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Richard

If the Tories want to stay in power they need to start acting like the party of defence. Cuts to Devonport will lead to Tory demise in SW and therefore loss of power…political suicide.

Challenger

Were the decision purely based on the capacity required then the ever shrinking Royal Navy would clearly result in Devonport being closed like a shot! I agree though that the SSN refit and decommissioning facilities as well as things like FOST make a complete closure very difficult and therefore unlikely. It doesn’t prevent the possibility of further reductions to real-estate and other functions though. A drastic decision would be to relocate all remaining active warships to Portsmouth and keep Devonport as a smaller training and maintenance site.
If cuts have to fall then i would sadly rather see 2-3 Type 23’s flogged off instead of losing Albion and Bulwark. Yes this would still be terrible (i mean the RN should have 24+ frigates/destroyers to do it’s job properly) but 1 Type 23 is already tied up for lack of manpower and given the choice i’d rather withdraw from a single standing commitment as apposed to getting out of the amphibious game….. which despite all of the guff the MoD has and will say is what selling LPD’s off essentially means.
Of course the only long-term solution to address the endless rounds of cuts is to have a government composed of individuals who actually care about this country and it’s future integrity and prosperity instead of the traitorous, self-interested swines we see today.

A.J.Wilde

In order to boost recruitment, retain a highly skilled and undervalued workforce, and raise the morale of the Royal Navy it is seen as a good idea to base ALL submariners in Scotland, anyone who is involved with helicopters can stay in the West Country, whilst anyone still serving on one of those grey things can sit on Southsea Common and watch them being towed away for disposal over the next few years!!!

CUNNINGHAM

“Labour party still supports the renewal of Trident but if Jeremy Corbyn, a former chairman of CND, ever became Prime Minister, the deterrent’s days would probably be numbered.”
That doesn’t make any sense at all, what would being prime minister change? You do realise we have a parliamentary democracy not a dictatorship, Jeremy Corbyn if prime minister can’t just click his fingers and get rid of trident. If you knew as much about our political system as you do our Navy maybe you wouldn’t be so naive, bombing Syria and tax credit cuts are just recent examples of even when a majority of the government want something, it’s sometimes still not enough to pass through parliament. So how you think getting rid of our nuclear deterrent which was voted on and won by 472 to 117, by just one MPs views, even if he was prime minister, is just plain wrong and I’ll informed.
Other than your Tory colours shining through yet again Jack, it was a well informed and helpful article of the current situation.

NavyLookout

SRN is politically neutral and you will find lots of criticism of the Tories and their defence cuts throughout this site. There are plenty of sensible Labour MPs (such as Luke Pollard) but unfortunately, the shadow cabinet is a clique of anti-nuclear quasi-marxists. It is a disaster that the opposition do not provide a credible alternative to the current shambolic Tory administration. If you think that Thornberry, Abbot, Macdonald and Corbyn would be good for the navy and the security of the country you are mistaken.

Adrian

Well, if you think that May, Johnson, Leadsom, Gove et al are in any way “good for the navy and the security of the country” you are just as mistaken. This really is not a party political issue at all – the Conservatives do not care about defence any more than Labour do. All parties have overseen and supported the running-down of the defence budget and assets over the past thirty years.

Tetora

If you’re politically neutral then why retweet this: https://twitter.com/JBickertonUK/status/928341590078382080
I mean, it has nothing to do with defence or current affairs, it seems like you just wanted to attack him for the sake of it.

CUNNINGHAM

You are not politically neutral Jack, your articles here and your twitter feed proves that.
Once again and not for the first time you fail to debate or answer the point in question and instead just launch an attack with no context or evidence, that’s the Tory in you 👍

Lord Curzon

Devonport has been on the road to decline for years. It is inevitable that we will end up with very little naval activity and a maintenance yard; that is all.

Ted

The petition mentioned https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/202588 now has over 20,000 signatures, I just wish it was against any further cuts to the Royal Navy at all, I would urge everyone to write to their MP and protest against any further cuts to the Royal Navy and for the Government to divert funds from the bloated overseas aid budget to Defence. The RN will be totally vital to a post Brexit, global trading Britain, just as it has always been.

