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First Williamson, then Mordant, now Wallace. We might be going through them bloody quick, but at least we’re actually getting defence secretaries that are fighting for the forces.


The USN learnt that the best way to have more ships is to have a steady drumbeat of orders not the order 3 this year and then order another 3 maybe 3 years later and then delay the second batch causing skills to be lost.
The Arleigh Burke class destroyer is a classic case 67 have been built since 1988 at a cost of $1.1 billion each at present day prices another 10 are on order they are highly capable ships and are a lesson in how to build a class of ships unlike the Type 45 which is a lesson in how not to do it .
The USN does not gold plate its ships unlike the RN which always wants the best champagne on a prosecco budget.


I don’t disagree with your point, but you’re overselling the USN by a lot. The Arleigh Burke’s current cost is currently averaging at $1.8bn, not 1.1bn. They’re definitely not gold plated, but they’re bloody expensive.

As for the USN not gold plating in general? The Zumwalt and Ford and perfect examples of gold plating: they’re easily the most expensive ships in their class, but at present aren’t even as capable as older and cheaper vessels.


I looked at the Pentagon figures for the unit cost of the AB which quoted $1.1 billion per ship , wikipedia quotes $1.8 billion.
My point is for the money the AB are far more capable than the type 45.
The Zumwalt class was a classic case of American pork barrel politics and congress being bamboozled by the tech and the navy inventing missions which did not exist.
Ford class carriers to much new tech in a complex vessel, but apparently they are making steady progress eliminating the problems .
The USN apparently use to have a rule of only introducing 3 new technology’s to new class of ship but threw the rule out of the window with Zumwalt and Ford class .


Arleigh Burkes design date from the 80’s and it shows with base crew of 300 and all GT, GAO in 1998 quoted max range at 4,300 nm 18 knots, single GT with trailing shaft, with minimum 30% fuel reserves that drops to 3,000 nm. They were planned to be replaced by ship based on the disaster that’s the 16,000t Zumwalt, base crew 150. Originally Burkes last buy was in FY2005, Zumwalt cancelled after only three ship buy and USN started buying Burkes again in FY2010.
Also understood Burkes cost USN $1.8 billion, but Aegis funded seperately by the Missile Defense Agency, so total ~$2 billion per ship.

Korea, this month ordered three new Aegis Batch II Sejong the Great destroyers from Hyundai, 11,000t FLD, 128 VLS cells, base crew of 200, budgeted at $3.3 billion, $1.1 billion per ship, first ship to be del’d every two years from 2023.


The Burkes are 1 of the Best examples on how to both build a large group of DDG’s and ensure they have a long service life. They were made to be upgraded and can be kitted out for Multi Mission capabilities. Course after wasting $ on the Littoral Combat Ships Pres Dump ordered 10 more but gotta train new people and get the Facilities up & running to build them.


It was Congress which ordered 10 more , 2 Congress men who’s districts included the yards that build them managed to get funds allocated for them in the defence bill .
The navy never wanted them and the thing is they have cut funding for the modules to actually build the next 10 .


Can we concentrate on the technical and leave partisan politics out of it? It’s President Trump, and he was not the one that wasted the money on the littoral frigates.


But… There is always a but…
The maintenance regime for the USN is probably more of a disaster than the UKs.
Short of dry Dock facilities and every single project over runs.
The admin organisation does not help. The Fat Albert scandle highlighted the frailties with the system and as a result the task of getting work approved by the bean counters is even more conveluted than ever.


I agree, a steady drumbeat is essential, but it has to be the right drumbeat too. If the beat is too slow, the unit price goes up. If it’s too fast, the Treasury won’t pay. Unless we have the flexibility to intersperse, cheaper ships (with fewer goodies), between series of the expensive ones, we’ll never get the right drumbeat.

The US can afford enough destroyers that this is less of a problem for them.


I’d hesitate a little in your description of Burkes as not gold plated; what about them is not? They are certainly an older design, but they are probably the most broadly capable air defence escorts out there!
SAMPSON may have a technical edge over AEGIS in the conventional aircraft and ASM defence mission (although the components of AEGIS are being more regularly updated, so I would bet that any lead SAMPSON had on introduction has been eroded if not exceeded), but the Burkes have CEC which levels the playing field considerably if they can utilise multiple sensor platforms for targeting.
In addition they have proven BMD, land attack and surface warfare capabilities far better than a T45. I believe they have greater magazine depth too, although that’s obviously spread across a wider selection of missiles.
The hull is at the end of its design life, sure, but it’s still bigger than a T45 (if I recall correctly). The propulsion system is of an older type too, but they’re still good for 30ish knots.
I’d argue it certainly is a gold-plated surface and anti-air warfare platform in that it puts a very large number of high capability functions into a single hull. I’m not knocking the T45 at all, it accomplishes its mission, but it’s not capable of doing all the things a Burke can. And most of the T45 improvements that people write about on here are basically things that will bring them up to the capabilities of a Burke.


