Priorities and Options for SDSR 2015 – Conclusion


The UK’s armed forces have shrunk considerably since the end of the Cold War and this sometimes leads to criticism.  However, the nature and strength of the threat to the UK has also declined – by an even greater degree.

This paper argues for a sequential strategy for our defence posture.  First, we must prioritise the defence of the UK itself.  Second, is the security of our remaining sovereign territories.  Third, are our regional international obligations to NATO, which also makes the UK itself more secure.  Fourth, is our desire to participate in global intervention in partnership with our allies and global intervention by the UK acting alone.

Generally the current defence strategy meets the UK’s aspirations with the exception of a notable gap in anti-shipping and anti-submarine air power needed to protect our shipping lanes.  As this is a necessary part of the defence of the UK itself it should therefore warrant the highest priority.

When suggesting Options the starting point is the minimum necessary force level to achieve the UK’s defence objectives and this has been used to inform Option 1.  Both Land and Naval Commands are capable of meeting these minimum requirements with the budget and personnel numbers set out for them in Future Force 2020.  The same cannot be said for Air Command.  There is now a requirement to fly aircraft from both QE carriers, to re-establish a maritime patrol capability and expand the role of UCAVs.  At the same time there is pressure on the QRA role from a resurgent Russia and on-going demands in the Middle East.  This all means that Air Command will need additional financial resources and personnel even to meet its minimum necessary force levels.  This degree of support needs to be a major commitment in SDSR 2015.

Recommendation 1:  Air Command should be given additional resources out of the 1% real growth in the defence budget during this Parliament to operate 9 frontline Squadrons, 1 Maritime Patrol Squadron and double the number of UCAVs.

While Land Command does not require additional personnel to meet its minimum necessary force levels it does need to make changes to its overall structure.  The Army needs to be re-balanced by withdrawing 4 regular Adaptable Force Infantry Battalions and 1 reserve Infantry Battalion and re-allocating personnel to cavalry, artillery, signals, engineering and logistic support.  This will enable Land Command to commit a Brigade to long-term operations, field three full Divisions in a major crisis (including the capability to deploy the Challenger 2 main battle tanks held in storage) and bring back into frontline service the artillery and SAMs currently held in storage.

Recommendation 2:  the British Army should be restructured through the re-deployment of 2,280 regular and 360 reserve troops from infantry units to cavalry, artillery, signals, engineering and logistic support.

In addition to these major recommendations this report makes a whole series of recommendations to improve the use of existing forces and to buy new equipment.

Recommendation 3:  enhancements to existing defence capability should include:

  • Land Command developing plans to maintain 144 currently surplus Challenger 2 main battle tanks in storage for use by three Light Cavalry Regiments in the Adaptable Force
  • undertaking a Life Extension Programme for the 224 main battle tanks committed to the Reaction Force including replacing the gun and turret and so create a new Challenger 3 standard
  • completing the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme
  • beginning the conversion of 272 Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicles (of which 180 would be anti-armour guided missile variants)
  • upgrading 50 Apache WAH-64Ds to AH-64E standard
  • integrating Brimstone 2 anti-armour missiles on to Apache, Wildcat and Lynx helicopters and
  • Martlet lightweight air-to-surface missiles on its Wildcat helicopters.
  • Naval Command refitting HMS Ocean to take over from RFA Argus
  • upgrading 8 remaining Merlin HM1s to HMA2 standard
  • integrating Sea Venom anti-shipping missiles on to all 38 Merlin HMA2s
  • introducing ten AEW Crowsnest radars
  • upgrading the Aster 30 long-range SAM for an ABM role
  • integrating the Sea Ceptor short-range SAM on to all carriers, major amphibious ships, destroyers and frigates and
  • equipping all Type 45 destroyers with Harpoon anti-shipping missiles.
  • Air Command upgrading all tranche 2 and 3 Typhoons with Captor E-Scan AESA radar and 76 of them with conformal fuel tanks
  • integrating the Meteor Beyond Visual Range AAM on to all Typhoons, any F-16s and all Hawks
  • integrating Brimstone 2 anti-armour missiles on the Typhoon, F-35 and Protector UCAV
  • modernising tranche 1 Typhoons with a more basic AESA radar
  • enabling Typhoons assigned to air defence to carry six Meteor BVRAAMs plus four ASRAAMs
  • developing a more manoeuvrable version of ASRAAM able to intercept air-to-air missiles
  • introducing an Extended Range anti-shipping capable version of Storm Shadow
  • equipping existing Hawk T2s with a basic AESA radar.

Recommendation 4:  procurement orders required to maintain an effective minimum necessary defence (Option 1) should include:

  • Land Command ordering 649 Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles to equip six Armoured Cavalry Regiments and nearly all Reconnaissance Troops and Platoons
  • 1,014 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles to replace the aged Bulldog and the limited Mastiff plus 46 armoured ambulance variants
  • introducing the remaining Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
  • 24 Land Ceptor short-range SAM launchers
  • developing a Brimstone 3 ground launched medium-range anti-armour missile
  • ordering 328 wheeled Common Support Vehicle to replace Land Ceptor SAM launch vehicles, Stormer Starstreak SAM vehicles, Warthog UAV support vehicles and Wolfhound vehicles for towed artillery
  • replacing Land Rovers and Pinzgauers with up to 4,000 MRV(P)s and
  • preparing for the replacement of the remaining Lynx, Bell 212 and Puma helicopters with either a medium sized helicopters such as the NH90, AW149 or EC725 or a combination of additional Wildcats and 14 Chinooks.
  • Naval Command introducing the two QE class aircraft carriers
  • receiving the remaining Astute class attack submarines
  • introducing the Type 26 frigate into service
  • equipping all Type 26 frigates with TLAM cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-shipping missiles
  • adding the VL-ASROC anti-submarine missile to the ASW variant of the Type 26 frigate
  • the Aster 30 long-range SAM to the general purpose variant of the Type 26 frigate
  • ordering 3 MARS solid replenishment ships to support the carrier groups and
  • receiving 3 offshore patrol vessels.
  • Air Command receiving the remaining tranche 3 Typhoons
  • 64 F-35B Lightning IIs
  • ordering 12 long-range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, probably the P-8 Poseidon or Kawasaki P-1
  • evaluating the effectiveness of the Triton UAV and a Sea Protector UCAV
  • introducing 20 long-range Protector UCAVs
  • developing a Meteor B to fit in the internal weapons bay of an F-35
  • developing SPEAR 3 medium-range cruise missile for the F-35 and Typhoon and
  • replacing remaining Hawk T1s with a mixture of 30 secondhand F-16s and 14 new Hawk 200s or 44 Hawk 200s all equipped with a basic AESA radar.

The list of enhancements, upgrades and orders for new equipment is very long.  However, the procurement budget has been increased dramatically.  There was £42.8 billion allocated to services but uncommitted to projects at the start of 2015, a further £10 billion unallocated to services and a £4.6 billion contingency.

In An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25’ below it is clear that there is enough funding to support production orders for all four Options outlined in this report.  If the projects outlined can be kept to budget there is a potential underspend of £1.6 billion.  If £700 million of this were re-allocated from procurement to current spending at the rate of £100 million per year from 2018/19 it would go a long way to funding an enhanced defence capability.

Recommendation 5:  re-allocate £100 million per year from the equipment budget to current spending in each year starting from 2018/19 to fund as many as possible of the enhanced capabilities listed in Options 2-4.

SDSR Option 2
Land Command Equip all Adaptable Force Infantry Battalions with Mechanised Infantry Vehicles
Naval Command As Option 1 but with a new LHD helicopter carrier
Air Command Operate 9.33 frontline and 12.66 fast jet combat Squadrons with 6 F-35B Squadrons

Additional procurement totals 540 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles, 38 F-35Bs, 1 LHD helicopter carrier and 24 Ajax vehicles.  Refurbish an additional 48 Guided ABSVs.


SDSR Option 3
Land Command As Option 2 but retain all Lynx AH9As
Naval Command As Option 2 but retain 3 River class 1 offshore patrol vessels
Air Command Operate 10.33 frontline and 13.66 fast jet combat Squadrons with 6 F-35B Squadrons

Additional procurement totals 540 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles, 38 F-35Bs, 1 LHD helicopter carrier and 24 Ajax vehicles.  Refurbish an additional 48 Guided ABSVs and 2 Merlin HMA2s.


