General Sir David Richards speech to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)


Thank you Lord Hutton for your kind introduction. It is good to see so many friends and colleagues here and may I take the opportunity to thank you all for your strong support to the Armed Forces. It is hugely appreciated.

I am feeling slightly cautious this evening. Our senior Defence Attaché in the Americas tells me that in the Aztec calendar today is the Day of the Lizard. They say:

‘The warrior must be like the lizard, who is not hurt by a high fall but, instead, immediately climbs back to its perch. These are good days to keep out of sight; bad days to attract attention.’

So perhaps today isn’t the best time to be standing before you!

In honouring my commitment to this august organisation that plays such an important role in the life of UK Defence, I want to take the opportunity to examine where we are today, what deductions we should draw, and what we are doing to ensure we are prepared for tomorrow.

You are all aware of how much change there has been over the past two years. We have begun to introduce the SDSR, balanced the books and turned a corner in Afghanistan. Yet much of the world seems less stable and more dangerous than was the case even two years ago; a harsh world in which intra-state conflict can be confused by and for new forms of inter-state conflict. A world in which governance vacuums present opportunities for extremist groups to perpetrate large-scale violence and disruption, especially as precision-strike capabilities, cyber instruments and bio terror weaponry become inevitably more accessible. And this in a period when economic fragility makes us both more vulnerable and less able to respond in a confident and timely manner, a reality aggravated by the huge cost differentials between western forces and non-state opponents.

All this is demanding much from all of us and is changing the shape and capabilities of the Armed Forces.

Together with my fellow Chiefs I have been examining, as you would expect, how we should best use what we have and what we need for the future. We have to be hard-nosed realists; accepting we have less than we would wish but that we are still required to protect this nation’s interests through the projection of military force. We cannot shrug our shoulders and hope the problem will go away. We have to be ready to fight and fight effectively, often not on our own terms and accepting the constraints we are under. I have brought this together in a piece of work I will be sharing in the future called How We Will Fight. And I will look at some of its key deductions in a moment.

We should be under no illusions; the Armed Forces of tomorrow, like those of today, will be engaged in operations around the world. They will require the best of their generation as they always have. People who can think flexibly and with imagination. As Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”.

These operations will not be carbon copies of Afghanistan or Libya. But they will require the same skill and dedication that these operations, and all the others we have engaged in since the Cold War, have demanded. They will require the strength and indeed guile that our Army, Navy and Air Force are famous for.

Building on the battle-winning reputation, proven resilience and technological edge of the past decade, I hope you won’t notice some of the tasks the Armed Forces will be doing. They will be performing a key part of our developing military strategy – deterrence. Preventing conflict, you may recall, is rightly a principal task of Defence.

I will come back to this theme later but it is worth remembering that your Armed Forces are often most effective when they are not in the headlines. Few operations, exercises or training missions are widely reported but each one communicates that we are strong, credible and reliable. This deters our enemies and reassures our friends.

And we should be proud of our nation’s record in this respect. The relative peace we have enjoyed here in the UK for the past 70 years is not an accident. It is in large part the result of the quiet work of diplomats building friendships, the skill of our financiers and businessmen in making our economy strong, and the courage of our Armed Forces in deterring and when necessary overcoming threats.

Afghanistan is an example of this lesson. With our partners in NATO/ISAF and the ANSF we have been more successful than many, regrettably, recognise.

I have recently returned from a visit there and, I can tell you, we are meeting the tasks laid on us. Over the past decade we have:

a. closed Al Qaeda’s bolthole ;
b. helped underpin a more stable government;
c. overseen elections;
d. trained an Army and police force;
e. and put a country that suffered 30-years of war into a position where industry, education and the rule of law are beginning to grow.

True, there is a long way to go. The presidential elections in 2014 will be hugely important. But we are heading in the right direction and we have proved what can be done with the right resources and with the right support.

I look forward to 2013 seeing us increasingly transition to an Afghan lead as we move from mentoring battalions to supporting brigades.

The Afghan Army now enjoys the support and trust of 84 percent of the country, only 3 percent less than the British Army in this country. That is a fantastic achievement, by them and ISAF. It recognises the integral part they are playing in turning the destiny of a country away from violence and onto a path of peace.

I am proud of what our Service men and women have achieved in Afghanistan. Alongside partners in DFID and the Foreign Office we have given Afghans a chance they couldn’t have dreamt of only a few years ago.

Our operation in Afghanistan does not stand alone. It is linked to Pakistan and India and the wider region. In my recent trip to Islamabad, a city I have got to know well, I was very encouraged by the helpful attitude of civilian and military leaders to reconciling the Taliban. The Taliban, like us, are focussed on Afghanistan’s presidential poll and the end of our combat operations in 2014. They know that the window of opportunity to play a role in their country’s future is closing.

Every day the Afghan Army and Police grow in capability and legitimacy. Every day the government is better able to serve its people and thus better able to marginalise the Taliban. Now, surely, the time is ripe to take risk in order to find that elusive political solution 10 years of military effort and sacrifice has sought to create the conditions for? But in order to pull this off, it is vital that Afghan confidence in the West’s long-term commitment to their country is retained. Why, should this be lost, would they stay the course themselves let alone fight to protect us in 2014 when, absent successful reconciliation, we will be at our most vulnerable? And why should the Taliban reconcile, if they thought we were ‘cutting and running’? Retaining Afghan confidence is the campaign’s centre of gravity. And for the UK, retaining our influence and status within NATO and amongst key allies, is another reason for getting this right.

While achieving our goals in Afghanistan, British Armed Forces have been active elsewhere around the world. For example:

In Libya we fought in support of a people who wanted to be free from tyranny. We joined allies from around the world built around a NATO core. Together, we supplied the air force and the navy. The people themselves were the army. They made the change happen.

In the seas off Somalia we are playing our part in an operation that is controlling the spread of piracy. Alongside navies from around the world, including Pakistan, India and China, reinforcing the benefit of cooperation.

Closer to home we have also been proud to play our part in HM the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. And my fellow Chiefs and I were delighted to receive so many letters of support for the actions of our Regular and

Reserve Service men and women during the Olympics.

It reminded all of us in uniform of the level of support that we enjoy amongst the people of this country. We are very grateful.

All this has happened as we have been going through reforms.

Over the past two years we have implemented some of the most radical changes to the Ministry of Defence and to the Armed Forces in decades.

The SDSR shrank the size of the Armed Forces and changed the governance of the department. And whilst we are aware that the Autumn Statement has further implications, a balanced budget means we can start from a firm base and better demonstrate what is at stake.

The new Armed Forces Committee mandates the Chiefs to resolve problems in the interests of Defence as a whole. It exploits collective military judgment and balances single service requirements in private allowing the CDS to go to the Defence Board with the underpinning authority of a combined Joint service view.

The AFC, the Defence Strategy Group chaired jointly by John Thomson the PUS and me, and the new style Defence Board chaired by Philip Hammond enable the MOD to be more agile and decisive in responding at the strategic level to developing threats and trends. The world is not a safe place. Some threats to our interests and allies are long term but some are very present.

The immediate danger of the collapse of the Syrian regime is one. We will support our allies in the region and would all like to see a diplomatic solution but cannot afford to remove options from the table at this stage. Should chemical weapons be used or proliferate, both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have made it clear that a line would have been crossed.

And Syria is linked to Iran. The regime is backed by Tehran so the fall of Assad’s dictatorship will impact the Iranian government. What that means for the stability of the region is as yet unclear.

In my recent trip to the Manama Dialogue I was struck by the issues that came up. Our host, Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain, emphasised the threat of nuclear proliferation. North Korea’s missile test last week aggravates this risk.

The Kenyan and Ugandan armed forces have been exemplary in bringing order to Somalia but this has not been without cost. Both have sustained losses, and the retaliation of terrorist groups has endangered Kampala, Nairobi and the Kenyan coast. We must continue to support both countries, as well as the fledgling Somali government.

To the west, Mali is a major cause for concern. As still is Yemen, despite President Hadi’s laudable efforts. So What?

Now reducing these short and long term threats, our task is to evolve a force capable of meeting, with allies, various complex tasks. By the early 2020s, these plans result in a powerful Joint force that, on the basis of a balanced budget from Planning Round 12, should be able to meet the requirements laid on it.

It has not been easy.

But the Secretary of State, building on the work of the SDSR, has ensured that the department is able to squeeze the most from the resources available.

By 2020 we will have kit that many of my fellow NATO Chiefs of Defence, saddled with much more sclerotic budgets than we, are envious of:

a. A World Class Carrier Capability with the JSF – Lightning II – on board;
b. Type 45 destroyers on patrol;
c. Type 26 frigates in production;
d. Astute class submarines;
e. Chinook Mk 6 bringing the total Chinook fleet to 60;
f. Typhoon Tranche 3, as well as the Lightning II;
g. Atlas and Voyager air transport and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, underpinned by our now larger C17 fleet;
h. Scout vehicles, upgraded Warrior, Challenger, and Apache to give the Army better reconnaissance, mobility and firepower;
i. Rivet Joint and other critical ISTAR platforms that will ensure we have better situational awareness than ever.
j. And much more emphasis on Cyber, to which I will return shortly.

But our most decisive asset will remain our Service men and women.

As the private sector puts it, we must look after the ‘talent’. As I see equipment around the world parked with no-one to operate it. Great equipment without talented people counts for little.

We must ensure our people have the intelligence and confidence to treat the unexpected as an opportunity to exploit. They must be capable of informed, independent action; of what has been described as a ‘brains-based approach’ to operations.

You have all heard the common refrain that we must do more with less. Well, to be frank, that is what we are doing. At the strategic level, a brains-based approach means deciding to act only when we must and then doing it well, not always kinetically.

This type of thinking has shaped the work I have started on ‘How We Will Fight’. Assuming the approach I have just outlined, I and my fellow Chiefs have designed our forces to:
a. act jointly and with allies, but able to act alone.
b. be well equipped, but not tied to platforms.
c. adapt as the environment changes.

But we must prioritise. And as spending has tightened, we must be ruthless in our requirements and getting the most from them. Effectively targeting limited resources is, in large part, the art of military command in war and in peace through force design.

The new UK Joint Expeditionary Force is an expression of this. The JEF promises much greater levels of integration than previously achieved especially when combined with others, as is already happening with our French allies in the Anglo/French Combined JEF. The JEF must be genuinely synergistic. It is the building block to future alliances and independent action. And we would hope that allies such as Denmark and Estonia, who have fought with distinction in a British formation in Afghanistan, will want to play key roles within the British element of the CJEF.

What it offers is clear: an integrated joint force with capabilities across the spectrum at sea, on land and in the air. A force that can confidently be allocated a specific slice of the battle space in an allied operation or act alone.

It will be the basis of all our combined joint training.

With the capability to ‘punch’ hard and not be a logistical or tactical drag on a coalition, we will be especially welcomed by our friends and feared by our enemies.

The JEF will be of variable size; a framework into which others fit. It will be the core of the UK’s contribution to any military action, whether NATO, coalition or independent.

Together with critical C2 elements such as HQ ARRC and the emphasis placed on the maritime component HQ at Northwood, the JEF is designed to meet our NATO obligations.

In the Libyan campaign, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were able to play a vital role by bringing their regional expertise into the command structure of a NATO operation. This provided greater military and political reach. I look forward to the alliance, perhaps in part through the vehicle of the JEF, working more with non-member states.

Britain’s JEF will be capable of projecting power with global effect and influence. Nowhere is more important to us than our friends in the Middle East and Gulf and in line with clear political intent we would expect, with other initiatives, for JEF elements to spend more time reassuring and deterring in that region. The Royal Navy

Let me briefly examine how the How We Fight work affects the single services, starting with the Royal Navy. As the Prime Minister has put it, the Navy “keeps the arteries of trade of the global economy from hardening.”

The Royal Navy will continue to grow in importance. As our carrier capability comes into service it will be a key part of our diplomatic, humanitarian and military strategy. Prepared to overcome the toughest military challenges. This is its raison d’être. But I know it will be used for much more.

The Americans demonstrated through their deployment to Aceh and Haiti that aircraft carriers have huge strategic impact supporting people around the world. Seeing US military personnel, ships and helicopters playing such a critical role boosted the standing of the US in the world’s most populous Islamic country and undermined extremist rhetoric.

Hard power is an essential element of soft power. In this respect especially, numbers, or mass, still matter. We must resolve the conundrum at the heart of Bob Gates quip about ‘exquisite technology’.

In the future, the Chief of the Naval Staff and I have a vision for a Navy which procures ships differently allowing us to have more, not fewer platforms.

We must resist the pressure that has shrunk the number of platforms. Clearly that will mean rethinking the Navy, including examining the case for ships that may have a limited role in general war. But this is not new ¬¬¬– remember the corvette over the ages – and is similar to the utility of light and heavy land forces, tailored to task. And in so doing we will ensure seamanship skills and leadership qualities, so much in demand by our friends and allies, flourish into the long term.

The Royal Navy’s maritime and amphibious components, with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines at the core of the latter, will be at the heart of Britain’s JEF. As the concept develops we will look to acquire ships that range from top-end war fighting elements through potentially to more vessels tailored to discrete but important tasks, to be deployed on a range of routine non-warfighting duties.

The British Army

The Army too is changing. Once we come out of the combat role in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, it will cease to be on permanent rotation with the burdens that imposes.

The Army will maintain a hard power war-fighting capability while creating the strategic influence, support and engagement ability essential to modern operations.

