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Another good insightful article and one that is difficult to disagree with.

The key for me is two fold.

1. Rebalance the fleet
2. Personnel and Welfare

The days of having 20 classes of ship are over, what we need is multi purpose vessels in a variety of sizes that may or may not have specific characteristics, such as an accoustcally quiet hull for our ASW combatants (although shouldn’t this be the case for all combat surface ships??).

We have the basis of this already with the carriers and tides, but it needs to go much further, standardising platforms, engines and hull forms as much as possible.

If we take the Tide class as an example, there is nothing stopping this hull form from being the RN’s (inc.RFA) standard for all large support and amphibious vessels, of which there are 16 vessel fitting this size threshold It could be altered to provide a similar functionality to that of the Karel Doorman JLSS and ensure we have a fleet that never needs to be tied up as it can be rolled in a Stores, Amphibious, humanitarian, Helicopter Carrier or hospital role dependent upon task and we could actually reduce the amount of ships whilst increasing capability.

Likewise a type 31 if designed effectively can take on the role of the Echo class with the appropriate containerised solution being onboarded, this is an important feature of all the new vessels that need to be ordered. Keep the specialisation to a minimum and ability to change to a maximum.

So going forward we could have as few as 8-10 hull forms for all ships over 80m, dependant on how much rationalisation is acceptable.

1. CVF (2)
2. T26 (14) – High end Global Combat Ship 150m
3 T31 (14) – Global Multi Mission Ship 125m
4. T82 (14) – Multi Mission Ship – 100m
5. SSBN (4)
6. SSN (9)
7. Aegir FFT (4)
8. Aegir JLSS (9)
9. Specialist (2) – inc 2 Arctic/Antarctic vessels
10. FLOFLO’s – replacing the RORO’s to be configured with mega modules as required.

As for welfare, if the military as a whole wants to become an employer of choice it needs to start making accommodation far better (think hotel standard) and ensure families are taken care of. Too many time we treat the loved ones of those who serve as secondary and this needs to change. Easier said than done, but we have to make it exciting, interesting and developmental, so that those who serve 10 years or more have a skill set that is required in civilian life, that is more than a security guard.

Golden goodbyes that may involve setting up people as plumbers, electricians etc, providing them with a van and equipment perhaps for a small share of the profit (10% say) may be an innovative way of doing this. Either way it has to be worthwhile on many levels to serve nowadays.


It must be a challenging time to be looking at fleet structure when advancements are coming at an ever faster rate. The job is basically trying to second guess what might be the prevalent future technologies and developing them at huge cost in the hope nothing better comes along in the mean time.
For me, we need work in the short term to round out our capabilities and a modest increase in numbers of certain platforms.
In the medium to long term, the rebalancing will mostly come from the development of autonomous vessels.
I imagine a time where each carrier or amphibious task group will not require large high end manned escorts. We should develop an autonomous OPV sized vessel with plug in an play modules to be able to forfill a range of roles. A carrier would sail with 6 to 8 of these, with pairs fitted with AAW, ASW and ASM modules. These would be controlled from the ops room onboard the carrier. Alongside these, we should develop an autonomous mothership, Bay class size, that hosts small, medium and large under water autonomous subs (docking ability for maintenance, rearming and refuelling etc), high end radar and deck launched aav ‘s for over the horizon radar. So the task group would have drones permanently in the air to give better early warning, an outer ring of surface vessels conducting AAw and ASW, and the mothership providing continuous multiple submarine protection from all directions.
This set up would free up T26 to act as true global combat ships hosting autonomous platforms of their own for asw duties In Particular, and have the T45’s upgraded and tasked specifically with ballistic missile defence duties. The astutes would also be free to act as SSBN escorts and hunter killers.
I would then ensure that T31 was a larger Hull that could again host modest lower end autonomous underwater, surface and flying platforms suited for mine clearance, policing large areas and amphibious support work. The River b2’s would be turned in to proper littoral corvettes with the teeth required to fight off swarms of gun boats and support the T31. Both of these platforms would be partnered with the new littoral strike groups to act as escorts and rapid response to quick escalations as we have recently seen. The remainder of the the T31 and B2’s would conduct policing and anti piracy work as required.
That’s my two pence worth, just requires adaption of a River 2 Hull with the cost of the human elements removed and a module space (weapons would be targeted and cued from the carrier/mothership) built in numbers say 18-24, the weapons modules, 4-5 motherships, upgrades to T45, and the development of a range of autonomous subs and deck launched/retrieved drones that could be used across the fleet. No extra crewing requirement, just technicians and we would have a huge force multiplier imo. Pay to start R&Ding over the next 6-10 years and pay for the builds from the next budget period 2026 onwards. This would cost a fraction against what we have spent in this one when you add up T26, carriers, T31, tides, Fsss etc.