SDSR Option 4
Land Command As Option 3 but refurbish an additional 16 Apache AH2s
Naval Command As Option 2 but retain three Type 23 frigates
Air Command Operate 11.33 frontline and 14.66 fast jet combat Squadrons with 6 F-35B and eventually 2 F-35A Squadrons

Additional procurement totals 540 Mechanised Infantry Vehicles, 38 F-35Bs, 36 F-35As, 1 LHD helicopter carrier, 8 Merlin HMA2s and 24 Ajax vehicles.  Refurbish an additional 48 Guided ABSVs, 16 Apache AH2s and 2 Merlin HMA2s.


Appendix 4: An Abundance of Riches, MoD Procurement 2015-25

“An Abundance of Riches” is an accurate description of the growing size of the equipment procurement budget.  This analysis illustrates that the existing procurement budget should be sufficient to afford all four of the Options outlined above.

This assessment is based on the MoD’s defence equipment plan 2014 which can be found here

The MoD report provides plenty of detail that can be used to assess the state of the procurement budget by service.  To get an accurate picture of the procurement position in SDSR 2015 there remains one important caveat.  The figures in this report are already twelve months old so to get the true picture we have to remove the numbers for 2014/15 and add in estimates for 2024/25 based on repeating the figures for 2023/24.

For each budget heading this analysis examines the ‘Equipment Procurement (Uncommitted)’ figure.  As the report is a year old we need to include the contracts that have been signed in the last twelve months.  The budget headings below are those used on pages 18-31 but have been re-ordered for the largest to go first:

Submarines – £19.1 billion in Uncommitted Equipment Procurement

Included in this are boats 5-7 of the Astute class but the vast majority of this huge total is the Trident Successor Programme and the maintenance of the nuclear deterrent.  Under the last government this remained ‘uncommitted’ due to the politics of the Coalition.  As this is the MoD’s largest procurement project it provides the greatest risk to the overall budget and will require the closest management.  However, any cost overruns can be controlled by delaying in-service entry and should not present a threat to the project as a whole.  The Submarines budget is therefore fully committed.

Land Equipment – £8.9 billion in Uncommitted Equipment Procurement

Included in this are contracts of £3.5 billion for Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles and £1.3 billion for the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme.  There’s now a separate budget heading for the Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle adaptation of the Warrior set initially at £100 million for 65 APCs and ambulances.  Coming up is the Challenger 2 Life Extension Programme to cost £700 million for a basic upgrade and a new amphibious all-terrain vehicle for the Royal Marines at a cost of £230 million.  Then there’s the Mechanised Infantry Vehicle.  An order for 1,014 could replace the Bulldog and Mastiff and so equip the majority of Infantry Battalions.  For an 8×8 wheeled vehicle such as VBCI or Piranha V that would cost about £3 billion.  The Land Equipment budget is therefore fully committed.

Ships – £6.5 billion in Uncommitted Equipment Procurement

Included in this is the contract of £350 million for Offshore Patrol Vessels.  Coming up is the start of the Type 26 programme.  Even with budget growth it’s unlikely that the cost of this will rise above £2.5 billion before 2025.  There is also a requirement for three MARS solid replenishment ships, if they are tendered for commercially that should keep the cost under £500 million.  Finally, there’s a requirement to replace RFA Argus.  If this can’t be done by refitting HMS Ocean then a new ship will be required – if the Royal Navy bought one of the French Mistral’s or a similar ship it should cost no more than £500 million.

Even after taking into account all of these items there’s still £2.6 billion uncommitted.  In the long-term there will be a need for new amphibious ships and the replacement of a whole range of smaller ships but neither of these is necessary prior to 2025.  A total of £2.6 billion could therefore be returned to Central Provision to be allocated for the F-35B and Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

Combat Air and Air Support – £6.3 billion in Uncommitted Equipment Procurement

Included in this are the contracts of £2.6 billion for 14 F-35Bs including support requirements, £500 million for new basic and elementary training aircraft, £300 million for the development and integration of Captor E-scan radar and £200 million for Brimstone 2 integration and the development of a common weapons launcher for the Typhoon.  Coming up is the order to bring the number of F-35Bs up to 48 as committed to in SDSR 2010 (this could be as much as £2.4 billion), a further £300 million on manufacture of the Captor E-scan radar and £300 million for 20 new long-range Protector UCAVs.  With the initial work on the new Typhoon radar being paid from underspending in 2013 this means that the Air budgets are fully committed.

Helicopters – £2 billion in Uncommitted Equipment Procurement

Included in this are the £500 million contract for Crowsnest radar for Merlin helicopters and coming up soon is a requirement for new helicopter trainers which could cost £200 million.  There is up to £1 billion available to purchase 50 new Apache AH-64E attack helicopters or upgrade all 66 existing Apache WAH-64D attack helicopters, £200 million to upgrade eight more Merlin HM1s to HM2 standard and a further £100 million to integrate Brimstone 2 on to the Apache and the Army’s Wildcats and Lynx’s.  In addition there could be a further £100 million for integrating Sea Venom on to Merlin’s and Martlet on to the Army’s Wildcats.  That leaves £400 million to replace the Bell 212 and Special Forces’ Lynx AH9As with either 16 additional Wildcats or a new medium sized helicopter.  As the Crowsnest radar is also being paid from the 2013 underspend this means the Helicopters budget is fully committed.

Unallocated Headroom and Central Provision – £10 billion

Effectively, the budgeting here has covered all of the outstanding commitments from SDSR 2010 plus there’s a surplus from the Ships budget of £2.6 billion that can be re-allocated.

Altogether that gives a total of £12.6 billion in uncommitted equipment procurement that can be allocated in SDSR 2015.  If required funding up to Option 4 is achievable by 2024/25 with:

  • £2.4 billion out of a total order of £4.3 billion for an additional 54 F-35s.  Ordered at a rate of 12 per year from 2020 the total numbers would reach 102 in 2026.  This assumes a unit cost of £80 million which could be less as the production rate accelerates;
  • £3.6 billion for 12 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (including a replacement for Sentinel R1) as well as up to 12 maritime UAVs;
  • £350 million out of a total order of up to £1.1 billion for the replacement of remaining Lynx and Puma helicopters with either 38 medium sized helicopters such as the NH90, AW149 or EC725 or a combination of an extra 14 Wildcats and 14 Chinooks;
  • £300 million out of a total order of £1.7 billion for a further 540 MIVs and 46 armoured ambulances to replace all other remaining infantry vehicles in the Adaptable Force by 2029;
  • £650 million to develop and order a total of 328 wheeled Common Support Vehicles to replace Land Ceptor SAM launch vehicles, Stormer Starstreak SAM vehicles, Warthog UAV support vehicles and Wolfhound vehicles for towed artillery.  This could be a turretless variant of the Utility Vehicle;
  • £650 million to replace the remaining 44 Hawk T1s with a variant of the Hawk 200 and/or secondhand F-16s;
  • £600 million for the conversion of an additional 255 ABSVs, with 228 of the total equipped to carry medium-range guided anti-armour missiles;
  • £600 million for 121 basic AESA radars for tranche 1 Typhoons, any F-16s and all Hawks plus Meteor integration on tranche 1 Typhoons, any F-16s and all Hawks;
  • £500 million for a new gun and turret to increase the effectiveness of 224 main battle tanks and upgrade them to Challenger 3 standard;
  • £450 million for an additional 84 Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicles;
  • £400 million for up to 4,000 MRV(P)s;
  • £350 million for 8 new Merlin HMA2s;
  • £100 million to fit 76 tranche 3 and 2 Typhoons with conformal fuel tanks and;
  • £50 million for the refurbishment of two additional Merlin HMA2s.

This still leaves £1.6 billion left uncommitted in Central Provision.

Also, if the whole MIV purchase was spread evenly across the decade from 2020 to 2030 it would reduce the cost of this programme by £950 million up to 2024/25.

And then there’s £4.6 billion in the contingency reserve as well!

The Major Projects in 2015-25 spending over £1 billion each are:

  1. £14.4 billion Trident Successor Programme
  2. £7.4 billion F-35B Lightning II
  3. £4.7 billion Astute attack submarine
  4. £3.95 billion Ajax specialist reconnaissance vehicle
  5. £3.6 billion Maritime Multi-Mission Project
  6. £3.3 billion Mechanised Infantry Vehicle
  7. £2.5 billion Type 26 frigate
  8. £2 billion Warrior Capability Sustainment and Armoured Battlefield Support Vehicle
  9. £1.2 billion Challenger 3 Life Extension Programme
  10. £1.15 billion additional Typhoon enhancement
  11. £1 billion Attack Helicopter Capability Sustainment Programme.



