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Ian wright

They were warned years ago about the man power shortage. Took no notice because of saving money and they still have not learned the lesson. Bonuses have come first for the better off. A saying that they say are going to the many and not for the few.


Back in 2011 the then First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said in coming months the navy will be forced to make some ‘challenging decisions’ because of government cuts; and, he was not the only voice to raise such concerns because of the SDSR2010, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, the First Sea Lord during the 1998 defence review, said: ‘The position the First Sea Lord and the Chiefs of Staff is very difficult indeed because if you want to retain the confidence of ministers you should not speak directly to the press about your concerns. But the fact remains that the navy is in a very bad way. The loss of Ark Royal and the Harriers was the worst decision by a government for many, many years. I think what Mark Stanhope has done is to state the obvious. You can’t carry on doing more with less.’
But, what changed? Zero, zilch, nada and successive years have seen a continuing process of manpower reductions from 71,900 IN 1990 TO 22,400 IN 2018. What has changed is that manpower, one suspects not just naval but also army, has even less confidence in politicians to understand the importance of defence and successive governments have used the military as some back-up resource to be deployed and deal with disasters and catastrophies around the world whilst failing to fully fund.
The process stated back in 1990 with the statement by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Tom King, as follows
“On 25 July 1990, the Secretary of State for Defence announced to the House the Government’s outline proposals for the future restructuring of the armed forces, “reflecting and responding to the dramatic developments in the Soviet Union and eastern and central Europe over the previous 18 months”.1 For regular service personnel, the proposed changes as set out in Statement on the Defence Estimates 1991 Volume 1 (Cm 1559-I) are as follows: “Royal Navy and Royal Marines numbers will reduce, in line with the reductions in the size of the fleet, from the present total requirement of around 63,000, including trainees, to around 55,000 by the mid-1990s. The reduction will be achieved so far as possible by natural wastage but may require a small number of redundancies.”
That small number of redundancies and reductions has gradually turned into a flood despite the advice of any number senior naval and military personnel with some of the bigger cuts happening under the Cameron government, and, even over the last 6 years there has been a further loss of 2,500 Royal Navy personnel.
One only has to look at numerous graphs and information on the Royal Navy in 1989 and the general destruction to the state in 2018 with only 17 operational DD/FF and Fleet submarines reduced from 25 to just 7?
“On 3 February 1993 the Secretary of State for Defence announced to the House that the planned strength of the army in the mid-1990s would be increased by 3,000 to 119,000”
But, it too has continued to be slashed in numbers and now down to some 81,700.”

Tony Rosier

I think you would find the vast majority of people would agree to pay more if we knew we were not going to be robbed blind by the current system of defence procurement!


A replacement for Harpoon is desperately needed, otherwise RN will look a joke


Why? Harpoon is all but useless against a Peer rival these days, it is well within the engagement envelope of modern PDMS fitted to even fairly small vessels. Lobbing Fire and Forget heavy anti ship missiles around when there are restrictive rules of engagement due to civilian traffic is a non-starter in today’s environment.

If we are to have a replacement heavy anti ship missile it needs to be a significantly more useful and smarter munition. The RN has never fired Harpoon or Exocet in anger, it did fire Sea Skua in the Falklands and GW1 to great success but again they did that pretty much in visual sight of the target and well within the engagement envelope of modern PDMS which is hardly a nice place to be for a helicopter. The only reason the new Sea Venom has a home on Wildcat is due to its re-targeting capability and it can be used against other types of target.

FCASW that is being developed with the French also shows promise as it is a smart munition that can be used as a Storm Shadow replacement as well as a heavy anti ship missile. That means it has a better chance to find a home on RN surface vessels.

The most viable heavy anti ship weapon currently is Spearfish which rather explains the heavy investment into updating the torpedo recently. There is no point saying the RN is a joke for not having a heavy anti ship missile of the circumstances it can even be used in is so limited.