Meirion X

I am sure that the River Class 2’s could be manned by a small crew, with the present technology available, maybe 6 RN + 10/12 RM?

Meirion X

It is most likely that medium sized autonomous vessels will come into play in the 2040s. Small autonomous vessels of various designs are presently being tested, will most likely became prevalent in the 2030s.
Naval architects will also need to be futurologists!

b carlisle
The budgets need to larger to fulfill further the restructuring of RN, designs need to be standardized and modular to allow future technologies to be installed with ease. The number of vessels has to be increased and by getting standard size modules this should bring cost savings that with an increased budget allows this. RN is needed to be more flexible and more is being asked of it without giving it the extra funded needed.

Simon m

There are lots of ifs, buts and maybe for the medium to long term in regards to large unmanned ships and underwater vessels, I would prefer to sit back and see what the USN find out, if they work, I can’t imagine it would take too much to bring them in to service. I would concentrate on getting effective small vertical and conventional UAVs and small protective USVs UUVs into service first. Ideally this should tie in with t31 which will have dedicated space.

The 1sl in my opinion needs to be extremely concentrated on the short-term, the type 31 needs to be the best it can be and to do this he will have to be creative with getting the correct baseline design, then ensuring that there is an upgrade path. He also needs to start campaigning for an increase in t31 8 to 10 and if possible 1 or 2 t26. Speeding up delivery of t26 would also be on my list.

T45 also needs some investment since it’s introduction the US have fielded the SM6 and hypersonic weapons are now a reality, plus it is expected to carry out ABM duties, it is capable, but has a rather limited weapons load out. Exploring how to increase this is something that needs addressing, Adaptable deck launchers, new VLS and laser weapons need mostly need adding. The lack of numbers with limited load out is also a concern, if Arrowhead 140 was selected for t31, there maybe the opportunity to explore the iver Huitfeldt design to increase the Navy’s air defences in order to replace ships 7 and 8 of the planned T45 obviously a fight for a budget to do this will not be easy.

In terms of a longer term replacement there will need to be a balance between new ships and the upgrades for optimum capability whilst also bearing in mind the NSS and industry needs. What I mean by this is the USN Arleigh Burke destroyers look to continue for some time, so there is a possibility that the next T45 could be a T45 (if it’s not broke don’t fix it), however, industry will push for an entirely new design to demonstrate their newest 3d modelling etc. It is important not to get sucked in to the trap of a new class for new class sake. I would rather spend money on more t26 or upgrade and build extra t45.

Another consideration is helicopter numbers and one thing I would look at is replacing merlin on crowsnest duty ASAP. Both v247 and aw609 are potentially available soon and will not only free up Merlin’s but increase AEW effectiveness.

The 1sl needs to figure out exactly what Littoral Strike Ship and it’s escorts look like and how it will be implemented without detriment to the main fleet (either by additional tasking of the main fleet, or too many extra resources) As well as this he will need to frame it correctly so that if cuts come knocking from the next government core amphibious capabilities are not confused and lost.

