SDSR 2015 – A Few Thoughts

I think the first thing to do is to recognise the hard work over many days and weekends of the people, military, academic and civil servant, that have produced the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Second, it is probably fair to say that in comparison with other departments, the MoD has done quite well from the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Out of this unusually good bounty, what have the MoD chosen to do?

In summary, this SDSR is not particularly radical, different equipment choices have been made, budgets shuffled and organisations re-organised to shift the direction broadly speaking, into the same direction it was already going.

This is not necessarily a bad thing of course and whilst not particularly radical, it is ambitious.

There remain a number of questions and much of the spending promises are contingent on a combination of yet to be realised efficiency savings, heavy reductions in civil servant headcount, ‘pay restraint’ for all within the MoD, and selling off the family brass; the gold, silver and bronze, sold a long time ago.

With all defence reviews, there is always a large amount of political theatre and out and out politics, this was one no different. They are always aimed at both a domestic and international audience and because the standard of defence debate, in general, is at a relatively poor level, it was distilled into a series short punchy ‘lines to take’, with the detail buried in the document, or in many cases, yet to emerge.

The strapline is always instructive of what is to follow.


2010 saw the phrase ‘Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty’, to be replaced with ‘A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom’ in the 2015 version, perhaps, United Kingdom suits the post-independence referendum mood better.

One of the key differences this time around was reported to be the degree of involvement/interference from HM Treasury, if the MoD could make savings, the MoD could bank the money and reinvest it in whatever capabilities it saw fit, the CSR coming pretty much at the same time as SDSR. This is an unusual and positive sign of the growing financial credibility of the MoD across Whitehall. a result of changes instigated by Liam Fox, hammered home by Phil Hammond and deftly managed by the Permanent Under Secretary, Jon Thompson.

Out in front was a statement from David Cameron;

Our national security depends on our economic security, and vice versa. So the first step in our National Security Strategy is to ensure our economy is, and remains, strong.

The deficit reduction strategy and underlying state of the economy are still governmental strategy, and wisely so. Sound finances underpin everything the MoD does. It doesn’t take long for politics to intervene, though, references to the ‘black hole’ for example, still, 5 years later to be fully detailed.

The two underpinning principles of the NSS and SDSR are a commitment to both maintain defence and security spending at 2% of GDO and Overseas Development Assistance at 0.7% of GDP

In other words, defence, and making sure we don’t have to use defence in the first place.

We know the creative accounting used to get to 2%, we know 2% actually represents a decline from previous years and that defence inflation may well outstrip any increases in real term cash delivered by virtue of a growing economy and increasing GDP. Despite this, at the very least there is some measure of stability and control within the equipment plan and other longer term cost centres.

The National Security Objectives

These are a new feature of the SDSR/NSS process; high level and easy to interpret in whichever fashion the Government chooses, but at least, written down and aligned across government departments.

Objective 1; Protect our people,

Objective 2; Project our global influence, and

Objective 3; Promote our prosperity

What flows from these three objectives is the defence and security strategy for the next five years and beyond.

Stung by accusations of strategic shrinkage and disappearing from the ‘world stage’ the document described how the UK has many advantages and attempts to announce that the UK is back.

Ambition, loud and clear.

The Security Context

None is left out of the document; domestic and global security challenges, the resurgence of state-based threats (looking at you Russia), the role of technology and even climate change and an ageing population get a mention.

The risks are grouped into three tiers;

NSS Risks

I don’t think this section of the combined document will get the credit it deserves, it seems a wholly sensible view of risks that the UK faces described in a relatively easy to understand manner.

Good work.

Objective 1 – Protect Our People

There are a lot of words in these sections and I am not going to just copy each one but a summary of the key points, below;

4.9 We will increase funding for the security and intelligence agencies to enable £2.5 billion of additional investment in staff and capabilities. More than half of this investment will be on counter-terrorism. We will recruit and train over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff across the agencies to respond to, and deter those behind, the increasing international terrorist, cyber and other global threats.

Increasing counter-terrorism spend has been widely discussed in the last few days, hard to argue against this.

4.15 In 2011 we established the UK National Maritime Information Centre to coordinate information about our maritime security, nationally and with international partners. We will enhance joint working between law enforcement agencies and the Royal Navy to increase patrolling in our territorial waters. We will also improve aerial surveillance operations and information sharing across government.

