Warming up in Gibraltar

Who ever would have thought it, a latin economy in the toilet and out comes the sabre, rattling, for the use of.

No not Argentina, this time it is Spain, yes, the same Spain that is a fellow member of the EU and NATO ally.

A recent Parliamentary Answer provided some insight behind the recent escalation of nuisance intrusions in the waters off Gibraltar.

Andrew Rosindell (Romford, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many reports have been made of illegal incursions of Spanish vessels in the territorial waters of Gibraltar in each of the last two years.

Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 11 December 2012, c246W)

Andrew Robathan (South Leicestershire, Conservative)
There were 67 recorded instances of unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels in British Gibraltar territorial waters during 2010 and 23 in 2011. There have been 197 between 1 January and 30 November this year.

One of the Ministry of Defence’s roles in Gibraltar is to help maintain the United Kingdom’s sovereignty over British Gibraltar territorial waters. In support of this, the Royal Navy challenges unlawful maritime incursions. These challenges are subsequently pursued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government.

At the end of November the Spanish Ambassador to the United Kingdom was summoned to Foreign and Commonwealth Office for a chat and told to knock it off. As seems usual, the Spanish reciprocated and voiced their claims to some of the waters off Gibraltar.

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said;

It is equally important for Gibraltar, as much as it is for the credibility of British diplomacy, that these diplomatic steps should be backed up by actions designed to assert the indisputable British sovereignty of the waters in question.

There will therefore be unanimity across the floor of this House in the call for the Ministry of Defence to be able to deploy in Gibraltar as soon as possible the assets necessary to ensure the defence of these waters against the armed vessels and agents of the Spanish state.

What made the most recent incursions different were that they were carried out by Spanish naval vessels and the row about wildlife conservation and the rights of the Gibraltar people continues unabated.

These calls for an escalation were heard with a deaf ear but the FCO issued a strongly worded statement designed to force the Spaniards to back down

What is unacceptable for Gibraltar is the notion that the UK would negotiate with Spain instead of the UK and Gibraltar negotiating with Spain, the principle of trilateralism is at the core of the UK’s position and despite some erroneous headlines has been reiterated.

The UK can confirm that the UK and Spain held official level discussions yesterday about many subjects. The UK holds such discussions with Spain regularly on a wide range of issues as is standard in the conduct of international relations. As is also standard, the content of those discussions is regarded by the UK to be subject to diplomatic confidentiality.

On occasion, issues pertaining to Gibraltar may be raised by either side. The UK is constitutionally responsible for Gibraltar’s external affairs and defence, and has regularly used its contacts with Spain – in the very closest consultation with successive HM Governments of Gibraltar – to pursue and defend the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, including to press for an end to the unacceptable incursions by Spanish state vessels into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and protest in relation to border delays.

Such ad hoc contacts in no way constitute a return to any bilateralism in respect of Gibraltar. Moreover, the UK is at all times clear with its Spanish interlocutors that it abides by the “double-lock” formula and therefore is not prepared to discuss sovereignty. The UK shares the position of Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar on our strong commitment to return to the Trilateral Process for Dialogue and Gibraltar’s active participation in that dialogue process. We have repeatedly made clear to Spain that this position is non-negotiable, that there will be no return to bilateralism and that there is no question of the Trilateral Process for Dialogue being replaced by a quadrilateral or bilateral process.

In keeping with the modern relationship which the UK and Gibraltar enjoy under the 2006 Constitution, the UK actively briefs Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar on all matters of relevance to Gibraltar, and is doing so on this occasion.

Note: ‘double lock’: The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes. Furthermore, the UK will not enter into any process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.

Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 was unequivocal

The Catholic King does hereby, for himself, his heirs and successors, yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging; and he gives up the said propriety to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever

A 2002 referendum, with a turnout of just under 90%, returned a No to the question of shared sovereignty, 98.5%. By any measure, that is an emphatic expression of the wishes of Gibraltarians.

The Labour Shadow Defence Minister Jim Murphy MP was the then Minister of State for Europe and in 2008 stated;

The UK Government will never — “never” is a seldom-used word in politics — enter into an agreement on sovereignty without the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar and their people. In fact, we will never even enter into a process without that agreement. The word “never” sends a substantial and clear commitment and has been used for a purpose. We have delivered that message with confidence to the peoples and the Governments of Gibraltar and Spain. It is a sign of the maturity of our relationship now that that is accepted as the UK’s position.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea describes a 12 nautical mile territorial limit but because Spain was being chippy and the Treaty of Utrecht did not specifically mention territorial waters they decided that despite their ratifying the UN Convention they did not acknowledge that it applied to Gibraltar which smacks of picking and choosing which parts of international law you want to abide by.

In fact, Article 309 of the Convention says

No reservations or exceptions may be made to this Convention unless expressly permitted by other articles of this Convention.

And this is backed up with Article 310

Article 309 does not preclude a State, when signing, ratifying or acceding to this Convention, from making declarations or statements, however phrased or named, with a view, inter alia, to the harmonization of its laws and regulations with the provisions of this Convention, provided that such declarations or statements do not purport to exclude or to modify the legal effect of the provisions of this Convention in their application to that State.

Despite this, the UK and Gibraltar governments have both stated that the 3 nautical mile limit.

Things got more interesting in 2008 when the EU was hoodwinked by Spain into granting Spain the rights to administer a conservation zone that included the waters around Gibraltar. Legal proceedings are still ongoing so it is on this basis that Spain is using a basis for their incursions.

In August this year an agreement between Gibraltar and Spain over fishing permits was rescinded.

It is a complex legal picture made ever more complex by competing political and financial issues.

