UK forces would be needed to evacuate UK citizens in the region, but a report released this morning states that there would be almost insuperable challenges for any evacuation to succeed if the UK further reduced its amphibious capability.

The Defence Committee is calling on the government to give a categorical assurance that, as part of its Modernising Defence Programme, it has fully understood the essential role of amphibious capability in conducting civilian evacuations, as well as inserting troops from the sea.

The report points out that  the UK currently has very few forces in the region, with no permanent military bases in place. Earl Howe told the Defence Committee that a single frigate, HMS Sutherland, was currently on course to visit the region, with another to follow later in the year.

The nearest British Army presence is a battalion of Gurkhas stationed in Brunei and there are no Royal Air Force units stationed in the area. It would also take time to deploy significant UK forces, particularly if they were already committed elsewhere. Earl Howe told the committee that:

“At present, as of today, it is clearly difficult for me to give you facts and figures as to what we could send, because we are committed in a number of parts of the world, but given adequate notice, yes, I am sure we could deploy forces.”

Sir Jeremy Blackham went into more detail on how long force deployment would take:

“We need to be clear that were we to try to move significant forces to that part of the world, we are talking in terms of weeks, not days. We are also talking about reducing our commitment to a number of other current commitments and asking ourselves whether we actually have the resources to deploy a significant number of forces—I am now talking about not just the hardware but the manpower, arsenals, maintenance and support for a
significant period of time.”

The MoD have confirmed that the UK has plans in place to deploy forces to the region if necessary. Earl Howe told the committee that the plans cover different scenarios but he provided no further detail for operational security reasons. The Minister did confirm that these plans include consideration of how long forces could be sustained and what forces could be deployed given the UK’s existing commitments across the world.

For Britain, the largest rescue operation since the retreat from Dunkirk in 1940 was in 2006 in Lebanon­ with more than 22,000 British and dual nationals being moved out. Sixty were flown by RAF Chinook helicopters (pictured above) to Cyprus and others boarded Royal Navy vessels.

31 COMMENTS

  1. How many weeks to sail to Korea from the UK?

    I’d have thought strategic airlift the quickest response if things deteriorated quickly, with a QEC arriving full of helicopters in due course.

    Are the LPDs really needed for this?

    Use the Resident Gurkha Battalion in Brunei first with RM or Spearhead Infantry Battalion after.

  2. These contingencies are all planned for and in place, whilst it’s admirable the the committee highlight some of the issues on this one I think we are “okay”

  3. The new defence minister is a different fish to those who went before him. This is a chap who’s looking at a bigger political horizon, i.e. PM? Will not want to make a hash of the defence job? The amphibious component is simply too important for the new ‘internationally minded’ Britain after Brexit. Not to have global amphibious reach is a bad line of strategic thinking. Being denied the ability to rescue our countrymen from troubled zones would be sheer folly.

    • I agree, and it’s nice for a change to actually be able to have faith in our senior elected officials as we do with Gavin Williamson

      • I am optimistic about the SofS but I think we may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves. Lets see what action he takes after the current review is finished and whether he can persuade his colleagues to up the budget before slapping him on the back too much.

        • Williamson is seen as a future leader and those who are also on the rise, will not wish to muddy his patch to any great extent. Thank God he’s the Defence Minister, if he had another portfolio it would possibly be to the detriment of defence?

  4. I’m sorry but for stating the blooming obvious this article takes the 1st prize. Well yes it would take a while for our armed forces to evacuate thousands of our citizens from a place on the other side of the planet. Hopefully this is why we have friends in the area who would help out. In the same way we would help evacuate S.Korean and Japanese nationals from a war zone in Europe. What next ? We would have difficulty dealing with an attack on London by Godzilla !

    • whilst it may seem ‘blooming’ obvious to you, it’s gone unnoticed for decades by those in the positions to actually effect change. don’t assume those who run our security think of anything longer than a 4 year governmental term.

    • I’m with you on this one David, exchange of resources with allies. The UK can’t keep the whole planet afloat. But keeping amphibious resources for evacuations in Europe, but more the Med and the Gulf, is neccessary. South Korea is the other side of the planet, we might as well have reciprocal arrangements for evacuations with Australia while they’re at it.