David Stephen

Which is why we should buy whatever the US decides on, LRASM or Tomahawk AS variant. Even if you don’t launch any just having ASMs complicates the enemy’s job and if the proverbial hits the fan then ROE will change in short order.


Harpoon, Exocet and a number of other contemporary heavy anti ship missiles are designed to engage Soviet surface action groups in blue water conditions. as it stands that is not a very likely scenario. RoE means plenty these days, to really use these older generation anti ship missiles requires targeting information from either a helicopter or MPA and even then that is not a guarantee of their safe deployment. Which then begs the question why not launch them from a helicopter or MPA in the first place?

As I said I still think these is a possibility for a need but it makes far more sense to wrap it into a solution that provides a smart stand off cruise missile with secondary ASuW capability.

I am sceptical about Tomahawk AS even as a stop gap, it is in effect going to suffer the same vulnerabilities to PDMS that systems like Harpoon experience. I ideally a stealthy weapon and if they can get it to work properly hypersonic is a better bet.


I would like to see Spearfish mounted on our surface ships.


Or upgrade the Harpoons the RN already has. The block II, or the block II ER, would bring them up to the level of performance of the Harpoons that the USN is using. Upgrades to the RN Tranches, would cost half of what brand new Harpoons would cost.


I agree with most of what you say, but not all.
1. Agree that this is the single most important issue.
2. Again I agree maintenance and depth of munitions and spares stocks are important. On that vein what are future maintenance plans for the type45 given that is appears that the new gen sets are not using the existing pathing for replacement. Does this mean that future replacements of those generators will require the cutting o0pen of the hull?
3. I agree that this is important, but I am not convinced that we should pursue all the options listed. Where allies already are well along the way to developing these capabilities we should consider buying their capabilities once developed. I would much sooner see us develop top notch solutions in some areas than attempt to do all and master none.
4. I agree with the initial sentiment, but not with the solutions. Type 31 as currently envisaged is not an ASW vessel. To try and make it so means that it will not meet its already tight timescales and result in the probable reduction in the already threadbare escort fleet. Instead I would look to increase the speed of production of the type 26, from 1 every 18 months to 1 every 15 months and then I would increase the overall order by 2. I would get on with integration of UK weaponry onto the P8 platform and order a further 3 aircraft. ASROC is an absolute must, especially if we are expecting remote sensing via UAV or equivalent to be a valid system in the future. Not sure on the conventional submarine question. For certain 7 Astutes is not enough.
5. I agree, but I believe that some efficiency decisions taken in the past to save money may have contributed to issues in other areas. Cutting back on shore billets and outsourcing these may have save money in some budgets, but if that means that people leave the service due to a lack of shore placements at certain times in their career then does it really save the service money?
As for paying for it, that is literally the billion dollar question. Also we need to understand the it is the rate of increase in NHS spending that is forever debated, the defence budget has actually been reduced over time, although it has increased recently.


Rather than repeat Paul’s comments I will agree with his, except on point 4.
I wrote my own submission, in which I argued the RN is the most at risk of our three services which poses the most risk to UK security.
The key risk is depth and ASW capability. Effectively under the current plan (assuming 1 in 3 rule) we protect CVW and CASD whilst abdicating pretty much everything else.
I don’t think any of our current or future needs are met by T-31 and I would scrap plans for it immediately.
T-26 is a mightily capable ship designed to win. The whole frigate program should rest on building it fast and at scale.
Acute shortages of Astute’s are a harder problem to fix with greater capacity challenges than frigates, but find a solution we must. This is a Govt / Industry challenge and we must rise to meet it.
Another point I made was to move to a US / French style long term procurement partnership with a beefed up NSS including the RAS replacements. The current NSS idea is sound but the race to the bottom on such thin gruel won’t help rebuild UK shipbuilding.


To repeat the response that has been being given for years at this stage: we can not get any more Type 26s simply by cancelling T31.

