The Integrated Review promised Royal Navy’s future amphibious capability would be built around two Littoral Response Groups (LRG). Here we look at how this will be delivered, the strategic questions raised.
As promised in the IR, the first of the newly-renamed Littoral Response Groups was deployed on an experimental deployment (LRG(X)) to the Mediterranean from September to December 2020. The LRG (North) was subsequently deployed for 3 months between April – June 2021, operating under NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) construct off Norway and in the Baltic. The LRG(N) was centred on HMS Albion and RFA Mounts Bay carrying 45 commando Royal Marines.
To some extent, the LRG is just a re-branding exercise and follows years of similar amphibious deployments that in the last decade have operated under the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF) and Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) (JEF(M)) banner employed on the ‘Cougar’ (2011-15) and ‘Amphibious Task Group’ deployments. What will be different about the LRG is the (as yet unrealised) ambition to be ‘persistent, ie. forward-deployed and at a high state of readiness along with the new operating model for the Future Commando Force (FCF).
The RN describes its vision for Littoral Strike and the FCF as “a transformation from a 20th Century facing intervention capability into a forward-based maritime advance force. Integrated into Defence and Agency networks and persistently deployed to engage in strategically important activity. It will produce comparative advantage across the spectrum of operations and provide increased political options.” In general terms. heavy vehicle fleets, linear supply lines, inaccurate fires and vulnerable surface craft will be replaced with precision strike, high mobility, modern C4ISR, networked autonomous systems and deception capabilities.Littoral-Strike-Group-Concept-1
The LRG(N) spanning operations in the North Atlantic, Baltic and Mediterranean will be the lead and include an LPD, a Bay class, a 45 Cdo company and supporting elements (probably around 250 personnel). The LRG (S) will include a company of 40 Cdo and will be deployed to the Indo-Pacific region from 2023 onward, based on a Bay class RFA modified as a Littoral Strike Ship. The LRG construct is intended to be inherently flexible and operate closely with allies or other RN assets. The two LRGs may aggregate together to form a more substantial Littoral Strike Group or join with the Carrier Strike Group to form an Expeditionary Strike Force on occasions.
The Defence Command Paper promises a £40M investment in the Royal Marines as they transition to the FCF model which will underpin the LRGs. The new commandos will be: “Forward deployed to respond rapidly to crises, this special operation capable force will operate alongside our allies and partners in areas of UK interest, ready to strike from the sea, pre-empt and deter sub-threshold activity, and counter state threats.”
North and South
The LRG (North) should primarily be seen as a ‘convening force’ to which NATO or JEF nations may contribute assets to make it a more capable group. In the Cold War, the primary raison d’etre of RN amphibious capability was to ‘protect the Northern Flank’. The names and faces may have changed but to some extent, Putin’s new Cold War revival implies the reinforcement of Norway in the event of Russian aggression. Retaining control of the airfields of Northern Norway would be vital to dominate the seas inside the Arctic Circle and contain the threat of the Russian Northern Fleet.
In the Baltic, the LRG may have a role to play in protecting Scandinavian nations and the reinforcing Baltic States. The Russian enclave of Kaliningrad is home to a variety of conventional and nuclear cruise missiles, long-range radars and air defence missiles that are a thorn in NATOs side. Containing the Russian Baltic Fleet would be another task, should conflict break out. The LRG(N) alone has limited strategic significance but its regular presence operating with NATO and JEF partners signals to the Russians a multi-national determination to maintain their security.
The LRG(N) may also serve in the Mediterranean but its tasks there are harder to predict. Anti-terrorism and migration control operations off North Africa are a possibility. Operations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant seem less likely as Daesh has now largely been defeated and there is no appetite for any involvement in Syria. The LRG is well equipped for humanitarian aid disaster relief (HADR) or Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO). Historically amphibious forces have been called on to conduct this task more frequently than combat operations.
The LRG (South) will operate in a very different environment, likely to be involved in more small scale active operations to deter terrorism and its state sponsors. Based in Duqm, Oman, LRG(S) will have an area of operations that could potentially extend from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and even the Pacific. The LRG would appear to be very well suited to anti-piracy and Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIOps) in the Middle East region. A recent spate of attacks on merchant shipping appears to be part of a proxy war between Iran and Israel. At sea with helicopters and troops at high readiness, the LRG could also be well equipped to deter and potentially intervene to protect commercial shipping from this kind of attack.
The LRG(S) is also likely to operate in the Gulf and be on call for operations directly against Iranian forces if required. In the Red Sea, the civil war in Yemen continues to threaten shipping, particularly in the Bab al-Mandab Strait. US and Saudi warships have been attacked by Houthi rebels using shore-based missiles and suicide craft. Raids by special forces to degrading this kind of capability could be launched from platforms such as the LSS. Beyond the Gulf region, LRG utility is harder to define and will need to be aggregated into other naval forces for logistic support and to have significant mass if deployed against more formidable adversaries.