A replacement for RFA Argus is a must for me and ideally a sister ship should be procured. This could be potentially done by a purchase of an helicopter enhanced based upon the dutch Joint Fleet logistics vessel. Potentially I would sacrifice or modify a bay class vessel to provide the second vessel. This would allow an ARG to deploy independently of a carrier similar to how Argus (only just back from refit) did for Baltops. Longer term a decision needs to be made on Albion and Bulwark and whether an LHD or LPD design is required. The landing craft particularly the mk10 need to be looked at ASAP as they currently require ships to come close to shore.

Another priority in my eyes is the mcmv fleet, I don’t believe we can afford to have so many vessels concentrated on one area of warfare. For instance there are 4 vessels near Iran now, but due to their design they’re completely in appropriate for escort duty. With usvs etc. these classes of ship now need to multirole and something like venari 85 or the venator 90 from BMT should be considered.

Obviously terms and conditions as well as accommodation needs to be looked at and much support to families should be given as possible. I think more cooperative work with other maritime agencies should be explored, such as secondments to and from the border force, coastguard etc. I personally think that the patrol element of the RN needs further investigation as its role is for me personally embroiled in police and economic duties. The RN is there to fight wars and deal with Russian incursions etc. Not fishery protection, counter narcotics, immigration etc. they should maybe contribute, but the defence budget in my opinion is not for this.

The vanguard replacement will likely move along on it’s own. But obviously input will be needed here and ensuring cost over runs are kept to a minimum.


You’re talking a lot of sense there Simon. We need to get more out of what we already have and also crucially from future projects that we already have in the planning stage i.e. projects that presumably have at least some funds provisionally earmarked from the longer-term equipment budget (that once oft-talked-about £178bn but no idea what the figure would be now after any black hole is factored in).

For me the keys would be much as you outline…

Make T31e credible.

Maximise T45 utility in its primary AAW role. In an era of tight budgets I’m not sure the most cost-effective route there is fitting the Mk41. A potential option might be to use that FFBNW space with dedicated cold-launch Sea Ceptor (ideally sized to accommodate CAMM-ER as well if the Italians & MBDA do see that through to completion) thus leaving the Sylver silo free for Aster including the Aster 30 block 1 & 2 ABM-capable variants.

I’m glad you mentioned the mcmv fleet. That’s a bugbear of mine too and I agree that something like Venari 85 would provide a more flexible and credible platform outside of the core mcmv roles especially if evolved to a Venari 90 or thereabouts with a stretch to allow a CAMM silo between the bridge and the gun. We should also get back on our game with naval drones after the discontinuation of the ScanEagle trial a few years back. Venari 85 has a dedicated UAV hangar so its utility would be substantially increased in terms of surveillance reach if the UK were to invest in suitable drone technology which could also benefit the Bays & Rivers although in terms of ongoing efficiencies I’d quite like to see the Rivers transition to something like a Venari 90 which could also subsume the Echo class for more streamlined (fewer) logistics and maintenance chains due to fewer different vessel classes going forward.

Then we come onto the solid support ships, in theory with £2bn funding allocated but all gone very quiet recently. Throw in the Litoral Strike Ships plus Bays and Argus, compare it with a flexible SSS such as the Karel Doorman design, and I’m left wondering what synergies might be possible there in terms of consolidating around fewer or even a single flexible design again to reduce costs and consolidate vessel types going forward.

As a final smaller point on my agenda I would also like to see a project to develop and certify a naval version of the CTAS 40mm with a Sigma-like side mount for Martlet and/or Starstreak. The Army has a significant commitment to CTAS 40mm so adding an RN commitment could help drive down ammo and other costs plus give a very worthwhile uplift for RFA vessels’ self defence vs the current DS30s plus improvements for River, T45, T23, T26, QEC and any other class that currently use DS30. Thales has the starting point for this in its RAPIDFire system that can integrate 6 stations plus manage STARStreak alongside the cannons.

