Defence for 2015 and Beyond – Part 9 The Royal Navy 2025


A series of guest posts from AndyC

The decision about the size and capability of the carrier strike force is the most significant decision facing the conventional armed forces of the UK in the SDSR of 2015.

In most situations the main reason for operating two QE class aircraft carriers is to ensure that there is always a minimum of one available.  However, careful planning of the refitting schedule for the first carrier and an awareness of the international situation at the relevant time could almost certainly ensure that there is always one available at any time that it is actually likely to be needed.

In the majority of planning scenarios the need for the deployment of two carrier groups is clear – it’s just that the combination of one QE carrier and one helicopter carrier would be sufficient.

Only in the scenario of the UK operating alone on the global stage would we definitely need two QE carriers and their ability to deploy up to six F-35B squadrons between them or expand our amphibious capabilities.

Whatever the final decision there is a need for the carrier(s) to regularly train with other European carrier groups – such as the French in the Norwegian Sea and the French, Italians and Spanish in the Mediterranean.

Similarly the Royal Marines and the amphibious group should be prioritising training with French amphibious forces and the Norwegian Army in the north and with French, Italian and Spanish amphibious groups in the Mediterranean.

Type 26 Global Combat Ship DSEI 2013
The Type 26 frigate will be a powerful addition to the surface fleet.

The remaining fleet of six destroyers, thirteen frigates, four patrol ships and seven attack submarines is sufficient to provide escort for two carrier groups plus one amphibious group and patrol the routes to the Faslane Trident SSBN base but they can only provide a limited anti-submarine capability.  It is not sufficient to cover all of the sea around the UK which can only be done more comprehensively by aircraft.

Significant new pieces of equipment that need to be ordered in the near future include three new patrol ships with the capability to operate helicopters and then the Type 26 Global Combat Ship that will replace and upgrade the frigate fleet.  The possibility of adapting up to half of these new frigates to a more dedicated escort role where the gun would be replaced by Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missiles should be investigated.

In addition, the Sea Ceptor short-range surface-to-air missile would be fitted to all destroyers and frigates while the Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missile should be upgraded for use in an ABM role.

The Royal Navy will need to maximise the flexibility of its maritime helicopters if it is to meet all of its operational requirements with a much reduced total fleet.  That means both Merlin and Wildcat maritime helicopters being able to operate dipping sonar, sonobuoys and torpedoes in an anti-submarine role and launch FASGW/ANL and LMM missiles in an anti-shipping role.

Royal Navy Merlin Mark 2 Helicopter
Royal Navy Merlin Mark 2 Helicopter – Merlin and Wildcat need to be fully operational in both anti-submarine and anti-shipping roles.

Ultimately the carrier option that the SDSR supports will be decided by the overall defence budget.  Altogether there are 6 Options and in order of likely cost they are:

Naval Option 1 – activelyoperate both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.  This would mean that most of the time the Royal Navy would be operating one aircraft carrier but at some times both would be operational.   This is the most expensive of the options as it envisages operating two large carriers with their complete crews.  However, it would be possible to save some funds by operating the 2nd carrier in a more limited fashion by restricting it to home waters and only operating it when the 1st carrier was being refitted.

Naval Option 2 – actively operate HMS Queen Elizabeth and the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean while mothballing HMS Prince of Wales in a near operational condition in dry dock.  In peacetime HMS Queen Elizabeth would be the flagship most of the time with HMS Ocean only operating when it was in refit.  As the helicopter carrier’s crew is only about half the number of a QE carrier and it is cheaper to operate this would save on the budget.  In a conflict situation HMS Ocean’s crew would switch to HMS Prince of Wales which would be brought out of dry dock – the rest of the crew would be made up from reserves.  For training purposes crew could operate the 2nd QE carrier on limited training missions to maintain familiarity.  This option has the advantage of being cheaper than Option 1 and is the only option that allows the Royal Navy to have three carriers in total to maximise operational flexibility.

Naval Option 3 – actively operate HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Ocean but sell HMS Prince of Wales.  This Option would definitely reduce the capability of the UK to operate outside the NATO area and is dependent on finding a buyer for HMS Prince of Wales.

One carrier or two carriers – the most important question in the SDSR 2015?
One carrier or two carriers – the most important question in the SDSR 2015?

Naval Option 4 – actively operate just HMS Queen Elizabeth while mothballing HMS Prince of Wales in a near operational condition in dry dock.  With careful planning this should allow the deployment of two aircraft carriers in periods of heightened tension.  The biggest issue would be where to find the crew for the 2nd carrier?  Almost certainly it would have to be made up from a very high proportion of reserves.

Naval Option 5 – actively operate just HMS Queen Elizabeth while selling HMS Prince of Wales.  This would be a definite drop in capability which could only partly be covered by re-deploying the escorts for the 2nd carrier group.

Naval Option 6 – if budgets dictate further cuts then operate just HMS Queen Elizabeth, sell HMS Prince of Wales and sell or scrap the 3 destroyers/frigates that would have made up the escorts to the 2nd carrier group.



The rest of the series

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Defence of the United Kingdom

Part 3 – Other Sovereign Territories

Part 4 – NATO

Part 5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

Part 6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

Part 7 – Global Intervention

Part 8 – British Army 2025

Part 9 – Royal Navy 2025

Part 10 – Royal Air Force 2025

Part 11 – Conclusion

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

“The possibility of adapting up to half of these new frigates to a more dedicated escort role where the gun would be replaced by Aster 30 long-range surface-to-air missiles should be investigated.” Hasn’t this approach been tried before and the failed? Guns are as important today as they always have been. I’d see all future guns eventually having missile firing capability using Vulcano type ammo. That way the possibility that a ships missiles being “exhausted” being practically negated.


A quick question, wouldn’t HMS Ocean be very close to requiring replacement by 2025? Can’t see any money being forthcoming if you have a QE mothballed. I think 2 QEs could actually be cheaper than what you are suggesting also considering maintenance costs.


Andy, i like what you say around items such as the Wildcat having dipping sonar, but there is no way 19 Escorts are enough to cover UK defence, a CBG, supply routes and a an ARG. There’s the rub, do you stick with the RFTG approach and accept you keep your naval task force together, probably getting the CVF very close to shore, or just go for a CBG or ARG?

Looking at what most of our allies have, the lack of UK appetite to get involved in ground wars and the fact that the sea will be the primarily area of conflict in the 21st century – I would go for the ability to surge 2 CBGs. One is not enough because even with the best planning accidents / shit happens.

Alongside this I would have a more limited amphibious capability based around ships that can look after themselves, I.e. a T27 concept. Shipping the army would be done by a RFA AAG (Army Amphibious Group) only operating to secured landing zones.