Seems to me that Spain is pushing the line bit by bit and without a firm response that comprises more than harsh punctuation it will continue to do so.

Spain is a NATO ally and a valuable trading partner with UK exports to Spain of some £10b per year and so it would be easy to take the conciliatory diplomatic line but at some point I think there has to be a line drawn.

It’s time for the UK Government to make a very visible point and show a bit of spine.

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!

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December 22, 2012 9:40 pm

They were messing about a couple of years ago when I was out there. We had to fly outside Spanish airspace just to get to there. Pulled all sorts of tricks when we were there.
The navy lot out there seemed busy enough with incursions, nice posting if you can get it mind.
Apparently they don’t like Sqns of FJ turning up, running at reheat at all times of the day and night ;)

December 22, 2012 10:00 pm

If we had some more OPV’s we could permanently station one there, instead perhaps we could put on some kind of combined RAF/RN/Army exercise next year as a show of strength and commitment.

December 22, 2012 10:42 pm

“If we had some more OPV’s we could permanently station one there,”

For what purpose?
An OPV “flies the flag”, and then the Juan de Bordon turns up and orders it to strike its colours and bugger off…

Which is the problem with none combatants into combat situations, the other side might decide they have no wish to back down, and we have no capability to make them.

December 22, 2012 11:13 pm

Time to saddle the frigates, load up the Marines and head off for a jolly to Gibraltar! Maybe bring along one of those shiny new T45s we’ve been hearing so much about.

But seriously, what the hell is everyone doing down there!? Don’t we all have bigger fish to fry than some contest over a strip of land filled with people who are quite happy not to be Spanish?

It strikes me that a port call by a nearby RN ship maybe in order (beyond that made by Diamond a few days ago). Or perhaps a nuke could pay an unannounced visit?

December 23, 2012 8:57 am

I think it is time to seize the offending vessel in territorial waters – a frigate backed by a few Lynxs / Apaches would do the trick. No other country in world would put up with this.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
December 23, 2012 9:12 am

Do we really need to do anything excessive? Have we got any old Predator-A’s that can just site there providing real-time surveillance…?

Just gather the evidence; maybe drop a few flares? Nothing heavy; rather a low-cost reminder that we are aware and are gathering evidence for the International Court.

Can’t see Spain doing much for the next few years due to their economy (and our’s finally starting on the road to mending itself). They are a nuiscance, not a threat….

December 23, 2012 10:22 am

If we do nothing here it will encourage others elsewhere to challenge us as well, blood in the water etc. Perhaps it’s time to reconstitute O’Hara’s Battery?

BTW, there’s a lot of unhappy Mayans making their way back home this morning. Cheer up fellas, it’s not the end of the world :-)

Steve C
Steve C
December 23, 2012 10:40 am


HMS Sutherland was indeed told to make the most of its scheduled visit.

steve taylor
December 23, 2012 10:45 am

It would be cheaper for HMG to start giving back door donations to the Catalan and Basque independence parties.

December 23, 2012 10:55 am

As a non-UKer, on the one hand I think “a treaty is a treaty”. On the other hand, I can understand the Spaniards irritation at that little spot of English territory, all due to a treaty that will become 300 years old in a few days…

December 23, 2012 11:29 am

The Spanish can whine all they like about Geography and out of date treaties but the only relevant fact is that almost every person on Gibraltar doesnt want to be part of Spain. Case closed

It is also ridiculously hypocritical of the Spanish to cause a fuss when they have two Spanish cities on the Moroccan coast.

December 23, 2012 11:56 am

1. Remove all military personnel and equipment from Gib.
2. Wait for Spain to “move in”.
3. Ask the EU to sort it out.
4. Sit back and wait for nothing to happen.
5. Denounce the EU.
6. Undertake a non sanctioned live fire exercise.

steve taylor
December 23, 2012 12:37 pm

@ Ark

There is also,






Treaties are treaties. The fact that we are talking about it still gives it weight. We know the Europeans don’t really invest much in written agreements, especially Latins, who appear to think such expire (or loose potency) once the ink is dry. Especially if things aren’t running in their favour. The EU is the prime example. Sign on the dotted line one day and ignore what you don’t like the next. Perhaps it because unlike the UK Europeans can’t keep their own border intact or even their political systems going for more than a few decades.

December 23, 2012 4:35 pm

As far as I know, “the” Europeans also include “the” English, but you no doubt see it differently :-)
As for “Perhaps it because unlike the UK Europeans can’t keep their own border intact or even their political systems going for more than a few decades”, that could be so because “we are an island, you know”.

steve taylor
December 23, 2012 5:34 pm

WW said “the” Europeans also include “the” English”

Interesting, if true.

December 23, 2012 7:49 pm

From Steve C’s link:-

“Richard Wood, who tweets as @richardw1964, summed up much of the sentiment on Twitter: “Welcome HMS Sutherland to Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar are proud to have you in our midst. Rule Britannia!””

Gosh! Now there’s something you don’t read every day…. How many Cultural Marxists do we have to hang for treason before most British people get back to feeling the same way?

Damn!, I’ve gone all sentimental now…. :P

December 23, 2012 8:19 pm

Is Spain going to hand back the Canary Islands? Oh they can’t, as they wiped out the aboriginal inhabitants.

