Thoughts on Maritime Strategy from the US

The ‘War on the Rocks’ site has just reposted a speech from a recent US Naval Institute event on maritime strategy at a time on constrained budgets:

Given the recent discussions about the utility of the Type 45s and what may or may not be happening with the Type 26s, this seemed to cover that old discussion which keeps popping up on here about what the Navy is for (and what we think it should be for).

I wondered if the Navy had anything that seemed to answer the questions and challenges covered in this piece, and the closest recent comment is the First Sea Lord’s speech at RUSI in September (his DSEI one was completely equipment focussed, unsurprisingly):

This looks like it hits a lot of the key points, but I admit to being uneasy by the end, as it essentially says we’ll do more with less by working harder.

In a world where we are regularly ducking out of NATO commitments, are using air defence destroyers for any small task that comes our way and have increasingly turned the RFA into a substitute for escort platforms, what do people think the Navy should be doing, and indeed, if strategy is about choices what should it be giving up?

I’m not entirely convinced that the current planned force isn’t just the same as the SDR 98 one, just smaller and less coherent because we keep emphasising things like flexibility and speed of deployment while doing things like cutting amphibious forces.


About The Author

TD reader and general pedant interested in general security issues, especially the UK military

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January 3, 2014 10:06 pm

Until such a time as I see a rational reason why a T45 or an RFA should not be used for anti-piracy roles or something else minor I will continue to regard these rants with the derision they deserve. High end war fighting capabilities are the hardest to generate and sustain and on the occasion they are required they are far more important than coastguard duties, it is imperative that these capabilities be sustained. Whilst they are not being used for fighting peer rivals they can legitimately be used for lesser tasks.

Is the RN a shrunken version of the SDR98 one, yes- by about 35-40% smaller in fact*- but thats a good thing as the RN is actually maintaining the capabilities that count.

* Seriously, check it out, SDR98 cut the escort force to 32 units and the SSN fleet to 10, they are now at 19 and 7 respectively. The amphib fleet has gone the same way the LPH role seemingly merged with the carrier role, one Albion class in extended readiness at all times and one bay class sold off despite them either only being under construction or not even ordered back in 1998.

January 3, 2014 10:33 pm

” Whilst they are not being used for fighting peer rivals they can legitimately be used for lesser tasks.”

No, they cant.
And thats a problem.

We have 6 T45s,
My understanding i they are “at sea” 200 days per year.
That gives us 1200 sea days per year, say three years
So, three active destroyers
If one of those is deployed to Somalia, and one of those is deployed to the North Sea to protect the T23’s, and one of those i deployed to protect the carrier during active warfare, and one is deployed to protect the ATG, and theres not actually a T45 to protect the marines, and they die, and we lose the war.

January 3, 2014 10:44 pm

“and we lose the war”

And well deserved, since you didn’t call the French AAW ships, Dutch AAW ships, German AAW ships, American AAW ships, Spanish AAW ships, Norwegian AAW ships or Italian AAW ships for help – but insisted on a stupid Somalia patrol in the midst of an actual war.

All Politicians are the Same
January 3, 2014 10:49 pm


Not sure what your last paragraph is trying to get at. Are you saying that we are incapable of retasking Ships as this amazing scenario unfolds and would leave these “marines” to die?
Why are we protecting T23s in the North Sea, we have a CBG and an ATG, with 1 T45 each why? If we have one with the ATG, would the marines not also be there? Why do we leave a T45 off Somalia as that is not even a task.

We have 19 escorts and several standing tasks, we can by careful juggling maintain a presence and achieve these tasks whilst retaining the ability to field an effective an operational conventional capability, just.

All Politicians are the Same
January 3, 2014 11:13 pm

@ Securocrat

The maritime strategy is pretty clear. We carry out the day to day tasking as laid down by HMG whilst retaining the ability to field a conventional force at levels again set down by HMG. All within a set budget.

Go and have a look at future force 2020 and the RN part of it. We are actually well ahead of the game in terms of restructuring.

As for unmanned systems, way behind who exactly and what would you propose, remember somebody has to pay for it?

again RFA vessels are deployed to support Rn ops, the only place we would ever deploy one instead of an escort is the Caribbean where it is hardly likely to turn into a hot war and their capabilities are actually more suited sometimes.

In summary your criticisms lack detail or alternatives. they do highlight something we have known for years, cuts have mad our capabilities fragile and we lack the ability to mount enduring ops.

There is no magic wand though, no matter how much you would like there to be.

January 3, 2014 11:33 pm

Germans have an annoying habit of declaring wars unjust and staying home.
Fine, no complaint, but hardly makes you reliable partners.

“Are you saying that we are incapable of retasking Ships”
What material does a frigate on anti piracy carry?
I believe a T23 that switched from anti piracy to anti Gadafi turned up with 4 missiles.
How long does it take to return home, rearm, refuel, resupply and redeploy?

“Why are we protecting T23s in the North Sea,”
Isnt that the primary purpose of the 42/45?

“we have a CBG and an ATG, with 1 T45 each why? If we have one with the ATG, would the marines not also be there? Why do we leave a T45 off Somalia as that is not even a task.”

Count the 45s again.
Three unavailable, one off on a jolly, one defending the north sea, one defending the carrier, and we dont have a seventh to defend the landing ships.

We have three active and a need for three for any fleet, one for the carrier, one for the lander, one for the resupply, and thats just a bare minimum, and we already fail to meet that because one or two or even three of them will be off on standing tasks. Standing tasks they may be pulled away from, although (see my comment above to Sven) what use to our allies is a standing task we plan to drop at the first spot of danger?

Thats before we want to send frigates out front to hunt down enemy units, or carry out hore bombardment, or just act as a picket, all of which we would be unable to offer serious air defence of, even if all goes perfectly.

January 3, 2014 11:42 pm

“but hardly makes you reliable partners.”

As a German I have a special emphasis on how stupid aggressiveness in Vienna got Germany into the Great War.

The UK proved to be a stupid, aggressive partner.
Even post-1990 it has violated the North Atlantic Treaty, Article 1 at least twice (Germany only once).

All Politicians are the Same
January 3, 2014 11:57 pm

@ Securocrat

yes the army is proposing to change the way Brigades work and are on Mod2 but if you cannot come up with a reason for the RN to do similar or suggest what they should do is there not a real danger of you wanting change for the sake of change.

The Army and RAF have both got a lot of UAV capability due to Iraq and Afghanistan. when i said compared to who, i was actually talking about Naval forces. TBH we are only looking at them now as we have had no money for them before now.

We have used a Fort in AS off Somalia, it is ideal as the Somalian Pirates do not have a major navy to worry about, One of the E Asian countries have sent a converted Merchant vessel

“. delivering what we’ve been told to do within a budget’ is not a proper strategy” It is exactly that, HMG make strategy, we support them. TheMilitary do not make UK Foreign Policy, we support it to the best of our ability!


We do not send Frigates to do anti piracy. We have to keep 2 FF/DD E of Suez as per HMG wishes. They spend the vast majority of the time in the Gulf but they have to transit the Anti piracy AOR to get there and back, so we declare them as being in associated support of the relevant TG.

