When we leave the EU we will need to convince the world that the United Kingdom is a serious player on the world stage to ward off any change in perception. We need to hit the ground running.

This article was contributed to the UK Defence Journal by Geoffrey James Roach.

Our allies and potential trading partners will want to see that the UK is serious about it’s desire to play a leading role, both politically and economically, in all regions of the world. We will  need to retain and build on the goodwill that already exists in many regions and maintain and  sustain our capabilities in the future.

This article is about the UK’s ability to carry out Amphibious Operations in the 21st  Century and how suggested and so far theoretical defence cuts impact our capabilities, is there a better way forward?


The defence cuts take place. In addition to HMS Ocean, already gone, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark are sold off. Effectively this removes all maintenance work normally undertaken by Devonport Dockyard and redundancies follow, adding to the problems faced by a city with some of the poorest wards in England.  There are now no amphibious warships available so why keep the Bay class support ships so they are sold. This hits other ports such as Falmouth and redundancies follow. RFA crews? Next, with no landing ships what is the point of landing craft? Disposal which leads to the closure of RM Tamar with a knock on effect on local towns like Saltash and Torpoint. More job losses ensue.

Whilst these cuts are taking place 1000 Royal Marines are made redundant. This leads to another 1000 families  applying for unemployment pay and tax credits adding to an already high welfare budget.

Remaining marines feel let down and demoralised and their families are anxious so they look for alternative careers and start to leave. Recruitment slumps. Why would anyone apply? The Special Boat Squadron is put at risk as traditionally the unit recruits from the RM Commando’s.

Our allies and trading partners already concerned, look on in disbelief. Is this the same United Kingdom that is calling on the free nations of the world to support it when it leaves the EU and yet inflicts so much damage on itself? The nations entire capability to carry out Amphibious Operations has been scrapped and for what? Can it defend itself, never mind it’s allies? Can it be trusted? It has run down one of the finest fighting forces in the world. The Royal Marines, like the Dinosaur, now face extinction.


The commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth into the fleet, soon to be followed by the Prince of Wales, transforms the United Kingdom’s capability to project power around the world. The Queen Elizabeth carrier battle group is a formidable sight. No other nation, other than the United States, is able to provide such a force

The battle group embarks upon it’s first world cruise ‘showing the flag’. The centre piece is of course, HMS Queen Elizabeth. With her squadrons of Lightning stealth fighter jets she is capable of achieving local air superiority anywhere in the world. With her escorts of destroyers and frigates she can engage multiple targets simultaneously, protecting an area in excess 500 Square miles over both land and sea. The carrier with supporting amphibious assault ships, HMS Albion, (£60 million refit in 2014), and RFA Lyme Bay is able carry out offensive land attacks deploying a full Commando force of over 800 troops and their armoured vehicles supported by fighters and attack helicopters. A nuclear powered attack submarine is thought to be present.

During the cruise the Battle Group will carry out a number of joint exercises. Of particular note, under the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangement, the Royal Navy amphibious force will be joined by similar vessels from the Royal Australian Navy. With New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia providing additional escorts the aim is to build up a capability enabling the projecting of ground and air power onto a hostile shore at brigade level. Further exercises in the area will include Japan and South Korea before the battle group passes into the Atlantic where it will be joined by units of the Brazilian Navy. During it’s cruise north the group will visit Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia in the United States and Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. In the West Indies Albion and Lyme Bay will detach to take part in a major disaster relief exercise, an important peacetime role for both ships.


In conclusion, I believe, of course, that only Option 2 is relevant. If the United Kingdom is serious about becoming a serious ally and trading partner it needs to show it’s determination to play a significant role in the world. All the country’s mentioned in this paper, along with many more, are looking to sign Free Trade Agreements. We must show that we are powerful, solid, dependable, a force for the future. We must be Dynamite.


  1. I totally agree, Option 2 must be the only course of action on the table.

    Further, the Future Ships Project Team at DE&S must start laying out the requirement for a dedicated replacement for HMS Ocean (LPH/D). Even though the Carriers will be awesome force multipliers, they can only carry out helicopter support as part of amphibious operations. The carriers will have to operate closer to shore to minimise the sortie duration of the helicopters, placing them at a greater risk of harm.

    The ships will still have to maintain a sustained air defence CAP as well as providing fast air ground support. I believe one Sqn of F35Bs will not be enough to cover both requirements. Whilst carrying out heli-ops and fast air this will make the deck very busy, especially if there is a credible opposition.

    So what are the MODs plan post PoW, will they be looking at a future Ocean replacement?

    • That is why a single squadron is only for peace time deployments to provide self protection. 2-3 Squadrons would be on board in a combat situation.

      Also the RN do not envision a single carrier operating in the strike and amphibious role at the same time. If it came down to it, HMS QE would be rolling with 3 squadrons for CAP and strike and HMS PW would be rolling with 1 squadrons for amphibious support, while fulfilling the helicopter assault role.

      • cancel astutes and build, under licence the german t214 conventional submarine which is half the price of an astute. sell prince of wales to the french, with the lease and an option to buy a mistral, bin the f 35 replace it with a jet powered sopwith camel.finally carry out a full investigation into the merger of all our armed forces, the canadian defence force is 40 years old this year. slash the foreign aid by half. (have you seen where it goes to?)£200 million per year to india, the most booming economy in the region and the same to pakistan so that they can train more terrorists to attack us with£300 million to the sudan and sierra leone? whats that all about? and, what do we get from the U.N? how much does it cost to be in that bloated corrupt ineffective organisation? do we need two special forces?do we have a real reason for the FAA not to merge with the R.A.F? if the powers that be, had the courage to upgun,upgrade the batch1 and 2 rivers to light frigate,corvette standards we’d quickly gain up to 9 of these ships, quickly too because they’re already built.end the B.A.E monopoly and get value for money.not overpriced, late to deliver, soon obselete junk.buy up suitable hulls from private countries world wide, paint them grey, bang a few guns on them.there, i’ve grown the fleet by around 10 vessels,saved£loads on two services we could do without with, bankrupted BAE. last thing i’d offer is to,take back the two type 22’s we sold to brazil as part of the ocean deal.

        • Nice rant. Never going to happen. Buying German is the last thing we want, have you saw their submarine fleet, sitting in dock.

        • Some of this made me laugh, some I actually agree with ( only a bit though ) and other parts are plain bonkers! But I guess in the rant you were joking on much of it.

          Wish people would stop knocking the Carriers and Astutes. They are our two Ace cards few others possess.

          POW will not and should not be sold.

          Espirit de corps priceless in HM forces, never merge them.

          Yes the FAA should be separate from the RAF, not merged. And for that matter the RN should be operating its own F35B but that is another story.

          RN operates assets to a far higher spec and quality than most other navies, so you cannot be serious buying back the ancient T22’s which must be in bits by now and would cost a fortune to bring up to standard.

          Two special forces? We need all the SF we can get, and SAS & SBS, which I assume you are referring to carry out joint selection before the SBS do even more specialised training for their specific environment, although they can and do operate on land. We have more than two Special forces by the way, but those are the most famous, and quite right too.

          I liked the Sopwith Camel bit by the way.

        • “Cancel astutes and build, under licence the german t214 conventional submarine which is half the price of an astute.”

          We have 3 out of a planned 7 Astute Subs in the water, the next is undergoing testing with a on service date of this year and another 2 are been built. So from a financial POV that will never happen.

          The beauty of the Astutes are they are really long range assets which can travel around the world without having to surface. They also carry the tomahawk CM . The 214 whilst a good design are unable to mirror the above capability.

    • is it near the time when we look properly into the feasibility of a u.k defence force(u.k.df)or u.k armed service(UKAS)?

          • I believe we need a unified defence force, where all the parts work together. Seems to me that the military is less about front line force these days and more about everything else.

            We are failing unless we can put a Brigade (lets say 7500 people max) into field within 24 hrs. There are just too many gaps between too many different forces and commands when actually the whole military should revolve around its front line force (which considering our budget – is ridiculously small).

      • I worked with Canadians during a stint with a NATO headquarters. They stated categorically that a joint unified armed forces with the same uniform was the worst decision ever made. No esprit de corp and a massive hit to morale. Little if any buget savings…all the money went on the reorganization. The best decision ever made for the Canadian armed forces was I am told the reversal of it.