Agreed Callum, Williamson turned out to be excellent despite his limited knowledge, I’d have him back in a heartbeat. Penny was also passionate and although an Acting Sub Lieutenant in the RNR (I know the Queen made her an Honorary Commander when she became Defence Secretary), she was engaged with all 3 services and was acutely aware of the current issues and future demands.

But Wallace is my kind of politician, he’s not a media monkey looking for the next soundbite, he is rather an astute individual who sees the bigger picture and fortunately for the RN not Army centric. If only we can sort out the current political malaise we find ourselves in, I suspect he may be around for some time and make a significant impact. I hope he tells the Treasury how much he needs rather than asking how much he can have to repair our hollowed out capability.


I watched the session in full, and agree that Mr. Wallace appeared to have ‘grip’ on the issues, especially considering how recently he was appointed. He had that bearing that so many former serving officers have, of being frank, honest and forthright, while remaining jovial, though once or twice he almost became combative with the committee. He managed to banter equally with the member from the SNP (who, while I disagree with his politics, is always very surgical with his questions), Ruth Smeeth (who should be applauded for her support of armed personnel) and Mr. Francios (whose exchanges were as robust as if they sat on opposite sides of the house). It was a far more impressive performance than I have seen from a politician with this brief in a very long while.

The only slip he made was , as your article highlighted, was to quote that ‘availability statistic’, I am guessing this was more than likely given to him by a similar civil servant who kept getting their SoS to quote ‘ yes we may have fewer ship but the RN are increasing in tonnage’ …

We have had 11 Secretary of State for Defence since George Robertson left on the 11 October 1999 – I put it to you that this far from conducive and at the root of many issues the armed forces are facing, it certainly doesn’t help. As you mention, Mr. Wallace has given each of the heads of service a single priority that is in their gift to sort out. In the real commercial world a simple SMART target would have been given to each, with the T- Time Bound, say 12 months… I just hope Mr. Wallace is still in post to follow this up … but I doubt it.

ps… Mr. Wallace mentioned the 17 month delay to Audacious, was an issue unique to this boat, and did not affect the others… What is your take on that STRN?

Gavin Gordon

Well, admit that what appeared to come across, as I ended up interpreting it at any rate, was that it could have been a relatively late installation update brought forward to Audacious that was already intended for the last three. Again, if Wallace had been more au fait, this may have been communicated clearly. We should establish if this is indeed the case if the other boats’ schedules are not unduly delayed. Either way, cannot see why enough of a clue could not have been promulgated earlier.

Gavin Gordon

Watching the Defence Select Committee interview Wallace has left me – and I got the distinct impression them – with the feeling that he lacks the pugnacity evident in either Williamson or Mordaunt. Notwithstanding his background, he does appear to have adopted more of a politician’s platitudes than a significant passion in ‘defense’ of his brief. Want to hope I’m wrong, but currently believe he may be more of a Treasury’s dream. That, or the subtlety of his approach is beyond me.

Robert devitt

Have to mention, why are the armed forces still paying through the roof prices for off the peg things like tools torches screws and similar everyday items.thought this was sorted years ago ,obviously not


Could be like the USAF which paid $275 for 4 Phillip’s screwdrivers or $1350 for 2 toilet seats .


At one point when it came into service Phalanx had Stainless Steel 1/2 inch Hexiform Rotational Compression Units otherwise known as nuts, costing something like 100 dollars each.
BMARC supplied long tom 1 inch paint brushes as part of the 20mm gun maintenance kit that cost 120 pounds.

The MOD wised up very quickly to manufacturers taking the mick

Gavin Gordon

Suggest it is likely to be a result of using one-size-fits-all ‘middleman companies’ through which to order such items in an effort to simplify the procurement process. Commendable aim, but leaves you open to exploitation. On a much more local level, I used to have an involvenment in assessing and purchasing equipment for a Gov department. It soon became obvious that bypassing the allocated intermediary and ordering direct led to considerable savings.


And yet when anyone hears whispers of Nationalisation the damn world goes mad

Gavin Gordon

Incidentally, as a measure of one who is fully on top of his brief you could worse than observe Stephen Barclay in action, the Brexit Secretary.


I particularly like the type 31 decision. It would be interesting to see how availability is working out in the Danish Navy. I suspect it will be good because of their diesel power plant. The Bays also seem to have high availability in the fleet because they are large and robust. Well suited to their task by all accounts. For flag waving, big and robust is often best.


I agree with most of the comments on this forum and once again a great article.

What I do think needs to happen, not just for the RN but the UKDF as a whole is for it to become a single force structure with a budget that is 3% of GDP.

3% is probably too much, but it allows the MOD to fund R&R that this country will need in the future and for us to become an employer of choice for the youth of today.

I also think the military has a place in the most deprived communities as a real “get out of jail” card and by employing more people can become a lifestyle choice again, as well as taking care of the veterans from the last 30 years of war.

The fabric of our society is at risk in my opinion and those who serve tend to have a less selfish attitude than others and this is surely worth investing in, whether that is veterans running youth clubs that then provide recruits over time and hopefully also change lives for the better.