Who are we protecting these T23 against? It is 2014 not 1984.

Why would we have 3 T45 unavailable, your scenario looks like a world war, in 2003 I had 2 DGs on a jetty on Friday and sailed 4 days later. yet we would have no notice to adjust tasking etc in your scenario?

To quote your post “and one is deployed to protect the ATG,” So again you already have one with the ARG.

You confuse RN/HMG standing tasks with ones that concern our Allies.

You basically conjure a scenario where we have a threat in the North sea that requires T23 and T45, yet we saw no sign of this. That requires an ATG and a CBG, that involves no help from any of our NATO Allies?

There is unrealistic and then there is pure fantasy.

take 2 to beat the spam monster.

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 12:48 am


Ref change.
You again allude to the possible need for change but again fail to offer any alternative. As do I, perhaps we are actually dong the best we can. Of course you could never consider that.

” But now we have financial delegation, the question of prioritisation is one for Navy Command to grasp ”

I really think people have the wrong end of the stick about the whole financial delegation thing. You included. plus what would you like to see and why? You offer a lot of general obs but no actual evidence or reasoning or alternatives.

Military strategy has to support Foreign Policy, otherwise you are on a slippery slope. The forces have to be flexible enough to support Foreign Policy and meet the requirements in the DPA.

” The Navy (well, DCDC) writes British Maritime Doctrine and not the Government, and that starts the process of what form your strategy takes”
British maritime Doctrine is a document which is written to support the security and foreign policy aims of HMG. We can advise on capabilities and consult on a lot of things but HMG drive the Military and not vice versa.

January 4, 2014 5:33 am

Going back to TD’s point

The navy sacralised is escort fleet in 1998 and father to get the carriers and amphibious fleet. This was the right thing to do has large numbers of frigates and destroyers on their own can do very little other than chase submarines or pirates. The problem is the budget and its impossible to have long term strategy with out an idea of long term budget. Now the navy is being forced to give up the carriers and amphibious platforms to match the budget it has.

Their is really nothing left to give up. However if we look at what the navy is doing in using RFA assets to replace APT(n) and chasing Somali pirates it’s the right thing. Often here RFA assets are better than a frigate for these tasks. They navy has also withdrawn a massive number of standing tasks such as the Far East deployment and NATO flotillas.

Also I support the decision made to only have single crews for the LPD and CVF. Fact is we are never likely to need two of either unless the s**t hits the fan. at which point we can scour the navy to find crews to get them all to see. Just look what was achieved in four days in 1982. But if you don’t have the ships to begin with nothing can be done. is this ideal? No but it’s the best tactic the navy can use with its uncertain budget. also its much much easier to get a future budget to run both carriers than go through the lengthy process of getting approval to build a second one.

Personally I believe that once our politicians get use to the power and prestige of operating something like the queen Elizabeth class that the extra money will be found to get both into operation.

so to sum up my point the RN has sacrificed depth to enhance the breadth of its capability. However if budgets fall much more then it will have to reduce the breadth of its capabilities.

The Securocrat
January 4, 2014 8:57 am


Apologies, I’m being general because I’m actually asking the question in pursuit of education, rather than advancing a position.

On delegation, the point is that Navy Command has, in theory, greater ability to re-direct money if it wants to re-prioritise things. So if it doesn’t have enough money to spend on unmanned systems, that’s because it is spending it elsewhere. Defence Strategic Direction asks for outputs (and a certain number of platforms to meet the DPA); how the Navy does that is its business. Now, I suppose the Navy is far more fixed in its programme because of the costs of supplying platforms and if you’re told you need to provide 19 escorts and an LPH you don’t have the same scope for flex (I’m going to check next week if DSD actually does mandate Force Elements at Readiness or something similar).

Absolutely agree that the Government is the final authority on driving the military. But I read your comment as tending towards the more passive ‘we do what we’re told’ (sorry if that’s not what you meant). I think if Defence is too reticent in informing strategy, and sometimes pushing back, what you get is Southern Iraq 2005-08, where direction on ends didn’t match available means, and yet the military carried on with a failed strategy because that was ‘what it was told to do’.

So to bring it back to the Navy, I’m asking if business as usual is the right approach. Or should we be investing in more numerous, less capable ships, with a core based on a single RFTG? Or putting more efforts into interoperability with allies and less on singleton deployments? Does fewer ships mean each one should be more capable across the board? Should we give up on trying to have a full spectrum of capabilities and divest ourselves of something like amphibiosity and find an ally who can do that? Like I said, I don’t know the answer, I was just struck that the First Sea Lord was firm that ‘the same with less’ is fine. It’s an open ended question in the hope of seeing what people think.

January 4, 2014 9:55 am

The reference to meeting NATO commitments is interesting – my main question is what is the purpose of NATO now? Is it still to keep Russia in check? Is it a acceptable European defence organization for euro-sceptic countries like the UK and Norway? Where is the expected area of operations, the North Atlantic, the North Pole, etc? The US may see it as the way to protect their Eastern border whilst they focus West on the Pacific, but what about the other members?

Perhaps NATO is still required for the North Atlantic / Pole to protect interests against Russia expansionist aspirations – but do we need new organisations for Africa and the Gulf?

Last comment – I see the arena of foreseeable conflicts to be in the maritime sphere. This is a result of a reluctance for prelonged ground wars, but also where up and coming nations (like China) will look to assert their new found power / confidence. Therefore, a clear maritime strategy is key to the UK – this does not soley belong to the RN but by all three services.

January 4, 2014 10:07 am


Your account/experience of how RFAs and other units are used is at some variance to mine.

“the only place we would ever deploy one instead of an escort is the Caribbean”

…and APT(S) (Largs Bay 2009, in place of a T23 that was sent to the Indian Ocean IIRC) and counter-piracy tasks off Somalia.

“We have used a Fort in AS off Somalia,”

And tankers, and whatever we have had to hand. Look at how Wave Knight was employed during the Lynn Rival incident. Fort Victoria has been doing more than is implied by associated support. Yes, she tends to be assigned DS to 53 (primary task replenishment) but has at times been the UK’s premier counter-piracy unit with appropriate staff and RM embarkations.

“We do not send Frigates to do anti piracy… They spend the vast majority of the time in the Gulf but they have to transit the Anti piracy AOR to get there and back, so we declare them as being in associated support of the relevant TG.”

Whilst your description may be correct today (I only spent a couple of months out there last year), it does not accurately describe the taskings of UK units over the last 4-6 years. Certainly the vast majority of DD/FF time was not spent inside the Persian Gulf by my observations, and contributions to maritime security operations around the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin were a definite task, not something conducted merely as AS in passing en-route between SoH and Suez.

January 4, 2014 11:37 am

Do we need to permanently station a frigate in the South Atlantic any more? Whenever the ice patrol ship is sent down there perhaps that should replace the frigate. Or send one the long way round when its going to East Africa rather than having one down there all the time.

January 4, 2014 11:45 am

@ Mark

I would say APT (s) is the one place we really do need a frigate. It’s too far away to reinforce quickly and it’s the one place where the UK faces a threat on its own as opposed to the Gulf that’s more an international issue with Iran.

