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Supportive Bloke

Not good news.

These are highly capable command and control platforms as well as everything else they bring to RM.

The Whale Island Zookeeper



Is the delay in Bulwark’s upgrade/ maintenance work due to unexpected delays/ difficulties being encountered or a planned slowing of work for financial reasons?
If the former, then it’s understandable if regrettable. Though good project management should have had these planned to finish before Albion was reduced in readiness.
If the later, then it’s unacceptable.


Sean… I thoroughly agree.. It is so short sighted of the so called experts at Ministry…


You might be right about finance but the elephant in the room is manpower. With almost all of these announcements I think the issue is lack of trained and qualified manpower. As few as we have we have more ships than people to man them.

Last edited 2 months ago by David Steeper

Looking at the drydock picture from Feb 23 crewing isn’t an issue. The work being undertaken is dockyard driven and sits with Babcock.
From my look-
Upper deck non skid to be applied.
LCVP Davits being worked on. They are on the jetty to the right of the cherry picker.
Radars ashore for work.
Loop aerials ashore for work
Phalanx ashore
Rudders off so probably shafts out (rudders on Flight deck aft)
Decoy Launchers ashore.
Underwater hull blasting/ painting ongoing Fwd or bow thruster work.
Flight deck Crane ashore
White tent sheeting on Bridge wings indicates a new fit of some description. With the 2 x 20mm GamB01 removed from the bridge roof it could be a 30mm fit?

Having the WE and ME dept onboard isn’t going to fix all of that. From experience of refitting an LPD the rest of the non-engineers will be off doing other stuff anyway. Internally there will be machinery space work, electronics work, mess deck upgrades, steel work, galley work, mag improvements. The last couple of months when the Dockyard start handing back equipment is when you need all of the crew to move onboard (Ships Staff Move Onboard-SSMOB). SSMOB is usually a milestone payment point as is undocking so the Dockyard push hard to achieve that or they don’t get a staged payment.

As I have said an LPD crew is surprisingly small for a large ship only around 300 people. WAFUs for the Flight deck and RM Assault Squadron are not permanent crew so wont be needed during or immediately completion of the refit.


Thanks Gunbuster.


Ambition not matching reality once again. The Royal Navy was already expected to someone scrape together 2 Littoral Response Groups and now there’s this fluff about a
‘Global Response Force’.

With (on a good day) 1 LPD, 2 LSD’s and poor old Argus better to scrap the latter and try to get both Albions back in service so we can field 1 decent amphibious group that can deploy East of Suez on the years the CSG doesn’t and focus on NATO’s northern flank and The Baltic the rest of the time.

John Clark

Problem is Challenger, Albion is RN manned and manning intensive, but Argus is mainly RFA manned, with an influx of RN when the helos are on board.

Unfortunately, I hear a seed corn of ground handlers and engineering staff is generally secondered from Qe2 or PoW when needed, that would be a ‘problem’ if we had to deploy both together,or perhaps they would be constantly cross decking!


The big gamble.


I can see the exact same thing happening to the carriers one will be in refit or whatever then the other breaking down then having to need repairs for a few months or even a year to find out why it’s broken

The Whale Island Zookeeper

There is a lot of wisdom in ‘3 for 1’. These ships aren’t getting any simpler. And a ship at sea is having the hull worked. This is why a 9th T26 makes more sense that 5 T31.


The T31 makes sense because HMG has tasks it requires to be done. One extra T26 won’t allow one carrier at high readiness with escorts and all the other tasks to be done, there would just not be sufficient hulls. The RN has and has always had rolls beyond preparing for high end war fighting.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

No the T31 is a drain on manpower and under armed.

The RN hasn’t the budget now for secondary considerations and should just cut back.

Last edited 2 months ago by The Whale Island Zookeeper

There is quality in numbers. The T26 are probably better than necessary. We often made do with 2nd best; look at our light cruisers facing down Pocket Battleships and heavy cruisers. Now I agree we have a problem but already the T31’s have been given some proper hitting power beyond what we hoped for. What next lightweight towed array?

The Whale Island Zookeeper

We are where we are. Given the situation viz-a-vie Russia I wouldn’t let any T31 leave the wall without a sonar and rafted engines.


The T31s are leaving nowhere for four or five years, so you aren’t talking about a possible choice. Would you drydock Lancaster and Iron Duke today until they’d had sonar fitted, thereby reducing the number of useable RN frigates to about five for the next couple of years? I’d wager not. Hyperbole needs to be balanced by realism and pragmatism.