XYZ

Possible the operational part of the Navy will centralise in Portsmouth with the industrial side of Devonport staying open. A possible threat in the long term is if nuclear maintenance was to go to Barrow after the SSBN to keep it going as the sole sub build and support facility.

Gille

By any metric HMNB Devonport is not the largest dockyard in western Europe. Toulon (France) is:
2.68 km2 (vs 2.6 km2)
10 km waterfront (vs 6 km)
12000 service personnel (vs 2500)

Rick

When the government needs cash it has almost become fashionable for politicians to cut the Royal Navy.
Successive British governments since WWII have hollowed out the RN in order to distribute welfare benefits for every possible contingency without any investigation on what it does to people’s behaviour. There are still far too many malingerers in this country that the rest of us have to pay for. If everyone pulled there weight, the
government would be able to provide a well balanced Navy instead of constantly cutting capabilities and putting the country at risk.

Adrian Palmer

What a sweeping statement. Government cuts span all departments to fund tax cuts. How many benefit claimants do you know who are living the life of Riley?
You’ve just swallowed the simplistic soundbites the right-wing popular press spout.

Ted

My latest post on minds.com
Saving the Royal Navy from Theresa May
By ID
#GreatBritain #RoyalNavy #UK #RN
Britain is, and has been for centuries now, a Island nation that cannot feed itself from its own agriculture and fishing and that depends almost totally on overseas trade for domestic wealth generation for the health, wealth and world influence of the nation. A strong and capable Navy is not a option for Great Britain, it is a essential for survival as a Nation State.
In 1939 the Royal Navy was still the worlds largest Navy and in 1945 it was still the worlds second largest Navy. Without the Royal Navy, despite the undoubted bravery and skill of RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain in 1940, Germany might well have tried a invasion and might have succeeded in defeating Britain. It was the the Royal Navy, hugely more powerful than the German Navy (especially after the heavy losses, the RN, aided by the Norwegians, inflicted on the German Navy during their invasion of Norway) that, overwhelmingly, scared Hitler and the German High Command away from actually launching the Sealion invasion. The German Navy simply did not have enough warships to defend a German invasion force and, more importantly, its cross channel supply lines, in the face of a all out RN attack.
Churchill said the only thing that kept him awake at night in WWII was the battle of the Atlantic, where the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy (and later the USN) fought a battle lasting years against German U-boats, surface ships and aircraft, to fight through to Britain vital supplies of food, war supplies and eventually troops that kept Britain in the war and made the D Day invasion of Normandy by British, American and Canadian troops possible.
It was overwhelmingly the Royal Navy that saved the British and allied Armies in Norway and at Dunkirk. It was only the Royal Navy, with vital support from the Royal Australian Navy, that saved the British and Commonwealth Army in Greece and Crete. It was mostly the Royal Navy with help from the Commonwealth Navies that defeated the Italian Navy and, later, with the USN, that kept open the supply lines for the allies and closed those for the Germans and Italians in the Mediterranean, making the victory of el Alamein, possible, followed by the US-British Torch landings, the invasion of Sicily and then Italy. The Royal Navy provided the majority of the Naval Forces for D Day in 1944.
It was the Royal Navy, alongside her sister Commonwealth Naval forces, that provided a powerful Task Force, including up to six Aircraft Carriers, off the coast of Japan to fight alongside the USN in 1945. This great naval power, above all, allowed Great Britain to survive WWII undefeated. Without a powerful and skilled RN Britain would have lost WWII without a single doubt.
After WWII the RN was cut and cut again by British Governments mostly, but not always, of a socialist/Labour stamp. Gradually the RN became a mostly anti submarine force with a fairly strong Amphibious landing capacity (including a elite Royal Marine Commando Brigade of three major units) and a limited Aircraft Carrier force.
In 1982 the Thatcher Conservative Government was again looking to cut the Royal Navy. important and powerful warships were, once again being openly talked of as being up for being cut and sold overseas. Argentina looked at these clear signals of Britain being unwilling to defend her territory and position in the world and invaded the British Falkland Islands (with their totally British population).
The Admiral who was the Professional head of the Royal Navy, in full uniform, marched in to see Mrs Thatcher and told her the Royal Navy could, and should, sail south and liberate the British islands. Mrs Thatcher was impressed and told him to get the warships ready.
At the time Britain had one medium sized and one small Aircraft Carrier, with two more small Aircraft Carriers building, two major and five smaller amphibious ships, about 60 Frigates and Destroyers and around 15 attack submarines, most of them nuclear. With the aid of merchant ships, the British Army and the RAF, the Royal Navy Task Force succeeded brilliantly. Defeating the Argentine forces totally at sea, on land and in the air and liberating the British Islands.British prestige soared around the world.
Today, in 2017, the Royal Navy has just one large aircraft carrier (some way from being in commission) with one more building, three major amphibious ships (with the largest one due to be sold off next year) a mere 19 Destroyers and Frigates (when everyone and his dog knows the the Royal Navy needs, at least, 25 such warships) and about 7 nuclear attack submarines. The vital British Royal Navy has never, ever, been smaller and weaker than it is today, not in well over 500 years.
Yet Theresa May, much, much , more of a authoritarian globalist than she is a actual Conservative, seems to want to scrap all the Royal Navy Amphibious warships, about half the elite Royal Marines Commandos and some of the few remaining Royal Navy major surface escorts as well!
More than 95% of world trade, including totally vital to the UK food imports travel by sea in ships. To a post Brexit, global trading, Great Britain the Royal Navy will be more vital than ever. Don’t let Theresa May destroy it in the short time she has left before she is replaced by a real Conservative, pro British, pro Brexit, Prime Minister. If Defence needs more money take it from the bloated Overseas Aid budget.
Write to your MP and protest against ANY further cuts to a Royal Navy that is already too small. Also sign the petition below. Britain needs a strong Royal Navy just to survive.
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/202588