The frigate adds depth to the defence if the FI because it means that any opposing force has to do more than knock out MPA.

January 4, 2014 12:07 pm


A sensible suggestion. I would be more comfortable about the message it sends out if the Typoon Flight down there were equipped with Anti-Ship Missiles and if the picture over future airbourne AAR and ISTAR at Mount Pleasant were clearer.

Will we really keep a Voyager down there? Or will it be a modified Atlas? And if we do buy some P8 would they visit from time to time?

January 4, 2014 12:28 pm

@Mark/PE: Agree, a T45/T23 is not needed on a regular basis. A more capable OPV / Light Frigate (like being built?) with a hanger and a medium gun would be enough. Plus remember that the South Atlantic contains more than the FIs, visits to other BOTs in the region are required but I see that if another OPV / light frigate could be based in Gibraltar, both could cover the region.

Lastly, as you say if the Typhoons could have an anti-ship capability and a “cheap” MPA solution put in place then it would further negate the need.

January 4, 2014 1:01 pm


I read over Christmas the book hunter killers on Royal Navy submarines very gd read. Near the end it has several chapters on the Falklands and its aftermath. In 1984-5 we had 2 ssns dwn there off Argentina checking air and sea movements and they were bored literally nothing at all to do. I would guess the threat from Argentina is an order of magnitude less than even then. If your looking to reduce pressure on the frigate force it would seem an easy one.

Peter probably for a while when the Tristar goes. No reason though why we couldn’t put a herc with aar capability dwn there for a while to be replaced by a400m at a later date.

A cheap mpa solution would be a king air with surface radar do the argies have much of a sub threat?

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 1:03 pm

@ Anixtu

Sorry about the inference I gave ref the RFA. My point was in response to Securocrats line about using RFAs instead of FF/DDs in situation that could develop into a hot war in a conventional sense.


In wrong job now but from Jan 11 to Summer this year I had oversight of every unit attached to to the 3 TGs conducting anti Piracy, whether they were in AS or DS and their tasking. In this period I would be shocked if we had an FF/DD in DS for more than 10% of the time.
Yes we had units that were outside the Gulf for part of the time but that was not their primary tasking or Reason for being E of Suez. Calash seems to have taken a back seat to Kipion.

January 4, 2014 4:58 pm

@ Peter Elliott

“Will we really keep a Voyager down there? Or will it be a modified Atlas? ”

I am not sure if anyone knows the answer to this question yet. It won’t be an Atlas for sure because A) the terms of the FSTA prohibit it and B) We are not buying the AAR kits for the A400M.

The only solution I can see is for the Voyager aircraft forming the air bridge to MPA from Ascension to stay down their until the next one arrives from the UK then return. Given the weather in the FI and the rapid reinforcement plan based on tanker aircraft I can’t see how we can operate in the FI without AAR. That being said we are paying Airtanker 400 million a year or so and for that money the least we can expect is a Voyager in the FI.

@ Repulse

The problem is we don’t have a more capable light frigate so we will have to go out and buy three of them which will cut the budget for the FF/DD even more and leave us with a ship only really capable of patrolling the FI. If we look at the cost of say Khareef vs the T26 then we end up spending something quite similar for much less capability. A fleet of 19 FF/DD can maintain a ship in the South Atlantic without too much difficulty.

I would love to see an ASM on Typhoon but I recon their are at least a dozen things like Storm Shadow and Brimstone I would like to see on their first. Also a Typhoon armed with 16 SPEAR 3 would probably be more than enough to ruin the Argentine navy’s day should they ever kick off.

The Argentines do have a submarine capability and without a Frigate and Merlin down their we currently have no way to engage such a capability.

January 4, 2014 5:10 pm

Chaps, straw poll please.

How many of you believe that a Type 45 is deployed east of Suez on an anti-piracy patrol?

Compare that with how many of you believe that a Type 45 is forward deployed as a contingent tasking unit if the balloon goes up, and rather than randomly steaming in circles is doing something useful with its spare time?

January 4, 2014 5:20 pm

On the Islands-that-shall-not-be-named, and purely IMHO (in case anyone thinks I’m being terribly arrogant about the whole thing):

1. Voyager due down later this year to replace the TriStar. Have just left there so can be fairly certain of that one.

2. Argentina could not mount a surprise attack on the Islands with conventional forces today if it tried. Politically the will is not there – they are moving to diplomatic resolution. A kinetic attack wrecks the entire Argentine foreign policy strategy and would shatter any and all pretentions to international agreements they are party to, and there are many that they are pursuing to win over international opinion in their favour to regain ‘Las Malvinas’. Their economy is in the toilet and civil disobedience is on the rise. The four Typhoons, frankly, represent an insurmountable obstacle for the Argentines; nothing in their ORBAT is even close to being capable. Only their Meko 360’s have any air defence capability, and I’d be surprised if their Aspide’s even still work. Their Exocet are ancient and probably out of warranty. And their submarines spend more time in ‘refit’ than in the water.

January 4, 2014 5:25 pm


Don’t you just call that Maritime Security?

January 4, 2014 5:26 pm

The best strategy for the Falklands is to carry on normal jogging and ignore Argentine provocations.

January 4, 2014 5:41 pm

It’s at the upper end of Maritime Security, yes, although the threat does require a more capable (i.e. RM) boarding team to deal with piracy. Otherwise, yes.

January 4, 2014 5:48 pm

@Martin: That aged old TD argument that there is nothing worth having between an OPV with small calibre guns and an all signing and dancing T26…

A 2,000t ship with a half decent radar, hanger, capable of 25kts+ and a 76mm gun (maybe even a hull mounted sonar) can be built for closer to a £100mn than £350mn with a third of the crew of a T26.

I do not agree that these are only useful for the FI either, other nations are deploying similar vessels to the Caribbean, Med and Indian ocean…

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 6:05 pm

@ Repulse

Really for £100 million? Now add on the costs of design for such a small class. Look at the extra costs of training the extra COs, charge qualified engineers, chief stokers etc. the key roles that we are short of and that are expensive to train and difficult to grow.
Now draw me a SOC that allows operations in 2 watches being able to surge to state 1 with 40 personnel and a useful equipment fit.
Also we do not have any standing tasks in the Indian Ocean or the Med for these vessels to take over.
This site has been round the block on thsi a few times.

January 4, 2014 6:11 pm

Would think the later I would go with the contingency tasking eos.

Why I would see the Falklands frigate tasking open to be freed up is because the whole point of building something like cvf is to show strategic conventional deterrence match that with ensuring a presence, hms clyde the airfield and the ice ship being maintained perhaps the biggest hurdle would be the newspapers.

January 4, 2014 6:33 pm

@martin: I’m unconvinced that we need a DD/FF down south. Nice as the ability to hunt submarines might be, provided we own MPA and Stanley, we own the FI in the short term: we don’t need to run merchants into Mare or Stanley to keep the place going until a Task Force arrives. Fitting Brimstone and an AShM to Typhoon would be great, but personally I suspect buying the Dane’s old truck launched Harpoon’s would be the easiest option, combined with a Javelin platoon and an MRLS troop to make a landing impossible.

