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Defence thoughts

Hopefully in 10 years’ time we can get the finances back in order, and there won’t be a plague to wipe out 10 years’ worth of deficit cutting.

Some of us liked the National Flagship concept.

Alexander Foster

Hopefully in 10 years’ time we can get the finances back in order”

If the nations finances are back on track. Not to get political but when Labour left office debt to GDP was 68%, after a decade of failed austerity and mismanagement it is now at the 99% mark. The UK economically is falling significantly behind Australia, Canada, Germany, US, Sweden etc. UK household income is stagnating gas other G10 countries march forward. This means lower living standards and less money for government, which means less for defence.
As a defence spending advocate it is very hard to wish for extra spending when everything else is so dire.
A fully equipped CSG is much better than the National Flagship which is an extravagance from a bygone era. QE was very popular in Norway.


In 2000, after 3 years in which the Labour government had stuck to Ken Clarke’s spending plans, UK government debt was 30% of GDP. Then the spending spree started and despite so called austerity, Britain has been borrowing every year and is planning to carry on doing so. Whilst we are not alone in this, interest costs are a peculiarly UK problem because of the idiotic decision to issue index linked bonds. There is no credible plan to reduce the debt in the medium/ long term so a major uplift in defence spending is unlikely.
So the only option to improve our capabilities is to spend more efficiently.
We cannot afford to repeat programmes like:
Carriers budgeted at@£3b that cost £7b
SSBN successor far larger and more expensive than Vanguard but which will carry fewer missiles.
A 40 ton replacement for a 10 ton reconnaissance vehicle at a unit cost of over£9m
£1b to upgrade just 148 MBTs which will have only a few years life left when completed.
£500m spend on Warrior upgrade only to cancel it just as it reached completion.
£9b to buy and support over 10 years just 48 F35s which cannot operate planned UK weapons.
The budget has to be spent more effectively. Longer production runs of proven designs help to counter the rise in unit costs caused by small numbers of a new design.
We also have to stop pretending we are a global power, instead concentrating our efforts on where they are most directly useful to our own defence needs. If we don’t grasp this, financial realities will force further damaging cuts on numbers that are already worryingly small.


Good points . yet some seem to think its time to devote resources to the Pacific- something about China.
Strangely Taiwan , a wealthy nation in itself doesnt even spend 2% of its GDP on defence. They could be like the smaller Singapore who spend 2.8%


And yet look what a bang they get for their buck!! The RN, The RAF and the Army are shrinking yet Ben Wallace is fighting his corner! Well that’s all right then!


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Last edited 1 year ago by Gloria
Defence thoughts

We also have to stop pretending we are a global power, instead concentrating our efforts on where they are most directly useful to our own defence needs.

If we retreat, we might be faced with a need to expand that we can’t handle. We have interests in the Straits of Malacca- should we allow our submarine cables to be tapped into? Any retreat will involve pain further down the line that the people will object to, no matter how much they call for a retreat now. Decline is not a magic bullet people think it is.


This is an excellent analysis of the financial situation. After 2000 Labour totally throw away good financial management. The MOD is also certainly guilty of huge mistakes in equipment programs that you have highlighted. The only thing that you have missed is that we are in this situation because of the hysteria over Covid when literally billions were thrown down the drain on locking down the economy and pay paying for a pointless track and trace system that appears to have achieved absolutely nothing! Working in hospital, I have the waste within the NHS 


The UK of creation and “can do” ended long ago. Now it is the UK of socialization, over-regulation and general anti-freedom.
UK do not have the culture – so without the political will – to support what most want here. If you want more for the armed forces you will have to change the culture.


Absolutely correct. Nations rise and nations fall. Culture is an instrumental component of that and I know of few occasions in history where a deep cultural decline has been reversed. You cannot have a defence establishment that somehow is what the larger culture is not.

Robert Blay.

And which freedoms have we lost in the UK exactly??


You have road blocks and police do nothing, a lady stay silent near an abortion center and is detained…


She was arrested for breaking a public space protection order, which is there so protestors dont confront women attending a clinic.
She had been cautioned 4 times previously at this location.
Freedom to attend medical clinics without harassment is more important

Last edited 1 year ago by Duker

Try a ‘silent protest’ outside HMNB Clyde gates where your purpose is to obstruct the nuclear mission and will be arrested also, after being warned the first times.


“Public Space Protection Order” right from Orwellian playbook… tell me, does blocking roads are not part of it?

I see your tolerance for tyranny is already in place.


I’m with you, AlexS. Time to close ranks.


Those people who dont believe others should drive cars are treated the same as those who dont believe women can choose their own medical options. many many reports of arrests too.
You have irrational beliefs which dont match the facts, spare us in this forum


They’re not irrational. They’re just not militantly secular. They proceed from a different epistemological starting point. But, since this is not a theology-morality-philosophy forum, that’s a discussion for another time and another place.

Supportive Bloke

It is also a law passed by an elected parliament and enforced by independent courts.

You may not agree with the law: which is fine in a democracy.

In the UK you can freely campaign to get laws changed.

That is the nature of democracy.


‘Some of us like the National Flagship concept’

Personally I think it’s far more impressive to host foreign dignitaries and trade missions on QE or PoW.