Meirion X

To allow the T45 to launch Aster 30 block 1 & 2 ABM, will require installation of Sylver A-70 cells, because of the longer length of missiles.


Shipbuilding strategy was a waste of time the top file in the RN can say what they like but until the government gets it’s finger out & places orders it’s all waffle,our smaller yards are closing one after another.Fed up of reading about it.


I am a bit disappointed with the 1SL’s brief. The main reason is that it puts technology first and people second. About 90% of the brief is based on technology or hardware. There is only one paragraph about the issues of serving personnel and frankly that is disgusting. all three services are haemorrhaging personnel and just as worrying failing to attract new recruits in sufficient numbers. Nothing is mentioned about how he’ll break the cycle. He is after all the 1SL, so it’s his train set at the end of the day. He is the leader of the service so the answers and direction must come from him.

Its very easy to be blinded by science and shiny new gadgets. Until unmanned vehicles (aircraft, ships, submersibles) can be proven to be reliable and robust. I believe there will always be a case for manned vessels. I agree that unmanned vessels can be used as force multipliers. They may be the answer to early warning attacks from sea skimming hypersonic weapons. However, for anti-piracy or force protection against nations operating swarming tactics they may not be great. Who’s to stop a group of “innocent” speed boats surrounding a vessel and having a belligerent jumping aboard it or placing a limpet mine on the hull?

Tactics will have to evolve to encompass as many scenarios as can be thought off. But I don’t believe the unmanned vessels is the answer to all the problems. For starters, without a permanent airborne asset they won’t be able to operate beyond line of sight of the mothership. I say this because it has been proven that satellite communications and GPS can be disrupted too easily. Finland, Sweden and Israel have published articles on how they have investigated why their local GPS has been disrupted. Their evidence found that it was coordinated by Russia either whilst conducting their own exercises or deliberately, as in the case on the Syrian/Lebanese border.

First and foremost the 1SL must tackle the manning issues. By generating more personnel the ship to crew rotation can be better sustained which in itself will allow more ships to be put to sea. I am not suggesting press gangs, but he must make the service something that the young want to join. There must be an incentive for those who currently serve to remain and I agree that spouses and families must also be part of the equation.
The second issue he must solve is to make the current Fleet more “fighty” and replace “fitted for but not with” with actually fitted. I am happy that there is a group pushing for a more fighty T31, that at least matches the T23 GP in capability rather than a stretched River class, or a paper tiger like the T21s.
The third issue is to take a good hard look at the T45’s missile inventory. If the T45s in the future will only be putting to sea as part of a carrier task group. Should they not be armed purely for air defence? The current inventory of 48 anti-air missiles is to few. Even when doubled up with another T45, this only matches one Arleigh Burke in VL cell count. The US Navy has been talking about converting their Ticonderoga cruisers as purely anti-air ships, as a method of better protecting a carrier battle group. The Ticos have 122 Mk41 vertical launchers. This would theoretically give a ship 488 ESSMs quadpacked or a more realistic mix of SM3, SM6 and quadpacked ESSMs. I think the paucity of anti-air missiles was brought home when HMS Duncan was off the coast of Crimea and had 17 Russian aircraft pay a visit. One of the Officers boasted that we have 48 missiles aboard that could easily deal with such a threat. Nice one Einstein, there was a mix of Su35, Su25 and Su24 aircraft. These aircraft can each carry four AS-17 Kryptons or AS-20 Kayak anti-ship missiles. This would technically allow the 17 aircraft to fire 68 anti-ship missiles or in other words 20 more than the Duncan could handle.
Realistically, it would cost too much to redesign a T45 to increase its overall cell count to match an Arleigh Burke. However, the unused area reserved for the 16 Mk41 VLS should be fitted with additional Sylver cells. This would push the cell count up with a 64 Aster missiles. Perhaps, it would be more prudent to alter the mix, by including quad packed SeaCeptors. This would significantly boost the inventory of the T45, allowing it to have more threat persistence.
The fourth issue I’d like the 1SL to tackle is integrity. In every defence select committee meeting, all the service top brass interviewed has either stated the party line or tactically avoided the truth. It would be nice to see the brass gain some balls and actually answer the questions honestly and truthfully. Do we have enough vessels to meet current and future commitments – answer = no. Do we have enough personnel to meet current and future commitments – answer = no. Do our vessels have suitably protection to meet current and future threats – answer = no. Do our vessels have the individual capability to take the fight to the enemy – answer = no.