For the £1.25bn assigned to the T31 programme, you would get 1x T26 and change. You would also end up with a fleet of 15 escorts instead of the 19+ that current plans are aiming for, and there would also be further temporary reductions as T23s decommission faster than T26s are built. The current build programme is as fast as BAE is contractually obliged to go, if we want it done faster corners have to be cut and even more money spent, neither of which is desired.

You don’t see a need current or future need for T31, a proper warship with decent range, armament, and aviation facilities? Just off the top of my head, the Fleet Ready Escort, the numerous patrol taskings around the Atlantic and Med, Operation Kipion, anti piracy missions off of Africa, showing the flag around the world like HMS Sutherland is currently doing. These are all taskings that the Royal Navy performed for decades or centuries, that don’t require state of the art destroyers but do need an actual warship and not just an OPV. The French already have 5x GP frigates of the La Fayette class for that express purpose, with their replacements (the FTI programme, which is from the looks of it is almost identical to T31 but with a slightly higher spec), and even the Americans can see the utility of lower end warships and are planning to acquire 20x frigates.

I agree the NSS isn’t perfect, and building modules in various yards simply adds cost to the project (which is a big reason I prefer the idea of Cammel Laird getting the T31 deal, a single yard build with the support of BAE offers the best chance of meeting the budget), BUT T31 offers the first real chance to sell UK built ships to other countries in a long time. Countries that want high end platforms like the T26 also want to build them at home (look at Australia for the best example), whereas a cheap ocean going warship has a lot of potential on the export market for South American, African, Asian, and to a lesser extent Middle Eastern nations


I accept all these arguments at face value Callum.

My view is much more fundamental. We can no longer afford to tinker.

Radical change and a much larger fleet of war fighting ships is required. This requires a new industrial strategy.

I am happy to trade the inefficiency of a couple of those extra T-26s doing FRE & some routine patrol work for a whole fleet that can win.


Exactly, a much larger fleet is required. The way to achieve that is a high/low mix, instead of building nothing but high end warships. The RN has never just built ships of the line or dreadnoughts, there were always far more frigates and trade protection cruisers that performed the daily low end tasks that are one of a navy’s core tasks.

Would I prefer a bigger fleet of T26s? Yes. Is it really going to happen in a sensible time frame without an extra 10 billion or so? No. We could have roughly 10 T31’s for the price of 2-3 T26s, which is the kind of growth we need


It’s a persuasive view and lot of people will agree with you Callum, especially at treasury.

However, I think there is real trouble ahead in the next decade. IMHO the answer to that (and hopefully partly prevention) is enough ships capable of winning on and under the sea.

T-26 🙂


After years of destroying the navy and armed forces the Tory goverment is now trying to put right what they have done wrong by cutting numbers of service men and women,also the scrapping of ships and equipment. Defence of the realm I thought was the duty of any government.

Michael Watson

All these ideas are fine, unless the Government realise, accept and act on the fact that defence spending needs to increase to about 2.5 to 3% of UK GDP or we will be going round in ever decreasing circles.

Stephen Miles

2% is fine as long as that money is real defence spend, at the moment we’re folding in all sorts of additional bits and bobs


3% would be better, as the current 2″ish” % has to cover too many other items of expenditure (pensions etc).
But how to motivate a population that see’s peace as the default?
Basically we have had larger forces available in the Navy when we have been in two situations; either rich as an outgrowth of our industrial capabilities, or at war.
I think a reasonable guess is that we will not see any extra money for defence until the effects of Brexit have blown over – and we discover if we are richer or poorer.
No dig intended for pro/against Brexit, just would like to see us all a bit(lot) richer in the near future so we can actually see our forces get the personnel, housing, military equipment, spares and ammunition stocks they actually need.
Would be nice.


At 36,000 personel, the United States Coast Guard has more men and women in uniform than the Royal Navy.

Iqbal Ahmed

Where to find the money for the 5 recommendations is the real question.