@SomewhatRemoved: why 4 Typhoons with no effective air to ground armament and a company group without armoured vehicles makes the FI invincible I have no idea. Do we base some Jedi knights down there too?

January 4, 2014 6:45 pm

A 2,000t ship with a half decent radar, hanger, capable of 25kts+ and a 76mm gun (maybe even a hull mounted sonar) can be built for closer to a £100mn than £350mn with a third of the crew of a T26.

So HMS Clyde with a hangar (where the hell is that going to fit) capable of 25+ knots (strewth, how much space is there for twice as much engine). Also, can we get a 76mm gun on Clyde – I doubt it.

What constitutes a “half decent radar”? Artisan? There’s 10% of your £100m budget gone.

January 4, 2014 6:47 pm

why 4 Typhoons with no effective air to ground armament and a company group without armoured vehicles makes the FI invincible I have no idea. Do we base some Jedi knights down there too?

No, but the Argies would need Jedi Knights to succeed at an opposed, Dieppe like amphibious landing. They wouldn’t be fighting 30 marines caught by surprise they’d be conducting an amphibious operation against a fortress manned by a first world army with a SLOCs being prowled by the most advanced SSNs ever built.

I don’t lie awake at night worrying.

January 4, 2014 6:54 pm
January 4, 2014 6:55 pm

Another question

Why does the ice patrol ship have to be RN?

Always wondered about that one

January 4, 2014 6:55 pm

We might as well send half a dozen Apache down south (for A2G and CAS) as we sure as hell don’t need them here.

January 4, 2014 6:58 pm

Sorry, one more

How do people think a changing security situation in the ME will impact the RN/RAF commitment to the area

If it gets better, e.g. Iran enters a new enlightened period

if it gets worse, e.g. the Shia v Sunni war steps up another several gears

What is our maritime strategy then?

January 4, 2014 7:03 pm


I did not say ‘invincible’. I said ‘insurmountable obstacle’ with their present ORBAT (wonder why I bother sometimes). Only an idiot would attempt a military invasion without air cover and against a distinctly superior aerial opponent. We can reinforce before they even begin to get ready to sail. Do you not think we’re watching them? And besides, nothing in the Argentine ORBAT can defend against laser guided bombs which even baseline Typhoon can muster. The Meko 360 might be a bit tricky, the rest of the fleet would be easy pickings.

January 4, 2014 7:09 pm


Doesn’t have to be RN at all. There are two BAS boats as you know, and PROTECTOR does lots of work in support of them. But I think it’s all about intent – an RN vessel patrolling in the Antarctic region justifying international interest in the Antarctic. There are enough nations with vested interests in Antarctica, and the Ice Patrol ship is a useful capability that, in the grand scheme of things, buys a lot of influence for not a lot of cost.

I have been exceptionally lucky to have 2 short visits to South Georgia. What a stunning place!

January 4, 2014 7:09 pm


“Why does the ice patrol ship have to be RN?”

You want to leave it to BAS?

Edit – beaten by seconds by SR.

John Hartley
January 4, 2014 7:15 pm

TD re ice patrol ship. I cannot see Antarctica being left untouched when world population hits 9 billion. If anyone in Whitehall was awake, they would be spending DfID money on an airstrip & dock for South Georgia. Then when “low impact eco mining” gets approved , we would be ready for a bonanza like North Sea oil/gas. Also why I rant that future frigates/destroyers should have hulls slightly toughened for light ice.

January 4, 2014 8:02 pm

@Phil: how, with a single company group (with some recalled FIDF) available (with no artillery support), most of which will be preoccupied with defending MPA, are we supposed to provide the Argentinians with a Dieppe experience? More like San Carlos I suspect.

We can discount those SSN’s: there are not enough available to provide a credible threat, since they can count them out of Faslane and Devonport like anyone else. Given their tasks, the risks are low.

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 8:10 pm


Do you know where our SSNs are operating at the moment? Thought not. You can count the ones alongside but knowing where the ones that are not is a different game.
The whole point relies upon a huge level of operational surprise. You talk about a single company group but every forces personnel down South has a role and many more than a company group worth of weapons are available. then of course we can reinforce very quickly.
The Argentinians have virtually zero amphib capability and no means to stop the Typhoons providing targeting info for the on station FF/DD to put a couple of Harpoons in the troop carriers. That is without canon and laser guided bombs.
The FIDF is a well organised, well equipped and very well motivated force these days, HMG and Javelin/mortars would not help any landing, even if they were not sunk miles offshore
The simple fact is that the current level of force over matches the “current” Argentinean capability levels which are virtually non existent.
the secret is to continually review this.

January 4, 2014 8:15 pm

TD asked “What is our maritime strategy then?”

Mean Tweets to opfor, a YouTube video of T23 crew miming to Two Tribes, designating a naughty step, and some leading writer penning a poem about how we can all be winners and their are no losers in a nice inclusive equally opportune speshul snowflake sort of way. Bless.

My prediction for 2014 is the RM begging CGS for a merger

January 4, 2014 8:19 pm

Given their tasks, the risks are low.

That’s a pretty glib statement that I’d doubt you’d be making if it were your neck on the line planning the amphibious operation.

how, with a single company group (with some recalled FIDF) available (with no artillery support), most of which will be preoccupied with defending MPA, are we supposed to provide the Argentinians with a Dieppe experience?

Very easily.

I’m not one to underestimate an enemy – but really, the Argies don’t stand a chance of pulling off anything. As APATs says their capability is not existent and the will is very slight. Combine that with a keen eye being kept on the Argie fleet (what is left of it and what can go to sea) and a reinforcement plan that could probably quadruple the FI force in 48 hours (even lightly armed SSFG/SAS/SBS force would be a devastating challenge to any amphibious assault on the beach) and as I say, I don’t lose any sleep over the matter. The garrison there is a political statement more than anything. We could turn that place into Verdun from a completely standing start well before they could rebuild a credible amphibious force. And obviously it isn’t a standing start as we have a garrison down there already.

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 8:42 pm

@ Wf

You talk about a “San Carlos” but at San Carlos we actually had some Amphibs. By my reckoning the current Argentinian Navy comprises of.

3 SSKs none less than 25 years old. (allegedly in 2012 they spent a combined 19 hours submerged)
4 early 80s Meko 360s with huge maintenance problems and life expired weaponry.
9 Corvettes of 2 types (a max of 6 but more likely 4 are operational)
1 Modified T42 (the other sank alongside)
1 amphib transport but needs a jetty

The rest are PBs/Ice survey Vessels/Tugs/tankers/Hm vessels etc
So how would they even manage a San Carlos?

January 4, 2014 9:39 pm

@Phil: easily? How exactly will be reinforce if we don’t know they are coming? Even if we see the ships leaving it’s 24 hours steaming for them: just getting a ROE change will take that. If we’re not reinforced, we will have a reinforced platoon to deploy: if we knew which beach they are hitting.

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 9:52 pm



The FI ROE is extremely robust.

