Penny Goes Large in Washington

Breaking Defense has published an article on Penny Mordaunt’s visit to Washington.

UK commits to 2 carriers, fully crewed, F-35B numbers TBD

The report quotes the Minister of State and I think puts two and two together and gets eight.

The United Kingdom is committed to a high-end battle fleet centered on two aircraft carriers, a senior Ministry of Defense official made clear yesterday. Just as important, the UK is committed to funding adequate crews to sail them — something that had been in doubt after much discussion about cutting costs by effectively mothballing the second carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, once it was built.

One of the much anticipated decisions that will be finalised in SDSR 2015 is how the Royal Navy will operate both QE class carriers, there are many options, all of them being worked on no doubt, as we speak. Whether it is two in operation at the same time, one available as a spare to cover refits and contingencies, or some other combination, it would be wise for public officials to avoid pre-empting the outcome of the SDSR.

QE Carrier Portsmouth

Was it a case of loose lips or journalistic misinterpretation?

The article reports her words’

The decision to have two carriers was taken prior to the SDSR, and for my money, that was absolutely the right decision. We have made certain assumptions going into the SDSR about…some of the things that we think are fundamental and we have already committed to. Manning them is very much already factored in to the Navy’s manning plan. There’s investment that’s going in, actually not a stone’s throw away from my own constituency, to enable…general maintenance to be done much more quickly. To save costs, the Queen Elizabeth class has a fewer sailors for its size than older ships but it requires additional shore support

Reading that, it does seem a little ambiguous but the ‘manning them is very much already factored in’ statement could easily be construed as meaning two carriers, manned at full strength, at the same time.

She went on to say;

There’s no point in having a capability that you can’t rely on and you need at least two carriers to be able to guarantee that you can use [one] when you need them.

What about the aircraft?

Any sort of further commitments on details… whether it’s numbers of aircraft or numbers of frigates or what have you, that will be coming out of the SDSR process. But what I would say [is that in the SDSR] there will also be a lot of radical thinking about the kinds of things we will be operating… .from the carriers, not just F-35s but other air assets, whether they’re manned or unmanned..

In the sensitive pre SDSR environment careless talk like this usually comes from former defence officials or officers as they seek to position, influence or gain traction for one decision or the other, not a Minister of State.

A Royal Navy reservist herself, Mordaunt made clear in her remarks yesterday to the Atlantic Council that the fleet was a top priority.

Is this really the kind of service centric favouritism wise, does it add value to the SDSR process?

We are a maritime nation, if those pinch points are closed, in a few days we will be in deep trouble. 90 percent of everything that we use as fuel, as goods, is brought to the UK by sea. So this is an absolute priority for us.

Please God, not the ‘we are a maritime nation’ theme.

On other surface vessels, there were a couple of other gems;

These are the most sophisticated warships in the world,” Mordaunt boasted at the Atlantic Council. They also “are probably the most expensive warships in the world,” she acknowledged, somewhat ruefully. “You can buy a frigate for half the price that the Type 26s are going to cost us,” Mordaunt said, but it wouldn’t have half the capability. Likewise, the Type 45 destroyer is much more expensive and powerful than alternative designs, she said: “We have chosen to buy billion-pound warships because it makes us relevant to the US.”

Types 45’s are expensive because we want to be relevant to the US.

Really, is that really what she said, is she auditioning for the Simple Sailor’s gig or just playing to the audience?

Words matter, especially ahead of a very sensitive SDSR process that needs total agreement from all three services.

I think there is a lesson in there about being careful with them.









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September 6, 2015 4:55 am

What’s wrong with the “we are a maritime nation” theme? It’s better than saying, we have no trustworthy defence plan.

Mordaunt didn’t blow up her Royal Navy credentials–Vargo (sic ?) did and the Atlantic Council audience did, especially a certain old man. Mordaunt talked more about the woman in combat stuff, well she was asked about it many times.

Yes that was a weak point about “being relevant to the US” but the rest of her speech and Q and A was well answered.

I know you hate her but who else would you want?

September 6, 2015 6:07 am

Well if she wanted to butter up the U.S. She did us proud but she didn’t really confirm anything operatinally speaking, it’s good that we’ll have the two crews or maybe even a spare (my own wishful!) one to give top levels of readiness? Other than that, were still waiting for the cats to come out of the bag in the last quarter of the year, jusr reasurring mumbles really…
We can expect no more to be honest…

Rocket Banana
September 6, 2015 9:00 am

“Being relevant to” NATO might have been a little less obsequious.

September 6, 2015 9:16 am

There is a PR job required with the US, so probably a good thing, especially as it is the US and the Saudis who are doing the anti-ISIL heavy lifting. I’m not sure if she let any cats out of any bags – after all Cameron has altready committed to both carriers, and mentioned that we need to look at unmanned platforms to operate from them. The maritime focus is only reflecting reality. All of Europe and the US are refocuing upon Naval power given that China anbd Russia have effectively re-armed thier fleets, and a being more proactive along trade routes and in European waters. There has been mood music about relaxing the manpower squeeze for RN. Intriguing what ‘radical thinking’ about what we operate from the QNLZ’s might entail. We already know they will operate Apache, Chinook as well as Melin and Wildcat in addtion to F-35. Some sort of UCAV/UAS with persistent ISTAR and attack capability seemsl likely. What else? A high speed helicopter/tilt rotor programme to provide longer term replacement for Merlin/Chinook?

September 6, 2015 9:38 am

Tabloid reporting on a core message that I think no one is really seriously arguing against. As soon as I saw the F35A comment from a “savvy” defence analyst it was obviously full of fluff.

Flying other assets from the CVFs is just plain obvious, but I don’t expect a significant change to what is in the immediate pipeline. Even a V22 purchase wouldn’t hit the priority list given the limited relative capability gain.