December 23, 2012 8:19 pm

Perhaps if the UK stopped direct flights to Spain. Tourists would soon find somewhere else to go…

Gibraltarian till i die
Gibraltarian till i die
December 23, 2012 9:18 pm

There’s a spanish facebook group called Gibraltar Espanol (adminned by fascists) which spews venom not only about Gibraltarians but the English too especially the British Monarchy. Unfortunately we live beside them but being bi-lingual we get to understand everything they say about us and nothing good ever comes out of them, their hate is not only towards us but the UK too and although the page has been reported countless times for the insults and the incitement of hatred facebook does nothing about. We would appreciate help from ppl in the UK to close this group down so these fascists lose their platform for their diatribe. If u check the fotos in this group out u will see how they have photoshopped the queens and other monarchs heads onto our apes and the insults are quite vile in some cases

the mintcake maker
December 23, 2012 9:51 pm

I was wondering how busy are the 3 rivers in UK waters? Could we get by with just 2 and maybe temporarily assign 1 to the Gibraltar Squadron, call it a training exercise? (HMS Severn, it keeps the S names going). I mean they are used for fishery protection and that seems to be one of the main problems, Spanish fishermen in BGTW. I think the other problem is that the Spanish don’t take the Gibraltar squadron seriously, (and to be fair why would they?) when the guadria civil launches are almost twice as big as HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar. If we deployed HMS Severn for a couple of months, maybe with a few marines and a couple of ORCs, might make life a bit fairer.

Guardia Civil launch:

My other reason for sending a river class is to deal with the long stand-off situations with fishermen and guardia civil vessels. My thinking behind this being that to control a crowd we sometimes use water cannons to break up situations without resorting to weapons. Well if a River was deployed could she not use her water cannon as a sort of warning shot? (Well if the Spanish vessel takes on water because the hatches arn’t secured and she sinks that’s not really our problem is it?). Also like others have suggested possibly seizing repeat offending vessels

Of course if a River could be permanently deployed and/or HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar are replaced by something similar to 42m UKBA cutters then I would like to be a real b***ard and hack them off by expanding BGTW to the full 12nmi limit south and east. Then in the spirit of being “good Europeans”, just like our Spanish friends are to Gibraltar, I would like to try and stop, search, delay and generally p*ss-off as many Spanish registered fishing and cargo vessels as possible. Ah I hear you cry you can’t do that. And normally you’ll be right but it has been well documented in the past that both illegal immigrants and drug runners use the straits of Gibraltar to get into Europe. We would just be doing our small part in trying to curtail this problem. :P

There are many ways to skin a cat. There are many small ways in which we can strengthen our hand without overly escalating the problem. I think the FCO and MOD could start to be a little bit more proactive instead of reactive. Maybe it’s time to give back as good as we’ve taken?

December 23, 2012 10:18 pm
December 23, 2012 11:07 pm

A thought: Watchkeeper. It’s unarmed, but everyone’s terrified of drones, and one humming along parallel to the beach looking for smugglers (“or something”) would really get their attention.

December 23, 2012 11:19 pm

Gibraltarian till I die: I doubt that there’s much that UK folks could do, since British is not considered to be an ethnicity protected by hate crime laws over here (though being even a bit proud of being British [when there isn’t a major sporting or Royal event which makes it temporarily sort of OK, because it’s good for the economy] is an ipso facto borderline hate crime).

All I can think of is that if your fascists ever get sloppy and say bad things about any group that *is* protected by hate crime laws (almost everybody else), then the media, various PC advocacy groups and Facebook itself will be outraged and get them shut down pretty easily, if you contact them with evidence of this.

Essentially, if you’re not in a PC-protected group then you’re an evil oppressor who deserves to be relentlessly f*cked from every angle these days – it’s called Privilege and it’s effin’ great….

Beyond that, it probably contravenes various EU human rights laws (and the EU is pretty leery of fascism – so that would be the important thing to stress, as opposed to the anti-British thing that no one will actually care about), so that might be the way to go? Can you identify what specific stripe/school of fascism they are, from what they say? Fascism is such an over- and inaccurately-used word these days (‘fascist’, without any specific qualifier = ‘someone I disagree with or just don’t like’), so it’s best to qualify it in order to show that you do actually do mean fascist and thus be taken seriously by those in authority that you may wish to influence.

Best of luck, and that you care about this, and can act without being auto-demonised for this, is a nice antidote to some of what’s ailing us over here. :)

December 23, 2012 11:51 pm

PS: If you want to raise some awareness over here with folks who might actually be able to publicise this and get some kind of campaign going, then you could maybe contact the UK Column (dot org), or the exemplary Brian Gerrish directly by e-mail. They’d probably be interested, though you might want to check them out first, since you might not want to be associated with them. If you’re a bit of an ‘OMG! Conspiracy theories lol!’ type then you’re probably best leaving them alone, but if not then they’re pretty spot on (IMO).

I’m not really aware of any other reasonable options; it’s pretty polarised between a mainstream media who are Cultural Marxists (though aren’t remotely aware that that’s what they actually are, just like most of ’em) so hate the UK and Britishness, and imbecilic and in-bred racist thugs on the other side – not many who exist between those two poles have any real voice, influence or credibility.

December 24, 2012 12:14 am

Chuck Hill: Oo, I love them Sentinels. :)

To be honest, I think that The Mintake Maker’s suggestion of sending a UKBA 42m Cutter would be enough; I doubt that we’d need their Sentinel half-sisters’ + features (endurance and habitability mostly) around Gibraltar:-


Damn, Damen makes some slick looking small ships!

