The United Kingdom will lose its ability to conduct amphibious operations, if leaked plans considered in the National Security Capability Review (NSCR) are not cancelled, according to the Commons Defence Committee.

“We strongly oppose the withdrawal of the Albion class LPDs from service ahead of their out-of-service dates in 2033 and 2034. They are purpose-built amphibious assault platforms which provide the primary means of deploying a landing force over a beach. There are no other ships in the Royal Navy which could conceivably sustain this capability in the future. The wider utility and the versatility of the LPDs beyond their primary roles in amphibious assault are substantial, and will be sacrificed if their disposal goes ahead.”

In its Report, ‘Sunset for the Royal Marines?’, published today, the Committee warns that further reductions in the Royal Marines and the disposal of the amphibious ships HMS Albion, and HMS Bulwark, would be “militarily illiterate” and “totally at odds with strategic reality”.

The NSCR, has been carried out by the National Security Adviser rather than by the Ministry of Defence. It has led to persistent rumours of major cuts in conventional forces. Up to 2,000 Royal Marines – about 30% of current strength – would be lost, together with the two amphibious assault ships which are essential for landing personnel, heavy equipment and supplies over a beach.

News of such options being considered has met with fierce opposition within Parliament and widespread public concern. The review process has been conducted behind closed doors, without significant input from academics, think-tanks and individual experts. Any discussion of the options being considered has been dismissed as ‘speculation’ by the Government, which has not yet agreed to allow the National Security Adviser to face the Defence Committee for detailed questioning. Parliament has, in short, been prevented both from influencing or scrutinising major potential reductions in the UK’s defence capabilities.

The Report sets out the series of challenges faced by the Royal Marines in recent years. Since 2011, numbers have declined from 7,020 to 6,580; training and exercises have been cancelled; and surveys have shown a tangible drop in morale. The disproportionate contributions made by the Royal Marines to UK Defence – not least in providing up to half of all UK Special Forces personnel – are being put at risk by inadequate funding.

The report also examines the role of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. It concludes that their disposal would remove any prospect of the Armed Forces achieving a successful amphibious landing with a substantial force. Ships which have been touted as alternative platforms – including the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers – are no substitute for such specialised vessels as HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. Their loss would also have a considerable impact upon the local communities where they are currently based.

Dr Julian Lewis, Defence Committee chairman, said:

“In January, we were told that the Albion and Bulwark were not due to leave service until 2033 and 2034 respectively. That such irreplaceable ships are in line for deletion fifteen years early demonstrates, yet again, the desperate inadequacy of the Defence budget. We must reinstate a target of around 3 per cent of GDP – the percentage which we spent right up to the mid-1990s, long after the ‘peace dividend’ cuts, at the end of the Cold War, had been made.

Gavin Williamson deserves credit for seizing back control of the Defence dimension of the NSCR process; but, ultimately, he will fail without extra funding from the Treasury. Unless he secures this, the Royal Marines will be reduced to a level far below the critical mass needed to sustain them as a high-readiness Commando force. Nor can there be any substitute for the Albion-class vessels: the Committee is adamant that no other ships can be used as alternatives without assuming an unreasonable level of operational risk.

In initiating the Modernising Defence Programme, the Ministry of Defence now has an opportunity to take a different approach – and to open up these drastic and dangerous proposals to proper Parliamentary scrutiny.”

37 COMMENTS

  1. I still don’t understand the rationale of cutting your most highly trained, motivated staff.

    The idiots behind this leaked report should be sacked. Its the equivalent of any organisation getting rid of what makes it great and backfilling with dross.

    In fairness the above is standard British management practice – so not a surprise.

    • The rationale is purely short term financial. Anyone who has experienced a hostile takeover knows how it works. You start with a number and then devise the fastest way to reach it. Talent and ability go by the board.

  2. Totally barking mad if this happens!
    Is Mrs May’s memory really that short?
    And the effects all this speculation must be having on morale!

  3. Gentlemen. Have you actually read “Sunset for the Royal Marines”. Pacman… I was one of the “idiots” behind this report as I was actually asked to contribute. I can tell you that the full report argues long and hard for retention of our amphibious forces , in particular the Royal Marines , as well as outlining other shortfalls and calling for more money to be spent.
    The overall review…Modernising Defence Review, now back where it should be with Gavin Williamson and his team, will now be published in the summer so get writing people. There are over 30 MP’s backing this report so let’s convince some more.

    • Thank you Geoffrey.

      Yes, I did read it as it had a link of Gabriel’s Blog.

      I remain curious where they intend to move the RM when their bases are all closed.
      Devonport I guess.

      • Hi Daniele,
        Long time, no post.
        Your right, at least as things stand. The phrase used in recent months is a “Plymouth Super Base” We shall see!