You may see “Maritime Nation” statement the same as previous “COIN” and “Airpower can replace boots on the ground” idiotic statements and for some people making them it probably is. To me it’s just a reflection of the reality of our geographical position ignored for 1/2 century and a recognition that sea based territory disputes / conflicts are bound to increase in the next century and needs focus.

For me, ignoring the colour of your dress, sea basing should be at the heart of the UK’s global strategy, of which the CVFs are a part, but also needs a fundamental review of our amphibious assault capability. RAF planes flying from the CVFs, Army units operating from RN / RFA forward bases, is the future in my view.

September 6, 2015 9:40 am

We shouldn’t be sucking up to the US, we should be stating that it keeps us relevant as a power base, not just to the US, we should be able to stand on our own. I can’t ever imagine France stating it’s aim was to be meaniful to someone else.

The new on the carriers is pretty vague. Even if we decided to mothball one at a time, it would be pretty stupid not to have enough people trained to use both at the same time, if required, even if this involved reservists.

However, it is sounding like we won’t get enough F-35’s to fill one carrier (I assume we need over 60 to have enough available to fill one in surge situations), let along two (which I assume would require around 100 planes). It’s like they are trying to soften the negativity by stating that the carriers will carry other assets, in other words insanely expensive helo carriers.

I am also reading PR spin around the frigates, again it feels like they are smoothing the way for the announcement of less numbers, on the band waggon of they are so powerful we need less.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
September 6, 2015 11:00 am

I can see the number of T26 being reduced bringing our numbers into line with other NATO nations such as France and Italy but to do so means we also need 8 to 10 less capable platforms to carry out more mundane tasks aka the French and Italians. Whether we increase the number and capability of the batch 2 Rivers or even purchasing a foreign design such as one of the MEKO variants.

It is possible that the 2015 SDSR will make the T26 and T45 platforms permanently allocated to the main carrier and amphibious groups. Given the escort numbers would rarely exceed 1 T45 and 2 T26 each for the carrier and amphibious groups and the fact that the 3:1 ratio for ship availability is probably going to be reduced to 2:1, a reduction in numbers is possible.

By default we could be returning to the C1, C2, C3 idea which I actually thought was quite a good idea when it first came out. Yes we have less high end platforms but we will be able to meet our obligations more effectively and with more appropriate platforms due to increased numbers. This could equate to the following fleet composition;
6x T45
8x T26 (C1)
8x C2
12x C3

I know we have been here before but is it time to rethink things and restart the discussion?

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 6, 2015 11:04 am

Most expensive warship? Has she not seen what a Gerald Ford carrier will cost? T45 only cost a billion each because we halved the number, so R&D per ship doubled. Still missing CEC, ABM capability, cruise & ASM are limited to 4 of the 6, with an old missile about to go out of service.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
September 6, 2015 11:21 am

Speaking of a C2, the Khareef class OPV/Corvette built for the Omani navy and based on the River class could be a good starting point, obviously there would be some changes, but it can operate a Wildcat. An option would be to replace the Mica and Exocet with Sea Ceptor as this has an ASuW capability I believe.

Speaking of Sea Ceptor/CAMM, the work being done by MBDA on CAMM-ER, which should be compatible with the CAMM(L) launcher under development for the Army and the Sea Ceptor launcher for the Navy would provide a Medium range SAM capability. This would allow the T45s for example to only need to carry the Aster 30. Just a thought.

September 6, 2015 11:36 am

is it wrong to say we invested in T45 to be relevant to the USA?

Pretty much everything we do in our foreign and defence policy is to be relevant to the USA.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
September 6, 2015 11:52 am

Two interesting bits of kit being developed by the USN, the first is a 300nm range stealthy AShM and the second is an upgrade to the Virginia class SSN increasing its load out of TLAM to 28 plus other options. Food for Thought?

September 6, 2015 12:06 pm

For a smaller Multi Mission ship we already have a design. The BMT Venator which seems to be good enough to me. It can be configured to a wide range of requirements and has a good size to it. I think a good fit out would be around 250m per unit – which makes it great value. We could build 2 of these per year for the foreseable future and we wouldn’t go wrong. We can probably get basic units in the £125m cost point and we can have variants just like the MEKO. I think the T26 will take over the T45 role eventually and the venator will take over the Frigate role. Its a great design and we should go for it. Lastly it takes a much smaller crew to operate, so we get similar capability for less manpower.

September 6, 2015 12:23 pm

For the life of me I can’t see the point of a corvette unless its for flag waving. Less than useless in a real fight, not properly configured to support asymetric warfare – the modern equivalent of the pre-WW2 coast defence battleship. Either more T-26s, cheaper MEKO type full-size frigate or a specialist ship for operating UACs etc. (Balck Swan), but no mini warships thank you very much – a complete waste of treasure.

September 6, 2015 12:42 pm
Reply to  JamesF

I would normally agree James – but as has been noted on this site many a time – should a T45 be trying to catch Somali pilots. Also with the latest weapons systems a 110m ‘corvette’ really does pack a punch (take a look at the isreali’s – it is like a mini Burke). We just don’t have the manpower and it is best to have a volume of ships that have the senator capability than not in my opinion. Its the classic width v breadth argument I am afraid.

September 6, 2015 12:44 pm

I have seen Penny’s interview on DID and she actually comes across very well. Its clearly a pitch to the American audience and she is careful with her words in my opinion. All in all I think she did a great job of selling the UK as the partner of choice for the US.

September 6, 2015 1:00 pm

@pacman27. Agree very much on Penny. On Corvettes: yes but Israel only operates a 100 nm from shore, same for UAE, Oman and all the other users – for it to work for the UK it would have to have 3,000nm and more range (not just fuel and seaworthiness, also stores, comms, crew habitability) and seaworthy in the Arctic and Atlantic or be a purely UK-based OPV/coast defence vessel. So either no ability to operate outside UK coastal waters or no weapons or other useful systems. So pointless.

September 6, 2015 1:26 pm

I think we need to think about what we will realistically use our fleet for. We have no empire left to defend and realistically Argentina doesn’t have equipment to go after the Falklands again.