So they would go with current capabilities and no work up/exercises. Brilliant.

1. They have no offload capability so we would be defending a beach vs some Rhibs. They have no means to stop typhoon observing and the FF/Typhoon engaging so the survivors if any would be storming a beach in Rhibs vs Javelin/HMG/50 Cal Sniper Rifles/Mortars etc.
2. We would be more likely to be needed to provide a SAR response in the first place as not sure all their Ships would make it. They had one sink alongside!

They simply are in a shocking state, barely able to patrol their EEZ let alone launch an Amphibious Invasion over the distance they would need to.

January 4, 2014 11:12 pm

How exactly will be reinforce if we don’t know they are coming?

Once they’ve turned that one the right way up, we can fly in The Reg.

January 4, 2014 11:37 pm

Phil! That’s their new classified next generation submarine program!

Honestly though, the degree of overmatch vs Argentina is in an extremely unfavourable state to Argentina. The question is how to maintain the degree of overmatch without busting the piggybank.

If you want some presence patrols, I can’t help but think a USV ground control center would be a decent compromise. Assuming a 50km comms range, it won’t be much but it would provide the FI with some form of self defence naval capability on a fairly cheap basis. Those are basically armed RHIBs, small, hard to see/target, and a squadron of 12+3 would only need a rotating crew of 24 men total (4 ships on, 8 ships off rotation) for 24 hour coverage as opposed to the 80+ of a frigate. SAR/boarding might be a problem though.

Self defence on the cheap.

January 4, 2014 11:40 pm

They could build 100 x 600nm LCUs each fitted with a Rapier-esque missiles system in sheds and wait for a nice summers day to do a D-day style landing with cover from 24 x A4s, which they can use to draw out the Tiffies over some well positioned SAMs.

Subs will have little effect against numbers.

January 4, 2014 11:51 pm

Add in some S-500s assembled in tin sheds and ICBM plastic cut up parts kits and you’ll get an instant world power. :)

All Politicians are the Same
January 4, 2014 11:58 pm

@ Simon

If only they could get more than 10 A4s airborne. I am probably being generous.

January 5, 2014 9:46 am

“what do people think the Navy should be doing, and indeed, if strategy is about choices what should it be giving up?”

Focus – Intervention

Task 1 – RTFG (12 months of the year) (equipped as current)
Task 2 – CTFG (4-6 months of the year) (light crewed CVF in LPH role + light escort)

In a ‘big’ event you can work up to deploy both.
In normal jogging you have a second platform for training and exercise deployments + contingencies

January 5, 2014 9:50 am

Observer, APATS,

It was worth a shot ;-)

A 250 mile swarm attack is about the only option they have – even if they buy the fancy new jets.

January 5, 2014 10:23 am

[Part 2]

Focus – Intervention

Marines kept as a functional combined arms brigade with three commandos as the principal maneuver formations.
Sufficient RN and RFA amphibious tonnage to deploy and support that three-commando brigade, and cycle a subset through the readiness cycle to support a single commando.

In a ‘big’ event you can work up to deploy the brigade.
In normal jogging you have a commando on high-readiness and the others in work-up/work/down.

January 5, 2014 10:29 am

In what scenario would we need to deploy and land an entire Commando Brigade and fight it as such on our own?

January 5, 2014 10:46 am


We might not have enough ships, but I don’t have a problem retasking our assets. Yes, we need to train for war but arguably the greatest threat our ships can be under in peacetime is going up against some dopped up, death do become us, pirates.

Is it good training? I don’t know but it sounds like a reasonable use of our assets and manpower.

Didn’t Britannia Rule The Waves? I am sure we carefully picked our fights then, as we should do now, but purpose of the Royal Navy merits a proper fighting force. We hold this in reserve and/or deploy this as we seem fit.

If our Type 45s were getting picked off by a couple of guys with a shoulder launched rocket grenade, I wouldn’t be saying we should not have sent the T45s. I’d be asking how and why did this happen.

Do we have the kit to defend and/or detect the threat? Are our crews alert enough, did they have the training etc.? Finally, don’t the crews prefer a trip to the hot chimes of Somalia rather than bopping up and down in the cold Atlantic.

January 5, 2014 10:55 am

TD, Somewhat & Antixu

I’d rather the RN gained more responsibilities and assets than handed them to other agencies. Be that CSAR, SAR, BAS taskings, HM Coastguard and fisheries protection.

They all have overheads and I’m not sure slimming down the Navy is good for the career options of those who join or the Navy as a whole. Sadly most of the removals have been as a result of PFI contracts, some good some bad, but as a rule I don’t like them. If nothing else it provides an excuse for the Government to hide facts and figures for ‘commercial reasons’.

January 5, 2014 10:58 am

“In what scenario would we need to deploy and land an entire Commando Brigade and fight it as such on our own?”

Oh, I don’t know Phil, perhaps just about any operation that might require a brigade level intervention (short of Kursk you understand), particularly if it involves a maritime bent:

If I might return an equally silly question: In what scenario would we need to deploy and fight an entire Armoured Brigade and fight it as such on our own? Why don’t we just spread them around in penny-packets, perhaps company sized attachments to Infantry brigades, bit like a USMC MEU…


January 5, 2014 11:14 am

if i might expand on that, the SDSR gave thought to how the forces would normally be used, and what might be required in extremis:

“The new Defence Planning Assumptions envisage that the Armed Forces in the future will be sized and shaped to conduct:
•an enduring stabilisation operation at around brigade level (up to 6,500 personnel) with maritime and air support as required, while also conducting:
•one non-enduring complex intervention (up to 2,000 personnel), and
•one non-enduring simple intervention (up to 1,000 personnel); or alternatively:
•three non-enduring operations if we were not already engaged in an enduring operation;
for a limited time, and with suffcient warning, committing all our effort to a one-off intervention of up to three brigades, with maritime and air support (around 30,000, two-thirds of the force deployed to Iraq in 2003).”

i simply ask that similar forethought is given to how we might like to use the marines/navy.

after all, having sufficient RN/RFA to deploy 80 of a brigade would be just a little bit stupid, right?

January 5, 2014 11:30 am

Al Faw was a coalition operation that involved 2x Commando’s.

Even Norway in the Cold War was going to involve 2x Commando’s.

Out of all the formations we have 3 Commando is the most used to having a third foreign manoeuvre unit. It has consistently absorbed domestic and foreign units smoothly.

The whole brigade level amphibious assault is a capability that should be re-generatable (short term through allied assistance, medium term through domestic re-armament), not kept at the cost of other more useful and oft used capabilities.

January 5, 2014 11:34 am

f I might return an equally silly question: In what scenario would we need to deploy and fight an entire Armoured Brigade and fight it as such on our own? Why don’t we just spread them around in penny-packets, perhaps company sized attachments to Infantry brigades, bit like a USMC MEU…

Because using such a capability in penny packets has been shown time and time again to be more than silly. Using light infantry in small mobile groups that can actually be sustained in real life and not in the minds of fantasists and planning papers is very sensible and useful.

January 5, 2014 11:42 am

I’d go further and suggest that we don’t even need to sustain an amphibious op.