    • Lastly we have the third tier of threats, the least serious. The first is “a large-scale conventional military attack on Britain” by an unspecified other state. The second, somewhat desperately, is terrorism again, the third is crime again. The authors clearly ran out of threats, but had to fill their threat quota. We are also threatened by immigrants and smugglers “trying to cross the UK border”. We are “threatened” by an accident at a nuclear site; by a conventional attack on a Nato ally, and by an attack on a British colony. Finally, we face a curious bundle of threats: fuel shortages, price instability, and “a short- to medium-term disruption to international supplies or resources”.

      A Eurofighter Typhoon
      A Eurofighter Typhoon: was not up for discussion in the 1997 strategic defence review. Photograph: Ray Troll
      You may note that almost none of the above is a threat. They are crimes and catastrophes or, in the case of being “drawn in” to a foreign conflict, a matter of political choice. Many things on the list may make me feel a bit uncomfortable, but few are remotely to do with the security of the state. They are incoherent and repetitive and rather desperate, like a madman with a sandwich board crying, “They are coming to get you; the end is nigh!”

      Yet this list was the basis for last month’s strategic defence review with its £45bn price tag. A set of threats that are almost entirely non-military is to be met by submarines carrying nuclear missiles, two new aircraft carriers and dozens of jet fighters.

      Let’s start with the threat of a nuclear missile landing on Britain. I have seen no analysis of how this might emerge from the existing international order, and certainly no explanation of how nuclear deterrence might apply in any specific case. In the barely conceivable eventuality of Iran or some such hostile state building a bomb, buying a missile capable of reaching Britain and then firing it, the act would be so lunatic as to be beyond any plausible deterrence. You cannot deter a suicidal nation any more than you can a suicidal bomber. Small wonder defence chiefs wanted their nuclear missile reclassified as “political”.

      As for using this precious weapon to deter a conventional attack, that is surely no less fanciful. Britain’s possession of nuclear missiles has had no deterrent value in any of the dozen wars it has fought in half a century. Did we threaten Argentina with it? No. Yet time and again military strategists refer to it as a useful “reserve capability”. When a soldier resorts to abstract nouns you know he has lost the argument.

      As for the threat of a conventional attack on the British Isles by another state, we can only ask, who? The threat is so negligible as to be insignificant. It is like insuring one’s house for billions of pounds against an asteroid attack. Is the attack to come from Russia, or France, or Germany, or Ireland? Defence pundits to whom I put this crucial question look down their noses, as if it were impertinent or undergraduate. They murmur that one can never know. Yet the political preconditions for a conventional attack on Britain are so distant – the review relegates it to tier three – that Britain would have some notice and time to re-arm, as we did with remarkable speed when last so confronted in 1940.

      By jumbling together accidents, diseases, natural disasters and crimes as “threats”, the government undermines its own plausibility. The defence lobby is trying to hijack the jobs of the police, civil rescue and medical professions. In the case of “price instability”, it even wants to hijack the Financial Services Authority. These are not “threats to national security” against which we expect the defence ministry to plan or assemble conventional forces.

      The same applies to the threat which the MoD has struggled for decades to make its own, that of international terrorism. The threat review is so keen that it lists it no fewer than three times. It implies a requirement to deploy conventional forces against terrorists, who might be acting as “proxy” for a state. But there is a difference between a state that wants to overpower, conquer and rule us – a ludicrous threat of no serious concern – and one that merely wants to make a nuisance in the hope of achieving some lesser goal, such as getting Britain out of Northern Ireland or making Israel into a pariah.

      The latter certainly has applied, but if we were to deploy conventional forces against such a state we might, over the last quarter century, have declared war on Libya, Syria, Iran, the Irish Republic and even the state of Massachusetts. We did not. We treated an act of terror rightly as a methodology, a criminal means, not a political end. As Joseph Conrad said in The Secret Agent, the terrorist was a pest walking the street alone. His is a local and specific form of violence, causing mayhem in the hope of spreading panic and changing a state’s behaviour in response to it. Terrorism has no political content unless awarded one by the victim nation.

      A computer image of one of the navy’s new aircraft carriers
      A computer-generated image of one of the navy’s two new aircraft carriers, saved despite cuts. Photograph: MoD/PA
      With the IRA and the PLO in the 1970s, the authorities played down the political significance of any outrage. Prisoners were treated as criminals and denied political status. The most limited coverage was given to their demands. Now we do the opposite. We play up the politics. I remember the admirable response to 9/11 by New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. He told New Yorkers on the day of the attack to go about their business as usual, use the park, go to a show, buy a pizza, keep working and, above all, keep spending. The trouble was, 9/11 was so awful an incident as to apparently transform a terrorist outrage into an apparent state of war, and thus admit it within the ambit of conventional defence. Nobody took any notice of what Giuliani said. They did what al-Qaida wanted, which was indulge in mass hysteria. Blair said the rules of the international game had changed – an astonishing accolade to Osama bin Laden. This cannot be unconnected with the fact that a politician’s poll rating soars in the aftermath of a terrorist incident. Nothing helped George Bush more than 9/11.

      Politicians rush to the cameras, dive into bunkers and warn of threats to civilisation as we know it. Conventional military forces are put on alert. Blair once rushed tanks to Heathrow in a madcap gesture of self-importance. We invaded Afghanistan for harbouring terrorists. We invaded Iraq on the thesis that it might do so. Do we now invade Pakistan and Yemen on the same basis?

      Far from being deterred, terrorists and their sponsors clearly derive prestige and political clout when conventional forces are ranged against them. We thereby put them on the pedestal of state threat. By infringing our liberties and curbing our freedoms in their honour we let them win battles. By being publicly scared, as of this week’s parcel bombs, we invite them to scare us some more.

      Such an approach to defence is not just wasteful but counter-productive. Politicians from Blair to Cameron declare the aim of war in Iraq and Afghanistan is to make the streets of Britain safer. There is not an iota of evidence for this extraordinary claim. Most analysts, including former security chiefs in the House of Lords, say the precise opposite. These wars have made us less safe, by making Britain a prime target for terrorists and breeding homegrown terrorists in schools, colleges and mosques. Watching Gordon Brown in Helmand mouthing nonsense about boys dying for safer streets was painful. He clearly did not believe it.

      So what of the other most common cause of Britain going to war, the threat of being “drawn into” someone else’s squabble? First, this is not a threat but a political choice. These wars are nowadays called wars of choice. They are always beguiling. What you have, you are induced to deploy, often for the vaguest of purposes, such as “making the world a better place”. The navy cites the need to stop pirates in the Indian Ocean and drug-runners in the Caribbean. Blair contributed British forces to six separate conflicts in his time in office, in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and two each in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. None was in response to a threat to the security of the British state. They were adjuncts to his foreign policy goal of “hugging close” to Washington.

      Armies with nothing to do tend to distort the purpose for which they were formed. They become institutionalised. They coalesce into a wide constituency of veterans, territorial and political supporters, above all, equipment suppliers. As with terrorism, so with the government’s other listed threats, we should ponder those who leap forward to publicise them. Whenever the BBC calls in a “security expert” to comment on the awfulness of some new threat, we should be told for whom he works. Remember Deep Throat’s maxim, follow the money?

      Being “drawn in” is the phraseology of the security review. But note the intransitive. Drawn in by whom? In whose interests, or on whose behalf, are we spending billions of pounds killing thousands of people in the Muslim world just now? Shouldn’t we also have been “drawn in” to Rwanda, Darfur, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Burma? In each case, man’s inhumanity to man has been more gross than in Iraq and Afghanistan. We did nothing.

      British troops at Basra in Iraq, 2006
      British troops disembarking from a helicopter at Basra in southern Iraq in 2007. Photograph: Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty Images
      From the earliest enunciation of liberal interventionism, it has been wanting in rigour. In 1999, Blair spoke in Chicago in favour of humanitarian “just” wars, as if they carried with them their own validation. All they carried was a clutter of moral superiority. I do not regard Germans or Japanese or Indians or Brazilians as lacking in moral fibre for not fighting alongside us in Blair’s wars. I find nothing peculiarly moral, first in helping the break up of former Yugoslavia, then the break up of Serbia and now the devastation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

      We are left with what I call the ontological argument for defences spending. It exists and therefore it is. It is the ultimate security, to which no concept of proportion can apply. We protect ourselves out of instinct. Like spending on health, you just cannot get enough of it.

      It is a response not to known threats (such as Russia), nor even to known unknowns (such as a resurgent Russia), but to those famous unknown unknowns. The great ontologist, Donald Rumsfeld, remains the patron saint of defence expenditure.