Does this mean more surveillance patrols in UK waters and greater aerial observation, perhaps with the announced MPA aircraft in the longer term and civilian agencies in the shorter term?

A snippet that has not been widely picked up is;

We will invest in a ground-based BMD radar, which will enhance the coverage and effectiveness of the NATO BMD system. We will also investigate further the potential of the Type 45 Destroyers to operate in a BMD role.

Beyond RAF Fylingdales, the UK does not have a ballistic missile defence radar so it will be interesting to see how this pans out. It is good that the very effective Type 45 Destroyer will continue to play a role in theatre BMD, even if it is very early days yet.

4.18 We will invest up to £300 million over the next 10 years to enhance operational communications, renew the existing air defence system and upgrade infrastructure

This is for the Falkland Islands, replacing the Rapier FSC with Land Ceptor/FLAADS(L) and a range of upgrades. Has already been announced.

Nothing additional for Gibraltar.

On the Armed Forces

Deliver our commitment to maintain the size of the regular Armed Forces and to not reduce the Army to below 82,000, and increase the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force by a total of 700 personnel, assumed to be 400 for the Royal Navy and 300 for the Royal Air Force.

The Prime Minister had previously made a commitment to not impose any reduction on the regular strength and the additional personnel for the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will be welcome, despite not being as high as wanted.

Note quite sure what this means, though;

We will also take steps to increase the productivity of the Armed Forces

The document defines eight missions that the Armed Forces will do;

  1. Defend and contribute to the security and resilience of the UK and Overseas Territories
  2. Provide the nuclear deterrent
  3. Contribute to improved understanding of the world through strategic intelligence and the global defence network.
  4. Reinforce international security and the collective capacity of our allies, partners and multilateral institutions
  5. Support humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and conduct rescue missions
  6. Conduct strike operations.
  7. Conduct operations to restore peace and stability.
  8. Conduct major combat operations if required, including under NATO Article 5.

HADR is now a core military task.

Building on the 2010 Future Force 2020, SDSR 2015 describes the Joint Force 2025.

Joint Force 2025

Joint Force 2025 is described as;

4.40 We will be able to deploy a larger force more quickly. By 2025, this highly capable expeditionary force of around 50,000 (compared with around 30,000 planned in Future Force 2020) will include; A maritime task group centred on a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier with F35 Lightning combat aircraft. A land division with three brigades including a new Strike Force. An air group of combat, transport and surveillance aircraft. A Special Forces task group.

When not deployed at this strength, which is the older ‘large scale’ force, it will be able to undertake a number of smaller operations simultaneously;

A medium-scale operation, often drawing mostly on just one Service, such as our current counter-ISIL mission in Iraq. Multiple additional operations, ranging from specialist missions such as counterterrorism or counter-piracy, through to broader, more complex operations such as the military support to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone or the enduring naval presence in the Gulf. A wide range of defence engagement activities, such as training teams and mentoring.

This is a departure from previous defence planning assumptions that were more detailed about how many of each type/scale of operations could be conducted at once. It would seem to be a reduction in deployment expectations.

In order to protect the armed forces from unjustified legal claims;

We will develop proposals to ensure that the Armed Forces can operate effectively overseas and are not subject to unjustified legal claims that undermine their ability to do their job.

A difficult and complex issue where the answers might not actually be as simple as first thought.

Special Forces will receive an investment increase across a number of areas, again, widely reported before publication.

The Royal Navy

Despite the hype and expectation, still no definitive word on whether the two QE class carriers will enter fully into service and operate in parallel, both fully manned and operation with aircraft, or one in service at a time in such a manner that we are always assured one will be available. Other have read the document to be confirmation that two will be fully crewed and in simultaneous service, not sure, differing perspectives on the text I expect.

They will form the core of our maritime task group, with one available at all times. We will increase the number of F35 Lightning aircraft we are buying in the early 2020s to ensure that we make best use of this world-leading capability, and we will buy three new logistic ships to support the fleet, in addition to the four tankers that will enter service from 2016.

Confirmation that the three Solid Support Ships will be purchased, joining the new Tide Class tankers. The RFA will, apart from Diligence and Argus, have a relatively new and very capable fleet.