Defence thoughts

Royal Yachts have their uses. If we get the money, I hope we can pay for both. Both are impressive in their own way.

Supportive Bloke

Well we have two QEC and they are impressive.

Let’s use them.


I can’t see the public finances being back in order any time soon. The upcoming 10% increase for pensions and benefits will cost £35bn alone: pretty close to our £38bn defence budget. These costs will only keep increasing and compounding. 1/6 of working age people are choosing not to work. Taxation is a disincentive to wealth creation and entrepreneurship. I think the right and wrongs of this are beyond the scope of a defence site, but I can’t help think this outlook will conspire to see less and less money to be spent on defence (and this despite the fact Defence R&D has a return of investment of 3:1 – significantly better then HS2 for example – and is one of the few industries whose benefits – and well paid jobs – are nation wide.


Defence is £48 bill in 2023
And some of these


The macro picture is pretty good with the batch 2 T26’s confirmed, the Astute program seemingly proceeding smoothly after plenty of issues and surprises like the Naval Strike missile being procured in larger numbers than expected suggesting it’s not a purely interim measure.

It’s the salami slicing on the micro level that’s more concerning. Both Wave’s laid up, Echo retired despite having years of service left, at best 5 ‘logistic support vessels’ replacing a much larger and rapidly diminishing MCM fleet.


I’d sell the B1 River’s and bring the B2’s back to UK waters (other than the one patrolling the Falklands). The B2’s inability to permanently carry a helicopter due to their lack of a hangar means that they are militarily useless when deployed beyond land based air cover.
I’d use the savings in operating costs this would generate to stop the reduction of the MCM fleet. I’d far rather persevere our world class MCM capability than have some patrol boats swanning around in the Far East achieving little more than waving the White Ensign for PR purposes.


There’s just not been enough long-term and joined up thinking on this. Given that we no longer need expensive specialised hulls for MCM i’d have gone down the proposed MHPC / C3 route of procuring 8-12 simple but flexible 2-3,000 ton vessels to replace the Hunt’s, Sandown’s, B1 River’s and Echo’s.

57mm gun, Wildcat / UAV capable hangar and set up for containerized survey and mine-hunting equipment.

Bring most of the B2 River’s home and then forward deploy 1-2 of them to the West Indies, Persian Gulf, Gibraltar and Singapore – with the Middle East and Far East also having a T31 for a slightly more ‘fighty’ presence.

Alas what we’ll see instead is the T31’s forward deployed in place of the River’s once the OPV fleet is reduced and a couple of off the shelf mother-ships bought to provide minimal MCM coverage.


Given that we no longer need expensive specialised hulls for MCM 

Really? I think you will find only the over so clever Royal Navy thinks this. Everybody is else building new MCM hulls.


Many (including the ones being procured jointly by Belgium, The Netherlands and maybe France) are new hulls but to deploy unmanned systems similar to the ones the Royal Navy is developing.

I meant that cheaper and more flexible vessels can be used rather than the specialised and expensive Hunt’s and Sandown’s.


So you think you can just turn up somewhere, plonk some kit on the back of whatever hull is to hand and off you go?

And you think these hulls being developed by other states don’t have specialist features?



Well that’s what the Royal Navy wants to do with a mix of landbased MCM modules and a small number of minimally adapted off the shelf motherships!

I’m simply saying it would be better to revert to a MHPC / Black Swan shaped solution that standardises the MCM, survey and OPV roles onto a common hull that could be less expensive now that we’re talking about off-board systems that don’t require plastic hulls and as many other bespoke design features that the current classes do.


Yes. The RN always makes the right decisions these days. >larf<


On the mine-hunting patrol around Faslane, it has been extensively tested already. Its not a “powerpoint plan”, but real. So I understand RN is “right” on saying that the Faslane task can be done from ground using UAV MCM kits.

On the KIPION MCMVs, RN has just started testing them. I’ve read somewhere that a Bay has been tested with MCM USVs. SD Victoria also carried USV drones many times.

RN is taking time here, not in hurry, so let’s see how it goes.


Just repeating at me what the RN is doing is no argument for what they are doing is it?

A Kilo can carry 24 mines.


So what?

You insist GFRP-hull MCMVs hunting mines in Faslane is better than doing it with USVs. From what respect?


Have you given any thought to the actual problem at hand rather than just quoting that a cash strapped RN is telling us? Have you written to the JMSDF to tell them to scrap their MCM hulls? Why don’t you tell me how this is going to work as you are the one telling me you understand it.

The geographic area is huge. The equipment needs to be moved. The equipment is specialised. The equipment may be needed elsewhere. Never mind specialised support functions like diving. Never mind auxiliary roles. You tell me why a maritime organisation would give up on the idea of working from ships and boats?


Your argument on geographic area and needs to move, I totally agree. And, that is exactly RN is going to deliver.

1: RN is buying 4 LSV (presumably, “Littoral Support Vessel”?) and 1 Offshore Support Vessel within the MCH program. Officially written in the 2023-2032 equipment plan. In other words, RN is NOT cutting the mine-countermeasure ship maneuver capability, just changing the way how to do it.

2: RN also officially states that the USV-based MCM kits will be operated from Bay LSD, OPVs, T26 and future T32 vessels. Actually, a MCM control container was presented onboard River B2 OPV at London. A Bay class has trialed operating USVs from her dock this year. It is happening.