      The argument can take amazing forms. Come now, say the high priests. Just suppose another Hitler rose again, built a new Luftwaffe and U-boats, and bombed London and sank all our coastal trade. We would need a carrier. Suppose Russia falls under the sway of an oligarch with a grudge against Harrods and a business rival in Kensington Palace Gardens. Suppose he decides to nuke them. Supposed 100 suicide bombers block-booked themselves on Eurostar and went to every Premier League match. You would look pretty silly, Jenkins, wouldn’t you?

      I would look pretty silly, and probably I wouldn’t be the only one. But for the time being, I regard such unrealities used to justify massive spending as no less silly. We can only meet realistic threats. We do not build 1,000 NHS hospitals and leave them to await the return of bubonic plague.

      Britain as a sovereign state is less “under threat” today than ever in my life, indeed less than ever in its existence. That is to the credit of recent generations of British governments. But this means we do not need a defence that has been successfully rendered obsolete.

      The chief threat to me today, if at all, is from crime. Yet we are appalling at combating it. Obsessed with punishment, we neglect crime prevention. To guard me from unreal foreign attack the government spends £45bn, but to guard my home and hearth from crime it spends just £6.4bn, and badly. I am defended against crime, including terrorist attack, not by an army, navy or air force, but by vigilant acquaintances of the criminals, by an alert school and mosque, by the police and by the apparatus of intelligence, espionage and diplomacy.

      The truth of the matter is that our defence spending is misdirected and extravagantly out of date. We are re-equipping for Agincourt on the brink of Waterloo. We are laying down long boats for the battle of the Atlantic. We are deploying cold-war weapons against occasional outrages by fanatics with no capacity to cause the state harm.

      I sometimes wonder why I see things this way, when so few others do. I am a pragmatist, not a pacifist. But I respect language, and am suspicious of the vapid cliches about national interest, punching our weight, sitting at top tables and being respected. I hate to see terrorism, a miserable perversion, accorded the accolade of grand enemy of the state. I hate to see statesmen whose job is to keep threats out of sight and mind exploiting the politics of fear.

      The fault lies partly in the sloppy language used to discuss defence, which loses all ability to convey risk and proportion and slides into sloppy nouns and sloppy thinking. At that point, leaders lose touch with democracy, a serious threat to the security of any state. The only defence against that danger lies not in armies, bombs and guns, but solely in the deployment of meticulous reason.

  2. Option 1
    That would be a disaster for the present government as almost all RMs are based in that part of the world and of course that part of the world is traditional non labour voting areas apart from the big cities (i know there are RMs in other parts as well but the main area is the SW)
    Option 2
    Sounds brilliant if and only if it would happen then i would be happy but in all honesty i think it will only be a pipe dream

  3. Ha!

    I was coming to the end of that article thinking “whoever wrote this is BANG ON” and look who it is.

    Well done mate.

  4. Option 3 – sell the redundant carriers (to Brazil or the USMC) and reinvest the money (and manpower) into a balanced force, which includes the RM and amphibious vessels.

    Buy the land-based and far superior variant of the F-35.

    Accept the embarrassment of selling both carriers but acknowledge it is the right decision, if only because the UK doesn’t need them and because modern warfare makes them far too vulnerable.

      • it was in 1982 and as a participant of that i can tell you the availability of a proper carrier back then may have picked off the sheffield attacker before it reached firing distance. same too a few more aircraft in the area may have saved coventry. the task force back then was dependent and if hermes or invincible had been lost or incapacipated, the whole result of the conflict may have been different. i’d sooner have kept ocean,operated her, until she fell apart, sold prince of wales to the french in exchange for a mistral.

        • Andy, we would be doing a massive dis-service to our Nation if we traded PoW for a Mistral. Perhaps if they gave us three this would be about right exchange.

    • You should read the article. Carriers are by far the most power surface vessels in the world and a task force built around them is capable of reaching out far away from home and dominating a large stretch of the ocean. They offer nearly unrivaled military hardpower and softpower.

      You comment shows you have a complete lack of understanding of how warfare works. Carriers are not redundant, they are very relevant and still the most powerful vessels on the ocean. Warfare is never without risk, saying we dont want carriers because they are vulnerable is incredibly stupid, not to add they are one of the hardest naval assets to sink considering their surface and subsurface escorts and attached air wings.

      • I believe we should have carriers, but more because they are vessels for diplomacy, not war fighting. Ben, tell a submariner that carriers are hard to sink and they will laugh at you. They aren’t. Read up on the story of HSwMS Gotland “sinking” the USS Ronald Reagan and part of its strike group without even being detected if you want evidence of this, or listen to what “Jive Turkey”, an ex US Navy sonar operator, has to say on YouTube. Ballistic missile submarines are the most powerful naval vessels, because they can do both diplomacy and leave a country in ruins if they want to. Carriers are incredibly useful in peace time and in war time depending on the enemy (that is why I still value them) but they are by no means the most powerful vessels in reality. By the shear nature of the nuclear deterrent carrying submarines, we sometimes overlook them because they are secretive and only used in their fighting role as a last resort I.e. you won’t see them flying the flag on good will operations. Carriers are big bold statements, but with less punch than some people believe.

        • I said most powerful “surface vessels”.

          Submarines are always going to be a threat, it does not take away from the fact that a carrier, surrounded by a task force is a powerful force, and one of the hardest vessels to sink.

          Any vessel in vulnerable to a submarine. From your statement, I guess we should not build any naval vessels because they will be immediately sunk by a submarine.

          • we wanted carriers for years, now we’ve got them people are bitching on about not bothering withemEND OF; we’ve got them, learn how to use them, and keep them going no point building a carrier if its not going to be used as one.

        • they get to where they can be of use sooner than a ferry with a few assault boats on them. amphibious assets are slow, ponderous ships albion and bulwark, klike the carriers should be fully armed warships in their own right.an albion with torpedo vls would be a formidable asset.

          • Apologies about the misreading on my part. A carrier strike group is powerful, but I’d say that they are powerful more because attacking one would mean war almost certainly, rather than because they will be able to defend themselves easily and hit back. So, we should still build vessels, but I disagree with the idea that a CSG is quite so formidable.

    • Oh dear, your comment does show your total lack of knowledge in military matters at both the tactical and strategic level, and your rather limited understanding of UK defence requirements. Never mind, everyone has an opinion no matter now I’ll informed that may be.

        • mr. leigh dawes bollocks pal. i’ve been there and done it. have you? or like everyone else on here, got the information from the press or you tube.

    • agreed, take note M.O.D pass to your local m.p and ask him to forward it to the cabinet. i’ve done this before and actually got replies. your local m.p isn’t just for show he’s there to represent. so put him to work.

    • Very wrong in my opinion. A navy is not for show with lots of pretty escorts sailing about.
      A navy projects power, both hard and soft if need be, i.e humanitarian, thus carriers and amphibs can be used for that.

      RAF helicopter assets and in future UAV could also be used from the carriers.

      If you want to close a sea you need carriers and carrier air and you need SSN. We will have both.

      If you want to power project from the littoral onto land you need carriers, aviation and amphibious forces.

      Both these roles need concentrated support from a well resourced RFA.

      Numbers need addressing and can be if we can get a balance between quality ( T26 T45 ) and quantity ( T31 and RB2 ) and stop wasting billion pound vessels chasing pirates and use them in concentrated groups supporting the carrier group and the amphibious group.

      • the R.N needs a clear idea of what it wants and how to do it. india for example are showing ambition, and are delivering it. the u.k should be able to match india in any way

    • apologise to brazil and tell them we’re keeping ocean, with the intention of operating her until she actually falls apart.

    • i was interested to see while googling jump jets, that a vtol version of a raptor has been tested. with all the politics around the f 35. its the dismally low production rate that needs to be addressed locheed has already confirmed it failed to hit its own production figures for the last 12 months.

  5. It would definitely be a potent reminder that, despite recent struggles, the UK is still a major player. It would essentially be the modern version of the Special Service Squadron’s world cruise in the 1920’s (which also happened to contain the RN’s current most powerful vessel, HMS Hood).

    The only downside is that it would require most of our Lightnings and escorts to be off cruising the world on a publicity tour. We’d be leaving both the UK and our standing deployments abroad dangerously short of warships. Unless the manpower crisis gets sorted magically in the next year or so, and we can get more than 2 Darings operational, it’s not realistically going to happen

    • A peacetime carrier deployment would most likely only include a Type 23, a Type 45, an Astute and a Tide. We would have less available assets, but it would not cripple us.