There is a lot that can be done, not just with good kit but in actually making conditions for families better as well. There is far more value to our forces than just defence, ask many of our Olympians who are ex-services.

So lets hope that our politician see past the numbers and look at how military service help people that perhaps wouldn’t get the opportunity to change otherwise.

robert wagstaff

“While discussing the size of the navy, and the minister made a valid point that it is hard to go to the Treasury and argue for more new warships when the RN is unable to make full use of the vessels already in service”

I do not believe that is a valid point. The Type 23 is years past it’s retirement. As a consequence they will spend more time in repair and refit and less time available for deployment. The replacement for the Type 23 is years late and is taking 8 years to build each hull !

andy reeves

it would help if the admiralty could decide what they want, numbers or systems the reality for me is that the navy should be told you will get what the nation can afford and it doesn’t mean billion pound submarines


So the Sec of defence wants the RN to get more of it’s ships operable. Well notwithstanding the rule of thirds, the main problem, as in the Army and RAF, is personel. We have major fleet units tied up waiting crewing. The best way to get more ships at sea is to employ more sailors and that won’t happen without a competitive wage structure for sailors, soldiers and airmen. In fact it is the same problem across the whole public sector.

andy reeves

take a walk around the ‘failed 1970’s married quarters estates that our boys and girls families have to live in the serviceman’s families are treated as second class citizens. and its a scandal.r


How many of these refits are necessary? How much is make work jobs and an excuse to get sailor a holiday? Perhaps some lessons could be learned from etchant navy. Your average merchant ship will spend about one month in dry dock every five years. Not to mention will have a smaller crew and spend alot less time along side

Gavin Gordon

All of them. The 45s need upgraded propulsion and the 23s are having weapons modernised.


That’s sort of my point. If what had happened with the type 45 s engines in the private sector heads would roll. Either at the ship builders or the shipping company. With the RN it’s like “shit happens let’s get the cheque book out. “


If you only look at the technical complexity and what they do, there is literally no comparison between a front line warship and a merchantman, I’m surprised that anyone who has done any form of reading can think they are.
Just because they both float, it doesn’t mean they are similar.


Yeah it was definitely to complicated to think our destroyers might have to operate in the middle East. Completely unreasonable that this should have been considered in the construction of these vessels.

andy reeves

agreed. the resurgence of the missile boat as a relevant warship is one area i’d like to see explored. the iranians have installed a cruise missile onto a british built fishing boat that is slightly smaller than an archer.the r.n should fit single tube tomahawk onto the under used archers of which the R.N has 13


I’m 7 minutes in to that video. That the Secretary of State for Defence turns up to a defence select committee without knowing the very strength of our available armed forces is a pretty bad show. Perhaps the author of this site needs to go along as a more knowledgeable advisor. It’s something when everyone who has read this article is better briefed than our top man in government on defence.

Gavin Gordon

Kept referring to the RAF officer over what state the RN was at. Not a criticism of that officer, mind – should indicate an example of practical Combined Ops, with any luck. Yours

andy reeves

the defence comitee should be shown for the incompetants they are more often


A major problem is that Babcock is set up for 3 units in refit at a time so are really stretched with the current workload. They are also dealing with legacy issues with state of Iron duke and Lancaster when coming into upkeep. The decision to have them sat in Pompey (due to manpower) with minimal care and money spent on them for several years before being towed to Plymouth has taken its toll. They were also destored piecemeal in Pompey by temp custodians so the arrival of these stores for these units have not been ideal. Richmond was always going to be problematic with LIFEX however choices with the control systems and the other pressures on the company aren’t helping. It is also telling that while Lanc and Rich are crewed up or in the process of, Monmouth’s (her being laid up for so long before entering upkeep will cause it’s problems but at least she is in Devonport) crew are now on rotation on Montrose, still leaves Somerset, iron duke, Portland, St Albans, dauntless and daring not manned. There are not hundreds of sailors sitting around in the Dockyard’s and there are still gaps on the units that are active. Concerning.

Supportive Bloke

I’d totally agree but be more specific in the failings.

The ships that were aside had

– cost cutting de-storing leading to physical damage
– inadequate maintenance crew leading to grass growing out of deck etc
– lack of running HVAC to control internal temp / humidity leading to corrosion and electrical issues

None of this is expensive stuff.

Someone, somewhere is too obsessed with OPEX / CAPEX and is forgetting they both come out of the same pot in the end.

This is something a Minister can fix policy wise. Proper policy for parked ships.

Will O

Lesson from Iron Duke looks to be that ‘reduced readiness’ should be avoided. It elevates costs & length of refit.
Costs of keeping extended readiness instead are very small. – Would be a cost saving in long term anyway.

andy reeves

the armatures in the admiralty should come out into the real world and explain why the royal navy that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR is such a shambles.

andy reeves

there is room along the land next to the frigate hall in devonport for an additional hall to be built,maybe we should

Donald Baker

I’ve yet to find a R.N. ship that was Gold Plated.
It always took 3 months to get a ship in working condition after a refit
When I was part of the commissioning team on Sirius in 1966 it was only the due diligence of the E.O., Chief E.R.A. and the three E.R.A.s that Sirius completed her trials with only 1 problem that turned out to be a Quick Fix.
These days Manpower is more than likely to be the biggest stopper on being able to keep ships at sea.