Rafting the engines of a built T31 would involve ripping open the hull, taking the frigate out of service when we need all of them we can get. To change the contract to add rafting to the later ships during the build is asking for delay and a price hike. The class will be a good enough for sonar to be added afterwards without rafting.


Well said.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Ripping open hulls that are at best sheets of steel at the moment?

Are these the same ones leaving nowhere?

I am not using hyperbole.

What have T23’s got to do with anything?

None of what you said made any sense.

Last edited 2 months ago by The Whale Island Zookeeper

Okay, I’ll spell it out seeing as I wasn’t clear enough for you. You said you wouldn’t allow a Type 31 out without sonar. I asked, if you had to make the hard choice today, would you allow Type 23s out without sonar? Is it really so hard to understand the parallel?

Would you take the GP frigates out of current operational use because you don’t want to use frigates without sonar? We have very few available frigates right now and we’ll have even fewer in 2026/27 unless Westminster is restored. Would you delay the Type 31s because you insist on rafting?

I hope that choice is clear enough for you.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Don’t try to push your poor writing on to me. I didn’t understand because you wrote rubbish.

What sort of question is that? Would I allow a Type 23 out without a sonar? We are talking about ships under construction right now. What does your question even mean? It makes no sense. Babcock have one hull nowhere near finished putting sonars into them now would not put too much delay on the program. T31 is a known design. There are three examples bobbing about on the oggin for the Danes with ASW kit.

And for the umpteenth time a frigate without an ASW capability isn’t general purpose. It cannot possibly be general purpose because it can’t attack submarines. Attacking enemy vessels at sea is why we have escorts. And submarines are enemy vessels.

I shall use Wikipedia begrudgingly………

The policy adopted by the Royal Navy during the 1950s of acquiring separate types of frigates designed for specialised roles (i.e. anti-submarine, anti-aircraft and aircraft direction) had proved unsatisfactory. Although the designs themselves had proved successful, the lack of standardisation between the different classes led to increased costs during construction and also in maintenance once the ships became operational. Furthermore, it was not always possible to have the ships with the required capabilities available for a specific task. The first move towards creating a truly general-purpose frigate came with the Type 81 Tribal class which was initially ordered in 1956. The 24-knot speed of the Tribals was considered the maximum possible for tracking submarines with the new medium-range sonars, entering service. The type 81 gas turbine saw the frigates underway quickly, without taking hours flashing up steam turbines, and the provision of a helicopter for long-range attack were considered essential in the nuclear age. These ships were mainly intended to operate in the tropics but lacked the speed and armament required for the priority fleet carrier escort role East of Suez, where fast radar picket capability was important, as much as anti-submarine capability. So the new frigates would combine the roles of the T12 and T61.

Note T61 went to sea with ASW. And T12 had comparable AA capability.

The British government’s policy is anti-Russian. Russia has 28 submarines in their Northern Fleet (not including specialist boats). Do we hope in a war like situation that they just let T45 and T31 sail on because they don’t have ASW kit? Why aren’t you arguing for T26 to be relieved of all its AA kit?

We can’t afford to send an escort to sea that cannot look after itself. The international situation is shifting rapidly. Supporting the government’s strategy of we will fit it when it is needed is starting to look a bit strained now.

You are just making nonsensical arguments. You either know no better. Or you are just trolling. I am not sure which.


Thank you for the historic digression over my use of the phrase General Purpose. You knew what I meant, but I’ll avoid it in future when talking to you. It seems to push your buttons and I don’t like it much either.

You say things like “we can’t afford to send an escort to sea that cannot look after itself” but say you don’t understand how that relates to Type 23 frigates. If you believe ASW is necessary for an escort to look after itself, how can you fail to see the relevance of the fact we are sending escorts to sea in that state right now with HMS Lancaster, Iron Duke, Daring and Dauntless. The immediate consequences of what you propounded would take nearly half of the available escorts out of service.

Rafting the T31s would be a major change that will require renegotiating the contract with Babcock who are currently in dispute about that very contract. Can you honestly tell me you can’t see how that might delay delivery?

If you can’t see the stark choice between making do by using less-well equipped frigates over the rest of this decade and taking them out of service for upgrade, we are wasting our time persuing this discussion. If you get it, feel free to come back with your opinion, as I am interested; otherwise by all means consider what I have put to you as nonsense.

The Whale Island Zookeeper

No you are not drawing me into that stupid T23 game you have dreamt up.

I will leave it there.