Rick

The politicians think they can get away with a small Navy because U.S. power will defend Britain. If something
happens and this calculation turns out to be erroneous we are in big trouble.

Otto

Dream on…

Thames Cruiser

I enjoyed reading this well-informed and quite well-balanced article. Thank you SRN.
However, as others have noted below, you also make several political points. Whilst I would agree that cuts to Defense capabilities, assets and infrastructure are indeed influenced by political as well as economic factors, I really think that some the political points made appear more like ‘personal views’ and only serve to undermine the otherwise strong points made in the article.
On a wider note, whilst SRN does publish many excellent articles and commentary, I do feel that the authors should append their names to such articles and not hide behind the anonymity and pseudo authority of a publication name.

XYZ

Work also needed to be found to keep Rosyth going. That is unless one of the southern yards invests in a QE class sized dry dock. This work could come from RFA tankers and Bays but that would have risk the viability of A and P / Cammell Laired. No easy choices as we have to much dock yard capacity for the size of the Navy/RFA.

Iqbal Ahmed

The RN will have to make sacrifices like other government departments. There can be no exceptionalism for the MOD, while every other department argues it’s corner. We can only hope that the cuts don’t impact operability too drastically.
I can live with the loss of amphibious capabilities because there is no conceivable conflict where Britain would expect to deploy troops into a warzone without NATO support. The Falklands and Gibraltar are secure and we would be committing national suicide if we engaged a power like China or Russia on our lonesome.
Ultimately, the level of our armed forces needs to be carefully calibrated to be attuned to the level of foreign commitments the British people wish to be involved in.

Rick

“I can live with the loss of amphibious capabilities”
“We can only only hope that the cuts don’t impact operability”
Mr. Ahmed your contradicting yourself. Cutting the amphibious squadron is a huge loss of capability.
They won’t be satisfied until they turn Britain into a fourth rate power on a par with Belgium!

