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I agree with every word of this. The dereliction of duty is breathtaking.
What’s more deeply depressing is I don’t see an ounce of political will to change it from any direction.
The 2% GDP target has morphed from a minimum shaming tool to kick France & Germany into a mental comfort blanket for under pressure pilitians to hide behind.
Restoring the military to drive an ambitious industrial policy should have been at the heart of any Brexit plan.
It’s all very deeply depressing


The politicians have never been good at understanding and providing for defence for many years. It was only by a whisker we were spared the humiliation of losing the Falklands. John Nott the man who was in the course of destroying the Royal Navy’s ability to retake the Falklands should have been immediately dismissed and put on trial for running the country into danger. He should never have been knighted.
Unless there is some penalty the politicians will never react. It seems a great sadness that the present Government will unlikely ever be brought to account. People die when there is war and more die when there is defeat or losses caused by rampant political neglect. The politicians should be made aware they will be held responsible personally for the decisions taken. At present there is no judicial means to do this. There should be; uniquely as regards defence.
‘Pour encourager les autres’.


I always thought you were 5th Watch …. 😉


Britain has the world’s 5th largest economy. We are still a world power. We can afford to outfit a
decent size Navy. Are spending priorities are all discombobulated by politicians who every few years kick the stuffings out of our Navy. I just don’t get it.


We’re too busy paying tens of billions in foreign aid to countries whose GDP spend on military far outmatches ours.


I agree, just look at the aid we send to India and they managed to get the P8 into their service before us, how does that work???

Geoffrey Hicking

Our only hope may be a rise in productivity (driven by AI) and growth from post-Brexit trade deals.
And yes, I’m fully aware that even positing that shows how damned arrogant I am, I apologise for that. I just don’t see any other way. A Royal Commission sorting out the managerial elements of the NHS? Probably wouldn’t make enough savings. Improving the foreign aid budget? Could do something, but probably not enough. Meh.


Completely agree with everything in this post. I think i’ll copy my comment from the last one on submarines….
‘It’s absolutely ridiculous that we have been paying BAE NOT to be build more subs at Barrow when the Royal Navy said for years it had a minimum requirement of 8 SSN’s. The 10 year gap between the last Trafalgar and first Astute was another disastrous move fueled by a post Cold War illusion of safety. When will the decision makers get it into their heads that the only products of this kind of dithering are inflated costs, a critical loss of skills/experience and our Armed Forces left with increasingly clapped out hardware. A regular drumbeat of orders is good for the industry, good for cost control and good for our military capability. The fact that the Royal Navy has only received 3 new SSN’s and not a single new frigate since 2002 is a disgrace!’.
2% of GDP just isn’t enough in an increasingly fragmented world when our armed forces are being forced to look in multiple directions. Setting a minimum spending target in this way is clearly counterproductive when the spending can be fudged (pensions, benefits etc) and it detracts from having serious discussions about capabilities and strategy.
Sadly there is precious little responsibility or integrity shown on the part of politicians and no joined up thinking with a clear industrial strategy.
The money is out there….we just need a government willing to collect it from individual tax dodgers as well as the likes of Amazon and Starbucks instead of turning a blind eye and harping on about the rest of us ‘living within our means’ whilst they try to squeeze a few more pennies out of the poorest in society. Does anyone seriously think people will spend a fortune uprooting their interests if corporation tax goes up a percent or two, or companies will pull out of a multi billion pound market because they are asked to pay a tiny slither more….please!

Graeme Williams

Some good points but also some inaccurate reports. Two of the remaining T boats are moving to Faslane, this will happen next year. Your point that all T boats have moved to Faslane is incorrect. The Submaine School is also moving to Faslane, it is under construction. Submarine HQ was spilt years ago between Faslane and Devonport and hasn’t just moved in recent years from Northwood.


People are the big problem. If we ordered 3 extra SSN we could not crew them. The Navy needs a radical new employment model to attract and retain staff. It’s not just money, the Navy needs to treat its sailors totally differently if it’s to be able to grow. If you have good skills and a good attitude it’s not difficult to get into the Navy today, but people aren’t joining. In addition to high a percentage of thoes that do don’t say long term. Big change is needed, lots of old fashioned traditions will need to go to create a modern place to work that people want to make a career out of.


‘How can you have women in submarines when the Navy has a no-touch rule is beyond me.’ Really! Maybe put them in Burkas if the men can’t help themselves. When you are struggling to recruit you can’t ignore 50% of the population.

Keifer Stanier

Nailed it my man!


I think the commentbwas more around the cramped conditions absolutely requires contact as you move around. Privacy is none existent in this environment, not so much about restraint of individuals.

Keifer Stanier

I totally disagree. As a serving submariner on a boat with females I can say that most of the ‘wrens’ are good to work with and have no problem with privacy or close contact. They are happy to just get on with their job like the rest of us. At the end of the day if they are capable to do the job, why shouldn’t they?
The only problem I can see with women on submarines is relationships and once again this is a deaf argument. Wether there are women on submarines or not relationships still happen. Are we to stop homosexual people from serving on submarines as well? As soon as people realise that women serve on submarines now and no matter how much they complain (not saying that you are) that this will not change and then it will be better for the service I believe.
I am very much a believer of……if they can do the job, why shouldn’t they?


I left the submarine service in 2016. I hadn’t been to sea for the last 4.5 years! Old boats breaking down, too much uproar between companies trying to fix them. What a joke.

