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It’s the loss of the MCM hulls that worries me as I have said before. Unmanned doesn’t no manning, doesn’t mean small, and doesn’t mean cheap. AI is often known as ‘artificial stupidity’ with good reason.

I wouldn’t replace Merlins with Merlins. A good helicopter but things have moved and their are other options now.

I would like to see P200 replaced with something like the RCN Orca-class with top speed of about 22 knots-ish. Something in steel.


Not sure what these other options to Merlin are?


I agree. I would put the development money into the sub hunting systems not the airframe.


That’s because you are ship person Not A Boffin. 🙂

NH90 or another option from Augusta. They all have problems and pluses and minuses.

We won’t be replacing Merlin soon. And by the time we do other options will be available.

And the MoD (N) don’t listen to me so I wouldn’t worry.


NH90 is a flying disaster – there is a reason the Germans still have their Sea Kings flying. More new build Merlins is the answer: still the best helicopter in their class (ask the Norwegians who are getting some new ones) and made in the UK.

(If you want to push the boat out maybe re-design it for two engines, or with a stronger gearbox with more lift – but its largely fine as it is).


The Wildcat is a ‘6 tonne’ helicopter , the NH90 is a 10 tonner and the Merlin is 16 tonnes.
The Merlin is as much a jump ahead of the NH90 as that is above the Wildcat. The difference is that much.


They all have problems and pluses and minuses.

And then you mention the problems Merlin has…….

As I said when Merlin goes out of service there will be other options at the larger end. We need air frames now.

And as I said Merlin is a good helicopter.


Forget any idea of airframes beyond a possible Puma replacement for a long time. The DCP already has a big shopping list and with the MoD just having had a very good spending settlement nothing new will be added to the list for a few years.


Yes. Which takes me back to my point that when we come to replace Merlin many decades hence there will be other options………

Meirion X

Are you thinking of similar size to the Merlin?
I think Merlin is right size for ASW.
A similar size to Merlin could carry more torpedoes.

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

No not really. Merlin size wise is out on its own really. We need more helicopters for escort work so NH90-size-ish would do. And for roles bigger we could even look to CH47 perhaps; imagines ‘Son of Crowsnest’ housed in CH47. What I am saying is that several decades from now more Merlin, as wonderful as it is, may not be best solution. I take your point about torpedoes. But this is where rockets and the collective’s here favourite, the UAV come in.

Andy a

Having chatted last week to senior chief that sun hunted and maintained merlin I quote “the sub hunting kit is world beating, problem is getting it and it’s gearbox up in air”


I like the sea hawk and black hawk, I’m still surprised we haven’t had any, maybe Puma replacement but built in UK? And there even developing unmanned versions.

Last edited 3 years ago by Cam

Arguments about cheap Blackhawks and Westlands used to be a staple of sites like this. 🙂

James Fennell

MoD has joined a pan-European new medium helicopter programme and has declared an interest in the new US programmes. I think some thought is being put into Merlin / Chinook replacement in the ’30s but not decided direction yet. Janes has reported both of these developments. Also some work has been carried out by GA on a Sea Guardian version with folding wings etc. that can operate from carriers, with radar, sonarbouys and torps.

Last edited 3 years ago by James Fennell

Will the Chinook ever be replaced? It’s a great fast heavy lift that works fine, and the newest ones are getting lots of upgrades so will be even better.


I don’t think so. It will have B52 like longevity.


That’s a big step up in size. 4 times the weight and likely much more expensive than a like for similar replacement. Odds on to get bigger ships you would need to buy far less. That makes their job with the universities much more difficult.


P2000 won’t be replaced one for one. These are training boats. A few bigger heavier boats would be more useful if there is a need to use them for military roles.

Do you have any options in mind?


P2000 aren’t just training boats anymore, they are guardships in Gibraltar, they are fast patrol boats on exercise with Scandinavian coastal forces. The old days of the University cruise are just about gone as another hole has to be plugged by unarmed, totally unsatisfactory ships. Losing the mcmv force as we know it will have far more serious consequences, safeguarding the transit of nuclear submarines on the Clyde with their additional warheads will become a major Fleet evolution with so many, so far, non existent components required.


So we need something made in steel and bigger then perhaps……don’t you think?

And we used them because we had them and they are being replaced.

And as fun as playing in Swedish littoral must be it really isn’t up there with our real naval concerns is it?

P2000 are still used by URNU’s.

So are you disagreeing with me? Or is ‘somebody wrong on the internet’?

Do you have any suggestions for their replacement?




Lots and lots of interesting designs for lifeboats. The new RNLI designs are fantastic. One of my favourites from across the North Sea is the Fassmer 46m. It would be good for FP work in certain areas…
comment image


I like the Severn class lifeboats design, maybe a little too old though, but update and militarise it.

Last edited 3 years ago by Cam
James Fennell

MST are already building two new patrol boats for the Gib squadron and various Gulf allies. Most likely avenue is to keep the orders coming.comment image

James Fennell

BMT design – they have a family of great inshore and offshore patrol boats – and MST also build large high speed RIBs for Norwegians and othets. This is a larger version of the BMT design used by Qatar. Bahrein also use these.comment image


We do have a few competent boat builders here in the UK.


$11 million CAD in 2004, seems like a pretty good deal to me. And they’re really good vessels in terms of what they can do. So replace all the P2000 for less than the cost of a T31, and huge increase in capacity for expansion.


Agree with MCM. It’s not quite as bad as it seemed at one point in that it appears the Hunt’s and Sandown’s will be gradually phased out rather than scrapped overnight. Nevertheless whilst I have no problem with the idea of unmanned off-board systems and their obvious flexibility you still need seagoing platforms to deploy them!

What would be better than Merlin? From what i understand it’s still a cutting-edge bit of kit.

If the university boats are ever replaced then it would presumably still need to be with something that can traverse the caledonian canal. I think something like the Orca Class would be overkill and something cheap and cheerful but fast would be better.