We should get in quick, get out quick and do as much damage as possible in as short a time as possible.

Perhaps this means we can ditch one of the Commandos as there will never be one continually active (similar to 16AAB’s two paras).

We then size the two remaining Commandos to optimally work with CVF + LPD + LSL, which might mean a battlegroup of 900 men, vehicles, supplies, etc.

We then operate two task groups with the above assets on rotation. Each task group is a particular Commando, a particular carrier, etc. For 2 months of the year both will be available which means “full on” training rather than sitting around as a contingency force.

John Hartley
January 5, 2014 11:45 am

If T26 is going the way of T45 i.e. it ends up half the numbers with half the weapons planned, then maybe a modernised, new build T23 could keep the numbers up?

January 5, 2014 1:32 pm

“Personally I believe that once our politicians get use to the power and prestige of operating something like the queen Elizabeth class that the extra money will be found to get both into operation. ”


Where do you think the cash will come from? I’m not certain that any politician outside of the ‘defence realm’ is going to be that bothered especially if means cutting money from budgets for services people use every day and they are responsible for those budgets.

I do accept though it might be better to chop DfID and roll it up into MoD / FCO (if only for MoD to get its hands on a huge chunk of cash) but other than the DFiD budget, given current political circumstances, I’m struggling to see how MoD could win the argument.

Incidentally, I’ll declare an interest, I’d love to see HM Forces – especially the RN – work it’s kit hard – more work for those of us who are involved in supplying kit etc. and the tool pushing to make things…..

Not a Boffin
January 6, 2014 4:59 pm

“If T26 is going the way of T45 i.e. it ends up half the numbers with half the weapons planned, then maybe a modernised, new build T23 could keep the numbers up?”

Never in a million years. What on earth makes you think that building a ship where the main propulsion plant and much of the marine and electrical systems are long out of production would be any cheaper? Or that stability standards have moved on since T23 and can’t be met with a rework? Not to mention that the manning requirement exceeds that for which we have funds and the accommodation standards for which on T23 do not meet current standards and cannot be worked into the existing design. Plus you’d have to get the production design info entirely re-written to deal with both any new equipment installed and also the NC machines installed since the last T23 steel was cut in 1999……Loadsamoney!

January 6, 2014 8:59 pm

@APATs / Simon: Re the mythical £100mn patrol ship – the ships being built on the STX Marine’s PV 90 design at Babcock Marine for £50mn isn’t a bad start for a core platform. No hanger or landing pad, but as the NZ Protector class is based on the same design shouldn’t be a massive leap. In any case it is being designed to operate UAVs and UUVs. The SharpEye radar is proving more popular (Inc the new MARS RFAs), but why not fit Artisan…

As I would reduce the T26 numbers (1 to 2) to pay / man these over the next 10-15 years I cannot see that it is beyond the capability of the RN to get the required skills in place.

Whilst I agree we do not have any standing tasks in the Med, we should in my view. Also, the anti piracy ops in the Indian ocean is pretty close to one also.

All Politicians are the Same
January 6, 2014 9:49 pm

@ Repulse

Anti piracy Ops as SR pointed out are at the moment an aside to the real reason for having the units E of Suez. So actually these units would be useful for what?

January 6, 2014 10:32 pm

@APATS: “So actually these units would be useful for what?” UK / BOT EEZ patrolling as part of a (purple) multi-layered defence posture and low level threat scenarios such as anti-piracy and anti-drugs.

All Politicians are the Same
January 6, 2014 10:47 pm

@ Repulse

So in a time of financial hardship you propose to cut escort numbers to build fancy OPVs which you would use to fulfill extra tasking, leaving the Escort Fleet even more stretched?

January 7, 2014 7:55 am

@APATS: Yes I would cut the escort fleet, but for the opposite effect you describe. Balancing the fleet would allow by adding say 6 of these to the loss of 3 T26s would reduce the overall load allowing the core high end capability to be used as needed rather than overworked (and knackered / unavailable when we do need it).

The reality is that outside of the SSNs the only independent fighting formation the RN will have is the RFTG. With the escorts fleet spread throughout the world on high rotation, we seem never to be able to trial it properly (with full AAW, SSNs and RFA support). Will a hot war be the first time?

January 7, 2014 8:00 am


And if the war does turn hot/all in, you’re going to have your OPVs do screening duties because you lack destroyers. How good are these OPVs vs aircraft, anti-ship missiles, subs or other ships?

January 7, 2014 8:12 am

Maybe APATS could throw some light on how RTFG does train together?

Is it a case of each ship reaching a level of individual competence through FOST and then being depolyed together? Or does the whole squadron have to pass a combined readiness assesment?

For instance how often would a ‘Thursday War’ take place in whch the RTFG prepares for an amphibious offload while at the same time suffering ‘unexpected’ simulated air and sumbarine attacks on the whole squadron.

Such an exercise would be costly and difficult to set up compared to individual ship training. But I hope it happens at least once a year as part of the RTFG work-up?

I guess the USN must have a whole infrastructure set up for validating Strike and Ampbibious squadrons’ readiness before they depoly. It would be interesting to push the RTFG through that process in the same way a Dutch Frigate might come to us for FOST and see what the results are.

I guess the Cousins will be as interested as us in the results of such exercises paticularly if we are expecting the QE to rotate through the Gulf in place of American CVN from time to time in the future, and as they evaluate the ability of the America Class to fill in ‘second tier’ carrier roles away from the Pacific Theatre.

I must concess I share @Repulse’s concern about single ship deployments _potentially_ underminig Task Group readiness, but would seek to address it slightly differently by increasing planned deployments of RFA vessels o on ‘presence’ tasks not only when there is nothing else to send but actually as a preference over using Combat Ships.

January 7, 2014 8:21 am

The corrollary of this is to ensure that MARS SSS get ordered on time, in sufficient numbers, and with adequate avaiation and accomodation facility to allow a secondary peacetime presence role to be undertaken.

Obviously there is a cost balance to be struck. Overplay the specification and they in turn wuld become unaffordable.

But we have a wartime requiment for these ships anyway. And we need them to out around the world in peacetime anyway to help support the standing tasks. So why not put the ‘mission crews’ on board the RFA and cut out the middle man? Its not as if there is any expectation of missile or submarine attack on those tasks anyway. So the trained personnel and logistic support are the key thing, not the fighty hardware.

The fear seems to me political – that if the FF/DD are not utilised on the standing tasks they will be cut completely, rather than get the increased TG training time that we would all probably like to see. The RN feels it needs to look busy to justify its resource take. And given the way public perceptions work these days you can maybe understand why.

January 7, 2014 9:08 am

@Observer: In the current situation the RNs destroyers etc are scattered all over the globe. How long would it take to get them back and ready to fight? Sacrificing 3 means that the ones you have are more readily available.

Also, if the RFTG has a proper layered defence I cannot see why these would not be useful against a number of threats if supported properly.

January 7, 2014 9:39 am


By rights we should currently have three escorts available to sail with the RFTG. If we drop the numbers of frigates we could only end up with two.

