One of the problems with the current C3 concept is that it is trying to cover too many requirements everything from survey to mines countermeasures, EEZ protection to offshore patrol. If one looks at the type of vessels it is going to replace the scale of the challenge is obvious, HMS Scott and HMS Gleaner for example. Some of the ships it will be replacing are relatively new or in existing PFI’s, the Think Defence mantra for ruthless commonality to drive down cost has been made in several posts, but there is a limit.
One of our other proposals touched on in previous posts has also been establishment of a more robust Coastguard. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is likely to assume the airborne search and rescue mission, already operates a variety of surface craft and supports other agencies like DEFRA and the devolved governments. There is some overlap between what the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, DEFRA and the RN do for EEZ of fisheries protection and that is before one looks at the role of the devolved governments and various constabularies. The UK has quite a complicated patchwork of maritime agencies and organisations carrying out similar roles, although it must be said it all seems to work together quite well it simply cannot be efficient. These constabulary roles should be transferred to a more robust paramilitary coastguard, as happens in most other nations. If these roles were transferred out of the RN it would provide greater clarity of role but would reduce crewing and promotion opportunities so it might not be as simple as swishing a pen.
Currently in repair following a flooding incident, HMS Endurance is the Antarctic Patrol Ship, supporting the British Antarctic Survey in the area. The role is currently being fulfilled by other vessels but the UK should reaffirm its commitment to the area and ensure that HMS Endurance is returned.
A number of P2000 Class patrol boats form the University Royal Naval Units and a couple of P2000’s have been detached to Cyprus for force protection. A similar type is also used at Gibraltar.
The two Echo class (HMS Enterprise and HMS Echo) are multi-purpose survey and MCM support vessels procured and operated under a PFI, HMS Gleaner is a small inshore survey craft and the large HMS Scott completes the RN Hydrographic Squadron. Mines Countermeasures are carried out by two squadrons equipped with either 8 Sandown or 8 Hunt class mines countermeasures vessels. Secondary roles include fisheries protection and diver support. Three River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels carry out the EEZ function and a larger, helicopter capable River class acts as the Falkland Islands Patrol Vessel.
Despite possible problems, the first proposal is to transfer policing and extended EEZ protection type duties in home waters, the Falkland Islands, Cyprus, Gibraltar and other locations to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency with the appropriate transfer of assets, should that be needed.
The URNU does a good job for what it costs and should be left as, the vessels act as a useful reserve for inshore security type roles should they ever be needed. When the P2000′s need replacing it should be with something similar.
- Transfer EEZ/fisheries protection role to MCA
- Retain Antarctic Patrol Ship
- Retain URNU with no change