@Repulse, I agree on the utility of guns although it may be possible to go the Horizon route and have a couple of strales 76mm forward of the bridge and then a large number of VLS silos where the 5″ is. Personally, I think we missed that trick on Daring by going for the old 4.5 on a ship that is unlikely ever to do really long range NGFS. So putting aside my ‘fantasy fleet’ idea for 3 Batch 2 double ended T45s purely for AAW / ABM CVF escort, and assuming T26 is the only game in town for major surface combat vessels for the next 20-30 years, then I see 8 or 9 TAS / TLAM capable versions, a follow on utility escort version (your T27) and an AAW / ASW escort version to supplement and/or replace T45 in due course (say T28). I’m still firmly of the view that we should have a modern day Leander (not a corvette!) – a utility design with a Lynx, self defence and a gun that when needed can take a TAS, operate as choke point / supply line escort with bolt on kit.


keep both.
bring both into service.
they can provide 290 operational days a year, each.
if a third of that time is lost to work up and work down, then two should be able to provide an op-ready flat-deck year round.

permance vs persistence – we will be able to provide the former, not the latter.

operate one with a full crew and air-group.
operate the second with a light crew, sufficient to act as a LHA.
it should be possible with six months work up to turn that light-crew into a (near) full crew.
keep the single rtfg for normal jogging, with the possibility of temporarily running a separate CBG and ATG with six months work up.

buy 72x F35b with the intention for four operational squadrons of 12 aircraft a piece.
normal jogging might only see one or two squadrons deployed, but;
with six months work up it should be possible to to put three on the CBG and one on the ATG.

everything here I suggest is intended to run efficiently at a low level, without crippling HMF ability to operate at a high level.

having two fully operational [aircraft] carriers in two permanent groups cannot be maintained day to day, if for no other reason than lack of escorts.
having two carrier hulls and leaving one rotting quayside with no ability to ever crew it (therefore only providing deep-refit cover) is idiotic beyond all measure.
having a single carrier, when it will be one of [our] central planks for power projection, and making this central plank a part-time and zero-resilience capability is flat out retarded.

i would be amazed if france has any carrier plans beyond CdG, they may not have admitted it yet but they made this decision already when they cancelled PA2.


having a single carrier, when it will be one of [our] central planks for power projection, and making this central plank a part-time and zero-resilience capability is flat out retarded.

i would be amazed if france has any carrier plans beyond CdG, they may not have admitted it yet but they made this decision already when they cancelled PA2.


@Jedi: I do think you are right which is why I think the UK and France should be talking about developing a STOVL UAV now which can operate from non Cats n Traps aircraft carriers or amphibious ships – the potential market is huge.

I honestly think our only chance of chance of getting the number of escorts back up is letting T26+variants production run on as the economy improves. Hopefully by 2025-2030 we’ll be a position to let it happen. Otherwise we’ll be sticking with 19 escorts, which is a bit thin for my liking. I don’t think there’s anything in the arsenal that gets as much use as our escorts, especially in peace time. So it’s worth doing, of course it’s all going to depend on how much cash that 2% of GDP really is come that time.

If the economy does ok though, I don’t think the number creeping back up toward 30 escorts over time is beyond the realm of possibility. At minimum making up for the T45’s we didn’t get should be on the cards. Fingers crossed.


why do you prioritize training the Royal Marines with your European allies instead of the USMC? doesn’t bother me and i’ve always thought that our turn to the Pacific will inevitably lead to a diminished partnership but i was wondering why you’re accelerating what i think is inevitable.


@Jedi, agreed. Both should be ‘active’ and we should not follow the Albion route. Increase but cap the F35B buy at 72 ish as you suggest. I’m not persuaded that we need anymore at this stage than your suggested CVF squadron structure. We should retain 2 fast jet types for the foreseeable future and believe that we should trickle buy some more T3 Typhoons as the T1s are phased out to leave us about 140 airframes. Upgrade with AESA, conformal tanks, storm shadow, some sort of AShM will keep it a relevant force for many years and negate any need for keeping any tornadoes in mothballs. Allows time to develop Taranis or similar for strike. Gives us just over 200 fast jets


JBF French shipbuilders still want their gov to order a 2nd carrier. There is an illustration of the latest evolved CdG design they are pushing in this months Warships IFR magazine.


Isn’t the majority of our Royal Marine training currently done with the Dutch anyway due to the NATO pairing?


John Hartley,

French shipbuilders can want whatever they want but PA2 was formerly abandoned under the last French defence review. The carrier design work being done by DCNS now is intended for export- Brazil is the country in mind.

solomon shorter


i was under the impression that the Royal Marines training and teaming with the Dutch had more to do with historical ties rather than any NATO planning.


“JBF French shipbuilders still want their gov to order a 2nd carrier.”

They may want it, but llokking at how FREMM has been gutted i’d be amazed if they order more capital ships.

Red Trousers


“…and the fact that the sea will be the primarily area of conflict in the 21st century…”

Eh? How do you leap to that conclusion? Last I heard, war is about people and ideas, and people live on land.

It takes a truly intercontinental conflict to make a strong Navy somewhat useful, and even then, the Navy is only useful for either having submarines or shipping freight. Not really carriers, which are expensive and mostly redundant.


Do we have enough support vessels to keep one “carrier group” at sea thousands of miles away never mind two ? If not the whole debacle is worse than at first thought.

We should have just bought a few more Astute and doubled the Daring Class order and rammed them all to the gills with TLAM and introduce Aster Block 2 asap.

That force alone could shut down any potential enemies ports and infrastructure and would be of far more use the US in any black swan clash with Russia or China.


@Tim As I understand it, we’re ok on oilers with 8 available but much weaker when it comes to moving solid stores especially the exploding kind. Relying on friendly ports or replenishment ships to maintain sufficient ammo stocks for more than a couple weeks of shooting. The thinking being more than a few weeks of shooting without NATO support is unlikely.

Agreed on TLAM’s we should be bolting them to anything that will take them. The RN is severely lacking offensive punch at the moment IMO, especially the surface fleet, which is really only capable of self defence. It seems strike weapons are the ones we always end up fitted for but not with. T45’s are finally getting their 2nd hand harpoons, which is a start. QE is of course going to make a big difference but she’s still many years away from actually blowing anything up.


To be honest I am slightly puzzled by this article as it is rather wide of the mark in a few areas, some already picked up by others.

Pulling the gun off the T26 and replacing it with a VLS silo is fraught with issues and goes against what we have learnt in the last three decades in respect of NGS…it is useful having a large calibre gun on-board.

I am even more perplexed by your six options TD, why all this stuff about HMS Ocean????

HMS Ocean is:

a) Knackered
b) Going to be retired in 2022 (with much rumour that will be brought forward to 2018)

You also miss out in your options what is the widely regarded solution if PoW is kept, she will be rotated with QE keeping one active carrier in service at any one time less alongside maintenance the same as is currently done with Albion and Bulwark.

I suppose your option 4 is closest to that albeit I doubt PoW will be kept in a dry-dock.

Not your best TD


@Red Trousers

Ahh RT let me just correct your statement here, I see a few factual errors so what you wrote here:

“Not really carriers, which are expensive and mostly redundant.”

Should more correctly say:

“We really need carriers, they are cost effective over the 50 year plus life span and are vital for our global expeditionary warfare capability”.

Luck I am here to sort such things out



@Fedaykin: its AndyCs article not TDs.


@RT: 21st century warfare will I believe be much more about resources for which the sea has the greatest remaining potential. OK, I’m not saying there will not be any land wars but they are likely to be counter insergency ones rather than peer on peer.



Taa, I had read the header but skipped over the title.

Sorry TD my mistake!


21st century warfare will I believe be much more about resources for which the sea has the greatest remaining potential.

Unless we are fighting the Murr-Men Kingdom, everything human to, from and over the sea exists to take something from land, or to land and control and police those comings and goings. The RN is a very important force to do this, but fighting naval engagements are the exception not the rule to the RNs efforts in this area. Fighting pirates, exercising, drug busting and so forth are timeless tasks that do far more to protect choke points and sea lanes than preparing to fight the next fleet action against an enemy that does not yet exist.

