On 29th November Sir John Parker’s report to inform the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) was published. Commissioned by the Treasury, exasperated with decades of continual delays and cost increases to warship construction, the report is concise and written in clear layman’s language. The 34 recommendations are eminently sensible and the report has generated at least temporarily, a warm and fuzzy feeling of consensus and optimism. Both the Defence Secretary and the First Sea Lord have welcomed the findings. The actual NSS, due to be announced by government in Spring 2017, and its implementation will of course, define whether this has been a worthwhile exercise.
It is widely accepted that the current total of 19 surface escorts falls far short of what is needed to meet the UK’s strategic aims. With the Type 26 frigate programme now fixed at 8 ships, the only way surface escort numbers are ever going to be increased is to build more of the cheaper Type 31 frigate (General Purpose Frigate – GPFF). The 2015 SDSR committed government to “at least 19” frigates and destroyers but on 4th November 2016, when talking in the context of frigates, the Defence Secretary said “We will have fleet larger than the fleet at the moment”. This is a positive sign and at least suggests intent in government build more than 5 Type 31 frigates.
In this article by John Dunbar who suggests a much greater role could be played by offshore patrol vessels in a future Royal Navy force structure. The role of OPVs in the RN has been a long-standing source of controversy, with many seeing the construction of 5 new OPVs as an unnecessary diversion of money and manpower merely to sustain UK shipbuilding. Concerns also persist about the creation of a two-tier Navy with ‘up-gunned’ OPVs cast in the role of faux frigates lacking genuine fighting capability. This has sometimes precluded full consideration of OPV’s potential.More
There has been predictable union and Scottish Nationalist fury at the revelation there could be upto 800 job losses at BAE Systems on Clyde. At a time when Scottish unemployment is rising and the SNP are using every opportunity to push for another independence vote, frigate construction becomes ever more politically sensitive. More
Two Royal Navy submarine officers recently participated in the US Navy’s ICEX 2016. Two American attack submarines (SSNs) navigated under the Arctic ice and surfaced where a camp was established on an ice floe. Shortly after the exercise concluded it was announced that an RN Trafalgar class submarine will conduct under-ice operations in the Arctic in the near future. Although a strategically wise decision, this is another pressure on the RN’s stretched SSN fleet which numbers just 7 boats.
Amongst informed defence commentators it has been an open secret for several years, but on 29th January a BBC report finally put the engine problems of the Type 45 destroyers into the public eye. The MoD has consistently played down the seriousness of the issue, that had on occasions resulted in total propulsion and electrical failure, leaving ships dead in the water.
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2015 saw the publication of the latest in a string of fascinating titles dealing with the Cold War history of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. Secrets of the Conqueror (2012), Hunter Killers (2013) and Cold War Command (2014) were essentially based on stories told by RN submariners. The Silent Deep, the Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 is a lengthy and more encompassing work that tells the political, operational and personal stories of the service from the end of WWII up to the present day.More
This is the first in a new series of articles looking in detail at what the recent SDSR announcements may mean for the RN. The navy will get 8 Type 26 frigates and government has affirmed its promise to maintain a surface escort fleet of at least 19 ships. How will this be achieved?More
There are many suggesting the RN purchase the 2 ex-Russian Mistral class assault ships from France. The ships which have excellent aviation facilities as well as a floodable dock for landing craft would make superb replacements for HMS Ocean, Albion & Bulwark.More