We needed to see from MoD(N) a clear program similar to that the Dutch and Belgians are implementing.

I hadn’t thought about the Canal! Interesting. But not a deal breaker surely?

Though cheap and cheerful might do I think we need a class that can do more to be honest.


I have been off for a look see. The interweb tells me………

MAXIMUM DIMENSIONS 45.72 m (150ft) long; 10.67m (35ft) beam; 4.1m (13.5ft) draft. Vessels with draft over 3.8m (12.5ft) are advised to contact the Canal Office before arrival.

And Orca class are,

Length:33 m (108 ft) Beam:8.34 m (27.4 ft) Draught:2.6 m (8.5 ft)

Good thought though! 🙂


Interesting. Thanks for taking the trouble to look that up.

I still think tailoring to the training and river/coastal patrol role better suits something smaller – although perhaps in the 70-100 tons range with speed and maneuverability being prioritized over endurance and weapons fit.


I think something bigger. At least over 100 tonnes.
comment image


What about a modified cutter, but 42 million a pop!!


There are lots of options. But a GRP motor boat less than 100 tonnes shouldn’t be one of them.


Enid Blyton used to write stuff like this and kids loved it.


Ha ha, try telling a kid they will only get their chocolate in 2035!


The graphics in her books was better

Keith Dockrell

I thought it was a total waste of an Integrated Defence Review TBH.

It reminds me of the film Moneyball scene where Brad Pitt asks the table ‘what problem are we trying to solve’ and no one has a good answer.

This was a political exercise for the voters which didn’t get close to the core questions what challenges will the UK face in the next 30 years and what do we need to face them.


Exactly. 🙂


I agree, there is plenty of fluff and lack of real substance but that’s to be expected from government. It doesn’t ask the core questions because no one really knows the answers. That’s crystal ball gazing stuff and the world is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

It’s unsurprising that RN has come out with the clearest vision because it’s also the domain where threats and purpose are most clear. The Army has the bigest problem in that that we are not quite sure what it’s most needed for, meanwhile threats continue to rapidly evolve in different ways in different places.

As such the priority has to be on building ability to evolve quicker to meet whatever challenges emerge in future. So the IR focus on force structure, capability development, R&D and industrial base is not entirely without merit. The details can be filled in later as needs become clearer.

I also think it’s a reflection of political reality where we lack consensus over importance of defence. And from HMG perspective, I think they are being careful to avoid certain explicit commitments, because priorities may need to change in future with resulting accusations of broken promises, as we have seen before. This is the reality we have to accept in a democracy.

So you could say it’s far from ideal but it’s pragmatic in the circumstances, the best of a bad job if you like. All IMHO of course, other viewpoints may be available!

Last edited 3 years ago by Ben Robins
Trevor H

Yes I think that’s fair points.
NATO is a large force and it should more coherently (may be the wrong word) put out it’s deterrent effect more effectively. As e.g…. do we really need heavy armour, but more air and naval assets?

More and more the MoD and Services produce more and more gobbledygook in terms of press releases.

All the services have problems but the Army seems far and away the most confused. The long term fighting in Afghanistan forced it into certain ways re equipment and into a light role… and tragic loss of life and injury. But it seems to have no clear focus.
The army’s Ranger concept however seems sensible to me and possibly this impinges on RM. So possibly no wonder Marines may loses some numbers, but more focussed on ‘raiding’.

However the army’s procurement of armour seems horribly confused and has been for decades.

But to put my views simply… the key weapon is airpower so both industrially and militarily the important issue is Tempest, followed by F35. Plus our SAS has more influence than mere numbers.

Meirion X

I think we are talking a very Big risk in developing 6 Gen Tempest.
I would stick to 5.5 Gen!
6 Gen is something for beyond 2040s!

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

talking is all you do, cannot even write


The real worry about this review is the vagueness which is obviously deliberate. There are only a few commitments on numbers and that after all this time the MOD cannot confirm a firm number for example of additional F35s is a real worry.
I am also not convinced that the number of RN hulls is going to increase at all in the long term because the early disposal of the Hunts, Sandowns and B1 Rivers seems inevitable with a handful of autonomous vessels replacing them, which will require one of our new escorts to act as mothership.
We are facing a significant loss in the number of RM’s who not that long ago were taking on a role in Afghanistan that far exceeded their number proportionally compared to that of the army. The reason was and still is the quality of a marine commando far exceeds that of the average infantrymen and the marines seem to have no problem in recruitment. Whilst undoubtedly amphibious warfare is changing the stealthy disbanding of 3 Commando Brigade seems to be nearly complete after starting in 2010.
The Army will be pleased along with Mr Putin but are allies must despair at such illogical policies were we not only do we reduce the quantity of personnel but also the quality.


You imply that “stealthily” disbanding 3 Commando Brigade is the same as losing all its troops. But the the organisation of the RMs is completely changing and this was first announced in 2017. From what I have read 400 numbers are to go as result of this review (but this may be an error) and extra £200 million is being allocated.
So the ability of the marines is to be sustained.

Glass Half Full

Reasonable observations. It is mildly amusing that this article and Thin Pinstriped Line take the review to task for its lack of numbers and precision, while ironically holding up past reviews with their detail, but total lack of budget to achieve it, as preferred examples. I prefer the more pragmatic curtailing of legacy platforms of this review, rather than maintaining an illusion of what are in practice ineffective platforms, in order to pivot the armed services to a modern fit-for-purpose combat force.

We are going through a major change in how warfare at the highest levels is likely to be fought in future, along with radical changes in platforms. Its going to be tough threading that needle, avoiding tying ourselves into legacy solutions but also avoiding jumping in too early on expensive unproven programs. Especially as many of the solutions are in development and don’t exist to buy yet.

Consider vertical lift. British Army and RM capability would look very different to today’s platforms if the US FVL program results in choosing Raider X for attack reconnaissance and V-280 for long range assault and we adopt those platforms to complement Chinook and Apache in the Joint Helicopter Command. Likewise aerial unmanned platforms and precision fires.