The next bit was a bit of a shock;

We will maintain one of the most capable anti-submarine fleets in the world with the introduction of eight advanced Type 26 Global Combat Ships, which will start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role. We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. We will also launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers. These general purpose frigates are also likely to offer increased export potential. We will buy two further new Offshore Patrol Vessels, increasing the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad.

Only 8 Type 26 GCS will now enter service, likely the ASW optimised variants that will pull through Sonar 2087 from the Type 23 fleet. Despite the disdain of two-tier fleets from all quarters, this is exactly what the Royal Navy will get. At least five cheaper, flexible (I hate that word) and lighter frigates, going back to the FSC C1/C2 concept perhaps.

After fighting tooth and nail against this, after all the announcements on Type 26 before, this is a big change of policy. In the plus column is it keeps design capacity going but in most other regards, am struggling to see the upside.

Recognising that the Type 26 design, despite the very expensive risk reduction activities in the Assessment Phase, is not ready for ordering, the two additional Offshore Patrol Vessels are the direct result.

These are vessels that the Royal Navy neither needs nor wants but like the batch 2 Rivers, a direct consequence of the desire to retain onshore complex warship building in Scotland, and the Terms of Business Arrangement (TOBA) that the MoD has with BAE.

We would have to pay BAE in any case so why not just build more OPV’s, all well and good, but this means less personnel and cash available for Type 26.

So, the reduced numbers of Type 26 would, at least on face value, to be the direct result of prevarication and being unable to agree on the design of the Type 23 replacement, something that goes back many years.

Talk of exportability for the new light frigate has echoes of exportability for Type 26, wishful thinking.

There is also a lot of potential for a reversal in the commonality that the RN has been seeking, with multiple overlapping types and equipment in service.

The Royal Marines will see one of the QE carriers enhanced for amphibious operations.

We will enhance a Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier to support this amphibious capability

What this means is not yet clear, perhaps davits for LCVP’s?

No updates on MCM or survey, although the graphic would seem to indicate a small reduction in the MCM fleet.

The British Army

The major change for the British Army is the formation of two ‘Strike Brigades’

The division will draw on two armoured infantry brigades and two new Strike Brigades to deliver a deployed division of three brigades. We will establish these two Strike Brigades to be able to deploy rapidly over long distances using the new Ajax armoured vehicles and new mechanised infantry vehicles. They will double the number of brigades ready for operations. With these, and 16 Air Assault Brigade’s very high readiness forces, we will improve our ability to respond to all likely threats

In the new joint force approach, I would have thought that 16AAB and 3CDO would have been considered and described together.

The Strike Brigades are yet to be fully described and where in the Army 2020 structure they will be drawn from. With Ajax, they make the claim that together with the new Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) they will be able to deploy rapidly over long distances.

I remain to be convinced by this, Ajax is a 35 tonnes vehicle that will need a HET to move, so unlike a wholly MIV based formation, will not be able to self-deploy by road, where roads are a viable means.

The fact that this rapid reaction force will not be established until 2025 was also the source of much merriment today, irony it seems, lost on the Army.

Apart from the conformation of CR2 LEP, Warrior CSP and Apache Sustainment projects the other major news was the formation or two ‘innovative’ brigades.

Two innovative brigades comprising a mix of Regulars and specialist capabilities from the Reserves able to contribute to our strategic communications, tackle hybrid warfare and deliver better battlefield intelligence.

Is this part of the 77th Brigade or something new, more details yet to emerge?


A number of infantry battalions reconfigured to provide an increased contribution to countering terrorism and building stability overseas. They will conduct defence engagement and capacity building, providing training, assistance, advice and mentoring to our partners

Am assuming, these will be stripped down light role infantry battalions.

The Royal Air Force

Anyone looking for ‘the one true word’ on F-35B numbers is going to be disappointed.

We will establish an additional F35 Lightning squadron and two additional Typhoon squadrons. We will invest further in Typhoon’s capabilities, including ground attack and a new Active Electronically Scanned Array radar to ensure that we can continue to operate it until at least 2040. We will maintain our plan to buy 138 F35 Lightning aircraft over the life of the programme.