3: land-based USV-MCM kits will remove the need to use a dedicated vessel to secure Faslnae’s entrance, a task which must be continuously supported. This will also apply to ports defense tasks. When needed, the USV-MCM team will be deployed, and do the task. No need for GFRP-hull MCMVs here.

It is not only item-3, items-1,2 and 3 combined is the RN solution.

Sorry, but it is not clear for me on what you are complaining?

Last edited 1 year ago by donald_of_tokyo
John Charles

“LSV (presumably, “Littoral Support Vessel”?)”

Logistics Support Vessels were mentioned by Alec Shelbrooke MP in September.


That’s not a lot of explosive if each mine is a tad under 42 grams.


Totally agree.


It’s hard to know where to start to explain to you the role of the B2 Rivers, as others have tried before and you seem deaf to all nuance. Although I’m pleased your opposing position now accepts they can host helicopters, just not over many months, you still seem to believe that long term hosting of a helicopter is the only thing that makes an OPV militarily useful.

You clearly haven’t understood the implications of grey-zone warfare, which includes a long term battle of hearts and minds in non-aligned countries. One of the UKs counters to persistent misinformation includes a doctrine of persistent engagement, making sure that we are there in all regions, talking, conducting joint exercises, helping out where we can. Doing our bit if you like. If I change the word talking to HUMINT might that give you a warmer feeling?

In the past we have overwhelmingly seen the military as a tool of hard power, only occasionally engaging in soft power activities as a sidleline, and dismissed by though like you as PR. (I’m not sure what you’ve got against PR). Current thinking is that the soft power requirements are every bit as important as hard power and that the military must earn its keep in times of peace ensuring that peace and stability continue. Passive deterrence is insufficient and active engagement is necessary. Perhaps that explains why the role of the Rivers is doctrinally useful. In fact it’s hard to think of a cheaper way to fulfil the role of persistent presence over an entire region. I suggest you read the Integrated Operating Concept publication if you want to understand this better.

I’m not going to argue that the OPVs wouldn’t be better with a hangar; however, the RN doesn’t have enough Wildcats to permanantly base on the OPVs, so the lack of a hangar makes zero practical difference right now. We should have drones on all the OPVs for ISR, and something like the Camcopter can be run from a Navy POD, fulfilling the hangar’s function.

In time of war, the functions of a River class will most likely include doing the same work it does in peacetime, including counter-piracy and counter-terrorism. Lower threat bad guys don’t suddenly disappear when a big-bad turns up elsewhere. But transporting up to 50 marines or special forces long distances reasonably quickly is also not “militarily useless”. Nor is the ability to gather intelligence from disparate parts of the world; an ELINT upgrade is very possible. Nor is the ability to lilypad and refuel a helicopter. As for what kinetic weapons might be available in Navy PODS in the future, who knows? CAMM, NSM? I wouldn’t want to use OPVs for toe-to-toe fighting no matter how upgunned they were, but warfare is not all toe-to-toe fighting.

Your “solution” is odd: replacing B1s with B2s to do the identical fisheries job more expensively. Why? If we didn’t want to use the B2 overseas (and I’ve explained why we do), surely we’d be better off selling the B2 Rivers and buying four boats even smaller and cheaper than the B1s to replace them for UK waters.


Thanks for a detailed and thoughtful reply. It’s really refreshing to be able to disagree without it becoming personal.

I’m not denying the benefits of soft power but I’m arguing that investment in that area should only be a priority when you have the hard power capabilities that you need to protect and deter. Therefore I would prefer to see us prioritise MCM assets over soft power assets. It would be lovely to have both but we don’t seem to be able to afford that.


Bang on, Sunmack. There is far too much wishful thinking in the UK defence establishment and especially in the Royal Navy. For the life of me, if money is such a huge issue, I don’t understand why the Black Swan multirole “sloops” were not built when they were proposed around a decade ago, nor do I comprehend why an updated but otherwise similar vessel isn’t being built right now. Put a dozen of these in the water and most of the pressing needs of the surface fleet vanish, and all at a cost for all 12 that might be less than what you pay for a single Trident SSBN. For sure it wouldn’t be much more than that.


Alas, we will never have all the hard power requirements needed to protect and deter. It’s a never satisfied requirement. I think that unless we balance hard and soft power, we won’t get the optimum bang for our buck.

I’m certainly not convinced that soft power capacity in the military should outweigh hard power, which is how I read some of the modern doctrine papers. A pendulum swing too far IMO. Balances have to be made in so many areas, such as how much do we spend on next decade’s capability when this decade’s really needs an extra few bob (and then some). Soft vs hard is yet another, and we must do both.

Currently MCM is having over £1bn spent on it. Best use of the £600m we already spent on the B2 Rivers seems preferable to me to relegating them to UK waters for a tiny operational saving. It’s not an either-or. We can afford both, and the RN are planning on exactly that, at least until the T31s come on stream. There are indications that some ministers think the overseas use of the B2s should continue even then, at least in part, and James Heappey gave a talk last year acknowledging that. I don’t know what will happen in the last few years of this decade, but I’m very much in the keep-the-B2s-abroad camp. I hope I’ll be able to convince you to join me there.