Russia is going to be nuisance but has to get past the rest of Europe before it even considers attacking us. We could do with some form of anti-ship missiles for our Eurofighters to protect our shipping ways but they won’t ever be used.

America might be complaining constantly about china but they have no reason to attack us, we have nothing they want and more importantly we are a trading partner.

The only real country threat is the middle east and there we are attacking countries with little to zero navy power, they can’t threaten the carriers, which I assume would only be used if no friendly airbases are available.

As has been seen with Iraq and ISIS, we can’t afford the pilots to launch more than half a dozen planes in bombing missions, which we don’t need 2 carriers for. 1 carrier and a basic escort is all that is needed.

Outside that we have anti-piracy role, which is very important and with the mess in the middle east, I suspect going to become a lot more important, but we don’t need frigates we just need small lightly armed ships and lots of them.

The new carriers will only ever be used alongside another nation, almost certainly America but potentially over the next decade or two other European nations, but again against targets that can’t touch the carriers with anything other than small attack boats.

We should focus on the threats, put the 2nd carrier in high state of readiness like we have with the Albion, and build more River class vessels. Which would free up frigates and destroyers to do a bit of flag waving and ultimately have them available should something unexpected happen, which at the minute we don’t.

The Other Chris
September 6, 2015 1:32 pm

…but as has been noted on this site many a time – should a T45 be trying to catch Somali pilots…

You’ve not been reading the knowledgeable replies if you’re only picking up on the questions.

The answer supplied by commenter’s here who are involved is yes, the T45 should be catching Somali pirates, because it’s not why they’re in the area to start with.

Keeping the crew sharp with coal-face experience, while having a positive effect in an area and being available for why they are posted to the region is a win-win-win: The best kind of business to be in.

EDIT: Speaking of the Devil, BBC News is running a review of the effects of heavy military presence in the region as I type this. Worth catching.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
September 6, 2015 1:36 pm

The batch 2 Rivers are designed to be deployed out of area if required on mission such as anti-piracy etc. The variants based on the design have a range in excess of 4000nm and an endurance of 21 days at sea. The role for a C2 OPV/Corvette would not be open ocean warfare but rather the sort of operation that has been the mainstay of most navies since the end of the Cold War, which seems to be operating in littoral waters on missions other then combat against Tier 1 and 2 opponents.

On size etc. let us not forget the size of many escorts that operated in the North Atlantic during WWII. Current OPV/Corvette designs are actually larger than many WWII Destroyers. In addition their endurance is only important during deployment to and from their operating stations, but they would be able to undertake replenishment at sea if required whist part of a larger operation such as off Somalia.

Both the French and Italians, and now the Germans operate vessels of the size a C2 would be covered by, less than 3000t The last case is very recent but in the case of France and Italy the platforms have been very effective and in the case of the former able to deploy and operate over large distances. Finally remember the Argentinians operated their A69s in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War and proved to be very sea worthy.

El Sid
El Sid
September 6, 2015 1:38 pm

I notice TD isn’t railing against Julian Brazier and Mark Lancaster for being Army Reservists, no doubt any increase in funding for ninjas and sapper stuff like bridges will all be down to their malign bias. It must be the first time in a loooong time that the MoD has had three ministers that are or have been reservists, perhaps TD would like to go back to the days of a part-time SoS? Even Lord Howe comes from a grand military family and is currently on the management board of the RNLI, so can contribute from the perspective of integrating with civilian organisations that overlap with the MoD. Obviously that kind of experience doesn’t automatically mean that they are competent, but at least they should be a bit less clueless than certain recent ministers. Hoon cough.

As for a bit of US backside licking – that’s the nature of diplomacy. Especially when you want a few favours from the US, like say not cutting our F-35 workshare despite us buying fewer planes that we said, or getting the best possible deal on some P-8’s. The interesting stuff will be happening away from the cameras – as minister for ops & force generation, she needs to have Serious Talks with the US about how the SDSR affects them and vice versa, and now is the time to be having them.

@LordJim – you’ve noted that it looks like France are sacrificing pretty much all their minor frigates in order to keep buying FREMMs in the 2020s?

September 6, 2015 1:48 pm

Should be noted that it makes more sense for France to have some short legged escorts than the UK, becuase of tFrench postion in he Med, as it does for China and Russia, as they have vast coastlines to police and protect from multiple ports. The USN lets USCG get on with that task. For the RN, as a PMSC and a major power with a key supproting role in NATO and the wider western system to the US, we are operating almost always at range – whether its Somali pirates, ebola in Sierra Leone, Bosnian no-fly zones, Ampibious operaiton at Al Faw, or future offshore basing against ISIL and the like. Also on trading sealanes, those are policed by the west, led by the US, but could conceivably be closed down by a resurgent China and Russia with carriers and SSNs if we got into an argument with them over something or other (Taiwan, Ukraine, south China sea Islands, for example), unless we are able to help the US maintain a ‘western’ blue water navy, able to send that lot to the bottom if needs be.

September 6, 2015 1:50 pm

James, you haven’t seen how some of the non-Western nations armed their corvettes yet. :)

Maybe you should qualify your statement to “useless for the UK”, for those countries with their enemies closer to home, they are invaluable. The problem for the UK is that you need ships with a longer operational range since your area of operations tend to be further from your home shores.


Pirate hunting is a sideline for the high end ships. Can you tell me what the alternative is? I can tell you what it will be if the T-45 does not go pirate hunting/narco-interdicting. It will be sailing around in circles doing nothing of value. At least this way you get some use and training out of it.

September 6, 2015 2:19 pm

As we are not going to get the second batch of 6 type 45s to bring the total up to the 12 we need, do you think we could do a cheaper Anti Aircraft version of the type 26 to supplement them?