Relatively simple JLTV and Bushmaster class as solutions for the MRV-P start to be questionable given the progress in hybrid power with its operational and logistics benefits.

And on and on it goes.


“Raider X for attack reconnaissance and V-280 for long range assault”

None of that is much useful and/or cheap.

Glass Half Full

Cheap, perhaps not, but if V-280 replaces the UH-60 Blackhawk as required then it has to be both affordable and viable in that role for future battle zones. Likewise Raider X.

Fast with long range would not be useful to the RM or BA? Especially RM operating from a carrier?


My point o that V-280 looks like a potential F-35 part II . Too complicated, too expensive, a “Ferrari” like the USAF general said recently.
Note that US armed forces will not get increases in budget, the inverse is the most probable.

I agree it would be useful for SF operations. But not as an helicopter that has to make say 12 trips in a day transporting all kind of stuff.


I presume the new research and surveillance ship is an effective replacement for HMS Scott as no other survey vessel project has been mentioned?

Explain to me how this is an uplift in capability if true?! Does this mean that deep-sea hydrographic work is no longer important (and a money spinner to boot!) or will the new vessel be expected to survey the seabed, the undersea cable network and do whatever other surveillance work they have in mind all at the same time?


Not disagreeing, but to play devils advocate it’s replacing one for one and I would imagine there’s a good overlap between seabed survey, and keeping an eye on cables that sit on the seabed? I guess it depends on the demand for each tasking if one ship will be sufficient.


True. But Scott for all its high tech kit did a very simple but very time consuming job. I can’t see how that task and this ‘seabed engineering’ can be done by one ship.


Yep, I think my point was just that, it’s a resource issue not a capability one. Which means the claim of ‘uplift in capability’ is true, albeit only technically.


Scott going, MCM messed about, no replacement for Diligence, and so on.

Our SSN’s should be the jewel in the crown. Yet ir seems the MoD are doing all they can to cut away vital supporting capabilities.


The AgustaWestland AW149 is already being touted as the Puma HC2 replacement. This relatively modern helicopter is fully developed and in service elsewhere. Production can apparently be rapidly switched from Italy to the UK to meet our requirements. However, this type is obviously not designed to fullfil the Merlin’s sophisticated ASW role and to adapt it might be a considerable task indeed – even if it considered at all feasible.

The near term need for this RAF Puma replacement and any longer term requirement for a follow on for Merlin don’t really line up and the two may well be kept as separate programmes. Nevertheless, should combining the two requirements be seen as desirable then perhaps obtaining a licence to manufacture the latest variants of the Sikorsky SH-60/UH-60 types might prove a better option than the AW149.

Myself I quite like the idea of new build Merlin’s being procured – suitably updated of course. More important than the type perhaps is that government needs to recognise that the RN obviously needs many more than 40 heavy ASW helicopters.


Helicopters dont date like fast jets do, see the US Army produced updated and even rebuilds of its helicopters ( as they are doing with UK Apaches).
The only other 16 tonne chopper around is the Sikorsky S-92 but better is just another rebuild Merlin


AW149 seems like a good choice to replace Puma as well as the Bells used in Brunei, Cyprus and elsewhere by the AAC.

Frankly i’d give the entire AW149 fleet to the AAC as their utility/recce fleet and for SF insertion / training support and transfer their Wildcat’s over the FAA and look at procuring some dipping sonars and seaspray for them.

Agree that an updated version of Merlin although big and relatively expensive could be the most straightforward option to replace both the HM2’s and Commando fleet.


40? I thought we had 30? With 5 always in maintenance giving the RN 25 to play about with.

Glass Half Full

Seems like a number of candidates may be throwing hats in the ring.

So far we seem to have Leonardo with AW149, Boeing with MH-139 which is based on Leonardo AW139, and Lockheed with UH-60 Blackhawk. I suppose even getting an interim solution for 10-15 years based on re-furbed UH-60’s from the US might be an option, while waiting to see how the US Future Vertical Lift program plays out. Pretty sure there would be a ready market to sell UH-60 on afterwards.

However, the replacement really depends on what the RAF/Army actually need the Puma replacement to do and for how long, in the context of what a long term vision for the UK’s Joint Helicopter Command looks like.

For example Merlin HC variants in the 2030’s might be used to support an extension of Merlin HM2 out to 2035-40. So a Puma replacement might need to support replacing both the RM Merlins as well as Puma in that timeframe. Long term this role might be served with a Bell V-280 or SB-1 but we’d need to bridge to that capability.


The good thing is the availability of ships should increase but with that should come increased use and therefore less life, replacements needed more quickly. No such thing as a free lunch. I just hope that’s factored in.


Great article. Really nailed it that this is an ‘industrial’ rather than a defence strategy. Of course both need to be balanced, but there is way to much about job creation (type 32s, ‘Tempest’) vs what might be most useful / available now (a few more Type 26s, more than 3 E-7s, a lot more F35s). RN did the best tho, RAF did the worst with less than 100 Typhoons once the Tranche 1s go. This will of course impact availability of the F35s as pointed out.

Meirion X

Not true, the RAF will have less then 100 Typhoons, when T1s go!
It will be 107 Typhoons.

A T83 multi-role vessel, will make a better supplement for the T26.


Of the 3 published papers, I thought the Defence and Security Industrial Strategy was the most persuasive. The intended move towards more sovereign capability is long overdue: we have all but lost our capacity to design and build military vehicles and before long all our warships will have foreign made guns.
The weakest was the Defence Command paper couched in language “like a Dalek debating at a management consultants conference”. As noted in the article, there is a troubling lack of detail about exactly what and when new equipment will be in service.
The Integrated review is better written, but it proposed a wider dispersal of already small forces around the remnants of empire, probably just to echo Boris’s global Britain ambition.
Whatever the longer term aspiration, it is clear that all 3 services are going to get smaller over much of the next decade.
Overall, I think the reviews are a disappointing failure to define properly thought out and resourced priorities for our armed forces.