Power, presence and protection?
The composition of the LRGs will be flexible but just a single or pair of ships will form the core. The LRG(N) based around the LPD is the more balanced of the two and can deliver more than twice the effect of the LRG(S). Assuming both Bay class ships receive new hangars, at least 3 Merlin Mk4’s could be assigned, helping to offset the LPDs lack of hangar. Available helicopter numbers are limited, just how many Wildcats or Merlins will be can be permanently embedded with the groups, especially for LRG(S) is critical. Airborne raids are likely to assume greater importance than delivery by landing craft and the Groups are expected to cover an enormous geographic area.
For much of its existence, the LRG(S) may have to rely on deception and blending in for its safety while the LRG(N) will be heavily reliant on warships of other NATO allies to provide protection. The RN managed to assign HMS Lancaster and HMS Northumberland, to participate in parts of the 3-month 2021 LRG(N) deployment. If both LRGs are aggregated with the Carrier Strike Group (ie. virtually the entire operational surface fleet) then the formation might be secure enough to mount a very modest amphibious operation without reliance on the direct support of allies.
Other vessels may be attached to the groups depending on the mission. For the Duqm-based LRG(S) this may include the frigate based in Bahrain and/or other occasional RN warship visitors to the region. The only other relevant government-controlled assets are the 4 civilian-crewed Point class Ro-Ro sealift vessels leased from Foreland Shipping Ltd. They have 2,650 lane-metres of space available to transport substantial numbers of military vehicles and stores but are intended to be loaded or unloaded in friendly ports. Theoretically, they could support an unopposed administrative landing using Mexeflotes to discharge onto the beach. The lease of these busy ships expires in 2024 and it is unclear whether it will be renewed and new vessels acquired.
Losses and gains
Against the odds, the RN managed to retain the LPDs in the Integrated Review but overall amphibious capability is in decline. The Littoral Response Groups make sense in an age of continual sub-threshold war and grey zone activity but should the RN ever be called on to mount opposed amphibious operations against a peer adversary, assets are thin. The investment in autonomous systems, USV, UAVs and loitering munitions all make sense but there is an expensive shopping list of new kit required to return to being a credible heavyweight amphibious force. This would include; a helicopter carrier (LPH) to replace HMS Ocean with adequate helicopter numbers (and ideally V-22s), modern replacements for the slow landing craft (LCUs and LCVPs), new armoured amphibious vehicles and a big increase in mobile air defence capabilities and supporting fires such as MLRS. The Integrated Review promised no such investment so it is important to be honest about what the LRGs and FCF are really capable of.
The LRGs have considerable merit, especially being at higher readiness and forward-deployed and able to respond more quickly to events. The LRG(S) will be ‘in theatre’ although the LRG(N) presumably will remain UK-based as there does not appear to be any plan for forward-deployment in a European or Scandinavian port. The ability to raid and conduct rapid MIOps is useful but the LRG is essentially a ‘first-responder’ or a special forces type formation that has the ability to open the way for larger follow-on force. Either the reductions in the strength of 3 Commando Brigade need to be dramatically reversed or there has to be more coordination with the Army on future littoral operations.
The disastrous conclusion to the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan has probably killed off any lingering political will for foreign interventions involving the deployment of anything beyond a handful of troops. Unfortunately, future conflicts may no longer just be at a time and place of our choosing. The deterrent effect and uncertainly in the mind of an adversary that is created by a credible amphibious force is out of all proportion to its cost and the UK is unwise in compromising this capability. The Littoral Response Groups are a sensible concept but their obvious limitations are symptomatic of a navy stretched too thin, trying to deliver global reach while under-resourced.
Much needed in Afghan Waters at the moment.
Afghanistan well known for its coast line …
Well it’s quickly receding due to Global Warming but the RN could still play it’s part.
for the Royal Navy to reach Kabul, the nearest port is Karachi, 1900km away,
like evacuation from Portsmouth to John o’Groats and back by road for thousands of men, women and children, while a single C-17 could pack 700 readily.
still dreaming of Dunkirk?
But the C17’s weren’t able to land at Dunkirk.
there is an airport at Dunkirk
why did not the navy do something about the fall of Singapore?
Yes but C17’s are right hand drive. Oh and Singapore doesn’t have any oil, or Taliban.
Off a prepared runway that could be interdicted. It’s closer but no safer.
Saying that’s the UK’s other main area of lack C17’s. We should have 3 times as many.
The Hercules loss is going to be felt! I wonder what the thinking is, will the C130s be replaced by anything? They have a role that is almost vital for a modern millitary. Are they still building new Hercs?
In the RAF, C130s are being replaced by A400M.
