A Guest Post by Martin
WARNING THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS LARGE AMOUNTS OF BACK OF THE FAG PACKET CALCULATIONS. DO NOT READ IT IF EASILY OFFENDED.
The Royal Navy
Once the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers enter service, the Royal Navy will return to having a very broad spectrum of naval capabilities. In addition it has managed to maintain world beating specialisations in a number of fields including Mine Counter Measures, Hydrography and Anti -Submarine Warfare.
What the Royal Navy lacks is strategic depth in both personnel and equipment. These are the areas I will focus any additional funding on.
Changing Defence Assumptions
The main change in defence assumptions is that a peer threat can no longer be dismissed and in particular we are likely to see an increase in Russian naval activity in the North Atlantic. In addition Chinese naval expansion may represent a future challenge and it may be necessary to consider operating vessels much further east than we currently do on a larger scale.
This will mean bolstering Anti-Submarine capability in the North Atlantic particularly with NATO standing task forces and conducting more training with allies in the Far East.
What’s Already in?
As TD has pointed out in other articles, assuming the current budget is not cut then there should be sufficient funding to procure 13 T26 and 3 MARS SSS vessels. So I will not be considering these items in my additions. There may also be a budget to operate the second CVF however details of this are thin on the ground. So I will assume there is no present budget to fully operate two carriers.
Working Out of Costs?
The best data on annual running cost’s I can find is from Hansard in 1995. To bring these costs up to 2015 prices I have used defence inflation on the T23 frigate as the base line and applied it to other platforms. The figure is an annually compounded rate of 4%. These figures are for running costs only and do not include depreciation or procurement.
The first priority for the RN is to increase manning. So I would like to see a general across the board increase of 5% in staffing levels. I estimate this will cost £100 million per year. This increase is for RN personnel only and not The Royal Marines.
Future plans envisage a fleet of seven Astute Class SSN’s. I do not believe this is a sufficient number to carry out the required tasks and provide any flexibility. So I would like to increase the size of the SSN fleet to nine.
To do this I propose that we firstly copy the US Navy and retire older Trafalgar Class vessels as required by their condition rather than a pre-determined date. Secondly I would look to delay the building of the first successor submarine by three to four years and see if the work schedule at Barrow could be increased slightly to accommodate a quicker build on the last two vessels. This would mean that the four Vanguard Class SSBN’s would require an 8 year life extension instead of the currently planned 5 years.
Having nine SSN’s should allow us to carry out the following standing patrols.
- Response Force Task Group
- East of Suez
The additional cost of operating a Trafalgar Class SSN is £41 million a year so £82 million for two more. The two additional Astute class boats would cost £2.6 billion. Any additional costs of extending the life of the Vanguards would be easily offset against the saving of moving the Successor Submarine program forward by 4 years.
A fleet of 19 escorts is insufficient to cover the required tasking. I would like to see this fleet increased to 21. To do this I would purchase two more Type 26 Frigates. In addition I would try and keep the Type 23 Frigates in service longer so that the force could be increased sooner.
The annual running cost for two more Type 23 Frigates is £52 million a year. I am estimating that the cost of the Type 26 Frigate will be in the region of £450 million each.
While the current numbers of the destroyer fleet are sufficient to carry out the required task’s the ships still lack significant capabilities. To rectify this I would fit all six vessels with 12 Mk41 strike length vertical launchers. It is impossible to accurately guess the cost of this so I am estimating £50 million per vessel. In addition one T45 will be permanently attached to the RFTG to allow for better training.
Type 2087 Sonar
I would purchase a 9th set of the Type 2087 Sonar Array to equip the T23/26 Frigates. Total Cost is likely to be around £40 million. This will allow us to equip 9 frigates for ASW duty and 6 for general purpose duties.
A fleet of 21 Escorts should allow us to maintain the following standing tasks on a deployed ratio of 3 to 1.
- T45 Response Force Task Group
- T23 ASW Response Force Task Group
- T45 East of Suez
- T23 ASW East of Suez
- T23 GP APT (s)
- T23 GP Fleet Ready Escort
- T23 ASW NATO Tasking
With higher manning numbers it may be possible to maintain a 5 to 2 ratio which would allow an additional standing task to be under taken. Having this extra margin will help to provide further strategic depth if required for adhoc tasks.
Tomahawk Cruise Missile
To equip the T45’s and eventually the T26 I would make an additional purchase of 100 surface launched TLAM’s at a cost of £60 million. In addition, if it is possible, I would try and get the latest version of TLAM from Raytheon that incorporates a multi-mode seeker that could allow the RN to conduct additional suppression of enemy air defence work in support of the RAF and allied forces.
Response Force Task Group
The RFTG replaced the previous Carrier Strike Group and Amphibious Ready Group of the RN. Even with an increase in escort numbers we still have too few to really keep two task forces at sea. To reinforce the current task force I would make additional funds available to reactivate vessels.
£70 million per year for second CVF
£25 million per year for second LPD
With the addition of second fully funded RFTG, we should be able to maintain one RFTG in the Mediterranean for much of the year. Here it will be well prepositioned to respond to any tasks required in our most likely area of operation. In addition we should also be able to carry out occasional deployments as far east as Singapore, to conduct training with Five Power Allies as well as other key regional players such as India.
HMS Ocean replacement
I would make no budget for a replacement of HMS Ocean. The two Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers have ample room to accommodate all the aviation assets of the RFTG. Even with an increase in F35B numbers we will be nowhere near filling up the decks of the carriers in all but the most extreme events, with the entire F35B force surged. As standard the QE in the RFTG would carry 12 F35B’s, 8 Merlin HM2’s for ASW and AEW, then a mix of Merlin, Chinook and Apache to support amphibious operations.
The eventual replacement for the Albion Class LPD is likely an LHD but I would put this replacement of into the future until truly required.
The current RFTG is a less ambitious formation that the CSG/ARG it replaced but it is still a highly effective task force that is more in line with our current budgets.
To provide additional ASW and AEW capability, I would convert the eight remaining HM1 Merlin’s over to HM2 standard. My figures are a little hazy on the cost of this. With an assumed operating cost of £42,000 per hour (which include depreciation) and assumed operational flight hours of 150 hours per year the total additional cost should be £50 million per year for eight. If anyone has any better figures I would be interested to know.
Batch 2 River Class
I would keep the Batch 2 River Class as an addition to the current River Class vessels. I would copy the current set up with HMS Clyde and keep the vessels forward deployed. These forward deployments would vary with changes in the security situation but I would initially deploy one to Bermuda as a replacement for APT(n) and I would forward deploy two to Gibraltar to cover the West of Africa and the Mediterranean. Having two larger naval vessels permanently based out of Gibraltar should also have the added bonus of sending a message of support to the local population. The additional cost of this would be £18 million per year. To provide additional support to APT(n), the RFA would continue to deploy an asset in the Caribbean during hurricane season. In addition I would examine all methods of giving the Batch 2 Rivers a permanently embarked helicopter.
The total cost of enacting all these changes to the RN would be £657 million per year assuming a 15 year procurement cycle for new equipment.
VLS Anti-Ship Missile
To give the Type 45 and eventually the Type 26 and enhanced anti-ship capability I would make a purchase of the Long Range Anti-ship Missile from Lockheed Martin if any additional funding is available. We could then husband existing stocks of Harpoon to keep them on T23 for as long as possible or consider a new purchase of updated Harpoon.