This is why I argue for second raters. That said, we must be flexible which suggests being able to engage in a naval battle and fight pirates. So I have still not made up my mind about how it should work – whether its best to use T45s on relatively undemanding tasks or use second raters. Ideally if we could get second raters at no expense to the 19 first raters I’d chose that option. If it is a zero sum game I am not so sure.

In short, anyway, CVBGs are the capability we have the least requirement for on the seas. In terms of time and money spent we spend far more time and money doing what we have always done and policed law and order on the seas using ordinary vessels on routine patrols and cruises.


A ramble based on a few assumptions. These are that Scotland stays part of the UK, that Britain wants to keep its UN Security council seat, be a first day of war ally.
If the answer to all of this is yes, then we need to ;
Retain both QE & PoW. One fully equipped for war. The other with half an air group & used as the training carrier, but able to go to war in a crisis, with reservists + AAC/RAF helicopters added to make a full air group. We also need to buy 10 V-22 with air tanker gear, 10 CH-53K heavylift + 5 Firescout UAV, to make the most of the carriers. The spare space on the training carrier could be used for trade promotion when visiting friendly ports. For example a display of Bentley/Jaguar/LandRover cars + JCB diggers.
Start planning a combined Ocean/Argus replacement, I call HMS DfID. A 27000 to 32000 ton carrier with a large hospital/casualty treatment area & a large hangar/vehicle deck capable of taking helicopters/MBTs/IFVs/Bulldozers/JCBs. Ideal for disaster relief & as an assault carrier.
Realise we have too few escorts & build 17 not 13 T26.
Again realise we need 9 Astutes not 7. Use off the shelf technology from other Western torpedoes to Update Spearfish cheaply, for example a broadband guidance link.
4x Trident replacement strategic SSBN + 20-30 ASMP-A with a small 10 kt warhead to be our tactical nuke.
Agree that Merlin needs to be armed with FASGW-H (& please give that missile an easier name).

Peter Arundel

Personally, I wouldn’t touch V-22 with a barge pole. It’s not bee a roaring success so far even if it’s not the widow-maker some websites claim.

Red Trousers


Fuck off. I’m perfectly capable of articulating what I want to say, and I don’t need you to help me. I utterly reject what you think I should have said, and going into the future, fuck off again.


Peter A. To say the V-22 has had a long & troubled development is a major understatement, but it seems to be coming right. That our lords & masters decided to order a 65,000 ton carrier that is STOVL only, means we will be limited as to our choices of what to put on it/them.


What vintage RT?

The Other Chris

V-22 Mission Auxiliary Tank System:


– Up to three tanks can be fitted internally;
– 15 minutes to install each tank;
– Plugs into the general fuel system;
– Range approx. 1,000/1,300/1,600/1,800 NM for None/One/Two/Three MATS tanks;
– “Extending the Range of Freedom”…



At no point have I ever told you to “Fuck off” RT? Certainly we have disagreed on some matters in the past and agreed on others.

It was clearly meant as a joke going on your leanings in the past. To have such a sense of humour failure is frankly disappointing. I apologise if I offended you but really that was a childish response not becoming somebody who proudly tells us all his military background as an officer. Regulars here well know that you feel carriers are mostly redundant, that is your opinion and I respect that. Nevertheless your opinion is not fact and you need to respect that others myself included don’t agree.

If you can’t handle what was a bit of mild banter based upon your prior statements then maybe this isn’t the hobby for you.

Unless you were being ironic?

Lord Jim

I think it is a no brainer, even for our Politicians, that one the Prince of Wales is built, rotating it with the Queen Elizabeth to increase the availability of a carrier, given the small annual cost makes good sense. I do think however that the RN may have to fight to get all 13 T-26s.

In hindsight I think that a return to the idea of having a two tier frigate force or C1 and C2 would allow the RN to at lease maintain its number of hulls rather than the current idea of the equivalent of C1 1/2. We need 6-8 high end escorts for the CVBG and ARG, but most other roles could be carried out by less capable platforms. Whether they use a common hull or the less capable platform is built, like Ocean, to more civilian standards is open for debate, but is these could be made more GP or Global in role, it would allow the high end platforms to be fully fitted out for the roles, with TLAM for example and/or Aster silos to allow quad packed CAAM or additional round of Aster 30 when accompanying a T-45.

If we are to reclaim our role as a real global sea power, it is a game of numbers and we need to reverse the past three decades of reductions.

The Other Chris

It was probably harder to defend larger T45 numbers as the claimed capability increase was immense compared to the T42. The PR centered on a single T45 able to take the place of several T42.

The T26 capability increase, while impressive, isn’t in the order of magnitudes. The class is needed to replace aging hulls, however it’s not argued that one T26 can replace more than one T23 to justify the costs as was the case for T45.

Gives the RN more ammunition in the task of holding onto the numbers.

We can’t cut the escort fleet any more surely? We’re struggling to meet our standing commitments already, let alone escorting our shiny new toys. Hopefully with the PM’s comments today they’re secure, if they’re not the admiralty needs to come out swinging.

We’ve already gone from 38 frigates to 13 since the nineties, halved the number of destroyers down to 6, gone from 25 attack subs down to what 7? Yeah some reduction after the cold war was reasonable but we’ve really done a hatchet job on the navy. Without a decent number of T26 getting built we may as well kiss our military shipbuilding goodbye too. Without a decent British order there’s bugger all chance of exporting any either.

I’m still hoping the T26 will coincide with a return of the economic good times(or at least end of the bad) and can quietly regrow some of the Navy by running on T26 production a bit longer than planned, maybe a couple more Astutes too if the economy perks up in time.

Daniele Mandelli

I don’t think it was that many Chuck!

We had 35 surface escorts in at the 1998 SDR, then 32, then 31. Then 2004 new chapter reduced numbers to 25, and the loss of the 4 Batch 3 22’s and 2 less type 45’s gives us the current 19.

Attack subs we never had that many. I recall up to 16 in the Cold War, reducing to 12, then 10 in SDSR.

But I take your points and agree the government have totally shafted the RN that should actually be the priority along with the RAF.

At the moment if 2015 gives us 2 Carriers, even with 1 in reserve, and 13 Type 26 I will jump on it.

Given the lack of money I disagree with sticking TLAM on more surface vessels. What is the point when our SSN’s do that role perfectly well. I’d prefer the money spent on better Anti surface capability on our T45 and CIWS fitted to all of our surface fleet rather than a select few.


Daniele Mandelli,

UK sub force planning/target in 1989/90 was for 18 SSNs and 8 SSKs and they were numbers that fallen during the 1980s. The SSN/SSK split jumped around a bit too.

Daniele Mandelli

Hi Hohum

Planning target, but what about actual in service? What was the split change? 14 SSN / 12 Upholder? Don’t recall the SSN fleet ever getting to 18 boats? Seem to recall the requirement for 12 Upholder.

Such a shame about the 4 that did enter service.


Daniele Mandelli,

Due to Dreadnoughts premature withdrawal HMS Talent became boat 17 in May 1990. The Upholder requirement started at 12 and progressively fell back. Prior to the 81 review the SSN target had been 20, it fell to 17 for a bit and then crept back up to 18.

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks, I stand corrected re SSN numbers, more than I recall. Along with Carriers, Amphibious shipping and the RFA the SSN is the most important RN asset in my opinion so a tragedy we will only get 7 Astute.


Not read all comments yet, so these points may already have been mentioned.