Meirion X

“Whatever the longer term aspiration, it is clear that all 3 services are going to get smaller over much of the next decade.”

Cobblers You Sprout again!

The RN is to Procure new warships and grow, Type 31, T26, T32 and T83!

And RAF, new F-35B’s and P8s etc!

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

The RAF fast jet fleet did fine. The T1’s are being replaced by T2/3 from the reserve stocks. They are still keeping 7 squadrons. What it does do is use up the life of the existing fleet faster. I presume the plan is for Tempest to be in service before this becomes an issue.


With all this talk about Tempest, it is probably useful to remember that Eurofighter Typhoon development began in the 1980s and the prototype first flew in 1994. It would be another decade before they were operational. Tempest will be even more complicated and expensive than Typhoon. The idea that Typhoon and F-35 can be cut back – as they have been in this review – and then smoothly replaced by the currently non-existent Tempest is a massive (and foolish) gamble.

Meirion X

I agree Roy!
The best that can be hoped for is an 5.5 Gen aircraft.


F22 was built years and years ago, and F35 not that far behind it.
Is it really worth developing a 5.5 type plane when the real expense is the computing.
We understand stealth. We can build engines. We know about radars. We ought to know quite a bit about computing by now after working with F35.

Tempest may well take some time but it is doable. And based on what the USAF are currently doing it’s possible to develop planes quicker.

We are ahead of Russia and China.

Meirion X

The issue with 5&6 gen aircraft is the software to fly them, taking up over 80% of labour time.

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

I am still wondering why there is no VSTOL variant of Tempest.

Not really…….. 🙂

Christopher Dickinson

I think you might be underestimating just how much we’ve advanced since the Typhoon was designed.

Computer assisted design has really streamlined aircraft development.


For me the biggest missed opportunity of the review is the chance to reform defence procurement (esp. as this was something Dominic Cummins was hoping to fix), so I expect we’ll continue to see cost overruns, reduced orders or equipment and BAE making off like bandits.

The shipbuilding program is more positive, historically we were always planning ahead and had constant build schedules, but this century we seem to have stopped this and just looked to replace stuff as it wore out (looking at the current ships in-service dates it’s clear this happened around the time of the Afghan and Iraq wars) and it’s good to see talk of continuous production runs and keeping the yards busy.

I’d hope for at least 12 autonomous minehunter units that could be based either ashore or on a ship. However it would be inefficient to use large (and expensive!) frigates for this role, so a smaller mothership would be needed.

What could be an option is to convert one of the Hunts to act as an autonomous minehunter mothership (Atherstone would be a good choice as has been stripped for sale, depending on her condition). If these trials go well do the same with the rest of the Hunts (Sandown’s might be too small or not suitable due to their layout) to give 6 or 7 motherships. Their hulls are older but should last another 10 years or so.

Looking further ahead I’d like to see something like the Venari-85 or Dutch/Belgum ships bought, these would be dual-role (MCM with an autonomous unit mounted, OPV without) and could also replace the Rivers and maybe (if stretched?) the Echo’s. Ideally, 10-12 would be procured.

As for the Sandown’s, when decommissioned as minehunters, short term I’d like to see them retained as patrol ships for use in UK waters, or some could be used as training ships for cadets, URNU’s and reservists. I’d also like to see more of the boars ordered for Gibralater ordered to replace the P2000s at Faslane and Portsmouth, the rest I’d transfer along with the B1 Rivers and the Border forces ships to an expanded Coastguard reorganized along the lines of the USA’s or Japan’s.


Agree with this. Unless something is done about the horror story that is MoD defence procurement, then it’s likely that this desired number of future ships will never materialise. The Type 26 programme etc. will probably end up something like the Type 45 or F35 where the original order is cut back substantially to pay for cost overruns and delays. The contractors will continue to collect huge amounts of money, however with little accountability.

Could also look at wastage and inefficiency within the force itself. Why does the Royal Navy need 32 Admirals if there are only 10 warships? Should probably only have one or two Admirals at best.

Mine countermeasures are not glamorous, but they are a vital capability. Autonomous systems surely will need some kind of mothership to deploy and don’t see how using a frigate for this role would save anything in the long term as opposed to having a smaller dedicated ship.

Ayodele Akinnawonu

Most officers at field grade or higher are staff officers. A commanding officer can easily have a dozen staff officers to assist them. The more complex the organization, the more staff is needed. For comparison, the US Navy has 4x as many ships and nearly 300 admirals, about 0.95 ships per flag officer.


Perhaps a reason why the US Navy is in similar long term decline to the Royal Navy.

There’s no need for an Admiral to be a staff officer and have little or no command responsibility.


Not sure where you got your numbers from. Struggling to think of more than a dozen admirals ATM. There will be more, but not many more (NATO posts and Medical roles), particularly after the RN internal reorganization of the last couple of years. As for ten ships, care to present your working?


Navy List.
RN has 2 Admirals , 6 Vice Admirals, roughly 20 Rear Admirals ( some are coming in others going out)
USN has Rear Admirals ( lower half) or Equivalent to RN Commodores , which there is 70 !
Plus 4 in the Medical branches, 2 Barrister Commodores
Lets say a round number of 100 of so called flag rank, with say 30 as an Admiral of some kind.

Last edited 3 years ago by Duker

Quite a few lurking in DNO, SDA and DE&S. Hadn’t realised there were so many left!


You could cut back on the Gold Strips, but you would need to up the pay in the lower ranks. Makes a job one filled by an admiral make it a job that pays a certain amount. If you want to have high quality people running the armed forces you need to pay the right money.

Trevor H

This is the point…. it does not matter what you call them … assuming they have a job to do. If there is no job they leave the service, otherwise there is nowhere for upcoming officers to go.
I’m guessing there are a lot of retired Majors because there is nowhere for them to go once they fail to make it to colonel.

Trevor H

Number of Admirals is a red herring.

Commonwealth Loyalist

Another good article, thanks and congrats.