All Polkiticians are the
All Polkiticians are the
September 6, 2015 2:21 pm

Sorry TD but other than the cringe worthy and inaccurate comments about expensive ships she was spot on. It does not take much to cause you offence when the RN is being talked up, we all know that.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 6, 2015 2:31 pm

When you make a typo in your own user name you realise that perhaps opening the last bottle of red at lunch was a bad idea :)

September 6, 2015 2:58 pm

Agreed with repulse:

“You may see “Maritime Nation” statement the same as previous “COIN” and “Airpower can replace boots on the ground” idiotic statements and for some people making them it probably is. To me it’s just a reflection of the reality of our geographical position ignored for 1/2 century and a recognition that sea based territory disputes / conflicts are bound to increase in the next century and needs focus.”

Always darkly amused at the acid scorn penny attracts hereabouts; find a constituency who genuinely gives a damn about defence, is willing to fight for it, and speaks intelligently on it and we shoot her down.

Acquire firearm, load it and cock it, put both feet close together so you are sure you will get both in one epic broadside, aim and fire.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 6, 2015 3:05 pm

She is the guest speaker at a dinner I was invited to on the 17th unfortunately I will be in Belgium :( I should however be able to prime a proxy with a few questions.

stephen duckworth
September 6, 2015 3:46 pm

“1 carrier and a basic escort is all that is needed.”
at a time hence two carriers required to at least attempt a continuous presence on station.

September 6, 2015 3:55 pm

“At the Spectator awards, Ms Mordaunt suggested it was obvious her ‘poultry welfare’ speech was a prank, saying her main political interest was the Navy.”

Hardly gonna say I think the security needs of the UK are best meet by having a slightly smaller navy now is she!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
September 6, 2015 4:07 pm


Nobody with any strategic training experience or knowledge is going to say that.

stephen duckworth
September 6, 2015 4:15 pm

I think Ms Mordaunt is acknowlaging the errors of her predessors about the T45 (done and dusted) and the T26 ( sold down the river Clyde but with a paddle ) . One was a farce , the T45 , half as many with little or no self defence capability against the much maligned Corvette with a 76mm OtoMerla ( 4 to 6 ratio) or the on going let’s build vastly expensive OPV’s ( to do what ?) for third of a billion of pounds. Maintaining paririty with your peer ally is not a bad thing on a like for like vessel basis but we do spend to much .
On the manning thing” has a fewer sailors for its size than older ships but it requires additional shore support” One suspects this is a work around for the lack of pay for the equivalent ranks skill set in the RN ( Inc pension) for marine engineers rather than boost their pay . Sad really everything on the web is about the latest very high tech but nobody wants to pay someone in a RN uniform to keep it working.

September 6, 2015 4:15 pm


Is that management speak for turkeys don’t vote for Christmas :)

September 6, 2015 7:11 pm

The C-span video posted is worth a watch. She seems pretty level headed to me and reading into her comments she grasps the need to retain personnel so the NEM should be an interesting read. I think she is going to push very hard to open up all roles for women.

Yes she is slightly biased to the dark blue but that would be natural given her back ground would it not?

September 6, 2015 8:03 pm

a 110m BMT venator (or C-Sword 90 or Meko’s) are not small ships and it really can be a great design. Carrier escorts by their very nature need to be expendable, so for me we need a cheaper carrier escort that will protect the fleet. I see 4-6 escorts being required per carrier group to provide protection and ASW capability.
In any event the UK should be building 4 ships per year going forward (RFA, Inshore, fisheries protection and RN)

El Sid
El Sid
September 6, 2015 9:57 pm

Come off it @TD, you don’t need to say things directly when you’re in control of the edit :

A Royal Navy reservist herself, Mordaunt made clear in her remarks yesterday to the Atlantic Council that the fleet was a top priority.
Is this really the kind of service centric favouritism wise, does it add value to the SDSR process?

You didn’t have to quote the bit about her being RNR – and you choose to interpret “the fleet was a top priority” as being her showing favouritism. It doesn’t say “was HER top priority”, and “favouritism” implies unfair or unjustified preference. It could just be that after months of careful consideration by professionals, that the MoD top brass have come to the collective decision that the fleet should be one of their priorities. I know you’re not PM’s biggest fan, but I do think you’re being genuinely unfair here.

And of course you have to know your audience. If they name themselves after an ocean, then talking about floaty boats will usually go down well. We talk a lot about MoD communications, arguably schmoozing and reassuring the Beltway crowd is more important than the Love Boat stuff.

September 7, 2015 7:25 am

All comes down to the size of your back yard or how big you think it is.
America thinks it’s backyard is very big we think ours is somewhat smaller, to an extent thats a good thing because it sort of disproves the old “Colonial thinking” we are always accused of.

The U.S. will therefore feel free to bang on about China because Japan and the US are bessie mates nowadays, whats a few megatons between friends after all!

I’m leaning towards the French type plan of fewer intimidating type 26’s but because the French are only having eight FREMM we should have ten Type 26 fitted with everything we can put on em without them starting to list :)
There is absolutely nothing wrong or non com about the Lafyettes and I think the BAE OPV could accomodate us there something like a Khareef+ with a raised heli deck for some underfloor stowage for towed kit, would do but definitely a stretch/update of an existing design, rather than something totally new, we do far too much of that starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel everytime we need a floaty. We could always then build another five or six type 26’s when the T45’s are ready to bow out (Gov spin: “see we built 14 not 13 like we originally planned, it doesn’t matter that it took us 25+ years to do it, we more than kept our promise”)! Still love venator and in an ideal world I’d have us building them but then I like pretty much everything BMT comes up with especially that Vidar Sub…

September 7, 2015 8:08 am

the makes us relevant part was wrong but what’s so terrible to keep banging on it?