No details of timings, numbers per squadron, basing (rumour is Conningsby nd Lossiemouth for Typhoon), training, or where the air and ground and air crews are coming from.

‘We will maintain our plan’ is not an order.

By 2023, the UK is planned to have 42 F-35B’s in service, remember, this is a JOINT Combat Aircraft, not just for carrier strike. This translates into two squadrons (809 NAS and 617 SQN) plus the OCU.

Multiple moving pieces are on the table, GR.4 availability and OSD, operations in the Middle East and Balkans, Brimstone and Storm Shadow integration, MFTS and availability contracts. Aligning the swim lanes will be a complex process.

More than 20 new Protector armed remotely piloted aircraft, more than doubling the number of the Reaper aircraft which they replace

This is good, the UK will join France, Italy and the Netherlands in the European Reaper Club, paving the way for resource sharing, more efficient training and enhanced interoperability, within national security boundaries.

Sentinel will be extended into next decade, Shadow until 2030 and Sentry and Air Seeker/Rivet Joint to 2035.

The major announcement for the RAF was the widely leaked decision on Maritime Patrol.

Nine new Boeing P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft to increase further the protection of our nuclear deterrent and our new aircraft carriers. These aircraft will be based in Scotland and will also have an overland surveillance capability.

During defence questions before the main announcement, Michael Fallon confirmed that this would result in over $1 Billion for UK manufacturers. This was contradicted by Boeing later in the day, describing how each of the nine would include a whopping £3m of UK content.

Expect this to rumble on.

There is no doubt the decision is fantastic news, a gaping hole that needed urgently filling and enhanced interoperability with the US, Indian and Australian armed forces possible, whilst maximising the considerable SEEDCORN investment already made. But we should be clear that the UK has sacrificed a proper competition for an expeditious delivery, hopefully starting in the next two to three years with ISD towards the end of the decade. There are also a few issues like in-flight refuelling and UK weapons/comms/crypto that will need to be resolved, one way or the other.

These are, however, relatively minor issues.

Perhaps the best aspect of the decision is that it provides a medium to long term replacement path for Sentry, Air Seeker and Sentinel, albeit hopefully with new airframes!

We will upgrade and extend the life of our C130J aircraft, allowing them to support a range of operations until 2030

Evidently, the A400 is still having problems with certain tasks and may not be able to replace the smaller C130 in certain roles, especially special forces support. This may be a reflection of that.

A high altitude unmanned aircraft will receive investment, currently assumed to be the Zephyr.


A recapitalised Command Support Air Transport fleet to replace the current aircraft as they reach the end of their life. This will increase their operational utility and ensure we are able to continue to transport the Royal Family and senior Ministers cost effectively. We will also adapt one of our existing Voyager aircraft so that, as well as its primary air tanking role, it can transport senior Ministers securely, delivering better value for money than the current use of charter aircraft. The aircraft would also be available to the Royal Family.

A sensible way to utilise the oversized and underutilised Voyager fleet, we are paying for them in any case. Not clear what the rest of the smaller air transport fleet will be replaced with.

FCAS will continue in collaboration with France.

People and Estate

The new engagement model continues to evolve;

We will make the changes necessary to enable our Armed Forces to work flexibly, reflecting the realities of modern life. We will make a new accommodation offer to help more Service personnel live in private accommodation and meet their aspirations for home ownership.

No news on what this means in practice and the document described a number of changes to terms and conditions of employment that will no doubt described in more detail in due course.

The Defence estate will be reduced by 30%, the proceeds of sales going into the MoD’s coffers.


No change on deterrent except confirmation of a new MoD body to manage Successor.

Confirmation of cost increases on the design phase for the four Successor submarines to £3.9 Billion with latest estimates of manufacture costs to be £31 Billion inclusive of inflation. A further £10 Billion will be reserved as risk funding.

Combatting Extremism and Terrorism

The CONTEST strategy will be updated in 2016.

New Counter Extremism Strategy to be published in October 2015.

2016 will see a consolidation of investigatory powers, this will be controversial.

Cyber and Other

£1.9 Billion over five years for cyber capabilities including what I think is the relatively uncommon declaration in Western nations, offensive cyber operations.

New National Cyber Centre will lead the response, led by GCHQ.