As the article says, the RN’s biggest challenge is undersea threats. And yet we are seeing an ongoing loss of ship based ASW sensor and noise management capability at a time when the submarine threat is increasing and has expanded to include threats to undersea assets such as pipelines and cables.

We’ve gone from 12 AAW destroyers with moderate ASW capabilities to six with poor to non-existent capabilities (if the reports of their sonars being unmanned are true).

We’re moving from 8 excellent ASW frigates with a towed array and 5 with a very good hull mounted sonar to 8 excellent T26 ASW frigates but 5 T31 GP’s with no sonars and diesel running gear which isn’t optimal for ASW operations.

T26 is going to be one of the best ASW frigates in the world but 60% of our surface fleet is going to have no or next to no ASW sensor capability. If T32 is another diesel design then it’s not going to be a good ASW platform even if you fit sonars.

Instead of T32, I’d rather see us build a lower cost T26 without the Mk41, mission bay and with fewer SAM’s or design a new design specialised ASW frigate. These vessels would operate as part of task forces which would release the full capability T26 for independent operations which they are very well equipped for with their strong AAW and (eventually) ASuW/land attack fit.


Money is the problem as UK Plc is in a mess without any sign that there is anybody in ‘government’ capable of even basic administration never mind foreign policy.

We need to maintain submarine numbers. We need the RN to maintain conventional MCM capability if for no other reason that to protect Faslane. Keep T26 on track. And look to join Italy’s DDX program to replace T45.

Rob N

That picture of the carrier firing a small gun says it all… there should have been another CIWS there but the MoD cost cut and did not install it. They also did not install the 30mm mounts or Sea Ceptor. If we are going to do CSG lets do it properly. Don’t get me started on the 1970’s AEW radar that is guarding the CSG. It would be top notch if we were in the 1970’s!


I think Sea Ceptor is overboard. I think that the defensive fit should be:
2x Phalanx CIWS
2x Sea RAM
4 x 30mm


There’s no money. So most things become “for but not with”.

It is good to see that the plans for Type 45 at least propose to address some of the gaps in at least that platform … that is assuming those upgrades are not cancelled.

Supportive Bloke

Sea Ceptor is better than Sea Ram…

The issue is that it would have to be developed to fire at 45 degrees to avoid FOD issues. It can’t launch vertically otherwise it would be a risk to the flight deck. It has to launch out of and through zones that are not used for AT.


Sea Ceptor is better but as you say, would require significant investment in the missile and modifications to the carriers. As I understand it, Sea RAM can be installed on existing Phalanx mounts we already have and which the carriers are fitted to receive.


Sea Ceptor is already angled out in the T23 setting. ( they have 4 x 8 rows , 2 rows angled each side) but a carrier would just need 2×8 bank angled out and outboard of each island.


Watching a launch , one the issues is the material used as a cap for the launch tube is broken and sent into air as the missiles does its cold launch sequence. Mitigate that and problem is mostly solved.

Rob N

The launch missile has a thrust vectoring system that tips the missile over from vertical launch to the desired vector. So no special angled launcher is needed. There would be no major problems in adding som box launchers. The carrier’s 997 radar is the same as on the T23 that already uses tge system. Sea Ceptor would be a good choice for the carrier and much better than Sea RAM. You could always buy the extended range (45km) range missile. The ranges are just OS and there are claims that the standard Sea Ceptor has a range of more like 50km…


Thats right . But the Sea ceptor launch tubes are angled out – I tried a photo showing this but it wouldnt embed.
The reason is a failed rocket ignition after the cold launch would mean the missile falls back down onto the deck if it was a a vertical launch like others. ( which dont use the cold launch technique- if the booster doesnt fire it doesnt leave the tube)


Sea RAM is a step up from CIWS not a competitor to Sea Ceptor which is a PDMS.


Sea Ceptor has range of say 25 km, so can cover a wider area than the 5km of traditional PDMS ( and of course hypersonic missiles you have to have capability around the 20km plus mark as any closer and its too late.)
The RIM-116 missiles is only around 10km range so is a ‘close in system’ in the hypersonic scenario.
Those are brochure numbers, so depends on all working well and those in charge not ‘off getting a coffee’ [ what ever happened to the most junior person doing the coffee run ?]

Supportive Bloke

In a high threat situation it would be in auto mode.


They never are in the ‘full auto mode’ as its too dangerous to forget to turn it off or it mabey target a friendly nearby ( which is 15-25 km away now). I dont know of course but theres too many hits of warships that should have been protected – Moskva most recent example

Supportive Bloke


But commonality of munitions is a good idea?


Given how much of the UK’s naval and, indeed, national firepower is concentrated in the two QE’s, I think they ought to be upgunned well beyond the otherwise sensible and affordable fit you suggest here, Sunmack. If it were up to me it would be:

4 X Phalanx (one for each quarter)
2 X Sea RAM
2 X Dragonfire (if and when this becomes operational and assuming the ships’ electrical power is sufficient to operate them)
4 X 30mm
8 X miniguns (Gatling guns)

Rob N

I would drop Sea RAM and add some box launchers for Sea Ceptor. I do not think the 30mm would be needed. Phalanx can hit surface targets as can Sea Ceptor. We should add the missing Phalanx. Also the Sea Ceptor.