The current defense review is at least a slight change from the immediate past ones in suggesting less severe cuts but still cuts, to prepare for the next war that they don’t really believe might happen (don;t worry, it will).

But with Brexit (which I happen to support) the UK will find it harder to “punch above its weight” in military influence, and should really be looking at doubling its defense budget, which it can easily afford, rather than the negligible increases around the edges currently contemplated.

It is great that we will now have carriers again, but so will a lot of others including China and India,. But if it keeps its head in the sand as it seems determined to do, the UK will be soon embarrassingly outclassed even by much smaller loyal allies like Australia and Canada, at least in “escort ships” that are now called frigates and destroyers but don’t have anyting to escort and are really cruisers.

Anyhow, as a long time follower of this blog, I think you are doing a great job and it is sad that UK (although not as bad as my home country of NZ in abandoning its responsibilities, hoping that someone (the USA is the only real option) would come to their aid if anything happened, still does not realize the need for a better military..

Indeed the present UK strategy of sending a nascent and pathetically underfunded and unprotected carrier battle group to China reminds me of the British arrogance in thinking that sending Prince of Wales and Repulse would get the “foreigners” to back down.

Dream on. .



I agree the carrier group trip to the Pacific has worrying echoes of 1941. I can’t imagine why UK gov thinks anyone will be impressed by a single carrier with a handful of aircraft,half of them borrowed and all still awaiting block4 upgrade and full weapon integration.
This isn’t 1941 and there is no good reason for a European power like UK to have a presence in the Far East. Even if UK doubled its defence budget, it would only amount to a sixth of the US, and still probably too small to fund global capabilities.
Your comparison with Canada and Australia has been echoed by others. It actually reflects the change in the relative GDP and population since WW2. Canada is on both measures around 60% of UK. In 1940 it was 25%.
What the defence review has failed to do is set out priorities to allow the development of forces capable of doing the necessary tasks. What are the real threats to UK and its near neighbours?
This failure has led to an over emphasis on the RN whilst the army and RAF are becoming little more than token forces.
I would like to see a permanent uplift in the defence budget but it isn’t a vote winner so
won’t happen.

Trevor H

What is the population of Canada now. What was it in 1940?
1940 = 11.5 million. 2021 = 33.5 million. 3 times. Has the UK population increased 3 times?

Canada his announced a large increase in its fleet because it had ignored it for too long.


Canada won’t be increasing its fleet anytime soon. What is being delivered now are Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships that are almost exclusively constabulary. They are good jackknife ships, but they are not combatants. The RCN will almost certainly lose all its (ex-UK) submarines in the next 15 years or so – no replacements are in the pipeline. Type 26 won’t start entering RCN service until the early 2030s.Yes, Type 26 will eventually update the surface fleet, but there is no substantial increase – at least not in combatant ships. It’s the Australians who are engaged in a buildup.

John Fedup

Yes, the RCN capability will barely keep pace with what we currently have. When it comes to defence cluster &ucks, Canada is second to no country. I very much doubt 15 CSC ships will be built. One of our submarines, Corner Brook, had its main ballast tank damaged by a contractor performing a pressure test. It will not be suitable for real world operations IMO. There is no money for a new sub replacement program and the RCN will lose this capability, likely forever. The Upholders were purchased to keep the RCN’s skill set alive, new boats should have been bought instead.

Meirion X

Talking Cobblers again!

The UK as a UNSC(P) member, is taking it’s responsibilities in that role seriously again, to contribute to security reassurance in the Far East.

Most countries in the world, Neither match the USA for military power!

We have just seen what a blockage of a major waterway in an other region of the word can have on the

Canada is Not neither 60% of UK population! It is abour 55%.

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

I see that your arithmetic is as bad as your English. To anyone of normal intelligence, the word ” about” would indicate that approximations are being used. Canada now has 60% of UK population and GDP. The simple point I made was in reply to the comment about falling behind Canada.
The broader point is that Britain’ s share of world population, trade and GDP has been falling for decades (as has for example France’s). This has the inevitable consequence that our relative ability to pay for defence has also fallen. That is why we face continuous problems funding even what most of us on this site think are forces that already too small.

Meirion X

Here we go again!
And another Cobblers reply!

Every time you lose an argument, You resort to insults and belittlment!
This proves you are nothing more then just a teenager!
You are a spoilt brat and, Tw@*!!

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

It’s ” belittlement” and “more than”.
I don’t believe I have made an argument, rather a properly informed comment.
Your post,however,shows why every reader of this site should ignore everything you attempt to write.

Trevor H

We are not at war. This is not 1941.

We are going to go to other places than ‘China’. I’m guessing we will have ‘exercises’ with various allies on the way and in the east… not least Australia. Just traversing the South China Sea should not be contentious and these things should be routine.

Andy a

Spending simalar to usa on defence would be great but will never sell to vast chunk of woke snowflakes that are weakening the west


Even Thatcher put Nott in office to cut defence expenditure, same goes for the 1957 defence review and every review since.
Your woke argument doesnt match up unless Maggie was one
It was 10% of GDP in 57, and was 5% in 82, its much lower than 2% because they count £7 bill of depreciation as ‘spending’ . The nuclear organisation of reactors and weapons accounts for another £5 bill out of the total of £44 bill ( or so)


I think you are missing the point a little bit John. The Carrier Group is not going to war so the comparison with 1941 is moot. The SCS trip has 3 purposes. Firstly as a proof of concept, that the UK can globally deploy a CSG. Secondly to operate with allies across the World (such as NZ for instance while over there) and finally, to exercise freedom of navigation through the CSC to keep shipping lanes open in the face of attempts by China to claim it is as all theirs to control. The CSG will not be fully operational when it does this and while China will posture during that (short) part of the deployment, it won’t declare war.


50% tonnage increase doesn’t mean allot to be fair. We don’t nearly have enough Ships for a country of our standing.


The MHC-hull part of MCMV replacement was banned. In place, 5 T32 frigates are born. Can this mean, T32 itself is the evolution of the MHC-hull?

