With no replacement in sight, the MoD has confirmed that HMS Scott will remain in service slightly longer than planned and is now scheduled to be withdrawn next year instead of in 2022.
An official statement to Navy Lookout said: “The Ministry of Defence keeps the out of service dates for all equipment under regular and routine review. Current plans will see HMS Scott retired from service in 2023.”
In October 2017 ministers said that HMS Scott would be decommissioned in 2022 on completion of her intended 25 year-life. There is no plan to directly replace her, at least with another naval vessel. Navy Command stated in October 2019 that “Work is underway to understand current and future requirements and how they will be delivered after HMS Scott leaves service”.
Besides charting the deep ocean for the benefit of mariners worldwide, Scott makes a very important contribution to RN and NATO submarine operations by mapping the contours of the seabed and recording the characteristics of the water column such as temperature and salinity which significantly impact sonar performance. If not replaced, either the RN’s deep ocean survey capability will be much reduced, the work contracted to a commercial company or the UK will be reliant on new hydrographic data supplied by other nations.HMS-Scott-Sale
Following a serious starboard main engine failure at sea, Scott turned to Devonport in June 2017. For some time her future was in doubt and there were media reports the ship would be scrapped. However, in early 2018 she was prepared to make the 700-mile trip to Babcock’s facility in Rosyth on a single-engine. She was dry-docked and a new 35-tonne replacement engine was installed through a hole cut in her hull. The refit period also included a complete overhaul of the sonar array. Subsequently, she has undergone maintenance periods in Devonport and Gibraltar. Extending HMS Scott’s service life may allow time for consideration to be given to a life-extension refit but whether this might be affordable would depend on the material state of the hull. She has been listed for sale since last year so the MoD clearly thinks she could have a viable future beyond the scrapyard.
A replacement for HMS Scott could be in part tied to the acquisition of the Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship (MROSS) promised in the 2021 Integrated Review. MROSS’ primary function is to protect undersea infrastructure using offboard ROVs and UUVs and this is a significantly different task to using Multi Beam Echo Sounders to survey the seabed. However, there may be some synergy between the roles especially if hydrographic survey work is increasingly carried out by autonomous systems. It is possible that commercial vessels will be chartered to provide these capabilities, at least in the short-medium term. In late 2020 when MROSS was first being discussed, the navy was thinking about two ships but the IR seems to imply a single ship, potentially a new vessel built in the UK. The scope and timing of this project may become clearer when the overdue National Shipbuilding Strategy refresh is published soon.
Since leaving the UK in June 2021, HMS Scott has been active in the North Atlantic and effectively forward-deployed in Gibraltar (her crew rotates on a three-watch system). In the second half of 2021, she mapped part of the Atlantic seabed bigger than Britain, the largest area surveyed in a single year since she entered service. During her lifetime it is estimated that Scott has charted 3.7% of the entire area of the world’s oceans. Exactly when she will bow out in 2023 is unclear but Scott continues to provide very low-cost survey-per mile and important data for the navy.