Colonel Dan Sullivan reportedly said cuts to the Royal Marines and the loss of two amphibious assault ships could impact the defence relationship between the US and UK.

The Ministry of Defence is reportedly examining options aimed at  the manpower available to the Royal Marines or cutting HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion.

The Times reported him as saying:

“My message is to articulate how important having that capability in our partner is and how damaging I think it would be if our most important coalition partner potentially takes the hits that are projected right now.

If you want to be decisive you have to be able to project power ashore at some point. From a military standpoint as the UK continues to diminish and as the Royal Marines in particular take a hit, I think that our view of what we will be able to do together in the future changes.”

This also comes as multiple ministers, MP’s and other officials continue to insist the Royal Navy is growing, even in the face of upcoming cuts.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said in Parliament that “a growing defence budget means more ships, more planes, more armoured vehicles and more cutting edge equipment for our forces”.

The Defence Secretary also said it again after announcing the naming of a new frigate in Belfast:

“Thanks to our ambitious new National Shipbuilding Strategy, this shipyard once again has the chance to be involved in building a British warship thanks to the competition to build a new class of light frigates for our growing Royal Navy.

Again as part of another announcement:

“This new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing Royal Navy that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world.”

I could fill this article with quotes from Fallon and other ministers claiming that the Royal Navy is growing, but you get the idea.

This isn’t true according to the the UK Armed Forces Equipment and Formations document released by the Government detailing statistics on vessels, land equipment and aircraft of the armed forces. It states:

“At 1 April 2017 there were 73 vessels in the UK Armed Forces: 64 vessels in the Royal Navy and nine in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). This is a reduction of three vessels since 2016 following the withdrawal of three RFA vessels: two Small Fleet Tankers and one Forward Repair Ship (RFA Diligence).

Patrol Ships (18 Inshore and four Offshore) make up the largest proportion of Royal Navy vessels, with 22, as shown in Chart 1 below.

The total number of Destroyers and Frigates (19) as at 1 April 2017 are also in line with SDSR Joint Force 2025 commitments.”

Further, according to the Defence Select Committee, the UK has a “woefully low” number of warships. Chair of the committee Dr Julian Lewis advised earlier in the year that the Government risked leaving the country with fewer than 19 frigates and destroyers.

“The United Kingdom will then lack the maritime strength to deal with the threats we face right now, let alone in the future. We are putting the MoD on notice that it must not let this happen.”

Additionally, Sir John Parker the author of an independent report on the National Shipbuilding Strategy, has indicated that the frigate fleet will fall below 13 frigates unless the Type 31 Frigate build starts soon, something that appears unlikely for a project described by a minister this month as still in “early pre-concept phase” with no design having yet been chosen.

Julian Lewis asked during a Defence Select Committee session on the National Shipbuilding Strategy:

“So what you are saying—and this is a critical point—is that unless we start building the Type 31e frigates in parallel with the Type 26s, there is little chance of not reducing below our existing figure of 13 frigates all told.”

Sir John Parker responded with one word:

“Correct.”

13 frigates are due to leave the service at a rate of one a year between 2023 and 2035. There remains serious concern about the funding and timetable of the fleet that will replace them.

44 COMMENTS

  1. It would be a devastating, unacceptable and catastrophic loss to national prestige, power and standing if that was to go ahead. Hopefully the Americans can talk some sense into our bloody Government

  2. We are genuinely getting to a point now where the government needs to ask itself “what kind of world power do we want to be?” Yes, we will have the capability to despatch a carrier group, and yes we will have a strategic nuclear deterrent, but if there remains the ambition to be a genuine player on the world stage (even if it is in concert with the Americans), then these things are not enough. Removing these assets will mean that in some areas the United Kingdom is less well equipped than the Netherlands (with all due respect to a nation and a people I like and admire).