Dern

“[…] without NATO support.” It’s worth remembering that the UK is one of the few NATO countries with a credible Amphibious capability. If we take the old addage (probably meaningless to you) of “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and apply it to NATO we need to not have the answer to every defence problem be “well NATO can help with that.” We need to think what we can bring to NATO that other people don’t do.
As far as I can tell there are three things that we do that other NATO countries don’t do (or at least we do better than the rest of NATO):
Airlift
Amphibious Assault
and hopefully soon Carrier Airpower.
Really what we should be looking at (if we where serious about inter-operability) is expanding the Amphibious niche that we have in the Alliance. There are a lot of fairly cost effective ways of doing this (though there are issues with all ideas). Probably the most sensible would be to make the Army “Amphibious.” This isn’t hugely farfetched, there have been some experimental exercises with armoured units participating in beach assaults (seecomment image ). The problem is of course if you can suddenly land say 20th Armoured Infantry on a beach and exploit that… why do you need the RMC? So of course there will be pushback from the Navy and Marines against such an idea.
You could also mechanise the 3 Cmdo Brigade (I can already hear the hiss as every marine gasps for breath between gritted teeth). Turning 3 Cmdo into a Strike Brigade would vastly increase it’s utility in land warfare, safeguard it’s continued existence, the amphibious role would fit with the strike “self deploy over long distances” role, and save the army potentially the pain of taking one of it’s armoured brigades apart.

The Ginge

Dear Dearn
The answer is clear. All you do is move the RM in to the Army. You create a “Strike” brigade consisting of 16 Air Assault (2 & 3 Para and Ghurka Infantry), 3 Commando, 7th Infantry Brigade. the RN retains 43 Commando as Nuclear Protection Based in Scotland and Ship boarding other Ship duties based in Plymouth.
The RM transferring to this Response Division would take the Armoured Support Group and be a swing role Strike Brigade/light infantry/helicopter assault force and transfer to an amphibious 8×8 (as being purchased by US Marine Corp) in the late 2020’s as Viking will do for now.
All assets from 1st UK Div in logistics and Artilery Signals Etc transfers and 7th Infantry Brigade are mounted on Mastiff to transfer to 8×8 MIV as and when with the purchase of 360 8×8’s (preferably of a Amphibious type). This Reaction Brigade works with RN to provide 2 Brigades mounted on Armour with artillery and Direct Gun Support (120mm smooth bore) plus a Brigade of Air Assault light infantry launched from Carriers or mounted on Fox Hound (Air Portable by Chinook).
The Reaction Brigade has permanently attached all Lynx (Army Versions converted to light Gunship/Missile Attack Helicopter for Marine Environment) plus Merlins, plus Puma Replacement in “Marine Version” of numerous Mid Size Helicopter replacements by 2030, plus 2 squadrons of Apache.
The idea is that you end up with a coherent Division sized force that provides
1. Air Assault.
2. Amphibious Capability.
3. Medium Armour Ability.
4. Air Field and Force Protection Duties
It would also gain 3 Light Cav Regiments mounted on Jackal to provide extra gun support to 16 Air Assault and 7th Infantry Brigades, plus provide a Logistics escort force to work with. Finally RAF looses RAF Regiment apart from Airfield Air defence to back fill support functions and to provide a Pararescue force by working with the MERT concept developed in Afghanistan.
To fund this the Army cuts all the 1st UK Div Battalions to 320 light infantry size, and they are permanently paired with 500 Reservists to back fill for deployment.
They loose are vehicles and use leased Pick up Trucks (painted Green of Course) maintained in Dealers of supplier, with trailer mounted fuel, support etc or leased 4×4 16 tonne trucks. They also take on a regional responsibility and work more closely with Local Police etc for emergency UK response, plus each brigade works with a designated Area as suggested to become a specialist unit in that area to work with deployable forces in case of emergency deployment.
The RN to maintain Albion/Bulwark dispose of 3 T23 GP Frigates whilst retaining all 9 River Class to back fill numbers. The release of over 500 ratings from these 3 T23’s can provide enough Posts to keep Amphibious Ships working and back fill missing slots.
This creates
RN
2 Aircraft Carriers
2 LPD
7 SSN
6 T45 (saving on T23 allows sixth T45 after engine upgrades back to fleet)
8 T23 ASW
2 T23 GP’s (to lead River Class On deployment)
9 River Class
Thus you keep all capabilities whilst balancing the budget. UK Armoured forces are too small to now have each acting independently. If should be mirrored on the Israeli Defence Force or the US Marine Core as an integrated whole.