A400M vs C130
But isn’t there tactical missions the a400 is too big for? I know the a400s are a replacement but won’t we lose some capability?
The Brazilian C390 is much better than a Herc, but only slightly bigger payload.
Fully modern FBW and 2 turbofan engines , perfect for long distance route flying at airliner altitudes
Beautiful beaches. And there women have beuitifull feet im told!!
To dip one’s toe in the water is a joy to behold. ( Hi Cam my old mate from many a forum post )
Hi mate hope all’s well.
The shift towards this makes some sense, so long as we are honest about the move into lighter, more nimble and persistent amphibious structures effectively means the end of any aspiration towards over the beach, fleshed out ‘heavy’ amphibious capability. It’s not an additional capability – rather an evolution of existing stuff into something new.
I’d like to think the modified Bay’s will act as a demonstration and learning experience for whatever MRSS turns out. 6 to replace both the Albion’s and Bay’s with any luck!
A rational and affordable structure would be the CSG as the first tier capability with small clusters of the MRSS, T31’s and a Venari type vessel to act as a mine/survey mother-ship (with the batch 2 River’s eventually brought home to replace the older batch 1’s) forward based in places like Oman and Singapore. A nice balance of lighter security/surveillance in any given region and then the heavy punch of a carrier group able to deploy with a bit more notice.
The RM (or Army) has planned to storm up a beach for 70 years. Are amphibious forces are already light.
The RM (or Army) has NOT planned to storm up a beach for 70 years. Our amphibious forces are already light.
I know. But until recently the aspiration and planning has still been to have a full spectrum amphibious group with Ocean, the Albion’s and Bay’s able to land a brigade on an unopposed or lightly defending stretch of coast and hold a beachhead….basically San Carlos in The Falklands.
Now we’re shifting to smaller company level raiding often inserted by helicopter and for short periods of time to take out specific objectives or draw attention.
So yes it’s arguably been light for a number of years and certainly hasn’t looked to storm a well defended beach since the 50’s…..now it’s just getting lighter.
Part reflecting reality and part shifting resources rather than admit we can’t afford brigade level operations anymore.
Isn’t that what this article is about?
I suspect that at a strategic level heavy amphibious ops have been dropped as an ongoing capability despite there utility.
The money was never there to do it even half properly without choosing to drop another major capability. The only thing that could have been dropped was most of the Army’s non amphibious usable force. That was clearly a step to far for HMG.
Doing amphibious properly in addition to the capabilities set out in the review would have taken an increase in the budget far far beyond what the MoD got. That money mostly pays for actually doing the current projects half properly. Even now if any project goes off the rails the black hole will open wide again and who knows what will fall off into it.
The problem with a Brigade scale amphib capability is that it would only be very rarely needed. Since WW2 we’ve only done 2 full scale opposed landings Suez and Falklands. Smaller scale Company operations have been much more common From Korea on. Rightly or wrongly all capabilities are judged on there relevance and demonstrable need. So long as budgets are limited compromises are inevitable and essential. To me this seems to offer the RM and RN Amphib a strong argument for there existence and relevance for the future. That may not be an ambitious objective but it isn’t an unimportant one.
Your logic is quite right but the reasoning behind it is flawed and reflects the smoke and mirrors contained in the the most recent defence review. We have sadly reached a point in the last decades where the cuts really show and gaps have appeared across all the armed forces, which are many and numerous.
Unfortunately, instead of facing these head on and making decisions on what we can still do and what will give up the pretence of maintaining a full spectrum of capabilities remains.
We now use terms like legacy platforms so we can talk around not having enough of anything. We therefore find ourselves reducing our air lift capability and the number of Royal Marines so we can maintain a heavy armour capability numbering 148 MBT’s. To make matters worse these upgraded tanks will still not compete with the very best from other countries in key areas.
If a balanced analysis in the latest review were made of all units and there equipment effectiveness in the last 40 years the RM’s and Paras would be increased in number whilst other units would be lost. These units are those we always deploy first because they are world class and make up for our pitiful small numbers.
Instead, we cut our amphibious and special forces air lift capability to make up some contrived new army Ranger units.
The extent of the smoke and mirrors in the IR and subsequent DCR is becoming ever more obvious: new stuff in 10 years time but until then more reductions in all 3 services. The IR covered so much ground that any sense of a clear purpose was lost. What do we need our armed forces to do? This question was ducked in favour of emphasising global Britain and forward presence with little about what that would actually deliver.
We try too hard to be a mini USA and their closest ally. But we are quite dependent on American decisions as events in Afghanistan have shown.
What the defence review should have done is set out what Britain needs for its own self defence; identify the main likely threats and detail what forces and equipment are needed to counter them. Only when that is fully covered, should any thought have been given to wider but,with budget constraints, inevitably small scale operations.