  3. Thank god for the Americans. Maybe they can make our government see sense about all these reckless defence cuts.
    losing Ocean is very bad and whichever way you look army it opens up a significant capability gap.
    reduction in RM frontline strength and talked of scraping hms Albion and bulwark would be disastrous and only embolden our enemies and a resurgent Russia, weakening NATOs northern flank when we should be actually increasing our defence expenditure, warship numbers, personnel numbers.
    Utter folly!

  4. Fallon does NOT want to make this cut. His call for 3% defence spending shows that the armed forces does have an ally in the MOD with him at the helm.

    All these leaks could easily come from people close to him in order to reinforce his claim for more money.

    The fact that the Americans are now voicing concerns will be very helpful to his cause…

  5. According to janes both Brazil and Chile have been sounded out of they would like to buy Ocean, Albion, Bulwark and type 23 frigates ( I assume as they are replaced by t26 and t31 frigates).

    It seems that the removal of Albion and Bulwark from the RN seems certain.

  6. I think the marines and amphibs argument needs to be split into two. The first side of the argument would be, to put it bluntly, who would the UK like to invade next? Anyone? So “projecting power” in that way, is for “policing” purposes, and the UK even as a reasonably large size European nation can’t afford to be the world’s policeman, only to contribute at a similar level to other big European countries. Which should of couse mean their defence spending rises, even if ours did drop, there would be no nett total loss, only a gain.

    But the second part is indeed as part of NATO, and to encourage the US to remain part of NATO. Trump was against it at first, but public opinion in the US according to polls has risen, eliminating don’t knows is around 75%, same as the UK, whereas for instance Spain is about 50-50. The problem is that it seems in general that the military in the US suppot NATO, and a part of this is because of the UK’s past and present contribution (and France to an extent). But if the UK starts rowing back, that attitude could change, and the US public could drop back in support of NATO as well.

    And frankly that would be a disaster, not just for Europe but for the US as well, both need each other, even if at times it’s a fraught marriage. No country can stand alone, it needs to stand as part of a group, and that means group contribution even if it doesn’t suit our own needs.

    • The military has been very lukewarm in support of NATO starting in Vietnam and especially since the post Cold War budget cuts. What the chiefs of staff in the US say in front of cameras and in statements to allies is far different from their concerns amongst themselves. Many of the officer and NCO corps have wondered if further cuts are made by the larger NATO allies whether it is worth the effort.

      One must remember the US has many other allies than just NATO. Most have been less judgmental and willing to send what Forces they had to conflict zones. This unwillingness to quote “police” and instead have the US do it then criticize when we do is what led to Trump’s initial antipathy to NATO.

      • Yes, I read the forums at times. I don’t think it would take much for the US to abandon NATO, or just pay it lip service, no more than that.

    • The Royal Marines perform many functions that are not related to invading. I think that that analogy is short sighted. During disaster relief they have all of the skills in one place to assist the civil community which the Army do not possess. So having these vessels in your inventory I believe is a necessity.

  7. I don’t believe anything Fallon or this disgraceful government says about defence anymore ,its just soundbites designed to keep the general public in the dark.

  8. Given that the Armed Forces and in particular the Royal Navy are really struggling with recruitment and retention then the news that we are planning more cuts really isn’t going to help much.

    How is possible for someone within the military to feel that they are valued? It goes beyond a mere paycheck to having pride for the service in which you serve.

    The Royal Marines has always been a source of pride for the UK and especially for the men who serve within the Cdo units. So to hit them with further cuts diminishes the feeling of worth within the units and a sense of the government simply not caring.

    Recently the governments in charge are more concerned with welfare and foreign aid because they feel that wins them votes…..no one truly cares about the military until they are needed.

    As a serving member of the RAF I feel so angry yet helpless at the proposed cuts to any of the services not just my own. We’re just expected to roll with the punches.