Selling PoW is pie in the sky, the sooner they just confirm that the RN will operate both QECs, or PoW will be mothballed the better.
Also Ocean is due to be scrapped around 2018 so will not be part of the equation, there are not a whole list of options, it’s QE to replace Lusty, and PoW to replace Ocean, and they will probably alternate in service as the Commando carriers have done since the SDSR.
There are no way enough escorts for 2 CBGs, 1 ATG plus standing tasks.



The wiki link at least gives a very optimistic view of UK ship strength in the 1960s and 70s. Its fair to say that most of those counted would not have even really been in service let alone frontline roles.


Indeed, the carrier question seems to have answered itself, both ships will be retained and they will be operated in rotation to try and provide as near to constant availability of one ship as possible.


Snapshot of what the RN’s T45s and T23s were doing last month, to give an indication of how many would be available for CBG & ATG escort duties.

Type 23s

HMS Montrose – Deployed in the Baltic

HMS Iron Duke – Sailing for South Atlantic patrol task

HMS Somerset – Returning from the Gulf patrol task

HMS Argyll – Sailing for the North Atlantic and Caribbean patrol task

HMS Northumberland – Deployed in the Gulf region along with a T45

HMS Richmond – ASW Exercise Deep Blue

HMS Westminster – ASW Exercise Deep Blue

HMS Lancaster – FOST training

HMS Kent – training after returning from NATO exercise

HMS Monmouth – in refit

HMS Portland – Deployed on South Atlantic patrol task

HMS St Albans – alongside in Portsmouth after £25M refit

HMS Sutherland – in refit

So that’s 6 on or returning from operational deployments, two on exercise Deep Blue, two in training, two in refit and one alongside post refit.

Type 45s

HMS Daring – alongside in Portsmouth

HMS Dauntless – training

HMS Diamond – Deployed on Op RECSYR (Syrian chemical weapons)

HMS Dragon – Fleet Ready Escort (Shadowing Russian Task Group)

HMS Defender – Deployed on Gulf patrol task with T23 HMS Northumberland.

HMS Duncan – training

So two deployed, one Fleet Ready Escort, two training & one alongside.



‘Also Ocean is due to be scrapped around 2018 so will not be part of the equation, there are not a whole list of options, it’s QE to replace Lusty, and PoW to replace Ocean, and they will probably alternate in service as the Commando carriers have done since the SDSR’

Fully agree, and although you can always wish for more actually under the circumstances i don’t think it’s a particularly bad situation to end up with.


‘The wiki link at least gives a very optimistic view of UK ship strength in the 1960s and 70s. Its fair to say that most of those counted would not have even really been in service let alone frontline roles’

Yeah, whilst the RN had droves of destroyers and frigates in the 60s and 70s i also think it’s fair to say that a far lower proportion was actually deployed at any one time when compared to today. A substantial number (particularly in the mid 70s) would have been tied up alongside for a want of money or manpower or put into reserve awaiting refits or upgrades not all of which ever actually materialised.

Throw into the mix the fact that it was a very disparate group of vessels, all with quite narrowly defined roles and capabilities, and many of them ageing Second World War relics and you start to see a very different picture start to emerge.

The RN of today works it’s vessels far harder than it has done historically and also far harder than a lot of it’s modern contemporaries.

Hohum; Have to admit I didn’t even look that far back. More interested in post Berlin wall figures. You’re not wrong though.

Slightly tangentially, you could make the same point about fleet today too. Is a destroyer that would struggle to sink ships(the 2 D’s with no AShM) or a carrier with no planes(lusty) really ‘front line’, even though those ships still have plenty of military value. Like I said you’re not wrong but you could argue all day about exactly how to count them.

The spam filter doesn’t like me today. *shakes fist*

Thanks for that list Waylander. I was trying to find that info but my google-fu failed me.


@Daniele Mandelli & Hohum

On SSN/SSK numbers i’m positive that 12 Upholders were initially planned and yes the target for the SSN force through the 1980s was around 18 boats.

However with Dreadnought being essentially an experimental, prototype design she had a limited service life, leaving them no real choice but to scrap her in 1980, meaning she never really factored into the long-term planning assumptions.

Their was an option for an 8th Trafalgar which was never taken up. Presumably if the Cold War hadn’t of ended the Trafalgar batch 2’s (W class boats?) would have replaced Valiant/Warspite and the 3 Courageous boats through the 1990’s on a 1 for 1 basis to keep the fleet at around 18 SSN’s?


Also worth mentioning that the Marine Nationale currently only has 11 “first rank” escorts in service eg

2 Horizon AAW
2 FREMM ASW (plus one on sea trials)
2 old Cassards AAW
5 Georges Leygues ASW

Plus the 5 La Fayette light frigates and 6 Floreal corvettes.

And in the future

2 Horizon
2 FREMM AAW (to replace the Cassards)
5 La Fayettes (upgraded to “first rank” frigates to keep the numbers up)

Plus the 6 Floreals

The decision on whether the 9th, 10th & 11th FREMM will enter service or be sold will be taken in 2016, they could replace the oldest La Fayettes.

The RN’s escort fleet compares quite well with the above, especially if the 3 larger OPVs are ordered and the River class Batch 1s are retained for Fishery protection duties.

Looking at the deployments of the RN’s T45s & T23 last month, I doubt the MN has anywhere near that level of global presence.

France’s foreign policy is a lot different to ours though. Not to mention their imperial holdovers are generally not so far flung and island heavy or disputed for that matter.

I’m all for beating the French I’m just not sure how relevant that is.

El Sid

The final three FREMMs will get built and it looks like they will replace 5 La Fayettes unless something goes badly wrong with the French economy (not impossible), but nothing’s definite until 2016.

@Chuck – Ivory Coast has seen more warfare lately than any of our OT’s.


So we can probably expect a La Fayette class fire sale soon,

I can see a few countries out there that would be eager to take them on, the CODAD propulsion makes them cheap to run and maintain.


There will be 9 FREMM, 2 FREDA, 2 Horizon, 5 La Fayette, 6 Floréal to the latest news. Nothing sure.

@El Sid: The Ivory Coast is certainly very unstable but it’s a situation requiring more ground forces than ships.

My original point being, our problems in former colonies will usually require the RN. France’s usually require the Foreign Legion.

Of course it’s not exclusively one way or another, Sierra Leone for example, but that’s the way it trends.


There was an interesting interview today with Philip dunne in which he made it clear that as the POW had been procured bringing it into service was a decision for the RN as it was a crewing and sustainment issue which would be a RN decision. He was clear the choice was about crewing two carriers to allow continuous deployment, not to deploy both carriers at the same time. He also iterated that the first sea lord and Secretary of State supported this, so it’s looking good for POW.

He also talked about an MPA solution being sorted in the SDSR 2015 as a top priority, when p8 was meant mentioned he stated that the interoperability of air seeker with the US fleet had been very positive and this would be reflected in any procurement decision, which from a politician I suspect is code for I like the P8 for this procurement.


@Waylander: From your list HMS Richmond and HMS Westminster would be assigned to the CBG plus one of the T45s.


If the RN did go for the CBG model rather than the RFTG one, I think they should reconsider the MARS project to include 3 Fast AOR RFA ships rather than the SSS model suggested. That way the CBG can be streamlined to minimise the number of required escorts:

– 1 x CVF
– 1 x T45 (2 in war mode)
– 2 x T26s (3 in war mode)
– 1 x AOR

Then add 2 Aviation Support / Primary Evacuation / SSS RFAs for the AAG :)



It is also interesting that it was let slip that Sentinel will probably be extended in service until 2018. That would tie in to the kind of time frame for an MPA work up. I can see the role being merged into one airframe. It should be noted the P8A was recently tested with a GMTI SAR sensor the AAS:

Daniele Mandelli

The thing with the French navy for me, they seem to have more 2nd rank Corvette type ships, were we have none.