      • As it currently stands, the RN usually have about 6 escorts at sea at any given time, 2 destroyers and 4 frigates, give or take. Of those, one is for Op Kipion, one is for SNMG2, and one frigate is permanently on hand as the Towed Array Ship for the nuclear deterrent. Assuming we cheat and downgrade the FRE to an OPV, that leaves a single destroyer and maximum 2 frigates. For a credible CBG, we need at least all three of those warships need to be with Queen Elizabeth.

        That leaves no margin for unexpected emergencies, T45 engine breakdowns (unless the tour is after HMS Dauntless finishes her refit, in which case we should be fine on that count), and any other issues that may arise. Its sad to think that, a decade ago, the RN was still counting on an escort fleet in the high twenties, and was intent on retaining the ability to sustain at least 5 destroyers at sea at a time.

        • Yes, we have roughly 6 operational at any one time, but there are also on average at least several escorts around the UK conducting training or workups.

          Both the French and the US deploy carriers with 2-3 escorts in certain situations, the French the majority of the time. There is no need to pile escorts on to a carrier when conducting peace time deployments, you scale the escort to the threat level. We are also part of NATO, and can expect other nations to contribute ships to our carrier group in dangerous areas. For example, we have on many occasions provided escorts to French and US carriers in the Gulf.

    • the french are desperate for a replacement for the de gaulle carrier, offer them P.O.W and fund the retentions. not hide the cuts

      • It cannot fly Rafale without extensive modifications and the whole point of the UK having 2 is so 1 is available at all times with the possibility of deploying the second with notice.

        That the second might only have helicopters as we may not have enough F35B to furnish one at a time bothers me not a dot as even this capability is far in excess of most others.
        We are not the USN. RN is their closest ally and should be able to operate with them and be relied upon to do so with cutting edge equipment.

    • 13.1 billion foreign aid? enough said, looking at where it goes, it could be halved, but nobody in our fickle chicken coop of a government would be brave enough to do it

  6. As a former RM, I would of course go for Option 2. My main concern is strength in depth, (excuse the pun). Operational availability and attrition, (loss of hulls in any conflict) come to mind. It is all very well having computer images of possible future ships, but the reality is we just don’t have enough hulls in the water. This Government, (indeed any future government), needs to decide whether we are going to have a true blue water navy or not. If yes, then capital expenditure on a major ship/submarine building programme needs to be undertaken, with adequate on-going revenue to sustain the personnel and maintenance of. Until that happens we will be revisiting ‘Reviews’ every year.

  7. Further to my previous: Was it not Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, (the father of the post war Soviet Navy and author of ‘Sea power and the State’ ), who stated:
    “The next naval war will be fought by ships whose hulls are already in the water.”

    • That is how it works, modern ships take at least 5 years to build and that is only if their program is setup and running. A modern war would be over in a short period, so fighting with what we have would be how it is.

      • modern ships take so long to build because the prices for them keeps going up. the insistance on having the latest piece of junk B.A.E are putting forward. if adequate systems are out there and cheaper we should go for them, and save money that way.replace the astute with the t214 german conventional submarine which, is over half the price of an astute and is faster to build. if we are up for modular building then get every yard with facilities to build sections put them in direct competition with each yard to get best price, faster build, cheaper.

        • And watch our ship building industry vanish over night, with a few thousand redundancies and buy a German submarine that is only a fraction as capable as an Astute class. Yeah great plan.

        • The reason it takes so long to build ships in the UK is because we order them in small amounts, and no longer have the capacity to build them in bulk. Stop blaming BAE and do some research.

          German submarines are junk.

          • Conventional submarines and nuclear submarines have a completely different role. One is regionally mobile area denial platform, the other a strategic weapon system with global reach and impact.

            The early announcement of the 1982 total exclusion zone around the Falklands was made possible because we had hunter killers, that very credibly have gotten to the area in the time frame.

            They can travel a distance in days to destinations that are not really possible in conventional subs.

            Brown water/regional navy’s invest in conventional subs as they are very good at area denial, they have very little role in blue water global navies (USN,RN, Marine Nationale).

            I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but if we went down the coventional route we would be fundamentally changing the RN from a true blue water navy to a regional one.

          • only a fraction as capable? what have you been reading? a catalogue? i don’t see how you come to the idea of the shipbuilding industry vanish overnight? i seem to have heard that warships are being built in the uk. on the clyde and at barrow.

      • a modern war wouldn’t be over quickly. What would be over quickly is the high end part of it. Once the high end equipment has been removed from the battlefield, with both or one running out of it, it will come down to boots on the ground to win or lose the war, and that comes down to numbers.

        This is the constant flaw in our defence strategy. It doesn’t give enough importance to raw man power needed to win a real war situation.

        • during a recent south korea u.s navy exercise a conventional submarine pierced a whole carrier escort got near enough to have launched a torpedo attack. group without detection, and slipped away unseen nuclear hunter killers are not the be all, and end all.

  8. Option 3: to rise create more bullshit excuses and gradually wind down all elements of our armed forces under the guise of austerity whilst payment of exorbitant sums to the wealthy elite for the pleasure of doing so.
    Option 4: start design work on Mars sss with the view to design a large flexible platform that can replace all current RFA and amphibious platforms. Capable to be enabled for modest amphibious landing with scale achieved from number of hulls 8-12.
    Option 3 probably knowing our lot

    • Option 4 is surely the way to go if you can make it work. Karel Doorman style 30,000 ton replenishment ships with well dock and RAS kit. I’mmsure that’s why the defence review postponed to next year and the FSS project is taking its time. Not sure about the C3 role of the LPDs and how best to provide force protection for a vessel which spends most of its life wearing an RFA replenishment hat.

    • “whilst payment of exorbitant sums to the wealthy elite for the pleasure of doing so.”

      Literally what? God I wish I lived in the world that lefties think they live in

  9. And in other notes, Russia is about to field hypersonic weapons that will make all existing air deference void.

    Unless we develop a viable counter to this threat the age of the aircraft carrier could be coming to an end.

    • At the speeds talked about (mach 5), I would have thought a small cloud of half inch (maybe bigger) ball bearings in its flight path should do the trick.

    • There are many other countries working on hypersonic weapons include the US. The same things apply to lasers, railguns and nukes, we will have them long before we can defend against them.

    • I’d take the news about Russian and Chinese hypotonic Weapons with a pinch of salt. Funny enough whilst the media loves to big up Russian, Chinese and Iranian military equipment. They tend to knock back or remain silent on our own equipment. I mean it was not that long ago,where all the media Defence experts were knocking the British for not getting rid of the Challenger 2 and replacing them with the older, ( funny how they left that snippet out) Leopard 2, which as we have seen hasn’t done that well inside Syria. ( Granted Turkish tactics have been pants) in fact the Turks have had to purchase a Ukrainian APS in which to defend their tanks.
      Back to the missiles, the West have unstoppable missiles as well, it’s just they use stealth instead of speed, the Yanks with the JASSM, the Brits with the Storm Shadow, Germans and Swedes with Taurus.

        • A few years ago , I would have questioned that statement but even I a non white person can see that a vast majority of the British media does indeed promote a somewhat polarised negative POV about these Isles and I for one havent forgotten how the BBC informed Argentina their bombs weren’t fused properly in SAN Carlos water or how Goose Green was the next target for the Paras allowing them to reinforce the place.

    • Hypersonic missiles can be stopped, the main priority is early detection! Even a slow SeaCeptor can intercept a hypersonic missile its all a question of trigonometry and expected point of interception. This is the reason why a lot of missiles these days jink about as it approaches the target. Both the SeaCeptor and the SeaViper should be able to engage hypersonic missiles that appear over the radar horizon. The problem they will have is in the giving chase interception. The last layers of defence either CIWS or countermeasures should cope with leakers.

    • Hypersonics are causing a big headache from what I’ve read. Because they travel so god damn fast it’s on you by the time defences have spotted and reacted. CIWS are all but useless as their effect range is only a couple of Km’s leaving 2 seconds before the missile hits. It then has to fire and hit in the terminal phase where the missile will be snaking unpredictably. The best we can hope for is a last minute kill spraying the ship in hypersonic fragments. Still going to hurt.
      Long range radar and medium long range intercept missiles only real option to kill one. You would have to launch multiples to hope to hit it though, one calculation said 6. Therefore if you had a saturation attack of, say 12, that’s 72 missiles needed and no guarantee of all being shot down. I’ve tried to find the link explaining it but can’t find it.

