Today the Times correctly reported that HMS Diamond has had to abort her Gulf deployment and return to home for repairs. The defect concerns the propellor but is not directly related to the engine issues that have been the primary cause of Type 45 destroyer woes. Unfortunately, the problem cannot be rectified by dry docking in Bahrain or Gibraltar and requires the attention of specialists in Portsmouth.
In recent years the RN has maintained single frigate or destroyer East of Suez on Operation Kipion. Patrolling the Gulf and the Indian Ocean on maritime security operations is an important priority for the RN and Diamonds departure will mean there is now no major RN warship in the region for the first time in since the Armilla Patrol was established in the early 1980s. This defect once again exposes how over-stretched the RN surface fleet has become as there are no replacements close to hand. While HMS Diamond’s ships company can enjoy Christmas at home, another ship is likely to have a radical change of program, Kipion is a priority tasking for the RN.
The only RN warship currently in the Mediterranean is HMS Ocean on her last major deployment as flagship for NATO Standing Maritime Group 2. HMS Diamond had already deputised for HMS Ocean in this role during September while Ocean made a dash across the Atlantic to support hurricane relief work in the Caribbean. At the end of October, HMS Ocean returned to the Mediterranean and HMS Diamond formally handed over to her at Souda Bay in Crete. She then sailed for the Gulf to relieve HMS Monmouth.
The Times states “Admiral Sir Philip Jones, head of the navy, is under pressure to demonstrate that the Type 45s work despite long-running problems with the engine in warm water”. The First Sea Lord cannot be blamed for the propulsion problems of the Type 45s, the roots of the issue go back several decades (explained in detail here). In this specific case, it is the Ministry of Defence (DE&S) and their BAE Systems contractors in Portsmouth who are responsible for the state of HMS Diamond’s propellors, not navy command. The over-stretched surface fleet is the fault of politicians of all parties who have repeatedly cut the navy and even now are contemplating further cuts.
It should be noted that despite the backdrop of manpower shortages, not enough ships and further possible cuts, on 22nd November 2017 the RN still managed to have 32 ships and submarines either overseas or on operations (including RFAs but not including P2000 boats) and around 8,000 people actively deployed. The beleaguered First Sea Lord can claim with some credibility that, in proportion to its size, the RN is the busiest navy in the world. (The majority of these vessels are deployed in European or northern waters).
Overall the Type 45 fleet spends far too much time alongside in Portsmouth. The £280 million Power Improvement Package (PIP), which should provide a permanent cure for the engine troubles, promised in the 2015 SDSR will not begin until 2019. This delay is unacceptable and should be brought forward as a matter of urgency, beginning with HMS Dauntless. Despite the propulsion troubles, it should be remembered the Type 45s have successfully deployed in the heat of the Gulf and elsewhere by using temporary engine fixes and some operating restrictions developed under the Equipment Improvement Plan (EIP).
Type 45s – snapshot
- HMS Daring – in long-term lay-up as harbour training ship (due to manpower shortages) since returning from successful 9-month Gulf deployment in May 2017.
- HMS Dauntless – due to begin major refit, having been laid up since 2015.
- HMS Diamond – Due back in Portsmouth in early December after propellor defect put a premature end to Gulf deployment.
- HMS Dragon – Participated in Exercise Formidable Shield in October and assisted with HMS Queen Elizabeth sea trials in early November. Alongside in Portsmouth.
- HMS Duncan – Alongside in Portsmouth – operational and may sail soon. (Possible candidate to replace Diamond in the Gulf?)
- HMS Defender – About to complete a lengthy major refit and return to the fleet.
- HMS Diamond aborts Gulf mission after breaking down (The Times)
- HMS Diamond sails for the gulf for nine-month operational deployment (Royal Navy)
- HMS Daring’s deployment at the sharp end. Eventful. Successful. Important (Save the Royal Navy)
- Putting the Type 45 Propulsion problems in Perspective (Save the Royal Navy)