Gibraltarian till i die
Gibraltarian till i die
December 24, 2012 1:02 am

tsz52: Last summer we had a squadron of RAF Harriers on excercise in Gib and 1 spanish blogger posted on his blog that the residents of the Campo area ie la linea, algeciras and its surrounding area should build chinese lanterns and set them off (weather permitting) when the planes were about to take off as pilots fear this as it might get caught in their engines and even provided a link on how to make such lanterns. I personally posted that threat to a UK MP while a friend of mine managed to find out the real identity of the blogger and his site was shut down but the group Gibraltar Espanol posted his threat and facebook did nothing about it. Thankfully it was only just a threat they never carried out although the weather didnt help their cause either

December 24, 2012 2:11 am

Like I say, I don’t think that the anti-British thing would fly much of anywhere really, so it’s the other angles that may well be the way in; ‘Facebook knowingly supports terrorism shocker!’ or something? That angle might get the mainstream media interested (which unfortunately is the main gateway to accomplishing what you want to achieve), especially at the moment where such social networking sites are getting a bit of a bum rap in regard to folks using them to organise crime including riots (topical’s always good).

Couple that with these villains slagging the Royals at a specific time when there is an upsurge in their popularity here, and a few other topical-related bits and bobs, and someone like the Daily Mail might just touch the story, if it’s a ‘slow news day’ one day. Have you put together a detailed log of these clowns’ transgressions, with times, links and dates and such, as tends to be recommended in these matters, that you could send out to make it really easy for such layabouts as journalists or other authorities to check as evidence?

December 24, 2012 9:46 am

Oi yanks – how about chucking some foreign aid Gibraltar’s way?


steve taylor
December 24, 2012 11:13 am

Because they aren’t foreign? :)

December 24, 2012 3:32 pm

@ Repulse – I like the idea of grabbing a Spanish vessel in Gibraltar water’s. Might be enough to embarrass them to stop.
@ Arkangelski
It’s not a strip of English soil it’s an independent self-governing territory with all the rights to self-determination as everyone else. I can’t understand how countries like Spain and Argentina can sign up for something like the UN or the EU which require recognition of such a principal then completely ignore it. If countries like these want all the benefits of operating in the modern world then they have to start respecting the f**king rules. i.e. paying their debts and not bullying small countries.

@ X
“especially Latin’s, who appear to think such expire (or loose potency) once the ink is dry”
Mmmm may explain why they are all poor

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
December 24, 2012 4:23 pm

It’s funny how when the Falklands has talk of Oil prospecting the Argentinian’s pipe up.

Now that there is alot of interest from the IT industry in the potential of Gibraltar as “Data Centre/Cloud facility and Global disaster recovery Centre/ business continuity centre post Black Swan events” the Spanish suddenly see a new line of much need revenue going to blighty and not them?


With DATA being critical to today’s economic security, and shock proof/ efficient facilities (Like the cool/cold vaults and tunnels under the rock) with solid links (hardwired Fibre or Satellite links from Gibraltar’s well positioned locale) all make it a natural place to place your critical backup servers for Governments and Corporate infrastructure.

There is the possibility just as some enclaves become TAX haven’s Gibraltar could become one of the key Information security hubs on the Planet. With some encouragement from the Gibraltarian Authorities this could be a real gold mine.

I believe this is the real elephant in the room no one is discussing.

December 24, 2012 9:49 pm

The UK really needs a proper Coast Guard. They are all round useful things. Plus their use causes much less fuss than bringing in the Navy.

If HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar make a seizure, it is an attack by the Royal Navy! even if the Texas highway patrol has more formidable gunboats. If a Coast Guard vessel makes an arrest, far less emotion is attached, but it still makes a point.

Considering the large size of the UK’s EEZ you don’t have nearly enough patrol vessels to do fisheries and law enforcement.

steve taylor
December 24, 2012 10:32 pm

@ Chuck Hill

True. Beyond the 3 Rivers (that replace 7 Islands and 2 Castle OPV) there also the 3 Scottish Fisheries Protection Agencey vessels and there the 5 UK Border Agency cutters. What you have to remember is that are fisheries are considered a European resource and HMG really isn’t that bothered about protecting our sovereignty if it means upsetting the EU. Better Spaniards fill their nets with near impunity fishing out waters as long as British skippers are obeying the rules and discarding a large portion of their catches. It would be nice for the RN to have a FP/CG squadron of 14 vessels the same as the Norwegian Coastguard. It would have been good if we could have kept the Peacock class instead of flogging them off to the Irish and Philippines. At least the Rivers are sound ships with good speed. Shame nobody in the MoD/RN thought to push for them all to have a flight deck; it isn’t like helicopters are common is it, not?

December 25, 2012 1:27 am

To be fair X 4 ships (including HMS Clyde) only directly replaced 5 Island class (2 of them were decommissioned in the 90s) and the 2 Castles (which had to constantly rotate between the UK and Falklands). That doesn’t really weigh in on the discussion, it’s just a fun fact I wanted to share!

I wish we had kept the Peacock class as well, they were still quite young in the 90s and looked like useful little ships. Weren’t 3 Hunt’s used as a N.Ireland patrol squadron until around 2005?

steve taylor
December 25, 2012 1:50 am

@ Chally

The Castles were built to “protect” the North Sea oil fields. So over the last 35 years or so HMG total investment in shipping to protect the UK EEZ was 7 Islands and 2 Castles. Whether the latter got used as such much is a valid point but moot. Of course other hulls were used too; but re-purposed stuff and experiments like Speedy don’t count as real invest. Chuck was asking why don’t we invest more in protecting the EEZ and my answer was HMG does give a banana about protecting EEZ beyond the minimum. Um. Yes I know the Rivers are supposed to be available like 400 days per year but a hull can only be in one place.

Clyde stays down there so can’t really be included.

Oh lummy look at the time!!!

December 25, 2012 7:01 pm

Looking at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusive_Economic_Zone#United_Kingdom
Most of your EEZ is well outside Europe, and I’m sure a lot of it is being fished, by who knows who.

