Sunday, October 30, 2016

"More ships". Where?

Ultra quick post because the "more ships" line thrown out at random by the government has gotten annoying enough that it deserves a detailed answer.

As of now, the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have:

- Lost RFA Diligence 4 years early; without any real replacement plan being in the works, removing one unique and very precious capability which used to set the Royal Navy apart from other european navies, which no not have a comparable forwards repair vessel which also doubled up as submarine tender.
Very damaging loss, for very little money saved.

- RFA Tidespring is many months late, for reasons no one really know. She is now not due in the UK before "early 2017", and after that it'll take a while to complete her fitting out and put her through final sea trials. She was originally expected in service this month.
In the meanwhile, it is almost certain that RFA Gold Rover will go out of service by the end of this year, as planned, Her deployment to the South Atlantic was meant to be the last hurrah of her service life, with decommissioning once back home. Her replacement was meant to be ready, but it will not be for several more months.

HMS Lancaster and HMS Dauntless are in reserve, tied into port as "harbour training ships" many months before entering refit, most likely because the manpower crisis has gotten bad enough to require this sort of pauses.
Lancaster should enter refit in mid 2017 and Dauntless around the end of the year. They won't deploy again before 2018 at the earliest.

That is a loss of four deployable hulls for zero gain in 2016.

Joint Expeditionary Force - Marittime 2016 
Taurus 2009 deployment. The escort on the top left side is the french Dupleix, but even without her the 2009 - 2016 difference remains scary. 

2017 should eventually see HMS Queen Elizabeth delivered, but 2018 will see HMS Ocean bowing out in exchange.
The River Batch 2 patrol vessel HMS Forth will enter service, but apparently HMS Clyde, the Falklands Patrol Ship, will promptly be dropped out of service by not renewing her lease (she is still RN operated but contractor owned). The idea seems to be to send HMS Forth down south to replace her.
4 more River Batch 2s are expected to enter service over the next few years, but the 3 River Batch 1s will be removed in exchange, meaning that there is going to be at most 1 extra OPV. The SDSR says "up to six" OPVs (up from 4), but by the look of things 5 is the actual number.

The SDSR also announced that the 3 oldest Sandown class minesweepers will be removed from service by 2025 at the latest.

The permanent losses the RN and RFA face this year and over the next few are:

- HMS Ocean
- 3x Sandown class minesweepers
- 3x River Batch 1
- 1x River Batch 1 - Helicopter (HMS Clyde)
- RFA Diligence
- x2 Rover class tankers

Also, the first Type 23 frigate is due out of service in 2023 and there's no telling yet if there will be a Type 26 ready to take her place.

The new hulls entering service are:

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Prince of Wales
5x River Batch 2s
4x Tide class tankers

That's 11 ships going out, and 11 coming in. At most, the number of hulls will roughly float at the same level. And even this only if we exclude the ships that have already been lost since 2010, and the two mothballed escorts.

The losses since 2010 include also:

HMS Ark Royal
HMS Illustrious
4x Type 22 frigates
RFA Fort George
2x Point class Strategic Sealift Vessels
RFA Largs Bay
RFA Bayleaf
RFA Orangeleaf
1 Albion class LPD mothballed

More ships my arse.
It could get even worse considering that there is no clear way ahead for the "after RFA Argus", and the Type 26 and Type 31 programmes as of today give no real assurance that the number of escorts won't drop even further, at least temporarily.
The 3 remaining Fort class ships should be replaced one for one by three new supply ships.

It takes a hell of a lot of creative accounting to talk about "more ships" just because a bunch of OPVs have been ordered as an emergency stopgap measure.


  1. Well written.

    Do we see an end to this manpower crisis? I hear a lot about it but I don't hear of a solution in the works.

  2. Gaby

    The rumour mill has it that the Type-45s will be fitted with new engines to solve their propulsion problems. I don't think that that has been confirmed by the MOD yet but it will be costly. Do you think that it will be so expensive that it will bite into the budget for new ships?

    1. It is confirmed that there will be new diesel(s?) fitted to the ship. Not clear yet if they will replace the current ones or add a new one altogether. But there is a budget of more than 200 million for that. And sincere there is no real additional money, by definition it is money taken away from somewhere else.

  3. I think it is safe to say that if they want to make that change + keep the T-45s relevant / add any new capabilities, then they can kiss good bye to the cheap frigate (not a bad thing in my mind). That would leave them with 14 very well equipped escorts and then have a focused procurement for the minesweeper / survey / patrol requirement.

  4. Hi Gabriele,
    There is so much misinformation from the MOD.
    In my humble opinion, the so called increase in defence spending is simply not true.
    A lot of smoke and mirrors, and no extra cash.
    Looking at your tweets. I really like the look of the modified San Giorgio LHD.
    I would like to know more about this ship, it looks like the ideal future hybrid ship the RN need with so few escorts.
    Phil (the cynical ex pongo)

    1. I think i'll write something about it. I've been digging up pictures of the insides of the San Giorgio class, as that will help visualize things.

  5. Hi Gabby think our first issue is to be able to man our existing ships and then think about expansion

  6. Noticed that you mentioned on twitter about a photo of the rebuilt Sea Ceptor silo on the Type 23. Not sure if you have seen this picture of HMS Westminster. Not a completely clear view, but the best one I have seen. Hard to tell if there are still 32 missiles or if it has been reduced to 24.

    1. Actually look at it more closely, it looks as though there are most likely still 32 missiles. Or at least more than 24. At first I thought there might only be 6 cells per row, but it looks more like there are at least 7, if not the same 8 as Sea wolf.

    2. It's almost certainly 32. The MBDA proposal for a more ambitious refit, it seems, did not progress. Thanks for sharing that photo, i had not seen it. The same ugly grey things can be guessed in a frontal shot of HMS Montrose posted by the RN today.

  7. The decision to retire Harpoon in 2018 seems madness, what are they thinking? Aside from the 13 Type 23s being equipped with the missile, they have only just fitted three Type 45s with the Harpoon launchers from the decommissioned Type 22s.
    It's like they deliberately make decisions that will save peanuts, but inevitably lead to the RN being ridiculed in the tabloids and on some defence blogs, such as War is Boring.
    I suppose they think it's another 'manageable' defence gap, until the Type 26 enters service with LRASM?

    How capable is Sea Venom?


    1. It's extremely worrying that despite the comparatively small sums of money involved the RN is planning to (or being forced into) retire it's only heavyweight anti-ship missile.

      It also speaks volumes as to just how tight budgets are in this day and age.

      Sadly Sea Venom just isn't in the same class. Good for badly damaging corvette sized vessels, but nowhere near large or powerful enough to sink/seriously hole anything bigger.

      As you say it's saving peanuts on a life extension today which naturally leads to ridicule and a serious gap in capability tomorrow.

      Yes LRASM may eventually turn-up, but when it hasn't even been funded yet and won't at best appear for another 5-10 years the outlook isn't exactly rosy.

    2. What are they thinking? They are on the side of the USN that is what they are thinking.

  8. When we ask what are they thinking, who are "They"? Are our Admirals the ones counting the beans and choosing an F35 helmet over a Harpoon life extension or even a Sea Venom surface launcher? Are the ministers and top civil servants aware of how stupid 'they' are making our RN look?


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