Political BS. But I do have to say that at least this present (last 3 years) lot have actually done some sensible things. Don’t get me wrong it’s nothing earth shattering but at least we are arming our Warships up to the spec that they are capable of carrying. The Big important news is the underlying simple truth is that Politicians are being led by opinion polls that tell them that Defence… Read more »

Jon
Jon (@guest_818639)
3 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

May is Navy stuff: Sea Power for the headlines followed by Combined Naval Event for some nitty-gritty. RIAT and Farborough in July should get us lots of air-related announcements. Perhaps DVD at Millbrook for Army stuff in September, but you might get something from Paris at Eurosatory in June, if DVD doesn’t fit the election calendar.

DB
DB (@guest_818659)
3 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Rodders, I hate this Govt a tad more than Labour. I have no faith in either, however, you made a valid point.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_818792)
2 days ago
Reply to  DB

I take part in YouGov polls and get access to some of their info. They did a poll of the Voters late last year about how they voted in 2019 and what their top 3 concerns were this time. The big surprise was among the Traditional Labour voters many of whom swung Tory last time and those that didn’t. The Majority (54%) put Defence in their top 3 compared to a minority of Tory voters. Sounds weird but those same voters were the ones who tipped the Brexit scales ! Which may explain why Labour started asking lots of awkward… Read more »

Athelstanthecurious
Athelstanthecurious (@guest_818881)
2 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Maybe that voting strata, of which my family are one, are carrying memories of sons fathers, uncles, grandfathers and so on, serving from WW1 until recently more clearly and perceive history potentially repeating itself more clearly. Not least they would hope that if, heaven forbid, war happens, their daughters and sons would have good kit and training from their taxes.

Mike
Mike (@guest_818640)
3 days ago

Nothing on the RFA and without it the Navy (bar the submarine service) won’t go anywhere?

David Cramp
David Cramp (@guest_818646)
3 days ago

Up to six MRSS! That probably means 2.

DB
DB (@guest_818657)
3 days ago

Hot air and sophistry.

DB
DB (@guest_818661)
3 days ago

Upto… who’d be 100% behind a comment like ‘upto’ ?

He makes my skin crawl and we pay him!

Mr Bell
Mr Bell (@guest_818668)
3 days ago

No mention of any more frigates numbers. No mention of type 32, so that programme must be dead. No mention of another batch of type 31s. So that probably isn’t going to happen. In summary….more of the same.

Julian
Julian (@guest_818791)
2 days ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

I saw a fair bit of speculation over the last 6 months to a year that MRSS and T32 were sort of in a fight for funding and that with all the funding gaps in the equipment plan it was looking as if there would only be cash for one of those projects to go ahead in full. I was hoping that with defence spending planned to gradually get up to 2.5% by 2030 that just maybe that might allow both programs to be fully funded (6 x MRSS plus 5 x new frigates) which, while technically not any new… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818814)
2 days ago
Reply to  Julian

Julian, I think you have raised an interesting line of MRSS thinking. If funding is short, shipbuilding capacity is limited, time is short and crewing is tight could which ship roles could be combined into a multi-role design? Would 6x armed Ellida mean we could drop T32 and just build 2 or 3 more T31s?

Last edited 2 days ago by Paul.P
Matt
Matt (@guest_819382)
1 day ago
Reply to  Mr Bell

How does that work? Is the type 83 dead as well? Did he mention AUKUS new subs or are they dead too?