Looking back the Venetor-90 concept, it was a MCM-USVs delivery vessel, armed as much as T31 is designed to be (a 57mm gun and 12 CAMM).

If, only if, T32 is considered as such, I can imagine it will be more heavily oriented to USV delivery (compared to T31), with armaments similar to T31. This “hypothetical T32” can be used to deploy

  • 4 MCM-USVs (to replace 12 MCMVs with 5 T32s),
  • or 4 ASW-USV/UUVs for (littoral) ASW taskings,
  • or even 4 CB90-like assault craft or even LCVPs for Littoral Response Group

added with a 57mm gun, 12 CAMM, and a helicopter hanger (for both Wildcat and UAVs). For efficient delivery of these USVs, I can even imagine a small well-dock to be added. In this case, the hull will be newly designed one, not Arrowhead140 derivative, good to improve/maintain UK ship designing skills.

Just a thought, but looking forward for the “T32 request for information (RFI)” to come a few years later… I remember T31 RFI was a very informative document, from which T31 design reasoning can be understood.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

If we are building a 5000 ton hull we need to build an escort not a mothership. You want deck space for guns, VLS, sensors, and flightdecks not davits……..You want a slim hull to keep up with task groups not a fat one to accommodate ‘boats’.
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1: On the hull shape:
Looking at T31eRFI, speed requirement was >24 knots. If T32 requires the same, the hull can be a bit more fat than T31, but a bit smarter than Dutch-Belguim MCMV.

Armament requirement in T31RFI is exactly as we see on T31. So, if with similar level, no big deck space nor weight is needed. Maybe something like CrossOver may work.

2: Proposal on well-dock:
Problem is USV’s handling. As the boat is unmanned, putting the shackle to recover the USV is not easy. I guess this is the reason Dutch-Belguim MCMV is adopting a basket-shaped davit for USV handling.

If there is a small well-dock, USV handling will be much more easy. Considering the possible future “growth” of USV technologies, and as I propose variety of tasks there, how about a small well-dock with a gantry? Similar to those onboard Italian San Giorgio class? This is my proposal… Just a though.

If 1+2 mixed, my proposal will end-up as a CrossOver-like ship added with San Giorgio-like well-dock (or even smaller one). Can it make a new trend in new-generation “general purpose frigate”, also to be exported well?

# If anything “more fighty than T31” is needed, I think uparming the T31 itself will be the best answer. T31 is much more an escort hull with plenty of vacant space, while inferior in many sense as a USV mother ship (compared to T26 and River B2).

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

It’s not an escort then is it? The only thing we know about this thing is T32.

An escort is an escort. A specialist ship is a specialist ship.


There have been Thousands of comments regarding the T32, in lots of places all over the Internet. We actually know nothing at all about it and I find it quite funny to see all the experts giving their take on it. Can we just hold back a bit, at least until something is actually published ?


Yes. Same as the 83.


Exactly. It has been given a Type number and that says ‘escort’ and that is all we know. Though I remember the days when only frigates got Type numbers……..


Yes. I am bound to say I think the word ‘Escort’ is a bit of a misnomer. Maybe we need to reasign original names or create new ones.


Why? I mean yes we used to have guard ships where a ship would patrol independently. But the reason why we build these ships is to escort something else. Be it a task group or a convoy of merchantman. Even a group of escorts in a hunt group really is just escorting. And typing our ‘frigates and destroyers’ is tiresome.


T32 is officially said to be a mothership for USVs, but also named as a frigate. My proposal is just combining the two.

“Small well dock” (say, 18×6 m) on a 5000-6000 t hull does not make it a “MCM specialist”. Even T26, a specialist escort, has a large mission bay with large crane, capable of carrying three (or four) 11-m class USVs (although its launch/recovery system is not clear how useful for USVs). The small well-dock with a gantry is not much different in size to it, but just differs in its location.

I think the Defence Command Paper clearly states there will be NO “specialist” MCM drone mothership in future. Rather, MCM-USVs will use Bay-class LSD (officially stated), and other assets to deploy. I just considered that T32 be one of those assets.

Anyway, USV/UUV deployment is not only for MCM, but for ASW, patrol, fast-boat swarm countermeasure, RM raiding, and others, when we think about 20-30 years future. A ship armed with a 57 mm gun, ~12 CAMM, a helicopter, and a modest-sized (similar to T26’s mission bay) USV/UUV mothership asset, can surely be called a frigate.

Too much speculation I agree. But, UK shipbuilding industry needs design experience (or it will be lost quickly, especially if T83 were to be a modified T26). As such, I am just proposing a “newly designed T32” (not T32-batch 2) candidate/idea…

Meirion X

Large UUV’s are going to need a stren
door to deploy, if they become 200+ ton vessels.


Yes. Exactly.


Every one has changed over the ‘fat hulls’ now
Type 22 was 14.8m beam
Type 26 is 20.8m

USN Ticonderoga class cruiser was 16.8m
Arleigh Burke class is 20.8m and thats was from 1990, would be even wider if a new type designed as new FFG is 19.8m


Two different things.

That MCM ship above has a length to beam ratio of 4 to 1.

A Type 45 has a length to beam ratio of about 7 to 1.

A Leander has a length to beam of about 9 to 1.

You can’t quote beam without length.

The MCM is a specialist ship. The T45 an escort. I see that Leander at about 2500 tons is closer to T45. And the latter is a much bigger ship built around getting SAMPSON high.

The former has upperworks designed around operating and maintaining drones.
The latter has upperworkds designed around lofting sensors, VLS, weapons arcs, and lastly providing a flight deck.

You argument is akin to saying motorbikes run on the size of tyre and he is your proof this car runs on this size of tyre. You are saying looking at tank while pointing at a SPG……..



But, the “MCM mother ship asset” located onboard the 2000t small hull, can be also accommodated on a 6000t “7:1” hull, easily.

Yes it is different from the classical escort hull-design drivers, but T45/T26 now has a Chinook capable flight deck, and T26 even has a large mission bay, both are out of the scope of the “classical escort hull-design drivers”.