The rest of the series

1 – Introduction

2 – Defence of the UK

3 – Other Sovereign Territories

4 – NATO

5 – A Southern or Middle Eastern Threat

6 – An Eastern and Northern Threat

7 – Global Intervention

8 – Land Command 2025; Appendix 1 – Army 2025

9 – Naval Command 2025; Appendix 2 – Royal Navy 2025

10 – Air Command 2025; Appendix 3 – RAF 2025

11 – Conclusion – The Options for Change; Appendix 4 – An Abundance of Riches: MoD Procurement 2015-25

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Senior Moment
Senior Moment
October 18, 2015 9:57 am

I must admit I have enjoyed Andy’s articles- I especially liked the mention of the Hawk 200, which could perform a lot of duties as well as acting as a reserve aircraft.

October 18, 2015 10:24 am

This series does seem to demonstrate that there is the money to fund neccessary growth- the only caveats I can see are whole-life operating costs and the cyberwar thingy.

….I have always liked the Hawk 200- not the fastest, but certainly manoeuvrable enough- a workmanlike little aircraft, with a useful warload too. I’ve always wondered at the RAF not fitting all the Hawks (and Tucanoes) for an offensive role, in extremis.

….Mind you, not sure what the war-role of the Viking would be….

October 18, 2015 10:54 am

I have also enjoyed it despite some aspects of ‘fantasy fleet. that even outdo mine. The problem with all this in my view is that there is fundamentally a lack of political will, even amongst the government, to square the circle between expectations of our forces, threats and appropriate manning / equipment / force structures. I hope SDSR 15 will start to address this. There is a lot of good stuff going on and QE, T26, Scout, F35 (and others) are exceptionally important projects but fundamentally, aside from filling manning gaps my three strands would be – restructure the adaptable force into a smaller number of effective fighting brigades, recapitalise the RN to be properly be able to support 2 active carriers – DD/FF numbers increased by 3-5 and SSN by 1 and Mars SSS, and most importantly recapitalise combat air / MPA / Istar in the RAF; c250 combat jets, including carrier contingent. I think (as this is from fundamentally a navy supporter), its the RAF where the major calls will be on in the medium term and thus where the investment should be focussed.

October 18, 2015 11:00 am

I don’t like the ‘arm the Hawk’ argument, or buy cheap F16s. Equally, commonality aside, I don’t like the all the eggs in one basket approach – what is Typhoon was grounded? If we’d had our time again I’d have found a place for Grippen (lots of UK elements) as a 2 seat advanced trainer and a single seat Jaguar type CAS / secondary air defence fighter. But that won’t happen will it?

October 18, 2015 11:11 am

Great series, very interesting. Thank you.

October 18, 2015 11:17 am

Not sure I agree on this “F-16” concept, we don’t need another full parts line to take care of, and with so little training fleet as is, trying to force the Hawk into a role it’s not meant for is going to cause severe spread issues.

I’d drop both those plans and instead work on getting that paltry amount of F-35’s up higher. 64 isn’t even enough to fully equip both carriers with their full stock of 36 fighters, let alone have spares, training, other duty and whatnot. It takes the French 40 Rafale to maintain 23 for the CdG, which indicates we’d need somewhere more in the region of 100-140 F-35 to permit the carriers to be able to operate at twin full capacity at a moment’s notice.

I’d also wonder about some of the things that don’t seem to take into account integration sense. Aster-30 is not capable of being fired from Mk41 silos, so Type 26 would have to be re-equipped with Sylver A50s on some of the general purpose ones, which removes their general purpose ability entirely as they’ll no longer have silos for TLAM. Furthermore, the Type 26 has no-where it can launch Harpoons from, so that wouldn’t work at all. It has no hull space and Harpoons aren’t vertical launched. It’d be better to look at the Naval Strike Missile, which can be both rack and silo launched to fit on both T26 and T45, as well as giving the Royal Navy a proper ASM, given Harpoon is really a bit “last gen.”

Not sure why you want to mix AMRAAM and Meteor though. Meteor is quantatively superior and reducing to just the single missile would solve having to buy two sets.

Keeping Ocean over Argus is actually a fantastic idea, one I hadn’t ever thought of.

Stu W
October 18, 2015 2:26 pm

Trident Successor Programme – why can’t we have some tubes allocated for TLAM. Say 4 tubes packed with 7 Tomahawk(or replacement) not a bad bit on conventional punch if needed. Cheaper than tube launched also.

October 18, 2015 3:11 pm

“Trident Successor Programme – why can’t we have some tubes allocated for TLAM. Say 4 tubes packed with 7 Tomahawk(or replacement) not a bad bit on conventional punch if needed. Cheaper than tube launched also.”

Because the SSBN Successor sub that was at any given time tasked with the nuclear deterrent role could never fire those TLAMs because it would compromise its role as the currently active deterrent sub by potentially revealing its location. I doubt HMG would be willing to compromise the deterrent in this way even in extreme circumstances, or at least not in any circumstance less extreme than being at nuclear war already.

One could perhaps argue that there might still be incremental value if, in extreme non-nuclear circumstances, one of the 3 SSBNs not currently allocated to carrying the deterrent could, if in a state to be deployed at reasonable notice, be loaded with TLAM to be tasked in a conventional role. That is also assuming that it could return to the SSBN role in time to ensure the continuity of the deterrent is not compromised. Even then, using a Successor class sub to launch a conventional attack might not be welcomed since it potentially gives additional intelligence to allow an enemy to attribute previously unidentified sensor readings to a Successor-class sub whereas if Successor never knowingly does anything to reveal its location short of firing its ICBMs it minimises the opportunity for an enemy to collect data about it (particularly sensor signatures).

October 18, 2015 4:09 pm

Great set of articles Andy, the conclusion bringing it all together. Clearly there is ample budget it is the MOD’s lack of planning and commitment as well as poor scheduling that is a core contributor to small orders of expensive items – it has been noted several times in the comments how initial orders were for one volume threshold, only to be cut dramatically at great cost (Carrier extension and T45 – lets not go into FRES).

Its now time to get fleet management first and foremost and to buy new kit on a regular basis instead of waiting for the the gilded lily solution.

A point I would raise is that with correct scheduling and consistency of spend we can sustain our industries in a small but important manner.

Thanks Andy

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
October 18, 2015 7:01 pm

I’ve enjoyed the series, but some of it has been overtaken by events. The Challenger 2s “in storage” have mostly been stripped and smelted, for example.

Stu W
October 18, 2015 8:04 pm
Reply to  Julian

@Julian – I’m no expert on the matter, but if what your saying is correct makes me wonder why the US converted some of the their Ohios to SSGN’s. Surely signatures are the same. Shame though block IV Tomahawk is also getting anti-ship capability as I understand, although by the time successor is built it would son of Tomahawk. Nevertheless 1 SSGN (switch able to SSBN) would really up our conventional strike capability.

Peter Elliott
October 18, 2015 8:14 pm

Common Missile Compartment should technically permit a swing role bomber.

The arithmetic of 4 boats also theoretically allows it at times that none of the other 3 are in deep refit.

But Im not sure UK doctrine would go down that line: it erodes the logic of having a 4 boat fleet; the crew training needs are different; and you potentially expose the boat to unfriendly eyes (or worse) by taking into waters where it otherwise would never go.

October 18, 2015 8:33 pm

Andy, thanks for all the effort and time to post this series, whilst I do not agree with everything I respect what you’ve put into it.

For me it goes back to the fact that whilst the 2% GDP commitment was welcome, it was basically stopping the rot in defence rather than reversing it. As such, the UK still needs to have a fundamental review of the way it approaches defence in general – everything else is just window dressing (and to quote TD, “all fur and no knickers”).

The world is a more dangerous and fragmented place. Regional powers are increasingly on the ascendency, and the old world super powers on the decline. Whilst Russia is no longer a superpower, it is still a regional power and is getting more dangerous. China on the other hand is flexing its muscles not only in its region, but also using it influence to support players in other regions. The US in contrast is on the wane and has started its slow retreat from global affairs as it realises it can no longer counter the strong regional players emerging.