September 7, 2015 8:36 am

@Jules – i have often debated the high low mix but where I am now is I feel that the key priority is getting as many T26s as possible. Their global reach, kit and flexibility I believe are best suited to where we tend to need to go. Further I think it is important that the QEs have a decent escort fleet. Whilst it may evolve into other variants down the line (e.g. AAW, ‘Absalon type flex vessel’) I am not sure about the GP version. If it only differs due to TAS kit then fair enough but I would be resisting paring anything else away in the name of economy. I am hoping we at least stick to the 1 for 1 T23 replacement, with at least 8-10 TAS kits to go around. I accept though we are short of hull numbers to take the strain and as I’ve said before Border cutters / survey ships in the med and River class in the caribbean illustrate the stretch. My modest proposal to deal with this is to seek to retain the new B2 River OPVs as well as the existing fleet. They are meant to be globally deployable and with a UAV capability would ease the burden on constabulary / presence / intel work. I would then evolve a plan to keep rotating the Rivers through, so as the B1s retire, drop the B2s down and look at a very modestly enhanced B3 for the globally deployable OPV, perhaps with a hanger this time. Not a fighty corvette but just a decent long legged patrol /presence ship. 19 high end DD/FF and 4+3 OPVs (all ultimately with global legs) seems to me about the right size (plus of course the whatever the MHC project becomes) for our global commitments and 2 active carriers.

September 7, 2015 10:26 am

It’s a pity she wasn’t in the military police, because then, when she becomes prime minister, the headline could have been “ex MP PM MP now PM.”

September 7, 2015 10:43 am
Reply to  Beady

The post wasn’t about much, but I really had to +1 it for the sheer amount of humour it contained.

September 7, 2015 11:54 am
Reply to  mickp

@mickp, Yeah I do like that suggestion and in an ideal world I’d also like a like for like on the T23-T26 but with all the positivity that is going around, there must be a rusty razor blade lying in the long grass somewhere? I think thats where the cut will be made, totally agree on the Rivers unless we can flog the batch ones off for decent money as they are not too old and continue evolving the type upwards in batches? I like the idea of the high endurance low battle intensity ship but I would also like them to be able to combine to make something more than the parts if need be, sailing the seas in small flotillas wreaking havoc, like the devils grannies! That would need differing amrmaments and CEC so thats not going to happen but I can dream, nothing less than 5000Nm range is really any good to us I’d like to see a common hull for all the less fighty boats if possible and the Khareef/evolved river seems like the way to go as we can build em in batches in between major vessels.
Would like to be able to toss Appledore a bone every now and again though…

clive F
clive F
September 7, 2015 2:38 pm
Queen Elizabeth Class – All In Or Half-Hearted?
go for it APATS

September 7, 2015 4:51 pm
Reply to  JamesF

Respectfully, do you really see the Royal Navy in action – for real – against the Chinese? That sounds almost like the Army saying we need gazillions of tanks for when Russia rolls up to the French coast…..

…I would respectfully suggest that if the Royal Navy has to go ‘toe-to-toe’ with the Chinese, having one carrier or five won’t make any difference whatsoever. Deploying Trident / Trident in some form of successor might – may – just, may make the Chinese question their ambitions – but again respectfully anything less than that seems to me to be p***ing in the wind and simply a demand for a bigger defence budget.

September 7, 2015 4:59 pm
Reply to  jedibeeftrix

“find a constituency who genuinely gives a damn about defence, is willing to fight for it, and speaks intelligently on it and we shoot her down.”

How about any MP with a base in their constituency – as PM stated – when it comes to getting a slice of HM Taxpayers cash for defence regardless of whether the spending is sensible or serves any good other than to keep her voters in work.

If you think HM Taxpayers cash should be used to keep workers in work, respectfully, may I take it you’ll support the renationalisation of the steel industry – after all where do you think BAES gets it’s steel from – and that you’ll also support the re-opening of the mines to allow the generation of cheap power that UK heavy industry needs.

May I also say – and I’m sure this will make lots of hackles rise – that as an outsider looking in, all this talk of being a ‘maritime nation’ as if the Royal Navy still has mastery of the seas….seems faintly ridiculous when taking into account the vast reach of the US Navy and the fact that even under current plans, the RN is expanding by what amounts to a token amount.

September 7, 2015 5:00 pm

Allan, obviously not – but we may need to help a Western Alliance tip the balance against the Russians and Chinese. So two fit for use carrier groups will be a very useful addtion to any alliance fleet. THe purpose is, of course, deterrent, to dissuade the Chinese or Russians from ‘trying in on’ in the maritime theatres – e.g. South China Sea, Arctic, and in the Black/Sea (Ukraine, Moldova) and Baltic (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Meditteranean (Syria, Egypt), Atalntic and southern ocean/Antartica or using naval might to disrupt trade routes to and from Europe and North America to Asia, the Gulf or along the north west passage as part of a hybrid apporach to obtaining concessions on politcal or territorial issues elsewhere. Hence all the ‘interoperability’ talk – its about being able to work as part of a US-led NATO or coalition fleet inpeer-to-peer threat environment.

September 7, 2015 5:12 pm
Reply to  clive F

Did you see the comment about the weapons pylon cost…….?

September 7, 2015 5:16 pm

“You can buy a frigate for half the price that the Type 26s are going to cost us,” Mordaunt said, but it wouldn’t have half the capability.”

As an outsider looking in – I find that an interesting comment – so why not go with the less complex design (after all knowledgeable commentators on here have made it clear the T26 is an evolutionary not a revolutionary design) and since one boat can only be in one place at once……..surely having double the number of slightly less capable boats……means boats in double the number of places.

And maybe export sales if they are cheap enough (and if the kit is not too ‘hi-tech and hi-spec’ and so not allowed to be sold)?

Peter Elliott
September 7, 2015 5:25 pm

You could do that sort of cheap and cheerful frigate if you also have plenty of destroyers and cruisers to do your actual war fighting. But our T26 Combat Ship is going to have to do the serious heavy lifting of defending our Task Group in contested places. That’s why its specified as it is.

The Other Chris
September 7, 2015 5:50 pm
…so why not go with the less complex design…

Because the context of the statement from transcript and video (said with emphasis) was it would not approach half of the capability.