Furthermore, a 29knot 6000t T31 being 7:1 means, if T32 were to be >24 knot 6000t ship, “6:1” will be easy.

# I agree too much speculative, but I do think this concept ALSO well fits in the “T32” official information available to date.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

Are you saying we could build a 6000 tonne mothership or a 6000 tonne frigate could carry large drones?


Both. Damen Crossover, the largest one, is a 5600t design.


Note I am NOT talking about 25-30m 200t large drones. Just 12 m MCM USVs and its “2nd generation” which I think will be 16-18m long or so.

Space needed for adding a smallish well-dock, and a hangar to handle (in total) four 12m-class USV, is SMALLER than the muti-purpose deck now proposed for the Crossover design. If you see the PDF of Damen, among the two large sections below the flight deck, only the half located astern will be needed (large cargo deck is NOT good for damage control = important for a frigate).

Of course, adding a well-dock is a big change, even if it is small. So the proposed T32 will be a ship different from Corssover. But, as a reference for size, speed, and armaments, it helps.

I hope what I’m saying is clearer now. Very different from Dutch-Belguim MCMV. Much more an enlarged Venator-90 and/or Crossover.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

So you are talking about a specialist ship in a support role not an escort.

Why do you think these things will be SMALLER?


?? I am talking about adding a USV support gear on an escort. Pretty much as T26 did with its mission bay. No difference, just location differs. Another example is Absalon (now named an ASW frigate) evolving into Iver huitfeld class frigate (an AAW frigate). If T31 is an escort, Crossover-like ship with added separation is an escort.

What do you mean by SMALLER? T26 mission bay is larger than Dutch-Belguim MCMV’s USV-carriage space, I understand?

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

T26 did? Are you from the future?

So yet again we are going to go over who is going to do the escorts job while it is sitting playing ‘mine sweeper’………..It will be decades before these drones are intelligent enough to work as you think they work now. And when that point is reached we won’t need ships as we know them. So we are going to have 8 frigates and 1 of them will be used for something else. If the carriers are to be supported to a decent level plus having an ASW asset there won’t be a spare T26. We are building new escorts because we need escorts. Again it is just that ‘it is a ship we still stick stuff on it’ approach touted here time and time again. What if I said lets scrap all the Typhoons and other planes the RAF has and let us just buy C130? They have wings. They fly. They have wings to hang stuff off. They have a big mission space…….

Abaslon is now a frigate because the Danes have decided that they lack escorts. And their niche role as transports was perhaps a little too niche. It is rather amazing when you visit an Absalon and there is all this volume inside them where in other similar sized ships there would be more ‘stuff’. But it isn’t a large space far from it.


Thanks. Reading your comment, I think it looks like my proposal is misunderstood.

Official information says:
1: There will be no specialist MCM USV mother ship.
2: T32 is a frigate and will be a drone/USV mother ship.
3: In the Gulf, a Bay LSD will be used for MCM USV mother ship role.

T32 being a drone/USV mother ship does NOT mean it will be a specialist MCM USV mothership.

UK is investing hard on Patrol USV, and has a plan of ASW USV/UUV, still under study. So, MCM USV is only “one of the USVs to come”.

99% of the MCM tasks are in peacetime, so using an escort for its role is pointless, I totally agree. They will use Bay (Gulf) or operated from land (these two were officially noted). Or, they can use chartered PSV, or even a River B2 (my guess).

Also, T26’s mission bay is officially said to be designed to carry USVs in future, but it is NOT limited to “MCM”-USVs.

The T32 added with a USV mothership facility will never be a MCM specialist vessel, because it is an escort. But, anyway in future, some of the escort taskings will be supported by, or even require USVs. So, having an escort with “good USV/UUV support gear” is reasonable, and T32 is said to be proposed as such (although we need to wait till T32RFI for its detail).

My T32 proposal with a small well-dock will be good at
A: deploying patrol USVs (or a sentry USV), to counter fast boat swarm or terrorist suicide attack
B: deploying ASW USV/UUVs (at least for shallow water ASW) for ASW tasks
C: deploying raid forces of Royal Marine, with assault boats,
D: deploying aid-kits for HADR tasks, even LCVPs.
E: and deploying MCM USVs in warzone.

Task-A will be good at singleton patrol tasks for T32, or even the choke point passage of CVTF or LRG. Task-B will be the same, when SSK threat is there, and P-8, ASW-Merlin, or T23ASW/T26 is not enough. Similarly, I suppose MCM UVs will be used in the choke point passage of CVTF or LRG, when mine threat exists.

Not all USV is for MCM. There is, and will be, many types/tasks for them, especially in 2030s, when T32 comes in.

Last edited 3 years ago by donald_of_tokyo

T32 isn’t an escort then but a specialist support ship. It isn’t my problem MoD(N) doesn’t understand their own nomenclature.


Not sure. T26 mission bay can carry upto 4 ARCIMS MCM USVs.
(e.g. Italian PPA can handle similar number of boats.

If they are escorts, my proposed T32 is an escort (because the well-dock+bay is as small as those onboard T26, just its location differs). If my proposed T32 is NOT an escort, how can you define T26 and PPA as an escort? At least they call them a frigate.

Anyway, just one possibility.


[add] If there be a USV specialist support ship, it will be more like mini-Bay LSD. No need for armaments other than CIWS or alike (to reduce cost and crew size, as well as top weight), no need for 25+ knot speed (avoid expensive propulsion), and be happy with RFA-level damage control (reduced crew size). Much more efficient and cheap, so UK can operate 3 of them with the cost of an escort-like USV support ship.


I have no problem with what you are saying re support of drones. Just the designation of the hull.

Glass Half Full

Thanks for the interesting series of posts on a potential T32 solution. Your proposal, that I agree with, is that escorts are becoming multi-role vessels, just as most air forces have been moving away from fixed role aircraft to wider multi-role capabilities. I hadn’t considered incorporating a small well deck, an interesting idea.


