Reported in the Telegraph today was a story about the lack of ships available for defence of the home islands.
The Navy normally provides a minimum coverage of a frigate or destroyer fulfilling the role of Fleet Ready Escort (FRE) in order to be able to respond quickly to a potential threat at home or abroad. However, slashed Defence budgets and the war in Libya has meant there hasn’t been a vessel available since the start of October. The last ship to fill the role, called the FRE, was HMS Portland but that left for war games off the coast of Scotland in October, and it is now having a rest period in Plymouth on the south coast.
No defence story in the Telegraph these days would be complete without a comment from Admiral Lord West (Strategic Adviser Key Technologies plc), it’s pretty much written into law these days.
I would hardly say it is a luxury. If there was a terrorism incident in UK waters, this would historically be the ship sent in to deal with it. It’s a big problem. If we haven’t got a ship ready to do this role then it’s worrying. It’s a very unsatisfactory position to be in. What it shows is that the number of frigates and destroyers we’ve got now is insufficient. We need more ships as a matter of urgency.
The article then goes on to describe the MoD’s response, which basically says, nothing to see hear, move along, citing the fact that should an FRE be needed an RN ship would be allocated, HMS Gleaner for example!
The ships returning from Libya will provide extra flexibility.
The RN has been at a pretty high tempo of operations recently and let’s not forget this because it has a real impact on personnel but as usual with these stories one has to look behind both the content an timing.
On timing, this story coincided with a couple of stories, reports and comments in the press about Phil Hammond being urged to reopen the SDSR (as if this was ever likely to happen) and call for increasing budget allocation for the Royal Navy. When one has been looking at this stuff for a while one comes to the realisation that everything is connected, with complicit or unwitting journalists being used to provide a backdrop for one budgetary land grab or another.
Have the services learned nothing from SDSR, more of this nonsense will see them further eviscerated at the next SDSR
On the content, especially about Fleet ready Escort a recent (25h October 2011) Freedom of Information request might be able to shed some light.
There are presently four standing commitments to which a Royal Navy frigate or destroyer is usually allocated, either permanently or for part of the year. They are: the Fleet Ready Escort; the Towed Array Patrol Ship; Atlantic Patrol Task (South); and Atlantic Patrol Task (North).
The Royal Navy currently has three destroyers or frigates committed to intervention operations: one destroyer is involved in operations off the coast of Libya, and two frigates contribute to our maritime presence East of Suez, which includes deployments to the Arabian Gulf and participation in counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.
So it would seem that the standing commitments are not full time and frigates/destroyers are ‘usually allocated’
As we have seen, APT(N) is often covered by an RFA vessel.
Would an FRE Frigate or Destroyer necessarily be the best response mechanism for a terrorist incident by the way, would a combination of aircraft and smaller vesse’s like the River class actually be better?