The alternative is to build two dedicated RFTGs and use your OPVs for all other taskings. So assuming we want 2 AAW, 2 ASW and 2 GP with our active carrier we’ll need a grand total of four of each (one planned refit, one unplanned broken, two active).

The thing is that by adding another two of each type you get another task (basically it’s a “buy two get one free”). So that’s a total of 3 long-range tasks (EoS, APT(S), APT(S)) for the price of 6 ships.

If you wanted to achieve the same long-range tasks with some OPVs then a) they’d need to have the legs, and b) you’ll need about 10 to do the same job.

Furthermore, these OPVs cannot rotate through the active RFTG meaning the T45 will have to pootle back to the UK to be restocked with Asters. Also, the capability of these OPVs is questionable in full on war.

January 7, 2014 9:39 am


The logical rely to this is that with only 1 flat-top and 1 LPD is active service the RTFG cannot be maintained at high readiness throught the year anyway, regardless of Escorts. While that’s kind of inevitable with 2 quite elderly capital ships (Illustirous and Ocean) which each need to spend substantial periods in upkeep it is also a policy decision based on available crew numbers.

So the Destroyers and Frigates have to do something for the other 4 months of the year. They may as well get on with cycles of individual ship training and work-up so as to have 3 or 4 of them ready to form the next RFTG when the HVUs come back online again.

What would be different is if we did attempt to use our 2 new carriers to keep an RTFG at high readiness continuously for years at a time. That would require a different concept of crew plotting for both the HVU and the Escorts. And much as I would like to see it I don’t see it happening in the current financial climate.

Realistically we gave that possibility up when we decommisioned Ark Royal in 2010, and won’t get it back unless or until the LPDs are replaced with large LHDs some time after 2030. That would give us 4 flat topped capital ships with a degree of flexibility and multi-role capablity and allow us to guarantee a capable combination 2 available 365 days. But its not going to happen in 2015-2020.

January 7, 2014 9:44 am

@Peter Elliott

“Maybe APATS could throw some light on how RTFG does train together?

Is it a case of each ship reaching a level of individual competence through FOST and then being depolyed together? Or does the whole squadron have to pass a combined readiness assesment?”

– Pending a more comprehensive reply from APATS, individual units of the RFTG undertake BOST (Basic Operational Sea Training) under FOST but the twice-annual JOINT WARRIOR (formerly the thrice-annual JMC (Joint Maritime Course) and NEPTUNE WARRIOR) is an assessed two-week multi-threat training period for the entire group (or at least those units not already deployed). The RFTG participated in April last year before deploying to the Med and east of Suez for COUGAR 13:

– RFTG units train individually and collectively every day of their deployment (even if it’s only the ship’s daily damage control/fire exercise or testing individual and group response to a terrorist threat while alongside). They also undertake a long-planned programme of exercises with and against a wide-ranging host of units from other nations wherever they go as an important objective of any COUGAR deployment.

January 7, 2014 9:54 am

What about this…

Build both carriers
Mothball one of them as reseve if tensions escalate and we actually need 365 day availability
Time passes…
Replace Albion and Bulwark with two JC sized LHDs
Sell second carrier (probably to France or Brazil)

This gives us three flat tops with the worst case being two JC sized LHDs (one as carrier, one for assault) available when the CVF is in refit/maintenance.

January 7, 2014 9:54 am

Dunservin (and others)

Do you think RN crews get enough collective training and experience or is it something that is impacted by lots of singleton deployments?

I suppose the real war role of the RN would require ships to be in gangs, not on their own, against credible air, sea and surface threats. My worry is that by stretching ships thinly on lone deployments the real, last 10%, fighting edge has less of an opportunity to be honed.

Would you guys prefer to see a greater emphasis on collective training or is the mix about right

January 7, 2014 6:01 pm

@Dunservin: Whilst exercises like Joint Warrior do tend to have a large number of vessels participate it is still in UK waters. The problem with Cougar seems that we never go with AAW, SSN and rarely proper RFA cover as you would in a warlike scenario.

January 7, 2014 6:27 pm

@PE: “What would be different is if we did attempt to use our 2 new carriers to keep an RTFG at high readiness continuously for years at a time.” – I think if we are looking at areas to maximise the clout of our defence pound (outside of real defence) that’s exactly what we should be doing in my opinion.

January 7, 2014 6:45 pm

@Simon: re “buy two get one free” – sorry, at the end of a very long day and not getting this one, can you please explain?

Also, whilst I agree that on a unit by unit basis an OPV is not the same as a FF/DD, what the option (if designed properly) gives is:

– A large pool of platforms that could be upgraded which would be quicker than building new ships from scratch. Even the Castle OPVs now have SSMs…
– A design that is proven and could be built quickly in a number of yards, not just in Scotland. A bit like the Flower class in WW2, not ideal but fitted the gap and we would have lost the war without them.
– A larger number of vessels to be in more places than just one.
– The improved ability to forward base.

I don’t agree that they need any longer legs than a FF/DD or that you 10 to replace the 3 sacrificed escorts.

January 7, 2014 6:53 pm

The second hull will be cheap to keep I’m sure but I can’t see it being anything other than tied up at Portsmouth. To operate as a second carrier will not be cheap as there is simply not enough aircraft available (fixed wing or grey merlin) No matter how realistic the assumptions that backed there concept. They are now operating in an armed forces much much smaller are too manpower intensive to run and offer capability far beyond anything expected of the current armed forces. But like the billions spent to end up with no mpa in the raf, these I fear will haunt the RN for a generation in the corridors of power.

January 7, 2014 7:05 pm

@Mark, as Ocean will be scrapped before the 2nd CVF enters service, and on the basis you would only have to run 2 in parallel when there is a really big problem (and everything comes out and is cobbled together) I cannot see why that would be the case.

Operating both as strike carriers is out the question, but as multi-role flat tops it is not.

January 7, 2014 7:12 pm

@Dunservin and APATS

How about taking RFTG to a USN assessed exercise. They must do this stuff all the time…? The RAF goes to Red Flag after all.

January 7, 2014 7:14 pm


Fill it up with Chinooks and Apaches….

All Politicians are the Same
January 7, 2014 7:28 pm

The US have an organisation called Board of Inspection and Survey but it is not really a FOST type organisation. Concentrates more on material readiness and can be 4 odd years between inspections.

FOST here concentrates on what is known as Tier 1 training with the emphasis on individual units requirements. Day 1 MASC establishes a baseline level of equipment, admin and operational ability. The last day tests how it has improved. Every other day should be a training day.
Of course there is in company time and every advantage is taken of other Ships going through training and of course anybody around on Thursdays.

Tier 2 training during something like Neptune warrior is where I would like to see the RFTG operating as a TG.

The beauty of modern systems is that simulated training can be very realistic and a good Ship will train hard regardless of its tasking.