Total area 6,805,586 sq. kM according to Wiki. Only 773,676 sq kM of which is actually around the main islands of the UK. Most of it is in the S. Atlantic, Caribbean, around Bermuda, or in the Pacific and IO.

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 12:08 pm

@ Chuck

Ahh! Yes! I was thinking in terms of the UK home islands. Well around the Falklands poaching is a big problem. Fishing is worth about £25million to FI Government; the cost of defending FI in total is some £320million-ish. As well as FI their is South Georgia and other FI dependencies to consider as well. The RN contribution to FI FP is HMS Clyde and FIG has it own FP vessel Pharos SG (long term charter from Byron). This is backed up by a RAF C130 and I suppose at times APT(S) if needed. It isn’t enough really. Really Clyde needs to be moved across to the FI and replaced with a Thetis like vessel; organic air and a big gun would add weight. The two FI vessels could work north south patrol areas leaving the Thetis with a roving role. And I see a role for a small fast patrol vessel (Damen Stan Patrol 5009 perhaps) to follow up on air recce/reports during the summer. Such does have range to cover all the FI EEZ but I see it working perhaps within a hundred miles of so and performing “security” tasks too. Small and fast able to transit the Sound and around the outer islands it would keep skippers on their toes. Of course the extra hulls would cost money and there is none supposedly, but really this is more about how we choose to spend money. The trouble is FI defence is biased towards operating Typhoon waiting for an air threat which probably won’t arrive while the Island’s sovereignty is being trespassed upon daily. Typhoon has no anti-ship capability and I am not sure whether the T1s down their have the necessary pilots or gubbins for air-to-ground if some crafty Latin should get ashore (which is doubtful.) That £320million pays for 1200 personnel (that includes 150 odd soldiers and HMS Clyde’s costs the rest are RAF) to manage an air base and a couple of RADAR stations. Perhaps when the land version of Sea Ceptor comes on line the Typhoons could be brought home and some of the budget reallocated more sensibly.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 26, 2012 6:52 pm


Season of good will and all that.

I believe that as well as Pharos the FI have Protegat and Sigma as FP vessels. They also have 5 Islander aircraft used for FP and Coastal Surveilance. Clyde keeps an eye on things during her patrols as well. The C130 does look at the picture as does the SAR cab and other assets when airborne.

An important part of the picture is of course the vast majority of FV who are fishing completely legally and report vessels that they suspect to be fishing illegally.

As for the makeup of the FI force. Apart from the rolling RIC that you refer to there are the Army manned Rapier Batteries. The RLC run Port. The RN run repair and support facility. The Tri service JOC. The Army run stores. The army led signals and comms unit. The Tri service intel unit. The combined RAF/Army EOD team. Also most of the support positions, medical, mail room, chefs etc within the complex are tri service positions.

Personally I would like to see some form of strike capability down South either provided by RAF or by shore launched NSM but not at the price of losing the ability to shoot down the paras 150 miles offshore with a BVR missile fired by “Kevin”.

December 26, 2012 7:26 pm

@ x & Challenger

The reason we got rid of the Peacock’s may have been their fuel running costs, reportedly a ton per hour per engine according to thebig C on the IMO forum http://forum.irishmilitaryonline.com/archive/index.php/t-3825.html

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 7:49 pm


Didn’t Pharos replace Sigma? And yes I forgot Protegat……..


I just missed out the other aircraft because of speed not because I didn’t know they existed or in case of the other RAF airframes assisting. I am a bit busy.

And yes I know Rapier is down there. But if SeaCeptor land based is as efficient as the sea based system is going to be well it will be a good leap over Rapier’s performance. And perhaps expensive 5th gen fighters can stay north of equator as we are constantly told in times of tension there will be plentty of time to SURGE, yes a SURGE I tell you, Typhoon, tankers, and what have you to MPA.

And yes I probably got the mix of uniforms slightly wrong. But you have to agree there is more light blue down there than green by a good margin. 1200 bods for what 8 airframes and a reinforced company and some engineering is a lot? We spend a lot of time here discussing manning and its costs. 1200 is what 8 or so frigates worth of manpower give or take the odd gap? As for those other units well not really pertinent to a discussion on coastguards. And poaching is still a huge problem. Only one of the FI FPV is armed. None of them have organic air which could be useful for other tasks too.

Land based ASM? Um…..

And I didn’t think we shot planes down BVR in case they were full of orphans, nuns, unicorns, etc. ? As for parachute assault didn’t somebody here assure me that a one-eyed one-armed one-legged Jack Dusty could hold off the entire Agentine Marine corps with a SIG because MPA was so well laid out. ;)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 26, 2012 8:06 pm

Didn’t Pharos replace Sigma?

It did as the South georgia vessel beleive Sigma still used ivo FI.

And perhaps expensive 5th gen fighters can stay north of equator as we are constantly told in times of tension there will be plentty of time to SURGE, yes a SURGE I tell you, Typhoon, tankers, and what have you to MPA.

Maybe but we are not very good at reading the signs. Withdrawal of Typhoon would send the wrong political message and an A/C sitting in a hangar 7000Nm away is no detterent.

I didn’t think we shot planes down BVR in case they were full of orphans, nuns, unicorns, etc. ?

Luckily the FI is an area of extremely low flight activity so unlike over some African hell hole there are no low slow unscheduled flights of nuns and orphans :)

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 9:12 pm


Um. I am also lead to believe that FCO and Spooks Abroad put a little more effort into monitoring what is going on in the Argentine just so HMG won’t get caught out again? I believe they have even coughed up for a Spanish phrase book and marked out Argentina with florescent marker in their junior atlas.