I’d love the RN to have several of this type for the various flag waving tasks and save the top end stuff to form 1 CBG and 1 ARG.

Waylander, thanks for that list, which I found fascinating.


@Daniele Mandelli

I suppose the last real attempt the RN made at a smaller vessel of that type was the Type 21, albeit it had gas turbines and they tried to cram in a helicopter plus hanger and some high end weapon systems with varying degrees of success.

To a degree I think there is a fair amount of fear within the RN of the French style second rate policing Corvette, whilst they would be great for flying the flag once you give them an international range capability and the ability to house the crew comfortably for long periods the size starts drifting up to that of a Frigate. Therein you get the problem with the Treasury saying “that’s nice” you don’t need the high end stuff at all.



Agreed with 2nd rank frigates/corvettes. It would be lovely to see the RN get some, but sadly the danger is always they are at the expense of high-end warships, either in terms of the upfront cash that needs to be found from the budget or through subsequent defence reviews looking to salami slice capabilities.

I’d say the RN needs to focus on getting as many T26 as possible seen as it’s far from certain they will even get the 13 currently stated, plus if the money and other resources are available try to keep those 3 improved OPV’s in service in addition to the Rivers instead of replacing them.



Wouldn’t be adverse to seeing P8 procured for MPA initially but then also as a Sentinel and possibly Sentry replacement further down the line. Commonality is always attractive and tapping into the American support structures we enjoy with stuff like C17 and Joint Rivet isn’t to be sniffed at.

As long as the numbers are right!

Not a Boffin

“If the RN did go for the CBG model rather than the RFTG one, I think they should reconsider the MARS project to include 3 Fast AOR RFA ships rather than the SSS model suggested”

If you think the furore over QE size was bad, doing that would be worse. Already been looked at and far from attractive. Lots of F76, lots of F44, lots of ammo, lots of air spares, lots of vittles, lots of beer and bog roll, multiple RAS stations, flightdeck, hangar and accommodation, all while remaining compliant with MARPOL and one or two other little regs/rules/principles makes for an eye-watering ship.

One of the rare cases where the compromises involved in deconflicting things leads to a less efficient solution than building separate dedicated ships.

The Other Chris


Is this the nub of the issues with the Karel Doorman?

Not a Boffin

Last comment spammed and can’t be @rsed to repeat.

But no, KD is a very different kettle of fish, more akin to the Canadian JSS, or the Boxheads Berlin. A funny requirement trying to be a combination of small AOR and Point.

The “issue” with KD is that they can’t afford to run 2 LPD, 4 LCF, some tupperwares, Hollands and KD in their budget. they appear to be choosing to ditch KD.

El Sid

Not soon with the La Fayettes, the later FREMMs aren’t due until the 2020s by which time the La Fayette will be nearing end of life (launched 1992, commissioned 1996). So the timings all sort of work, but nothing beyond 2019 is definite as it is beyond the scope of the current budget.


If the Dutch re-reverse their decision to keep KD then I think the EU (collectively) should buy it and use it as a disaster relief ship.


The KD decision has been apparently reversed and it will be commissioned into service.


@ jONATHAN – “He was clear the choice was about crewing two carriers to allow continuous deployment, not to deploy both carriers at the same time. ”

Excellent, presuming it means both having a basic crew (LPH role), with additional air-group resources for one to take the carrier role…?

@ El-Sid – “The final three FREMMs will get built and it looks like they will replace 5 La Fayettes….., but nothing’s definite until 2016.”

I know 9-11 will be built, but warships1 seems to think the will be sold/leased to morroco/greece…?



We live in hope that he meant both carriers having crews basic crews for the LPH role ( and one with a full air wing), but I suspect not, I would imagine they have decided it would be to embarrassing to try and sell a brand new carrier and are at best leaving the navy to try and scrap up a crew to leave POW at the dock or at worst mothball her so they can blame the navies own priorities for not allowing for a crew for the lovely ship they have procured for them…….. Not our fault gov onest…… was the navy that did it.


There was a report in aviation week that the RN is looking to upgrade some or all of the 8 mark one Merlin’s up to mark two standard, goods if it is the case. I thought they were just piles of spare parts.



Interesting stuff about the RN & it’s Merlin’s, do you have a link to the article?

Not a Boffin

Given that “the eight” appear to be part of the plan to marinise the HC3/3A by donating their folding bits, I’d take that with a pinch of salt personally.


It looked promising until I saw the date of the article:

From what I understand they’re likely to to be cannibalised for their folding rotor heads as part of the Mk3i conversions of the RAF Merlins for CHF.



That’s i thought as well until i read this.

Not a Boffin

If true, excellent news. However, I wonder if its one of those aspirational “options” – buy eight sets of folding heads and tails and keep the eight in the overall force – that sits on the whiteboard.


AndyC – dare I note on Witham’s ex-MOD vehicle auction site last year they had a 1960s FV432 ready to sell which had driven a logged verified total mileage of 39 miles. It had taken 50 years to do it, but funnily enough the thing was still looked like brand new…

Clive F

Before I get shouted at I’m not an expert! The line between Fighty (frigate etc) and non fighty (RFA) is getting more and more blurred. A lot of what “2nd rate” ships are required to do can be undertaken by the new RFA’s eg MARS, as what is required is a Helicopter and marines. Pushing for more MARS would give you extra capacity for “pirate work” etc without the danger of the treasury wanting to reduce your “first raters” in number. just a thought. now rip me to pieces.



How does deleting the Main Gun maximise an Escort?! Is it particularly taking space away from missiles? If you design the ship with a gun in the first place then it isn’t getting in the way of anything but also massively increasing the flexibility of the vessel for different tasking from low level policing all the way through to major peer rival warfare.

We learnt this the hard way with the Type 22, a large missile only frigate and it was reversed in Batch three and the Type 23 with the addition of a large gun. It is easier to design in such a thing from the beginning rather then try and add it later.

Just look at recent events with Libya when Royal Navy vessels were performing NGS, no gun and they couldn’t of done that.


We actually went through this before.

Andy, a speedboat passes a bit too close to you. What are you going to warn him off with? A million dollar missile (Harpoon), a 30,000 dollar missile (one of the CAMM or Brimstone derivatives) or a 10 dollar explosive shell? Your “escort” vessels need guns even more than your non-escort ones. They are used from everything from warning shots to specific crippling of ships to even last ditch AA.

Unless you are working on the “kill everything” ROE, which will make quite a lot of countries pissed off at you.

AndyC said ” HMS Ocean is just 19 years old – to say it’s coming to the end of its life in 2022 is just nonsense”

The big wrinkle in that is the build quality. From Wiki; “The cut-price build to commercial standards means that Ocean has a projected operational life of just 20 years,[3] significantly less than that of other warships.”

Which knowing the MOD logic means that she’ll end up being one of the few ships that go onto serve 50 years via expensive refits.



It is very easy to bandy the word nonsense around but seriously HMS Ocean is nearing the end of her service life, she is 19 years old now and they have been hard years at that. At her projected OSD she will be approaching 25 years old which is a serious life span for a military vessel. Wear and tear, hull stress, corrosion and decisions about her build quality in the 90’s all take their toll.