      • Actually finding and hitting something is the thing, hypersonic missiles sound great, just like supercavitating torpedoes. A present from what I understand they are a great way to miss stuff really really fast.

      • Hyper-sonic vehicles are not going to snake. At mach 5+ any movement left , right , up or down will put massive g forces on the air frame and in all likely hood move the target out of the homing head look basket due to the high distance over ground speed. They are straight line bullet like weapons on the terminal phase.

  10. There is another key point about all of this – not just our amphibious capability.

    Some areas of our country are in a truly shocking state and need investment in jobs in order to give people hope for a better future.

    Post Brexit (in fact now before it hits) our Govt needs to start stimulating areas of strategic importance to provide those jobs and skills.

    We have an opportunity to stimulate the shipbuilding areas of the country (some of the most deprived areas), Steel communities and I think we can get back into the heavy engineering game (trains and military vehicles). Clearly this is not cheap, but nor is our every growing welfare bill that isn’t just about payments its about the stress on those impacted and their need for additional services (such as health, social services, police etc.).

    There is a choice for the government to support its armed forces – as it committed to do in writing within the last 12 months, whilst providing a much needed stimulus to communities that support the military. As this is of national importance we do not need to go to international tender and can be protectionist about it.

    My 25 year strategy would include the following items

    25 T31 (1 pa.)
    13 T26 (0.5 pa) – eventually replacing T45
    9 Joint Amphibious Solid Support Ships (0.5 pa)
    3 Tide class (bring class up to 7)
    16 Small vessels (Atlas, CB90, Tugs, Safeboats Mk6 or similar) every year

    Double the F35 order (15% to UK)
    Order Taranis/Magma (build 100% in UK)
    Double our helicopter force

    Create a nationalised complex weapons facility in UK to produce all our weapons in country.
    Create a military vehicle factory in UK to produce circa 400-1000 vehicles p.a.

    Some of these are more “doable” than other things – but actually we need to decide if we are outward facing or hunkering down and I think the decision on the amphibious force is a clear marker on this.

    • Nice list, but never going to happen. That would require an insane uplift in defence spending, which our leaders will never do.

    • Pacman, we might build 25 T31, we will not have 25 in service. To me T31 is a proof of concept for industry to deliver to a budget. It is my hope that a second batch could be ordered around the mid 2020’s which would improve the capabilities of the T31, for a modest price increase. maybe £400m per hull in todays money.
      Are you sure an AAW version of the T26 is the way to go? I would have thought a new design would have been appropriate by then, which is 16 years from now. Unless you propose to have the second batch include Sampson and improved AAW fit.

    • I like the sound of that. But I think in my mind there could be some changes. If you’re spending that money you might as well make a dedicated LPH, I also don’t feel the type 31 is the way to go. Instead it should be classified as a corvette with the type 26 being a cruiser. And instead build a fleet of 10 frigates similar in shape to the current type 23. Also I see no need to replace the type 42 which will be fine after the engine issues are resolved.

    • To be able to fulfil this desire, you will have to break up BAE Systems. This is because BAE is now a global consortium and not just a UK manufacturer. It would be nice however if the Royal Ordinance Factories, as we now have to buy the majority of our ammunition abroad. This should be seen as a strategic necessity and not as a profit making company, unless we can also export some of the products.
      I think the time is right to include a aircraft and land vehicles in a national building strategy. We shouldn’t be in a position of continuously playing catchup due to inept politicians.

      • gents – understand all your concerns and wasn’t trying to be prescriptive – just saying that the decision about amphibious is a really big one and that actually we need to be using an enhanced military budget to kick start our economy and do some good.

        We seem very willing to commit 0.7 GDP to other countries – but will not commit 0.7GDP to defence equipment manufacturing (not maintenance or support – but kit). I think we should commit 1% to UK manufacturing and how we do that I leave to others, but it must support our political ambition and meet defence requirements.

        After that you can have whatever is needed over the next 25 years but actually it needs to be a simple integrated plan that involves small businesses and builds capability.

    • its sad that the married quarters have been left out of defence priorities, some of the estates are in a right mess, imagine coming home from a deployment for her indoors to present you with a list of jobs on the home that need sorting out. servicemen/women are leaving because their families are being treated as second class citizens.

      • I give you one word – Capita – responsible for MOD estates and surely the most incompetent Company in the UK in terms of delivery of its contracts and yet it wins contract after government contract …. who owns shares in it, I wonder?

  11. Any sane person would obviously see option two is the better option. But British politicians aren’t sane people. They see option one and salivate at the money they can save and throw into the budgetary blackholes of the health and welfare budget for some easy votes. They never see the bigger picture and they don’t think long term.

    • Spending 3% on defence is peanuts compared to healthcare, social and pensions. And without the peanuts one, none of the others matter, because what good is healthcare if your hospitals are getting bombed.

      • Ben P – As a Pensioner can I gently disagree with your throwing my pensions in as some sort of liability. The pensions I now get have been paid for by me over 52 years hard graft. And yes even my State pension has as well.

        Having said that yes 3% is the bare minimum for Defence and the sooner we realise we should be using that defence spending here in the UK to regenerate manufacturing and engineering skills and trades the better. Some things need to be imported but we buy far too much from abroad (IMHO).

        Last comment is about the oft maligned Foreign Aid budget So I thought this might be of some help in the discussion here


          • The foreign aid budget is peanuts compared to what defense really needs 5% of GDP this is what we spent to do the Falklands. The are 3 budgets with that money are the state pension, old age health spending (the spending on under 65 is not very big) and education. Cutting education by the amount needed means we won’t have the people with the skills required. so you are down to hitting voting pensioners to fund defense the pensioners also vote so the politicians will not do it.

          • I understand that both main parties have a commitment to the 0.7% of GDP to foreign aid. Assuming that is not going to change, how that money is spent could be amended. DFID could pay for the upkeep, manning and maintenance for a Bay Class LSD for half a year, given that one is posted to the Caribbean for 6 months a year on Hurricane watch. Purchase and upkeep of a couple A400m (would have said C-17, but the production line has closed I believe) along with a few helicopters, not sure on the mix, would help considerably in providing depth to the transport capability.

        • I am not dismissing pensions. I am merely saying that we spend so much on other areas, yet we are not even willing to spend a small amount on the defence of our country.

      • the cold war was won because the warsaw pact could not keep up finanancially. the west should employ the same dogma again and raise defence spending to the 5% it briefly was after the falklands conflict.

    • Lewis wrote:
      “But British politicians aren’t sane people. They see option one and salivate at the money they can save and throw into the budgetary blackholes of the health and welfare budget for some easy votes. “

      Since the early 70s, our young have been taught that the British Empire was evil and that the British must pay compensation for hurt feelings. This has since filtered down to our younger MPs (And some a bit older) who think that Aid is the way to go in which to apologise. The Tory party after years of character assassination is currently going further than most in which to remove that stigma.

      Due to al of the above expect to see the Defence budget become even smaller. (Expect to see the Nukes gone and at least one aircraft carrier) in which to fund all of the above.

    • The Health budget is not a black hole, it not a luxury item, it’s also the most efficient spend of any public service. spending money on not being dead is the most important investment we make, as is we spend around £1000 per person per year less than the EU peer average on health ( that’s 82-84k per lifetime) and around 5000k per person year than the US ( which admittedly is a mad system Which spends more public spending than we do as well as the same again in private health cover, a true black hole).

      • “The Health budget is not a black hole, it not a luxury item, it’s also the most efficient spend of any public service. spending money on not being dead is the most important investment we make, as is we spend around £1000 per person per year “

        Valid point, however that rewriting of history in which to make the British guilty of past indiscretions has resulted in a mindset that isn’t cost effective, when we have doctors (the only ones in the world) refusing to bill health tourists, spending millions on non-medical items, a system where fraud is rife (Like that women locked up inside Egypt on charges of smuggling drugs, drugs bought on the NHS) , where we give IVF treatment to failed asylum seekers. then add the many , many mistakes the NHS make where were are told…lessons will be learnt and we arrive at a system which really needs reviewing. Oh BTW, one of the draws for so many migrants,,,Free NHS treatment. Have a look at how much it costs people in Eastern Europe to be treated.
        Dont get me wrong, I’m all for the NHS, but at the moment it is a huge black hole and anybody who tries to touch it is attacked as being…uncaring.

        • Oh I think there is always, room to improve any system, anyone that thinks otherwise is a bit dangerous.