Dern

Dear Ginge
so first of all, I think you need to be a bit clearer with your use of the word “Brigade” which you seem to use for a variety of formations up to division sized assets, it gets a bit confusing and makes your post harder to read (especially when you seem to use it in different ways in the same sentence).
Anyway on to the meat: I don’t think the answer is at all clear. Moving the RM into the Army is a very difficult proposition that would be fought tooth and nail by both the Royal Marines and the Navy as a whole.
So what I think you are asking for is a new Division of 3 Brigades (3Cmdo, 16AA and 7IB), each consisting of 3 Infantry Battalions and a Light Cav unit (Say QDG, LD and the Marine Armoured Support Group filling those roles)? With what is left of 102 Log Brigade attaching along with the supports native to 3 and 16? Sounds okay mostly (though as a policy leased British Army vehicles are painted white not green, and that’s probably more expensive in the long run but oh well).
Where you loose me is the idea that 3Cmdo should be swing role Light/Medium and Air Assault infantry. This is not a good idea, and anyone who has had to work on anything remotely armoured knows how much of a time sink it is, Heavy/Medium infantry don’t have the time to be Air Assault *as well*. Out of interest you want to mount the 7th on Mastiff, what happens to the 3 Infantry Battalions in 3 Div that have all the Mastiff’s at the moment? (Remember that in 2020 Refine they are being used to create one of the Strike Brigades, so under this plan they’ll still be in 3 Div)
My own plan would be that the British Army ends up with 3 Divisions like you suggested, each division with it’s own role:
3 UK Division:
3 Cmdo (3x Mechanised Infantry on MIV 1x Recce formed from the Armoured Support Group and 30 Commando)
20th Armoured Infantry (1x Formation Recce, 1x Armour, 2x Armoured Inf, 1x HPM)
12th Armoured Infantry (same)
1st Armoured Infantry (same)
1 UK Division
16 AA (3x Air Assault Infantry)
7th Infantry (1x Light Cavalry, 2x Light Protected Mobility 1x MIV)
51st Infantry (same)
4th Infantry (same)
The remaining small brigades get disbanded, and the manpower released from the infantry battalions go to support formations that ensure that all 8 Brigades are fully deploy-able and have artillery support, at the same time. This is the short term plan with only the vehicles the army currently has in inventory or has announced in the near term. In the long term wish list? I’d like to see Scimitar replaced by something more suitable to a reconnaissance role. Warrior gets replaced by Ajax, Mastiff hopefully gets a tracked replacement (maybe something amphibious like you mentioned, in the short-medium term being able to deploy off landing craft is fine) so that the AI brigades can go fully tracked. And obviously 1 Div will be wanting some more firepower than the .50cals on Jackals and MIV’s in the long term.
Any unit in 3 Div should be capable of deploying onto a beach off of the RN (no the RN shouldn’t be able to deliver an entire Division just that any battlegroup in the division should be capable of an Amphibious operation). Equally 1 Div should be Airmobile (not helicopter assault, but any 1 Div battlegroup should be capable of being flown into a theatre). Essentially that provides the army with 1 Heavy Amphibious division and 1 Light Airmobile Division.

David Stephen

You lack imagination. I can quite easily envision a scenario where we have to act alone in our own national interest. Ultimately our armed forces should be strong and most British people don’t know their arse from their elbow when it comes to defence.

barry white

But why all this call to close Devonport when we have the following there
Fost
Amphip base
Nuclear refiting facilities
Plus loads of big drydocking facilities
Covered drydocks
A sheltered and safe anchorage
Why not close Portsmouth instead
Oh i forgot the top brass wont have to travel far to get to Portsmouth from there plush offices in London

Neil Bennett

A very biast approach there, leaning towards Devonport. So I’ll add a few points
Yes I agree we need more than one dock yard.
Babcock pays poorly and has helped kill shipwrights and other trades in this service
Waters in Devonport are far to shallow, so no aircraft carriers! Possibility no new RFA’s
Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Navy
The frigates have always been split equally 8 in to each yard!
Portsmouth has the larger docks and facility’s to home all the Royal Navy ships.
DEVENPORT frigate complex is in a huge state of disrepair and many of the staff have complained about breathing in aspestose floating about inside it.
Only 10 dock can house the ships and no other dock is big enough.
And finally the sub complex has been on a proabition order for nearly 7 years!!!
I think all being said, Portsmouth will win the work over the next 10 years and DEVENPORT will have to invest some serious cash to redevelope the yard if they wish to win work. If not it could well continue to shrink