David Graham

Spot on, Chris,
A good place to start would be retiring the remaining T boats NOW, and speeding up the build time for the remaining Astutes. Seven to nine years to build an SSN? The Americans can turn out a boat in circa 30 months, and Virginia Class SSNs are just as complex as Astutes.
With the money saved from retiring boats that are well passed their sell-by date, let’s look at building an eighth boat, thus relieving some of the strain on the flotilla.
Yes, we have to do something about manning, so let’s give people attractive terms and conditions, and above all, tell these people they are valued.


Front line truth not Govt spin


So much common sense in this article that it is difficult to argue any point raised within it.
Sadly, common sense seems to have gone out of the window in modern day UK – with everyone in it for themselves.
I really hope Teresa May is an avid reader of this forum….. unlikely I know, but we can live in hope

Barry Larking

I hope no one objects to a contribution from one who has never served? A thought on recruitment (and also creative thinking, much lacking I fear).
Recruitment. Average U.K. student debt is currently 50,000 G.B.P. and rising (1). For most (I speak as a retired lecturer) this represents an increasing poor return. There are (always were) other routes into a career; moreover, ones that paid a wage, sometimes small, but nevertheless, income. I recently had a trained gas fitter in my home. He had spent seven years in H.M. Forces and came out with qualifications. He has no debt and as far as I can see a job for life supporting his young family. The military gave him his start and he has not got 50,000 quid to repay!
Surely, the R.N. could offer something along the lines of a campaign “Join us, get a qualification and no debts”, flexible two, three or five year contracts? Some supermarkets have run trainee management courses that equipped people for career paths. It seems to me that there isn’t a sense of innovation in attracting recruits. If Whitehall can’t do the business than get people in who can.
Procurement: It wasn’t obvious how flogging off or scrapping viable units (maybe not cutting edge but still useful) in 2010-15 was going to benefit the Fleet. Today’s omishambles has resulted in reported low morale and most certainly, loss of capability. Retiring ships that work (and trained crews) that have a few more years in them on cost grounds is bonkers if there are not replacement units coming on stream. I blame Civil Servants and career officers for this. A school student could spot this mistake. I have read (here most likely) that plans for the future frigate programme are seventeen or eighteen years old! We now have potentially two large aircraft carriers with no aircraft and too few escorts and supply vessels. Who do we shoot?
‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’. I sense behind the scenes the requirements for any sort of vessel are chopped and changed endlessly and the subsequent delays pile up costs to the point that the projects are scrapped at the paper stage and then its start again with a blank piece of paper. No airline could be managed this way. It has taken years to arrive at a fairly obvious idea such as building modules in different yards to spread both expertise and speed up procurement. What’s the betting?
Things were once done quicker and with more creativity (2). The results might have been less than glamorous, but ‘ready by Thursday’ they were. And we won.
(1) Source:
(2) Source:

David Stephen

4000 crew for 11 boats seems like a lot to me. 100 crew per SSN and 130 crew per SSBN, double that and it is still only about 2400. What are the other 1600 doing? Do we need over a 1000 shore based submariners? Could we release some of them to help surface fleet crew shortfalls? I am genuinely curious as to why we need so many people to keep maybe 5/6 boats at sea. I may be missing something obvious but if so I am not sure what.


Perhaps, God forbid, having some family time or doing something shoreside to balance out their months below surface or being away from home (unless they live in Scotland)?
Retention is bad enough already without asking people to spend half of their life away from family.
Mostly ageing equipment, draconian pay and conditions by today’s expectations, being forced to live out of a bag or move a family to Scotland and a government that really doesn’t care about anything apart from lining its friend’s pockets is a recipe for staffing trouble.


The state of our ASW capabilities is depressing to say the least. What is even more apparent is that the RN will have to take on the responsibility of plugin the UK-Iceland-Greenland gap without the aid of SOSUS. With only seven Astutes available of which two will be allocated to the Carrier Battlegroup and one as a SSBN escort that leaves four, Two of these will be undergoing refit-repair and work ups leaving only two. However if in time of conflict the second CBG is at sea or an Amphibious group then these two would also be required. So it means that we have enough to carry out the basic escort tasks but nothing left for defensive or offensive operations.
It means that the UK-Iceland-Greenland Gap is open for Russian submarines to use and endanger the Convoy routes from the US.
Yes the US would send some of their SSNs to assist, but what would happen if the US could not because of commitments in the Pacific or protection of their Eastern Coastline. Polish and German SSKs would have their hands full with the Baltic, Norway would have a picket line up North, Italy and Spain would be operational in the Med. That leaves the French 6 SSNs, but would the French commit them, I don’t know, especially as they also need them to escort their carrier group and SSBNs.
Maybe to help with this the UK and MoD needs to think outside the box.
When I was looking at the life span of the US Ohio class I noticed that they will be almost 50 years old when they will be replaced possibly even older, whilst our four Vanguards will be thirty years old. I wonder if the Hulls of the Vanguards could last another 20 years, if so then maybe something different could be done with them rather than scrapping them. For example remove the SLBM tubes and replace half of them with cruise missile tubes, the space where the other half was could be converted into a SOSUS/ EW centre with the sub having an extra long tail. They would then become the GAP picket line replacing the SOSUS line that is decommissioned that was based in Iceland. They would be mobile, quiet, able to get out of there if need be or take on a surface group or submarine if required.
Its only an idea but I can’t see why it would not work.