Obviously, our NATO commitment remains. But does that necessarily involve deploying armoured forces in the Baltic States when there are other countries better placed to do it?
This failure to focus means that we end up with apparently wide spectrum capabilities but inadequate numbers and no resilience or strength in depth.
What dependent on American decisions as events in Afghanistan have shown
The UK fully withdrew from Afghanistan back in 2014….. why on earth would US be in consults with UK or France etc now ?
The nato command structure was disestablished back then as well
While not disagreeing with you, can I take issue with one thing you wrote?
US, CAN, FR, NL, ESP, POL, GER all have MBT in the Baltic theatre with CZ and SVK deploying AIFV.
Wasn’t the Falklands beachhead deliberately chosen so it wouldn’t be apposed by a credible counter force?
The days of launching apposed landings are dead. Russia and China will wipe you of the map before you get close to the beachhead with their arsenal of deep fires. The risk is too high and not worth the risk in blood and treasure. Strategic raiding by commando teams backed-up by precision strike from afar is the best option IMHO. Western society simply won’t tolerate the casualties associated with an opposed landing against a peer enemy today. Without the support of the people your campaigns doomed from day one.
Yes. British amphibious doctrine is all about manoeuvre. Storming up the beaches went out with Korea as it is far too dangerous; that was 70 years ago. That many on sites like this think that still happens says a lot about their depth of knowledge.
” To some extent the LRG is just a rebranding exercise”.Given that the only additional investment is a modest upgrade of a Bay class, this is harsh but fair. To move away from large scale and slow beach landing to something more rapid and flexible really needs a big increase in helicopter lift and protection.
My second concern is that each group, possibly operating separately at the same time,will need escort protection. The initial LRGN had 2 frigates. So we would need 2+2+4 for the 3 groups. With a plan to forward base Type31s alongside River2 in the Far East, is this realistic?
Finally, what do plan to do with the second carrier when neither is in refit?
The carriers will be in port or close to UK probably having some sort of training and or refit and repair done to then when the other is at sea on deployment. Deployment for the carriers I think is going to be rolling for quite some time
It seems really illogical to cut our amphibious capabilities when I’m the scheme of things maintaining it is so cheap. A Mistral class ship costs the same as 2 type 31s and a brigade of Royals isn’t that much cost. Far more useful then Ajax or a light army regiment (Although we can and should be able to afford both)
I think the Points are the key – if they are replaced in 2024, will they take the opportunity for the new ships (or more likely 2nd hand civilian ships) to be converted to carry mexeflotes and some space and handling systems for LCVPs and USVs? Maybe a proper helipad too? This might partially offset the loss of at least 1 Bay to LSS and Argus disappearing.
The Points are strategic lift ships not amphibious warfare vessels.
Amphibious warfare involves moving things by sea.
But moving things by sea isn’t necessarily amphibious war.
Points are used because the Naval Service has too few hulls.
Or the Points are used because you don’t need naval hulls to move vehicles and containers between friendly ports. The manning arrangement of the points offers more flexibility than using RFA crews.
Yes. I am just confused as to why many see them as primarily amphibious assets.
The point isn’t that they are amphibious ships, it’s that we are losing hulls so fast that’s all we have left and must really make them work not spend most of their time tied up against a dock.
Which is why I said………
Points are used because the Naval Service has too few hulls.
At least read what I said before criticising what I have said.
But the RN hasn’t lost hulls in recent times. The last big cut was with the 2010 defence review. It will temporarily lose a coupe in the next few years but as the T23 life extension comes to an end it will still have the same number of usable escorts.
We’ve just lost 2*23!
It keeps Royal in the game just about and that is the only good thing it does. Far, far too light as a time when close allies are actually investing in amphibious war. (Japan, Italy, and Australia.) Ideally the large ‘aviation support ship’ capability should have been built around giving the UK an ARG first with sea control secondary. Light amphibious warfare was one of the four strengths which we had at the end of the Cold War. And it is being thrown away. Our government wastes too much money on supporting persons and states other than the UK and her peoples.
This is what the USMC used to consider a minimum for doing anything ashore……….
PS: Some lovely pics…….Thanks.
Yeah, this has no critical mass, the only apparent good thing is that maintain the know how a bit.
It’s not just about maintaining know how. The vast majority of military interventions from the sea are either small in scale or into an unopposed port/helipad/beach.
For anything at large scale or significantly opposed the U.K. now needs to work with allies.
A USMC MEU is small scale.
The RM are all about manoeuvre. But to manoeuvre they need helicopters and faster vessels.