Where does the UK fit in all of this? How does it maximise its influence in a world where blindly committing itself to the US (and be its #2) no longer has the sway it once had? How does it keep its global ambition where each conflict / region requires a new set of alliances? How does it ensure its security, even in a possible scenario where it is isolated from other EU members?

The answer in my mind is to stay relevant and stay engaged. Playing the global game, without the clout to see it through (as in Afghanistan and Iraq) is a sure way to decline; but can be done even with the limited funds available. The key, is to not try to do everything. Any strategy, should still allow the UK to lead and in extreme act independently, as it’s more important (not less) that UK can engage in world affairs without the straight jacket of EU / NATO / UN consensus if needed.

This is why I am convinced that a purple maritime global strategy is the only way for the UK, based around 3 carrier / amphibious groups able to strike anywhere in the world with first class air and land forces. It does mean redirecting funds from fighting “large scale” global ground wars of course, but what’s the point of pretending…

shark bait
October 18, 2015 9:07 pm

“Even after taking into account all of these items there’s still £2.6 billion uncommitted. In the long-term there will be a need for new amphibious ships and the replacement of a whole range of smaller ships but neither of these is necessary prior to 2025. A total of £2.6 billion could therefore be returned to Central Provision to be allocated for the F-35B and Maritime Patrol Aircraft.”

Cant agree there, any additional funding for surface ships should be allocated to the type 26 program. The royal navy is at a tipping point and needs more frigates to sustain its self as a credible global force. The RN could operate 20 T26 with no change in crew numbers from the T23 fleet. Therefore if there are any resources available there should be a push to build and operate close to 20 frigates.

Some of the suggestions for using that mystical 10 billion are valid suggestions, however I would suggest we need a large head room to ensure all current projects can be completed without unit reductions down the line.

October 19, 2015 2:16 pm

The Royal Navy looks very thin, 7 Astutes is close to being a non viable (terms of crew progression, numbers available etc.) submarine force, just 13 max Type 26s is not enough. I would like to see a small force of conventionally armed and powered submarines numbering 6 (built under licence or even abroad) and 17 Type 26s . probably not posssible. For the RAF 8 Typhoon squadrons (5 air defence, and 3 swing role), 2 F35A squadrons, plus RN 3 F35B squadrons. In the end there probably isn’t the cash , yet Japan seems to do so much better with larger forces and on less exependiture, what can we learn from them?

Peter Elliott
October 19, 2015 2:34 pm

Readiness and logistics cost a lot. Japan’s Self Defence Forces have been about as far from expeditionary as it’s possible to be. It will be interesting to see if they can sustain their current mass and scale if and when they start to deploy significant forces at range.

Which is not to say we can’t do better. A lot of the salami slicing from 1998-2010 was the result of poor cash management and overheated procurement programmes. Fingers crossed we are past that and will start to get more VFM as a result of not dicking around with quantities at the wrong stage of the process.

Peter Elliott
October 19, 2015 2:36 pm

A split buy of F35 at boutique quantities would however be madness: the lessons of Harrier 2 wilfully ignored.

Peter Elliott
October 19, 2015 2:42 pm

Nor will we get any more attack subs until after Successor. At that time there could possibly be an argument for Barrow to build a small run of AIP SSK before moving back to SSN. But it seems more likely to be an ‘Evolved Astute’ with a CMC to allow vertical launch of more and different cruise missiles. If we’re lucky built at a tempo that allows the number of in service SSN to creep back up toward 10.

October 19, 2015 3:23 pm

This set of articles has certainly stimulated a debate and for me the 2 key elements are that you have set out a bare minimum against a fairly standard set of logic and that it would seem better to do something well rather than everything half baked.

With a clear procurement strategy of say 25 years that is committed to and delivered we can start to increase the volume of assets and get out of the spiral of doom that is short term purchasing allied to expensive sustainability programmes.

Surely it is our duty to give our guys the best and newest kit that we can afford, if not you can hardly blame people for not wanting to join the military.

In the business world accountants talk about Capex/Opex and Personnel costs. It needs to become far more transparent what the 160bn 10 year capital expenditure plan includes as it seems to me that everything we want are getting and have is in it which just cannot be. If we assume a 16bn annual Capital expenditure budget that should be split around 6bn RAF, 4bn Army, 5bn Navy and 1bn other (i.e. Cyber CnC SFG). this means that there is circa 2bn for consumables (bullets and missiles), 2bn for estate management and £15bn for personnel. This does not seem bad and actually with more vision I believe the capital budgets could be reduced to around 14bn and the money put into personnel. The key here is that we need to spend this money year in year out and to ensure industry buy in and best prices.

October 19, 2015 3:34 pm

@rec @peterE
Yes, Japanese air SDF is (almost) purely an “air defense” force. We still use 40 F-4EJ (modified with APG-66, i.e. F-16A ADF comparable), 100 F-15C/D pre-MSIP (no AMRAAM, but Sparrow). We have another 100 F-15 and 90 F-2 with AIM-4A/B (ARH AAM) or AMRAAMs.

What we lack is land-attack capability (only JDAM), which is pretty expensive.

But F-2 (and F-4) can operate ASMs. We are island nation. Our air force is “self defense force”. No expenditure. No attacking other nations land. Thus, logical conclusion : AAMs and ASMs are our main armament.

I am not sure it is good or bad, but I know this is what it is.

October 19, 2015 4:48 pm

Increase RN wages to boost recruitment to firstly man current platforms properly. Those starting salaries just aren’t good enough, should be 21k rating and 25k officer from the get-go.

Then we can play fantasy fleet.

October 19, 2015 5:47 pm

Surely just some slight incremental changes in numbers would be big start . Keep the Tranche 1 Typhoons flying , JSF to 60 , type 26 order to 18-20 and makes sure every platform is equipped with and not fitted for.

Finally Increase the size of front line army units by 5-10% to make up for the past idiocy.

Jeremy M H
October 19, 2015 6:15 pm
Reply to  Tim UK/USA

So your idea of an incremental change is to increase the size of the Air Force and Navy by roughly 25-40% in terms of frontline combat strength?


shark bait
October 19, 2015 7:01 pm

Elliott, agree with you view on split buy of F35, madness.

I also agree with you comments on SSN, I think its important we build up our fleet, however the build schedule make it impossible. Instead I would like the see an SSK type explored. They could extend and compliment our sub surface fleet considerably. Far from being a cheap alternative, they can now be a very powerful asset. However building them in the UK seems very difficult, instead I would propose a cooperation with ze’germans, we could build them some T26 hulls, and they could build is so!e of their excellent type 212’s

Jeremy M H
October 19, 2015 7:12 pm

What strategic need do SSKs now fill for the RN. What is their mission set and what do they do?

shark bait
October 19, 2015 8:36 pm

@Jeremy, I think that is a very interesting question. I was once dead against the idea of SSK’s, but after exploring the topic a bit, I now more amenable to the idea.

I think examining the roles is a good place to start. SSN’s are great weapons, particularly great for deploying anywhere in the world, in complete secrecy. An SSK has to be used differently due to 3 week endurance VS 3 month endurance of and SSN. Instead an SSK is better at operating close to base, popping in-between protected and contested waters.

Now you could say there is a strategic need for more subs, but building more Astute’s is economically impossible. The plan is to have 7 SSN with 4 available for use. We can assume two in UK waters, one protecting trident, and possibly another around Scotland/Iceland/Russia. We can assume another two off doing the long range, super secret stuff that SSN’s excel at, one “east of Suez” and another off on super secret business.

I would propose a modest fleet of SSK (Gotland or T212) to take over the UK stuff, trident protection and GIUK gap stuff, where they will be able to excell. This potentially frees up 2 Astutes for global deployments, significantly increasing the reach of the Royal Navy, and the power of the UK to protect its interest anywhere in the world. You could potentially double the Astute’s effect with a small SSK fleet.

Its just a suggestion, but its a talking point that I think is very interesting and worth exploring

Jeremy M H
October 19, 2015 9:13 pm
Reply to  shark bait

I think people vastly overestimate the ability of an SSK to sanitize an area of space for a boomer to transit through. I think their ability to work in the GIUK gap is a bit overrated as well. When backed by a big fleet of SSN sure. But by themselves they just have what is effectively no mobility when dealing with large volumes of space.

Look at how drastically the range drops on an AIP boat if you try to move at even just 10 knots. Just going from 4 knots to 8 knots you lose basically 2,500 nautical miles from the 3,000 nautical mile range of the thing underwater. And that speed is only of marginal utility against any target not basically closing directly for you.