“HMS Dauntless has not been to sea since 2015 and her refit has already been going on for two years while HMS Daring remains laid up for lack of manpower.”

This means, yes there are refit work needed causing many ship in dock/alongside, but EVEN with such situation, still THE MAN POWER is the primary limiting factor.


Do RN need to “LIFEX” HMS Monmouth? A T23GP ship which is to decommission in 2026, only 7 years from now. Still waiting for refit, and (as many refit work on other ships needing ~2 years) she will come back on ~2022. Only 4-5 years life is left.

Even after she coming back, re-commissioning her will require another ship (such as Daring and St Albans in early this year) to be “laid up” because of no man-power.

Exactly “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

The cost spent on the refit, all maintenance workload needed to up-keep her, is wasted. Why not either keep her in extended readiness until 2023 (and shift T23GP disbanding schedule by 1 year), or even sell her to Chili or Brazil, and declare “1 escort is gapped”. And, use this cost to support “trained personnel” to keep them not going away.

Will O

Concerning the T45s;

If there’s no crew for Daring, then that’s an opportune time to put it into refit. Wouldn’t make much sense to crew it before that anyway. Rather suggests there’s a bottleneck with refitting.

Better to have ships up to scratch, even in extended readiness & awaiting crew, than left endlessly in need of deep refit, unusable for years.
To use it for training whilst out of use is very sensible, but it’s an expensive training facility, if left stuck that way.
Looks like refits were planned & budgeted for back in 2014, so why is it still left to do?

Cost to refit (Project Napier) all the T45s was quoted (in 2017) as being £280m
Cost to run each of them quoted (2018) as £13.5m p/a
Keeping in extended readiness would be negligible (guessing around £0.5m p/a)
NOT having them refitted & ready for use is a guaranteed waste of over a billion pounds apiece. Wasteful to delay refits.

Would also have been hugely cost effective NEVER to have closed the National Gas Turbine Establishment!
Another massive Blair c*** up, what an absolute d*** that man was.

andy reeves

extended readiness? like the 19 dormant fleet submarines ‘cluttering devonport and rosyth. with all the incursions by russia into u.k waters i’d have a couple of them clandestinely towed to russian waters and dumped.

andy reeves

war criminal

Meirion X

I agree with you on the issue of LIFEX of the remaining T23GP frigates. What point is there of giving HMS Monmouth new CAMMs, radar etc, only to be decommissioned in 2026?
With HMS Lancaster having just completed LIFEX, she would now last until about 2027,
and also HMS Argyll which had LIFEX in 2017, could last until 2025. Monmouth could be replaced by a new Type 31 in
2024. With LIFEX for HMS Iron Duke expected complete in 2021, which will last her to 2028.

Will O

Not refitting GP T23s, hmm, no it just doesn’t sit right.

The alternative being gapping, meaning scrapping?
Costs to refit aren’t that high in context. (Maybe = running costs per year +75%, for two years, for an extra 5 to 8 years out of each ship)
‘Extended readiness’ presumes they’re in a fairly ready state to start with, & without LIFEX, the GP T23s wouldn’t be.
Care needs to be taken of ships awaiting refit though, ‘reduced readiness’ as it is now, hasn’t worked (look at Iron Duke).

If Brown/Hoon/Osborne/Hammond had possessed more common sense, & kept T26s on schedule (not a decade of delay) there could have been T26s already replacing them. LIFEX wouldn’t have been needed. It’s their bungling & mistakes that are being paid for now.
Still, there’s another 5-8 years to wait for T31e. What is the RN supposed to use for GP Frigates in the mean time?

SeaCeptors would transfer to the T31e, or would need ordering anyway. There’s bound to be some cost overlap (i.e savings), meaning to some extent LIFEX is at some discount given transferable assets to T31e.
If Monmouth still has Type 996 & Sea Wolf, is there virtue in keeping just one (or two?) ship(s) in service with that, for 4-5 years? It would mean having training & maintenance, unique to that ship, to no advantage, & which would not later be useful.
Does it not make sense to have a spare Type 997 radar, to smooth out the process of transferring them from T23 to T26? Refitting Monmouth even if the OSD is 2026, leaves a radar then free to fit to a T26 right from the beginning, & keeps a spare available throughout.
The RN will just end up with a spare Type 997 radar left over in 2035, it’s not the end of the world, good to have spares.

Maybe just my funny way of looking at things, but the existing plan makes more sense to me, & the alternative gaps the availability of a ship, & potentially disjoints the move to T26/T31e?


Uhm, but if HMS Monmouth go to sea after LIFEX, she simply need to ROB her crew from her sister ships. In other words, there are little need for HMS Monmouth to steam again. As there is not enough crew, availability of T23 fleet will NOT change regardless of HMS Monmouth is ready or not.