Critical mass for what? when was the last opposed large scale amphib operation? 80 years ago. With current and future tech everyone is dead before they hit the beach. Times have changed, RM are raiding, tier 2 SF unit and they need to concentrate on doing it well
PLA navy-a amphibious warfare ships
Type 075 landing helicopter dock
40 000 ton / planned 8 / building 2 / completed 1
Type 071 amphibious transport dock
25 000 ton / completed 8
Type 072A/III/II landing ship
4000 ton / completed 29
I always find small landing ships interesting. Something again we lost slowly through the Cold War and after was the Army’s own small navy.
Small landing ship
Type 073/74 landing ship
800 ton / completed 31
And they continue to develop and build at an ever-increasing pace.
“China’s major manufacturer of amphibious assault ships, amphibious landing ships and frigates on Monday started constructing an advanced new shipyard in Shanghai, a move analysts said on Tuesday would boost China’s technical level and efficiency in building such vessels.”
Yes they are building huge number of amphibious ships.
And there are lots of pictures out there now showing PLAN marines launching vehicles from civilian RO-RO ferries.
Still would need a huge uplift to invade Taiwan.
Type 076 landing helicopter dock
??? ton / planned ???
We haven’t got to go all that way. Italians have the Trieste out on trials now. They have 3 LPD’s coming down the pipe.
This force pictured could probably take the Falklands. And I suppose it needs updating as the USMC has stopped using tanks or given to their reserves.
Well note I said used to say what was needed. It is just a good graphic.
There isn’t enough mass for that formation to retake the Falklands.
Thank goodness that the Royal Navy has crates and crates of spare helicopters just waiting to be unpacked.
It does – Sea Kings!
MoD Auctions..3 available but no engines.
With LSG(S) being “persistent” will they work in a similar fashion to the units currently based in Bahrain switching crews every couple months?
Also I’m guessing the Littoral Strike Ship concept has been scrapped?
It is all the same thing. Using a Bay is a cheaper.
‘Based in Duqm, Oman, LRG(S) will have an area of operations that could potentially extend from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean and even the Pacific.’
The first thing the UK need to do is decide is where it can usefully contribute. LRG(S) is fundamentally a small force for small eventualities. That is fine if you are dealing with civil breakdowns and extraction of nationals from failed or failing states. It is a drip in the bucket for anything else.
It’s not enough for that really. As I said above the MEU is really as small as you can go.
This idea that small formations are going to paddle ashore from a slow ship and wreak havoc on an enemy is nonsensical.
Sounds like another budget cutting plan, if Global Britain wants to be taken seriously it will have to up the ante to the 4-5 % of GDP spent on defense by the US. It is encouraging that Boris is more positive about the Navy than past leaders, but much more needs to be done before it will be considered a reliable ally or serious opponent.
We are losing all hercs thousands more from an already decimated army, half our tanks, artillery halves, all MCMVs, gazelles puma and the other two? Will NK doubt be replaced by a smaller number of new, now no warrior upgrade further reducing our capabilty, we have lost half our fast jets, half our total chopper force, many thousands personel from raf RN, The navys been decimated in terms of escorts! That’s just off top of my head!! There’s far more horrors, so it seems no ones taking defence seriously actually. And defence was one are Britain kicked ass at and gave us world power status! Now we are barely a power.
Seems odd to me that a future strategy of replacing the LPDs and LSDs with a common hull. We either end up for large ships capable of operating boats / landing craft / USVs / UUVs, air assets and logistics in meaningful volumes, or poorly compromised ships. Would say a small LHA (mini HMS Ocean or RFA Argus replacement) and LSD combination would seem more appropriate.
Also, it is clear that 2 LRGs will be stretched to cover the ambition in the North and South. In a number of respects the ambition should be for three (probably smaller) groups.
What was needed simply was a class of large fast LPD to follow the QE’s around and a couple of extra LSD(A) / LPD(A) / whatvers for immediate stores, rear echelon and large vehicles, and extra personnel. You could purchase an LHD design and use the hangar deck as a garage and cargo space I suppose. But we would better concentrating on providing dock space for fast ship to shore connectors more than providing hangar space when we have a 70,000 ton aviation ship. I would put a Close In Company in the carrier with a small Tac HQ with 6 to 8 Merlins and a clutch of Widlcats. The rump of the commando in the LPD. And then spread everybody else out in supporting Bay(s). We could build a flattop LPD to maximise flighdeck space, but we don’t need to support more helicopters space.
San Antonios’s can do over 20 knots and a lift capacity of 750 ish marines……
Three such would have allowed RM to play about in Norway while one followed the ‘carried group’. I am not saying CSG as that is just silly.
Whilst the QE Class has more than enough space for aviation, what we are really talking about is long term forward based presence. You are right though we are talking 4-6 (Chinook/HCA Merlin/Apache) helicopters capability for a “lite LHA”, backed by Wildcats from the Littoral escorts.