SSK’s are mobile smart mine fields. They can be relocated and then sit in one place. They can move around some to make finding them difficult. But they can’t run down a task force at sea. They can’t sweep an area of advance if something is moving into it at 15 knots. They are simply too slow.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
October 20, 2015 3:06 am

I think the main advantage of AIP boats, apart from their lower cost, is their stealth. They are said to be very quiet indeed, so I would imagine that their primary use would be intelligence gathering, surveillance and SF type work. I believe that they also proved rather more successful than expected in exercises with the USN, again, primarily, because of their stealth. They may not have the speed and range of nuclear boats, but I would think that a large part of the European and Mediterranean coastline is within range. We might also be able to forward base them in countries that might get twitchy over hosting a nuclear-powered boat.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 7:56 am

ACP – but looking at how many of our allies have got, and are investing in, top notch SSK is it really worth us splashing the cash for “me too”.

Any cash we do have to invest in subs would be better spent maximising the utility and value of our world class and uncommon SSN capability.

If we really really need SSK for a mission I guess we dial Germany or Spain or Australia or Japan…

shark bait
October 20, 2015 8:12 am

@Jeremy, It is true they aren’t as capable as an SSN, but as long as your not trying to operate them like an SSN, I feel that OK. I quite like your description “SSK’s are mobile smart mine fields” and I think there is some utility in that. Clearly you need numbers to cover area, but they are cheaper so numbers are achievable.

Do you think a modest fleet (say seven boats) along side other assets such as frigates and an MPA, could create a credible layered defense to UK waters? IMHO that seems reasonable.

shark bait
October 20, 2015 8:19 am

@Perer Elliott, the point of maximizing the utility of our fantastic Astute’s is a great one. They are something we could so with more of, however the economics simply don’t allow it.

@APC, That highlights the differences well. I those differences could be exploited quite well to provide a stealthy localized defense, versus the Astute’s which are capable of a global defense. No doubt operators also have more novel uses for such assets in littoral environments or with special forces for example.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 10:07 am

Shark bait, I would say that once Successor is built the economics of maintaining industrial capacity at Barrow and at RR will actually demand we build a further two SSN designs numbering a minimum of 10 boats over the following 20 years. As such an incremental increase in manning to operate a 10 boat SSN fleet looks like the best value, lowest cost way of staying in the strategic sub business.

October 20, 2015 10:23 am


The current nuclear submarine build schedule is set up to avoid just that. The last Astute will commission in 2024 and the first successor boat is supposed to be 2027 with last in 2032 by Which time Astute will have been in service for 22 years and her reactor active (including shut downs) for 23. The reactor core is designed for a 25 year life span, meaning Astute’s replacement can follow the last successor boat on basically the same build schedule as the UK has been running since the Astute programme began (very approximately one every 2.5 years) in 2034/35.

Obviously we are gazing 20 years into the future and things can change but thats basically the current set-up.

October 20, 2015 10:45 am


i dont trust any British government to take the ‘strategic’ view of any industry. The steel industry is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons and PM is only forced into a response because of this, left to economics he would happily leave UK steel industry to the invisible hand. As others have noted HM government are also willing to have the next generation nuclear plants financed by China to a French design … and the vast potential of tidal power [Swansea Bay Lagoon], which could bolster our ‘strategic’ energy industry, is delayed once more as they wrangle over details [including the impact it might have on fish] …

So, no, I’m not confident there is a done deal on a steady drumbeat of submarines heading into a strategic sunset…

October 20, 2015 11:01 am


See my post above. Also, UK steel industry is in trouble because there is too much steel on global markets. If you want to keep it you have to subsidise it one way or another. My personal suggestion is Angel of the North sized steel statues of Margaret Thatcher for every town and city in the UK.

October 20, 2015 11:16 am

always enjoy reading your input Hohum …

The thing is with steel, as in many of these types of industry, is that there might be ‘too much’ steel now, in the short run, but that can change in the ‘long run’ [or, if you like, another ‘short run’ in the future]. However, If we respond to the short term vicissitudes, now, and allow our plants to close down, then in the future it will not be just a matter of turning them back on, when, as it will, the world market conditions change [factories become derelict, workforce skills fade, technical expertise lost blah blah blah] … to smooth-out this merry-go-round would be to take a ‘strategic’ decision … so, yes, perhaps plenty of statues though not sure I agree with your first choice of bust ;)

October 20, 2015 12:12 pm

Indeed trying to hold on to what ought to be seen as a strategic industrial capability is the right thing. I find constant soundbites of “The Gov’t is doing everything it can” both hollow and annoying – clearly there is more that could be done, from tweaking rates tax and energy costs all the way over to outright nationalisation – for a parallel look at the East Coast Main Line which I believe was adopted by the Gov’t as a temporary measure until a new franchisee came along. And it operated at a profit. And the sky did not fall.

As I understand the technology, Western European (and American?) steel is recognised as a more consistent and better product; I recall not that many years back being told to avoid specific steel products ‘because they used cheap Asian steel’ and because of that they would ‘corrode & crack’ far faster. Something to do with the care with which the components were boiled in the Converters, the accuracy of the iron, carbon and other elements proportions, and the rigour & quality of the milling process thereafter. Get it right and the result is a strong and absolutely uniform material; get it wrong and the effect is like streaky-bacon with a patchwork of different quality steels that not only try to behave differently to external stresses (mechanical/thermal/chemical) but also crack on the boundaries between the different materials and corrode in the cracks.

Sadly I fear what we are seeing in the UK’s steelworks is the result of ‘efficiency’. We are told over and over again we must become more efficient in everything we do. For efficient, read lower cost. These are not the same, but businesses hate being truthful about doing stuff on the cheap. In the race for steelwork efficiency I will bet that staffing has been cut to the point where there is no contingency, that plant maintenance has gone from preventative scheduled maintenance to a ‘fix it when it breaks’ mentality (with the repair teams being bullied to get stuff fixed by whatever shortcut gets production going with the least delay), that replacing old past-it equipment was delayed until there was no alternative, that anything not related to throughput of product was entirely neglected. Clearly such a path is minimum cost in the short term but never going to make a robust business. I would be amazed if investigations show Redcar or the Tata plants (outside South Wales) are fully maintained state-of-the-art modern plants. Lack of investment looks positive in the accounts but can only ever be short-termism.

But then, why should Tata (an Indian company) or SSI (a Thai company) – or Daewoo or Hyundai or any other non-UK industrial corporation – pile investment into UK if they can make more money elsewhere? Its just not in their interest.

It *is* in the interest of the UK that we retain the basic industrial skills we rely on, or else we become entirely at the mercy of other nations – no option than to pay whatever price is demanded to keep our lifeblood imports flowing. Whether steelmaking, or mining, or foundrywork, or machine shops, or agriculture or brickmaking or fishing fleets or electronics or design houses (engineering not graphic), there should be a concerted drive to make UK capabilities robust. With the best will in the world, the industrialists, fishermen, designers, farmers and engineers can’t make this happen without genuine long term rational and purposeful Government action.

The alternative is that the nation degenerates into a populace of smartphone junkies incapable of looking after themselves, burning out the remainder of the national wealth buying glitzy trinkets like wot famous people’s got. I for one do not want to live in a nation branded fat & worthless.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 12:17 pm

Hohum – I get that bit – but after we have spat out 7 Astute replacements what then? It will be too soon the replace the Bombers again. Either we build more SSN or we accept a gap, with all the risks to industrial capability that entials.

Of course building more SSN doesn’t mean we crew and operate them. Like the Batch 3 Rivers we could choose to just keep withdrawing the oldest boat to keep 7 in service until the time comes round to build something else that we actually need.

October 20, 2015 12:28 pm


10 or 11 boats, build rate approximately one every 2.5 years, reactor core life approximately 25 years. End result, by the time we have spat out 7 Astute replacements it will in fact be time to replace the boomers. It will also then be pushing 2050 so who knows what will be happening by then.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 1:08 pm

Yeah that’s true – threat situation could be almost anything by then.

I suppose I’m basing my concern on the fact we designed and built a single 7 boat class between Vengeance and Successor. And that did give us a gap which didnt go well.

Two separate 5 boat classes on a 2 year drumbeat ought not to break the bank and would sustain both design and build capability rather better. But like you say it depends on threat.