I would say that the expenditure on the NHS has concensus across the political spectrum, whereas defence expenditure, post Iraq, has always been a hard sell to the public.

The unanswered question is for what purpose do our armed forces exist? To protect the UK and our waters or to go around the world as international policeman ‘punching above our weight’, wherever the US leads us? If the latter, substantial defence funding increases are unlikely to be forthcoming.


Our forces exist to protect us from your forces komrade.


By ‘ours’ I mean HM Forces


1P in the pound would raise circa 4-6 billion pounds……that would sort a lot of issues…plus 1p on corporation tax…..I would gladly pay both


I would welcome future pieces about how we can advocate for these more effectively, perhaps from experts in government relations or public advocacy.

Numerous other causes wage effective campaigns for political support.

This site does great service in providing context and recommendations but many of us would like to know what we can do (besides writing our MPs) to translate this into political will and ultimately make it a budget priority.

I hope the site will commission pieces from experts in government relations on how to make our voices heard.


I can guaranty that both the Army and the Airforce are in a similar predicament. The Army is now on a semi permanent deployment to Eastern Europe and relearning its peer to peer war fighting skills. The Airforce since leaving Afghanistan is still majorly deployed to the Gulf in support of Iraq against the Islamists as well as provide CAP in Eastern Europe. Therefore the operational tempo for both services has remained the same. However, there is less manpower where it counts i.e infantry and ground support staff (engineers) in the Airforce. There is a abundance of Aircrew, something like a 1.9 to 1 ratio to aircraft. This is going to increase when Tornado is phased and the Navigators are retrained as both F35 and Typhoon will only be single seaters. In the Airforce there have been significant cuts in aircraft engineers and the retention is becoming critical. However aircraft numbers have remained pretty much the same as has the tasking. The majority of the bays are now run by contractors, so once you’re on a Squadron that’s it no respite i.e. pretty much like being on ship continuous. The new P8 Poseidon is going to be flown by RAF crews but mostly serviced by contractors. They are even trying to recruit engineers who have left the service with a bit of a golden handshake. Its all very well using contractors but who will service the aircraft whilst deployed?
I am deeply worried that this partial contractorisation will develop into a trend, it will be a slippery slope top go doing the contractor route and dare I say mercenary. This constant rush to improve costs and savings is going to bite this country in the arse it will definitely put lives at risk.
The Secretary for Defence Gavin Williamson has I believe recognised the problem and is trying to put a voice to our concerns. However, without the money and political backing he may be just shouting into the wind. The manpower levels for all three services need to be reversed. Further, the contracted servicing needs to be stopped and replaced with military personnel. I know from experience what the lads and lasses face when working alongside contractors who are generally on £10K more than them doing the same work but without all the baggage of being a serviceman entails. Its too easy and inviting to jump ship and join the contractor bandwagon. Here’s another thought since we’ve had so many personnel cuts, if there’s another long term Firemans strike, who will the Government use to provide the service. They will have to use personnel from front line units which will have a dramatic effect on tasking and deployments.
My thoughts would be to give service personnel a tax incentive i.e. cut, whilst working at home but a bigger cut when deployed. Also the military has its own medical staff, why can’t dependents use this service? Another issue is the diabolical persecution of personnel by the law over alleged misuses of force. This was organised by the very Government that put those troops in the predicament in the first place. The military should be allowed to get on with its job i.e. killing enemy combatants not waiting to see if the threat meets the “Rules of Engagement”! Ever since Crown Immunity was dropped military personnel have been constantly looking over their shoulder making sure they abide with civilian law – it doesn’t work! The military
is not a force for good or a humanitarian crisis team. They are there to implement the will of Parliament, which means winning the fight!
Which brings me on to the T31 light frigate/corvette or should we call it a sloop? For £250M, surely this vessel should have some teeth, I’m sceptical over the design brief as it sounds like a reinvention of the Type 21, which was about as much use as a chocolate teapot. It must have a medium calibre gun (4.5″ going cheap ex T23), Sea Ceptor, CIWS and a perhaps Sea Spear (marinised Brimestone). I think the Wildcat will be a given which brings Sea Venom, Martlet and Sting Ray to the party. There is an opportunity to at least match the high end corvettes on the market, so surely the fixed price can buy something decent?