LIFEX is NOT cheap. And large fraction of its cost is on integration, not SeaSeptor system nor CMS console/computer boxes (Artisan is already installed).

In short, these systems are to be
A: installed, integrated and tested (costy part) in HMS Monmouth
B: and she will deploy by ROBBING HER CREW from another T23 already finished LIFEX
C: then ripped out from her (costy part, again) in 2027
D: and then re-installed, integrated and tested (costy part, again) in some T26 hull

All costs for item-A to C are wasted, and I think it amounts more than 100M GBP. You can pay 5k GBP more each to ~2000 well-trained personnel in their late carrier for ~10 years long, to keep them not leaving?

Will O

Doesn’t LIFEX cover the cost of A?
B if she’s really robbing her crew form elsewhere, there’d hardly be any savings or losses from crewing.
C is still a cost if she’s scrapped early.
D again, a cost incurred anyway.

(I can’t see how you’d arrive at £100m unless you were factoring in yearly operating costs? It evens out if you say crew would be robbed from other ships, swapping one for another, for no saving or loss).

LIFEX is around £35m.
Capital outlay p/a of extra service for a LEFEXed T23 would be lower (~£6m +/- £1m) even than for a budget friendly T31e (~£10m). Cost effective, assuming there’s a crew.

If the RN can’t find a crew for a Frigate already on it’s books, in two years, then Ben Wallace has a job to do.

Either you consider it worthwhile forking out to put a ship to sea, that you get value from doing that, or you don’t. Sure you nominally may save cash by not having ships, not putting them to sea, & not doing LIFEX.
Having an effective Navy isn’t cheap, can’t be done on the cheap. Costs of not having an effective Navy could be many times higher. A strong Navy has always been of great value to the nation, as history has shown.

There’s a crewing issue largely because the Treasury some years back was being run by some very thick people (i.e. Osborne). 5000 trained, skilled, & experienced personnel lost, it would seem, to intentionally damage & shrink the Navy. You can’t reverse such vandalism overnight, it takes time.
Pressures to shrink it further should be resisted, it needs to be built back again. Taking ships away for lack of crew, or vice versa, is the wrong direction & wrong way round. It’s crews that need to be found for ships, & ships that need to be built for crews, to restore it to where it needs to be.



1: I am not sure T23 LIFEX cost is so low, as £35m. See RNZN ANZAC class upgrade. It costs $NZ 600M = £300M –> £150M each. As T23 LIFEX is as extensive as ANZAC, it shall cost as much.

In other words, the “LIFEX £35m” figure is only part of the total cost.

2: “B if she’s really robbing her crew form elsewhere, there’d hardly be any savings or losses from crewing.”
Revamp of a full set of frigate needs a half a year of training (or more). In this time period, the ship cannot deploy = useless. Yes it does not cost, but the crew pay and operational cost provides zero output = wasted. If the original ship/crew be retained, they should have been doing real job. In other words, you need to prepare yet another ship to do the job.

3: “C is still a cost if she’s scrapped early.” If she is scrapped without modernization, she is just “scrapped”. No need to “carefully taking out” any equipment to be re-used.

4: “D again, a cost incurred anyway.” Yes, as I said.

So, wasted cost is, A, B and C, as I said, all this cost is for nothing.

Are there any gain to RN for this A,B,C cost (which I think is more than £100M, and you think £35M.) ? I think zero.

Will O

Fair play to you, if it were as you’ve envisioned it, yes you’d have a point.

The ANZAC LIFEX is different though, they’re Meko’s not Type 23s, & unlike the T23s, they’re getting a redesigned CMS, which would mean reintegrating everything, plus the SeaCeptor, new propulsion, sensors, & extensive retraining on everything.
I can now see why you’d think £100m would be a fair approximation.

Type 23 LIFEX for HMS Monmouth excludes the engines/PGMU, £35m is actually what was quoted on this site, for Montrose, directly comparable & excluded engine upgrades.
£600m was quoted for the whole LIFEX programme, & there are 13 ships, so £100m a ship is an overestimate.

You’ve read this already, as I see you commented, & £35m is what’s quoted here (it does say ‘at least’);


Thanks, Will O-san.

Oh yes, HMS Monmouth’s CMS is already upgraded in the 2015-2026 18 month period. Thanks a lot.

I’m not yet sure if £35m includes CAMM/SeaSeptor cost, because it also belongs to “complex weapon” budget? I guess not.

Anyway my argument is
– using £35m and wasting “basic training” period to re-activate Monmouth by robbing her crew from another T23
– using that money to “keep the trained personnel”
which is better?

I think “the primary threat” to escort fleet now is man-power, trained man-power.

If “19 escort saga” is important, just keep her in extended readiness. As the ship will not be used, leaving the SeaWolf unusable has zero impact.

Or, just gap one frigate and sell her to Chili or Brazil.