Like the Navy, these land forces must be equipped to pack a punch but war fighting is not all they’re for.

Conflict prevention, to which I will return in a moment, is not just sensible strategy; it is a military operation requiring appropriately configured and equipped forces.

The Army 2020 reforms are a fundamental re-set for the Army, making the best of a regular force a fifth smaller than when I commanded it only three years ago.

While we will retain three high-readiness manoeuvre brigades, we will also have ‘adaptable brigades’ to sustain enduring operations and routinely develop partnerships and knowledge around the world.

Though more conceptual work is needed, given the importance of the region and clear Prime Ministerial intent, I envisage two or more adaptable brigades forming close tactical level relationships with particular countries in the Gulf and Jordan, for example, allowing for better cooperation with their forces. Should the need arise for another Libya-style operation, we will be prepared. This would greatly enhance our ability to support allies as they contain and deter threats and, with our naval presence in Bahrain, air elements in the UAE and Qatar, and traditional but potentially enhanced roles in Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, would make us a regional ally across the spectrum.

In Africa, brigades would be tasked to support key allies in the east, west and south whilst another might be given an Indian Ocean and SE Asian focus, allowing for much greater involvement in the FPDA, for example.

If we are to influence, we must know what drives our friends and how to motivate them. This is not something that can be done on the eve of an operation. As these adaptable brigades develop links with countries around their region, this will create opportunities for soldiers and officers to progress their careers through linguistic and cultural specialism.

The Defence Engagement Strategy, prepared with the Foreign Office, will provide what I have often referred to as a ‘strategic handrail’ for engagement.

This will require tough decisions. If we are to invest properly in some relationships, others will naturally get less attention.

But if we get this right ¬– and we will – we will have deeper links to specific regional partners giving them the confidence to deal with their own problems and, when appropriate, to act in partnership with us.

What I have described puts military flesh on the bones of welcome, NSC endorsed, national strategy.

This all comes as we are increasing the Reserves and integrating them closer with the Regular forces. This will do more to increase our own capacity and ability to help friends and allies. The Royal Air Force

Turning now to the Royal Air Force. The rate of technological advance is most keenly felt on air platforms. This is understandable. These are complex fully networked combat and ISTAR platforms. This intelligence cuts the time between understanding and reacting. It allows us better to out-think and out-act our opponents.

At the same time, lift, both tactical and global, reduces the number of reserves we need to keep, giving the Armed Forces a flexibility that was unimaginable just a few decades ago.

Understanding and exploiting the opportunities technology presents will be decisive in maintaining our advantage – in sufficient numbers – into the future.

Remotely piloted air systems and novel anti-air defences have changed our understanding of both what it means to fight and defend. We must not allow sacred cows – such as the indispensability of on-board pilots – to rule the day. The Chief of the Air Staff is leading the change. By giving ‘wings’ to UAV pilots the Royal Air Force is recognising the capability of the platform and skill of the pilot.

Indeed, it is a reflection of how early we are in this process of transition that we still refer to remotely-piloted air systems or unmanned aerial vehicles. How long was it before we stopped referring to the horseless carriage?

For all three Services, their role within an integrated CJEF will be the driving force in their force development and training. Whoever the enemy, wherever the threat, we will need partners. Building them now is an investment in our own future and our capacity to succeed quickly should war break out. Cyber

But there is a new environment within which we must learn to manoeuvre with confidence.

Today Facebook, with around a billion users, is the third most populous country in the world. It exemplifies one of the most extreme changes we have seen in the past decades.

Cyberspace is the nervous system of our global economy. We are reliant on the internet and other networked systems for every aspect of our lives. It allows bewildering speed of action and global reach.

Unsurprisingly, just as crime has become e-crime, spying has increasingly become cyber espionage. We have seen nations, their proxies and non-state actors use this new space for terrorism and conflict.

Though not conventional assaults, the hostile cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007, Georgia in 2008 and Burma in 2010 were damaging.

In the Middle East, there have been unprecedented levels of cyber attack over the past 24 months. Israel has reported over 44 million attempts to disrupt its government websites during recent tension around the Gaza strip. STUXNET demonstrated a new class of threat aimed at process control systems at the heart of modern infrastructure.

Without doubt, actions in cyberspace will form part of any future conflict. Communication and the control of infrastructure and systems has become a new environment through which combatants will further their objectives.

Our immediate priority must be to ensure our networks are secure and defensible, working with partners in industry and around the country to drive up standards and ensure we have robust protocols in place. This builds on the excellent work done under the National Cyber Security Strategy but Defence has particular challenges as a department, as Armed Forces and through the contractors and partners with whom we work.

I am determined that the Armed Forces should understand cyberspace, and how it will shape future conflict, as instinctively as we understand maritime, land and air operations.

This will mean changes in the way we operate: new doctrine; new capabilities; new structures, with Joint Forces Command at their heart. It will mean a new approach to growing and developing the talent we need to operate in this new, electronic, environment. Like our Secretary of State, I see an important role for reserves in this domain.

Winding Up

In examining each environment separately I hope I have highlighted some of the key issues on the Chiefs’ plate and how we must respond to them. But the most important is developing an integrated Joint model.

The JEF is neither the 1980s Canadian model nor, whilst there are some apparent similarities, is it a British version of the US Marine Corps.

The effectiveness of the UK armed forces relies heavily on the different skill-sets and ethos of each single Service. Each adapted for its environment, and evolving as times and technology change.

But a joint conceptual approach, based on lessons from the real world, embedded through force development, in training, on operations and though the cohering glue of modern C3I and cyber is vital to delivering the military capability the nation requires.

This is about ensuring single Service skills meld into joint action so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

The JEF won’t mean we can do more with less; it will mean, through the synergy it provides, that we get the most from what we have. And doubtless there will be some roles that we continue to leave to others, notably the USA.

As I close let me draw some lessons from my 41 years in uniform.

Some constants which may seem obvious in this room but are often over looked:

a. The need for military force to influence, secure and protect is as great as ever.
b. I joined an Army that was geared to defend Britain by fighting in Germany.
c. Today life is more complex but the principle is the same.
d. 9/11, and the 7/7 bombings in London show that we cannot choose our battlefields as we once did.
e. The world is not a safer place and the distinction between home and abroad is strategically obsolete. Today it is part of a continuum.

We cannot just stand by and hope we are ignored and danger passes us by.

As the Foreign Secretary said in September last year: “the country that is purely reactive in foreign affairs is in decline”.

Responses may be based on either soft or hard power, but to divorce the two is strategic blindness. Soft power is not a substitute for strength. On the contrary, it is often based on the credible threat of force, either to support a friend or deter an enemy.

Hard power and soft power are intertwined.

It is not enough to provide aid or speak kindly. Our friends want to know we are there when it counts, not just fair-weather friends. This is the confidence hard power brings. It drives equipment sales and thus industrial growth, as well as diplomatic treaties, just as it has for centuries. But hard power also does more than this: it dissuades.

Deterrence doctrine has fallen out of fashion so perhaps you will allow me to recall some of the elements. Sun Tzu’s famous maxim is: “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.
Too often this is seen as clever posturing on the eve of battle. It is not. Training, equipping and partnering with allies enhance the aura of British power. They give us presence on the world stage and ensure that we are not tested.

It is worth being clear: when the Armed Forces train we do not just do it to be ready, we do it to be seen to be ready. When we succeed on operations, we do not just win a battle. We prove that we can win a war.

In a very real sense, everything the Armed Forces do deters and reassures. With enough numbers, enough equipment and with good leaders at every level, Britain is a credible threat to our enemies and a reassuring friend to our allies.

This is cheaper than fighting and more credible than talk.

Reading the record of how the Soviets saw the Falklands War demonstrates this admirably. What many saw as post-colonial folie de grandeur, the Soviet leadership, rightly, saw as proof that the British Armed Forces were united with their government and people – Clausewitz’s famous trilogy – and more than a match for them.

It was far from the only factor, but the increase in Soviet defence spending in the 1980s which ended up contributing to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact was partly due to clarity of their failure to impose their will in neighbouring, occupied countries while Britain could liberate territory some 8,000 miles away.

As Chief of the Defence Staff I do not wear the burdens of office any more lightly than my predecessors. I have set out some of my concerns for the coming years and some of the ways we will think and act to meet them.

Under the Prime Minister’s chairmanship, The National Security Council, on which I am privileged to sit, considers all the big strategic issues that I have listed and more. It is a hugely welcome addition to Whitehall, directing and bringing clarity to national strategy and coordinating cross-government action.

But the nature of the world is such that what will later seem obvious, today is opaque and unpredictable. How will Europe emerge from the Euro crisis? How will the Arab Spring conclude? How will global warming affect water supplies?

And what of cyber?

After all, grand strategy, while providing a guide to action in peacetime, is also about being prepared and balanced for what we can never know.

Ensuring we have enough left in the bag while actively deterring, and when required defeating, aggression against us and our friends, enough left to succeed against those ‘unknown unknowns’, is ultimately what I and my fellow Chiefs are paid for.



RUSI Chief of the Defence Staff Lecture 2012




H/T Mark

About The Author

Think Defence hopes to start sensible conversations about UK defence issues, no agenda or no campaign but there might be one or two posts on containers, bridges and mexeflotes!

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
December 18, 2012 2:28 pm

“In the future, the Chief of the Naval Staff and I have a vision for a Navy which procures ships differently allowing us to have more, not fewer platforms.”

Interesting I wonder what he means.

“We must resist the pressure that has shrunk the number of platforms. Clearly that will mean rethinking the Navy, including examining the case for ships that may have a limited role in general war. But this is not new ¬¬¬– remember the corvette over the ages – and is similar to the utility of light and heavy land forces, tailored to task. And in so doing we will ensure seamanship skills and leadership qualities, so much in demand by our friends and allies, flourish into the long term.
15. The Royal Navy’s maritime and amphibious components, with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines at the core of the latter, will be at the heart of Britain’s JEF. As the concept develops we will look to acquire ships that range from top-end war fighting elements through potentially to more vessels tailored to discrete but important tasks, to be deployed on a range of routine non-warfighting duties’

Black Swan Class anyone?

“In Africa, brigades would be tasked to support key allies in the east, west and south whilst another might be given an Indian Ocean and SE Asian focus, allowing for much greater involvement in the FPDA, for example.”

Not sure if he will have enough brigades but makes for very interesting idea. Nice to see a greater focus on FPDA.

Winding up

“The JEF is neither the 1980s Canadian model nor, whilst there are some apparent similarities, is it a British version of the US Marine Corps.”

Just goes to show that the Chief of the Defence staff defiantly reads think defence. :-)

December 18, 2012 2:33 pm

One thing confuses me is the Joint expeditionary force he refer’s to the combined joint expeditionary force we share with the French or something else.

steve taylor
December 18, 2012 2:48 pm

I wonder if CDS ran any of his cyber cabbage past GCHQ?

And he mentions the US Marines. As somebody here recently said that is a novel view point. ;)

December 18, 2012 5:41 pm

This is I think a very interesting speech which will be interesting to watch be implemented particularly the part about twining adaptable brigades with Africa the Mid East and FPDA (which has been ignored for too long IMO).

It will also be interesting to see how the ships part plays out is it corvettes like opvs or type 26 with fewer weapons installed I suspect the first which suggests the later might be reduced the mod pus was particularly evasive when discussing type 26 numbers with the defence committee recently.

December 18, 2012 6:03 pm

V good speech. And the twinning idea gives some content to the “forward deployment” soft component
– even if the folks out there are military, they are not sent to fight (initially) but to create the essentials for joint ops in the future
– the 30.000 mentioned before sounded like an awfully big number, but being involved in rotation, through the twinning, could explain that

December 18, 2012 6:11 pm

We must not allow sacred cows – such as the indispensability of on-board pilots – to rule the day. The Chief of the Air Staff is leading the change. By giving ‘wings’ to UAV pilots the Royal Air Force is recognising the capability of the platform and skill of the pilot.

but only if they are commissioned officers, of course !

December 18, 2012 6:31 pm

“The JEF is neither the 1980s Canadian model nor, whilst there are some apparent similarities, is it a British version of the US Marine Corps.”


And good, I’ve advocated for some time that the Navy needs to stop sending billion pound warships off to hunt bloody pirates.

All in all, sensible.

steve taylor
December 18, 2012 6:46 pm

tweckyspat said “only if they are commissioned officers”

Can’t have chaps who aren’t chaps flying kites can we?

December 18, 2012 8:05 pm

JEF sounds a bit like my Expeditionary Force.

Who knows, eventually they might integrate the non-expeditionary “Home-Island Defence Force” too and properly stop all this bickering.

They’ll probably call it the Joint European Defence Initiative ;-)

steve taylor
December 18, 2012 8:17 pm

@ Simon

I am working on an acronym. I have got France, Union, Cowardice, and after that I am struggling.

December 18, 2012 9:45 pm

Proper thoughts tonight (I hope, yes it’s that man again…)

@ X

Well, when something fails spectacularly, rule of thumb is call it a success and gongs all round, so Knighthoods would seem to follow naturally from your suggestion.

Alternately, if they really want stable, eastward-facing forward presence to develop both key relationships with potential partners and a support infrastructure for such contingencies, why not just set up a little purple talking shop in Mombasa and call it Forward Unified Command (Kenya)-Allied Logistics Liaison ? I suspect there’s an acronym in there somewhere.