Wasp snorter

I get what you mean, but that’s not saying much

Supportive Bloke

Babcock are very clear that quietening cannot be added mid build. They have said this several times.

T31 is the way it is. A very large, survivable and capable, in non ASW ways, platform.

NSM and Mk41 make a massive difference.

If it is an adjunct to a CSG then 2-3 T26 are doing state of the art ASW


The major sonars for the T23 are towed array and VDs types, installed from the deck under the helicopter pad.
I would presume it needs a computer control


I understand the T23 GP’s to have a perfectly adequate hull sonar and their machinery rafted whereas T31 has neither.


I don’t think you can say a ship with a plan for MK41 silos, CAMM, a 57mm medium gun 2 40mm medium guns and full equipment for a small ship flight is under armed.

Supportive Bloke

No, you can’t.

I’m pretty confident there will be an ASW add on but it *might* not be quite what is obvious?


I would actually like a 9th T-26 and a 6th T-31 announced prior to T-32 or T-83

The Whale Island Zookeeper



Agree with that, We also need 9 T-83


Surely that depends on what the T-83 turns out to actually be. It’s still at the very early concept stage. It could turn out to be a “British AB” or a pure anti air destroyer or something else entirely.




If it were up to me, it would be a 9th and 10th T-26 and an entire second batch of T-31 consisting of another 5 hulls. This would make a total of 20 RN frigates to go with the 6 T-45 destroyers. From there the question is whether the projected T-83 will replace the T-45s on a one for one basis, or whether another design (perhaps a derivative of the existing T-26) will become the new “destroyers” with the T-83s more properly designated as cruisers (air defence flagships). In this case, there would be six new destroyers to replace the T-45s and four T-83s for a total of thirty (30) major surface combatants in the escort fleet. I would say that’s about the right number.


There is definitely an increasing problem of the complexity of modern warships and more rigorous safety standards leading to longer and longer refits and less and less time available for operations. Not helped by vessels being kept in service for 35 years instead of more like 25 years.

The Whale Island Zookeeper



Lloyds requirements for things like sea valves and hull inspections are 5 yearly and can be extended out to 6 years if justified. You can do inspections and valve changes afloat (I did for a certain T23 who has now paid off) but it’s not straight forward and requires a lot of diver support alongside and careful planning to achieve.

Underwater hull inspections can be done by divers or ROVs with Lloyds agreement. With the improvement in underwater hull paint life ships should need less time in dock because the underwater hull repaints are less frequent..


You can use a toilet plunger to change a valve at sea…well you can on a 30 foot sailboat anyway….

Last edited 1 month ago by Jonathan

It just proves how stretched the forces are and how we need the defence budget to increase massively


Easy to say. Now come up with a way to do that and get elected. Neither tax increases nor cuts in other parts of government will help win elections.

Last edited 2 months ago by ATH

I believe we have seen this before.


Why… Why…?? Decommission either…?? Have we got too many ships now..??


Too few crew, it appears.

Richard Beedall

“it is possible that a shortage of personnel is part of the reason for the sluggish regeneration” I fear you are right. Bringing the crew of PoW back up to strength has probably taken priority. Being positive, there seems to be a serious recruitment campaign going on at the moment, I’ve seen more RN career ads in the last week than the last 5 years put together. Someone has finally realised that relying on docu-drama series’ such as Britain’s Biggest Warship is not enough. Hopefully Raleigh will be heaving again with new entries before long!


Unfortunately it’s not working. Latest intakes at both Raleigh and Dartmouth are woeful. Drop out rate is high too. Albion does not have a rotating crew, very few lads are prepared to be away for 6 months at a time and it just makes for a sour crew. Ship geeks make much of the lack of platforms, when the biggest problem is recruitment (terribly slow pipeline) and retention of personnel….no point in platforms when we can’t crew them?!

The Whale Island Zookeeper

Italy are getting 3 new LPD’s.
comment image

We need at least to restore some of the ‘Marine centred’ fittings to the QE’s which were deleted.

Consider also the UK has given the Ukraine £4.6 billion.


Its more like £2.6 bill


A good investment honestly.

That said I read we subsidise rail travel to the tune of £11bn a year and half the time they don’t run…

You could build a CSG with a full air arm every year!


If the current government “found £10B down the back of the sofa” do you think they would chose to either increase defence spending or cut taxes? Until politicians believe that defence spending is more popular than tax cuts or extra NHS/education spending money for defence will be very tight.


I’m sure this government are working for our enemies the way there destroying our armed forces.