If the sells price added with the £35m are used for keeping trained personnel, it will be the most efficient way of spending money to improve the RN escort capability, to best “save the Royal Navy”.

andy reeves

the canadians,new zealand navys are desperate for ships, and have always supported the u.k when asked to, maybe donate a couple of t23 to them?

andy reeves

many of these issues were the same when th r.n operated the type 22(before they were ‘given away’ to anyone that would take them.

andy reeves

an additional refit hall alongside the one at devonport would be a great benefit. there is room for one.


The other issue keeping a couple T23s with Seawolf is compared to their upgraded sisters, they would be at a severe disadvantage in providing anything other than very local air protection. The SeaCeptor can provide protection to the horizon, Seawolf can’t.
So, I agree that time is not with us, and the lifex and other delays have pushed Seawolf’s capability further to the left. But what really would be the savings of continuing maintenance and training on a third air defence system?


It’s a mute point, seawolf has officially been taken out of service

andy reeves

cross decking as much gear from a retiring t23 to another ship should not be wasted.


Thanks STRN for the Boat 4 reply up thread…

Can i put another question to you?

I was reading that the MOD Provost Guard Service, bear with me, employs staff on a Military Local Service Engagement (MLSE), Would this be something the Royal Navy might consider? My understanding is that certain critical specialist trades, pinch points if you like, engineering for example, suffer disproportionately when personnel leave taking vast amounts of knowledge and experience with them. This often happens, again I understand, especially when the family/domestic circumstances change making long deployments unsuitable. Could the RN not offer such key staff the option of a harbour/port based position in a cadre (full time, but family friendly hours, RN ‘auxiliary’) that maintains boats alongside and other such duties, releasing other staff for deployment, Thereby keeping their skills within the service, the personnel are retained doing a jog they enjoy, and in the event of a serious conflict would be willing to participate in any ‘surge’ of manning…

anyway…a thought…

andy reeves

in future i’d expect an antonymous unmanned boat could, with a pre programmed course carry out much of the harbour roles.


The main issue is the I’ll fated cuts in Manpower. This is a problem the Government (treasury) caused and the RN (and other services) are somehow miraculously supposed to work around. They even screwed up the recruitment process by outsourcing it, so now it takes forever to get new recruits when you need them. It must be so difficult to bite your tongue as a head of service these days.

Gavin Gordon

I’m cognisant that I am preaching to the converted, but have noted on two occasions lately another influencial site proposing that surface combattants could be reduced to around a dozen in order to solve the crewing problem. Mentioning twice indicates a seriousness beyond devil’s advocate. However, what are weapon systems for: to adjust down to the current crewing situation or act as sufficient insurance assessed at the associated, or more pertinently the likely, threat level? If we don’t think there’s any threat then you get rid of the lot. Either way, woe betide you, your nation and your remaining crew numbers if and when you are proven wrong.
At the moment, it would appear that we are not in an unlikely threat environment during the timespans it takes to rebuild creditable unit numbers; potential aggressors are building at a every significant rate. Crewing has always been an issue when not actually at war, and keeping vessels ‘in ordinary’ has always been a necessary financial requirement in balance with that threat level.
That said, I do feel that our Defence Staff are very aware of this, with even the General Staff seemingly getting their act together within their means after 20 years of phaffing about. Let’s hope so and let’s hope that the Gov-Treasury combo follow suit. The last thing we need right now is a Defence Minister who expresses – undue -sympathy for the Treasury’s view they’ve given MOD funds that have not been spent 100% efficiently. Unfortunately, the other last thing we needed was the current faux pas at Barrow.

Will O

Who in their right mind would be proposing that? If they’re at all influential currently, they really shouldn’t be.

andy reeves

the crewing problem could be better addressed by getting to the root of why sailors are leaving. if you don’t know how can you put it right? last year up to 10,000 nepalese went for the 400 places in the army surely the offer of the R.N would turn a few heads.or, name a t 31 h.m.s gurkha.

andy reeves

the biggest fax pas was giving the astute contract to a yard that couldn’t produce at a decent rate.


Man power problems are all government made! In 2010 – 2015 we have paid off or fired 20,000 army personnel, 5,000 RAF personnel, and 5,000 Royal Navy personnel….. and probably more!


The decade up to 2010 and that years defence review have undoubtedly been disastrous for the UK armed forces. The lack of funding to maintain a steady flow of new ship orders and the impact of personnel redundancies are now all coming back to bite us.
The loss of skills at Barrow, other yards closing, poor recruitment and retainment levels were entirely predictable and it will take a decade of sustained funding and commitment by HMG to turns things around because at the moment despite the new carriers the RN and other services seem to be in terminal decline. The next defence review and its outcome will be a litmus test for HMG commitment to turning things around because the renewal of the deterrent without credible conventional forces is meaningless.


There are no votes in defence.
A new government needs to remove the dreadnought program from the MoD budget ,pensions ,GCHQ,MI6 and MI5 and put them back where they belong the first the treasury special contingency fund and MI6 and GCHQ in the FO and MI5 Home office and then people will really see how we spend less than France on defence and only a little more than Germany at 1.6% of GDP and not the claimed 2% because of some clever shuffling of budgets .
Hammond was defence secretary when Osborne rammed things into the MoD budget to create the 2% illusion.
Defence spending rising to 3 % of GDP with those items still in the defence budget will solve very little.