December 18, 2012 9:46 pm

@ X,

Also, God bless Michael Palin and all the Alsatians who sail in him. Or something.

December 18, 2012 9:52 pm

On my first idea: they would of course work closely with a rotating team of short-term, forward-deployed mixed regular-and-reserve overseas orientated cyber-warriors (my Mastermind special subject waa bullshit bingo.) We’ll call ’em the Special Warfare Electronic & Expeditionary Total Force (Advance).

December 18, 2012 10:11 pm

At last… This seems to be the beginning of a joined up strategy that actually addresses what global role the UK can play within it’s financial constraints.

Rename the JEF to replace the J with a B and hey presto we are back to a pre WW strategy.

It’s also what we’ve discussed a thousand times before, forward lite presence with a big enough stick to back it up.

I feel an order for a couple more Portsmouth built OPVs coming :)

December 18, 2012 10:13 pm

X, the letters you were missing were Kippers, Estonia and Denmark.

December 18, 2012 10:36 pm


Would you like to be part of a force that, historically, didn’t turn out so well? ;D

Anyway, Joint is everything… the Marines, Navy and Air Force weren’t quite part of the strategy until the brown stuff hit the fan with jerry!



You do know the crux of the RAF pilots during WW2 were more working class than anything? It was the actors portraying officers in films during and after that sorta produced this myth of the toff pilot.
Same goes for RN and Army officers… to some extent ;)

(Yes, I watch QI damnit!)

steve taylor
December 18, 2012 10:42 pm

Jackstaff said ” Forward Unified Command (Kenya)-Allied Logistics Liaison ”

What I would give to see that on a cap tally. :)

As for Michael Palin did you just like Lassie there has been more than one of them? True.

@ Repulse re Kippers

I think if we leave the EU those OPVs will never leave the Southwest Approaches as they will be needed to chase away El Spaniards away from our fishing grounds.

December 18, 2012 10:56 pm

I was thinking more of setting up the cyber reserve in the Curtain Rd TA centre. 201(V) Sigs Sqn (Cyber) aka Hell’s Hipsters. Torn, skinny red trousers.

steve taylor
December 18, 2012 10:56 pm

Mike re Pilot Sergeants

Yes many of The Few were Pilot Sergeants.

WW2 was great leveller when it came officer recruitment. When it came to the navy who you were was as an officer was clearly evident as your jacket cuffs and shoulder boards told all; RN, RNR, or RNVR.

Um. I remember that scene in The Cockleshell Heroes where Trevor Howard asks Jose Ferrer not to call the Marines gentlemen as they were other ranks. Good film that one.

December 19, 2012 8:34 am

@ Mark –

“It will also be interesting to see how the ships part plays out is it corvettes like opvs or type 26 with fewer weapons installed I suspect the first which suggests the later might be reduced the mod pus was particularly evasive when discussing type 26 numbers with the defence committee recently.”

So it will be 8 T26 then and 7 or 8 Black Swans. I think the RN should start a shipping line. It’s going to have an awesome ability to move containers around the world. Lets just hope no one starts shooting at us with just 14 Surface combatants we can only have 3 maybe 4 at sea. Would be nice if the CDS found the budget to properly arm the few we will have left but at least he won’t be able to complain about billion pound destroyers chasing pirates. Now it will be nothing chasing pirates.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
December 19, 2012 11:20 am

It’s b0llocks as is thw whole Black Swan idea.

Sounds perfectly good in practice, right up until you work out that the biggest cost-driver through life is manpower. If you buy more small corvette size ships, the one thing you can bet the ranch on is the manpower establishment ain’t going to get any bigger. So you’re paying an overhead to man ships that will be little short of useless in a shooting war on the vague premise that you’ll get more platforms.

Given that the “peacetime” ops tend to be manpower drivers, rather than actual warfighting, what do we think the result is going to be?

Broadly same number of high-end warfighters, plus some corvettes?
Much reduced number of warfighters, plus some corvettes?

December 19, 2012 12:45 pm


You are right about the corvette crews. We need to know they are not coming out of the Frigate pot or it all gets a bit futile.

The proposed revisit to the Amphib fleet may provide an answer. Unlike Frigates, Destroyers or OPVs the ARG does not need to be in two places at once. In any serious duffy we will have just one ARG. But we currently have 6 ships (Ocean, Albion, Bulwark, 3 Bays). If we replaced these with just two 40,000T LHDs then we would potentially save some RN and RFA crew. These could be redeployed onto the corvettes without cutting into T26.

In a neat circularity the corvettes would then pick up some of the taskings we have been forced to use Bays for: supporting mine clearance and pirate and smuggler bashing.

Fringe benefit: more ship design and ship building to boost the econonomy and create jobs.

(Although while I can see us building Frigates in Scotland and Corvettes in Portsmouth I suspect any new LHDs might have their hulls fabricated in Korea!)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 19, 2012 1:10 pm

We all love to talk about manpower costs but forget the political ramifications of cutting overall manpower. Required sea going manpower and overall RN manpower do not adjust in ratio.

December 19, 2012 1:51 pm

I liked the Blackswan idea and I could see a need for some possibly as a river replacement. However LCS is rapidly proving you can’t run a warship or even an auxiliary combatant like a container ship. If the CDS has an issue with billion pound destroyers chasing pirates then maybe we should stop chasing pirates. There are plenty of navy’s in the world with old cheap vessels better suited to this task. It’s about time some one else picked up the slack.

@ Peter Elliott

I like the 40K LHD idea however I am dubious if the vessels would be large enough on their own 80K of shipping to replace 120K. However if we get the correct MARS SSS design then it could maybe have one or two in toe to carry the rest.

December 19, 2012 4:40 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if the T26 numbers get eaten in-to to build perhaps 6-8 corvettes. If we do see some low-end ships then I really hope they’d be of a Black Swan or Khareef type and not just a stretched River design.

I think the crucial aspect is balance, I don’t mind if 1 or 2, maybe 3 T26 at most get cut if the remaining 10-12 get 2087 plus all the other mod-cons and we see a meaningful batch of low-end ships, and by that I mean enough in numbers and cheap enough to build/man/run in order to take some of the pressure off of our dwindling high-end vessels.

If on the other we see a big chunk taken out of T26 with only a paltry 2 OPV’s in return then it will be a very worryingly situation to get in-to.

December 19, 2012 4:42 pm

I like the idea of adaptable brigades working with African partner nations (although I don’t know just how achievable it is).

I also like a renewed focus on Amphibious warfare as a means of us exerting a level of influence that’s far above our ‘on paper’ strength.

All in all it’s a very interesting speech, I just hope this is more than words and we get to see some real implementation over the next few years.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 19, 2012 4:49 pm


Exactly any cuts in T26 numbers need to be compensated with enough extra hulls to reflect that we will no longer have enough FF/DD numbers to undertake non core roles. So we cannot send an FF/DD to the windies or somalia. Will also be fascinated to see if we are still meant to keep 2 East of Suez and 1 down South as well as TAPS and FRE with further reduced numbers and I have not even provided a single escort for an ARG or CBG yet.

I look forward to seeing exactly which tasks any new “Corvettes” are used for.

December 19, 2012 5:27 pm


Fully agreed, it’s all very exciting to see how this pans out, if anything gets down at all!

Has anyone seen this talk of a return to ‘East of Suez’ with a new British barracks and Typhoon hangars in the gulf?

If it was in the speech I must have missed it. All sounds pretty good, I have always maintained that we should keep some forward presence stuff there after Herrick, in addition to the current RN/RFA assets that is.

December 19, 2012 5:45 pm

I think it very unlikely that more forces will end up stationed overseas. It’s very expensive, there’s pressure to bring as many back as possible and therefore little likelyhood, to me, of upping numbers on an overseas posting.

December 19, 2012 5:59 pm

I would concur with the numbers think if you can’t get 3/4 “corvettes” for a cost and crew equal of a single frigate I don’t see the point. Always liked the idea of a river stretched 10m to allow a lynx hanger and a 76mm gun to replace the 30mm one but don’t really know what which tasks we would replace frigates on. I assume the 4mcmvs operate in the gulf without a ff/dd always present. Call them the flower class. The French have a similar arrangement with opvs maybe were following them.

Challenger did we ever leave east of suez. A/c ships troops have been based out there for decades.

December 19, 2012 6:07 pm

“The new Armed Forces Committee mandates the Chiefs to resolve problems in the interests of Defence as a whole.” – I trust this will be the place for the banging of heads that I mentioned on another thread.

“As Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge”. – Einstein also said: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

Would it be completely bonkers for us to build OPVs/sloops/corvettes and to then lend or lease them out to other nations as their needs require? We currently send all manner of vessels around the world training foreign armed forces in all manner of things, e.g. stop and search. How about lending these nations some vessels once so trained?

Edit: @Mark et al – Not a bad marketing ploy to deploy some Typhoons in the ME?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 19, 2012 6:10 pm


The 4 MCMVS operate from the same Manama jetty as the US 5th fleet MCMVS. There are lots of assets in the gulf and we maintain at least 1 Frigate or Destroyer more recently 2 in the AOR.

December 19, 2012 6:20 pm


Indeed bae maybe inking a few deals this week according to press reports

Apas cheers

December 19, 2012 6:31 pm

‘Not a bad marketing ploy to deploy some Typhoons in the ME?’

They deploy out there quite often normally anyway.

December 19, 2012 7:53 pm

How about scrapping/selling the T45s and building 24 x T26s? You’d only need a few more sailors.

Is it possible this is on the cards? T45 would be a good asset for a nation with no carrier air power (us at the mo, Saudi Arabia in the future). Sea Ceptor packs much more tightly for a more efficient PDMS anyway.

December 19, 2012 7:57 pm

A lot of flannel to hide the fact the UK can no longer defend itself. Money that should have been spent on defence, infrastructure & industry has been given to fund the luxury lifestyles of third world dictators instead.
Why say UAVs are the future then say cyber warfare is serious. Cyber warfare will cripple UAVs.

December 20, 2012 8:06 am

@Simon, I agree with your approach that the T45 could be replaced by a modified T26, but not on the timing. Having a single high end multi-role class makes sense, sure you need compromises, but the overall fleet benefits. HMS Daring will be due for replacement late 2030s, just about when the last T26 has been rolled out to replace the T23s.

I would personally like to see all T26s fitted with 2087 sonar and. SMART-L long-range air and surface surveillance radar, even if it means slightly fewer T26s. One trick expensive ponies are the thing of the past.

December 20, 2012 8:21 am

@ Challenger – The return East of Suez is part of the deal David Cameron recently negotiated with the UAE. Not sure about barracks but we can rest easy as there are plenty of five-star hotels in the area to accommodate any RAF contingent :-)

December 20, 2012 8:23 am

I could probably live with 10 T26 if we got 8 or 9 corvettes to replace them. However I seriously doubt we would get anything like this amount.

December 20, 2012 8:35 am

I think what is being discusseed is not a radical departure from what was already planned, but perhaps a slight change of emphasis and a recognition that the navy has too few platforms.

Assuming that the FF/DD numbers are not being drastically changed here, I do not see an issue with going with a stretched Clyde approach. A hanger, larger calibre gun and perhaps a bit more speed would be absolutely fine. Even better (though not essential) would be space to fit a VLS if ever needed in the future.

Build 4 of these and permanently base them in the FI, Caribbean, Gibraltar and Diego Garcia with rotating crews and you’ve helped relieve the pressure. Also then buy HMS Clyde and bring her back to the UK – she can help patrol UK waters and support ASW Merlins who are clearing the way for the SSBNs on patrol.

What would this cost, probably £400mn plus annual running costs around £100mn per year. This is small change for the MOD, even in it’s current austerity state.

One thing I do agree though is that the RN would need more manpower, especially as they will want to find some more to keep both QE and POW active. However, another 500 should be enough, I’d be surprised if that couldn’t be found by moving overall resources around in the MOD.

December 20, 2012 8:39 am

Lastly, I hope this means that the MCMVs will be replaced on a one to one basis.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 10:42 am

All this OPV talk is weapons grade custard.

December 20, 2012 10:44 am

Custard is a variety of culinary preparations based on a cooked mixture of milk or cream and egg yolk. Depending on how much egg or thickener is used, custard may vary in consistency from a thin pouring sauce (crème anglaise), to a thick pastry cream used to fill éclairs.

December 20, 2012 10:51 am

@ Repulse

Think you would need at least 5 stretched Clyde’s for your plan as they will still need to return home every few years for refit. I do like the idea of forward basing, especially in the FI however I would prefer to see some heavier armament if this is to be the sole RN vessel in the FI. I think Bahrain probably makes more sense than Diego Garcia as the facilities are already there and I am not sure about the Caribbean. The RFA seems to be doing a better job with the likes of Argus than the RN ever did. I think the Caribbean is the ideal location to use the amphib fleet when not needed for operations else where.

December 20, 2012 10:54 am

Custard also very useful for demonstrating how some liquid behave like a solid under pressure :-)

Didn’t Sea Slug have a “custard” surface to surface mode?

December 20, 2012 11:02 am


‘did we ever leave east of suez. A/c ships troops have been based out there for decades’

The article I read kept referring to a ‘return to east of Suez’ and I was para-phrasing it’s content. However yes you’re of course correct, with Brunei, Diego Garcia, Hong Kong until 1997 and the Gulf we have never really, fully left the area, just reduced forces to the bare minimum.