  9. We may as well just hand ova our shores and country to the highest bidder or the first country to begin invasive action do it without life loss because we counld.nt defend it for more than a week ?
    We as a nation we once were , are pathetically open to conquest now , as an ex marine i can speak with respect to how we stood as a nation ready to defend at all times!! Now we are knackered and disrespected thanks to our brave comrades in power who sit on their asses giving our country to all the growing third world countries we once ruled..i hate to say i am concerned to see our once proud country down to this level where we leave our kids open to aggression and dominence thanks to the idiots at parliament and defence levels ?? God help us !!

  10. As I have been saying for weeks now there is absolutely no reason to cut the RM’s even if the LPD’s do go.There capabilities in war and peace are well known, not the least of which is Artic warfare

      • Amphib and special forces capability yes but we have only used an LPD once since 1965 when the Fearless and Intrepid unloaded at huge risk at San Carlos in The Falklands. Before 1965 we had no such ships.’
        If it comes to a choice between the LPD’s and the RM Command’s i not which I’m going for.

        • I was nodding my head there, and then I realised there’s been no use of an SSBN at all, none of an SSN also since the Falklands, and as far as I know no use of a T45 or T23 in anger in their primary roles as anti-air and ASW!

          • Fair comment but if we can save the marines? I don’t know. Maybe we’re all clutching at straws.

      • A Fallon quote “”The Queen Elizabeth Carriers will be able to carry more personnel than those ships, they will have larger armouries and they will be able to carry more helicopters. So it will actually give us better literal capabilities than we have at the moment with Albion and Bulwark.”

        Goodbye Albion and Bulwark

        • Old Trafford also holds more people, so should we cut our carriers & replace them with football stadia?
          Helicoptors & v-22s can’t provide the heavy landing capabilities that LPDs can. There’s no joined-up thinking in these race-to-the-bottom cuts. The only ambition the HMG & MOD seems to show is to have a nice shiney sign at Dover saying, “UKHMG welcomes any invader with open arms”.
          The sound-bite lies about a growing RN need to be found-out for what they are.
          If they’re cutting the frigate force any more we may as well give up.

  11. The lads are suffering in the Corp from years of Government level insanity. If they do reduce the numbers in the Ranks I pray the lads get handsomely rewarded for their efforts and endeavours.
    But a warning to anyone reading in the firing line. Seek help for PTSD before leaving coz you will be left high and dry once you do go. Ex RM 14yrs.

  12. How embarrassing, the USA more concerned about UK defences than most people in the UK, including the stupid government.

    • I think USA is keen to stop subsidising european defence as soon as possible. Given that they started doing so to fill a post WW2 vaccuum, and they are now $20T in debt, and fighting a neo cold war on 3 fronts.

  13. Will posters please stop attacking the S of S and the government Every time you do it it pisses somebody off. Has it ever occurred to you the Michael Fallon might be on our side and doing his utmost to increase spending.

  14. At the same time, Arctic Ice is melting, opening the maritime corridor to Russia. We are allowing mass immigration from countries we have been in armed conflict with. And we are cutting the net capacity for defence. Whilst maintaining a national debt close to 100% of GDP, spending massive amounts of public money on vote-buying and restricting any market competition.

    It seems that you couldn’t devise a better strategy for failure.

  15. Why the UK is cutting from the naval side of things (RN and RM) I wont understand as an Aussie. UK is an island, A strong Navy is a high priority as sea trade is vital to keep the nation going as it is in Australia.

    In Australia’s case the split between Army, Navy and Airforce in personnel is roughly 50/25/25, I’d imagine for the UK the split should be similar. Land locked nations can deal with larger armies and smaller navies, Nations that require the sea to reach anywhere need stronger navies then they do armies.

    • Simple but correct logic.
      In my view priority should go to the RN and the RAF with the army providing just 1 division for warfighting, light forces for the jrrf, and home defence.
      Light forces elements that i would make the priority should be UKSF, Paras, RM, and Ghurkhas. No problems with recruiting with them.

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