That isn’t going to be easy. The first step will inevitably be the short term one of getting the £2.2bn boost baselined. The big shift will be to get the “real terms plus 0.5%” commitment to defence spending turned into a “%age GDP” commitment to core defence spending, the only thing that will stop further rot. Only then can the argument be made that core defense spending should be the 2% GDP commitment, undoing Osbourne’s bright idea.

The danger of accepting a multi-year settlement before moving to a GDP-based commitment is that it will lock in an ongoing capability loss.

andy reeves

get those who are ‘clogging’ up the admiralty cleared out. that will save a fortune every year

Gavin Gordon

You seem to have the figures readily to hand, C. I sincerely hope you’re not ‘Call Me Dave’!


MPs complaining that the Roal Navy has less than half of its combat fleet available for operations, Pot, Kettle and Black comes to mind here.
The Royal Navy already cut to the bone has 13 Type 23 frigates the oldest of which is 28 years old and are expeceted to soldier on until about 2032. This is a vessel that was designed to be replaced after 25 years, the first replacements are not due until 2027 they will be 36 years old at that point.
This was the fault of Parliament and the Treasury, not the Admiralty, they can only work with what they are given.
The Type 23 is going through a extended life program of refits.
Well thats all well and good but that is an extra cost to the Admiralty budget, if the Type 26 was approved and built when they should have beed the Type 23 extendd life program would not be needed, meaning that the Admiralty would have more money for modern equipment and manpower.
It also means that we need shipyards to carry this work out, but we don’t have enough shipyards. meaning that work is delayed, meaning that ships are not avaialable for operation. The situation is also not good for the moral of ships crews, they join the RN to sail in fighting ships not to be ashore kicking their heels, this in turn puts of new recruits, why join if you can’t go to sea.
We don’t build enough ships in the UK so maybe the ones we do order should be built in the UK and not Korea or Spain, but again this is a Government and Treasury choice, the Admiralty has no say in the matter.
With the 50% availability of the Type 45 is that the fault of the Admiralty, no that again is purely down to the desision making of Parliament, it was Parliament that decided to choose the RR WR-21 over the LM2500. The WR-21 is or was untested and rushed through its design phase to take part in the tendor. There has been only about 20 of these turbines ever made and is not even on the listing of Rolls Royce. The LM-2500 has done millions of sea miles, has several hundred made and is a tried, tested and efficient turbine. I am not sure but I think I know which engine the Admiralty would have picked if asked.
This means that the Type 45 needs to be cut open and a work around of new deisel generators installed. This also means more ship yard capability to carry out this task. Wait a minute, we do not have the ship yard capability meaning more time tied up alongside waiting for the work to be carried out.
So the question is, Who is at fault for the availability of combat ships, the Admiralty or Government, Government, if the Type 26 was run and ordered in the time frame that it should have been then the Type 23 would not need an exteded life program. If the Type 45 had beed ordered with a powerplant that works, even BAES told Government about their concerns with the choice of powerplant, then they would not need need to be tied up alongside waiting for new generators costing even more money. If Govenrment would fund the Royal Navy correctly and give it the quantity of ships that it really needs to carry out all of its tasking properly then combat ship numbers would increase, with this increase there would be more work, with more work there would be more shipyards, with more shipyards there would be the capacity to carry out refits and repairs more quickly, by decreasing the time of ships in refit and repair then there would be more ships operational.
The fault of the Admiralty is that they always say that they have enough to carry out the tasks given to them by Government, they should tell the truth to Government that the Royal Navy is stretched to breaking point, that the ships are being driven harder and much more than they should be. What I mean with this is that in time of peace ships of war sail around the world on good will visits, they have the occasional exersize come back to port and undergo maintance, refits etc. In times of war a ship is driven hard an expected 25 year life span comes down to 5 or 6 years then she is useless unless she goes through a major refit.
This really is a case of ” There’s a hole in my bucket”.
Rant over.


I think you may have misunderstood what is going on.

These are the MPs who hold the MoD and Government to account for their decisions, or at least who get to ask the awkward questions. These are the ones arguing for 3% of GDP to go into defence and are doing their best to make sure defence is properly funded. There are the ones who published the paper calling out the Government on its 2% bull (Shifting the Goalposts). These are the MPs who tell truth to Government, as you put it, and are fully aware that the Navy is stretched to breaking point. It’s through them asking questions like, what is ship availability, that they can highlight current issues.

The YouTube clip starts about half an hour into the testimony. The Chairman is trying to get assurances from the Defence Secretary that more Type 31s will be built beyond the five already ordered, using the reasoning that low availability of frigates in the Straits of Hormuz and the increased demand for carrier escorts in the future means that more will be needed. He’s not just whinging for the sake of it.

Will O

Somehow, I don’t think Ron’s criticisms of Parliamentarians are directed at the present Defence Select Committee.