December 20, 2012 11:17 am

@Martin + Repulse

I agree that any forward deployed ships, however cheap and cheerful will need an extra hull in the water so that they can be rotated back home for the inevitable maintenance and refit periods.

I agree with you Martin that Bahrain is a better choice than Diego Garcia for a base, if not either then perhaps Oman? If we had any permanent assets for the Caribbean then Bermuda, although not that close, is probably the best bet, although it does seem that RFA vessels do a good job out there which does pose the question of whether it’s worth the change.

Repulse I like you’re idea of brining Clyde back home to use as Merlin platform and general home waters ship. She could maybe take on some training tasks as well.

RE British basing in the gulf:

It was more media speculation than anything else, I’m dubious over whether any-more permanent assets will be forward deployed after Herrick as well, but it looks like we will at least have deals in place to provide Typhoon facilities and barracks IF they are ever needed.

The odd visit from a few jets would be great PR as well as providing some useful training. Win win!

December 20, 2012 11:26 am

What I’m really concerned about is trading 1 or 2, or more T26 for the same amount of OPV’s or Corvettes, the whole objective would be to sacrifice some quality for quantity, otherwise what’s the point!

For example id be OK with T26 dropping as low as to 10 units, IF all 10 got the full bells and whistles Type 2087/everything else and it allowed for at least 6 low-end units to be purchased. Any other outcome means ending up with a similar number of surface ships but fewer qualitative advantages.

Id aim for a reasonable increase of 3 units, so that’s either 12 T26 and 4 low-end ships, or 10 and 6. Any other ratio or lower number would in my view be unacceptable.

December 20, 2012 11:57 am


Share your concerns. I think there would need to be at least 6 low end units to make things work in terms of rotation etc

December 20, 2012 12:18 pm

@ mickp With a river costing £50 million and a T26 cost £300 million its no inconceivable to get 6 for 1. The main issue would obviously be manning. I could defiantly go for 12 T26 and 6 expanded rivers. Could it make more sense to crew them with RFA personal with RN manning weapons etc. Helicopters would also be an issue Future Lynx is no exactly cheap. Would it make more sense to use something like the Eurocopter AS550 Fennec. It comes in at around 80% cheaper than the Lynx. MAybe mic and match with Lynx in FI and Fennec in the Med etc.

December 20, 2012 12:30 pm

I’ve been arguing for some time to go down the French model road.

Essentially construct a first rate core of a CVBG+ surface fleet buttressed by a number of second rates suitable for sloop type roles. They could be minimally manned with sailors since they won’t need to engage in first rate conflict and could be augmented with DFiD, FCO staff and Royal Marines who should have an expanded ship borne role akin to in Nelsons day. I would accept a first rate fleet of about 16 and see all MCMVs and Patrol vessels and Survey vessels replaced with about 10-13 such vessels constructed in slow time and continuously improved in an incremental manner.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 12:58 pm

French model is a hollow one. It doesn’t bear replicating. Not to see the flaws in the model reveals a lack of understanding of naval warfare.

December 20, 2012 1:04 pm

@Phil + X

I feel an argument brewing!

December 20, 2012 1:08 pm

Lack of imagination, lack of knowledge! Goodness I am a wretch.

Please, elaborate x. Anyone can say what you’ve said.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 1:14 pm

We don’t need fewer T26 we need more than projected 13 even though we will probably get less. We need an additional 6 units worth to provide escorts for CVF. I am very pleased that many of you have grasped that the hull in the water is a fundamental but we need hulls that carry weapons and can range out. Um. If 6000 soldiers sitting in country have little impact on a situation, what will 30 sailors sitting 12nm offshore in little more than a fast trawler do? Not much. That is why sending a frigate to do the occasional piece of constabulary task works because it is a minor periphery thing, a sub-set of the frigate’s true wide capability set. These constabulary tasks are more about showing something is being done than about achieving any real impact on the problem. (To achieve real impact is more a question of ROE than platform.) You build an OPV it can do nothing but surveillance; if the balloon did go up it would be of little use. You would think a soldier would understand seeing the body of work that suggests that the soldier isn’t really suited to peacekeeping, so why does he think a navy with slender resources should follow the same model? Rhubarb! Rhubarb! And thrice rhubarb!

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 1:20 pm

@ Chally

No. I am too busy. Phil is entitled to his opinion which is probably the product of much considered thought on some very wide reading. To give him his due he does take this far more seriously than I do. To me this is just diversion between the chores of the day. What you have to remember is that somewhere in the middle of all our collective ramblings there is the answer. But I don’t think any of us quite know what the question is…..

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 1:21 pm

The key to any decision to embark upon a program of cutting FF/DD hull numbers in order to increase overall numbers by building OPV/Corvette type vessels is a full examination of tasks and the capabilities required for each task.
At the moment we are keeping 2 FF/DD East Of Suez and 1 in the FI AOR. We also provide a FRE and duty Towed Array patrol Ship (these can sometimes be combined but this is obviously dependent on capabilities and if the single ship is activated then a another stby unit need to be provided.
We do not currently provided an FF/DD to either of the NATO standing groups (SNMG1 or SNMG2).
We also have to have units available to be escorts for the Readiness Task Group.
We infrequently use an FF/DD for Atlantic Patrol task North and have a requirement to provide hulls for PWO and aviation training.
So what is required is a review beginning on a blank piece of paper that looks at exactly what we will require FF/DD hulls to do and how we deploy them to maximise their efficiency, for instance if we already have 2 East of Suez then they can supplement any escorts that sail with a TG deploying E of Suez.
Once this review is complete and we have decided where we actually need an FF/DD hull and where we can replace the capability with 1 or more Corvettes then we can look at proposed numbers.
Of course any review will be dependent upon the capabilities of both the FF/DD hulls and the proposed Corvette.
I feel a longer post coming on but have to drop a colleague at the airport (some people get home for xmas :) )

December 20, 2012 1:24 pm

“These constabulary tasks are more about showing something is being done than about achieving any real impact on the problem. (To achieve real impact is more a question of ROE than platform.)”

They are the bread and butter of what the Navy has done for 400 years. It’s unglamarous, it’s maligned but it is part and parcel of having a Navy. It is how most western Navies have organised themselves since there were such a thing. The big expensive vessels were husbanded for fleet actions and open warfare and the remainder performed the daily taskings which you refer to as constabulary actions.

It makes no sense whatsoever to send modern frigates and destroyers on missions that need nothing more than a sloop. As for 30 sailors, I suppose once again we have the Allies Blinkers™ put on that are passed around this site so often. More often than not our vessels are working on multi national task forces tying in with multi national aims and mutual interests like mine sweeping in the Gulf or having a crack at pirates or trying to stop drug smuggling.

It’s like the Army sending an armoured brigade to Sierra Leonne or the Army Catering Corps to Kosovo. We have these wild swings in the assets being used for mundane but vital tasks – from sleek frigates designed to shoot down the most bad ass planes and hunt the quietest submarines to what amount to massive cargo ships with a completely inadequate sensor suite.

If the balloon goes up old boy, it won’t remove the mundane taskings and we’ll be part of a co-alition, a proper CVBG would be an enormous contribution to a multi national Task Force. We wouldn’t need to pull ships from hither and thither and the main fleet could train as such. If you look at the history of the Navy prior to WWI its big theme is Navy admirals complaining they could never exercise their battlefleets properly because their vessels were doing other jobs and the fleet was not up to strength.

Keep a first rate core, and train it for proper open warfare.

December 20, 2012 1:27 pm


Hope you’re wrapped up warm must be chilly on the morale high ground ;-)

If you plotted a graph showing the intensity of my daily posts against Masters essay deadlines, there’d be quite the correlation!

December 20, 2012 1:56 pm

The other angle on this is ensuring the existing rivers / clydes and archers are not lost in the process. All these could be rationalised in due course int a common fleet of coastal / fishery patrol vessels. Must be a fair few off the shelf designs

I think the sloop / corvette idea is the right one but the difficult bit is striking the right balance so its neither useless in a reasonable threat environment, but not gold plated. Helo facilities, 76mm gun, couple of 30mm, space for a module of CAAM / harpoon perhaps if ever needed – fitted for but definitely not with

I agree with the poster who suggested a blank sheet of paper view of commitments is required

December 20, 2012 2:07 pm

The trouble with doing a blank canvass review is that the specific contemporary commitments it addresses might not be the commitments being undertaken in 10-15 years.

Far better to underpin such an analysis with a look at historic commitments over far longer periods of time. The future is enormously uncertain and at the moment we are sacrificing first rate peer warfare capability running around after drug smugglers and pirates or else using vessels which are wildly unsuited to the tasks.

I think it was APATs who mentioned the RFA vessel which didn’t even have FLIR capability.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
December 20, 2012 2:42 pm

Is it just me or can anyone else see the beginning of a return to the C1 and C2 plan, with the T-26 meeting the C1 requirement and something less capable and expensive fulfilling the C2 role. It is just like the CVF, changing to CATOBAR then realising we cannot afford it so reverting to STOVL.

Again we have senior management spinning things to keep their political masters happy and to make sure they are on the honours list. We ARE trying to do more with less and it is going to bite us down the line as equipment burns out faster through greater use with little capacity to spread the load. The same will go for manpower. We need honesty from the top in what we can actually take on with what we have not what we aspire to do

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 2:59 pm


These constabulary tasks are more about showing something is being done than about achieving any real impact on the problem. (To achieve real impact is more a question of ROE than platform.)”

ROE is useless without the capability to make use of it. You also make an assumption based on an opinion about why certain vessels are in certain areas and label them all “constabulary tasks”. The reason we have kept a 45 and a 23 in the Gulf AOR recently has a lot more to do with their core capabilities and a certain country beginning with I than any constabulary tasking.

If you look at the history of the Navy prior to WWI its big theme is Navy admirals complaining they could never exercise their battlefleets properly because their vessels were doing other jobs and the fleet was not up to strength.

Since WW1 we have sort of gotten away from Ship manouevring into a battle line using flags to fire guns at the enemy. The advent of link, missiles and simulators has made training far more efficient, as has the FOST syllabus.

Even historically the RN when it was huge kept quite powerful squadrons deployed in trouble spots around the globe. We can no longer do that.

The future is enormously uncertain and at the moment we are sacrificing first rate peer warfare capability running around after drug smugglers and pirates or else using vessels which are wildly unsuited to the tasks.

I agree to a certain extent though as someone who has every day visibility of precisely who is doing what the whole FF chasing pirates thing is massively overstated.

The only way to actually ensure that we achieve the correct force balance is to look at what we will require certain assets to do. that is in terms of the capabilities we will be able to field and where we can field them. Both very day of the year and also in cases of emergency.

That is the only way we will not end up with the usual UK armed forces position of being “ready to fight yesterdays war tommorow”.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 4:15 pm


So who are you bashing there me or Phil? The problem with piracy is ROE not the platform. If the West’s navy were a bit more kinetic in the way the problem was handled, if pirates were detained and hauled off to some prison somewhere then there may be less of a problem. It doesn’t matter whether pirates are shot at from RFA’s, OPV’s, or frigates. What does matter is when WW3 breaks and the RN is short of ASW ships because budget has been a trot of patrol boats.

EDIT: All constabulary tasks are about the legal framework, the rules, etc. to be enforced.

December 20, 2012 4:20 pm

Because world wars are in the habit of breaking out spontaneously these days?

If there is going to be a world war, or a large conflict, there will be some warning. No nation on Earth possesses the force to start something like that without a period of re-armament unless it is nothing more than a conventional skirmish and a nuclear finish.

The risk of such a conflict is at an all time historical low at the moment. And I can’t see anyone being in a position to kick off without at least 5 years build up even if they have a master plan which they won’t. Instead we’ll see a gradual increase in tension. For the odd conventional cat fight a Navy contributing a CVBG as part of an integrated allied force is enough.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 4:21 pm


I am not really bashing anyone. At the end of the day we have to do what our Lords and masters decide. I am merely pointing out that the only way to make the suggested idea of increasing overall hull numbers but cutting traditional FF/DD numbers work is to go right back to basics.
Look at everything we currently do and what we may be asked to do and then decide if we can still do it or even do it better with a different force mix.
The one thing I am not doing is pre judging the outcome of such a review.

December 20, 2012 4:25 pm

“what we may be asked to do”

Which I argue would be mostly operations other than war to use a short hand phrase. For which a first rate vessel is simply not necessary and the other extreme, an RFA, is just not acceptable. Whether we agree that a lot of the OOTW taskings are rationally important or effective doesn’t change the fact that that is what has been asked of our Navy for hundreds of years.

Anyway, it seems the big decision has been made. The details are the most important part now and I doubt they’ll be along in any less time than a few years.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 4:45 pm


Anyway, it seems the big decision has been made. The details are the most important part now and I doubt they’ll be along in any less time than a few years.

That is exactly what I am getting at. You are not HMG and with no disrespect intended are not a subject matter expert on capabilities required to even sustain a self defence posture in the face of a perceived threat.

So in order for this to work the SME and HMG need to sit down and thrash out things such as, will HMG be happy with 1 F/DD permanently E of Suez and maybe a couple of Corvettes? Will they be happy with a Corvette down South instead of an FF/DD. (could we use RAF/Army assets to make up for the perceived downgrade)?
What notice are we required to sail a CBG or ARG and how many escorts are needed? Will we be expected to sail a CBG and ARG simultaneously and without Allied support?
Is HMG happy for a Corvette to be FRE if a TAS T23/T26 is duty TAPS?
What level of threat environment is a Corvette expected to be able to operate in?
How will this affect our pereived suport for our allies? (the US quite like having a T23 in the Gulf for instance).
These are the questions that have to be asked and answered before we even look at capability requirements for a new vessel never mind costs or numbers.
Only once these have all been answered will we know if we can make it work.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 4:46 pm

Even if wars don’t come out of nowhere navies have to be sustained. It takes years to build a class and months to train crews.