VSEL designed her to civilian standards and the bolted military stuff on, when they commissioned her VSEL gave a projected life of 20 years before she would be worn out. So we are just one year short of the manufacturers projected OSD and we are planning to run it till the end of the decade.

The cost of keeping her in service beyond that will only increase as more stuff wears out and obsolesce issues start to creep in. It is far cheaper and easier to retire as planned and per her design life when QE comes online with that vessel taking on the LPH role.

Also it isn’t a simple case of chopping and changing crew between PoW and Ocean. There is a couple of decades that separate their design, build and systems. They will require different training streams. Keeping Ocean means retaining the training stream for that vessel which is a cost in-itself.

As for 15 year old Tranche 1 Typhoon retirement, until recently that would be regarded as a reasonably good service life for a fighter jet.


I don’t get why these commercial standards mean a short service life? Do not the same standards enable super tankers and what not to stay at sea almost continuously for decades in all sea states?


Not only was HMS Ocean built with a planned 20 year service life but she’s also pretty well utilised.

It is however a shame that we will scrap her as she’s a well designed and effective ship – even if we have had to patch her up to “military” spec over the last few years ;-)

Look on the bright side. Lusty will still be with us, albeit moored up on the Thames or Mersey somewhere.

Perhaps that’s where all Culdrose’s SHAR will end up too.

NaB will be along soon to talk about the horrors of cheap Chinese pumps…….

Ships may be the ultimate modular system in that you can reach and replace most parts but they still ware out. The sea works the ship’s structure.

You obviously all drive 30 year old Ladas.

EDIT: Ocean is well laid out, but the ship herself isn’t good. What she has shown is that we should have two of them properly built.



“well designed” but badly built :-(



You might think that but the average age of a Crude Oil tank when it is scrapped is 21. When they get to 15 years old they are regarded as elderly and close to retirement.

I would say Ocean’s spec and life expectancy is directly related to the choices MoD made in the procurement process. They deliberately chose a ‘cheap and cheerful’ option. So the yard built them exactly what they ordered.
I guess your super-tankers are also priced and built to the customers’ requirements.

There was also a change of eras in that MoD had stopped doing ship designs in house, but Lloys Naval Rules hadn’t yet been drawn up to give a common design baseline to bid from. So the competing bidders for Ocean had quite a large lattitude to offer differing quality of product at different prices. And MoD chose the cheapest option.



In many ways I see Ocean as a useful experiment, we have got use out of her and will run slightly beyond the projected OSD. It was really the first time the RN had a large ship built to commercial standards and the lessons learnt were plowed back into the LPD program that led to Albion and Bulwark being built.

One of her most interesting problems was with the plumbing, the wash rooms were fitted with screw taps and high pressure shower heads. This led to water running out especially with troops embarked, she went through a fair amount of post build rectification work in Portsmouth I believe.


Ocean, a lightly built ship that has been worked hard. It would be interesting to know what is keeping her in Devonport for so long, I suspect that whatever it is points to how much trouble she would be if kept for another cycle after the planned one.

Face fact, the RN is now sized to have one operational flat-top. Ocean and Illustrious are really at the end of their lives. PoW and QE solve this problem.,

Not a Boffin

Being reasonably familiar with Ocean, it’s perfectly feasible to keep her going for another 10 years or so, provided that you can meet the various regulatory requirements – specifically stability, structural safety, fire protection, escape and evacuation and explosive safety. Only one of those is affected by her build standard and that only as the way it was calculated in the design (ie loads applied and safety factors). Locailsed corrosion is another issue, but an issue that can be addressed by repair, it just costs some money and availability.

The rather more serious issue with Ocean has been the completely haphazard logistic support policy applied when she was designed and built which bought the cheapest equipment it could find and omitted to buy all the technical training courses and supporting documentation. Combine that with a lean-manned complement, some poor detail design features (the DGs and the STPs are two that spring to mind) and you have the nightmare that she has been to support.

That said, many of those issues have now been addressed (at substantial cost) so provided there’s nothing to pevent her passing her certification or some major systems replacement needed, it should not be a drama to run her on – at some cost of course.

@ Fedaykin

I am familiar with the washrooms of various classes of Royal Navy warships. I am glad I have never had to use a submarine’s head while submerged. Just sayin’.


Which then begs the question:

For an extra ten years service is it worth it?

Considering the cost and the new QE class coming online I don’t think so. AndyC brought up Hermes earlier, indeed she has served since the 1950’s but as I understand it her material state wasn’t all that good when we sold her and the Indian Navy has had to spend a huge amount of money, time and effort keeping her going. Since the Indian navy purchased her there have been five major refits plus one minor and she is desperate need of retirement.



I think I’ve asked this before but never really got an answer.

How much would it cost to build and HMS Ocean now as per her original (rubbish) spec (my est is £400m) and how much would it cost to build as she should have been built.

I’m just trying to compare the “cost” of commercial versus military spec.

Alternatively, if the answer is though life cost then how much more has Ocean cost us because she was built “on the cheap”?

Cheers… wine not lager.


‘I am familiar with the washrooms of various classes of Royal Navy warships.’

Is that really something you need to put out there on the Internet? ;-)

Not a Boffin

“How much would it cost to build and HMS Ocean now as per her original (rubbish) spec (my est is £400m) and how much would it cost to build as she should have been built.

I’m just trying to compare the “cost” of commercial versus military spec”

Your estimate is thereabouts, but only based on applying a standard escalator over 20 years to the original price, which isn’t exactly definitive.

You can’t do the build comparison, because we don’t have an actual military specification for the ship to hand, let alone any contemporary data to estimate it with. Estimating is a dark art, they who undertake it walk backwards……


If all the above issues have now been rectified and until we get mars ss into service then why not retire argus role and switch the medical side of things to ocean? Still be able to do amphib stuff while QE and POW do deck handling/training/etc etc on a one on one off training cycle?

Not a Boffin

Because the Argus PCRS role and refitted capability is a world away from anything on Ocean right now or foreseeably. Argus’ primary role is PCRS, with a secondary role as an Air Training ship. That she spends most of her time doing the latter does not change what the issues are.

Speaking of Ocean looks like she’s going to miss Cougar ’14 with lusty taking her place. I’m sure her age might have something to do with it.

Apologies if it’s been posted before, hadn’t seen it myself.


Simon, you will never get an answer. The formula is locked away in a Corporate Safe… And just like with Coca Cola, should it leak out, there would be no magic wand anymore (nor much left of the inflated corporate valuation).

@ David Niven

Yes. I don’t want people to think I am just a guns and engines guy. To slightly misquote, “It may be sh*t and gash to you, but it’s someone else’s bread and butter!”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

“IHS Jane’s has learnt that Illustrious , now also roled as an LPH, is currently undergoing pre-deployment maintenance at Babcock’s Rosyth dockyard to allow the ship to replace Ocean on the three month-long ‘Cougar 14’ deployment”

She has been sat alongside Crombie jetty since the 5th of July and has not moved so not sure about the quote in janes.



I’m not surprised. This “refit” is not really a “refit”, it’s a “patch her up so that she can carry on until we can afford to bring QE into service”. A kind of “do or die” if you like.

I have a niggling feeling we might be a non-flattop navy for a couple of years, which will send the hounds sniffing.

@APATS: Just at a guess given the date on the Jane’s story(the 10th) given a bit of time for fact checking, editing or whatever, maybe she was done at Rosyth then moved to Crombie to load up before the story was published?