For me, we already have such a platform called RFA Argus. Would probably make more sense building / converting three of these and upgrading the dock / davit capabilities of the three Bays. Spend all the rest on escorts.
We could have a LPH on its own (with an RFA) paddling about to do this. You need ships that can bound 500 miles in a day.
No sane RN commander is going to risk bringing one of our flat tops close inshore to launch a helo assault. In an exercise we can pretend we would do that but in any scenario where even lightweight drones are a possibility then the answer is a definite no. In the real world even your Iranian proxy forces can now deter the use of a carrier in that role not unless we spend a lot of money on some Ospreys, which isn’t going to happen.
Given we have 18 Mk4 merlins it would make sense to upgrade all the Bays with hangars to take 3-4 helos, replace/up grade the LCVPs and LCUs to something that is faster and with longer range. The final piece of the jigsaw would be to have both Albion and Bulwark in commission. Given the limited number of escorts we currently have the manning should be possible to do this and we can then maximise what we already have.
The next task should be a replacement for Argus, which could be another large merchant ship conversion. If we could find two vessels that could take a dozen helos we could then use them as a poor man’s LPH. Not ideal but cheap and readily deployable East of Suez with one of the Bays and at times an LPD.
Sadly what is currently proposed has all the hallmarks of us scrabbling together whatever is left over and giving it a new name in the vain hope nobody notices it’s inherent weaknesses.
No sane RN commander is going to risk bringing one of our flat tops close inshore to launch a helo assault.
Why do we have helicopters then?
Because we can’t afford Ospreys or even to add in flight refuelling to our helicopters.
In any environment with an air or sub surface threat you need ships you can afford to loose for such a high risk operation. Simple replacements for Ocean and to extent Argus would suffice and not the fleet flagship!
But you said……
No sane RN commander is going to risk bringing one of our flat tops close inshore to launch a helo assault.
Why do we have helicopters then? Don’t they have a range of 400 mile-ish?
My response to your question was quite clear and relates to the specific use of merlins carrying out an assault from one of the flats tops. I am very well aware of the merlins range, which is why I made the statement about buying longer range Ospreys.
An extract from a recent article below might help you understand why I believe the carriers are not going to be used in that role other than in an exercise:
Mockup showing HMS Queen Elizabeth configured as a helicopter assault ship for ‘Littoral Manoeuvre’. In 2019 the RN quietly re-allocated the £60 million earmarked in 2015 to upgrade communications, accommodation and flight deck arrangements needed to operate HMS Prince of Wales as a helicopter assault ship (LPH).
The money was dropped because of budgets not because the RN had no faith in Merlin. Consider that against a peer the would have to achieved a degree of sea control anyway. And most of the world even in the RN’s dilapidated state aren’t our peers at sea.
Consider we will soon reach a point where there will be a duty carrier and one in (deep) refit. Fitting out one as an LPH would be a waste.
The important thing the QE’s have is passageways that allow easy movement for marines with bergens and weapons. It is not fun climbing around ships with a bergen. And if push came to shove Royal would have to make do with the accommodation available as they do in say Argus or the Invincible class. (Most of what that was about is to do with small arms storage.)
This littoral group business has put paid to all this. It could lead you to question the value of the carriers if this is something else they cannot do.
That picture has almost half of our total commando merlin force lol!
The USMC has Ospreys because their ‘other smaller helicopters’ are tiny with little range ..UH-1 not much different to an old Lynx.
Merlin is the RM large helicopter
I am not sure where I questioned or mentioned the size of MV22.
I am not sure where I said Merlin was small either.
Or are you just wondering off again?
I think his collection of Airfix models might have confused him with the different scale options. Personally I managed to fit HMS Hood on my bedroom window sill and a Lancaster hanging from the ceiling. Merlin’s are surely a fair bit bigger than White Hawks ?
MV22’s main asset is speed. Range is questionable. Are you really going to drop off troops with just small arms 1000 miles from safety? No. CH53 doesn’t have a great range and neither does Cobra and it is these that will be supporting a landing.
MV22 also has a small awkward shaped cargo space too; it is no CH47.
It is a fantastic aircraft. We could do with it for the carriers that is a certainty. But it has its flaws or at best ‘features’.
USMC UH-1Y MTO 8.3 tonnes
RN Wildcat 6 t
RN Merlin 14.5t
USMC Osprey 21.5 t
Now you can see why the USMC needs a bigger helicopter than the UH-1
Real world payloads will be less than gross weight.
The CMV-22 can only carry 6000 lb for its longest range
You didnt mention the size, but thats where the ‘idea’ comes from…get the RN a big helicopter type.
There arent ‘longer range Ospreys’ in the way you might think. The COD ones trade payload for their longer range- as does everything else
MV22 really isn’t that large. What idea?
MV22 has a combat radius of 1000nm-ish and twice that for ferrying.