          Like some of most complex systems health and defence need proper discussions on what we (as in the UK want them to deliver) and how much it actually costs. The simple truth is we know the cost of adiquate armed forces and we know the cost of an appropriate health system. The problem is we delude ourselves that somehow because we’re British ( NHS full of angles working every hour without overtime in sight, no family life and no need to go to to toilet or eat, armed forces with the best soldiers in the world who can manage without all the kit, who need body armour, tanks and helicopters when you have training and will) we can somehow Buck the simple rule of that’s what it costs so pay for it.

          What we then get is tinkering around to try and make it work, a frigate cut here, 6 years without training a single health visitor, reducing the rotor fleet, cutting nurse training bursaries.

          I know there are areas that can be tightened up in the NHS but most of these are truly pitances and can if you are not careful end up costing more than you save.

          As an example we could really crack down and manage opiate prescribing better, but opiates cost pennies and for people who pay for prescriptions it’s a net gain to the NHS in prescription charges. To control and cut down on inappropriate opiate prescriptions we would need a pharmacist ( the cheapest option, half the price of a GP so 60-70k with on costs) they could propably manage a hand full of practices, as each patient on opiates (there are a lot) will need a pharm review every few months. there are 7500 GP practices just in England so you are looking at over a 1000 new pharmacists so £70000000 a year every year for ever. That’s 7 billion in 10 years to stop people hording pills worth pennies ( that a lot of codiene tablets). It also takes 5 years to get a basic grade Pharm and we don’t have the training pipline for a thousand more on spec.

          Health tourism is a classic problem, contrary to popular belief the NHS does charge non residents for routine elective care (yep we do), we also refuse elective care to non residents unless they pay ( we will actively remove individual from our hospitals). What we can’t do ( as its not allowed in law) is refuse life saving interventions to anyone…..its that simple, no over blown media hype, we charge when we can, refuse to treat if allowed and follow the law of the land.

          The issue of health tourism is actually therefore:
          1)a political question of who do you allow residency in the UK and when they gain access to free routine healthcare.
          2)a legal one of not being allowed to refuse life saving treatment.

          It’s not the place of the NHS to decide the above….

          We do not want to go down the road of requesting evidence of entitlement to life saving treatment ( this includes lots of different intervention not just jumping up and down on someone chest). The US do this and a lot of people die because the first thing they ask you for is evidence of Entitlement ( I’ve reviewed a good number of incidents reports and investigations on thes areas).

          The problem of refusing routine healthcare to poor non residents who may not be here legally is that they often then become non routine life threatening issues ( see above) which then actually costs more…….

          I have spent a third of my working life, saving lives on the front line, a third investigating why things went wrong and we killed or caused harm and a third trying to support ways to save money without doing the second or inadvertently costing more.

          I can hand on heart tell you we fixate every day on trying to make each pound go further because we know the consequences when we cant provide the the services people need (contrary to popular media images NHS manages are highly focused and motivated, most of use have seen the horrors of real life and fight to prevent them where we can).

          That’s not to say the system is close to perfect, but a lot of the big ticket f&@k ups have been political, the single national record ( NHS said your mad, can’t be done…..your talking billions of records over 10s of thousands of different organisations all using different IT and paper systems, bound by massively complex primary legislation to protect data and privacy and a legal system that will fine them hundreds of thounds of pounds each if hey breach it……its actually the most complex and high risk IT project in the world. government said do it anyway you bunch a nay saying buerocrates and proceed to give 12 billion of NHS money to a couple of IT Giants (who of course said don’t listen to the NHS they are so last century), couple of years later said IT Giants turned around and said we’ve “spent the money cant do it it as a mad idea……..”.

          • Good post. Ever wondered why our roads are too narrow for cycle lanes, or why the ceilings in your modern house are oppressively low? The UK government has a parsimonious outlook. Its part of our sad culture. The Treasury sees its job as funding public services to the minimum required to prevent an action replay of the French revolution. Thankfully those of our citizens who work in the armed services, the NHS and other public services do take pride in their work, and rightfully so.

    • £200 million tin aid to the most booming economy which supports one of the fastest military growths in the word… india the same to pakistan, a nation which harbours and allows the training of terrorists being trained to attack us.. google where u.k foreign aid goes and you WILL be very angry indeed.

  12. More dreamers who really don’t understand the meaning of money and who suffer a ‘penis envy’ thing. Take a look at China. The UK won’t keep up with them. Face facts.

    • Surely we should be expanding/updating so as to enable ourselves to potentially defend against an expansionist China? That doesn’t mean we need to “keep up with them”, certainly not in terms of sheer quantity, that’s probably impossible.

      • why would we need to? its not as if they’re massing a vast army on its korean border, or parking its navy off the american coast. we talk up a nation we’ve no reason to a war with china is as likely as a metior hitting my car. relax

    • Oh dear, there you go again, commenting on a subject matter way out of your comfort zone. Stick to the Jeremy Corbyn online calender club and let grown ups chat about reality.

      • oh dear is it becoming one of those sites where all people do, is slag each other off.trying to ‘big up’ themselves. respect people or bugger off.everyones thoughts are valid the’armchair admiral should put fantasies of a world where jeremy corbyn is in a nuthouse along with the tree huggers as for people talking outside their comfort zone, show some respect some of us have actually been in a sea war. its not nice its not about shiny systems or ‘reds under the bed’. its scary and nasty when all you have between you and davy jones’ locker is poor quality polish steel.

    • I agree TH – we shouldn’t keep up with others or try and be something we are not, but the military can and should be a force for good at home and abroad and given its protected status in trade deals – it is an area we can be a bit protectionist with and provide jobs for those in poorer areas.

      The choice is do we ignore these areas and make them benefit dependant for generations or do we use the military to kick start some manufacturing/R&D or other employment/community opportunities, whilst giving those people who are willing to die for this country the best kit we can afford and therefore a higher probability of success and a safe return.

      • The UK is not trying to keep up with China, our government hardly cares about them. What we are doing is trying to keep a capable force against Russia.

    • “Penis Envy” ?

      Agree no need to keep up with China and no one suggests that, but better to actually have a Penis ( of normal size ) than none at all as you constantly propose.

      You just cannot handle the UK having a world role befitting its size, status and history.

      • £200 million tin aid to the most booming economy which supports one of the fastest military growths in the word… india the same to pakistan, a nation which harbours and allows the training of terrorists being trained to attack us.. google where u.k foreign aid goes and you WILL be very angry indeed.

    • Unfortunately TH does have a very valid point, in that we in our present state (in or out of Europe) cannot compete commercially with China. China has finally got the ability to put money where its ambitions lay. It still faces the stigma of once being controlled/ruled by Western powers including Japan when it always has thought of itself as the primary civilisation. Because it is now in the position to throw its weight about, it is like a child testing its boundaries.
      The only way we can counter this, is being part of a a union/pact with other countries, hence the five powers pact or NATO.

      The other point is that it is very difficult to put in place weapons of an advanced nature that can compete on a equal footing as those developed in the West, hence all the industrial espionage carried out by both Russia and China. A prime example being the PAK FA (Su 57), this is an aircraft designed to compete against the F22, but so far has suffered from a long list of problems, especially aerodynamically and with its engines. The Chinese are equally as dishonest, just look at the J31, they based their design on pinched data from the J35 program. They are still having issues with the basic design, having to redesign the LERX and intakes a number of times. Seems copying is all its cracked up to be with the knowledge backing it up!

  13. Considering that the UK is now operating at a budget surplus, is the scenario of further cuts taking place likely?

  14. This article actually made me laugh out loud because Option 1 is so patently absurd and comical it’ll never happen.


    • Just made me laught….How many times have I heard that….generally after I’ve had to investigate why someone ended up being dead.

    • Dadarmy…If we all keep working at our MP’s and others it may never happen, even if you did think it was funny. Nothing would make me happier than for my option 1 to be made redundant.

      • Geoffrey

        I agree and thank you for writing the article. 2 months ago this was a real possibility and it is only through websites like this (despite what TH thinks) and a core groups of MP’s saying enough is enough that there is now some form of dialogue with HMT.

        Now the MOD has to deliver and I will be contacting Mr Williamson with my ideas.