The problem with the defence select committee is, yes they can raise questions and write a report but the Government is not held to account, the report is taken on advisement, so don’t have to do anything. This is I believe one of the reasons whoever is being interviewed usually states the party line of yes we are extremely busy but we are managing the situation and no we don’t need any more ships, or 6 T45s is adequate for the current commitment, etc.

If the select committee had teeth, perhaps the Governemnt would be more held to account?

andy reeves

not the government, the admiralty.

andy reeves

a lot of the blame we throw at the governments and treasurys we never point the finger at the ‘we want this’ we want that gang at the admiralty. who say they don’t have enough ships but declare that they will only have nuclear fleet submarines at a ‘billion quid a pop’only to find those astutes are slow, leaky, prematurely rusting unpopular with their crews when the rest of the world has rediscovered the merits of the conventionally powered submarines which cost far less, are faster to build crewed mainly by crews smaller than 60. for the price of one astute they could have had 14 of the superb gotland class boats of the swedish navy. plus they sat back and barely made a grunt when the entire t22 frigates were sold from under them. all these geriatric naval officers should be given command of one of the ‘archer patrol boats. if they want to, tell them to resign.

andy reeves

the samen clueless m.p’s that refer a river class as a mighty ship?!!!

andy reeves

if our nice, shiny new carriers are expected to give 50 years service, why not the rest of new designs? speaking of which, i hope wheels are in motion for a t45 replacement at the rate ours are being’flogged’ they’ll be worn out pretty soon.


Is this the first time we have had official confirmation that the Type 31 will perform carrier escort duties? I was rather pleased to hear that. It suggests that the frigates will be pushed harder than their price tag might indicate.


Wouldn’t the simplistic solution be to speed up the building of T26s and get Glasgow in service for 2024, Cardiff 2025 and Belfast 2026. Then the second batch being increased to 6 you cover the gap created by the faster build rate. If this can be achieved then maybe fewer T23s need expensive refits?

andy reeves

something drastic should be done with the entire swiftsure class in mothballs, plus the retired trafalgars, which i think still had several years service in them.

Will O

No, it’s not good, it’s terrible. If they’re to be used as escorts then at least raft the plant. What was the point of fitting IEP to all the other ships? No, better send them to fulfill other standing requirements & let the T26 & T45 do carrier escort.


They can and will be forward deployed on standing requirements in The Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. There is talk of basing another in Singapore and i’d also want to see one in The Mediterranean.

I haven’t heard of the Type 31’s deploying as part of the carrier group. Whilst the 14 T26/T45 should definitely focus on routinely generating 4 vessels to escort the carriers i think it is important that the T31 does have a minimum level of defensive capability to bolster the carrier-group if necessary. That means 24-32 Sea Ceptor, a bow mounted sonar and a form of canister launched AShM.

John Clark

I would see the T31’s primary mission being the task that RN ships currently perform, i.e solo gulf, Carribbean and Mediterranean patrols etc.

Unless there is an uplift in personal and hull numbers, the entire T45 fleet will have the sole job of Carrier escort.

Only 4 available at any time, of those, it will be a struggle to keep two, in a tip top ‘ready to go’ status.

Any solo T45 missions will be very local in nature ( Isle of Wight war patrol) , as the T45 will need to be fresh, fully stored, fully worked up and ready to link with the CTG within days .

The T26 fleet will be employed likewise plus SSBN support, leaving little to no space for anything else.

John Clark

Absolutely Challenger, the T31 has to have at least the teeth of the GP T23 it’s replacing.

That means 32 Seaceptor, ASM canisters, main gun useful for NGS (5″ preferable) or reused 4.5″ failing that.

No point sticking a pop gun up front, as the T31 is the most likely asset to go forward with amphibious assets, to provide NGS and local area AIr Defence.


As has been said by many before now it would have been better if there was a clearer split of capabilities between T26 & T31 with the former focused on high-end ASW & AAW (with additional units replacing T45 in time) and T31 as the primary NGS platform, with a secondary defensive capability.

There is no escaping the fact that the MK45 is a rather expensive system. I think if T31 got a minor uplift on current plans by having a 76mm as the primary gun and 2x 40mm or 57mm as the secondary’s (all on the center line to provide maximum coverage remains a smart move) as well as Sea Ceptor, some kind of canister ASM and a hull mounted sonar it could be considered good enough to be deemed a useful escort vessel instead of just a jumped up patrol boat.

John Clark

Certainly as an escort, we can envisage the T31 being the mothership for a mine countermeasures task group, incorporating Echo or Enterprise.

A good sensor suite, 32 Seaceptor and a decent main gun will act as an excellent umbrella for such a group.

andy reeves

the echo and enterprise are configured for role changing to those of sweepers.

andy reeves

as for carrier escorts. the U.K carrier group will not include a sweeper. many other nations deploy their groups with a sweeper in the pack. maybe we should as well

andy reeves

as depressing a photo of all those retired swiftsures lying redundant. i’m sure if a real survey was done on each of them, then a few could be recommissioned