Merlin’s range is about 450-ish nautical miles I think.
MV22 therefore has twice the range. That is ‘long range’.
As I said whether that long range is an asset for trooping is questionable apart from turn around and even then perhaps not.
Again you have gone off on a tangent blurting out stats for no reason.
Its not just range but speed…. When putting mass ashore you have to get sufficient in place quickly enough to hold the ground. If your helos (and landing craft) have to make several trips then you have to balance number of platforms (number of waves), speed and distance to beach…
It is twice that of Merlin. But there are other overheads in moving mass. You are not getting double through put double for speed. I do mention it elsewhere here somewhere I think. Further we are still are moving two waves if moving one commando.
MV22 is a complex aircraft and an expensive aircraft.
I’ve heard this argument about ‘affording’ to loose ships before. This just doesn’t stand any more. Snatch Land Rovers changed things for good. You either go well protected or not at all. Well protected ( in part) means being built to military not commercial standards. Ocean was a gamble, QEs are thankfully built appropriately.
How about buying a couple of dozen more C17’s and fit them with Floats, that way we could land 700 at a time anywhere in the World ?
We need(ed) enough C17 to move a ‘light’ parachute battle group.
What needed to have happened is the 3Cdo and 16 AAB in a division. We could have two firebrigades then that could work separately and work together when necessary. Makes more sense than this ranger business which has been show this very week is a flawed strategy.
That’s the ticket, they could be based at Calshot.
Thank you for the excellent piece. It strikes me there are parallels with the RM’s pre-1970 posture. At that time (and since 1943) 3 Cdo. Brigade was a Far East formation, with 40 and 42 Cdo based in Singapore/Hong Kong and 45 Cdo at Aden. Bulwark and Albion, the original commando carriers, were home-based at Singapore too. It was only after the withdrawal from Singapore that 3 Cdo. took up its now familar posture on NATO’s northern flank. The LSG model attempts to have its cake and eat it by deploying one Cdo.to the Indian Ocean / Far East and one to the Northern Flank/Baltic.
I’m intrigued why only north LSG has a LPD, unfortunately we don’t have a 2nd we could use for the south… oh thats right its at extended readiness
It would have been great to have seem An Albion and a bay with the carrier strike group, and the two batch 2 opvs that are heading east. A truly powerfull show of force.
And does anyone think we will get extra amphibious capability with the change, or is this another money saving trick of sorts? I hope we do increase the hull numbers as some people have said but I won’t hold my breath. I’m actually surprised we won’t just form 1 LRG as that seemed obvious to save money and keep the capability, and having one forward based was also a surprise.
There will be no new capability. This is all about cuts.
Compare with the Italians who have a new LHD on trials and have three LPD’s. Or the Australians with the Canberra class and the Bay. Or the Japanese and their new brigade.
Never mind the French and their Mistrals. The Dutch and their multiple LPD’s. And the Spanish with their small force. Our amphibious capability has just been thrown away like MCM or SSN numbers. Still we have 6 billion’s worth of carriers with enough F35b to equip a 20k CVS……Yay!
Agreed it is very frustrating that SDR 98 which generated the most logical and minimum force levels across all the armed forces despite the cuts was almost immediately swamped by the UK’s two most disastrous military conflicts since WW2. Our armed forces have suffered almost irreversible damage over the last 20 years because of them. The cost in both financial and most importantly human terms is enormous and unforgivable.
The carriers now look rather empty and our forces look too small and unbalanced because we spent our cash on these failed interventions.
There are all sorts of problems for the armed forces. And you can go on and on and on about it forever. I think war will come with China before we can even take immediate action. And our security problems are a lot broader than other states. The fixation with Russia doesn’t help either. The latter aren’t going to invade Western Europe. They will continue to be a niggle in the air and on the sea, but we niggle them. They are not our friends, we don’t need to make them enemies.
We need to get T26 up and running. We need to look at giving the second batch of T26 an AAW capability, probably by going for AEGIS, and continue to build T26 until we have 12 of those specs even if it means taking the first ones out of service. We need to make sure Typhoon and F35b have a full range of weapons. And for the Army makes sure we have 5 regiments of Chally 3 (I don’t think there are enough Chally 2 to convert TBH) and build Boxer as quick as we can. It’s a mess. And that’s just a start. I wish we had been more like France and built our kit whatever the cost; it would have probably been cheaper in the longer run.
Agreed on every point.
If the next war remains non-nuclear, it’ll be over before we have chance to produce any new kit or train any new troops. We have to have it before the shooting starts. The current mass is too low & schedule is too slow.
We could learn from the French -they have a habit of decided to do something & worrying about paying for it later (see the ESA as an example). We dither and dally and the time wasted shaving £1 here and £2.50 there costs us more in the long run.