That would tally with her deploying surely? Can’t think of another reason to spend any time aside at an arms depot, other than collecting arms, well I suppose she could be unloading to head to Rosyth(guessing you wouldn’t send her armed) but that seems a little late for an Autumn deployment.

@Simon; that makes sense.

Not a Boffin

“This “refit” is not really a “refit”, it’s a “patch her up so that she can carry on until we can afford to bring QE into service”. A kind of “do or die” if you like.

I have a niggling feeling we might be a non-flattop navy for a couple of years, which will send the hounds sniffing.”

Any evidence for that statement? Or is it just in your water?

Personally, I’d suggest that the ship being in dockyard hands since November 2012 and a refit including complete replacement of the ADAWS system with DNA, T996 with T997 and a significant package of habitability and marine systems upgrades might be aiming a little higher………but what do I know.

“Can’t think of another reason to spend any time aside at an arms depot”

Destore prior to decommissioning?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same


She completed the ASW Exercise “Deep Blue” then had a Port visit in Lisbon before arriving for the QE naming ceremony on the 2nd and moving to Crombie on the 5th of July.
Current plans are for Lusty to be retired next month but I think some bets are being seriously hedged here.


Hermes may have been in service for around 50 years, but how much do we reckon the Indian Navy has spent over the years keeping her in service? I bet it adds up to a new carrier and then some, it’s the technical design and construction side of things that has kept them running a very old vessel far longer than normal as an alternative to putting the money into a new one.

As i’m sure has already been mentioned Ocean was built to commercial standards and as such has a shorter life-span. I think 2018 is certainly a little premature, but 2022-2025 is probably about right.

It comes back to the same issue, virtually any ship, including Ocean, can be gutted and refitted to keep going, but at what cost? I’d rather have QE & PoW in service and look to replace Argus with a more Ocean looking ‘ aviation training and support vessel’ in the early 2020’s and then some mid sized LHD’s to replace Albion/Bulwark later on.

Even with QE and PoWCVFs, we still need two LHDs to deploy Helicopters / Marines. Either we build a third CVF, which makes perfect sense to me, or we build two new Ocean / Invincible replacements at 30,000 tonnes apiece.

I seem to remember that brown water patrol vessels were discussed on here in some detail a while back, but they haven’t been mentioned in this discussion. Where do we stand?

I tend to think that a decent number of 1,000 tonne OPV vessels with the ability to carry a ASW helicopter and armed with a 4.5-inch gun, and with AA defensive missiles and anti-surface vessel missiles would do much to augment our current naval capability.


@Monty – I agree with just about every digit you’ve typed there (except 3in Oto Rapid Fire instead of ye olde 4.5in) but sadly there is just no funding for any of it – equipment or manning.


Just in my waters.

Not sure why shoving Artisan and a newer combat management system onto Ocean isn’t simply extending her useful life. Just add CAMM and she’s totally exportable as a very well balanced ship.

£650m for HMS Ocean done properly (not done on a spreadsheet).

Not a Boffin

Dart throwing usually commences at 501….


£501m then ;-)

The Other Chris

Hypothetically (money, will), are we still at a construction point where a third CVF could be built?

El Sid

Sounds like the Nakhoda Ragams (the infamous Brunei versions of the F2000) – but to get all those weapons on they were more like 2000t. And £200m each….

Not a Boffin

“Hypothetically (money, will), are we still at a construction point where a third CVF could be built?”

Assuming access to a sufficient building dock, you can always build another, with the proviso that the construction phase may be longer and less efficient and that economy in purchase of material will have gone. In fact, you may find that some equipment items may be a different model by now.

As for the Brunei ships, 2200 tonnes is more like it, hence many of the problems. From memory, even the Castles were 1500te. There is no place in the RN for any sort of heavily armed OPV, because the only places we need OPV are in home waters doing fishery protection and surveillance. End of.



“I’ve tried throughout this series to avoid fantasy fleets stuff.”

I rather beg to disagree,

Mothballed Tornado in America

Meteor on Hawk T2

Running on Ocean plus mothballing other ships

Gunless Escorts (no chuckling at the back.

It seems rather fantasy fleets to me.

The problem is plenty of your ideas involve sitting lots of equipment various places mothballed not doing anything whilst not acknowledging that if you keep those capabilities you need to spend on training people to use it or adding/removing capabilities to platforms Hawk T2 a case in point that is of questionable value and takes money away from other more pressing issues.

An interesting thought exercise but I think you are missing some key issues.


@Repulse, 32 years… not bad for a ship that went to war before it was commissioned?

I have seen some chat on other sites that Ocean is late coming out of refit and may struggle to be handed over, workup and pass FOST before the Cougar 14 deployment.

The contingency is the Lusty would be extended for a few months and be sent instead, rather than decomissioning now.

Gloomy Northern Boy

@Monty – The Canberras came in at less than £1.7 Billion…and if we did as the Australians did and built in Spain but did the fit-out here they might be cheaper again (Spanish economy on arse, much shorter trip from construction to fit-out)…how would they suit you? :-)


The Canberra’s had 14,000 defects that took 7 months to fix so maybe it’s worth spending just a little more. ;)


Actually some of the “defects” will be quite minor, more an irritant than a deal breaker. For example, one of the big hold ups for the Warthog ATTC that the UK ordered was the seat size. Too small. Is it a “defect”? Yes. Is it something serious? No. Worst case, someone’s behind gets numb after seating for a long while.

I’d say we need to look at the list of defects before we can make a call. For all we know, the 14,000 defects might all be “Area XYZ needs another coat of paint”. Or “Captain’s chair too small”.


Andy, some of your suggestions sound nice in theory but don’t translate into practice too well.

For example the Hawks. They are used as training aircraft. Sure, it sounds nice to use them as multi-role aircraft to do training as well as low intensity conflict, but training aircraft are NOT used that way for a reason. In a low intensity conflict, you are not in any major crisis or hurry, so there is no point in stopping the training of new pilots, which will happen if you yank the planes out from under them to do bombing and CAP. The only way to avoid the stoppage of training is to order an excessive amount of planes to cover both roles, one of which is already a niche job for the higher end combat aircraft. If your Hawks are doing the job of your Typhoons and Tornados, then what are the Typhoons and Tornados doing in the mean time? Pilots drinking tea and planes gathering dust? Might as well keep the training planes in limited numbers and use the higher end aircraft instead of letting them sit idle.

Escorts, you are thinking that the every day life of an escort is WWIII, but it is not. You “escort” not “kill everything in a 50km radius around the carrier”. You get more use out of the gun than you will ever get out of the VLS unless WWIII happens.

There was an article that one of the COs for the TF in the Gulf of Aden where he highlighted the difference in escorting ships and going all out in war. In war, a single detection is enough to authorise launching Harpoons to utterly destroy the enemy, but in daily escort duties, people frown upon randomly tossing missiles at anyone in range. You can only monitor the suspicious ship UNTIL it shows hostile intent before you can blow it away, and monitor not as a single radar contact, but literally eyes on, video camera on to see if that “fishing vessel” is about to whip out an RPG-7 and take a shot.

Escort duties are also technically policing duties. You don’t bring everything back in body bags, you try to arrest them. Not very World War style glamourous is it? But that is every day life. They start something, you arrest them, not rack up a kill score. Not to mention most troublemakers usually use boghammers and skiffs, not all up anti-ship missiles. Your missiles are going to be unused for years. Your gun is going to be used much more often.