There are a number of provisions that I will write about in a separate post, including serious and organised crime and crisis response and resilience, and space.

Objective 2 – Project Our Global Influence

Key defence related announcements include;

50% of the DFiD budget will be focussed on fragile states.

Defence Engagement to be a funded core MoD task.

Establish British Defence Staffs in the Middle East, Asia Pacific and Africa in 2016 with increasing training opportunities for partner nations.

Establish a £1 Billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to be used across defence and security, international development and intelligence.

The rest of this length chapter is basically, keep doing what we are doing.

Objective 3 – Promote Our Prosperity

Even wordier than the preceding chapter.

Apart from some news on space, SME’s in defence, more funding for cadets, defence export controls and defence industrial strategy refreshes, this was again; do what we are already doing.


By the end of reading Chapter 3, I was beginning to flag, the document is packed with lots of information about how great we are and what we are doing, over 40,000 words.

A comprehensive piece of work, although it would have been much better to split the two. The hefty work on the risk section is largely apolitical, rigorous and wholly sensible, but this is not what people will read, they just want to get to the implementation measures.

SDSR 2015 WOrd Cloud

As per the introduction, it raises many questions and issues yet to be resolved, but the details will work themselves out over the next weeks, months and years.

I like it, it is a much better document that SDSR 2010

Was it strategic?

If the strategy is to pretty much carry on as before, then yes, it was.

There wasn’t a great deal new, with a large percentage of the content devoted to what we are already doing, but it does contain a range of solid decisions and some big ambition, with clarity on military missions and a very good appreciation of the risk landscape.

The implementation measures are less good, short on detail and subject to the inevitable political spin and jam tomorrow happy clappy jargon that so often seeps into these documents.

David Cameron has had a habit of taking big whilst carrying a small stick, the challenge will be to follow through on SDSR 2015 ambition to avoid the same accusation.

There is more in the good column than bad, by a very long way.

The biggest losers, however, are the MoD’s civil servants, a 30% reduction. Some of this will potentially come from the Germany drawdown but anyway you look at this, 30% is a big hit, especially on top of previous reductions. Remember, MoD civil servants support the military. The MoD is the largest user of contract personnel across Whitehall and this will likely increase as more posts are made ‘off books’

Finally, service personnel, lots of fine words but morale surveys, sign off rates and recruitment problems talk louder than words; and ‘pay restraint’ and undeniable erosion in terms and conditions of service are hardly going to help.

The real challenge SDSR 2015 faces is not one of money, or space, or equipment, risk, strategy or even ambition.

It is one of people, see you in five years.

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November 23, 2015 11:20 pm

How do you work out A400M is having problems? Or is unsuitable? A life extension of 14 airframes to 2030 is a significant increase in RAF lift capacity, it suggests a real desire to provide greater lift.

November 23, 2015 11:25 pm

That was quite trivial.

Re Strategy, this was very strategic. It was the starkest i have heard UK politicians talk about threat profile for some time and the language was right on the money- the need to manage state and non-state actors. The reference points clearly being Russia and assorted militant muslims respectively. It was an actual argument for why the forces exist and what they will be doing in the nest 5-10 years. That in itself is significant progress.

November 23, 2015 11:26 pm

I think TD are being unduly negative about the revision of the T26 concept. It would be crazy to deploy T26s to pootle around the Caribbean drug-busting or off Somalia scaring pirates. While it is a negative that HMG doesn’t see the value in 13 “full strength” T26s, it is more honest to just order 8 and tell the design team to come up with something more like what we grew up thinking frigates are. You say “frigate” to me, and I think “Leander class”. Versatile, not very big, massively replicable.

The reduction in defence estate was already expected since the NAO report into MoD financial integrity and at 30% actually undershoots (IIRC) the 50% mentioned when NAO were circling.

November 23, 2015 11:28 pm

TD is a bit gloomy, I wonder if it is the lack of announcements about equipment mounted in shipping containers in SDSR 2015?

A surprisingly solid review with some amusing traps laid for Corbyn and the SNP via sneaky inaccurate leaks prior to release.