We are back in a period like the early modern era where armed forces are technically advanced therefore expensive and too few in number, due to cost and ‘operators’ with ‘technical ability’ being fewer in number and so deployed reluctantly to preserve it.
In a crisis our platforms will need to arrive well armed hopefully to deter and if not survive a fight. A fight that won’t last long due to cost and risk.
This is why when some on sites like this bang on about, say, T45 not needing a sonar because it is an AAW destroyer it annoys. It not only shows a lack of understanding of the direction of RN escort development from the 1950s on to this day. It also displays a lack of understanding of threats the RN faces and security in the wider world. Escorts, our main combatants will face threats in all spheres and a small fleet like the RN needs to preserve itself. Same can be much be said as it has been discussed here recently, but elements are often repeated, that some magic module ashore can be instantly installed and we are good to go. We won’t have time to do such things; it also in some instances like MCM runs against the fundamentals of ‘sea power’.
Thanks Navy Lookout for this article.
To help set the scene for the future of Royal Marines and the requirements of the Royal Navy’s amphibious ships could you provide us with an authoritative analysis of LRG in comparison too; US MEU and MEB and other comparable units from Australian, Japan, France, Italy and Netherlands.
Such an article could point out strengthens and weaknesses of the LRG and provide some thought to the future direction base on the UK commitments and impact of the Integrated Review.
West of Suez, North of Gibraltar, East of Iceland, South of Faroe
No need of any LRG, LSG CSG, ESF.
BREXIT and Splendid Isolation.
Nato is not the same as Brexit …remember it was the French who upped sticks from nato in the later 60s. It didnt make any difference really in or out of Nato for them. C’est la vie
don’t blame it on foreigners, the French is not in charge of the Royal Navy, sacré bleu.
NATO? You have heard of NATO?
You are right in one way though the EU has been and continues to be one of the biggest threats to our national security. Say what you like about the Russians they haven’t done nearly a hundredth the damage to us as Germany, France, and the Dutch have done.
Trying sticking your head down the bog and giving it a flush. It might clear out the empty space behind your ears.
no more freedom of speech? ganz Scheisse, merde, klootezak
I didn’t say shut up did I? 🙂
is derogatory insults normal here?
just keep playing with words
two can play the games
I wasn’t derogatory. You were to the majority of Britons who voted to leave the EU.
so you can
Trying sticking your head down the bog and giving it a flush. It might clear out the empty space behind your ears.
and what is wrong in saying Brexit?
On some other “Impartial” sites, it’s been banned, well when I say banned, it’s more like the site owner is feeling empowered. You got to love the Internet !
It is not about taking the Commandos back to their original role it is sadly all about cutting the numbers to suit the budget. LRG(S) in particular looks totally ineffective.
However, If you can find a real war fighting scenario where an army the size of the U.K’s is nothing more than a short lived token gesture I will be interested to hear it.
The Army? One of the reasons why UK defence is in a mess is that wrongly the whole Establishment has seen it quite wrongly as the corner of UK defence post WW2. Post Empire and post the Bomb it has had questionable utility. During WW1 it was a tool of offence and the war was won as much as sea. It’s preeminence is a result of it being personnel intensive so its importance has been amplified within society beyond its true significance. WW2 it was for a while important. But this ran against history. Sometimes events do run against history but then things correct themselves. As soon as we had enough bombs we should have retreated back from Europe and returned to the sea. And the Army re-rolled along similar lines to the USMC.
I totally agree but it seems the Army has got a stranglehold of the top jobs and that influence has certainly been damaging particularly since the end of the Cold War.
No, specifically the littoral response groups. What potential situation will they be great for? We know what the carrier group is useful for, projection of air-power. Example situations would be Falklands, Libya, Iraq invasion. What kind of scenario would an LRG be fantastic for?
Where in any of my posts in this thread have I said these LRG’s are a good idea? Where? I have pointed out the deficiencies through out. You are going to have to go back up thread. Read my posts. And then get back to me with some clarification.
Stop and think for a minute, is there really any point in spending badly needed funds on this concept? Does it really offer us something special that we will actually need/use? To be honest, I don’t think it does. Should the RN not be aspiring to acquire 2 x new LHDs to replace Albion and Bukwark instead and throwing all it can into that? In the absence of HMS Ocean, we no longer have an LPH ( no we are not going to use POW in that role), Argus has done her best to fill that gap on occasions, better than nothing, but is soon to be axed herself.
Instead of flushing funds down the drain, concentrate on the LHDs with MV22s.
You would be effectively replacing 5 vessels (2 LPD’s and the 3 Bays) with 2. Given the real world of maintenance there will be significant periods when only 1 would be available.
In simple terms 1 is not enough to be relevant in Europe and still have a distant deployment capability
The RN is pursuing what the Government is prepared to fund.