The plan to base a Type 23 Frigate in the Gulf will likely follow the same method used to station minehunters in the region, with the ship’s company flown out to take over the vessel on a rotational basis.

The current British presence in the region is based primarily around Operation Kipion, a long-standing presence to promote ‘enduring peace and stability in the region’, and ensure the safe flow of oil and trade. A permanent presence of 4 minesweepers forms the Mine Countermeasures element of this tasking with a Bay class vessel acting as mothership.

At the RUSI Sea Power conference Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“In the Gulf we have our new naval support facility in Bahrain at Juffair, and our commitment to the port of Duqm in Oman, all of this signals we’re investing heavily in the Middle East at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

And I can today announce that we will be extending that commitment by sending T23s to the Gulf from 2019 as an enduring presence.

Over in the Asia-Pacific, for the first time in recent memory, we will have three Royal Navy vessels in the region supporting our allies and we’re continuing to strengthen our bi-lateral relationships with Royal Navy helicopters deploying off the French Jean D’Arc, our submarine working with the US – HMS Trenchant in the High North and our Royal Marines recently training with the US Marine Corps in Guam.

We’re weaving a web of partnerships, demonstrating our global reach and world class capability.”

Britain is consolidating a new support facility in the Sultanate of Oman, a historic British ally and partner. Alongside HMS Juffair, the Duqm Port facility is set to enhance Britain’s military capabilities in the Middle East and wider Indian Ocean and the use of the new support base and a Type 23 frigate is a step change in British naval capability in the region.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Someone has very high spirations when the best we can do is send a mine hunter to escort foreign vessels through the Channel. Will it be a TAS?

    Could this be a way to undermine any suggestions of further cuts in the T26 order?

    • I don’t really care what vessel we use to escort foreign warships through the channel. In fact a rivers is perfect for the job, waste of a frigate or destroyers time and fuel. I would rather the RN spent its money and major surface warships time on areas that actually make a difference to our influence and security. The Russian navy would piss themselves laughing if we tied up a major warship just for when they decide to toddle up and down the channel.

  2. This is clear evidence of ‘Global Britain’, which should result in an increase in principle surface vessels. The Defence Minister has made references to a possible increase in the fleet, and ‘Global Britain’ will not be able to deliver; if the fleet remains at currently planned numbers.

  3. Have other major powers done this before and flown crew out to station?

    What are the issues?

    I know we do it with Clyde but not a major warship?

  4. A statement of intent and good news. I am guessing the ship selected will have Wildcat with Sea Martlet and Sea Venom and Sea Ceptor to look after itself and maintain sea control in the face of possible Iranian surface, air and missile threats.

  5. Nice to see but yet another commitment to place even more stress on equipment, logistics/supply chain and personnel without increasing resources. Typical politician type of thing to announce. And the Service Chiefs keep saying yes to everything and people keep haemorrhaging from the service…

    • Agree we need more of everything but surely by basing it out there it actually decreases stress on whichever vessel is selected and the wider frigate fleet i.e. less time spent in transit.

  6. In time, we should position Type 31s in the Gulf and Indian Ocean where the submarine threat is not as significant. That will release our Type 26 and 45 ships for carrier escort and ASW duties closer to the U.K.

  7. Have they found an additional 6 frigates down the back of a very large sofa that we know nothing about?
    Principle is sound but the current defence reality is something amiss at the moment.
    First build 10 type 31 frigates then forward deploy.
    Leaving the 8 type 26 as our carrier escorts and ASW units.

  8. Why not keep several of the youngest 23s and use them as the forward deployed vessels even as the 26s and 31s are brought online? I understand the manning challenges and cost but even the USN has decided to SLEP even the oldest ABs to keep fleet numbers up.

    Cheers!

    • The maning problems are extream, the RN literally cannot man another major warship hull at present. All this talk of extra hulls is just pretty but meaningless words. Even one extra hull as planned will be impossible without some major work on the training pipelines for the people that make ships go, getting the right people will be a lot of effort and about 500 more bodies.

  9. All sounds very impressive, and of course, the RN is doing a superb job with the numbers they have.

    But one can argue that the current fleet is stretched far too thin, particularly with regard to escorts. Should we look at increasing T26 numbers? Probably. SHould we look at increasing T31 numbers? Most definitely. 8 of each would replace the T23 like for like (remember the 3 sold to Chile?), and help take the stress off of the current fleet. Increasing that number further would obviously be even better, particularly if we can push for that magical 30+.

    Of course, manpower is also a key issue – particularly with recruitment, and retention.