    • Ws – I suspect that Option 1 is far more likely than Corbyn ever getting his grubby hands on the keys to No 10! Given his abysmal performance last June (just 4 more seats than Brown got in 2010 and then only because of some 750 voters in a few constituencies) I am mystified why some folks even think its a possibility…

      For clarity that means I believe Option 2 (and more) will be the likely outcome of Gavin Williamson’s brilliant frontal attack on the Treasury …

  15. I think if the Royal Navy is able to carry out it’s modernisation plans namely type 26 and type 31’s and the 7 Astutes and operating with our NATO colleagues escorts the RN will be able to manage it’s over sea’s commitments and carriers protection. If in coming years there were another extra 3-5 RN escorts that would be excellent! But there will not be any major increase in ships we have to be realistic about that, but what we will have as a nation is still a very professional modern potent navy.

  16. a question. The armed forces are there to fight a war and do it in a combined manner. Based on this, why do we have a FAA separate from the RAF? seems a bit silly and historical considering they are both there to provide the same role of protecting the ground forces.

    • The Fleet Air Arm is these days primarily a force of helicopters operating as ships flights in the ASW, surveillance or anti ship role, or as squadrons deployed for ASW or ASCS from flat tops. Only the helicopters of the CHF support ground forces, 3 Commando Brigade.

      So it is not primarily to support ground forces. Aboard ship is a far cry from an RAF station and I for one do not want to see them merged. It’s as unrealistic as the Army Air Corps operating Typhoon or C17s.

  17. There is no options to discuss here.
    The QE class will no doubt save our bacon’s in the future. Especially if equipped with enough F35Bs.
    There is no option to cutting amphibious capability. If we cannot afford to maintain this then as a nation we are doomed.
    Best plan
    Increase defence expenditure
    Keep amphibious ships
    Replace Ocean
    Build 13 type 26s

  18. It would be interesting to know what the current military thinking is around required escort numbers for a real combat situation. Obviously more is always better, but what is the minimum you could realistically get away with to cover a carrier along.

    My working assumption based on the Falklands etc, is that we would only have less than 50% of the fleet available, meaning max 3 destroyers and 8 frigates (assuming 4 ASW). Of the minimum required for the carriers, how many would be left over to protect the albions/supply ships, and if not enough, then the answer is more simply, the albions should go to save money for gear/manpower that can actually be used.

    I fear that the answer is we don’t have enough escorts, but outside a few people in the MOD/Navy, no one really knows for sure and is just guessing at real weaknesses in our capability that are kept secret.

    • Remember most situations would involve NATO or other allied assets so RN would not be operating alone.

      In a Falklands type scenario against any but a peer enemy a deployed Astute would have an opposing fleet heading for port.

      Yes RN needs more escorts no doubt. But it also needs manpower.

  19. Steve we gave up any pretence of acting alone when escorts dropped below 30 and you haven’t even mentioned the lack of subs. These are less than half the number required. The UK still has some nice kit but largely has an incoherent force structure across the board that would now struggle in a conflict where we had any meaningful opposition.

    • subs is a good point. if you consider 50% availability that leaves 3. 1 has to be in the SSBN and another I assume has to be in British waters, leaving 1 to protect any task group.

      Whilst you are right we would probably not act alone but if you follow that to it’s extreme we should drop some capability in full, since the carriers is something very few nations can bring and so it’s our part of the coalition and the others can bring the landing crafts.

      We try to cover everything, but so thinly that we cover nothing properly. Afgan/Iraq showed us our army was too small to be fully effective, but the lesson was not learnt.

      • “1 has to be in the SSBN”? Do you mean it’s standard deployment practice to always deploy an SSN with the active SSBN, essentially as its bodyguard? If not then I don’t understand that statement (and if yes then I’ve learnt something already today).

        • Yes that is my understanding. I am not sure if it is 100% standard practice, but in a war situation it would need to happen, to ensure our last line of defence in the SSBN was not taken out of the picture.

          • I thought it differently. Only the commander of the submarine and the Flag Officer Submarines / Cos Ops at Northwood know the location of the SSBN.

            If the Vanguard is cruising slowly at 5 knots and is all but undetectable as often stated by the RN ( and a few years back one collided with another silent french sub ) why does it need an escort?

  20. Sadly sjb1968 is right. Hollowed out for with some exquisite kit just not enough of it.
    The RN and defence select committee have both said minimum level of escorts should be 26 just to match current commitments. Although May and Hammond et Al seem to add more commitments every bloody day as they rush around trying to prove we are a great Ally to the whole world, whilst overseeing a defence review whose sole intention is to cut our armed forces even further.
    26 escorts should equal
    6 type 45s upgraded with mk41 vl strike cells and power supply issues resolved
    13 (not 8) type 26
    7+ type 31s
    2nd batch of 3-4 astutes needed and will have to be built concurrently to SSBNs. Our SSN fleet of just 7 is also utterly inadequate.
    Replacement for Ocean needed
    Retain river class batch 1.
    Retain amphibious shipping
    Up RN manpower by 4000 to achieve all this.
    Defence budget to 3+% right now.
    It is all about choices, the government choose to not spend on defence but to invest in high profile crazy schemes like HST2 and PFI repayments. The money is there, it is just frittered away and badly spent.
    It all boils down to bad leadership, we have had a lack of quality national leaders since Thatcher really. Never thought I would hark back to the days of the Iron lady. The EU and Barnier, Junkers etc al would have been sent packing with their tails between their legs by Thatcher. I mean for God’s sake there is literally no way we owe the EU any money.

  21. This article has the potential to be very dangerous. I don’t know about the rest of you but, as I was reading option 1, I couldn’t shake the image of some politician getting really excited as he/she read it, not really registering the references to the human impacts but just thinking … “OK, cut the Albions, I already knew about that but…. oooh, we could then cut the Bays, and wow, the we can sell the landing craft and cut marines too. This is even better than I thought”.

    By the way, I suspect anti-defence politicians could go even further with option 1. If Albions and Bays were to go that’s 5 big ships gone so a case could probably be made (by, as previously mentioned, an anti-defence politician) for retiring one or more RFA supply ships without replacement. I wouldn’t even put it past them to decide we then only needed 3 tankers and sell the 4th Tide on.

    With all the threats to our armed forces swirling around I’m afraid I’ve pretty much given up hope on significant expansion, or maybe at best a 6th T31 announced so politicians could claim mission accomplished in increasing escort numbers, and perhaps some modest uplift in the RFA if the MARS SSS gets off the ground and delivers big and credible vessels. Beyond that I think a positive result from the next defence review will be to not lose numbers on existing plans for Astute, T26, F-35 etc and we also need to see how credible T31 will end up being.

    Also, just maybe with this next defence review being described as a “modernisation review”, we might see some pilot projects for drones although with the RN ScanEagle pilot project not being funded any more the signs recently aren’t great. I hope that happens though because containerised UAVs could significantly enhance the utility of ships such as the River B2s and Bays for policing tasks where a wider surveillance coverage would be valuable. I still dream of something in the class of a slightly bigger Schiebel S-100, still containerable but with enough payload to carry a decent optical and radar package plus laser designator and at least 2 and ideally 4 Martlet/LMM. The existing S-100 isn’t a million miles off that. We do have helicopter experience in the U.K. so even better if a U.K. firm could develop such a drone.

    • the job argument is also over done. the loss of jobs would be a few thousand which is a drop in the ocean compared to total jobs in the UK. These are also highly skilled people and so most, admittedly not all, will find new jobs fairly quickly, potentially by moving to other parts of the UK. Additionally if it is about jobs then the government could create many times the number of civilian roles for a fraction of the price of the military ones or gear.

      • Steve, like almost everything employment in local economies is a complex system. Those few thousand jobs will be the heart of a regional ecconmomy, with subcontractors and support services. You will then have a retail sector and service industry dependent on the wealth generated by that ecconmomy. It’s always way more than a few thousand jobs in the end.

      • The jobs impact goes deeper into our competitive UK culture. The French attitude to defence is to go the extra mile to source equipment indigenously. To us they come across in joint projects as over protective of their own interests. In fact their attitude is quitr rational. It is we who too readily sell our skills and industries for a quick profit.

      • Steve

        Its not the total of jobs per se, but where they are located and the capability lost

        It is a matter of record that one of the reason Astute is behind and over cost is due to the fact we had lost the skills and needed to re-generate (another point – regeneration costs significantly more money and should be avoided at all costs).

        Stop building subs Barrow and the whole of the South lakes becomes industrially barren, it is already bad up their without this hanging over the town. I suspect the same for Devonport as I believe it is not a particular well off part of the UK either.

