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I am angry when see cuts in the military, in particular the Royal Navy. We are an Island and need a seaborne presence to protect us. Take this a step further our commonwealth also expect to be supported and protected. We have got to stop the reduction in the size of the Navy. We can not allow our experienced sailors to leave. We can not allow the size of the Navy to reduce, quite the opposite we need to increase the size. The current fleet are struggling under pressure of responsibilities., which need to continue. Once lost the ship building, the ships, the people will take a generation now to turn around. We see in the dying shipbuilding industry, that in future our warships will built overseas. We are currently struggling with Gibraltar, and a daily incident with Spanish incursions. Argentina are just waiting for the UK to reduce the fleet even more, before they take action against the Islands again. We cannot mount a Fleet to protect the Islands. Libya could have been supported better with an aircraft carrier off the coast. Instead we had to fly RAF planes from the UK. Big concern about the size of the submarine fleet. These submarines hide the threat below the surface, again very proven asset to have, for intelligence, Tomahawk and having that threat. Cougar 13 a statement to the world that we can deploy a fleet, albeit just about. How much longer could this go on, with the current cuts. Cougar 13 also provided an asset to assist the Phillipines, what a great asset. The struggling Frigate in the Caribbean, albeit most of the time a RFA, needs to continue for assistance to overseas commonwealth countries, more importantly the asset to stop drugs coming to the UK.
We can not be dependant on other countries, we must stay strong with a military able to protect our interests over the world. More importantly we see China and Russia increasing their naval fleets, we need to be aware and have a capable Navy, with sufficient ships, and not struggling. How disappointing when we lost the 4 Type 22 frigates, who were very capable base, and still young hulls, sadly now scrap. I do hope that which ever government is in power realise that we need a Navy, somehow I will not hold my breath.


Committing to operating both LPDs should be near the top – eg bringing Albion out of reserve immediately.

Brining forward orders for the Mars Solid Suppor Ship would also be worthwhile – they are designed to work with the carriers and will help bring personnel numbers down.

Not sure how essential fitting Tomahawk to T45 is at the moment. Would be better to press for an eighth Astute class SSN.

Stephen Liddell

A great summary. The reversal of the mothballing of the second carrier is absolutely the most important decision. Lets hope they maintain or increase the number of Frigates after the reduction in numbers of the Destroyers.

With a developed country which is forever getting richer, it has never made any sense to me why the armed forces are continually reduced when time after time, they continually excel. It’s not that we can’t afford them, we very easily can, the government just chooses not to.

With ever increasing instability around the world and the resurgent threat from Russia and China combined with reductions or at least a re-focus from the USA, we should be looking to increase the size and scope of the forces particularly for the Royal Navy which always has such long lead-times with capital projects.

If Putin says we are an irrelevant small country, who can blame him with the state of our forces as they are.


“Whereas any European power has to support a vast army first of all, we in this fortunate, happy island, relieved by our insular position of a double burden, may turn our undivided efforts and attention to the Fleet. Why should we sacrifice a game in which we are sure to win to play a game in which we are bound to lose?” Churchill.

4th watch

This is an excellent summary. How lamentable that our politicians, who want to strut the world stage on every occasion it seems, are seemingly unaware how precarious is our real position in the world.
If I were a senior minister I would be unable to sleep at night knowing how irresponsibly our naval strength has been allowed to atrophy.
Was it not only last week that a Russian aircraft carrier approached our coast undetected until spotted by local fishing boats?
I am ashamed at the military ignorance, risk taking and hubris of the UK political establishment. That is the real bottom line.


What I would like to see looked at in 2014 is a ABM capability for the new frigates , the carriers going to sea with the full compliment of F-35Bs(if it survives the problems the JSF program is undergoing) and all under the command and control of the RN not the raf. Restoration of maritime aircraft patrols. If cost is a issue why not some low houred P-3 Orion airframes currently in mothballs? More Astute class boats.With the sub as the weapon of choice for varous regimes the more the better. More assault ships for the Royal Marine and the SA80/M16 rifles they use being replaced with the Heckler and Koch HK 417 7.62mm rifle.

4th watch

I would like to see the QE and POW fitted with arrester wires even if catapults are beyond us.