  5. A little news snippet from today which may have some bearing on this story:
    New Royal Navy operations hub opens in Gulf
    The Naval Support Facility will play a central role in the UK’s ability to operate in the region, and will be the hub of the Royal Navy’s operations in the Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean.The facility will provide an enduring, self-sufficient operating base capable of meeting the needs of any British warship operating in the region including Britain’s new aircraft carriers future flagships HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. It will be home to just over 300 British military personnel and supporting civilians, and accommodates up to nearly 550 for short periods. The facility will also provide a key strategic base east of Suez for Britain, its allies and coalition partners.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-royal-navy-operations-hub-opens-in-gulf

    • I was gutted I didn’t get an invite yesterday to the opening…I suppose I am not VIP material 😁
      It was supposed to open last year but you know what builders are like…”well I need this special bit and it will take ages to get here and that’s if I order it now, which I won’t…”
      Anyway its open now and the facilities are a lot better than the ones the FSU have been using in the US base next door so they are happy.

  6. Airlift Royal Marines to a friendly port and use STUFT until you get some Warships in theatre.
    Our allies in the area would help us just as we helped other nations in Lebannon. It wasn’t just Brits the RN was taking out of the country.

  7. Evacuating citizens from the other side of the World should not even make the list of priorities. If an amphibious capability is retained, it should not be for that reason.

    • I agree, and if an amphibious capability was retained with that being one of its supposed capabilities then having deployable resources a few days sailing time from anywhere on the globe where they might be needed would need a heck of a lot more than an Ocean replacement or a few new Mistral-like ships, it would need resources on the scale of the USA hence such a short-notice emergency global evacuation capability is not any sort of realistic objective to set for our armed forces.

      • makes me wonder about the Falklands. Ok it won’t F2 won’t happen and Argentina are in no state for it but hypothetically.

        If tomorrow the attack happened and we missed it in advance again, how long would it realistically take to the a worthwhile force prepared and in the air. I would imagine to a make it worthwhile we would need pretty much every transport plane we have and the supporting refuelling tankers, which is not something that could happen instantly. On top of that it would probably take a day or more for the politicians to give the thumbs up. Could we reinforce mount pleasant before it is taken, considering it only has about 150 infantry troops.

        I am curious, would it be days, weeks or months.

        • Given that the task-force wouldn’t have air cover then it might be ‘not at all’.

          We just need to ask the Argies not be a pain in the ……. and invade before QE has enough F35Bs 🙂

          • I would assume that the typhoons/rapier there would be able to keep a degree of air supremacy for a period. How long kinda depends on how many missiles there are available locally.

            Apache would provide a significant boost to the ground forces, but would be pretty useless against any fighters and at best the QE would take a month to get there, probably longer, by which time i would assume that defenders would have been beaten and this time proper defences dug in within the islands.

        • Seriously, all we need is Apaches for QE as the Argentinian Air Force and Navy haven’t got anything flyable that could threaten the task group. What bizarre scenario that would be using Apaches for CAP!

  8. If you are in a foreign country working on behalf of the government (e.g. embassy staff) I can see that it is their responsibility (by use of the armed forces if that is best) to get you out if it all kicks off. But if you are a private citizen who choses to live/work/holiday in a part of the world which suddenly (predictably or not) kicks off, I fail to see how the government bears any responsibility for getting you out of the shit that you got yourself into. A nice bonus if it happens, but not a right, surely?
    Or am I being harsh?

  9. ‘Sixty were flown by the the RAF’, whilst the other 21,940 were brought out by the Royal Navy. If that statistic doesn’t sum up the pointless money put that is the RAF, I don’t know what does. Remember, it’s the service that hasn’t shot a plane down in 72-years. Time to merge it with one of the two real Services; the Army or the Royal Navy.

    • Absolute rubbish.

      All our services should get full support, not political crap.

      Clearly biased for whatever reason.

      What expertise does the army or the RN have with flying Typhoons, GR4 Interdictors, ISTAR aircraft, and AT/AAR aircraft? None whatsoever.

      I exclude the SHF from this as many countries indeed have them as part of the army.
      We don’t.

  10. I’m not sure that evacuating citizens will be the biggest problem if we are looking at Korea 2, the whole pensula will turn into a charnel house before anyone could even speak the words evacuation.

    Any quick reaction force we could get to Seoul ( where most of our citizens will be) would be buried under an avalanche of quantity over quality within a matter of hours. Seoul is in a shocking position against an enemy with the will and means to waste endless live to take it.

    Korea 2 would also likely go WMD hot very quickly (everyone’s pretty sure the nutters running the place have ever WMD under the sun), I’d be suprised if we managed to evacuate that many before this occurred.

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