All this OPV talk smells of budget cuts more than considered strategy.

We shall see.

December 20, 2012 4:59 pm


Would be interesting to see your thoughts in a longer post on what standing tasks could be performed with additional vessels and what we could look to give up. I think in the past having so many frigates and fewer platform’s such as the Bay’s lead us to send frigates to do task were they were not required such as Caribbean. Deployment’s to the FI also raise questions. Forward basing Clyde there seems to have worked well although I am sure you will have more knowledge of that than me. Sending billion pound destroyer’s or half billion pound frigates to an area as rough as the South Atlantic also does not seem wise. The massive transit time required would also seem to eat into our scarce escort fleet. If an armed naval presence is required down South do you feel this could be provided effectively by something like Khareef? Also would a similar type of vessel be able to perform the FRE role?

December 20, 2012 5:26 pm

“Even if wars don’t come out of nowhere navies have to be sustained. It takes years to build a class and months to train crews.”

The baddies have the same constraints.

“You are not HMG and with no disrespect intended are not a subject matter expert on capabilities required to even sustain a self defence posture in the face of a perceived threat.”

As has been pointed out to me several times not being an SME does not exclude you from the debate on an internet forum. And let’s be fair I haven’t exactly been overly perscriptive, all I’ve done is argue for a very general model which in a general sense fits what was said in the speech. As to capabilities and types and numbers I wouldn’t know where to start and freely admit it.

I just argue that we need a Navy with powerful ships and not so powerful ships. Even my use of the word sloop simply stems from the fact I think it sounds cooler than Corvette and more traditional.

So I don’t claim to know the details. Just the general direction I think we should be heading. I don’t think that’s being too presumptuous.

It’s either that or all I can ever talk about on here from now on is who is fitter, Kylie or Danni.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 5:39 pm


I was so definitely not having a go at you not being an SME. Simply trying to illustrate the difficult questions we must answer before we can definitely decide it is workable.
Encouraging debate on my specific points maybe?

Perhaps trying to highlight some of the things that make it more complicated than simply saying “we are going to have Corvettes”.

I am worried that nobody has actually looked at these things, I have certainly heard bugger all on the grape vine.
I am not hugely opposed to the idea but would feel better if I saw some evidence of the correct thought processes being brought to bear.
My nightmare scenario is we cur T26 numbers buy Corvettes and ens up working our FF/DD to death doing what they are doing now but with fewer numbers.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
December 20, 2012 5:51 pm

Before people start extolling the Al Khareef (no doubt based on the Wiki bang for tonne displacement theory), they ought to ask why those ships are currently projected to make a £600M+ loss for BAE last time I looked (might be worse now!) and why BAES are having major trouble finishing them…….

One might also wish to consider whether the “30-man” crew postulated on here for the River+ OPV would actually work in an environment where there is a credible surface threat and associated FP requirement, as opposed to some obnoxious French/Spanish fishermen. The FP requirement for ships in the Gulf (and by extension the Op Atalanta AOR) is a significant manpower driver. And that’s before you start adding boarding parties, boat crews etc. Turn that into three watches, plus an ops room picture compilation requirement and I’d be surprised if you got much change out of 80 bods. And that’s 80 bods in UK accommodation, which all of a sudden will have your ship teetering at the 3500-4000te mark, but with only minimal weapons systems. I wonder how they’ll be described then?

As for first and second rate assets, can we assume that the RAF would be content to sacrifice their F35 or some of the Typhoon squadrons for an aircraft something between a Strikemaster and a Warthog for CAS in a COIN scenario? Cos lets face it, having a top-end fast jet like Tornado burning flight hours where there is no significant air or SAM threat is a bit of a waste surely?

I’m obviously being facetious there, but the principles are the same. Yes on the surface it’s daft to have “billion pound destroyers” chasing pirates. But the nice thing about them is that they can have a proper fight with a proper foe as well, just like Tornado / Tiffy. A sloop however, will not be able to contribute much to a fleet action and therefore dilutes combat power from a fixed pot – just as asking the RAF to delete high-end airframes for a low-end CAS COIN frame would.

It doesn’t quite apply to the army, because light infantry is light infantry. It can be reroled much more quickly than building a new ship or type of fast jet.

Oh. And Kylie. Definitely.

December 20, 2012 5:55 pm

I don’t particularly want to see a cut in first rates. My saying I would accept 16 was just an acknowledgement of what is likely to happen, probably anyway with or without these vessels.

I’d rather see an MHPC programme that bought the Rivers, MCMs and Survey vessels up to second rate standard. I remember arguing this with you before.

I remember when the US Army Stryker brigades were being introduced and people were moaning that the US Army was having its claws clipped. But what was actually happening was that it was light infantry being upgraded to Stryker not armoured brigades being downgraded.

That’s what I would like to see happen to the RN.

An increase in flexibility by having an MHPC programme. Ideally the first rates would be left alone – fingers crossed – but there’s always some give and take sadly.

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 6:50 pm

Phil said “The baddies have the same constraints.”

True. How many ships have the Chinese built this year? How many do they plan to build next year? And the year after? And by what degree are they improving year on year? As I said a navy needs to be sustained.

@ All

I consider OPVs to be third rate.

First Rate; Area wide capability like Sea Viper or complete ASW package (TAS, hull mounted sonar(s), ultra-quiet machinery, large ASW helicopter (or two) etc.) Plus base ASuW fit out of gun and AShM.

Second Rate; Point defence systems like Sea Wolf or hull mounted search sonar (plus ASW helicopter) Plus base ASuW fit out of gun and AShM.

Third Rate: Medium/small gun, flight deck (perhaps hanger, perhaps utility helicopter), air search radar. Perhaps CIWS. No organic ASW capability.

December 20, 2012 6:54 pm

The Chinese are not just our problem. If somehow we ended up in a shooting war with them, we will take our place in an international coalition to defeat them in which we would be operating in integrated Task Forces.

It will be Tiger Force and the Pacific Fleet (writ smaller) all over again. Which means 1x CVBG and some sort of air component.

December 20, 2012 7:06 pm

Another 4 OPVs would not significantly change the balance of the navy, nor does it suddenly turn it into the MN. What it does do is give options and at a relatively cheap price.

To say an OPV has no value in war is ignoring the roles lesser war vessels have played in previous conflicts.

December 20, 2012 7:30 pm

“…not being an SME does not exclude you from the debate on an internet forum.” – Phew that’s a relief. I don’t even know what SME stands for. It’s nothing like X’s FFS is it? The internet is a free country and we all have a perfect right to be wrong when we think we’re right.

@Phil – “I just argue that we need a Navy with powerful ships and not so powerful ships” – I think that’s what Sir DR was saying; the key word being “and” not “or.”

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
December 20, 2012 7:42 pm

For OPV it’s all about relative reach. In previous conflicts where OPV / sloop made any sort of contribution, the relative reach of protagonists was pretty small. So you could roll depth charges off the stern and have an active sonar and be useful. Similarly a 4″ manually laid gun was some use against surfaced subs.

In those days picture compilation had latencies of hours if not days and small distances. Today picture compilation tends to have much smaller latencies, multiple sources of data and significant ranges.

The same relative reach no longer applies. A 76mm armed sloop, even with a crude SAM added is going to be c0ck-all use in a threat environment where fast jets exist. Nor are you going to ping away with active and deploy short range weapons against a sub, unless you’re lucky and he isn’t….

There is nothing wrong with OPV provided they are not at the expense of major surface units. Unfortunately, that ain’t going to be the case here, if CDS gets his way…..

December 20, 2012 7:57 pm

Last time we were discussing the T26 I suggested 8 T26 + 8 T26 with the second set being “fitted for but not with” almost everything.

The idea being that we get economies of scale of hull production and can retro fit/upgrade the lesser T26’s when the time arises. Obviously they’d still be able to carry and operate a medium copter which carries much of the ASW/ASuW capability anyway… I remember getting on my high horse about Wildcat not having a dipping sonar in order to be a 2nd rate ASW/ASuW copter.

This means we have slightly large 3rd rate vessels that can easily be upgraded to 2nd raters (assuming a destroyer is 1st rate, and a frigate is 2nd rate, etc).

Is there enough savings in the “fittings” to pay for the extra hulls and crews required?

steve taylor
December 20, 2012 8:15 pm

CDS will be pruning his roses or getting a directorship with a defence company or three before anything concrete happens. 1SL should stick out for 12 T26 and even push for more. CDS might have risen to be the uniformed head of the UK services, doesn’t make him always right. Especially when it comes to naval matters. Don’t see the 40mm gun for Warrior programme being scrapped because the Army will only be fighting terrorists…..

December 20, 2012 8:25 pm

Much like replacing a first rater tornado with a coin aircraft reaper which was done last year.

Would we task such vessels to a threat environment? Would such a ship be asked to operate in a different environment to a us lcs for example or something similar to French gowind for example.

December 20, 2012 8:54 pm

Hello all. Only one more working day to go before I have to pretend to be happy to see relatives I haven’t seen since I pretended to be happy to see them this time last year.

“…not being an SME does not exclude you from the debate on an internet forum.” – Phew that’s a relief. I don’t even know what SME stands for. It’s nothing like X’s FFS is it? The internet is a free country and we all have a perfect right to be wrong when we think we’re right.

After a bit of sales patter, Panetta talks about his 5 point Defence Strategy:

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 8:57 pm


I do not believe anyone has suggested using such an OPV in a threat environment. As I have painstakingly highlighted in previous posts there are numerous questions to be answered and parameters set before we can talk about numbers and capabilities.
One of the biggest being what do we expect a Corvette type vessel to be able to achieve.
We have to ensure that we retain enough FF/DD capability to conduct tasking that requires an FF/DD but there may be an opportunity to pass off current FF/DD tasking to smaller combatants.
What I have not read on here other than my musings is any attempt to look at what we currently do, the capabilities required and an analysis of alternatives.
Instead we have either, yes it is a brilliant idea or no it will never work.
maybe think deference should be renamed “post our prejudices”?

December 20, 2012 9:03 pm

It’s not prejudice. It really doesn’t bother me. And to be honest I’d still be thinking that the RFAs being used in the Caribbean were a good idea if it wasn’t for you mentioning about not even having FLIR. I’m just offering an opinion I don’t have a dog in this hunt.

December 20, 2012 9:12 pm


I think SME = Subject Matter Expert (where Expert = drip under pressure)

Good luck with the relies and SARS! (Smile And Retain Smile)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 20, 2012 9:37 pm

I guess predjudice is a pretty strong word but I do not see any actual examination of where and how we could cut back FF/DD current roles and replace with Corvettes to allow CDS thoughts to happen.

For instance the FI, I know a Political hot potato but could we replace the permanent FF/DD cover by other means?

Can think of 3 options.

1. Increased army presence making any landing a definite no go.
2. RAF offer up a strike capability, even 3 or 4 GR4 with maybe Kormorant missiles bought and integrated from germany.
3. A purchase of shore launched NSM, similar to the Polish purchase, they have paid about $140 milion for 60 missiles and launchers, we would need a third of that.

Given any of those 3 options we may be able to lose the FF/DD presence and reinforce Clyde with a new ” Corvette”.

The Gulf, we could only provide 1 FF in the Gulf, make it a TAS T23/T26 but base 2 “Corvettes” in Bahrain for EEZ duties in the NAG in support of Iraq and chasing pirates in the GOA.

Utilise further 3rd rates for APT(N) tasking.

Ensure that any future Corvette was capable of FRE tasks such as shadowing and SF support tasks. To be undertaken when an FF/DD is not available.

You already cut out the requirement of 2 permanent tasks. You need 6 or 7 “Corvettes to make it happen but if you only shed 3 T26 then you actually have more FF/DD available for core and contingency tasking.

Of course it completely depends upon vessel capabilities HMG decisions but is perhaps not unworkable.

December 20, 2012 9:40 pm


You raise a fair point and I think we’re guilty as charged. I’ll have a go going with the adaptable fwd engagement idea suggested by cds i can see us perhaps taking on additional tasking in the areas the general mentioned Africa, Caribbean and Far East essentially conducting anti-piracy, sea control and denial, counter-terrorism, drug interdiction and anti-smuggling operations, oil and gas platform protection, search and rescue, fisheries and possibly the delivery of special forces. Now I can guess at what the two frigates are doing in the gulf probably what the us carrier groups are doing doesn’t seem like we can change that.

The TAPs I guess looks after the ssbn fleet again cant see that changing much all other standing operations could be open to options I don’t see a high level of significant threat in any other tasking i dont know where all the ships are so that maybe a sweeping statement but to provide some insurance could we keep additional fleet ready escorts instead of 1 perhaps 3/4 this may allow covering taps without dedicating a ship and should an incident spring up were a less capable ship is operating one of these ships sail to reinforce. Could ships assigned to the task groups operate on a similar process to the capital assets eg a high and low cycle readiness.

Don’t know if this reduces overall ff/dd numbers as i don’t know what level of redundancy fleet ready escorts require or the task group ships require I guess the gulf ones are 3:1.