Apologies for my profound state of ignorance, but in the modern environment – can anyone explain to me why the Royal Marines shouldn’t be under Army control operating alongside 16 AA as another specialism ?

(I’m looking for a hard hat, just in case…) :)


Well, I can think of one. Speed of exploitation of opportunities. If Marines deployed in ships have to call all the way back to the Army for permission to take part in Navy operations, it’ll slow down the process a lot. Better to keep it “in-house”, so that there is a single “brain” behind a naval operation, so when the Navy says go, you don’t have to call back and ask “Mommy may I?”

And God help us if they both disagree. “Naval op gets logjammed by Army obstructionism!!” is going to be the least of the headlines.

A Different Gareth

Observer said: “The only way to avoid the stoppage of training is to order an excessive amount of planes to cover both roles, one of which is already a niche job for the higher end combat aircraft. If your Hawks are doing the job of your Typhoons and Tornados, then what are the Typhoons and Tornados doing in the mean time?”

If you wanted to throw lots of Typhoons at a problem (eg operations like Libya but to achieve a higher tempo) you could cover national defence duties with the Hawk. Not to the same effect but it would provide a backup. You would need an excess of aircraft, and pilots. They would be lightly worked when all the Hawks are doing training and more heavily worked when split into training and defence roles when Typhoons had gone elsewhere.

The balance to be struck is in determining what is most cost effective to cover the roles you think need doing. A relatively large amount of slack in a dual purpose training fleet may be better than a very expensive amount of slack in the front line fleet or not having enough slack in the front line fleet to commit to operations in sufficient numbers to do the job properly.



With SATCOM video feed, Norwood control and daily COBRA meetings to exercise political control, would there really be any issue ?


@ Andy C

‘Why not keep them in storage for a few years as a fall back if things go really wrong in our relations with Russia?’ Because you would struggle to bring them back into service. Skill fade would be massive and who would operate them? The amount of people to run 59 Tonkas (or any other aircraft) is large. Just say 500 people for example, when they are in storage what are they going to to stay current? Even to be safe would take some doing let alone operating it on ops.
Bringing them back would take some time, over a year for all of them (probably longer). The trails alone would take months! Then you’d have to set up a maintance section out in DM to put them back together from storage. It would be a very long very expensive process.


Nick, never underestimate a bunfight between services. :)

Gareth, your high end craft already have a lot of slack in their utilization. What role do they play in peacetime? Patrol, patrol, patrol, exercise, exercise, exercise. Hawk combat aircraft is a solution searching for a problem, specifically the “problem” of insufficient combat aircraft and economic utilization. It’s simply more economical to use your existing fleet than to buy new aircraft just to meet “dollar per flying hour” targets. Penny wise, pound foolish in other words. You spend pounds to save pennies in flying costs.


“The advanced Hawks need to be bought to replace older Hawks so why not make them more capable if it doesn’t cost too much?”

Not so sure that is true. They may order a few red ones or a couple for 100sqn but if we do it will be in the dozen or so range.

“Several additional courses are now under way, with these including RAF and Royal Navy students and 11 more UK qualified flying instructors (QFI). With only 50% of system capacity currently being used on a 28-aircraft fleet, potential options to increase the volume of training delivered include preparing additional RAF QFIs, increasing the number of instructors sourced from other air forces from a current one each from Australia, Canada and France, or approving Ascent-employed instructors to command some flights, officials say.”

Hawk cannot do UK qra that require supersonic performance, it could in theory do point defence of an airfield or a high value target but it would be limited.


So when are the Hawk T1’s due to leave service? When they do are we only going to see a small amount of T2’s to replace them?

Anything lined up to replace the Tucano yet?



Hawk t1 OSD is I think 2018. There is no guarantee there will be any replacement. The service they provide could potentially be contracted out. Or discontinued.

The Other Chris

I’m sure someone could put together a package at the likes of Empire Test Pilots’ School:

They have a fresh deal to operate Gripen E’s:

The Gripen E, of which the UK manufactures 35%, is supposed to be the base for the Boeing/Saab T-X entry:

No indication of how much would be constructed in the UK if a Gripen based trainer were to win, however were the UK to contract training to someone like an ETPS set up without Hawks they would possibly undermine the BAE Hawk T-X entry:


@Observer, @Mark – From what I understand, the Hawk T.1As were developed to back up Tornado F.3 ADVs back in the bad old Soviet Union days for TEOTWAWKI scenarios by toting AIM-9 Sidewinders and a podded 30mm Aden cannon into the air to help repel the virtual “Mongol horde” of Red Air Force Sukhois, MiGs, Tupolevs, and Ilyushins. They were to be teamed with Tornadoes which would use their radar to direct the Hawks to intercept the less dangerous threats or the ones that got by the Tornadoes. The T.2s already have the “combat wing” with the capability to mount Sidewinders/ASRAAMs on the wingtips and on the outer underwing pylons. Other than missiles, it is already equipped for close air support, too.

The advantages of having “excess” weapons-capable Hawks for low-intensity, low-threat areas are:
1. Everyone from the newest quailified jet pilot to the most experienced zipper-suited thunder god knows how to fly it.
2. Hawks don’t cost nearly as much to operate, maintain, and, if necessary, replace as Tornadoes, Typhoons, or F-35Bs. They are also easier to maintain.
3. Deploying Hawks isn’t as threatening to other nations in the vicinity of the location where they are going to operate.

Hawk T.2s can also still perform the same homeland defense, point defense missions as the earlier T.1As in support of the interceptor force as well as supporting maritime patrol/ASW/ASuW/CAS missions in the event of a real war.

T26 with Artisan and SeaCeptor will have an air defence capability that is none too shabby. As a better ‘all rondunder’ than T45 I would rather see more T26 defending the TG to be honest.

Remember that subs are just as much a threat to your TG and are stealthier and harder to detect.



“Other than missiles, it is already equipped for close air support, too”.

Yep it is minus a rover capability a targeting pod capability a das system, secure communication system not to mention some other things on second thoughts maybe not quite ready… Could carry some practise bombs for training mind you as paveway IV / hawk t2 has a virtual weapons capability do you even need to carry the bombs.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same

@ Andy C

“However, I remain concerned that with only one T45 and two T23/26 as escorts the carriers would remain vulnerable to a concerted air attack, especially if the F-35Bs were off somewhere else on a strike mission”

1. Why are we deploying the Carrier with so few escorts into a conflict?
2. if there is an air threat who removed the BG Commanders brain and sent the F35s on a strike mission?


Kent, you mean something like this?

It’s an older Skyhawk, not the Hawk, but you see the same design philosophy, 2 AIMs on outer pylons, fuel tanks on inner ones. Served well, but got too old, and with manpower constraints, no justification to fly a less capable plane when there is sufficient airframes, but not enough pilots.

Andy, if the carrier’s own air wing can’t defend the carrier itself, something is seriously wrong! The escorts are the 2nd to last line of defence, (last being carrier point defence) not the first! And if you got so many missiles heading towards you that all the fighters and the escorts can’t stop them, it would have been advisable not to sail straight directly into the Russian or Chinese coast!

You took a single piece of equipment and tossed it against either a 2 squadron strike package or a guided missile warship fleet, which is stupid. Armed forces work in interlocked systems, not single lone ranger stunts.

Your scenario will only happen if someone did something exceptionally stupid. Like APATS said, who removed the commander’s brain??!!

The Other Chris

We’ve learned a lot since Akagi, Sōryū and Kaga.