I agree the five light frigates are a bit nebulous and on reflection is certainly associated with the prevarication over T26 (design issues going on NAB’s dark mutterings over the years – OK I believe you now NAB). Certainly stopping equipment fit creep will be a challenge if they come to fruition. But heck I bet they will have a modular bay with plenty of space for shipping containers so hopefully some things to cheer you TD when concept pictures start slipping out.

November 23, 2015 11:34 pm

I can’t shake the suspicion that the 5 light frigates are already being built, with the last 2 hulls announced just today…

Nice summary, TD. Finished on a good thought, too.

November 23, 2015 11:39 pm

One thing is certain, Seedcorn personnel with VX-1 and VP-30 are probably having liquid celebrations at the moment!

The Ginge
The Ginge
November 24, 2015 12:06 am

Well read the document twice. Because it has holes in it. How can you have 2 Stiker Brigades based on Ajax when it can not self deploy by road. If he meant the US Stryker Brigades then Ajax is only going to get bought in enough quantities for 2 Regiments for the 2 armoured Brigades and the 8×8 replacement should get the Ajax turret placed on a number to provide 2 8×8 Cavalry to support 8×8 MIV plus indirect fire support, can you bolt 105mm artillery on one ? No fire from vehicle anti tank weapon which is a big must for this type of organisation. Finally talk of 6 Brigades left in light role ? So we presumeone of the Armoured Brigades makes up one Strike Brigade and 1 of either the 51st or 7th of the adaptable brigades with the Adaptable Forces logistics to help out and back fill the missing elelments of 16 Air mobile Brigade and 3 Cdo Brigade.
As I say it also leave 56 Challengers swinging in the breeze which at the level of 168 deployable MBT we can not loose another 56, maybe kept to up gun a striker brigade to deploy to Eastern Europe in a Nato Emergency ?
To many holes, to many questions and ripping up Army 2020 to boot which I felt always was away with the fairies. And where are the extra Merlin’s coming from in total 6 squadrons with 2 back with the army, finally only 3 Chinook Squadrons have we learnt nothing from Afghanistan or were we over provided with Helicopters ?
I look forward to the detail coming out from the Army with some detail with interest.

November 24, 2015 12:08 am

Not much to criticise today, indeed many very positive moves. Seems a pretty thorough job. Some questions remain (Argus perhaps) and some of the timelines are fairly extended but I guess that’s a consequence of it being the longer term view. Let’s face it SDSR 2020 (and even SDSR 2025) can still influence some key projects, e.g. T26 / F35. T26 at 8 would really confirm where most of us, heart of hearts, knew it would end up. That still leaves us with 14 task group escorts, plus at least 5 and hopefully a few move ‘light frigates’. Some of this seems quite ‘French’ – move to a 2 (or even 3) tier navy, the army structure. Don’t think that’s a bad thing

Tango Red
Tango Red
November 24, 2015 12:11 am

Are the P8’s definately going to Lossie? Its more of a Fast Jet base with it’s HAS’s though i remember the good old days of visiting to see the Shackletons. Kinloss is fully equipped for dealing with Large MPA’s, The RAF Fire Service were still there and active last time I checked and when Virgin were looking for a spaceport they were told by the MOD Kinloss was not available. I cant see them keeping it long term for a few hundred squaddies that are there at the moment??

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 12:18 am

To accentuate the positive: all these wretched Amazonas class patrol ships can be offered up for salami slicing in future Defence Reviews ;)

stephen duckworth
November 24, 2015 12:19 am

The people are everything in the end. Without their commitment and contribution every bit of kit is just steel and plastic.

Jeremy M H
November 24, 2015 12:19 am

I am curious what anyone thinks would have come from an MPA competition. A competition for what exactly? With what competitors? If what you wanted was a full fledged MPA then you only had one real option. One could make a theoretical argument that the P-1 was a viable contender but we aren’t even sure it was officially offered. Plus you would spend a few years determining that buying something with bespoke parts from Japan for a couple billion is quite the leap for a first international transaction. Everything else is a non starter from a cost standpoint.

In short if you determine the requirement is for something as capable or close to it as the P-8/Nimrod was supposed to be then you have little need for a competition unless you seriously consider the P-1. Nothing else is viable. Hence not having a competition.

An analysis of alternatives on the other hand makes sense but hardly had to be done publicly. The MOD almost certainly looked at less capable and hybrid capabilities. It decided not to go that way.