December 20, 2012 9:43 pm


OPVs able to operate helicopters or UAVs are not useless. Nor are ships capable of supporting stop and search operations or ones able to search a radius of up to 90nm (like HMS Clyde).

I agree they are not replacements for DD/FFs but far from worthless.

December 20, 2012 10:08 pm

“Batch 2 Type 45’s” – Fantasy indeed. Like Typhoon Tranche3B! Really we’re all just treading water until SDSR 2015 aren’t we. The worrying thing is that whereas a year or two ago we were projecting a loosening of the purse strings (as our economy surged forwards!) we are now faced with the very real prospect of further cuts. At best status quo?

December 20, 2012 10:35 pm

A World war breaking out is more likely to be WW1 style rather than WW2. So not a nutter taking 7 years building massive masterrace forces, but a terrorist act sparking off war by accident. Ring any bells? 9/11 has cost the UK £17-20 billion in Afghanistan + how many hundred lives? Imagine a 9/11 style incident sparking off war between states thanks to alliances & old grievances.
Sadly Britain is not ready. Army, RN & RAF are all too small.Industry crippled by green taxes & lack of investment. Money that should have gone on infrastructure has been pi**ed away by DfID.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
December 20, 2012 11:25 pm

APATS – You are of course correct that the requirement for a given task must come first. Otherwise it’s the usual “solution looking for a problem” game. However, implicit in the thinking is that with the possible exception of APT(S) and what was WIGS it’s difficult to think of a standing task where the potential threat capability does not exceed that which an OPV might safely be exposed to, were the threat intent to change suddenly.

To make it capable of that,you end up with something much bigger than what people are speculating upon here, which makes it a more expensive beast than all the cost guessers suppose. Just the manpower required and accommodation will do that before we start putting extra systems on it.

Repulse – if it needs someone else to look after it (ie in a threat environment rather than peacetime) it’s a liability, not an asset. No-one argues that OPVs are useless in non-warfighting situations – it’s when intent changes where a capability exists that you need to worry.

December 21, 2012 1:23 am

Has anyone considered that perhaps Richards is looking towards MHPC delivering a ‘Corvette’ type force multiplier in the 2020’s or later?

If that was the case then it would leave all of our talk about T26, OPV’s and the like even more academic than usual!

December 21, 2012 4:14 am

@ Simon
Last time we were discussing the T26 I suggested 8 T26 + 8 T26 with the second set being “fitted for but not with” almost everything.
One big issue is you will have to pay for new radars for your second rate T26 as we only have 13 Artisan sets to transfer across. Given that many systems will transfer across from T23 anyway I am not sure if the savings you envisage are there.

Thanks for your thoughts on standing patrols. Would you see the Khareef Class OPV being able to fufill these roles in its current configuration?
You quote a cost of £200 million per Khareef class on a previous post but you also indicate a total loss of £600 million for BAE which would indicate a £330 million price tag per vessel. Are these figures accurate? I can’t find reference to them anywhere else. It’s obviously a vital question as Khareef is the nearest example of a corvette built in the UK today and if it can be done for much less than a T26 then the entire debate is academic.

December 21, 2012 4:25 am

@ John H
“Sadly Britain is not ready. Army, RN & RAF are all too small. Industry crippled by green taxes & lack of investment. Money that should have gone on infrastructure has been pi**ed away by DfID.”
Is anyone ready? Last time I looked most countries were in an even sorrier state than us militarily and economically. Even the much vaunted Chinese are having some major issue’s at the moment.
@ Challenger
“Has anyone considered that perhaps Richards is looking towards MHPC delivering a ‘Corvette’ type force multiplier in the 2020′s or later?”
The problem is the MHPC’s are rumoured to be coming in at £180 million a pop and that’s with out turning them into better armed corvettes. The prediction is for just 8 to replace the 12 MCV’s + 2 Hydrographic vessels. There numbers are going to be even more stretched than the FF/DD.
I agree about OPV’s in war time however if we can keep more of our FF/DD’s at home it gives us the ability to surge larger numbers in war time. However if they are all out on a 1.2 rotatio schedule covering standing task’s then we lose that ability. Even if we have to send the fleet of to China for WWIII we would still need vessels in home waters, the FI and Carribean performing more mundane tasks. A fleet of OPV’s would give us more flexibility in war fighting. The real question is how many high end hulls we would need to loose for a fleet of 6-7 of these vessels. If it’s 1 T26 then it’s a no brainer. If its three then it’s a tricky decision.

December 21, 2012 4:29 am

Maybe a better option is to look at forward basing T26. Part of the issue is the need for three vessels to carry out one task. If we forward based 1 T26 in the FI and 1 in Bahrain then we would essentially save nearly four vessels for other tasks. Of course the big issue will be the extra crews to fill the boats.

December 21, 2012 7:56 am

NAB, I haven’t explained myself properly, in war time I would see OPVs to operate in UK and overseas dependency waters. They would be acting as part of a layered defence backed up by air and other assets, this would free up DD/FF and MCM assets to do what they are supposed to be doing.

I agree with Martin, it’s all about how many DD/FFs you would need to sacrifice (if any).

December 21, 2012 8:02 am

@Martin, are we not also getting 3 Artisan radars for the Albions and Ocean? If Ocean is canned as expected and we decide that escorts deserve this radar more than Amphibs, you’ve got your 16 sets.

December 21, 2012 8:28 am

@ Repulse – I did not know that about Artisan. I think though to get the entire fleet of 16 we would need to go a bit further such as making the entire fleet diesel only with no GT’s and also cheaper sonar in the GP version’s.

December 21, 2012 10:33 am

The problem is the MHPCs are rumoured to be coming in at £180 million a pop

*eaten my hat*

how? what are they spending it on? there is no design, no contractor, but money pours out of Bath through the plughole…

December 21, 2012 11:04 am


I hope we see some action on OPV’s or Corvettes sooner rather than later.

I just suddenly had a bad feeling that whilst we are all getting excited and discussing fleet numbers, types of vessel etcetera perhaps Richards simply meant it would be ‘nice’ to find some extra hulls for standing commitments out of the much promised MHPC whenever it arrives.

I agree with Alex as well, how do you know MHPC is slated as being £180 million a pop? It isn’t off the drawing board yet and won’t be in service until at least the mid 2020’s.

December 21, 2012 11:20 am

@ Challenger and Alex

Pre SDSR 2010 when the MOD had budgets and made long term plans to replace capabilities rather than just let them go on holiday the indication was a budget of £1.5 billion for eight vessels. obviously now that Phil has balanced the books by cancelling everything we have no idea what it’s likely to be or if their even will be a budget. However I am fairly sure given his distane for expensive warships chasing pirates that the CDS was not referring to and hopeful MHPC budget but instead raiding the funds for the T26 program.

December 21, 2012 11:39 am


Yeah I remember the £1.5 billion for 8 ships thing that circulated before 2010, I was assuming that any figure approaching £180 million per ship would be for specialist mine-hunting and hydro-graphic kit which you hypothetically wouldn’t need if some extra hulls were procured for a Corvette type role. Who knows what’s going on with the MHPC programme now!

I agree that Richards was probably referring to a different solution, most probably by altering the T26 procurement to get some OPV’s or something similar going in the not too distant future.

December 21, 2012 4:09 pm

Exactly “Who knows what’s going on with the MHPC programme now!”
– it is almost a year since the one year contract for Frazer Nash to consolidate the requirements ended (meaning that normally a design would follow)
– it is under OCCAR who tells us that it is running wonderfully and so-oo many nations are onboard… but that is just for the MCM systems part of it
– how they will be deployed is the UK-specific MHPC bit (as well as the remaining letters of the acronym); a mystery
– Sandowns (while v good & v expensive) have been deemed too small to carry the next-gen systems, whereas the other class at least have been honoured with the title “Test Beds”.

As per much of our discussion, the letter “P” is either missing, or is calling for a stop-gap, in order to optimise the future class of hulls (that is a heroic assumption in itself… that there will be just one class, to deploy on)

December 21, 2012 6:41 pm


I agree with most of what you say, but if you look at what MHPC is supposed to be replacing, the Echo’s and Rivers aren’t a decade old yet and the Hunts seem to be having a fair bit spent on them to keep them up-to date. The main issues seem to be the small size of the Sandown’s and the increasing age of the Hunt’s, these are the elements that are really going to drive exactly how and when we actually see some results.

Sir Humphrey
December 21, 2012 7:14 pm

Its all interesting stuff, but lets be clear that new vessels are at least 10 years and 2-3 SDSRs away from entering service. I wouldnt get too hopeful just yet!

I did some analysis over at the blog on this –

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
December 21, 2012 10:34 pm

If and its a big if, we allocate the T45 and T22/26 exclusively to supporting the CVBG and ARG, each having 1 of each in a similar way to the number of escorts the French use for CdG We could get away with the 6 T45 and maybe 6 to 8 T22/26, allowing for an extra escort for one of the groups is needed or a FF available for the Falklands. Other RN tasks such as the Carribbean could be handled by a less capable vessel and I have no problem halting the deployment of RN assets to the Gulf on a permentent basis.

A “Corvette” can still show the flag and probably carry out 80% of naval operations leaving the CVBG to handle high threat areas when needed. I would however follw the French idea rather then the OPV route giving the platform a decent medium calibre gun, ability to carry a helo and SSMs (when needed) and a rudimentary AAW capability through the gun suplimented with MANPADS and or 20-30mm cannon. I would make the hanger capable of holding a Merlin and this would give a basic wartime ASW capability as well. The electronics fit would be basic but there would be scope for improvements during their service lives. In a nutshell it starts to resemble the C2 concept but efforts would need to be made to stop capability creep within Abbey Wood, trying to turn them into fully fledged platforms. With 6-8 of these we could have vessels available that could do the tasks required leaving the T45/22/26s to carry out training and operations as peremnent groupings.

IN the same vain I always thought the RAF should have bought 50-60 SAAB Grippen to replace the Jaguar, and the Army should have stayed in the Boxer programme to replace the majority of the FV430 fleet and saxons. In both cases these would have been in service already and we would not have had many of the problems that required UORs in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Mind you I still think we should purchase the latter as it is turning out to be an outstanding platform with bright future with its levels of protection and modular flexibility in a league of its own when compared to other wheeled platforms in service.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 6:58 am

Lord Jim,

With 6 to 8 of your C2 and 6 to 8 T26 you have just traded away capability for probably no increase in numbers (:

I think in order to obtain numbers we would have look at something closer to the Spanish BAM than the French Floreal or La Fayette.

The Spanish paid 100 million pound per hull for the BAM. So we are in the ball park of 3 for 1 on T26. Replace the old 76MM on the front with the STRALES version, put a RAM launcher aft and you have a pretty capable OPV/Light Frigate.
Yes it can only carry a wildcat and not a Merlin and would have no sonar but we have to accept it would have no ASW role. It would be there to carry out Phils “Constabulary” duties.
However with STRALES/RAM and Wildcat carrying FASGW then it is no sitting duck.
There would be numerous issues of course, the minute we touch something it automatically becomes more expensive. Fitting a RAM launcher necessitates a command sytem of sorts, so possibly SEA RAM may be a better option.
Ayway just a thought.

December 22, 2012 11:04 am

Wouldn’t we be better off with something a little cheaper? More along the lines of HMS Protector?

So a converted working vessel with helipad and hangar, the ability to launch some small boats and some basic self protection weapons. Restrict it to theatres like the Carribean and the coast of Somalia. Stuff where the likelyhood of it coming under any kind of serious attack is very, very small?

There might even be scope there to work with various nations that aren’t normally able to contribute to something like the counter piracy ops by playing host to their helicopters/marines?

December 22, 2012 11:33 am


The Spaniards paid about a mln euros (stronger euros) per meter of BAM, and I quite like the upgrades “However with STRALES/RAM and Wildcat carrying FASGW then it is no sitting duck.”

The main weakness of BAM is quite short legs, but the 130m version was [year?] quoted at 130 mln. That would provide the legs, and can be ice-reinforced which is not that expensive.

All of this would put the “P” back into MHPC, and would also provide a number of ocean-going MCM platforms when such are needed.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 11:38 am

Chris B,

It depends upon what you want it to be able to do. That goes back to my blank sheet review. Protector is quite unuique in that she operates in an area where weapons are not welcome.

It would be embarassing off Somalia to be chased off by someone who happened to have an RPG or even some drug smugglers with an RPG. Also how many work boats knocking around have a hangar? Protector does not and she was extensively modified at some cost.

I think the slight extra investment to obtain a vessel between an OPV and Corvette would be well worth it in terms of what you gain both in capability and perception.

The sort of nations you talk about us working with would be far more impressed with a “Corvette” than a Oil rig support ship that has a hangar welded on and 3 50 cal machine guns.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 11:47 am


All the figures I can find for BAM indicate a range of 8,000Nm at 15 kts. Not sure how true this is but I do know the Spanish deployed one from cartagena to the GOA and it did not fuel until it reached Djibouti.

Given that a T42 has to cross the pond with 1 Tyne only trailing 1 shaft at 13 kts then I think we could live with the range.

My only rail against going to 130m is that everyone will look at it as a Frigate and I would not get my 8 or 9 for 3 T26 swap as the price increases.

December 22, 2012 12:05 pm


Let me take you back to where I was, thought wise, earlier in the year. People like Admiral West were making the case that navy was over worked, that it didn’t have enough escorts to manage all the tasks that were required of it. Back then I strongly supported the idea of a cheaper, smaller vessel, to carry out some of the more mundane tasks.