That would work, too. Just thinking that SeaRAM could be more quickly and cheaply installed. Phalanx can indeed be used against surface targets but I am thinking that the 30mm should still be there because Phalanx is going to more quickly run out of ammunition, which could decide the issue in a swarm attack.


The new P-8 in service with RAF also use a mechanically scanned search radar APY-10 which is a later development of the original radar used in the P-3A, APS-80
Electronics changes everything while the scanning dish can stay much the same

The first AESA radar for the P-3C was a large podded APS-149 only a few carried and the newest ‘canoe’ APS-154 for the P-8 , again only a few will carry
photo @cvvhrn


“Type 32 remains in the concept phase but is in a fight for funding and is the only means by which the RN might expand its escort fleet beyond 19 vessels in the 2030s.”

I doubt it. I’m afraid if RN can get ~£1Bn of money increase, it is already very lucky (of course, after more money for the MRSS program be found). But, what can be done with ~£1Bn?

1: Designing and ordering 5 T32 will easily require £2.5-3.5Bn = out of scope

2: Ordering one more T26 (9th hull) will cost only £850M (2022 price). This requires 170-180 more crew (including flight) which means 300-400 man-power increase RN-wide, which could happen.

(May be RN can use the remaining £150M to, further up-arm T45 (48 not 24 CAMM?), or add 8 NSM to all escorts, or add (limited) ASW capability to some of the T31s.)

3: Ordering three more T31 (6,7,8th hull, without any up-arming) will cost only £1Bn (2022 price). But, this requires 372-390 more crew (including flight) which means 700-100 man-power increase RN-wide, which might be “too difficult” to happen.

I understand T32 program is there to keep UK ship building industries “escort design capability”, which is understandable. But it costs for sure. Although they say “T32 is the only means to increase escort number”, it is very very cost inefficient for this purpose. In short, to increase escort number, order a few more T26/T31. To improve UK ship building industry, yes, T32 is needed. It shall not be mixed up, I think.

Last edited 1 year ago by donald_of_tokyo

T32 is vaporware. I am very fond of the theory that T32 came about because Doris Johnson mispoke. 🙂

T31 is too far along now. But that should be cancelled too.

I fail to understand why a ninth T26 wasn’t the obvious choice for the money. We should be throwing money at T26 to ensure it leaves the wall as well armed as possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by X
Supportive Bloke

Crew wise the man power comes from the withdrawal of the Hunts, Sandoewns and the reduced crewing of T31 over T23.

I don’t agree that T32 or T31 BII is a pipe dream. It is not a huge amount of money over a 5 year program.

I suspect all that happened was T32 was over spec’d. It will get cut back to a sensible spec and the project will proceed.

It is cross party that frigate numbers are too low.

RN does have a friendly chancellor and one who understands industrial strategy. Sunak had identified the need to project undersea cables etc a long time ago. I wouldn’t be too surprised if a lot of the contracts were signed before the next election.


I don’t think there’s a T32 spec yet; it’s still in concept. For me T31-B2 is the way to go: spiral development. If we can’t afford to operate more than half-a-dozen GP frigates, let’s mothball or sell the older ones and keep building new. It won’t be that expensive.



I have some comments on man-power.

5 T31 needs 550 core crew to man them. The 3 active T23 needs 510 core crew. The 4th crew for T23 exists (for KIPION double crewing), but I think T31 will do the same. In short, crews from T23GP will be totally absorbed in the T31 fleet if we are to fully use it (do not put on extended readiness).To my understanding, large fraction of the crew of Hunts and Sandoewns will be needed for 12 USV-MCM kits operation and maintenance, and 4 LSV and 1 OSV listed in the 2023-2032 equipment plan.On the T32 program, I do think it will cost at least 2.5-3Bn GBP. Yes, if it is even LESS ARMED than T31 (say, no CAMM), it can be cheaper. But, are we really going to call it a frigate or escort? I will not. As such, escort number will not grow. So, if HMG wants to grow the escort fleet by means of T32, they need to find this amount of “more money”. This is my point. But, if so, I shall propose to buy MRSS, improve T45 CAMM number, improve T26 radar and CAMM number, increase SeaGurdian UAV and/or P-8A, F35B, etc etc… before going for T32. (my personal opinion).

If the frigate numbers is too low, RN must

first, increase salary to improve manpower, especially the retention rate. This will cost a lot, but, man-power is the most limiting factor in RN and RFA nowthen the easiest way to increase frigate number is to add more T31s, which will be 330-350M GBP each (including GFX, without any up-arming).my favorate way is to add one more T26 (~850M) and one more T31 (330-350M). It will cost ~1.2Bn GBP and (160+110 =) 270 more trained crew = 500 more man-power. I think this is not far away. A 21 escort fleet is not so bad here, because 6+9 = 15 hulls are high-end escorts, and 6 are low-end GP escorts. Well balanced, I think.

Last edited 1 year ago by donald_of_tokyo

3 T23 GP will provide 170×3 = 510. Adding “double crew” on KIPION, it is 680.
5 T31 needs 110×5 = 550 core crew. I guess RN will double crew at least one T31. Then it needs 660 core crew.
So, at least T23GP cannot provide surplus man-power other than 5 T31.


sorry for double post …

Craig Lewell

The National Shipbuilding Strategy places an emphasis on the Navy selling assets whilst they are still relatively new to generate receipts, which is often overlooked. So we might grow the fleet slightly but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the Type 31’s are sold within ten years of their in service date being replaced by Type 32 and I wouldn’t be surprised by a 1 for 1 replacement unless they sell the Batch 2 Rivers instead.