In regards to the T45, I agree they need more missiles and the best way is quad packing seaceptor in mk41’s as you say.
I would argue that with T26 within the group with the newer 5” gun, could we not loose the gun on the T45 and squeeze some more cells in?
If possible, we could then have say 24 mk 41 fitted with a mix such as 6 x SM6 or Sylver V70,, 6 x heavy ASM (Perseus or equivalent) and then 48 seaceptor in the remaining. That on top of the existing 48 Aster, and a new x16 canister launched medium ASM such as the NSM would provide a formidable vessel that few would want to mess with. 96 short to medium AAW missiles, 6 ballistic defence and 22 ASM.
Another thought, could the Sylver tubes be removed and replaced with purely Mk 41? Would that increase load out even further?

Meirion X

I do not think the area under the main gun of the T45 destroyer, is as deep as under the main silo, I might be wrong? Also the deepest area is also narrower towards the bow of a ship. So maybe Sylver A-50(5m) or A-43(4.3m) cells could be fitted under the main gun if removed. they can still be quad packed with Sea Ceptor.
And also swap some of the A-50 cells in main silo for A-70 cells.

Glass Half Full

For anything not already native to Sylver you have to budget for testing and integration costs of the new missiles and the UK would almost certainly have to carry the entire costs, if its US missiles we want to add to Sylver. Even if you add Mk41 VLS you still have to integrate whatever you put in them with PAAMS. I don’t think any of that would be cheap or quick judging by other missile programs. Alternatively, if we add Aster NT1 to Sylver then France and Italy would share costs. Aster 30 Block 2 BMD may require Sylver 70, but if it fits in Sylver 50 then that may also be an option, although S1850-M radar may need updating too.

Then there’s actually the larger issue. The UK has no munitions selected yet for MK41 VLS, let alone tested and approved. Some like FC/ASW (Perseus) are over a decade away before availability. It doesn’t look like anyone will put NSM in a VLS, they’re more likely to wait for JSM for that, pushing out that timeframe too. So if we added Mk41 VLS to T45 tomorrow we probably wouldn’t have anything to put in it for another decade that would be significantly different to the Aster missiles capability, by which time T45 end of life is within sight and its highly questionable adding those sort of costs for perhaps less than a decade of service on T45.

Regardless of Sylver or Mk41, it doesn’t make sense to dedicate hot launch cells to cold launch missiles like CAMM/Sea Ceptor, its a waste both financially and capability wise. The quicker, more affordable way to enhance T45 AAW missile loadout is to add CAMM cells, aft the main Sylver VLS. You could add at least 24 and perhaps up to 2x that and probably in a deck mount solution that wouldn’t even need to pierce the deck. Ideally the CAMM cells would be split with some placed further aft but its not clear if there is any suitable location for that. IIRC Sea Ceptor also has significant overlap in commonality with PAAMS reducing integration time and cost for CAMM.

So by adding CAMM as described you’d have 48 Sylver cells for Aster 30 and Aster 30 Block NT1, maybe still some Aster 15 if there’s enough of a difference with CAMM to make it worth it; plus 24-48 CAMM. With T45’s primary (dedicated?) role becoming AAW for carrier and amphibious operations I don’t see a need to add ASM or land attack missiles. T26 and perhaps GP frigates can do that … or F35B’s from the carrier, perhaps using JSM as the interim ASM, which Norway and Australia are already paying to integrate on F35.