        • Hmmm. Straight into Devonport Naval base right by the ships.

          Pity about Stonehouse though, such history.

          I hope the bean counters remember to put them somewhere where there is a large parade ground and ample space for mustering en mass with equipment for direct embarkation onto the LPD’s which I am confident will be retained.

      • i’m surprised that basic training has not moved, h.m.s sultan(being closed) covers a vast area with more than enough accommodation, doing so, would allow the marines the option of moving lock,stock and barrel to devonport where whatever seagoing asset would be stationed.

  4. Not just the defence select committee everyone with half a brain cell is opposed to any further defence cuts. Enough is Enough.
    We cannot afford to lose anymore vital defence capabilities.

    • while pointless ships like the rivers there are 9 of them, these ships should be gunned up’ to corvette/ light frigate level,valuable time to increase the fleet size will have been lost.

  5. I wonder how many posters here have participated in a demonstration over military spending? I wonder how many have raised petitions or even written to their MPs? I did over the campaign to save the NHS. To see so many thousands take part in a peaceful demonstration was moving. Perhaps you should be campaigning as well?

  6. You will not just cut the marines and the ships
    With these two ships gone plus Ocean gone think of what happens to the local economy
    Not just the marines and the bases going but whole communities devastated
    I think then Devonport will close as a base and leave just the sub refit complex
    I think then a campaign will start to get that closed as if to say if you want everything in Portsmouth you might as well take all the rotten nuclear subs to pompy as well
    Plus the fact that the SW is not very Labour orientated but will be and to the detriment of the Tories pacifists

    • Dear god Barry. Have you followed anything in the correct order and where do you think the majority of MP’s backing this report come from. The south West of course. Many of the so called Tory pacifists that you talk about are ex service personnel, my MP, Johnny Mercer , being one.

      • Devonport has already been slashed in size and capability. This group of politicians have practically given way defence assets at a dizzying rate.
        The defence estate may have needed trimming, but the manner in which it has been done has been mercenary.
        If only the public knew who has benifitted and just how little has been paid for some very attractive pieces of real estate they would be appalled.

  7. The RM is a elite independent fighting unit the envy of the world, it does not suffer from recruitment problems like some units of the army, the ability to launch amphibious Landings is any where in the world is crucial the new carriers will not be able to do this, yes tools can be deployed by helicopters from the carriers but no heavy equipment or supplies. What I do not understand is why the RAF regiment hasn’t been cut to save money and this role taken over by the army a normal infantry battilon could fill this role if needed.

  8. I think the big plan is as follows, we will lose the ships, then be moved to the Army to combine with the Paras saving the Navy money and upping the Armys manpower. Totally f****d up.
    If this happens in any way shape or form. I will never vote in any capacity ever again.

  9. Geoffrey Roach
    I have followed this with a passion and the fact is the Tories that are backing this report are local MPS and the rest maybe are ex service personnel
    The ones that arnt are the ones that are the problem Maybe i shouldnt have used the word “pacifist” but i wont apoligise
    Never mind the correct order that you say im not following the fact is i cannot see the logic of getting rid just to save a few pounds and all the supply chain that goes with it
    How many people will be affected by this if it goes ahead

  10. I never got the need for these for the ‘northern defence’ role. Let’s assume Russia was a threat, surely we would spot a huge amoured build up, with plenty of time to sea lift in the troops to a norway port, and not need to use amphibious landing. Combine that with the reality that if the ports did fall, before we got there, then these ships would be death traps to the russian bombers/ armour on land.

    In 2018, i really struggle to see a scenario where these would realistically be needed.

    • what about hurricane relief, what about west Africa (ISIS), what about Horn of Africa (ISIS), what about south east Asian islands. ISIS is very feasible and China is emerging. Correct, euro operations not so necessary but certainly expeditionary.

      • hurricane relief the bays did fine. ISIS doesn’t require amphibious assaults. Expeditionary doesn’t have to mean fighting from the beaches.

        • Massed armoured columns is not how Russia takes a country from the west influence to its own, (massed divions across the border is so 20century). it’s all about destabilising governments, miss information, using local ethnic Russian populations, isolating political leadership from the international community, special forces, armed irregulars and economics.

          We won’t knows Russia is moving on a Baltic state until it starts to collapse internally and you see unidentifiable uniforms supporting local armed Russian ethic groups “fighting agains oppression”. At that point a couple of amphips full of marines may just be what stabilises an allied nation and makes those unidentified uniforms melt back into the murk.

          • equally at that point we could airlift in the marines, since the country hadn’t calapsed yet and so the airstrips will be open. We can also use the bays and various commercial ships to ferry the troops in, since the landing will not be contested.

            for the Albions to be needed, we need to be attacking from a beach, because all ports are held and can’t be secured with a initial special forces raid.