January 8, 2014 12:40 am


“Dunservin (and others)

Do you think RN crews get enough collective training and experience or is it something that is impacted by lots of singleton deployments?…”

– Totally concur with APATS’ comments. Several other nations contribute useful training assets such as MPA and SSK to FOST weekly wars and JOINT WARRIOR as a quid pro quo although this excerpt from Q21 on page 51 of Vol I of the recent HOC Armed Forces Committee report on DSR 2015 is illuminating:

Professor Lindley-French: I would add that on Joint Warrior last week I was sitting on HMS Bulwark. In front of me was the exercise, and it had “MPA: paper”. I asked, “In reality you don’t have an MPA, so what does that mean?”. “The threat is much higher”.
Professor Hennessy: That is maritime patrol aircraft?
Professor Lindley-French: Yes. We have to plug that gap very quickly.
Chair: That was at the top of our demand list.

– Warfare training and ‘non-warfare’ tasks are not mutually exclusive for singleton ships, especially where building and maintaining the above water and underwater RMP (Recognised Maritime Picture) and RAP (Recognised Air Picture) and practicing drills are concerned. In company time with other warships, submarines and aircraft of any nationality, especially other NATO units, is exploited to the full and onboard simulators are useful. Using high speed encrypted data links, ships and other units can even engage in collective synthetic training while alongside or at sea although the Americans are still the masters of this. Here’s a recent example although it is biased towards C2 aspects:

– Other valuable facilities for singleton training, testing and trialling include the NATO FORACS ranges at Stavanger, AUTEC off Andros Island and Souda Bay, Crete. Bookings are made whenever a deploying ship’s programme allows:

However, nothing beats live multi-threat training with other units, especially when blowing a gale. Constant development and honing of everyone’s professional skills is the key to maintaining a superior edge, even if our kit is sometimes less capable or in short supply.

January 8, 2014 10:26 am

@The Securocrat

QEC has been designed with a secondary role as an LPH (Landing Platform Helicopter) in mind. This includes 1,800 dedicated berths (bunks) with fewer than 700 required for the core ship’s company. The rest are available for embarked air wing and/or troops. Austere accommodation (e.g. camp beds in hangars and other compartments) will be able to cope with many more. During amphibious landings, QEC will probably operate like the old converted Commando carriers BULWARK and ALBION of the 1960s/1970s. These had fully-equipped troops forming into sticks in the hangar and being raised to their helo boarding stations on the flight deck lifts.

The RFA’s legal position is an increasingly grey area where combatant status is concerned but essentially it is still a civilian-manned part of the Naval Service:

Its personnel (other than officers) are mainly on short term contracts for a deployment or part thereof. As MoD civil servants, they wear Merchant Navy rank insignia with naval uniforms. Where discipline is concerned, they are normally subject to the Merchant Navy Act but become subject to the Armed Forces Act whenever their vessel is engaged in wartime operations.

January 8, 2014 7:01 pm


“Its personnel (other than officers) are mainly on short term contracts for a deployment or part thereof.”

Hasn’t been that way for a long time. The days of the RFA hiring ratings from the Shipping Federation pool passed in the 80s, about the same time as we stopped crewing entire ships with non-UK ratings. The RFA does at times employ small numbers of agency staff on short-term contracts. Having rarely done so for most of the last decade a few have been taken on recently in an attempt to plug gaps.

The RFA has been converting to a Sponsored Reservist organisation since 2007. Take up amongst existing staff fell well short of 100% mainly due to distrust of management intentions, but all new entrants have had to sign reservist papers as part of their employment contract.

January 9, 2014 10:27 am


“…The days of the RFA hiring ratings from the Shipping Federation pool passed in the 80s, about the same time as we stopped crewing entire ships with non-UK ratings…”

Thank you for your authoritative update. No quibbles here.

January 13, 2014 9:19 pm

Even if we ignore the lack of operationality of the Argentine equipment.
Its still ruinously risky.

The problem are the known unknowns.
Lets assume they can rig together mulberry enough to land a few cargo ships, and we can assume that, its not complicated the second time around. (The first being overlord)
Thats probably enough to threaten the base.

If we get wind of it, and deploy an SSN, we can kill the best and brightest of the Argentine armed forces and sink the best of their equipment without any risk. The first the Argentine government would know of it is when the maydays came in, and then when the maydays stopped.

The same goes for air assault.
They could, with a bit of outside the box thinking, rig all of their transport aircraft for paratroops, the rear doors of a 747 appear jumpable, perhaps dangerously, but lets assume they pull it off.
Again, enough to threaten the base.

We have the known unknowns again.

We get wind of it, and the four Typhoons meet them half way with a full load out of BVRs, again, 24 jets packed full of the cream of the Argentine airforce suddenly breaking communication are all the warning the Argentine government gets.

Even if we ignore both of those, the garrison itself is no laughing matter.
I havent been to Mt P, I havent had a big tour, but people who have have, obliquely, been pretty clear that it might only have a company deployed, but it has arms and a ammunition for a Brigade to fight a war.
Even if we assume its “just” infantry weapons, that company could quite possibly meet this over the beach / air assault with 500 javelins fire followed by 100 HMGs fireing away at anything that survived.

The UK had “wet Them” on the islands well before the landing at San Carlos and other locations (dozens of) to make sure the area was clear and the 20 strong “fanning head mob” royal screwed all of the planning for the first days.
Three Para was eventually deployed to hunt them down.
We deployed an entire battalion of our elite troops, to deal with 20 men.
Thats the threat “light infantry” present to troops landing over the beach.

None of the three scenarios I presented require anything above a smidgeon of luck, and theres nothing Argentina can do to guard against them. They have no defence against a submarine, nor knowledge of their locations, they have no defence againt air superiority aircraft, nor knowledge of their operations, they have no defence against prepared infantry, and no way of knowing if anyone is waiting to greet them.

Anyone ordering armed men to attempt those options is likely to get himself shot.

John Hartley
January 13, 2014 9:37 pm

TrT I agree that Argentina is not up to a full scale 1982 style invasion of the Falklands. They could still make mischief though. What if they find an Argentinian fishing trawler that looks similar to a neutral trawler with a fishing permit for the Falklands? Paint on the same markings. Given our limited patrol assets, it would pass the brief glance it would get. Then land a party of nuns & boy scouts (they way my mind works) on an uninhabited island in the Falklands & claim it for Argentina. Set up a shrine to the Madonna. Then have a satellite tv news crew beam pictures round the world of the evil imperialist British forces evicting them by force. A futile gesture that generates acres of grievance propaganda.

All Politicians are the Same
January 13, 2014 10:35 pm

@ John Hartley

Yes that would amuse the world for about 5 minutes until something else happened.

Angus McLellan
January 14, 2014 1:24 am

There’s an amusing (if you’re not an American taxpayer) story in today’s Times entitled Arctic thawed-ice route will cost US billions to police. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Washington faces a bill of tens of billions of dollars if it is to protect lucrative shipping lanes through the Arctic that are forecast to open up for the first time when channels of the polar ice cap thaw in the next 12 years. The head of the US Navy is to warn the Pentagon that America will fall behind in the race to safeguard its share of the Arctic if it fails to deploy several naval destroyers and submarines to secure American trade. … Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of US naval operations, is expected to impress personally on Chuck Hagel, the US Defence Secretary, the importance of committing money and ships to patrol America’s slice of the Arctic Circle. …

What next, a mineshaft gap?