I think it’s worth also noting that increased defence spend isn’t really more money – it’s treading water given inflation.

Last edited 1 year ago by Craig Lewell

Yes, early-selling was noted on the original National Shipbuilding Strategy, but never mentioned by RN nor MOD, to my understanding. Can you find any?

And, as you know, even if you sell T31 in 10 years, how much will come back from the 2Bn GBP spent on T31? I would be surprised if it exceeds 500M GBP. To get 2.5-3Bn GBP needed for T31, MOD needs another 2-2.5Bn, while it was noted by NAO that MOD does not have any such money (at least) in the ten years equipment plan.

In short, I doubt early-selling will take place (history tells on T23 (18 years), and HMS Ocean (15-20 years)). And I doubt any of the 2-2.5Bn more money shall be there.


You don’t have to recoup the entire programme cost when selling T31s, just a substantial portion of the costs of new builds. If we build upgraded T31s they won’t cost more than £300m each. Possibly less. We won’t have much retraining to do, nor changing all the spares and ammunition stocks, nor the maintentenance contracts, etc which will broadly stay the same for T31 B2. If we go for a UK radar (which we always should have had), that will cost a little, but it won’t have to be any more expensive than the NS100. If we sell the old T31s to another country that wants to upgun them (probable), we get to transfer refurbished 40mm and 56mm guns too.

If we build one every year we need to find about £250m a year. As it’s mostly built in the UK, about £100m will come back in taxes. We get maybe £75m in exports for exporting the old ships and perhaps onward contracts for support and maintenance. We just need to persuade the Treasury that tax take through the supply chain is valid income and top up the remaining £75m a year. That’s affordable to maintain our industrial base and keep competitive pressure on BAES.

Persuade the Treasury…. Hold on, what am I saying? You are right. There’s no chance.


That £268 mill ( probably already at £300 from inflation) isnt a completed cost.
Its really for the prime contractor costs for hull and fit out and propulsion. It doesnt include weapons systems , radars and the combat systems software .
Thats probably another £250 mill in cost ( a 5in gun alone is US$70 mill)

Its very hard to pin down the end costs of any naval ship build or even something like the P-8 as the MoD only talks about Treasurys ‘system costs’ which are development , entry in service, training systems, and recurring maintenance contract costs up to say the mid life refit stage .

I did notice an answer to a parliamentary question about a T45 possible order for a 7th and 8th ships back in 2008 or so, that gave unit cost of the last few ships under construction as £650 mill each. Which seems to be in right ball park but may not have included all equipment


I thought that most of the purchase costs were routed through the prime, with subcontracts passed down, including Tacticos. But yes, it’s obscured to us mere mortals, because Lord forbid government should be held to account by members of the public.

As Donald San pointed out, the overall costs are nearly £2bn for the 5 ships, and we know the Babcock contract is £1.25bn. So the ship unit cost lies somewhere between £250m and £400m. It’s a shame we don’t know how much of the extra £150m is system costs for the project and how much for big-ticket items not routed through the prime.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon
Craig Lewell

‘And because of the Royal Navy’s own reputation as a trusted supplier of second hand warships, we could look to sell our own Type 31’s at the midpoint of their lives and reinvest the savings into follow-on batches.’

Old, as in 2017, but with New Zealand (replacement to Anzac Class) and Australia (considering whether Arafura’s should be replaced) you could see this being a possibility. The Naval threat isn’t in Europe but in the Far East so would support wider geopolitical – “tilts”.

The Type 23 and Astute programmes are examples of why we have a national shipbuilding strategy – the Govt had to pay over the odds for the B2 Rivers to keep the industrial capacity in place, it’s a new long term Industrial strategy.

In terms of crew calculations I always assumed that Trent, Spey and Tamar would by the end of the decade replace the Batch 1 Rivers around the UK with their crews shifting to the Type 31’s with a Type 31 (Venturer) advertising the light frigate to allies in the Far East (taking part in RIMPAC etc) with another being on Kipion, one based in Duqm with LRG(S), one based in Gibraltar and one in the UK for FRES/peacetime Carrier strike/LRG(N)

I see the Type 31 as basically a good Littoral Combat Ship.

Last edited 1 year ago by Craig Lewell

Thanks. So, on early selling, non-zero comment, but relatively silent recently.

Early selling’s problem is, the gap between sell and new-purchase.

  • Plan-A: Sell your 10-15 years old ship, ask the customer to “wait for 5 years”, and ask for budget from HMG (1 year) and build (4 years) for the replacement. I’m afraid the customer will not wait for it.
  • Plan-B: buy new hull (hull-6) when the T31-hull1 is 11 years old, and replace the 15 years old hull1. Hull1 will wait for customer. But, even with a bargain price, it is nearly impossible to find the customer “at the right timing”. It could be sold later, but almost zero input to HMG (the customer will pay for the re-activation and modernization)
  • Plan-C: Sell 2 or 3 T31s and deliver them soon (1-2 years), and RN adopt gaping 2-3 GP frigates for 4-6 years for its replacement to be built.

