A Crude Attempt at Forcing the Governments Hand

You may well have seen the coordinated media campaign recently.

4000 Sailors Short

This is a crude and rather blunt attempt to force the Governments hand as it finalises SDSR 2015, the figure refers to personnel needed to man both of the new aircraft carriers fully and simultaneously, something that has not yet been decided.

The oft-repeated current position is that the new carriers will both be brought into service to ensure continuous availability of one of them. The Government have been deliberately vague whether this means two in service at the same time, or two in service so as to ensure availability of one.

By creating the headline that the Royal Navy is short of personnel to man them both at the same time it is obviously hoped that this will become the de-facto position.

TheSDSR run up has actually been rather bereft of this kind of thing, personally, I don’t think it helps anyone.

 

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duker
duker
October 16, 2015 10:47 pm

The most famous attempt of all time was back when the decision was made to stop a new carrier (CVA) being built in the middle sixties. The RAF had come to the conclusion that Britain couldnt afford two airforces as well as a SSN nuclear deterrent, and one airarm had to go ! So as part of their arguments that air power from land bases, especially in the SE Asia region, could do the work of a carrier, they had to move Australia closer to SE Asia by around 900nm. A few years later the decision was made to abandon East of Suez commitments so the RAF could quietly move Australia back to where it was supposed to be.

cky7
cky7
October 16, 2015 11:06 pm

I’ve no idea what the correct number is but i thought it had become fairly clear that the RN desperately needs an increase in numbers? From what i’d heard we’re desperately short in several areas and this really needs to be addressed in the SDSR. I guess the problem is with an ever decreasing budget people feel forced into these type of tactics. Were defence funded properly according to the service’s actual needs this sort of thing would no longer be a problem.

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
October 17, 2015 1:20 am
Fedaykin
October 17, 2015 2:17 am

@duker

Good grief not that nonsense myth again! If I had a pound for every time somebody posted on a forum that the RAF moved Australia on a map to help kill CVA I would be a very rich man!

You know the alleged distance is anywhere from 200 to 1000 miles depending on who is telling this rather tall tale.

There is no evidence that the RAF ever did this, people have looked for the map and associated briefing documents at the public record office. This whole myth which gets repeated over and over again in a form of internet Chinese whispers can be traced back to Ray Lygo former Admiral and later head of BAe who was heavily involved with CVA planning and had rather an axe to grind post cancellation of the program. The main opponent to CVA was the Foreign Office followed up by the Treasury. Arguably much blame lies with the RN when it comes to cancellation. The RN’s staff work was poor in respect of CVA – Healey was constantly sending submissions back to the naval staff urging them to make their case in a more convincing manner.

Oh well well done on being the 2 millionth person to trot out this tall tale duker…

Obsvr
Obsvr
October 17, 2015 3:33 am

Mid-sixties, ah, that would be about the time the RAF also tried to stop the Army acquiring its first UAVs (if you don’t believe me read the minutes of the meeting of CIGS, CNS and CAS, I’ve got the NA file reference somewhere, and you can find CAS’ words).

RoundTower
RoundTower
October 17, 2015 5:25 am

It may be crude, but what’s important is “Is it true?”. There is a danger in SDSR in that all the focus on personnel numbers is on the Army.

Martin
Martin
October 17, 2015 5:51 am

Jackie Fischer was also pretty famous for using the press to get his way and that was 110 years ago. Is it helpful? Well I suppose the public has a right to know that shoddy state of the countries defences and the current bunch of muppets in charge care little for what’s right or wrong and more about grabbing a headline of two. So in the current climate it’s probably necessary.

There is very little need to have both carriers manned as we lack the aircraft to fill them. In all seriousness it’s hard to imagine the UK on a solo operation where one CVF with 12 F35 and 28 helicopters would not be enough to do the job. So having the second carrier partly manned possibly as an aviation training ship is more that sufficient for our needs.

Martin
Martin
October 17, 2015 6:02 am

@ Round Tower – Agreed, after Cameron’s ridiculous pledge to protect army numbers we are likely to see some pretty shitty decisions made to maintain cap badges for infantry battalions that will never be used again in our life time. Of we won’t send in ground forces against ISIS then we’re would we ever send them.

