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Thank you for another year of accurate and informative work!


The Devonport and Portsmouth flotillas are merging? How on Earth will that work? Unless they’re on about closing Devonport, having ships based in two different places is going to require them to be administered separately, even if you include them all in a single “Surface Flotilla” or whatever name they give it.


Why will the ships at two bases need to be administer separately? With modern IT there is no need for duplicated teams of people.


Perhaps poor phrasing on my part. When I say “administered separately”, I mean administered as separate entities. Having two separate bases full of different classes of ships means they’re going to have different requirements. Having one team administer both doesn’t change the fact that they’re still going to be functionally separate.

John Magee

My concern is Members of The Defence Department & Ministry of Defence three of the Ministers are EX- Army no RN or RAF, we are an Island Nation we need The Royal Navy to protect our interests and around the World


Let those Ministers show how capable they are sorting out the Armys issues and procurement procrastination before they are let loose on the other services. Also remember the current Chief of Defence, General Carter ,and principal adviser to the Government is an Army general as well.
The only relief is the Vice Chief, who would be more directly involved in procurement (? ) is Admiral Tim Fraser, his immediate predecessor was Royal Marine General Messenger, who should have got the top job but was from the ‘wrong service’- hes retired now but is only 57.


Maybe if they gave the army consistent direction and a budget that allowed it to do everything that is being asked of it instead of being forced to reorganise itself every 2-3 years something would happen.


Please the army is getting horrifically short shrift compared to the Navy.

David Steeper

I don’t know if you’re aware or not but for decades now each service has received roughly 1/3 of the non nuclear deterrent defence budget. In any given year one service may get 31 or 32%. But over 4 or 5 years it is as near as makes no difference. How the Army or anyone else is getting short shrift from the Navy is baffling to say the least. Jealousy perhaps ?


No the Navy simply has a consitent direction from the government and a budget that matches what is being asked of it. The Army keeps getting conflicting requirements and nowhere near the budget required to execute what is being asked of it. Also it’s quite nice that you deliberately leave the nuclear deterrent out to balance the stats your way. Also believe it or not simply dividing the budget by 3 and giving everyone an equal slice does not necessarily translate to “fair distribution.”
I get this is save the royal navy and people like you need to align anything that doesn’t praise the navy as some sort of emotional reaction but please.

David Steeper

The Navy chiefs are responsible for their budget as the RAF and Army chiefs are responsible for theirs. If there’s any shortfall I’d suggest it’s their job to balance the two. Blaming others might have it’s attractions for the people concerned but has no basis in reality. P.S.


Manpower growth/retention & ship availability are the dull but vital areas of focus for the Royal Navy in 2020. It’s hard to argue with Ben Wallace and others when they point out calls for more ships will continue to fall on deaf ears whilst the RN cannot sufficiently crew and maintain the ones it has.

All of the delays are of concern but the Astute program is the one that would most worry me due to the lack of information on the issues as well as the vital need to protect the carrier-group, the CASD whilst tracking Russian subs around The UK all at the same time. Any further delays could seriously result in a fleet of 4-5 SSN’s for the next decade as the last Trafalgar’s retire – and it would extremely dangerous to operate in The South China Sea or North Atlantic without accompanying Astute’s to counter Chinese or Russian subs.

2020 should see the first growth of the fleet in a very long time as the OPV force expands. We know 1 will be deployed to The West Indies and it seems likely a T23, or a River, or both will be forward based in Singapore as well. It’ll be really interesting to see how they operate and what utility they bring to the respective regions.


I can’t see the OPV’s doing much except showing the flag. Without an embarked helicopter they are of little practical use in SAR, disaster relief, maritime interdiction, or anti-piracy. A T23 forward deployed in Singapore would make sense though.


Flying the flag is important in The West Indies given we still have 5 territories there. They can also carry a decent amount of humanitarian aid and if only we’d invest in some helicopter drones (housed in small dog kennel hangars) they’d also be useful in the surveillance and anti-narcotics roles. Although I of course agree a Bay is in many ways a better choice. The 2nd double-crewed T23 will either go to The Gulf or Singapore. It’ll most likely be another GP version without Type 2087 or a Merlin which is ok in the shallow, constricted waters of The Gulf and perhaps in The Malacca Straits as well, but a ASW frigate adds the real worth if the plan is to project presence in The South China Sea.


Many of the helicopter drones are designed to be operated & maintained out of dedicated ISO containers on or with unimpeded access to the flight deck. Should not be a problem with a B2 River.

Simon m

We just need to buy some instead of experimenting every year and never actually purchasing


I think the West Indies should be a very low priority except for disaster relief preparations. It’s a peaceful part of the world except for the Drug crime which the US is keen to look after. A River is poor for both crime (no chopper) and relief. A Bay is still the best class for the job.


I think the River class would make good Fleet Tenders. By this I mean when a task force is deployed they can range ahead of the task force ensuring security of anchorages etc with embarked marines etc. They may need upgrading with certain equipment and a bigger gun say 57mm Bofors may be a place to start.


Bigger gun only useful for the range – out to 16km. Otherwise for anchorages and protecting out to 5km then a 30mm is the way to go . They have much better computer control now, and interface with a ships full fire control system and sensors such as infrared and air search. Even then a ‘River class’ would seem too big, a proper estuarine patrol boat or launch would be far better , and could be carried by the mother ship. The US uses them in the Gulf for screening of large ships as they arrive or leave the busy harbours where the risk is highest. Could form a component of the RM who do fleet force protection, more suited to their training than gate guard duties, and they could buy and operate the ‘launches’ as an extension of their existing craft, which they are more familiar with . Naval officers might think they are too grand for launch sized boats


Yet no mention of the decline in shore establishments – where they have days with no heating or hot water. Where civilian staff work in thick fleeces as it is so cold. Where meals are on paper plates. Where it takes 20 working days to unblock a toilet or change a lightbulb. This is not looking after the people who subsequently defend our nation on any of the ships or subs around the world.

Mike O

Thank you for your good work. It is inspiring the efforts you and other defence commentators go to. These are interesting times for the UK armed forces. I hope we are finally coming to the end of the post cold war decline. In the next few years we will hopefully see some consistency in the budgets and manning levels or a ‘new normal’ for the armed forces.

Have a happy New year!


THE ISSUE in 2020 will be the SDSR. Now if you look at the mood music this could be savage for the RN. The ministers involved are all army types and of course there is Cummings who seems to have a pathological hatred of all things originated by Labour ministers. Post Cold War we decided we needed an expeditionary capability in order to help enforce the rule of international law around the world alongside our allies (the carriers were very much part of this). Now, with the upsurge in Russian activity in and around our waters, this could change. I can see the politicians arguing for the emphasis to change to anti-submarine warfare which means frigates and submarines. This could be at the cost of our shiny new carriers and any ability we have to launch amphibious forces (Albion & Bulwark as well as the RMs). In short we could end up with a John Knott round two set of cuts.

This would be, of course, a huge mistake and probably end up costing us more in the long run. I do hope that the RN top brass can make the case for maintaining our expeditionary capabilities.

David Barry

Thank you for an infomative journal. Good luck in 2020 and I hope God blesses the Royal Navy.

Captain Nemo

Thanks for all your work keeping the navy in focus, hope you have a good new year.

Phillip Johnson

Given recent comments about Tide Class vessels leaning again the wharf, this makes interesting reading –’s-new-fleet-oiler-‘maud’-stuck-in-port-as-%27unsafe%27.html


Well this tit for tat between the Americans & Iranians seems to be getting worse. I think No 10 will have to scrap any cuts to T26/31 numbers they may have been planning for SDSR 2020.