    • I can’t the Bays going. They are cheap to run and far too useful in humanitarian aid and mothership roles e.g. Gulf MCMV. And now they have a helo hangar they can enable a River 2 to do anti piracy off Somalia and anti drug running in the Caribbean. Very useful assets.

    • The object of the article Julian was to outline the stark choices available and to underline how vital the services are to the Plymouth area, in particular.
      For your interest I have had very positive comments from the political world as this paper was also published in the Parliamentary Review. having been included as part the Defence Committee report released in February.

      • Yes, I think it is helpful to present options as contrasting decision choices. Always good to ask yourself and our representatives how you would feel after making one choice versus another. Post imperial asjustment is one thing but I have no doubt that in most peoples mind that ditching the LPDs would be a kind of corporate hara kiri for the UK.

      • Yes, that is entirely obvious Geoffrey. I was being somewhat tongue in cheek in saying how I could envisage certain politicians reading option 1, which I am sure the author was presenting as the nightmare scenario, actually thinking “ooh, that’s a good idea”.

  22. Morning

    What role do you see the amphibious fleet playing in the context of “Global Britain”?

    Do you believe the U.K. still has the ambition to be a global player and if so do you see the amphibious fleet as a display of that intent?

    If you believe the U.K. still has the ambition to be a global player and as part of that role, utilising the amphibious fleet, why do you think people like Mark Sedwill and the senior management of the RN are willing to sacrifice it?

    • Not so much ambition as responsibility to intervene in a joint force with the French in Africa most likely. Be interested to know how the US and France view the potential loss of the LPDs.

    • For me it is simple.

      It is confused thinking by a MoD and government with no strategic plan.

      We have procured the carriers.

      They are power projection assets – hard or soft.

      The LPD’s also power projection assets.

      So HMG want to project power out there into the world.

      The two go hand in hand and complement the other. Remove one and the whole is affected.

      Escorts, MCMV, and the rest are extras.

      These plus the SSN’s project military power.

    • Amphibiosity is a soft and hard power display of UK intent around the globe to various nations and especially to the far flung countries of the Commonwealth.
      As an example when on Bulwark we went to the far east for a number of exercises.
      In Bangladesh the Booties rocked up in their landing craft and came ashore. The locals thought it was Britain and the UN coming to rescue them from their Government. Ok not a great example …the country was probably the worst place I have seen for abject poverty but it shows what the local population think when a very large Pussers Grey War Canoe and a load of Booties rock up on your doorstep.
      Then there is Bulwark evacuating UK passport holders from war zones , Rescuing migrants in the Med.
      Bulwark acting as a floating OPS Center for security in the Olympic Regatta which required an at sea ferry port for the patrol boats and a landing pad for the helos. Ocean got the star turn in London but Bulwark proved the concept first during a visit a year earlier. Ocean would have been totally unsuitable for the Regatta job hence she moored up at Greenwich whilst Bulwark actually did some steaming around!

      The list goes on and on…

      • All good stuff but, and I am not saying it is , if it a choice between landing craft public relations demos and some more frigates….

        • Then it is Landing Craft for me. For the LPD’s, their varied Landing Craft and the RM Corps do something Frigates cannot.

          • This is heart versus head thing. There is a value which attaches to the LPD’s (and more importantly to the RM) which it is hard to put a monetary value on – notwithstanding the jobs argument made in the article. It is more to do with identity and tradition. Traditions can be good or bad but identity is priceless.

        • Landing craft and LPDs it is then.
          They are here now and in the water. Any extra frigates will not be realized from cutting the 2 LPDs for at least 5 years.
          If ever.

          • Instinctively I feel you are right. Albion class is what makes the RN unique. It is a matter of identity.
            They are big ships with a large crew so are expensove to operate. Could we reduce the costs of routine operation and utilise them for other roles when they are not needed as expeditionary ships?
            Some ideas in no particular order…
            How big could you make the gun?
            Could containerised Sea Ceptor be fitted?
            Could a helo hangar be fitted?
            Could they replace Argus?
            Do they need all the C3 kit now we have QE?
            What is the minimum crew needed to sail them?
            Could they replace a Bay as Gulf MCMV mother ship?
            Ditto for the Caribbean?
            Could they with some rework fill the abandonned JSS concept?

      • Evening all

        You have to remember who is running the review. They see the employment of military capability as a failure of diplomacy, a failure to sufficiently deter the enemy from launching action.
        By culture they are risk averse, they believe in activity more than achievement and would like, at all costs to maintain a status quo. You only have to look at their views on Brexit to understand that they are stuck in a paralysis of denial, that the people decided democratically to leave an institution that they are intertwined.
        However they will adapt, it will take time – time unfortunately the MoD does not have.
        Then you have those that lead the MoD, closer to the suppliers of hardware and pensions than they are to the men and women they are supposed to command and lead.
        4 efficiency reviews in 8 years, all over lapping, all cutting away at the manpower that sustains the operations whilst new equipment is conceptualised, designed, re-designed, purchased at great cost and then rebaslined due to rising costs.
        Simple things need to happen
        1. Government needs to inform the department of the effect it wishes to have on the world from a security perspective, both home and abroad
        2. Departments then meet the requirements defining the structure that is required to generate and sustain the aim
        3. Departments then need to cost it up and present back to government
        4. Government then works out what it can afford and what risks it will need to take because it will not be able to afford all that it wants to do

        Government then presents this to parliament
        Parliament debates, votes and then it goes to committee.
        Committee then questions the department over it figures and assumptions and write a report informing parliament of its findings.
        Parliament gets the opportunity to vote again
        Parliamentary democracy I think it’s called, we should give it a go

        • Rather than parliamentary democracy alone you are asking for seemless working of government, legislature and administration. Good luck.

  23. Russia aren’t updating their aircraft carrier and are cutting back military spending. So who is the enemy? This is a big con again imo

    • Well they may not be updating their aircraft carrier but they are sponsoring a despotic regime in Syria, undermining the nascent sovereignty of Ukraine, intimidating the Baltic states, developing a new generation of sub orbital maneuvering MIRVS and are not above poisoning the NHS staff of the UK as collateral damage of Putin’s vindictiveness.

  24. This is an interesting article and underlines the stupidity of UK defence policy. We have bought and paid for equipment such as the LPDs that are modern, relevant and have years of service left in them but there is serious discussion that they should be sold or scrapped. The same is said about PoW, Astutes and this list changes but the same fundamental problem remains. This is a massive waste of money and has lead to a significant reduction in capability.
    None of this equipment is obsolete or the roles they undertake but over the lifecycle of each capability and its platform sensible discussion must decide if it requires replacement or if it is no longer militarily required. You cannot spend Billions on new aircraft carriers for example and then sell them and then spend more money on others ships.
    The Navy therefore should be made to stick with its LPDs and new carriers and through future equipment orders purchase more subs and escorts when funds allow. The same should apply to the RAF and Army. Whilst I believe the defence budget is too small I am not convinced that it requires a huge increase.
    Of course all these choices are made because of our politicians like to indulge in gesture style policy decisions. So we have austerity in 2010 where we cut back recruitment, sack sailors, airmen and soldiers and pay out vast sums in redundancy. The same applies to the police, prison staff, nursing and others. What do we do just a few years later pay out vast sums to recruit because the cuts were too severe.
    If you run a PLC and you sack 2000 staff your share price will go up because those in the City of London are like sheep and only care about today with no thought for tomorrow.
    HMG must be run with an eye for the future of the country and that does not mean no change or no cuts in expenditure but these should be planned without headline grabbing stunts.

  25. I think we should look at the potential applications of the Type 31e Arrowhead. But not the Iver Huitfeldt variant. But the potential “Batch 2 Absalon variant” (if funded & on budget).

    The Absalon variant would be a potent (yet temporary) stop gap measure to make up for current and potential future fleet losses. The adaptability of the “Batch 2 Absalon variant” will boost or compliment both naval & RFA fleets.

    Each ship (within a 24hr conversion process) has the potential of transforming to a troop transport (300 troops), vehicle transport (7 MBT or 55 vehicles), containerized hospital ship, humanitarian relief (multiple relief ISO containers), mine layer/sweeper or a mothership role (for unmanned systems).

    To me if would be foolish if team Babcock didn’t consider looking at the design. But I believe that OMT on board they have and that will give them the edge. Given the cost savings on the design of the originals. The Absalons built first at £170 million per unit. The Iver Huitfeldt frigates at £244 million per unit. I’d imagine they would have reversed the design process for us. Thus adding to potential saving costs in building them (if considered).


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