A competition with the existing choices seems a horrid waste of money.

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 12:21 am
Reply to  Tango Red

Maybe Lossiemouth will be the forward base and they will go back to Waddington or wherever else for maintenance…

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 12:36 am

People talking about Leanders being light frigates are going to get a shock. By the time you’ve put a Merlin capable flightdeck, a Lynx hangar (at minimum), an MCG of some sort, an SSGW battery and SeaCeptor or similar, decent (5000nm plus) endurance, plus some seaboats and say berths for 120 people at DS02-107, with stability to DS02-109 and built to LR NS2 notation, you’ll be at 130m and 17m beam – north of 5000te deep. Nothing less than that will be deployable as part of any TG. We will be going round this buoy again – although the mention of a shipbuilding strategy paper to be published next year is intriguing – shot across BAES bows? It was interesting that there was no mention of MHC that I found – at all.

There are no extra Merlins or Merlin squadrons nor are any going to the Army – it’s just where 845/846NAS sit as part of JHC. Grey Merlin badges today are 814/820/824 and 829 and Junglie Merlin are 845/846.

Manning remains the issue. An uplift of 700 total is unlikely to fix the retention issues unless something more is done.

Overall, we knew it wasn’t going to be too bad, given the 2% funding pledge and it could have been worse – at least the ambition to do more is there. Got to say it’s largely (P8 excepted) a do minimum and spin it to the max exercise, but look to Wednesday for what it could have been like had defence been unprotected……

November 24, 2015 12:38 am

“….degree of involvement/interference from HM Treasury, if the MoD could make savings, the MoD could bank the money and reinvest it in whatever capabilities it saw fit. ”

Saw fit ??? yet other reports are saying for the Trident replacement the Treasury is trying to push the MoD totally out of the picture as they think Treasury and its flunkies are the only ones who can manage the cost.

Jeremy M H
November 24, 2015 12:47 am

Seems only fair that if treasury runs the show that 3-5 senior level treasury people should be physically present in the submarine at all times. Chancellor should stand by the hatch on the first deep dive test.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 12:50 am
Reply to  The Ginge


3 Chinook Squadrons are the current level. No cut and in fact 14 extra are being received to part mitigate the loss of 28 Merlin leaving the RAF and going to 845/846 NAS to replace the Junglies.
RAF will have around 60 Chinook which is a very good total. Not sure how many will be in front line use but there will be some extra robustness with an old Merlin unit, 28, becoming joint Puma/Chinook OCU, taking the training role away from the 3 front line squadrons.

November 24, 2015 12:59 am
Reply to  The Ginge

Thats must be a mistake in the graphics. The Merlin HC4 is the Royal marine version, 25 of which are being converted out 28 used by RAF. The graphic should show it in the maritime section.
The RN recieved 44 HM1 of which 42 remained and 30 with an option for 8 upgraded to HM2

Still leaves open the future of SeaKing ASC7? next year is out of service for the ‘king. So maybe the upgrade of the leftover HM1 ?

November 24, 2015 1:14 am
Reply to  Hohum

Life extension of 14 airframes ???

Its the Hercules C-130J, it only was delivered to RAF just before 2000 and even then sat on the ground for a while. This sort of plane has a ‘life’ of over 40 years in normal military use. Yes there is some software upgrades being done- badly as usual by LM- since about 2012.

“he Hercules about to restart flight tests for the British was first fitted out as a trial kit installation aircraft for Block 7 in 2012. But following a flight to Lockheed Martin facilities in the US, the machine was marooned for around two years for technical reasons and eventually returned to Britain without undertaking the tests that would have triggered the production phase of the Block 7 update for the Royal Air Force.

A British MoD spokesman said the aircraft was returned to Britain after “the UK Block 7 trial kit installation aircraft underwent a graduated release to test flight process and subsequently returned to the UK under a Qinetiq airworthiness release.”-

Mirrors the shambles over the Chinook but at least it only involved one airframe

November 24, 2015 1:21 am


The reason warships toodle round chasing drug runners and pirates is because when there isn’t a war, there isn’t much else for them to do. Or do you wish to store them in mothballs and crew them with conscripts grabbed off the streets by press gangs when there is a need? If a battleship was all you had, in times other than war, it would probably be doing something similar too, navies can’t afford to have idle ships.