Madness obviously.

obviously with no replacement in sight (other than CGIs of MRSS which aren’t really replacements) I suppose the positive thing is post refit Albion should be able to serve well past the OSD date as a result of rotating the two ships in service.


Nelson will be turning in his grave…..a once proud navy reduced to a cash strapped flotilla….. there is no excuse for this. There is no realisation within the UK government of the current crisis in Ukraine and how that could expand further…..indeed by doing the ostrich they can just keep on cutting…..


It beggars belief. Our allies must begin to wonder if our capability can be relied upon as we slide into a tier 3 power. Global Britain? Ha!


I wondered how long it would take for the crackpots to surface! This is the end of the world as we know it!

Supportive Bloke

I’m not too sure it is great news – given an intense conflict that could spill over as it is being run by increasingly irrational people locked into self preservation.

The Albion(s) are supposed to reinforce Denmark. Norway etc

How does that work ATM?


The USN has some available amphibs.
The RN needs 3 LPDs if it intends to permanently keep 1 in service. That’s just simple math. It is clear to me from this side of the pond that the UK Government just isn’t making the fiscal commitment to the RN that needs to be made.

Last edited 2 months ago by DaSaint

We kept one in service all the time previously. Albion refitted, regenerated and then took over from Bulwark in 2010 so Bulwark could refit. Then several years later the reverse happened.

It would appear that the Bulwark refit may have had an issue.
Not surprising.
Trying to bring a 6kV HV propulsion system out of hibernation is fraught with risks let alone the rest of the refit package.

Supportive Bloke

Sure but Albion could have been kept at a higher state of readiness – just in case?

Why gap when you can mitigate?


LPDs are not that big a crew. 300 and a bit plus the come and go Battle Staff, RM contingent for the Assault Squadron for LCU, LCVP and the WAFU chock heads for the flight deck.

Post Taurus 09 I refitted Bulwark in 2010/11. Issues with unprogrammed work caused us budget headaches. It’s not until you get into the tanks, especially the massive ballast tanks that they discover issues. In addition the work on the main engines caused some issues. WE wise (my world) we did OK.

Regarding the upgrades to her cooling system. All ships have issues with wild heat from new systems especially servers wedged into compartments that they were not originally designed for. On T23 the removal of Sea Wolf trackers and all the below decks cabinets and their cooling needs was an immense help. Sea Ceptor cabinets are the size of a washing machine and require little cooling. They now sit forlornly in a large empty space that was once full of tracker cabinets. I can say that T23 in the Gulf is markedly cooler aft than when it had Sea Wolf.

For LPDs the removal of Goalkeeper means that there would be 2 dedicated Chilled Water plants with nothing to do. Phalanx only requires sea water cooling. Wild heat was an issue in the Computer room when NavyNet/ Modnet servers were fitted in there. Hopefully they sorted that out. Cooling aft for the embarked forces accom is hopefully being addressed to improve it.


Thanks for the intel. Would be great to have an article on the at sea compute space and the issues involved. Would make a welcome change from the press release retreads.


Thanks GB this indeed a refresh to the brain from brain damage inducing PR lingo talk.


These days with escort crews of 110-140 the 300 people on an Albion is a big crew.
To me the interesting unanswered question is has Bulwarks refit been slowed down to save cash flow as it was known there wouldn’t be crew before next year. Or was the issue purely with cash flow. Or were technical issues found late in the process that couldn’t be overcome in time for a quick handover. I suspect HMG will hide behind waffle rather than be open about the situation.

Phillip Johnson

Sounds like Bulwark’s refit has run over time. Is the RN so cash strapped that it cannot keep Albion running for an extra couple of months or is it a matter they cannot find the manpower to crew Bulwark without shutting down Albion?


Albion was placed in extended readiness in 2011, brought into operation in 2017 and back to readiness again in 2023. The regularity is because as has been mentioned elsewhere, you have to maintain the ship following a full inspection every five or six years. It seems to me the Navy stretch it out as far as possible and Albion’s time has come.

Back in 2017 they said that Bulwark was being kept “warm” and engines would be fired up every 6 to 8 weeks along with tests to make sure the equipment continued to work. An August 2020 tweet from Navy Lookout confirmed “HMS Bulwark has been well maintained in low readiness at Devonport since Dec 2016. There appears to be continued investment in upgrades, ahead of her intended return to sea in 2021.”