  10. Right then its finally been anounced.
    The RN has been forward basing 4 x MCMV in Bahrain for many years. Every six months they do a rip out and crew swap. Pre and post swap the vessel undergoes a number of audits on equipment , performance and capabilities. When the new crew takes over they carry on just as the old crew did.
    Day to day maintenance is done by the crew. More in depth maintenance is done by the Fleet Support Unit who also do a 6 month stint in country. Any indepth or specialist maintenance is done by contractors and if a docking or big maintenance item is required the large ship repair dockyard across the water from Juffair undertakes the work.

    Following the success of this model the RN started looking at doing it for a T23 . They have looked at the facilities in Bahrain for undertaking maintenance work that would be classed as Dockyard work(as opposed to FSU work that would take place in Juffair) and what experience in dealing with military vessels existed in Bahrain. They where content with what they saw . The work would be similar to the current Deployed Maintenance period that ships do now as part of their 9 month deployments. Again if drydocking is required or maintenance and repairs that require dockyard facilities they are 10 mins by car from Juffair. Alternativley if the vessel is in the Indian Ocean area at the time, Duqum is available.
    Crews members will fly in and rotate out as required. Wether this is a 100% crew swap , trickle drafting or a “fast running tap” drafting remains to be seen.
    The T23 coming out here will in all likely hood by a GP T23 that has had additional mods done to its systems for working in the hot and humid Mid East. The savings in FOST work up, transit, fuel, and fleet planning will be huge. Any visitors to the vessel whilst in the Gulf will be on the scheduled trooping flight that comes out here anyway. Accom will be in Juffair so no hotels etc to pay for. The crew will remain onboard so that they dont lose their allowances. The cost of using local companies to supply services and maintenance is less than the UK…another saving. Spares delivery will be a little longer but no overly so. If DHL/FEDEX can deliver anything in 24 hrs then so can Naval Stores if items are in stock and do not get bumped off the trooping flight!
    A T23 based in Bahrain will mean the RN has the most powerful warship based in the area by a long way. The USN vessels are currently PC and MCMV units with LCS due to come out in future years. Even then a T23 will be heads and shoulders above anything else based permanently in the Gulf.
    Its a clear statement by the MOD of their commitment to Bahrain and the Gulf region. Interesting times ahead.

  11. Bahrain is the HQs of the US’s Fifth Fleet. The ships assigned to it vary but to say that a T23 based in Bahrain would be the most powerful warship in the area is just plain ridiculous.
    Further, only Brits would think that the basing of a T23 in Bahrain matters one iota in the balance of naval power in the area or that it actually has any real purpose other than for an undersized, undermanned Royal Navy to pretend that it is still a global force.

    • No thats not what I said.
      “A T23 based in Bahrain will mean the RN has the most powerful warship based in the area by a long way”
      No USN vessels such as Arleigh Burkes are based in Bahrain, Dubai, Doha or anywhere else in the Gulf. They may be part of the 5th fleet but they are not based in the 5th fleet area of operations. The only vessels permanently assigned to 5th fleet are Cyclone Class, Avenger class, Mk 6 PBs.
      The BDF have a OHP which is their flagship and is a capable vessel, but a T23 will remain the most powerful warship based in the Gulf. Thats BASED….Not DEPLOYED.You need to understand the difference

      • (Chris H) Gunbuster – You have to realise that there are two sorts of Yanks – People like ‘Helions’ who can enter into discussions, add helpful information, be constructive and enjoy a bit of banter. But then very sadly there are idiots like PKCasimir and Elliott who are just gobby Yanks who for some odd Redkneck reason see any statement by us Brits as some sort of insult and a challenge to their patriotism. Which they then weaponize with added Hollywood history. Their attention span is incredibly short and they have this remarkable ability to be able to write but not actually read ….

        Its a shame really the USA deserves better.

  12. We have circa 80 combat vessels with an average crew size of 100 and I would go with 4 crews for each vessel. 1 on station, 1 working up, 1 R&R and 1 on shore duties.

    This would give us a requirement for 36000 sailors (inc command) which I think we could all agree would probably be where the service needs to be. This is a 50% increase in current levels but as gunbusters will probably point out the service is losing skills as it just isn’t offering the right blend of career and work life balance that is needed these days.

    I think we now have to rebalance our force and invest in our combat Air Force and navy.

    • You can do that with 3 crews or less. You also don’t need to cover every vessel in the fleet. Ships in refit only have a few people onboard mostly engineers. Operators get skill fade sat in a dry dock not doing OPS Room stuff.
      Ships based in “Home Fleet” for lack of a better description don’t need 100% manning. If you where assigned to do GP duties you could bring in the relevant skill sets if required. If you are not doing ASW why have TAS Apes onboard? No helo assigned to you then you don’t need a flight maintenance crew.