This is fair comments. But do not well decks mean the design of the ship makes them inherently slower. Great if thats OK, but can their speed operate with a carrier. I appreciate a carrier does not have to go like the clappers all the time…

Glass Half Full

You might want to ask Donald since its his idea? However, his proposal is probably for a relatively narrow well deck, perhaps not much wider than a RM LCVP, so say 5-6 metres width, that might avoid compromising hull design for 26+kn max speed.

Or the well deck might be avoided by just using a ramp, as his Crossover example does, depending on how large some UXVs are expected to become.


Thanks. An ~8 m wide small well dock on a 6000t escort will be doable with 25 knots (not sure 30 knots). Chinese T071 LSD has a 25 knots top speed with 17+m wide large dock (although also with large 25,000 t hull).

Ramp is OK, but how to recover USV in high seas WITHOUT a crew onboard the USV is the key. I understand currently a manned boats can be handled upto seastate-5 with modern davit, combined with good shackle.

On the ramp (and for davits), we need some sophisticated systems as

and my point is, a small well-dock may be an attractive solution, because (different from these ramp-based boat handling gears) it can handle variety of boat hull design.

Glass Half Full

Unmanned (and perhaps also manned) recovery does seem to be a challenge in high sea states. If using a ramp or well deck, then those high sea states also seem likely to present a challenge in recovering a boat/UXV without sustaining damage through hard impact with the ship. Perhaps Rolls Royce already have this solved with their mission bay handling system?

It seems a safer and more flexible approach than ramp or well deck might be to use something that locks a lift system/cable to the boat/UXV, similar to the way a helicopter locks to the deck using a harpoon recovery system. Then use a similar cradle to the Rolls-Royce mission bay handling system to manage the boat attitude. During this process the boat/UXV is kept well away from the ship’s hull to avoid impact. Recovery and launch might then also be possible at relatively high speeds too.



Re Absalon class. I don’t know why calling it a frigate worries you. Other than the fact it can only do 24 knots, it has pretty standard frigate armament (way better than T31), including 127mm main gun, 36 ESSM, 2 x 35mm CIWS, MU90 torpedoes, 8 AShM, quality radars, hull sonar & now towed sonars & ASW helicopter to be fitted. It is still faster than most commercial traffic (& a fair swath of naval traffic) that it may be called upon to escort. Shift all that to T31 & everyone would stop complaining about it being an oversized OPV.


My Honda Grom has very small diameter wheels but big cross section…… Just sayin.




dick waving moron as usual, just saying

Geoffrey Hicking

Be nice.


In ww2 ‘escorts’ included battleships. And cruisers. I would suggest that ‘escorts’ were mainly for better and sloops who ‘escorted’ convoys. Of course some convoys were troopships and transports. Destroyers were really very small.

What we today call escorts are of cruiser size and are getting bigger. They are cruiser size because they have an independent role not simply protecting aircraft carriers.

When the RN did not have carriers they did not have ‘escorts’ they had nothing to escort. Their ships were ‘cruisers’.
T31s will not as I see it be escorts. They will be independent cruisers. T32s… well, we don’t really seem to know what their role is… But I wish that once they’ve been specified, I’d like them to be given a proper classification.

Now the T26 and the T45, and the future T83, well they COULD be classed as escorts since, like the BBs of WW2, they escort carriers… but in reality as they get ever bigger they are the modern equivalent of BBs. Is it really right to call them frigates and destroyers?


Battleships and cruisers were HVU so they were being escorted too.

Back in the day destroyers were ‘fleet’ escort due to their speed. Convoys of merchantmen were escorted by corvettes, sloops, and frigates which were ‘lower’ speed hull.

In the RN ASW escorts are frigates and AAW escorts are destroyers. Size has nothing to do with the designation. The USN does delineate on size. But this isn’t the US. Why a number here can’t get grasp that I do not know. It seems very simple. We could also say that at one time only frigates got a Type number and destroyers and above had class names. But this has lapsed somewhat.

T31 would be better described as a sloop just as the Tribals were first categorised as such. Basically a ‘gun boat’. Not a cruiser. It is odd how some here choose to pick one system of nomenclature when it suits and then reject that system when it doesn’t. FWIW in the sail navy any detached ship undertaking a tasking was a cruiser. But we are not in the age of sail.

Your last paragraph is just rhubarb.

Do you ever read up on any of this stuff?


You have an opinion I have mine. BBs escorted carriers because of their AA gunfire. The RN never escorted anything after the ‘through deck cruisers’ went out of service.

Ships sometimes escort. Sometimes they act as consorts. Sometimes they cruise independently.
So called frigates are now three times the size, and more, that they used to be and Destroyers don’t destroy anything, and can be 4 times the size.


I have facts. You just make stuff up.

Geoffrey Hicking

I think you have a point regarding BBs, as the Type 83 will be escorted by frigates, will have good AA facilities, is meant to escort the carriers, and might have some substantial surface to surface capabilities (even if it’s “just” missile armed UAVs). Nothing wrong with it being a destroyer given its role, but nothing wrong with cruiser (or battleship, flag facilities and staff depending) either.

In the end it comes down to military dogma and culture, and that can change with the times.


With the Royal Marines moving to a forward deployed role based around two littoral strike groups, what equipment would be useful to fulfill this vision.
Intially one of the Bays is being modified to become a littoral strike ship. Down the road this will/maybe replaced with a purpose built littoral strike ship/s.
Striking at speed and range would be a key enabler to this, allowing ships to stand of at greater distance and hence also react quicker. To this end I believe the Valour 280 should be on the RM wishlist. Its speed and range would also play a crucial role in recovering downed F35 pilots.


Some commentators on the F-35 buy rate seem to not understand commercial realities. Until “Block 4” is sorted it makes no commercial sense to “commit” to big buys of F-35 for obvious reasons (remediation expenses). The UK is a “smart” buyer in this respect. So why do pundits keep banging on about this like amateur armchair admirals.