We see many “plan-B-like idea” in RN history. T23, Ocean. None of them happened.

In short, T31 early selling is VERY DIFFICULT to happen. The only case is plan-B, accepting gaps.


The only reason to ‘sell early’ is because the RN was downsizing and was laying up vessels , especially the left over ships from a larger class

Craig Lewell

The reason to sell early is so that the MOD isn’t only left with BAE systems as the sole complex warship manufacturer in the UK. They want competition from Babcock and perhaps others. There is the political will for us to have, as we do, a National Ship building strategy with a view to avoiding yards going through boom and bust cycles, by having a consistent order book of Government contracts as a bedrock.

We are planning on taking the towed array Type 23’s out of service on a 1 for 1 basis as Type 26 come into service, so I don’t see why it’s not a sound strategy for Type 32’s to replace or partially replace the 31’s but to do so whilst there is still resale value. The Type 31’s benefiting from the lustre of the Royal Navy association can then be sold on and being relatively new and proven would have a market as the Government and Royal Navy have taken the risk of getting them in service.

You then have a continual pipeline of work with the Royal Navy and Industry working together and the frigates don’t end up costing over the odds due to the loss of skills (See Astute delays and B2 River costs). Tax receipts mean the real cost of our next in class is much lower than stated and the UK gets a new strategic industry. Selling early avoids the LifeX issues and maintains the drumbeat of production.

In some ways it’s just going back to the future as lots of former RN frigates have ended up in the inventory of other nations. The 23’s likely won’t precisely because they have become too old as we lacked the Industry to replace them quicker – still awaiting a covered build hall at BAE.

Whilst the new 26’s and 31’s will have smaller crews they should also have greater availability than the 23’s so it might be that even just going back to 13 Frigates actually improves availability significantly and sucks up available crewing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Craig Lewell
Commonwealth Loyalist

Folks, as a student of history I have to chime in with couple of things some of our honorable members won’t like.

First, I can’t believe the personal insults on this comment board or whatever it’s called, let’s respect each other’s opinions and refrain from insults and character assassination.

Secondly most would agree Britain is not spending enough on defense for such a risky period as we are in, way less than 2% if honestly accounted for. Many members think the NHS and subsidies for “green” energy (such a joke since more CO2 is the thing that really makes the planet green) are more important.

Thirdly I salute the host of this website for trying to be encouraging, by now hopefully we all know anything run by the govt of any country is bound to be inefficient but we are lucky to have Ben Wallace trying to prevail.

I too am frustrated by the Bertish program of defense, but lets try to get them to boost spending back to more like cold war levels it would help a lot.

Thanks for your tolerance and keep up the great discussions



I don’t wholly agree with the notion that Britain doesn’t spend enough on defence.

Of course it would be easy to compile a shopping list of desirable stuff if there was an uplift.

However if we stick to the percentage of GDP measure then 2% is fairly good.

Britain gets comparatively less bang for it’s buck than France, Italy, Japan etc….arguably because of a lack of focus, spectacular wastage within the procurement system, overlaps and duplications of capabilities in some areas whilst spreading our resources too thinly in others.

Any extra money will barely touch the sides until some of these deeper issues are confronted.


Of course there are deep-seated problems with procurement, particularly in Major Projects. I’m sure that the MOD is trying to fix them in its own way, which will take a decade or two just to get started. Nevertheless, the idea that more money will have no effect is untrue. It’s an excuse that plays into the Treasury’s paranoia: don’t give them money because they won’t spend it right.

Whenever we think we must do X before Y, when X is not well defined and time limited, we are probably wrong. We must fix hard power before we spend on soft power. We must fix what’s wrong now before we plan for next decade. We must fix procurement before spending any extra money. We have to ask what do we mean by fix procurement? What criteria, what measureable, time-bounded, achieveable criteria are you proposing we hit before you think we should be allowed to spend extra?

You say 2% is fairly good. No it isn’t. It’s atrocious. In the last 300 years of the United Kingdom’s existence, our military spend was never as low as a proportion of our economy as it reached in the last decade. According to the current way of accounting we only just dropped as low as 2% in 2017/18. 2% is the depths, the nadir, the lowest of the low. In 1981, according to the World Bank and SIPRI figures we spent 5%. That’s 5% the year before the Falklands. It rose afterwards to relect lessons learned. I’m not talking ancient history; many of us here are old enough to remember the Falklands. Now our failure to even reach for half of what we spent when John Nott was cancelling carriers and secretly selling off the best we had seems to be beyond us.

How can settling for the worst we have ever been possibly be called fairly good?

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

Well those were the Cold War years, 1960 was 7% so the the 1980s was a major drop and in the period of the mid 1950s was almost 10% of GDP

What I always look as well is NHS spending in the 1980s which was slightly ahead of defence say 6%.
It is of course now 11% plus of GDP.
You will find other social spending rising is cannibalising “defence” and maybe some others.


2% of GDP is good in the sense that it’s the NATO target and the vast majority of the other members spend the same or less. The United States spends more but has to been seen as an exception as a continental sized superpower.

My point is that yes we can and perhaps should throw more money at defence but it won’t solve the long-term issues until the deeper problems of procurement strategy and aligning our force structures to our foreign policy ambitions are dealt with.