Then you gave quite a comprehensive review of the fleet and its tasks, and it appeared from that that most of the moaning from the Admiralty – at least as far as I could see – did not match the real world data you were giving us, and that the problem wasn’t nearly as acute as was made out.

From that point my support for this whole corvette/sloop thing has waned quite a bit. Unless it can be done on a cost scale that would see 3 “sloops” replace one T26, which would require the “sloop” to come in at no more than around £100 million then I don’t think it’s really worth it.

For that reason I personally can’t support anything that would cost over and above that amount. That’s what leads me to something along the lines of Protector.

Now yes, she doesn’t have a hangar. What she does have though is a bloody great crane just ahead of the flight deck, that probably wouldn’t be needed for the sort of tasks we’re talking about, so that could go to make room for a hangar (on a similar vessel, I mean).

I suspect that such a ship would carry a helicopter similar to a Lynx, so something with a bit of punch, and that it would embark some form of Marine unit to handle the boarding tasks and the like, which represents an opportunity to take along a few Javelin.

Would a pirate skiff risk coming into RPG range of something like this vessel? The half inch Browning has a longer range, and Javelin would do some serious damage to a little skiff. There is footage somewhere on the interwebs of Dutch Marines using .50 calibre sniper rifles to put holes in small pirate vessels as well.

And don’t we always put helicopters and small boats at risk of an RPG attack anytime we send them to investigate a contact?

That’s just my personal view. It either has to be a cheap vessel which operates solely in non-warfighty environments, and trades some risk in favour of lower cost, or we don’t do it all.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 12:28 pm

Chris B

Exactly why I was impressed by the BAM. These cost 100 million each, now swapping the older 76MM for a 76mm Strales and fitting a RAM launcher would cost but a 76MM super rapid mount is quoted at approximately 3 million pounds, so even if the STRALES variant is 5 million that puts the price up to 105 million.

The beauty of taking a design that is meant to be a warship even a large OPV is that we can ensure that we have EODF capability, link if required, mil comms etc. Rather than try and retrofit.

Now RAM is not cheap and a launcher and missiles will set you back close to 8 million pounds. The Sea RAM version is cheaper and it may be that we would delete this to save costs. Even if it was included we would be at 113 million and close to the 3 for 1, certainly close to 8 for 3.

So by the time BAE are finished I would predict that we could get 4 for 3 :)

December 22, 2012 1:26 pm


Hmm, I see where you’re going with that. My worry is that the price is already on the up! Does it absolutely need the Sea RAM?

I wonder what the conversion cost would be if you could pick up say 4 commercial working boats and convert them? Ideally the less T26 that have to be sacrificed the better, so finding the cheapest way to produce an adequate “sloop” is paramount.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 1:33 pm

Chris B,


Hmm, I see where you’re going with that. My worry is that the price is already on the up! Does it absolutely need the Sea RAM?

I wonder what the conversion cost would be if you could pick up say 4 commercial working boats and convert them? Ideally the less T26 that have to be sacrificed the better, so finding the cheapest way to produce an adequate “sloop” is paramount.

The inherent capability depends upon what you want them to do as I expanded in an earlier post. Once tasking was decided then you would look at numbers and force flow.

If you could cheaply convert a “work boat” to be an adequare OPV/Sloop and save money then other people would be doing it!

It would have to be massively cheaper as you are compromising in every part of the design from the propulsion, to the ability to create citadels, to isolations, to air conditioning etc.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 2:11 pm


Thx for the link. I have never seem so many “buzz words” used to completely fail to make a valid point in my life.

The first poster did have a point, an Amphib can dominate a large area of water and actually deploy separate boat groups if required, as Bulwark did in 2006.

The second poster used all the correct buzz words about ISR, systems etc but completely overlooked the fact that the systems do not need to be based on 1 platform.
He mixes a systems and platform based approach. The platform is only 1 part of a system which starts with satellite AIS and live feed radar from all platforms and from UAV, AWACS, MPA, Helos, Ships etc. This is then fused together to allow deployment of assets.
As for the mumbo jumbo about needing twice the number of Ships company to manage 24 hour surveilance. well if you cannot man an ops room and run a single environment non threat RMP 24/7 with no air or sub surface threat at all with what you have onboard then you really should not be there in the first place.
I must admint it is the first time I have heard anyone argue that you actually need an FF to chase after 6 men in a Skiff :)

December 22, 2012 2:21 pm


Interesting opinions on the BAM ships have you had any experience of the holland opv the Dutch are doing along similar lines maybe to what were looking at.

Sir Humphrey did a piece a while back he thought they were not bad with interesting pros and cons.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 2:31 pm


Only what I have read about them. They are a bit bigger and a bit more expensive than the BAM. They carry an incredibly complex integrated Mast, comms and command suite system. Phased array radars capable of weappon direction as well as detection, link 11, 16 and will be link 22 capable.

December 22, 2012 2:31 pm

Perhaps we should look at the stillborn FN 15.5 mm HMG. More range/clout than the .50 , but not overkill like heavy cannon. Ideal for pirates, I would have thought.

December 22, 2012 3:17 pm

If you went absolutely bargain basement and went with a stretched (flight-deck/hangar) River that’s fitted for but not with most of the expensive stuff (so at most a 76mm gun and smaller calibre stuff, no missiles) then how much would it cost?

If you could get 4 or 5 of those by sacrificing 1 T26 then it may be worth it.

December 22, 2012 3:42 pm


I certainly don’t think we should be sending a “sloop” anywhere near an environment where it might have to deal with a serious air threat by itself.

HMS Protector was converted on a reasonable budget. I think it’s more of a case that other nations need their small vessels to do more than just chase pirates or drug smugglers.

December 22, 2012 3:44 pm

When we’re looking at swapping Type 26’s for sloops-of-war, isn’t part of the problem that you also need to account for the Duke upgrade cost/kit?

So if you upgrade all the Dukes but don’t transfer their expensive bits and bobs over to the new frigates on a like for like basis then you’re wasting money (not getting the best return on money spent); but if you want as many decent sloops as possible then you can maybe get an additional one per Type 26 you don’t build* if you buy them now and retire rather than upgrade the corresponding Type 23? [Though aren’t all of the Artisan sets paid for now?]

[*I know that it wouldn’t work out exactly that way when factoring in manning etc, but just as somewhere to start, before breaking down the costs more precisely.]

APATS: I agree that it’s pretty endlessly circular to keep discussing this without your detailed tasking requirements study first, but most of us aren’t in any position to realistically do that worth a squirt of piss; I’m sure that you’re a busy, busy man but it would be really interesting and deeply informative if you were to drop a guest post having a crack at that yourself (saying as much as you’d be comfortably allowed to say, naturally).

Just so we know what we’re looking at, what would be the difference in price between your upgraded BAM and a modernised Floréal and La Fayette? Assume that all share the same sensor, weapon, countermeasures and CMS fit out, and that the modernised French constabulary frigate types have the newest French levels of automation (say a bit less automation but add ~12 sailors each to what they would have, for around 95-ish?).

It’d be really nice to have more of a solid core of proper info to hang some of these ideas and suggestions on, rather than just going aimlessly round and round everywhere.

December 22, 2012 4:29 pm

@Chris B

‘I think it’s more of a case that other nations need their small vessels to do more than just chase pirates or drug smugglers’

I’m not sure exactly where you stand on this whole debate, but I agree with that last statement.

It’s an important aspect to this whole problem of quantity vs quality, because it doesn’t take much to leap from sloop to corvette to light frigate, with all the associated bits of increasingly sophisticated kit jacking the price up. Before you know it (especially where BAE are concerned!) you will be trying to fund an expensive and multi-purpose platform once again.

The reason why so many navies have those kind of small but well armed surface ships is because they compliment they’re destroyers and frigates (if they have any) as a force multiplier, which is something we broadly aren’t trying to achieve.

A well armed light frigate or corvette would be lovely, but taking money away from T26 to fund that kind of beast seems counter-productive. Maybe it’s better to have a very clear division between our high-end escorts and some VERY cheap OPV’s that take over some of the more mundane roles.

December 22, 2012 4:33 pm

Wow, serious de-ja-vu – have we had this conversation (BAM, Sloops, Corvette’s) a million times in the SIMMS threads, and countless others ?

The problem is, we (the nation) are being budget led, not strategy / requirements led.

The defence planning assumptions state a worse case scenario of UK only action against a hybrid threat – e.g. something akin to Hamas, a state sponsored terrorist organization, where the sponsoring state is “neer peer”.

In which case, a BAM type ship with the anti-missile capabilities of STRALES equipped 76mm gun, and SEA_RAM would probably be needed.


If the CDS just wants to show the flag and undertake constabulary duties, which may not include sailing into harms way against state sponsored terror orgs with modern AshM, then I thought we had agreed that TD’s SIMMS concept was a pretty good idea; personally I would make that the smaller end, based on Ulstein SX119 with a Lynx Wildcat and two x 40mm CTA in fancy mounts…..

EITHER way, any numbers should be considered in the light of the number of DDG (T45) and FFG (T23 / T26) required to protect a CBG and an ARG from a particular threat (including the use of NATO allies vessels within the task groups).


It may well come down to doing nothing properly or seriously, and just buying some more River class to keep Pompi’ viable as a dockyard.

Muddle on through, same old same old…….

December 22, 2012 4:54 pm


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein

Edit: I’ve never really understood this “flying the flag” business. What’s the point if you have to run away when someone else turns up with his flag attached to a big stick?

December 22, 2012 5:06 pm

John Hartley,

Might I suggest one of the following:

If this:
is too big for you, rather than try to resuscitate a dead calibre.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 5:24 pm

Mr F

I like the Sea Hawk Sigma and it would drive down costs with 1 mounted Port and Starboard, also able to be used for warning shots etc.

Could also save some money by going with a still modern but smaller main gun.

steve taylor
December 22, 2012 5:36 pm


Well those Army guys (and their camp followers) are at the forefront of the maritime security debate.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 5:47 pm


Really? The forefront? As for Army, the first claims to have just returned from a CP patrol but his little Avatar says sod the Navy? Educated booty? The second is most definitely RN.

steve taylor
December 22, 2012 6:05 pm



All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 22, 2012 7:02 pm

Bugger, I bit :)

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
December 22, 2012 9:00 pm

Given manpower and financial restraints the numbers I mentioned are an idea of how we won’t end up going backwards in numbers but rather maintain them. Banging the same drum, we need the Politicians to be honest about what we can and cannot do within our budgetary limitation. I cannot see the RN going down the enhanced OPV route but more taking a similar path to the French navy to keep the numbers of hulls around 20. Yes we lose some capability but we retain sufficent high end platforms to operate the CVBG and ARG at high intensity and sufficent second tier hulls to cover a reasonable number of standing tasks but with a platform that can carry out the vast majority of tasks and even work wiiht the High end units. The French navy often allocates a second tier platform as the third escort for the CdG.

December 23, 2012 8:15 am

@Lord Jim – are you thinking more of a La Fayette sized / type ship than an extended River / BAM type? That to me would be more cost effective than a GP Type 26. Its almost back to the C1 / C2 route, perhaps no bad thing. Its then down to numbers. Can see them going for 8:8, but a 10:8 option would give a decent number uplift and enough T26s for CVF escort and high threat tasking. We really need a big run of T26s to get efficiencies of build. The OPV options remains then as part of MHPC

December 23, 2012 10:59 am

Just finished the whole thread and came to the same conclusion as Mr Mickp above.

Ruthless commonality, steady drumbeat, steady flow of Type 26s either gp or ASW (maybe AAW too?) More use if things get serious…

December 23, 2012 12:02 pm

Given that the current tendency in the T26-programme (a bit larger than a SIGMA, a bit more capable, a lot more room reserve, a better electronics fit, and affordable at £300m per unit) we should just try to get the utmost out of it. Personally – having proposed a SIGMA-variant to fulfil the task – I’m very pleased so far.

IMO, this includes a steady run of one vessel per year, and it should include at least two AAW-variants to push export sales and to make up for T45 not being built.

If we accept that there is a place for a complementary, constabulary vessel, we need the professional environment to avoid mixing requirements and letting politicians sell them as warships. And this means: Coast Guard.

If we further accept that showing-the-flag is a RN-task, then T26 will turn out ideal for those events. The very concept of showing-the-flag is the fact, that the audience – the professional naval staff and the public of the host country – has to be impressed by what they see. IMO, they would turn away their eyes, shaking their heads if a nearly 10k ts hog-uva-Ulstein comes into port (we have to accept, that especially Asians will be disgusted if we send auxiliaries).

Finally, when we once need a MCM-replacement in the middle of the 2020s, a combination of helo-UAVs and barged equipment fitting into a Bay-class, onto a MLP or – to a lesser degree – on a T26 “mothership variant” may provide a better solution, ultimately.

December 23, 2012 4:00 pm


Personally I have never seen TD’s SIMMS concept as anything other than Coast Guard, and would use the CBG / ARG on “world tour” for “showing the flag” in Asia.

As we will never stand up a new Para-Military Coast Guard, as I have noted before, such vessels could be manned and operated by the RFA, with members of various government agencies / military aboard for Caribbean, Mediterranean, or African “constabulary” operations. This would provide a cheap route to fulfill anti-piracy, anti-narco, anti-people smuggling tasking while as you note above keeping a professional separation from the “military” RN and thus not allowing HMG to depict such maritime policing vessels as “war ships”.