Repulse
October 17, 2015 8:11 am

@TD: I think that it can help fight against irrational government policy which means that the investment made in equipment cannot be fully utilised. Of course the navy needs more escorts and SSNs, but the SDSR should be mainly about keeping what we have and making better use of it – for the RN this means man power.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
October 17, 2015 9:30 am

there should be two ambitions the carriers are expected to fill:

normal jogging – suffient to maintain an operational carrier capability 12 months of the year, with 4 month overlap used for training, etc.
in extreme – e.g.the islands that must forever remain unmanned. with sufficient workup to deploy both for a six month operation with one as full CVA and the second as a swing-role LPH.

Repulse
October 17, 2015 9:36 am

@Jedi: I’d argue that we should scale (in extreme conditions) such that we could operate both in the CVF role and HMS Ocean / both LPDs, basically using the ships we already have / ordered to maximum effect.

clinched
clinched
October 17, 2015 9:52 am
Reply to  Martin

As far as I remember, Cameron’s quote referred specifically to the regular army. I suspect the savings will come from the reserves.

Peter Elliott
October 17, 2015 10:26 am

Trouble is if you cut the reserves it leaves the skeleton brigades in the AF exposed for the fiction that they are.

For my money (which of course it is) I am tempted to say its finally time to slay the cap badge dragon and go down to a fully depolyable 7 brigade regular land force, all at full strength, all with Mobility, CS and CSS: 3 Heavy, 2 Wheeled Medium, 1 Airmobile, 1 Commando.

Martin
Martin
October 17, 2015 11:32 am

Cutting reserves won’t save much. You need to cut 5 reservists to save the same money as cutting one regular.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
October 17, 2015 2:41 pm

On the manpower front, the Navy isn’t exactly trying that hard to help itself. A friend is joining up – he found out that he had passed selection several months ago, but his scheduled intake for training is June next year – it will have taken over a year from initial application to commencing training.

APATS
APATS
October 17, 2015 2:59 pm

Depends on the branch. Shortages not evenly spread.

stephen duckworth
October 17, 2015 6:01 pm

On the shortage at least on the air arm , we are aquiring no new helicopters so their associated crew and support staff remain the same with some released from SeaKing retirement I would of thought. The RAF will own and predominantly operate the F35B’s and their crews and support staff will embark as required. On operating the ship the crew of Illustrious is now in the new village built at the fitting out docks for QE in bonny Scotland and the crew of Ocean will move across to the PoW similarly , taking over the portacabins , correction hotel blocks from the QE crew as they move aboard the QE and their home accomadation in Portsmouth. That was my understanding anyway. I am guessing as APATS hints/states certain discipline’s and experience levels will be missing by the time the Nellie’s are both available for active service but PoW isn’t due to ready for active duty until the early 2020’s at the earliest so their must be time to bring on existing or new staff upto the required grade even if it means seedcorning them onto US carriers etc.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 17, 2015 9:17 pm

The Torygraph article leads with the RN pitch for more sailors, but ends with the RAF wanting to keep Tornado & tranche 1 Typhoons beyond 2019, which rather scarily was one of my earlier rants on this site.

Peter Elliott
October 17, 2015 9:20 pm

Maximising Typhoon for the next 10 years makes a ton of sense but Tornado must surely go by 2020. The personnel and training pipelines will need to be switched to F35B.

Challenger
Challenger
October 17, 2015 9:42 pm

Elliot

In a purely practical sense they could perhaps fudge the budget and juggle some personnel around a bit to keep Tornado going for another few years, but i’d think (without significantly more resources) only for a couple of years, or maybe until 809 NAS stands up in 2023.

I think and hope we’ll see some sort of bone thrown to the RAF in terms of a small increase in manpower and money to keep the fast-jet fleet at 8 squadrons, but i’d imagine it will be either the T1 Typhoon’s OR some Tornado retention, certainly not both. If i was putting money on it i’d go for the former, but who know’s!

617
617
October 18, 2015 12:03 am

You got to think though if the RN still orders 13 T26 then in theory there is a reduction of personnel as the type 26 is reported to have a crew of only 118 compared with the type 23’s 185. You do the maths. But that’s a large reduction.

Donald_of_Tokyo
Donald_of_Tokyo
October 18, 2015 2:39 am


>type 26 is reported to have a crew of only 118 compared with the type 23’s 185.

The Type-23’s (1st ship commissioned in 1990) crew size was reported to be 171 in 1988 (or even sometimes written 157). It was 173 in commission. Now it’s 185.