            In theory it could happen in a Iraq war 1 scenario but that was ultimately a coalition war where there was a friendly border to roll the gear and troops across.

            We have to accept we can’t have every capability going because of our stuffed ecomomy, which wont recover in our lifetimes, and so droppinge a capabiliity that is of marginal use, to maintain troop numbers or other essential equipment, which will be needed regularly, seems sensible to me.

    • Mass armoured columns??

      I doubt it over that border between the Kola and Northern Norway. I don’t think the terrain lends itself to armoured movements.

      1 Infantry Brigade was part of NATO AMF Land in the 80’s earmarked for NATO flanks I don’t think they were equipped with many armoured vehicles.

  11. Steve, yes we may not be able to have every capability going, but these two ships:

    1) cost close to a billion pounds and are not yet half way through their lives, scrapping them is the worst kind of waste of taxpayers money (I’m betting we would keep them even longer now we are only using one at a time)
    2) it’s not like we rushed into getting these to ships, it’s only after fearless crapped out and had a fire at a bad moment that we really got down to ensuring we had a replacement.
    3) When not moth balled these ships are not hanging around doing nothing, they are very active, look at the deployment history, these ships are also doing things others in the fleet can’t.
    4) it’s not just the over the beach capacity, all of our command and control for amphibious operations are tied into these ships, loss them loss a big part of our ability to lead and manage joint ops. Lots of our allies have ships that can move stuff, only the U.S. French and us have this capability.

    Loss these two ships you may as well remove the logistic ships as well, they just become a bit dangerous as politicians may think in extremes we still have some over the beach capability when we don’t.

    There is a lot of capability we don’t seem to be using in anger ( and some we don’t), main battle tanks, ballistic missiles, heavy ASMs, all torpedoes, nuclear subs…..the list goes on….but just because we have not used them in the last few years to kill people does not remove the need to have the capability. What we need in peace time or for present operations is not what we would need in a peer on peer war and in the end that’s what we pay our billions to both prevent and prepare our armed forces for.

    • whilst I agree with most of your logic, I really don’t see the Albions being useful in a peer war, torpedoes etc would be. The command and control capability can be managed from the carriers. Whilst scrapping them seems bad value, they are the most expensive ships to run and so it would save a fair bit of money removing them, not enough to plug the gap in the budget but a start.

      I don’t want to see any capability cut, but if something has to be cut, it should be something that has minimal impact. There isn’t much left to cut and that is the core of the problem, and each round of cuts is having to hit progressively more important gear.

    • i’m always baffled by the phrase ‘fitted for, but not with’ the albions should, for their size have been armed, even the archers were
      designed to carry 20mm cannon, as for the opv the new sigma corvette is, 10 meters longer, has 20 more crew can do 5 knots faster but, it comes with 4 exocet, a 76mm main gun two triple torpedo launchers, two quad anti air launchers and are classed by customers as’light frigates, the bonus for the R.N? our ships are already built!!!

  12. I would gladly lose the amphibs if it allowed for bolstering the escort fleet. We need to focus on maximizing the effectiveness of our carriers. They must receive ample escorts and aircraft. If money is tight, that capability should be prioritized.

    Consider also the fact that amphibious landings are fraught with risk. If you have to land troops, helicopters offer far more flexibility for landing troops. You are not limited to storming beaches; you can fly around defences. The modest amounts of armour that amphibs can land pales into insignificance when the risks of a beach landing are considered. Arguing for retention of amphibious ships is akin to arguing for battleships. It’s muddled thinking. Battleships and amphibs belong in an earlier time before helicopters and missiles. Do you really anticipate a circumstance where we park Albion two or three miles offshore and send our marines in at five knots in landing craft? It just doesn’t make sense. Buy the seventh astute, plenty of F35s and more helicopters. Buy more frigates and destroyers and properly equip them. We should not choose to spend money on the amphibious force when resources are so scarce.

  13. we went into iraq/Afghan and it came clear quickly that we didn’t have real basic kit for any form of land force, such as body armour, radios, machine guns, helicopters etc. The problem with the ied can be partially understood, since you can’t gear for every type of combat, but lack of the real basics that are needed in every combat situation is unforgivable. Then there is ships sailing without phlaanx and rumours that they don’t have their silos full, which indicate a huge lack of equipment should a conflict requiring them kicks off, resulting in the small numbers getting used early. The list just goes on and on, such as running our of tommahawks, not having enough troops to man the defences properly at fort bastion, not having enough sailors to man various naval ships.

    Does anyone really think we could fight a near peer country, based on lack of the basics.

    We need to stop focusing on glamour items, and cut back to a level we can actually afford and gear up properly. The reality is it will mean we have to give up pretending to be a world power and focus on being a regional or local one.

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