Bulwark was originally (reported in 2017 and again 2019) supposed to be worked on from August 2021 to get it ready for this year. Far from starting late, upkeep work was underway far earlier and in a new manner — an “optimised support period” — with docking in Devonport for phase two reported in October 2020, prior to work on the ballast tanks and upgrading the cooling system. The dry dock was reported as having been overhauled in 2020 as well.

Given all this, you have to wonder what went wrong. It doesn’t seem to be for want of trying!

Last edited 1 month ago by Jon

Entirely possible that Babcock’s are struggling for staff as well……..

Not necessarily all about money. There’s an assumption that there are enough shipwrights, pipefitters,sparkies etc, just sitting there waiting for the order to start. If that assumption is wrong, there’s a problem……


Yes. The way many businesses which rely on contracts like this and others is only to have a permanent staff of supervisors and people who write submissions for contracts. Once the win comes through out goes the roles to employment agencies – who find the suitable staff where they can.


That’s not how Babcock work. They have a large core workforce across the trades, but augmented with contractors / temps where needed. Same for BAES.

Trouble is that there’s more work than the augmentees can fill and some of the core workforce are retiring.

John Hartley

I hope your forthcoming article includes the proposed Italian, 20,000 ton approx mini helicopter assault carriers.


The helicopter assault carrier is the 38,000 ton Trieste ( bigger than their F-35 carrier Cavour)
The 3 ships you are referring to are LPH with a rear deck only
The Italian marine Corps is roughly the same size as the RM but seems to have a better amphib sea lift than that available from the RN

John Hartley

A while back, they were going to be flat tops to replace the San Giorgios. Has that changed?


yes. Image as shown by the Zookeeper with type referred to as LXD, very close the Albion and Bulwark but 3 proposed ( so at least 2 always in service?) plus the Trieste

Last edited 1 month ago by Duker
The Whale Island Zookeeper

They weren’t meant to be LHx of any sort. More hulls with a flight deck that extended the full length of the ship like the San Giogio class. So vehicle-park-come-flight deck. Flight decks are useful but it doesn’t mean you always need a hangar and a cab to home there; the helicopters can come from elsewhere. Similar can be seen with the JMSDF Ōsumi class. But that idea seems to have fallen by the wayside. You can imagine the next class of RN LPDs having that form. The close combat company in the QE being lifted ashore with the junglies returning to the LPD for the next wave. And once the evolution is over the cabs ultimately returning to the carrier


To my mind it’s like putting all your eggs in one basket, which for amphibious ops is a tactical no no. You want to keep your fleet/strike air and amphib air separate, so their sortie generation and turnaround servicings remain separate and don’t interfere with each other. This will become even more important when the carriers start embarking unmanned aircraft. That will likely have to land on an angled deck and use an arrested landing. Whilst being manoeuvred around to line up for a cat launch.

Although a ship of the size of Trieste is probably (sadly) out of reach for the RN, especially if they wanted at least 2. The LHD concept is I believe a significantly better and more flexible all round package for amphibious operations than a LPD. Primarily for continuous air operations, where it is easier to transit to and from a landing spot. Rather than carry out the orchestrated manoeuvres and fly in a holding pattern when trying to land on or take-off from a LPD. Plus it gives the F35B somewhere else it could land and take-off if required.


LHD’s always have a problem of space for troops unless they are huge because they don’t have any space above heli deck. Look at French Mistral with that huge hull height.


Some one being sent to the Falklands for teaching Wokery …£45,000 a year and 40 annual leave
What has gone wrong with our country…
There is plenty of money, just not for defence…

Unlike the Guardian sorry rant on the blackmailing community who limit you but this ain’t good news


This is embarrassing and tragic. For six months there will be yet another gap – and as usual, the vast majority of MP’s nor for that matter the British people will simply not care. If you ever want to see the House of Commons empty like rats leaving a crowded ship, watch what happens when the Speaker exclaims: “Questions for the Secretary of State for Defence”. Crickets! What used to be sad is now a total joke. Labour won’t do any better. It is lie after lie, excuse after excuse.


2029?!? Are they refitting the ship or rebuilding it completely? It’s crap like this that shows me the UK political class is simply not serious about building and maintaining a proper Navy. It’s just not.


I bet it’s the cost of having two super carriers is the financial reason behind it all.


Oh, come on. The UK still has one of the five largest national economies on the planet, last time I checked. The country could easily afford a Royal Navy that would be three times as large as what it is at present. Not that a force quite that big is currently required, but the point is that it’s the lack of will and vision in the political class that is the problem. NOT a lack of money. Not even close.