I agree it’s difficult to quantify what the benchmark for successful procurement is. However I’d say there is a strong case for saying we’re not getting the same value for the money out of our equipment plan as our closest contemporaries in Europe/NATO.

Cancelling projects years into development (Warrior upgrade, Fireshadow).

Trying to take existing kit and tailor it to our niche requirements (Ajax).

Having to pay over the odds to sustain industry (B2 River’s).

Being at the mercy of terrible exchange rates / inflation by buying a lot of American stuff (F35, Apache, Poseidon, Reaper, Wedgetail).

Overlap of different capabilities across services/systems (a profusion of helicopter types, drone programs, missiles etc).

Trying to do everything at once (CASD, carrier strike, light expeditionary warfare, a heavy warfighting capability, persistent counter-insurgency……and the vast amount of differing demands on the budget these all make).


In the halcyon days of 1980s and 5%, we ordered 16 ASW frigates. When we ordered the replacements in 2015 we spent 2.3% and could only afford 8.

At the start of the 1990s we planned 12 destroyers. By the less halcyon 2004, when spending had dropped to 2.5%, we had to cancel half of them.

I think we will struggle to get as many as 6 Type 83s if we don’t get back up to 2.5% before the end of this decade. Unfortunately, the current spend can’t be used to replace the current surface fleet much less grow it. It will also be problematic getting 6 MRSS to replace the Bays, Argos, Albion, Bulwark, etc. I would expect a further fleet reduction there unless funding is increased.

Rose-coloured estimates of efficiency savings could come to our rescue — and pigs will fly (which is, according to a leaked document, where the RAF expect to get their efficiency savings).

None of this addresses the increasingly dangerous world we live in. I’m just talking about trying not to sink further.

We really do need 3% to properly maintain a surface fleet at the planned level, or we can do the current half-arsed job (ffbnw) at around 2.5%, with a few fewer ships, no Type 32s, etc. At 2% there will be further significant cuts.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jon

This has been going on way back in to the late 60s. The RN wanted 24-ish T42 and we ended up with the initial batches modified to save money. One of the reasons for T42 being under armed was there should have been more of them.


Yes. And we still haven’t answered the question of where do we stop raiding the military budget? There’s no cut and dried line to frighten politicians with, and there needs to be, because politicians like Cameron and Sunak clearly don’t get the nuance unless there are votes and headlines attached. Maybe not even then. You’d have thought a major war in Europe and ensuing inflation would have been enough of a sign, wouldn’t you? But I’d have thought the use of radioactive poisons and nerve agents to murder British citizens on UK soil would have been a bit of giveaway. Once again kicking the can down the road in this budget will have given aid and comfort to Putin, by confirming that financial destablisation of the UK is a successful road to lowering effective opposition on a global stage.

Like climate change modelling has predicted consequences for going above 1.5° and 2°, we need to model what happens to global economic stability if we lower defence spending below certain points. The best red line we have now is our NATO commitment to 2% and that’s clearly not high enough to deter Putin, Xi or Khamenei. It was nowhere near enough to even consider letting us stay in Afghanistan when the Yanks pulled out, not even with the help of other nations, and twenty years worth of hard fought gains were lost in days.


The problem isn’t one of defence but national direction. ‘Managed decline’ has become the unquestioned credo of the UK’s Political Management Media class to such a point it isn’t recognised as a ‘strategy’ it is now fundamental.

Just for the record I am not really interested in the rest of your comment. My not commenting on it is not an endorsement.


Unquestioned? BJ’s style was the opposite, undermanaged aspiration. I have to admit that was an exception.


So we set BJ’s few hundred days as PM against the run of British history post WW2? Oh…….

I have never known a place when exceptions are seen as complete arguments against whole bodies of evidence as this place.


If you keep claiming all swans are white, expect pictures of black ones. It’s your use of absolute words like unquestioned that garners you these responses.


Cant find any mention of ’24-ish’ T42 destroyers in the design studies at the time. There was thoughts of a Sea Dart frigate in the 1960s with a steam power and ring missile (20) storage below the launcher.
of course 14 T42s were built which seems to be the numbers wanted. The T82 was a higher end destroyer ( 3-4) along side the cheaper T42 ( or earlier frigate version)


Well there was…….Are you accusing me of making stuff up?


I checked back in the available information about sea dart destroyer program and related ships.
The facts so far dont agree with your memory, maybe you have some better sources that say different ?

Oh dear

As long as america does not go to war with itself and you can still get the Trident D5s for your detterent then all will be well. That also goes for the F35Bs.


Probably the most realistic outlook on the whole thread.


If it were up to me, I’d forget about the Type 32 and build at least 8, and preferably 10-12, corvette / light frigate type ships. In an ideal world these would be coupled with 5 or 6 SSGKs. Together they would operate mostly as a reconstituted Home Fleet (alright, a flotilla rather than a fleet) whose primary duties would be home waters, GIUK, and the Mediterranean. In a pinch, these units would have enough teeth and legs to join the apex predators for an all out strike or hot war situation. But the expectation would be that absent that, their primary focus would be as I describe here, with the added benefit of freeing up the high end assets and RFA for expeditionary warfare and global “show the flag” missions (AUKUS and so on).

Last edited 1 year ago by Will