September 7, 2015 5:54 pm

@ Allan – “How about any MP with a base in their constituency – as PM stated – when it comes to getting a slice of HM Taxpayers cash for defence regardless of whether the spending is sensible or serves any good other than to keep her voters in work.”

Absolutely true. 110%. Totally irrelevant to the point I was making about the poor judgement in a enthusiast group taking pot shots at a constituency MP who:

1. who genuinely gives a damn about defence and thus willing to be an advocate in parliament),
2. is willing to fight for it (in both the literal and metaphorical sense of the word),
3. and speaks intelligently on it (for I could find little to fault given the intended audience),

September 7, 2015 6:20 pm

If there was a better understanding of development costs and marginal costs of each extra unit surely this would be a good thing. The unit cost of a T45 includes the total development costs divided by the number of units plus the additional cost to produce that unit. Often as new tricks are learnt the additional cost (or marginal cost) falls for each additional unit produced. The development costs (provided substantial extra costs are not incurred) will generally get spread across more units to result in a lower unit cost.

If you do not carefully manage the program and you have resources that are idle (QE Class) or you lose skills (Astute Class) and have to regenerate them you are bound to incur extra costs, and increase project risk.

This is all relevant to my next point, and indeed Penny Mordaunt’s. The ability to deter, repel, act in concert, act independently and be able to gear up to produce a technologically advanced product(s) without restrictions and quickly in volume are surely all part of the ‘security’ solution Governments are expected to accommodate.

Having extra classes of warship (even in greater volumes) probably doesn’t help with the above unless we are pushing the development of new technology. So smaller ‘dinky class’ warships would just spread the resources more thinly. The whole point of the higher technology warship, jet or body armour is that you use it. Once developed unit costs will with volume.

The T45 and CVF are highly successful in my opinion and those that say these are over budget, expensive etc. are dancing to the tune of political convenience. It was the politicians who ruined the headline.

September 7, 2015 6:29 pm
Reply to  JamesF

Surely if China attempted to disrupt trade patterns to the West from Asia, it would in effect be punching itself in the face, over and over again.

September 7, 2015 6:34 pm

Really – not approach half the capability? Again, I don’t want to sound overly sarcastic, but if I rocked up at a BAES yard with a budget of £500m for a warship, what would I get? A rowing boat? A canoe? A James Bond Supervillan yacht with lasers and everything?

September 7, 2015 6:36 pm
Reply to  Opinion3

“The T45 and CVF are highly successful in my opinion and those that say these are over budget, expensive etc. are dancing to the tune of political convenience. It was the politicians who ruined the headline.”

So the MOD Brass (Uniformed and Suited) were all paragons of virtue where they that didn’t waste a penny on those projects and BAES have never at all tried to ‘spin’ the taxpayer?

September 7, 2015 6:37 pm

I don’t want to pick nits, but not all of Asia is China. Cutting off Taiwan’s, Australia’s, Singapore’s or the Phillipine’s trade with the West could be a lever if we were powerless to prevent it. Also any pissing contest would usially involve the West ernforcing sanctions. If we have insufficient naval power to enforce them they become meaningless. So sanctions on Syria, North Korea, Iraq or Iran could not have been be enforced without naval supremacy.

The Other Chris
September 7, 2015 6:48 pm

Have a look around at what you do get for half the estimated price, plenty of public information available.

In an Olympic 100m event, someone who is 93% the speed of the World Record isn’t even allowed to compete.

Sometimes “half the capability” (or 80%, or even 100%) cannot get a job done.

September 7, 2015 8:35 pm

Feel like wading in on what must be something like the 567th high vs low, corvette vs frigate debate!

My priorities for the RN would be in descending order….

1. As many T26 as possible. It’s a slightly arbitrary figure but i’d say 12 is the minimum required (8 just won’t cut it) and i’d preferable do away with the GP nonsense and build them to a common standard.

2. If, by some small chance, the need for extra surface ships was actually matched with increased manpower and money then retain the batch 2 River’s alongside the older ones. It would hopefully be feasible to fit telescopic hangars for a Wildcat/UAV, making them suitable (if not ideal) to fly the flag and provide presence in the West Indies (with an RFA loaded with supplies/kit boosting the capability for 3-4 months during hurricane season) and conduct counter piracy ops in the Indian Ocean. The 3rd providing a permanent presence in the Med instead of survey ships and customs cutters wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

3. Pursue a Venator shaped vessel to begin replacing the mine-hunter and survey fleets from the mid 2020’s onwards, only once final T26 numbers and MARS SSS are in the bag.

September 7, 2015 9:05 pm


You’ll get a frigate. Rumor has it that our frigates hit the billion dollar cost mark, which is about the 500 million pounds you quoted. The Al-Ofouq gunboats we flogged off to Oman cost about 110 million pounds apiece. I doubt you’ll be able to afford a destroyer with that budget.

stephen duckworth
September 7, 2015 9:07 pm

The Middle Kingdom used to pretty much pride itself on its self sufficiency and lack of reliance on eternal trade , tea, silk, porcelain and jade being its principal exports but in low volumes compared to internal trade and little imports. Today is very different although striving to achieve that same self sufficiency in raw materials it still has a great imbalance but only to maintain its huge export need . Come a WW2 style total war I wonder if by measures such as we took in WW2 it couldn’t keep up war materiel production. It’s been said its the car plants of Detroit that converted to war production that produced the Stuart’s , Grant’s,Lee’s and Sherman’s that helped win the war but with China producing more cars than the USA, the EU and Japan combined since 2009 how would we keep pace? China has a similar pattern in ship building capacity and would significantly impact Western production by destroying/annexing S Korean yards. Much of the world’s high end electronics is produced (from scratch , not assembled) in China and the list goes on. China I think does not want to go on a military rampage ala Germany/Japan WW2 but wants to establish itself as respected World power which speaks softly and carries a suitably big stick.

stephen duckworth
September 7, 2015 9:47 pm

I wonder if the A-12 had not had more supporters at the time we , that’s the UK , would of been in a different standpoint now. A dedicated LO strike bomber capable of delivering a relatively small payload of precision weapons (similar to the F35 but all internal) . It ran the into numerous problems overweight, software etc ( familiar?) so was canned. A friend here in the UK was involved with some aspects of the cockpit controls and thought it was a world beater.comment image

September 7, 2015 10:48 pm

would have been, yes!