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_818677)
3 days ago

2.5 is an accounting trick. The aid for Ukraine is rolled into it as is the budget for the nuclear deterrent. Prior to Cameron Osborne. The Nuclear deterrent was financed separately and the MoD budget was for conventional forces.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker (@guest_818738)
2 days ago
Reply to  Michael Hannah

Lucky to be 1.5%. When looking at numbers and kit it’s a lot lower than it used to be

RB
RB (@guest_818690)
3 days ago

The accompanying MOD press release states that “HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark will not be scrapped or mothballed before their planned out of service dates of 2033-2034.” I’m becoming fairly optimistic that Bulwark will finally recommission late this year or early next. Critically she has not been “decrewed” – always a very bad sign as the ships material state will then rapidly deteriorate. But her complement is 200 sailors short of what is needed to become operational, these may well come from Queen Elizabeth after she enters her first major refit, thus freeing-up most of her supposedly 680 strong crew.… Read more »

Last edited 3 days ago by RB
Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_818716)
2 days ago

It’s amazing really. I don’t know G.S. from adam and yet every time he says something positive he is attacked. Ben Wallace on the other hand is treated like some sort of defence heavyweight and admired but what did he actually do? Perhaps it is just election year.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker (@guest_818739)
2 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Mr Wallace got all the programs we see today started. He got money when there seemed to be none. Everything mr shapps is taking credit for was done by his predecessor. Then Mr Wallace quit when he saw what cuts were coming that he couldn’t fix. Mr shapps has a slippery record in government positions not that people can’t change but what has he actually done. All I see is vague promises of jam tomorrow and we all know what a Tory jam delivery is like. You get a quarter of what was promised and half of that is reused… Read more »

Michael Hannah
Michael Hannah (@guest_818795)
2 days ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Shapps is a “ yes” man , he does as he is told. Wallace made himself a major pain and importantly, he had back bench support.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_819621)
6 minutes ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

If you don’t mind MS just look at my reply to DB below. Just about sums uo where we are at, I think.

DB
DB (@guest_818799)
2 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

Wallace was a tic toc short service officer. A God for some on here. Ask Airborne or Farouk for their opinions of Guards. He lied to Parliament about cuts and managed decline. Basically, another for the lamp post. Scrapps is just a tw@t. Simples really. The huge problem facing us is that Labour have nothing to give either; not lying and bullshitting like Wallace, Shapps, Hancock, Braverman, Rish!, Johnson, May, Trussless, Camerloon, Unpriti, and the rest of the muppets, but, just nothing of decency. My Gut is that Rachel Reeves while right for Chancellor would be epic in Defence. Alas… Read more »

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach (@guest_819514)
11 hours ago
Reply to  DB

I can’t remember the last time we had a really good def/sec. None in the last thirty years anyway. We’ve been cut and cut again since the 90’s.The last time we had decent squantative forces was in the 80’s. Some orders have started this last few weeks but will we ever see them in reality?😏

Jon
Jon (@guest_818802)
2 days ago
Reply to  Geoff Roach

You have to see Wallace in context. Williamson, his predeccessor-but-one’s main claim to fame was resisting Treasury requests to axe Albion and Bulwark. Then came Mordaunt, who lasted a couple of months and achieved diddly squat. Wallace lasted four years over three Prime Ministers and changed the Defence conversation. Top Tories, including the current Chancellor and Shapps himself, were talking about 3% for the first time since the 1990s. For the Johnson/Wallace years, for the first time in decades, core defence spending increased, for real. (You actually don’t need to know any more than that.) Britain took a lead on… Read more »

jason
jason (@guest_818752)
2 days ago

It sounds like a lot of hot air

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818763)
2 days ago

It’s election year. The conservatives see they have defence as an advantage topic over labour; the world is more dangerous – look at how the incumbent government responding to keep the UK safe – stick with us. No mention of new frigates but early announcement of ‘up to 6’ MRSS which ‘ will ensure our extraordinary Royal Marines have the versatility, the heavy-lift capability, that they need’. A direct appeal to traditional vote to counter Starmer wrapping himself in the flag. I saw the DT carried a photo of the Ellida design and have also read that we have failed… Read more »

ABCRodney
ABCRodney (@guest_818797)
2 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Netherlands is going for the MPSS design, which spookily UKDJ has reposted pictures of over on Twitter (X). The 2 versions designed so far are 7k and 9k tonnes so too small for the high end stuff but it’s a very interesting design, it’s a bit like a small Bay but with superstructure on Starboard and a through deck to port and Azimuth pod propulsion. Just Google Damen MPSS 9000 for details. IMHO a 6 ship mix of 3 x 9000 and 3 x 16000 version would do us quite nicely. One thing about the Dutch is they do design… Read more »

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818807)
2 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Thanks. So the Dutch are going for a through deck design. Maybe Radakin will get his LHDs after all.