I am still troubled by a defence based on platforms and not capabilities. T45 goes South no missiles. Typhoon sits there and well no missiles. :) Reminds of this from about 2:45 on…

Then again if the MoD is happy…

As for low air traffic. Well in times of tension they would only have to fly one plane full of nuns and orphans, OK more likely a plane full of rabid nationalist civilians and shooting anything down BVR would be off the menu. Asymmetric warfare I think it is called.

BTW your disregard for the safety of unicorns has been noted. :) ;)

December 26, 2012 9:23 pm


As you stated the Pharos replaced the Sigma as the South Georgia Patrol Ship in 2006, and the Sigma was sold on.

The Falkland Island Patrol Ship was the Dorada until that was replaced in 2008 by the FPV Protegat which is still extant.

I think with the possible increase in oil production and in the increase in cruise liners, these ships should be scrapped and replaced with something like the UT 512 the Norwegian Harstad, mount it with a 57mm Gun so it can be a useful patrol ship as well as ocean going tug. Because before long the Falkland Government will have a duty of care to provide SAR and Rescue Services on the high seas.

I also believe a couple of small cutters paid for by Falkland Government wouldnt go amiss, The Damen Patrol 5009 seems a good design, if we could mount a 30mm gun it would be great.( mounting weapons on a non warship doesnt seem a problem under FIG rules same as personal gun ownership)

Not too fond of the the River class, a bit under armed for my taste, I like the Brunai Darussalam Class OPV, 57mm gun, 4 exocets and a big flight deck, a ship powerful enough to pose a sufficent problem for an invading navy but not too overarmed

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 9:37 pm

It was me not APATS who said Pharos replaced the Sigma.

Don’t the FIDF operate the FPV’s gun?

Harstad is OK but I prefer Thetis. Needs to look like a warship to scare off the Latins.

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 9:52 pm

Um. And that also puts us back to just one FIG ship within the FI EEZ. And as I noted above the other islands were a consideration. Still I forgot about Protegat. It is the names. They are so memorable, not.

December 26, 2012 10:10 pm


actually you both did, but i was referring to his post about Sigma still being around.

You have missed my point Thetis is a fine ship as a River Class replacement but its too much of a ‘Warship’ for the FIG Fishery Protection Ship, thats why prefer the Harstad as a Patrol/Rescue ship.

The RN pays for and crews the Fighty Ship, and FIG pays and crews the patrol ship.

You are correct the FIDF operates the 20mm gun when fitted.

steve taylor
December 26, 2012 10:36 pm

@ Ian B

I mean Thetis as a River replacement. Did you read above? Chuck was talking about UK EEZ and coastguards and such. Distinct advantages to some patrol ships being civilian without doubt. As long as their procurement doesn’t eat into the navy budget. And as long as it is accepted that the UK has no business policing the waters of others. I just think that FI needs two vessels in its immediate EEZ; Clyde has a slightly different role but isn’t enough ship for its role. Thetis has everything from ice strengthening to a good hull, helicopter, gun, and so on. Tagging errant skippers from the air is all well and good but a bit like a beat copper there is no substitute for being at the scene or just around the corner. When OPVs are discussed here I often mention he Norwegian coastguard as a model.

All good fun. :)

December 26, 2012 10:56 pm

sorry, a bit of misreading on both our parts sent us a tangent

December 27, 2012 8:46 am

@Chuck: “If HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar make a seizure, it is an attack by the Royal Navy!” – I disagree, if an armed warship is in territorial waters without permissioning and acting in a threatening manner (e.g. seizing UK nationals) is not the case to be dealt with by the RN, what is?

December 27, 2012 1:33 pm

“I wish we had kept the Peacock class as well, they were still quite young in the 90s and looked like useful little ships.”

Mentioning the Peacocks of the Hong Kong Squadron made a stir.

It reminds me, how shaky the ground for the british stance upon “self determinisn” in case of overseas territories is. At least, we gave HK to the PRC, without any questioning of the population. So, why should Spain or Argentina accept anything less?

The atrocious fact, that we currently have nothing to say about the daily recriminations people face in the HKSAR is telling.

Diplomacy, trust and responsibility come in as a package.

December 27, 2012 2:08 pm

“I disagree, if an armed warship is in territorial waters without permissioning and acting in a threatening manner (e.g. seizing UK nationals) is not the case to be dealt with by the RN, what is?”

*cough* Piracy.

One of the more common pressure tactics nowadays is to use “non-military” ships to stand-off each other in contested waters. These are things like fishing boats and coast guard patrol vessels. Good for ramping up pressure while still having the deniability of “non-military” “harassing honest fishermen” and “routine police work”.

Mike Edwards
Mike Edwards
December 27, 2012 3:23 pm

Royal Navy needs to swallow a bitter pill (as an Ex-RN Officer I can see the writing on the wall) and accept that a Dedicated Coast Guard can do the job much more effectively than the RN.

It seems like a good juncture to do so as the SAR is being handed over to a Civlian/Coast Guard system, to integrate the whole SFPA and other elements into a proper Coast Guard covering all forms of Smuggling, Organised Crime and Fishery protection.

The RN can concentrate on Blue Water and Expeditionary Warfare and stop using valuable Mine Hunting assets as Fishery Protection Vessels. Equally they can get rid of the Patrol Boats, and shift them all over to a dedicated Police Agency, rather than the current Military force, dipping it’s toe in the law enforcement arena and being ill-equipped and poor at it.

