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
4x Type 22 frigates
RFA Fort George
2x Point class Strategic Sealift Vessels
RFA Largs Bay
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.