Just that the catapults of the time could not have thrown it up; EMALS is quite an innovation… let’s see what comes along to use its full potential

September 8, 2015 10:13 am

In the video of Penny, Vago pointed out some concerns the US has with our lack of numbers due to the cost of continuing to acquire high end platforms. At what point do we lose credibility with the US with only being able to offer very small numbers of platforms to a coalition? by way of an example the Dutch are ordering 37 F35’s with only 4 being available for international missions, apart from a political gesture what military use is this?

Netherlands commits to first operational F-35s

Also here is a view from the FT

UK defence sector in peril of losing teeth

Put simply, fewer items are being ordered by the UK’s military chiefs and, where they are, they have been of such a bespoke, high-cost design that it reduces their export potential.’

Another view from RUSI on the subject comparing ourselves with the French,

Building a Force for the Future: The UK Needs Depth not Breadth

‘The investment in carrier capability and highly expensive destroyers and submarines over the last ten years has substantially reduced the numbers of platforms that the navy can physically deploy. The Royal Air Force too has seen its combat air fleet slashed from twenty-seven squadrons to six in a similar period and with costs of the Joint Strike Fighter at around £80m a piece, it will take some time before all 136 are in service. Meanwhile, the RAF will lose 112 combat aircraft at the end of the decade when the Tornado GR4 goes out of service.’

‘Relative to the UK, France has both greater force numbers and a broader set of capabilities.’

‘In order to achieve both breadth and depth, France has also deliberately chosen to sacrifice capability and has also focused on developing platforms that it would be able to export.’

Rocket Banana
September 8, 2015 11:16 am


Very interesting reading.

All this “partnering” with the USA though is secondary to our NEED for national defence. Once the threats are identified we need to mitigate against them. We then use these assets (and remaining cash) to play ball with the Americans.

Did TD not venture out to list the threats ahead of the next SDSR?

September 8, 2015 12:12 pm
Reply to  Challenger

Good idea, lets not!
123.. Three thumbs up challenger!
Type 26 being a silent hull give the opportunity to build a long lasting class of differing vessels, the first being ASW but I think it’ll end up being nothing in the middle and then rounded off in the 2030’s with some Models for AAW.
I see 12 as the bare minimum but all ASW (Not going to happen) with interim/add on orders later being a nice to have but I feel they’ll just make the next build AAW and then bin the T45.
When you look at the French navy they have fighty hulls to spread around 11 Destroyers and 11 Frigates IIRC and the 9 D’Estienne d’Orves class but not many of them can do much really and some of them are pretty long in the tooth these days, I’d argue all the frigates but the La Fayette class are really just OPV’s…

I love the venator design, wish we were building them…

Jeremy M H
September 8, 2015 1:51 pm

RUSI is pretty lazy in that piece. If you are going to state your preference for the French model you need to back it up. It has strengths and weaknesses.

For example look at the French forces near the end of the Cold War. The Army, tasked to fight in Central Europe in the event of a shooting war with the USSR, had what was probably a two generations obsolete tank to take with it. The artillery situation isn’t great either as there isn’t as much hitting power per combat formation as most other NATO powers are bringing.

The French Navy is an equally mixed bag. Yes they had all the pieces of a modern full function navy. But there really wasn’t anything resembling a modern anti-air ship in their ranks. They have nuclear attack subs that by all reports were not all that great.

The Air Force is a similarly mixed bag. Did it have an aircraft to match the Tornado? Not really. It’s interceptors were no better really than upgraded F-4s flying at the time. Nothing similar to the F-16s coming into widespread use in NATO either.

Now, it all worked out fine in the end I suppose. But the French approach has historically left holes in its force structure much longer than that of other nations that will shop around for more things. Perhaps they have a crystal ball that predicts exactly when a real conflict might break out. But had the French Army been ordered to roll into Southern German to help meet Warsaw Pact forces in the late 1980’s I would think that some soldiers might have seen the cost of trying to do everything nationally on a relatively small budget.

September 8, 2015 3:46 pm

I commented earlier and though I did say I was looking to the French model, I sort of changed my mind but it still may well be the best we can get, they have gone for fighty hulls in the water but the actual quality of those hulls is weakening somewhat…

Cassard-class (2)
Georges Leygues class (5)
Need replacing

2 Horizon class is not enough

8 Aquitaine class good ships (Will they get the extra 2 AAW out of these in the end?)

La Fayette class (5) I have a lot of love for these, this is what a light frigate type vessel should be but it’s hard to see where they would fit in with the RN

Floréal class (6)
Just not sure what a “Light surveillance frigate” is supposed to be really

D’Estienne d’Orves class
Well they’ve nine of em and they’ve got Exocet, so I’d better count em in, on the face of it a lot of surface combatants but I reckon 22 of em are past it, which leaves them with 2 Horizon, 8 Aquitane (FREMM) and the five La Fayette class.
Get past those fifteen and theres not much substance after that…

Don’t get me wrong were no better…
But we will have two carriers and seven astutes
They will have one and Six Suffren eventually that from a size and performance point of view are pretty much a Trafalger, so we may have a little to be thankful for in that when we can only buy a few we buy high end…

September 8, 2015 4:14 pm

I have to say I didn’t think ‘PM at large in the US’ was too bad, I figure a lot of what she said was for the US public’s consumption- the US services, for all their faults, are not fools, and I don’t doubt that she will have a different narrative for them.