The real concern from the RN is the loss of yet more Hull’s and it is fighting tooth and nail for assets that actually in the grand scheme of things aren’t really their bag. The RN suffers because everything it does is over the Horizon and therefore out of sight and out of mind, so it’s public perception is lower or than the RAF (Roll out the RED ARROWS) or the Army (All the impressive footage from Afgahnistan/Iraq in the last 10 Years has cemented the ARMY in the popular conciousness). The UK didn’t even have a Fleet Review for the Diamond Jubilee? Possibly because less than 20 floating hulls (if you leave out the vessels in Refit/ Drydock/held in extended readiness) barely constitutes a Flotilla…

Unless you want a Fleet Review made of Mine Hunters to make up the numbers, which to be fair Belgium or The Netherlands could do!

steve taylor
December 27, 2012 4:21 pm

@ Mike E

I think the founding of two great continental style citizen armies during the 20th century did more to cement the Army in the nation’s conciousness than digital camera footage from Afghanistan. As I have said many times here it is easy for the layman to understand that the Army shoots guns (of various sizes) and the RAF fly things. What the RN does is for the most part more subtle, as you say done of out sight of the vast majority, and as often demonstrated here with tedious frequency beyond the ken of many.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
December 27, 2012 4:37 pm


We stopped using Hunts for Fish years ago. We use the 3 Rivers only and the initial deal whereby we leased them and DEFRA paid for the usage got us 3 Hulls that we would otherwise not have got. Hulls we could have taken away and used in an Emergency. Hulls that regularly exercised with UK SF as their capability to host big Rhibs and the internal spare space was highly prized.

As for being rubbish at it, well we are a lot better than the SFPA. Effectiveness depends completely upon whether or not the CO and Command team take the job seriously and treat it as Professionals should or moan about “being on fish”.

Would I like to see a proper CG? Yes; would it affect RN manning and hull numbers? Probably not and almost certainly not in a positive way.

December 27, 2012 4:38 pm

Well perhaps if the RN and its many web supports should spend more of there time explaining exactly what it is they are doing and why they require the larger number of star destroyer ships instead of repeatedly blaming everyone else and every other program for the state they find themselves in today. Because they are starting to appear like a hard luck group and it appears that even those with the purse strings including CDS don’t appear convinced with the pleading when all that is presented is drug busts, pirate chasing and disaster relief no matter how important they are doesn’t justify 1b pound warships. Perhaps more emphases on their more flighty roles recently would be a better focus for there pr department.

steve taylor
December 27, 2012 4:59 pm

APATS re “on fish”

Um. Do you think it has because the navy has changed over the last two decades? In times past small ship men seemed to me to be proper sailors, a breed apart so to speak, they liked being at sea, the variety of work, and small team ethos mirrored in a way the lives of those they policed (and at time defended) in the UK fishing fleets. I have said before, and it was touched on by that ARRSE poster SuperMatelot in that CDS thread over there when he discussed fitness, adaptability, and training to carry out some roles, that when their is talk of OPVs etc. the crewing of those vessels is never discussed in that modern big ship sailor may not really suited to more combative roles or the scope of work that needs to be covered by a small crew vessel like an OPV.

December 27, 2012 8:16 pm

@Repulse,December 27, 2012 at 08:46
“@Chuck: “If HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar make a seizure, it is an attack by the Royal Navy!” – I disagree, if an armed warship is in territorial waters without permissioning and acting in a threatening manner (e.g. seizing UK nationals) is not the case to be dealt with by the RN, what is?”

I was referring to cases like fisherman violating territorial waters, but if you need to chase off Guardia Civil, if they are armed, a Coast Guard can do that too.

The USCG has been moved around under supervision various department. For the UK it could easily be a separate service under the Navy just as the Royal Marines are. You have a specialist corp that concentrates of non-combat operations during peacetime, ie SAR and law enforcement, but that can be redirected in wartime.

steve taylor
December 27, 2012 9:19 pm

“For the UK it could easily be a separate service under the Navy”

Just like the Norwegian Coastguard is part of the Royal Norwegian Navy.

Phil Chadwick
Phil Chadwick
December 28, 2012 12:03 am

We don’t have a functioning Navy of any note anymore…

December 28, 2012 3:56 pm

@ Phil Chadwick,
“We don’t have a functioning Navy of any note anymore…”

— How do you figure that one out? We regularly deploy some of the best quality ships in the world, manned by some of the best quality crews in the world, all around the world. We achieve things with our navy that some nations (even ones of a comparable nature) could only dream about.

December 28, 2012 6:08 pm

“Well perhaps if the RN and its many web supports should spend more of there time explaining exactly what it is they are doing and why they require the larger number of star destroyer ships instead”

I guess, this was already being answered by various defence reviews and white papers.

But, as you mention “larger number”; when was the last HMG actually expanding the number of vessels in the RN? Must be the late Chamberlain…

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the mintcake maker
February 7, 2013 12:18 am

Looks like the Spanish are at it again. And this time with one of their shiny new BAM vessels.


Funny how this happens when the current Gov. is in the sh*t for apparently taking backhanders.

“Banana Republic to the left of me,
Banana Republic to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you…”

February 8, 2013 9:56 am


Nice looking ship; if only the RN had a dozen of those to cover off patrol tasks…………

February 8, 2013 1:33 pm

Agreed – we need some proper patrol fleet to secure UK / Dependency waters. This is completely unacceptable.

I would also sneak some Apaches / Wildcats in and the next time they try anything stupid, really put the wind up them.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 8, 2013 2:05 pm

@ Repulse – Spot on – RN Coastguard Squadron (Atlantic Ridge) with permanent bases at Gibraltar, in the Caribbean, and those Islands down south…using SIMMS, crewed by the RFA, with relevant policing agencies embarked…and a fully tooled up RM detachment with fast boats and armed helicopters…

steve taylor
February 8, 2013 2:12 pm

Once here some madman suggested buying ground based TLAM for the Army so we could “bomb” Madrid from Cornwall.


Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
February 8, 2013 2:26 pm

Teacup a in storm.

As noted above, a little 4-ship det of WAH64 might concentrate the mind. When 99% of the populace reject any sovereignty share, you’re on fairly firm ground legally.

Personally, I’d be more concerned about Cyprus and the SBA, the status of which is somewhat less conclusive, established by precedent, or supported by the indigenous populace.

Cyprus is allegedly awash with private Russian money and the Cypriot government looking at loans from the Russian government which might have included establishment of a Russian naval base as a quid pro quo in the event Tartus is lost to the Islamonutters.

A rather more resurgent Turkey may also bear watching……

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 8, 2013 2:33 pm

@NAB – Agreed, but perhaps better done by increasing the RAF and Army presence – Could some of the remaining units in Germany go and live there – alongside a substantial chunk of the RAF (including UAVs)?

steve taylor
February 8, 2013 2:35 pm

SBA wouldn’t be much of a loss. The signals monitoring could always be done from a ship. Good weather training for F35 could be done in the US.

February 8, 2013 2:53 pm

Wouldn’t a detachment of Naval Lynxes serve the task better. A Nice “training” opportunity for them.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
February 8, 2013 2:56 pm

Not a question of defensive forces in place. Like Gib, you could never put enough there to defend it against attack. if someone wanted it badly enough.

Legal challenges backed up by info ops are more likely threat. Might eventually end up as quarantine of military supplies (eg fuel, mil stores).

Loss of SBA would actually unhinge much of our ability to operate in E Med and beyond.

February 8, 2013 3:02 pm

x – really? Surely Akrotiri is a rather (to put it mildly) useful staging post for Ground and Air Forces.

There are allied bases that we could use, but they are dependent on having support of that ally. Losing Akrotiri would be a major loss in terms of our ability to conduct operations in the Middle East and Eastern North Africa.

February 8, 2013 3:13 pm

Should send a bigger warship to gib and grab the Spanish vessel next time they try taking the piss. The only way to deal with this type of Latin provocation is to embarrass them back.

February 8, 2013 3:15 pm

I would imagine loosing the bases on Cyprus would be a big blow to the local economy. Not to mention the fear of turkey that is always going to be in the back of their mind.

steve taylor
February 8, 2013 3:20 pm

@ Tom

The Third Rule of Posting on Think Defence
clearly states that there is always, always, always a convenient runway or runways when we need to move anything by air. Why do we need one of our own? ;)

BTW the Fourth Rule of Posting on Think Defence also states that overflying rites are never, ever an issue.

February 8, 2013 3:32 pm

On the one hand places like Gibraltar and the Cyprus bases can’t be realistically guarded against a major invasion, but on the other they can and should have reasonable deterrent forces in place to say that they are ours and we mean business.

Gibraltar, although a relic of Empire, is a territory that emphatically wishes to remain British, thus giving the Spanish claim, like the Argentinians no real basis.

As for Cyprus, well from UK’s point of view we don’t have a bunch of civilians saying they wish to remain British which could put our claim on shaky ground, but the lack of ‘indigenous population’ could equally weaken any other claimants position as well.

You can’t just say you want a bit of land because it’s near you, that flies in the face of reason, logic and ultimately international law.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
February 8, 2013 4:26 pm

I thought there was a rather large “indigenous population” in Cyprus. In fact, come to think of it, there are a large number of Cypriots resident in the SBA……had to be dealt with in Cyprus accession to EU.

February 8, 2013 4:56 pm

“You can’t just say you want a bit of land because it’s near you, that flies in the face of reason, logic and ultimately international law.” – isn’t that how alot of wars start?

February 8, 2013 4:57 pm


OK fair enough their are people living in the sovereign base areas, but it’s more complicated than that.

These people are still Cypriots, their is no official citizenship attached to the SBA’s as in other British territories and I believe the areas themselves are part owned/administered by the MOD.

So yeah I was a bit overzealous in claiming that the SBA’s had no population, but at the same time if those people aren’t strictly citizens and can’t vote on anything that decides the territories future then it renders the whole problem of ‘indigenous population’ fairly moot in a way that it doesn’t with Gibraltar and the Falklands, if you see what I mean?

February 8, 2013 5:00 pm


And anyway’s the deal signed in 1960 gave the UK aboveboard and legit sovereign control over those base areas, so legally I think our position is solid.

The only worry is whether someone comes along with complete disregard for legality and decides to take them the old fashioned way.

February 8, 2013 5:02 pm


Yeah that’s how a lot of wars start, but it doesn’t make a claim to territory any less ridiculous.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
February 8, 2013 7:47 pm

I think the important thing about the SBAs is the politics. A few years ago the Turks fancied joining an increasingly secular and democratic Turkey with a strong aspiration to join the EU; the Greeks were keen on a Greece already spending EU cash and cheap borrowing hand over fist. These days a potentially Islamist Turkey with two incipient civil wars (Kurds and Caucasus), growing Rural/Religious and Urban/Secular tension and a full on Civil War right next door might not be so inviting – any more than Austerity Greece with Golden Dawn on the up will be to the Greeks. With a big Cypriot Diaspora here, a big British Diaspora there and a long shared history – the first English King of Cyprus was Richard the Lion-heart…there is a game to be won…if we play it.

February 8, 2013 9:29 pm

Everybody’s at it:


Those Japanese F2s are essentially F16s aren’t they?