First of all ROE are set by the chain of command not civilian law. Soldiers are culpable for breaking the RoE whether or not they have crown immunity. If soldiers are waiting to see if a threat meets the Rules of Engagement it’s because the military chain of command wants them too. If the RoE says treat everyone as hostile and soldiers open fire then they have the backing of the law still (provided they do not commit war crimes, which are definied by the Geneva Convention, not British Statutory law and have applied to British Soldiers since the Geneva Convention was created).

Dependents do use Military medical facilities btw. If you’re a military dependent your local GP will probably be in the medical centre of the unit, and most garrisons medical centres see as many or even more civilians than military personnel on a day to day basis.


The solution to the funding problem is simple. Cut the overseas aid budget to the level, say, of Germany – 0.4% of GDP. This would release about £6bn. Problem solved.

Iqbal Ahmed

Our aid budget is constantly working in the background to ensure that things never come to pass where we have to go to war with most nations in receipt of it.

The aid helps maintain good relations with up-and-coming countries like India. It’s also good for policies like abating immigration by assisting people in country instead and drums up business for our firms.

Adam C.

These are all good suggestions, and should definitely take priority. If there were 2 other recommendations that could have been made, then fitting the Type 45s with the Mk41 and either SM-3 or Aster 30 Block 1NT for BMD as the 6th, and speeding up the purchase of the F-35 so that we can have at least 48 by the commissioning of HMS Prince of Wales.


Where’s the extra £20 billion coming from?


We need to face facts and take some very radical steps in relation to the armed forces.
We need to realise as it stands the defence budget cannot support the 3 services and the nuclear deterrent.

We need to disband all 3 services and reform them along the lines of the usmc.
Have a total clear out of huge numbers of senior officers from captain and above.
Move the cost of the deterrent from defence back to the special contingency fund where it was before the idiot known as Osbourne moved it into defence spending along with intelligence funding back to foreign office and home office.

We also need to accept that we either fund our defence properly with a long term commitment to spending at 4% of GDP or we accept we are no longer have a global reach and fund a defence force based on the Irish model .

Because basically all we are doing at the moment is kicking the can from the grass onto the cliff edge just before it falls off the cliff and cannot be saved.


Very interesting.
Just two points:
– things such as FRIs are incredibly expensive and are only short-term fix to enduring problems (the well-known “black hole”). Truth is that RN manpower system lacks flexibility as it is a purely bottom-fed system. Introducing some form of lateral entry at or above the LH level would help mitigate part oft he huge gaps the RN is experiencing. But this has always been opposed for bad resns based on pure ideology.
– SSKs may also be very useful indeed. But don’t forget Germany and Sweden are not the sole provides. Why not taking advantage of the Lancaster House treaty framework with France ?


How much? £5/10 billion?

Phil Chadwick

1. Purchase the agreed amount of 138 F35B Lightning II Jets with an option to increase to 150.
2. Double the numbers of both the Type 26 and Type 31e Frigates and begin the design process for the replacement for the Type 45 Destroyers.
3. Replace the Albion Class with two new large Assault Carriers of approximately 30,000 tons displacement, complete with full amphibious facilities including stern doors and well dock.
4. Increase the numbers of Astute Class Hunter Killer Submarines to 12.
5. Design and build a new class of 8 conventional Submarines.
6. Build a new Class of Minesweeper / Hunter to replace the Hunt and Sandown Class.


Surely the one question that has yet to be answered regarding the ability of the Royal Navy to defend itself at sea is:- WHY has a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier only got three Phalanx C.I.W.S. !!!!!!!