Ben Greenwood

Cheeky point perhaps… but looking at the T45 there always seemed to be a huge space on top of the hanger that doesn’t foul the lines of the rest of the fit out (CWIS Sampson etc) that seemed ripe for adding something…. CAMM cells? Extend the superstructure upwards in the same lines and there is a very significant volume there.

With CAMM “bolt-on-able” and soft launch plus using the FFBNW space there does seem to be very significant room to add additional cells for the primary role. And 48 seems terribly light as you all day. Unless a way can be found to rearm at sea. I know sylver impossible but CAMM..?

Captain Nemo

To be fair to him Radakin seems to have some grasp on reality, he’s not expecting any funding miracles but he is making noises which suggest degrading general presence in favour of a high profile ally friendly capability, which suggests the general direction of travel we should expect, that the carriers define our global standing and that a conscious choice has again been made to that end.
“A proper, Carrier Task Group Navy” based on tasking with wafer thin degrees of error wouldn’t be my ideal view of a well balanced navy, he’s describing two different things at the same time, a ‘proper’ navy could meet its commitments and generate carriers groups.
It would seem we’re also to accept some some flexibility on how we view amphibious operations, possibly shying away from entry in favour of raiding, again I’d be tempted to question what a proper navy should be expected to do and how UK plc want to present itself, we’re really just looking at violence from afar on both fronts.
His immediate opportunity and possibly legacy I think lies in Type 31, to find an all encompassing design to fill the majority of blue water roles for the navy and to build it in numbers.

Tom s

It’s all bollocks, a carrier is useless unless it’s a part of a battle group(cvbbg) If you can’t protect the carrier then your in for a hiding. The Royal Navy does not have enough assets to be European never mind world-wide. I went through the late 70’s right up to 2000 and they have always tried to sell the same story

Ronald Bobeck

Ah , You had to call up retired saliors , to man your new carrier. Who going to join? Are you going with foreign “volunteer s” .
? Just asking

Dave s

I can see the future of the Royal Navy as One Ship / Tug towing One underwater ship / submarine with all the capabilities of a rubber duck fitted with a gun and radar/ lookout. Since I left in 1974 it’s become as fearsome as a lion without teeth, claws and legs and if half the tales I have heard about the new so called weapons I shudder at the thought that an enemy with large brown paper bags will defeat the once mighty Royal Navy in a very short battle one afternoon.
I wonder when the Royal Navy will start buying old second hand warships from France, Germany,America,Brazil as the South Americans used to do, to build up a show / harbour fleet and con the British that we have a fleet ready to defend the nation. The Fleet Review for King William’s coronation should take about two minutes as the rest of the fleet of the other two ships will be on pirate patrol and the single submarine will be in refit, the training establishments will be a single borrowed classroom from a run down school in a deprived area as far from the sea as possible so as not to excite its new entrants.


Firstly, I am all for transformation and making the Royal Navy great again – Equally, I very much welcome change and agree the RN must embrace innovation, new technology and empower its people to remain relevant.

That said, I am disheartened in how Transformation is being managed, it is borderline incompetence – a contractor has been employed (at a significant cost) who know very little of the RN or the Armed Forces; they have been given the solution and are busy trying to reverse engineer the evidence. The saying ‘People are at the heart of the Navy’ is now a running joke – they just don’t care and those of us left are facing low morale, disillusionment and miscommunication. A growing cohort of officers are actively looking for civilian employment and finding it increasingly difficult to lead our people – a lot of whom are talented, intelligent and capable.

It truly saddens me in the lack of internal communication regarding transformation and the feeling of pending doom with 20% cuts to shore roles. I joined the RN to go to sea yet like many others welcome shore time to recharge and spend time with family – my concern is we will be asked to cut again post the pending Defence Review.