October 20, 2015 1:12 pm

. Strategic Industrial Capacity. I second that, very well put.

shark bait
October 20, 2015 1:15 pm


After successor, the economics might allow us to to grow our sub fleet. But before there is no chance. Which is why I initially suggested an SSK.

Come 2030 when the astute replacement becomes a hot topic, there will be the opportunity to increase the build rate and increase the SSN fleet. Or as Hohum correctly states, carry on with 11 boats at the same steady drum beat. I think barrow is actually quite well set up.

Couldn’t help but chip in a little on the nuclear power plants. Its great the french and Chinese are paying for them.

October 20, 2015 1:21 pm


It was exactly the skills fade thing that lead to the concoction of the 10/11 boat, 25 year service life, 2.5 year between delivery construct.

October 20, 2015 2:31 pm
Reply to  Overseas

Seems the pay scales aren’t that far off your demands already…

Jeremy M H
October 20, 2015 2:41 pm
Reply to  shark bait

@shark and ACP

Certainly AIP subs have their successes and uses. I question what they are going to do for the RN though. Germany uses them for a relatively small Baltic coastline to worry about. In the Baltic they make some sense.

Away from there I don’t see it. They are undoubtedly dangerous. As they have proven in exercises if you run a carrier group right over one or if you restrict where it is operating they can and will kill ships. Them be the breaks in a war. But they have very limited mobility in all senses of the term.

Strategically if you want to move them from point to point you have to run the combustion engines to cover a good distance. And there are lots of ways to find subs doing that.

Operationally I can’t point at an AIP sub and say I need you to move 200 NM in this direction to get in front of fleet X because you don’t have the speed to do it. Again you can run your combustion engines but you better control the air around the sub before you do that. The same problem exist tactically. If I am forced to run at best speed for any reason my time under gets very short very quickly.

I think they are very limited, though highly effective in their niche, things. Australia for example I think is wasting money on theirs. It doesn’t suit their likely missions at all.

I think we all well get what they can do, but no one has really explained what they can do for the RN. Local defense of what? Against whom?

I see no way in which you are better off having 7 SSK VS another 3 SSN.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 2:58 pm

Yes logically Australia should long-lease either Virginias or Astutes. But they seem dead set against nuclear propulsion. Wonder how close the Chinese have to get before their thinking begins to change…?

Jeremy M H
October 20, 2015 4:10 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

Honestly I think it is because Australia has never really operated against hostile MPAs for the most part. That is what really kills the range and ability of AIP boats in a theater that big.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 4:12 pm

Interesting. And do the Chinese have and are they developing a top notch ASW MPA?

October 20, 2015 4:29 pm

Yes they are, Y-8Q.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 4:49 pm

Quick Wiki -fu suggests this is broadly comparable to the proposed SC130J Sea Hercules.

Should we presume that the Chinese favour ‘slow and low’ ASW as opposed to the HAASW of the P8?

To some extent it validates the idea that “Sea Atlas” might have a future: if only the Airbus partner nations were shopping for Atlantique/P3 replacements.

October 20, 2015 4:56 pm


Nope, you should presume that the Chinese are currently manufacturing only a small number of large airframe types and of all the potentially bad choices that was the least bad.

Peter Elliott
October 20, 2015 4:59 pm

80% Solution then ;)

Is TD on a consultancy contract with the PLA? ;)

October 20, 2015 5:56 pm

Never fear! RE
” should presume that the Chinese are currently manufacturing only a small number of large airframe types and of all the potentially bad choices that was the least bad”

The country that under Labour invited the the Ruskies to take samples of RR jet engine turbine blades (from the factory floor shavings, to come up with the Mig-15) is now under the Conservatives the most visionary country in the West as we are (?) going to ship the high-capacity aeroengine secrets to the East… so the last bits of the umbilical cord that still remain (from the Soviet/ Maoist days) as a dependency on Russia will be cut.

Of course there will be lots of rewards promised… Makes me think back and ask who were the idiots that gave the WTO gifts to China for free, without any mechanism in place to enforce what they promised actually being delivered from their side?

October 20, 2015 6:41 pm
Reply to  Allan

Depends on the role of course, but the starting salary for a naval rating is under 15k, which in a 40 hour working week is less than £7 p/h.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
October 21, 2015 7:36 pm

Just changing the subject slightly, but the Russians have now proven that they can build 2,500km range precision or near precision accurate conventionally armed cruise missiles and presumably have them in quantity, launchable from a variety of platforms. Is it realistically possible to defend the UK against this threat in any meaningful way? If not, is the RAF’s home defence role now confined to dealing with terrorists, drug smugglers and the like? Is it time to deploy a conventional deterrent employing similar missiles in a CASD posture?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
October 21, 2015 7:51 pm
Reply to  Chris Werb

The Russians have proven absolutely nothing of the sort. They claimed to have launched x from y hitting z. The key word is claimed.

October 21, 2015 8:19 pm

When CAMM-ER or CAMM(L) becomes operational we will have a way of dealing with Russian cruise missiles.

shark bait
October 22, 2015 8:53 am

@Hohum Elliot,

The Defence Sectary recently stated the new boats will have a “30 year life”, possibly the newer reactor will last longer.

If that is indeed the case that will change the build schedule as we were discussing.

shark bait
October 22, 2015 8:59 am

@Jeremy M H

I would say the protection of the UK is from the Ruski’s, and crucially guaranteeing a safe passage for our deterrent. If denial into those areas is not strong it starts to undermine the credibility of our very expensive deterrent.

“I see no way in which you are better off having 7 SSK VS another 3 SSN”
That probably holds true, but it’s just not economically feasible to get another 3 SSN for 25 years. If there is a need to boost our sub presence the only way to do it is through SSK’s to allow our SSN to be more flexible.

Peter Elliott
October 22, 2015 9:51 am

If the need were short term and urgent I’d say (a) request tasking of NATO allies (b) look to lease / buy in service SSK from allies (c) order new SSK from overseas yards.

Fact is the threat evident at the moment doesn’t appear to justify any of that. So we’re back to medium/long term. In which case upping the tempo from Barrow to gradually grow our own fleet back again is perfectly viable.

And I do forsee that a 7 boat build won’t be enough to preserve design and manufacture skills between SSBN renewals. So industrially a 10 SSN fleet with 2 designs in service at any one time appears to me to be required. And it’s a knockout war winning asset so why wouldn’t you?

shark bait
October 22, 2015 12:42 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

what do you mean by 2 designs in service? like now, with astute phasing out Trafalgar. Or 2 classes in transition as well and and extra class?

If its the latter it seems like and expensive business.

Jeremy M H
October 22, 2015 1:03 pm
Reply to  shark bait


Excepting the fact that an SSK will struggle badly to actually sanitize a route to open sea for an SSBN that makes a lot of sense. You could use one as a sort of check point to check for a trailer, but that can be accomplished with a fixed hydrophone array and an MPA just as well.

It is a simple geometry problem. You always run into the fact that you ability to move is limited.

Honestly it just seems like people want more seagoing billets to fill. Introducing these things would be an awful idea. The handful of times an Astute runs over one of these things will be trumpeted while there will be no mention of the huge number of scenarios where the SSK can’t even contemplate a mission due to its lack of mobility. Try dealing with that nonsense next time it comes time to renew your SSN fleet.

Ideally I would want the USN to have a handful of SSKs for places like the Persian Gulf. But it just isn’t worth the trouble.

Peter Elliott
October 22, 2015 1:08 pm

I mean like now.

Overall it might require a design cycle of 3 designs in 30 years to maintain design expertise. Building a boat every 2 years would then imply a live fleet of 11 SSN and 4 SSBN. Allow a bit of flex and say 10+4 actually in service.

Of those 10 at any one time you would potentially have two generations overlapping (not three). Exactly how many you build in each class would therefore depend on the age and condition of the oldest legacy boats.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
October 22, 2015 7:34 pm
Reply to  as

CAMM-L will be purchased in pitifully small quantities, doesn’t have much range – 20 miles or so. It won’t be permanently deployed in a defensive role and the radar coverage to cue it is essentially non existent around much of our coastline and over most of the UK mainland. CAMM-ER is vaporware and there is no commitment to buy it. The closest we have come to having any SAM coverage at all since 1992 is a few (3 each?) pedestal mounted Starstreaks and towed Rapiers around the Olympic site in 2012.