Jon
Jon (@guest_818876)
2 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Portugal are also going for that same through-deck design for a smaller multi-role vessel. Maybe 7500t displacement, they are pretty cheap at £110m, less than the cost of a Batch 2 River.

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818880)
2 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Am I missing something? The Damen video shows no well deck – a must for the RN I would have thought.

Jon
Jon (@guest_819082)
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul.P

I don’t think you are missing anything. We aren’t getting these for MRSS.

I think if we did get a couple, it should be to replace OPVs, which is probably akin to how the Dutch intend use most of theirs.

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818834)
2 days ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Another consideration to bear in mind is the Navantia – Harland – Wolfe situation.
The Times today reports that a support package for H&W in Belfast is still pending. I think Shapps has described MRSS as ‘non complex warships’, which of course opens up the possibility they might be built abroad. This would perhaps tip the scales in favour of Ellida vs Damen MPSS

Expat
Expat (@guest_819143)
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul.P

It was reported BAe and Babcock have contracts for preliminary design work o. MRSS. So unlikely to be H&W. H&W will get the money they need would be political suicide not to tide them over until after the election

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_819352)
1 day ago
Reply to  Expat

BAe and Babcock to produce competing design proposals?

Expat
Expat (@guest_819391)
1 day ago
Reply to  Paul.P

The article was on a financial news site stating BAe and Babcock have been awarded contracts. The logical thing to do is have BAe and Babcock go head to head with other yards and suppliers joining each team. Like the T31 competition. Government shouldn’t allow a cartel of BAe and Babcock to combine and price fix.

DB
DB (@guest_818801)
2 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Cons always Con on Defence. Labour have to up their game but not with the likes of Michelle Scrogham who I wouldn’t trust as an assistant to a trained blind dog helping someone cross the road.

Paul.P
Paul.P (@guest_818806)
2 days ago
Reply to  DB

John Healey does look to be a sound mature character for the defence job. Don’t know young Ms Scrogham. It seems she comes from a family of career activists.

DB
DB (@guest_818808)
2 days ago
Reply to  Paul.P

Healey has had ample chance to hang the Cons on their petard.

FAIL.

Scrogham is a piss poor choice to vote for in Barrow and Furness.

Amongst the reckoning is her use of sophistry to ban people when they point out she she hasn’t a scoobies.

Expat
Expat (@guest_819395)
1 day ago
Reply to  DB

Healey shot himself in the foot banging on about how the priority was European defence when Ukrainewas front and center, then ships started getting shot at in the Red Sea forcing UK bound cargos to avoid the area. The European rhetoric was soon wound back. So shows hes no different to any other politician red or blue, they just play to the crowd.

DB
DB (@guest_819420)
1 day ago
Reply to  Expat

Poor choice now.

And yet, Defence should be front and centre.

Skoda.

Last edited 1 day ago by DB
Cripes
Cripes (@guest_819494)
13 hours ago

Shapp’s 28 ships simply means that HMG aims, at best, to continue to run ships well beyond their planned lifespan and to reduce the size of the fleet by at least 7 vessels.To explain: We have a fleet of nominally 61 vessels*, though quite a few of these are inactive or being withdrawn (Wave tankers, a couple of T23 frigates, etc). If we want to keep the average age of the fleet at 24 years before replacement – which is far too long for most ship classes – we would need to be commissioning 2.5 new vessels every year for… Read more »

Last edited 13 hours ago by Cripes