The key message I got from her comments were that a decent high-end fleet is a key plank in the UK’s strategy- this I don’t have a problem with…
I just pray that it won’t come at the expense of all the other necessities, like an army that is capable of and properly equipped for various expeditionary operations, or an Air Force that has enough aircraft to defend the airspace above the UK and wherever we decide as well; to sustain proper maritime surveillance operations, sufficiently support the army and navy in their operations and undertake proper air logistic support too.

….And a navy that has an amphibious capability…

Having two carrier groups is a good thing… But not so good if the other stuff is neglected.

September 8, 2015 5:02 pm

Its worth remembering the tale of Type 21 – in the days when we had ‘C1 and C2’ Frigates. Type 21 was ordered a a replacement for the Type 41, 61 and 81 diesel frigates, for out of area patrol duties (low end in TD parlance). They were meant to be cheap and simple, exportable, based on the attractive well armed light frigate designs Vospers were building for the likes of Iran and Libya (allies then). They came out more expensive and less capable that the Leanders (which they were supposed to be cheaper than and which the RN had wanted more of all along) – and apart from the lack of any sensors to speak of (they could not be made to tow a sonor, were very noisy and were too top heavy for an air search radar), their – for the time – gucci weapons fit (Exocet, 4.5″ gun, Lynx Sea Skua, Seacat), could not protect them from low level attack by A4s with dumb bombs. They did have a decent computer aided combat system to control these weapons, however it made them so top heavy that they needed to be filled full of ballast to keep them stable, meaning that they turned out having a greater displacement than the Leanders (which had heavy steam turbines), their bilges being full of concrete. They also fell apart in big icy seas. But they did look the part, raced along at 37 knots (for very short spurts) and cornered like an F1 car (hence thier nickname ‘porsches’), but – like this corvette thing some folks want – were practically useless in a high-end dust up – which will not be with other surface combantants, but with those wespons that can penetrate a F-35 fast-jet, T45/T23 escort and SSN protected carrier screen: – i.e. air-launched stand-off weapons, land, ship or sub launched cruise missiles or very long ranged ASMs, IRBMs and very, very, very quiet SSNs/SSKs.

September 8, 2015 5:44 pm

As a postscript, its also worth noting that even the early T22s were noisier than Leander, T26 will be exceptionally quiet (using an improved T23 hull design) – and its that quality that is attracting renewed interest in T26 from the likes of Germany, Australia and Canada (again). They will be – at least – like T23 and Leander – very good at what they were designed for – protecting task forces from submarines. I wonder if the Germans are rueing building F125s now? They are big low-end multi-role frigates and already seem part of a world that is rapidly passing as China, India and Russia begin to field more and more modern SSKs, SSNs, carriers, ASBMs and long range bombers with antiship weapons.

Peter Elliott
September 8, 2015 5:56 pm

Will be interesting to see if anyone does “come in” for the T26 design once it is in production and both the capabilities and the price can be demonstrated for real.

September 8, 2015 9:56 pm
Reply to  JamesF

My mate served on one during the FL conflict and was under no illusions about how vulnerable he was and only heightened by watching one of the sister ships blowing up!
Smaller ships are generally less capable but if two or three can work together, oh wait I know CEC and were not having that are we???
I still have visions of smaller battle gps with an MRSS flat topped with choppers and hanger facilities and two or three OPV’s working together as a group but I guess one destroyer would probably top that little lot?

September 8, 2015 9:59 pm
Reply to  JamesF

Thats my point about T26, it’s a great starting place but I’m not sure if the GP versions will ever see the light of day?
By the time they get 8 ASW out it’ll be getting around for time to start saying bye bye to the T45, or there abouts and my fear is that the 13 will become 8 ASW and 5 AAW, no meat in the middle of the sandwich…

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
September 9, 2015 1:39 am
Reply to  JamesF

James – I would have thought that the genuine lesson to be learned from the T21 is that, regardless of the size, if you give a ship an ineffectual set of weapons and deploy it into an environment that it is not designed for, then it will come to grief.
As for the T21s being sunk by dumb bombs, why waste an Exocet on a ship with completely ineffective air defenses? More to the point, weren’t HMS Coventry and RFA Gallahad sunk, and HMS Glasgow and RFA Sir Tristram rendered inoperative by dumb bombs as well?
Size may well affect survivability, but poor design and inadequate weaponry are far more significant factors

September 9, 2015 4:22 am

@ A Caribbean Perspective
A very good point, your both right really, part of the Type 21’s shortcomings were the fact it did not have a decent enough sensor suite and the fact it had Seacat, I’ll add into the mix that the world hadn’t really faced skimmers to that degreee either, Dumb bombs, well we re-learned the hard way…

El Sid
El Sid
September 9, 2015 11:28 am
Reply to  Jules

Listing FREMMs and Leygues/Cassards is double counting, one replaces the other. They kinda have to increase the AAW capacity of FREMM 7&8 to replace the Cassards, although whether it is a proper job like the FREMM-ER concept we will have to see, there’s certainly a will to have some kind of BMD which has implications for radars etc even if full capability isn’t reached immediately.

The function of the Floreals is similar to Clyde or a River doing APT(N), a couple of Exocets are more for show than anything else. I think the avisos have already lost them, they’re more like the Gibraltar Squadron (if Gib had more than a few square miles to patrol) or the US Coastguard, they’re essentially OPVs.

The problem the French have is the opposite to us – they’ve just spent a lot of money on new SSBNs but will struggle to spend a similar amount on new carrier(s) (and that’s before you get onto what replaces Rafale), whereas we’ve just spent a lot of money on new carriers and funding Successor is going to kill the rest of the shipbuilding budget. But the deterrent is seen as even more important, so we’re prepared to go through the pain, it’s not clear that France has the appetite (or finances) to build a carrier and airgroup. Already you can see signs of strain, with the last three FREMMs being sacrificed in order to give DCNS an export option with the FTI that will replace the LaFayettes.