Peter Elliott
October 22, 2015 8:51 pm

Don’t see we need it on the UK mainland. Who’s going to be popping missiles off at us?

ABMD maybe – but that is probably best achieved by parking T45 and its successors somewhere off the coast. If anyone is planning to sneak up on us in a cruise missile sub we’d be better off tracking and sinking the sub. APATS has pointed out that the RN doesn’t ignore who’s put their subs to sea and what they might be up to.

If the threat does appear from France-gone-rogue then expect us to stock up on SAM accordingly ;)

October 30, 2015 3:32 am

“and re-allocating personnel to cavalry, artillery, signals, engineering and logistic support.”

Most respectfully, its not just a question of numbers but skills – I do not doubt for one moment the skills the ‘Infantry’ have (apologies to the Infantry I don’t mean to sound harsh) – but those skills are a world away from the Medics, the REME, the RLC, the Royal Engineers, that keep ‘The Machine’ going.

I really can’t see – and I’m an outsider looking in – how the Army is going to ‘work’ when a relatively small bit is going to have super-duper everything and the rest of it (including the people in the Reserves that are ‘booked-in’ to the ‘Regular Army) are going to have to scrape by with cast-offs and more worryingly a strong degree of ‘them and us’*.

* – I’m basing that on comments from serving and recently (and not so recently) retired members of HM Forces.

November 5, 2015 12:29 am

I’m a serving RN member. I liked the article but I think the underpinning issue we are all having here is a rather brutal one.

Without a VAST and I mean VAST increase in defence budget (which would still be a tiny % of GDP compared to the majority of rouge or threat nations out there) we cannot meet our foreign policy requirements.

7 SSNs is a joke. Too few to maintain the various standing commitments before you consider things like training with Perisher students. It will only get worse as kit gets more technologically advanced and the military is pushed ever more to rely on “industry delivered engineering support”.

Likewise. 19 Escorts. Simply. Not. Enough. Quantity has a quality all of its own and while 19 high end warships might be enough we just do not have enough warships for maritime security and international engagement roles the RN is required to do (google Joint Doctrine publication 0-10 for an idea of what I talk about). 6 OPVs will help perhaps but really if you only have 19 escorts you need no less than 12 OPVs. 6 small and 6 larger more capable. Then there is the issue of hydrographic and MCMV fleet. Everyone forgets that. MCMVs are some of the oldest units in the fleet and badly badly need replacing especially with the proliferation of cheap asymmetric warfare in which mines and floating container IEDs form a huge component of threat nation doctrine.

I could go on. But the reality (at least in the navy). Underfunded, Undermanned, Underequipped, Over tasked. It has existed since before the Falklands and conflicts like that were successful due to blood… ours. I just don’t think it will last much longer. Foreign policy needs to match defence spending and vice versa. We want to play P5 member. It is time to act and pay like it. Especially as the US turns attention into the Pacific.

On the discussion on SSN/SSK.

SSN simply has independence and more important plausible deniability. For that reason as a deterrent using the “fleet in being” concept it is vastly more efficient. Additionally it can almost always choose an engagement in the time and place of its choosing. It can wait to hunt in deep waters (most trade travels through deep water at some point) and in the deep water an SSK is toast. Furthermore that nuclear reactor allows larger, more powerful sensor systems and processing power. Something that is often overlooked.

However again I think SSKs have their place. A pure SSN fleet doesn’t give us the numbers we need so 7 SSN and 7-9 SSK would be how I would do it. The skill set for an SSK is so much lower (no nuclear engineers) and even alongside the duty requirement is lower (can shut the engines off completely, lock her up and have a minimum duty crew of 5-10 people instead of 30+). Coupled with lower crew this fits a lean navy. Not to mention her very existence allows a career progression (SSK -> SSN) and some good fun running (SSKs have to come to port more often and can do so more easily… runs ashore and flag waving… yes please).

16 Subs (7 SSN + 9 SSK) would be far superior to 10 SSNs and probably use less crew, cost less to run in skills and help retention due to freeing up the SSNs for less heavy running (and more important tasks)

November 5, 2015 6:01 am

Thank you, Anthony. The first time I see an SSK argument (for the UK) here that holds water:

“However again I think SSKs have their place. A pure SSN fleet doesn’t give us the numbers we need so 7 SSN and 7-9 SSK would be how I would do it. The skill set for an SSK is so much lower (no nuclear engineers) and even alongside the duty requirement is lower (can shut the engines off completely, lock her up and have a minimum duty crew of 5-10 people instead of 30+). Coupled with lower crew this fits a lean navy. Not to mention her very existence allows a career progression (SSK -> SSN) and some good fun running (SSKs have to come to port more often and can do so more easily… runs ashore and flag waving… yes please).
16 Subs (7 SSN + 9 SSK) would be far superior to 10 SSNs and probably use less crew, cost less to run in skills and help retention due to freeing up the SSNs for less heavy running (and more important tasks)

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 5, 2015 8:20 am

The French are looking at a mixed submarine fleet, with six SSN and some number of SSK.

They are designing diesel versions of their nuclear boats, which should save a Euro or two in manufacture and crew training. Their nuclear subs are smaller and leaner manned compared to the Astutes though.

November 5, 2015 8:42 am

7 SSNs isn’t a larger enough force for all sorts of reason from avaialbility, impact, morale and opportunitities for submariners, 7 SSKS in addition to the 7SSNS would be good for all of the above. Sweedish, German and Japanese SSKS are all very good. Why not build a Japanese Sub & ship factory in Teeside and use British steel and help to revitalise a very poor area of North East England? And have an laternative shipbuildingbfacility to Glasgow if and more likely when Scotland leaves the UK????

November 5, 2015 12:28 pm

@Brian Black,

France has not conventionally powered submarines, our six SSN “class Rubis” are nuclear powered, and the six SSN Suffren class, which will replace it, will also be nuclear powered. However we also sell scorpène class submarines conventionally powered to India, Chile, Malaysia and Brazil, and we are in the running to supply submarines using the technology Suffren, but conventionally powered to Australia in the framework of the project “Sea 1000”.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 5, 2015 12:54 pm
Reply to  Anthony

Whilst we would all like an increase in cash and assets I do not think you make the case here. SSNs are an issue but I do not want to discuss SSN standing tasks on here. The issue has been complicated by some “issues” with keeping them healthy and the introduction of the A boats and the ageing of the T boats.

I actually think this is your most valid point and to disagree with a point you make further on an increase by 2 or 3 in SSN numbers would see a disproportionate return in OP CAP.
BMD talks a lot about International engagement but sets no measurable or quantifiable objectives a classic statement from the pub is “British maritime forces, working with partners, exert power and influence
in support of national political objectives with the aim to prevent conflict
by deterring, coercing, stabilising and reassuring others in time of crisis” So if we are not doing this now how would you utilise the extra assets you want in order to do so?It has to be measurable, you say you need 12 OPVs but offer no suggestion as to their roles. I have hear the new 3 will enter service alongside the old 3, 1 in the Caribbean, 1 in the FI and 1 in the UK.
MCMvs are old but they are made of plastic and the internal systems and thankfully now the engines on the Hunts have been replaced they are extremely capable units. indeed the 4 MCMvs in Bahrain are the no 1 UK assets in US planning terms. The new base will solve a lot of the habitability issues,
The US pacific pivot has been talked about for years but every time something happens in the ME they are drawn back like they are on a bit of elastic. It also has minimal affect on the naval balance in Europe. 6th Fleet has just received an additional 4 Arleigh Burkes adding to the overwhelming conventional Naval Supremacy that European NATO enjoys over any potential foe.

In terms of SSKs have heard the argument both ways from current boat drivers and I think it is an interesting one. Not sure runs ashore will wash as a reason though. I have a simple question, what do you use them for? My thoughts would be 2 forward based in the Gulf, the Med is a NATO lake full of friendly SSKs, maybe 1 down South?
I personally think that given our partners capabilities and our mission set 10 SSns would be better but have heard both sides.

November 5, 2015 2:00 pm

About MCMV,

Since the Lancaster House Treaty, signed in November 2010, which reinforces military cooperation between France and the United Kingdom, studies of the future air combat system (SCAF) and ANL project were launched. as well as the MMCM program with the notification to Thales and BAE Systems, through the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) and DE & S, a contract for the definition, implementation and qualification of two prototypes of a system of naval and submarines drones by 2019.