      • (Chris H) As usual an informed comment Gunbuster. There is nothing wrong with having ships with as few crew as needed (by crew I include rotations). New and future ships like QE, 26 and 31 all have or will have proportionately fewer crew than their predecessors. I know its an extreme comparison but QE will put to see with some 1600 crew + air wing. The new Ford Class needs 4,500 and they think that is being efficient compared to a Nimitz. (No criticism inferred of either ships just talking crew numbers here).

        When an economy is delivering high employment and its industry is crying out for skilled engineers and the like two of the main reasons why people ‘joined up’ are reduced. Yes some are fulfilling a life’s dream or ambition regardless but for many its a hard nosed decision assessing benefits vs trade offs For example one of the main reasons why the US military has good recruitment is their medical care package in a world of expensive health care insurance policies. If they had an ‘NHS’ their recruitment would be affected. In some ways poor recruitment reflects an economy in good shape so the UK military has to be creative in equipment design and use but it must also find ways to energise young people even while they are at school.

      • Understood Gunbusters, but it does allow for us to plan to have enough of everything we need and keep everyone happy, and obviously its a rough average (carrier 800, Patrol ship 20).

        I dont want people like you leaving, because you dont get the right work life balance and pay/benefits. Right sizing the force is key to this.

        I think 32k sailors (not inc Marines) is where we need to be in reality.

        • The issue with 32 k is where do you employ the people who are shore side.
          The Maintenance Groups in the dockyards are a shadow of their former selves. They are now “Partnered” with the civilian BAe/Babcock staff.
          On the catering side the use of Pay as you Dine, run by civilian companies means that there are less jobs for chefs.
          Ops room and CIS departments also have few shore side job opportunities. Standing on a main gate checking ID does not a happy Jack and Jenny make. Anyway most of that work is done by MOD Plod.

          Lots of the traditional jobs taken up by Jack and Jenny have gone, taken up by civilian staff who cost a lot less to employ. There are no easy solutions. Fix the manpower at sea issues by putting everyone at sea will just mean that the sea/shore 660/3 problem will raise its head and screw everything up.

          • Gunbusters,
            I think change has to come and the service needs to have shore position rotations that allow for this. It’s part of an overall retention package that keeps knowledge within the force but also keeps it fresh and relevant, making sure it is an employer of choice.

            You raise good points on engineers, but isn’t there also a shortage of cooks in the RN isn’t there?

            I take your point on the outsourcing of roles, but this is short sighted in my opinion, as it takes away the ability to have working rest periods and to have a working force.

            Lastly, I do think that as a sailor you need to undertake at least on one sea based rotation every 3 years, but that is a personal opinion.

          • Sea time varies between branches and rates. Junior rates do more sea time than senior NCOs and WOs.
            Normally a sea job on a ship is a 3 year draft. In that time onboard the ships management team need to ensure that the time away from base port and time in base port comes in at 660 days away or less per 1100 days on the ship in a rolling 3 year period.
            So to achieve this you have standard leave periods and additional time where you may be off the ship doing courses or in the squad system ashore.
            For the JRs it works well but not so much for the NCOs who can have problems with achieving the 660/3 due to the specialist nature of their jobs and the fact that no man is indispensable until the captain decides your indispensable!
            Exceeding the 660/3 limits is a big thing and needs approval from Fleet to do it so it is taken seriously by the powers that be.
            Once you finish your time on a ship you should get a min time ashore in your home port area doing a shore job. Usually MTA is 12-18 months. However in that time you may have to undertake additional training and courses for your next job. Chances are that if you are on a Plymouth ship the course is in Pompie and your 18 months in your base port is a lot less than you thought. I once had a 12 month stint ashore that had me doing courses for 9 months all of which where in Pompie so I was only home at weekends. Life in a blue suit!
            Then its back to a ship again and off to sea. Probably doing at least one 6-9 month deployment and a couple of 3-4 month’ers plus all the other time away doing a 2 weeks here , 4 weeks there.
            The issues with outsourcing are well known and brought up by all branches when it started back in the 80s and 90s. They needed to save money and that was the way they went.
            Back to engineers there is a lack of journeyman time now ashore for engineers to get experience working on equipment in the dockyard environment. That is being addressed and rightly so. You need to do the deep level 3/4 diagnostics and repairs on equipment to fully understand it and to build your own experience as you move up the ranks.

    • The RN had about 36,000 personnel, including marines, in 2010 before the Strategic Defense Review(AKA cuts) of Cameron and Osborne. People were hoping the RN would actually be strengthened a bit…..

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