Added to this I would think a new enlarged fleet of oilers would be a good move also as I heard the ‘Lusty’ nearly ran out of fuel while at sea.


Good review & good to see people taking time to read it & make some informed comments. Whilst peoples priorities/preferences may differ slightly, most of these are common to all & we can only hope that those that make the decisions will come to the same conclusions and be given the budget to implement these. Keep up the good work !


I fear hoping for 13 Type 26 frigates is way too optimistic. I have heard that 8 is a more likely number. This would at least keep our navy in the top 30 in the world which sadly is all we can aspire to now.
It brings a tear to my eye when I think how our fleet will soon be weaker than Holland, Belgium and presumably at this rate Luxembourg.

Common Sense is not so common

The irony is that 13 ships, ordered together for delivery in stages, need not be much more expensive than eight ships ordered in ones and twos with gaps between production. There are lots of fixed costs like initial design and then there are lots of volume savings. Plus it is reasonable to expect a shipyard to take a lower profit on certain business stretching out over a number of years. Thus the marginal cost of the extra five ships need not be very much at all. Good argument for building 20 of course!


Thanks for the comments and feedback. Since writing this article my low level of optimism for SSDR 2015 has fallen even further. Obviously it it rather dependent on when and who wins the next general election, but the current Govt has already committed to ring-fencing the NHS and Education budgets while looking for further savings of £35Bn per year. Welfare will be there main area for them left to cut but Welfare changes are far more politically difficult than making defence cuts. Just maintaining the budget at the current level will seem like and achievement so don’t expect to see too many of the wishes listed above being delivered.
There are lots of other things that could be added to the list and the choices are always a balance between what is affordable, what seems like an immediate priority and what maybe best value and most use in the log-run.

George Fleming

Excellent review, although I served in the RN in the 50’s & 60’s when we had a glut of ships left over from WW2, it is so sad to see our navy being
cut to its present size. Hope I live to see both new carriers commissioned with full crews and all 13 new type 26 Frigates built. Pity the MOD reduced the type 45 Destroyers from 12 to 6.

IOW Shore Establishment

I often have thought if Admiral Sir Henry Leech had been in charge at the beginning of Libya Campaign then he would have ordered HMS Ark Royal with the Harriers to sea and then informed the Cabinet of his decision. Imagine how that would have informed the current debate.

Leaving that aside we need to focus on the critical arguments.

1. Explain that the Navy composes only 36% of the UK’s Armed Forces which is totally at odds with our allies ( US and France it is 55%, Canada and Australia at 45%) and our status as a Maritime nation.

2. Carrier sustainment (2 ships) with 48 x F35B tied to them. This allows us to exert the Global influence desired by UK Govt at cheapest cost to UK taxpayer. The UK’s unique capability remains is long range force projection and this, not an armoured division, is vital fo our relationship with US and other non European Allies and supports the US AFPAC focus. This reinforces the need for a Carrier Battlegroup which can surge support where and when required without costly permant oversas basing.

3. A Carrier BG must have sufficent capable ships and boats to be effective with a full suite of capability.

4. MHPC/OPVs Lesser permanent martitime tasks can be completed by an increased number of less complex platforms (HMS Black Swan corvettes with Multi Mission modules) to provide enduring presence globally and increase UK’s soft power.

4th watch

In so many ways the other constituent parts of the Armed forces ‘are all dressed up with nowhere to go’. This is a point well made.

I am glad that the Army are deploying their attack helicopters at sea and that the RAF are going to be getting their planes wet with salt water on HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.

All the UKs F35’s must be to the maritime standard. Any other specification is folly.


As a serving member of the RN it is very depressing being cut back like this. Every day I see not just experienced guys leaving because they are sick to death of the bad treatment and annual increase in tempo to meet commitments with a smaller force, but the young lads coming through see this and head for the door. We are already cut too far and heading down a very slippery slope. prime Minister has his priorities wrong and no appreciation of what the RN does for us as an island nation. Very very demoralising situation to be in.

4th watch

In view of the worsening situation in the Ukraine, can we be assured there will be a freeze on paying off HMS Illustrious?
Unlike normal MOD practice, the least must be that she is held in Active Reserve.
Can someone who matters ask this in the HoC?