Drones of MMCM project will be implemented from a ‘mother ship’ or from the earth, further clarified the DGA. Compared to current mine hunters, the system will keep the man outside the danger area,.

Each system is comprised of a surface of UAV (Unmanned USV Surface Vehicle) equipped with autonomous navigation, detection of sonar and obstacle avoidance, identification and neutralization means using remotely operated vehicles (ROV Remote Operated Vehicles), a towed sonar (T-SAS Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar), drones and autonomous underwater (AUV – Autonomous Underwater Vehicles).

This is a key stage of the processing capacity in mine warfare of the future and the operational use of drones.

November 5, 2015 2:52 pm

@All Politicians are the Same,

I apologize for having answered side of your question, I’m not sober.

The preset positions are the key to our reactivity and our ability to act first. So there is deployments in Eastern Mediterranean, Indian Ocean or the Gulf of Guinea, to name the most common.

November 5, 2015 3:39 pm

I will shamelessly recycle my idea of having SSKs which are visually indistinguishable from SSNs, if only to keep any adversary guessing which one it is they have tracked leaving/arriving at home base. A small but important return to that long forgotten art of strategic deception we used to be so good at. Oh, and move the nameplates around every now and again.

Peter Elliott
November 5, 2015 4:25 pm

Isn’t it rather more important, and harder to conceal, what they sound like?

November 5, 2015 5:59 pm

The Suffren new generation of SSN can go further, longer and faster.

New techniques will avoid radiation noise with steam turbines and electric motors. This new SSN may deploy at high speeds while remaining silent.

The SSN kind Suffren can live completely self-sufficient for long operational periods of 70 to 90 days against 45-60 days on the type of SSN Rubis.

The first Suffren of the Barracuda program will have wire-guided torpedoes and modernized anti-ship missiles. Suffren may use naval SCALP. It will go discreetly to accurately reach a target located at ground several hundred kilometers.

I do not know if there is a political will, but if we could pool our SSN, with the seven Astute of the Royal Navy and the six French Suffren we could cover a lot of sensitive areas and with Tomahawk and our SCALP we would take seriously.

November 5, 2015 9:47 pm

A worrying quote which will impact on numbers of T26
Defense Minister Penny Mordaunt was blunt when answering a question about the strength and shape of the U.K. Royal Navy at a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in September. Referring to the next big surface ship program, the Type 26 frigate, she asked: “Do you go for reach and have more offshore patrol vessels, to have more presence? Or [do you] invest in . . . probably the most expensive warships in the world?” The Royal Navy is doing the latter. The Type 26, …

November 6, 2015 10:04 am

I agree on keeping all the Rivers, but wonder if 6 Holland class built under licence at cammel Lairds and H&W, & Appledore might not give extra presence on WI FI Med etc. On SSKs we can buy of the shelf from either Sweeden/Germany or Japan. On Merlins getting the 8 HM1 orphans into service plus 10 new build HM2 would make sense. On T26 numbers 17 would be ideal but that might prove too ambitious. ON f35B just the 48 now 1 RAF frontline, 1 RN front line squadron plus OCU. Then buy more as T1 Typhoons reach obslecence so final numbers could be 2 RAF and 2 RN squadrons plus 1 OCU.

stephen duckworth
November 6, 2015 5:55 pm

On the SSK options we good do worse than follow or send observers to Singapore when they work up their new AIP SSK’s the ThysennKrupp 218SG . Designed for long range long endurance operations they will be the most advanced AIP boats in the world and at a €1bn for two not a bad price either. Built under licence in the UK at Barrow they could provide an affordable extension to our ASW and ASuW capabilities.

November 6, 2015 11:44 pm

The best we can hope for in SDSR 15 is a commitment to one for one T23 replacement by T26 and to keep all the Rivers. Not sure we will get that though. In the longer term we need to resolve the RN stretch. Taskings are unlikely to reduce. We’ve often debated the hi, medium, lo issue. I am clear we need enough high end to support the two carriers. I think 19 is just enough but think we should aim for 20-22, ie 14-16 T26. In the medium term retaining the new Rivers is a placeholder for extra T26s. I don’t think we should try and retain some T23s given manning and age. As to another class, yes I think there is a good case down the line for a further enhanced OPV with Wildcat hanger, and a very decent surveillance capability, lightish weapons fit to an anti piracy level, and some space for a bolt on point defence system. I do prefer the Holland to BAE designs, but something broadly like that. Yes they are not top tier but gives us hull numbers retaining a decent top tier balance. So future could be 20-22 DD/FF, 4-6 helo capable OPVs and 4 UK/ EEZ River 2 type OPVs, basically 30 deployable hulls

November 7, 2015 11:00 am

According to this article:

…the French have chopped three FREMM frigates in favour of an unspecified number of 4000t “front line frigates.”

November 7, 2015 11:20 am

Yes, we will have six anti submarine FREMM, two anti-aircraft defense FREMM and two anti-aircraft frigates class Horizon that already exist, in addition we will have five frigates anti submarine of 4,000 tonnes to reach fifteen leading frigates, even if it’s not really the case.

Peter Elliott
November 7, 2015 11:22 am

Not sure quite where the shakeout of European warship building will lead. The French approach seems to be to sacrifice capability to maintain national capacity and chase exports.

The RN has tended to do the opposite and, starting from a larger base, has so far just about got away with it.

But some sort of functional consolidation seems inevitable even if it’s just through the ‘last man standing’ method. How long can counties like Spain, Italy and the Netherlands preserve national shipyards on very small national navies? At least with a new design, a stable MoD budget, and a planned build out to the 2030s the Clyde yards look placed to play a long game.

Maybe the Germans will be prepared to kick it off the process by buying our warships in exchange for our buying an essentially German made tank? The French will be last to the party but at least they play ball on missiles. Maybe we can do more with them on combat systems etc in due course.

November 7, 2015 1:22 pm

Thanks for that Frenchie. So five smaller frigates in place of three “fullfat” ones; presumably the overall crew numbers will be about the same?

Has there been any reaction from the navy?

November 7, 2015 3:01 pm

, Sorry of having taken of time to answer.

The FTI program will achieve in 2029 the format of 15 leading frigates, of new generation. By then, it will be required with the addition of sonar on light frigates to compensate so our gaps anti submarine struggle. We are far anyway of the 23 vessels whose need was discussed a few years ago. In the end, the FREMM program is eventually passed to his original 17 frigates for the French Navy to just eight today .

The delivery of the frigate Normandie to the Egyptians has created an equipment delay in the Navy as part of the FREMM program, which will be absorbed in 2023. It will fill the holes, keeping active very old ships, confirmed Admiral Bernard Rogel. He explained that it is necessary to extend by one year the life of three old frigates F70 generation (Jean de Vienne, Montcalm and Primauguet), with crew, more numerous than a FREMM.

The Navy has four air-defense frigates. What is the minimum, noted Admiral Rogel. Two of them, Forbin and Chevalier Paul, who belong to the class Horizon are among the best frigates of this type in the world. Two other frigates Cassard and Jean Bart, will have to be replaced in 2021-2022 because their missiles will not be made from that date. They should be replaced by two FREMM air defense vocation.

Today, when the Navy is moving, especially when it approaches land, it is exposed to air and missile threat, said the Chief of Staff of the Navy. “Our business brings us close to the coast, in constricted passages, off Syria, Yemen or Libya, under the threat of missiles that can come both from the air of the earth. Without the means to vital anti air defense so we are exposed to risks. ”

This is why the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is escorted by Belgian, British and Australian frigates,

November 7, 2015 3:47 pm

More info on concepts for the FTI:

I’d say that the French are aiming for the export market to keep as much industry capacity independence as much as possible over first choice kit.

November 7, 2015 4:37 pm

I am waiting to see the results of the upcoming elections and the military program law of 2018. Maybe the Conservatives will vote something more clever because at the moment France is no longer autonomous.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
November 7, 2015 6:51 pm

@Mickp – rather than the Holland class, how about the Venator? UK design, 3200 tonnes, 700 tonne mission bay, helicopter capable and whatever level of sensors and armament are appropriate to the required role – anything from basic OPV fit for minehunters and, errrr, OPVs to slightly fighty light/ surveillance frigate/ sloop (or whatever you want to call them). Seems to my untutored eye to be quite similar to the rumoured outline spec for the future MHC and very much in keeping with the “multi-mission capable” idea currently in vogue (plus it has the potential to share future offboard systems with the T26).