December 23, 2012 6:50 pm

Dunno TD; there’s certainly something holy bovine about the Carriers, but Frigates (even if they were called Cruisers at various times) have always been the bread and butter ships of navies – no new or emerging technologies will change that for a long time in the future.

I’ll admit that I never really got over my admiration for the C1/C2/C3 concept… and have always loved me them La Fayettes; if we’re doing the usual ‘look at how these things have actually been used recently’ test, then I can’t stop thinking about the Type 21s in ’82, or the La Fayettes who performed such sterling work vs Libya (you wouldn’t have sent BAMs etc into that environment to perform NGS etc). So rather than having the binary war-fighting/non-war-fighting, semi war-fighting might be more cost-effective for the latter.

Something like a La Fayette, that can ideally be fitted with some of the expensive bits and bobs from the specific Type 23s that wouldn’t then be upgraded (the diesels?, the 4.5″ and gunnery radar etc), with some kind of RAM for defence. Can be used exactly as La Fayettes are, and if a major war is brewing, then CAMM VLS launchers can be fitted into the ‘B’ position space, and one of the Artisan sets slapped on top (ensure structural strength and CMS upgrade margins are built in).

Might be able to get two of these (all-in cost, including manning and increased unit price of the remaining Type 26s) per Type 26 not built (including some of the Dukes also not being upgraded first). That price seems about right for a low spec light Frigate (looking at the costs I’ve been able to find for the likes of Taiwan’s La Fayette variants – adjusting for allegedly dodgy deal and media f*ckwittery – and the roughly comparable South African Valour class, our ship being lower spec, in default cheap and cheerful configuration, than the latter).

Better to have two of these minor actual warships (that also look the part), rather than three strictly not actual combatant (and with zero potential to ever make them so) crappy and ugly OPVs/little freighters, per Type 26 reluctantly lost? Thinking about comments made here in the Gibraltar thread and elsewhere… I just keep coming across non-war-fighting ships being a false economy.

Bearing in mind that the sticker price exchange rate for different ship options rapidly erodes when you then start looking at manning them – in some respects, cost-effectiveness per man trumps cost-effectiveness per £ spent on ship and systems.

I’m also not convinced about how successful the move to exclusively off-board MCM systems will be, ever, so we could get economies of scale going on this slick light Frigate being the P (and H, if done right), and build dedicated hulls for the M role of MHPC; since they will probably end up having to do that anyway… let’s not waste a fortune on also discovering for ourselves that off-board UxVs, mission modules (as opposed to reconfigurable modular spaces) and containers are not the future for a long time yet, and let’s spend that money on proper ships and sailors instead.

By the same token, let’s not give BAE a fortune to re-invent the fairly reconfigurable light Frigate concept either, or delude ourselves that a home-grown design will have export potential (it’s a thoroughly saturated market) – OTS with minimal tweaks. I’d be looking at a modernised (especially in terms of automation) La Fayette, with as many UK systems as possible – the deal being that we give France this and in exchange they vow to not play the usual silly buggers on some shared procurement programmes that we have with them, that we really care about and need to go well, for once.

December 23, 2012 8:50 pm


That’s where I’ve got to with all the versions of this same debate. We need a number of fully equipped first rate T26s. By fully equipped I mean 5″ gun, phalanx, TAS, TLAM (strike length silos), Sea Ceptor, Helo, some sort of AShM. These ships are primarily battle group based but are sufficiently armed to act alone in high threat taskings. Current suggested specs meet this As to the number, well some reports suggest 13 T26s, but some suggest not all will be fully equipped – some will be ‘GP’. There are any number of permutations but I propose 12 First rate T26s as above in the initial commitment.

I see potential then, given the timeframe for follow on orders of an AAW variant to supplant the T45.

At the same time order, for sake of argument 6 La Fayette type patrol frigates, 76mm strales, RAM / Sea RAM / Sea ceptor, OTS sonar, radar and deck space for a Harpoon equivalent. 2nd rate ships to boost the escort fleet and provide vessels that could cover APT N/S and Anti Piracy in time of peace or act as secondary escorts in times of war.

I’d have a rethink on the whole aspect of OPVs and Inshore Patrol. A couple more River type with a 76mm gun (if only a stop gap to save portsmouth) would allow a stronger presence in Gib, boosting FI patrol if low threat incursions increased. Longer term I’d be seeking a follow on class of 8 OPVs to replace Rivers / Clydes – 2 FI, 2 Gib and 4 UK. The UK ones could act as FREs (UK). I’m thinking BAM size. I’d then look for a larger class of EEZ / fisheries patrol vessels, let’s say Armidale size, in essence replacing the Archers in enhancing capability. The final layer is port protection craft – armed to the teeth craft to protect naval bases and other key ports from potential threats. For the MH aspects of MHPC I’d design a separate class, possible based on the Venator model – flight deck but no hanger, gun armament (Strales for consistency perhaps) with Mine Warfare as the primary design objective (I don’t believe, yet, that this can’t be done without a dedicated class). There may be an option to fit these with TAS, to serve as SSBN protection also. Possibly 8-10 craft.

I feel trying to derive a one size fits all ship forces too many compromises and when you start from scratch, we need layers of ships to suit progressively more risky tasks. To me its all about eliminating the embarrassment of out forces been outgunned in a specific situation. Two or three fully loaded T26s (or even 3 T26 plus 1 T45) would be a sufficient deterrent force for most situations without sending a full carrier group.

I would not rule out a couple of SIMMS type vessels as being suited ideally to WI guardship role or a mothership type for to MCMs perhaps.

So where should we aim (ok I know its verging on fantasy fleet type stuff, but it is Christmas)

6 T45s (please add Harpoon or equivalent; and in midlife upgrade lets max out the Aster cells and replace 4.5″ with 5″)
12 T26 (5″, 2 phalanx, Sea Ceptor, 2 30mm, TAS, 12 Strike length TLAM cells, Helo – plus harpoon if it fits))
6 ‘T27’ (76mm strales, 2-30mm, Searam / RAM, Helo and hanger, space for Harpoon / CAAM)
8 OPVs (76mm strales, 2-30mm, Helo deck only, space for something else)
12-18 EEZ patrol craft to cover Uk and dependencies
8-10 Mine warfare / Hydro / TAS
Fleet / Harbour protection squadrons

This will need more money, undoubtedly, but I feel the RN is running understrength for future risks

December 24, 2012 9:13 am

We’re allowed to post fantasy fleets at X-Mas – why wasn’t I told? :-o

December 24, 2012 2:48 pm

Having seen the SIGMA variants, the ‘T27’ and OPV variants in my proposal above could both be covered by SIGMA options – frigate / corvette respectively. I’d further add a Karel Doorman JLSS as a replacement for Argus / Ocean.

BAE have got plenty of work on T26 etc, I think we have to bite the bullet and go off the shelf for a 2nd rate patrol frigate. With the SIGMA having ASW capabilities that could move to a 10-8 T26/T27 split. I feel 24 first and 2nd rate DD/FF force is right for the navy with CVF in operation.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 24, 2012 3:02 pm


Morocco paid close to 800 million pounds for the three SIGMA vessels ( the first being bigger than the second 2) in 2008! Fast forward to 2015 prices and we would be just as cheap building extra T26.

December 24, 2012 4:15 pm

@APATS – OK fair enough – GP T26s then (to be my Type 27s) unless there are other off the shelf modern 2nd rate patrol frigates out there that are cheaper. I wonder how much cheaper a GP version of the T26 can be whilst still keeping it an effective 2nd tier and the same basic structure for simplicity of production

December 28, 2012 2:16 pm

How MOD and the Chiefs are understanding the strategic drivers is pretty clear from Army 2020… Europe is no longer a potential theatre for general war, the middle east is the primary threat, and Africa second… but these calaculations are suggresting short-sharp limited intervention (AKA Gulf 2002) or enduring and preventative operations to protect the global economy from ansymetric threats (espically in the emerging oil rich areas of East and West Africa)..

Direct threats to the UK and overseas territories are more likely to be asymetric – e.g. cyber or terrorist. Although ne has to keep a weather eye on Argentina.

The Pacific is an issue, but less volatile that ME and Africa. And UK will almost certainly play a very subsidiary role in any regional conflict. Putin reamins a wildcard and the Caucasus are important, as are the Baltics and destabilising influenbces in Belarus and Ukraine.

So CDS and HMG want two core war fighting forces – the JEF is driven by US cajouling for Europe to take a bigger burden of global power projection, and that’s clearly a RN lead – Carrier Strike, SSNs + ARG/3 Cdo Brigade – plus a defense partnership with France (whatever one may think, in Europe its UK and France that do the business in expeditionary operations). I’ll repeat, this is what the US wants us to do.

The ‘reaction force’ is the deterrent and safeguard if additional high internsity war fighting is necessary, and provides a spearhead ‘land’ intevention force beyond JEF: Typhoon can be placed in this category, as can the SSNs.

The adaptable force is to provide enduring capacity to protect UK trade by provdinig supprot for managing conflict in the Middle East and Africa, as well as surge cpacity for enduring operations (which are NOT at all fashionable in Whitehall after Afghansitan and Iraq).

The RN and RAF need to mirror this requirement, which looks much more like a mid-victorian threat analogy, rather than the run up to WW1 or WW2, or even the Cold War (if one imagines “the West”, rather than the “British Empire” as the sovereign idea to be defended). In this sense DFID funds can be seen as investment the “colonial office” alongside defence spending.

So what are the adapable force requirements for the RN and RAF? Plenty of platforms that can cover the trade protection and conflict prevention mission, addressing mostly asymetric and often littoral threats – MCM, C3, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, insertion and ISTAR missions with additional capacity for disaster response and supporting joint operations and traning missions with regional partners. Modular mulit-role oceanic patrol vessels, helicopters and autonomous umanned vehicles, primarily.

For the RAF, the somehwere between ‘Strikemaster and Warthog” option already exists (although it is a lot more sphisticated), its called Reaper – and more of these armed MALE UCAVs will be prioritised over conventional (albeit more survivable in general war) fighter-bombers. While in this environment buying more Chinook and more strategic lift over more Typhoon is an obvious choice.

For the RN the issue is how many high intensity platforms are needed/affordable to i) maintain carrier strike (CVs, AF-35s, SSNs, T45s and T26s fitted for ASW, ii) deliver the global trade protection mission (the new “Corvette”?)… Right now the escorts are all high end “war-fighters”, and most of the other hulls are either innapropriate, too small, or too few too few to deliver the ‘low-end’ mission.

Looking at David Ricahrd’s text, and listening to the wind, it seems that the “outward looking” 3rd Divsion HQ and 7 Adapable Brigade HQs will be much more about the “trade protection and conflict prevention mission” – it seems that a battlegroup will be established on Cyprus (presumalby with a weather eye on Egypt, Libya and Syria, and repercussions in Lebanon, the mlitary assistasnce and training teams ands training facilites in Jordan and Oman will be enhanced, and a new ones created in Bahrein (and maybe Qatar?) with ongoing support to Kuwait, Afghanistan and UAE. Military assitance and training teams, trtaining facilies (BATUK liht infantry traing facility in Kenya and the jungle warfare school in Ghana) and support for peacekeeping training centres in Kenya, South Africa and Ghana will be upgraded, as will support to the African Union’s Peace and Security archetechture in Addis Abeba, to ECOWAS and the Nigerian forces, and probably to Somaliland/Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, DRC and Mozambique – while presence in Sierra Leone will be sustained as a low level. All of these countires have made globally significant new oil and gas discoveries in recent years, and Somalia and Nigeria have significant conflcit driven ny islamist terrorists. UK will also want to work with the African Union, ECOWAS, the US and France to curb islamist terrorism in Mali.

Add to this an enduring lower level presence in Afghanistan and a westher eye on Pakistan, and a greater committment to joint security realtionships with Malyasia, Singapore, australia and New Zealand (and possibly Burma) in SE Asia (with upgraded support to Bruneii as the focal point), in addtion to the need to sustain ongoing comittments in the Falklands and Gibraltar, then the Carribean seems to be the least of our worries!

An expanded naval committment to the Gulf as well as the greater sttragtegic importance of the Eastern Mediterranean and Indian Ocean and Gulf of Guinea, and a comittment to provide more naval inreraction in SE Asia will require more hulls. soWe know where budgets stand, and even tinkering in 2015 is not going to change much unless the world economy does a lazarus, so like it or not, the RN is going to have to develop its very own ‘adapatable force’.

A globasl mission has ever been the same. From frigates to sloops and gunboats… Even in Nelsonian times the Frist raters spentr most of thier time in port – it was the cruisers that did the business. If one looks at the cruisers of the the late victorian navy, not many were “ships of the line”. That’s what we need now.

December 28, 2012 2:53 pm

“So what are the adapable force requirements for the RN and RAF? Plenty of platforms that can cover the trade protection and conflict prevention mission, addressing mostly asymetric and often littoral threats – MCM, C3, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, insertion and ISTAR missions with additional capacity for disaster response and supporting joint operations and traning missions with regional partners. Modular mulit-role oceanic patrol vessels, helicopters and autonomous umanned vehicles, primarily.”

The problem with “patrol vessels” is that they don’t have the legs to protect our trade routes. In addition, I don’t really see how trade or conflict protection/prevention points towards littoral warfare… surely it’s quite the opposite? – helicopter lift/assault against under-equipped foes and military force projected quickly from range.