Type-26 are to commission from 2020, and now it’s still 2015. So, if the true crew number increases by 8%, say ~130 (or even 150 in the worst case, i.e. 185 vs 157), I won’t be surprised. In addition, the “multi-mission bay” is still “empty” in this case. (But if “always empty” you should not have added it to your T26s).

Here, I am NOT saying it WILL be 130. Also the members for “multi-mission bay” will be coming from other resources. But the latter is still within RN manpower (including Marines).

I simply suggest to NOT to count RN manning profile on “118 per T26”. I will rather base it on ~130. If not, RN will face big problem in (very near) future.

cheers

duker
duker
October 18, 2015 3:11 am
Reply to  Fedaykin

It was in a well regarded book by Grove on UK Naval Strategy from after the war to Trident, I dont have it with me but it was very well reference book, by a Professor of Naval History at Cambridge. Such people dont deal in “tall tales”. yes he agrees with the poor level of staff work by the RN and how the RAF dazzled the politicians with their better argued position, helped by their leading spokesman, an AVM having been previously a trained barrister.

As for finding the documents, these sort of things dont stay around, even Monty was known for having the official records winnowed to favour him once he was in a position to do so as CIGS.

duker
duker
October 18, 2015 3:16 am
Reply to  John Hartley

It makes sense to keep Tranche 1, as they were expensive to buy and then have the major part of the air to ground inventory qualified.
Best option is for RAF to keep Typhoon T1 and release all F35B to the RN, as the days of the Harrier operating from forest tracks and hides are long gone. The split arrangement only made sense up to the point the GR9 fleet was sold off and the carriers they operated off paid off.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
October 18, 2015 4:10 am

Going by Donald’s sensible estimation (net change in manning 65 per frigate), and by
“The Highly Mechanised Weapon Handling System enables a streamlined crew to operate a vessel much larger than the carrier which it replaces, meaning that each ship will have a total crew of 679, only increasing to the full complement of 1,600 when the air elements are embarked” from the ACA pages, it would take the 11th T26 being in the fitting out stages for an evening out of the manning needs between the two classes. With a ship every two years (a la Osborne)…

None of the Royal Navy five arms ( the Surface Fleet, the aerial strength that is the Fleet Air Arm – and to go up in manning presumable, despite all the jointness, the Submarine Service, the elite amphibious Royal Marines (already supported by army’s specialists), and the civilian fleet central to RN’s effectiveness, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary) are exactly overmanned, so the net to cover the 2nd carrier coming into service would have to be found for 2020-2040 from
– a net increase
– from shore establishment, or
– some innovative thinking. e.g. which ships could be manned only by a skeleton crew and have allocated RN Reserve crews for making them operational? Could think of part of the mine hunting fleet (a specialist trade, admittedly) and things to do with amphibiosity… what else?

Fedaykin
October 18, 2015 5:35 pm
Reply to  duker

Then i wouldn’t regard the book that highly duker.

The story is a myth, the original source of the myth is the autobiography of Ray Lygo, a man with an axe to grind. There is no evidence that RAF ever did what they have been accused of and all this professor has done however well respected is parrot the myth.

Allan
October 19, 2015 12:29 am
Reply to  Martin

Could the “aviation training ship” not be parked in the Minch (or off Butt of Lewis if the pilots wanted to be more daring – that water is bloody freezing) – if it the pilots needed some where to practice. One presumes things are trifle more advanced than ‘Left Hand Down Bit….” :)

Allan
October 19, 2015 12:32 am
Reply to  Repulse

As an outsider looking in – when you mention RN manpower – are you arguing for an uplift in all numbers or just in very specific branches e.g. N-Engineering?

Allan
October 19, 2015 12:36 am
Reply to  Martin

“Jackie Fischer was also pretty famous for using the press to get his way and that was 110 years ago. Is it helpful?”

Wasn’t the idea of fast but lightly armoured ships utterly discredited when they came in to real action?

Allan
October 19, 2015 12:37 am
Reply to  APATS

Apologies APATS, missed you comment when I asked about manpower!

Allan
October 19, 2015 12:45 am
Reply to  duker

I don’t know how true it is but a friend (sadly now passed on) of a relative told me that Sir Gerald was incredibly closed mouthed about everything at all times!

That must’ve made the life of his staff very interesting!