November 24, 2015 1:22 am
Reply to  RoundTower

Well they are getting more OPV just for the low intensity roles in Caribbean, Med, Somalia etc.
The river class OPV are at about 2000t deep. or the Echo class hydrographic vessels are just under 4000t deep which seem to be more of a ‘spy ship’ role.
You cannot do a decent frigate on a leander hull anymore, that was established in the late 80s when the T23 was being formulated.

November 24, 2015 2:38 am

Lot of nothing:

1. Scrap plans for 5 T-26 to pay for 9 Nimrod replacements. Not sure if that’s a great trade off.
2. Get obsolete Typhoons out of the barn to form two brand spanking new squadrons. Wow. BoB flight just got a lot bigger.
3. Junk all Tornado’s before replacements in service. Fast jets numbers to get even smaller.
4. Insufficient sailors to man even the shrunk fleet.
5. Speed up F-35 orders from really painfully slow to just painfully slow. When will there be enough to fill the QE i.e. 36-40? Maybe 2030? 2040?
6. Meaningless Army reorg that reduces numbers available for deployment. Hints of future 8×8 to enable organic deployment. Against who? Putin’s hordes with hundreds of MBT’s? Isis with their Toyota pickups? Presumably French vehicles because sucking up to them might help the EEC renegotiation.
7. Typhoon retirement pushed to the right. But some might get the new radar. Or the ability to fire weapons that the Tonka can already shoot.
8. Scrap Ocean and refit davits to PoW to create the most expensive LPH in history.
9. Keep on obsolete Hercules for SF because the A400 can’t parachute stuff very well.
10. New seats in an air tanker for Dave & Lizzie.

End result. Smallest army for hundreds of years. Smallest air force ever. Smallest navy since they rowed into action.

In face of most imminent threat in 50 years.

Grade F.

November 24, 2015 3:01 am

How about Veantor 110 for the new frigate?

November 24, 2015 3:03 am

Defence news seems to be indicating a 1 year delay on T26 with first steel cut in 2017.

November 24, 2015 3:47 am
Reply to  Hohum

Combing NSS and SDSR was a slight mistake; it would have been better to have 2 separate documents detailing Security, and Strategy.

It is strategic to the extent that this is protecting the neoliberal capitalist world order with the military as a part, not centre of it.

November 24, 2015 3:48 am
Reply to  RoundTower


I expect Carribbean patrols to be performed by the Batch 2s, however unsuitable that might be. Frees up RFA and RN ships.

November 24, 2015 6:12 am
Reply to  Ron5

There is so much about your summary that has false assumptions:
Hercules arent obsolete: these are the latest C-130J model, still with 20 years or so life left in them. Turbo prop haulers arent high tech platforms

The Typhoons they are retaining are Tr1. These are barely 15 years old some only, for an airframe that was designed for 30 years. They can operate very capably as air to air , which was designed in, plus there were expensively tested out to operate most air to ground weapons except the longer range guided types. There only limitations in a practical sense are they are ‘multi-role’ rather than the later Tr. which are ‘swing-role’. Anyway they are likey to stay as UK air defence primarily.

November 24, 2015 6:32 am

There is no spin about whats happened to the RAF, this is a major capability uplift:

14 additional transports over what was previously planned
A medium-term doubling of the Reaper fleet
9 x P-8 plus protection of the entire ISTAR fleet (accept Sentinel come the early 2020s- which is still vague)
And most significantly, a fast ket force structure 50% larger than the previously planned trough

Some people granting “Grade F” clearly haven’t checked the details.

That new frigate raises more questions than it answers. It suggests T26 is now regarded as too expensive to provide 13 hulls. The phrase general purpose suggests someone has a modernised T23 in mind as a concept (smaller T26 with less VLS cells and no mission bay)- time will tell but it feels like the kind of thing that becomes a problem down the line.

I hope the shipbuilding strategy is a short across BAE’s bows, they need it.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 24, 2015 7:13 am

On the whole I think the MoD has come out of the SDSR quite well, in fact better than expected. The level of spin was as expected as well, using smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that whilst there appear to be no major reductions this time around their are not any substantial gains. Overall the main issue I have is the timeframe for most of what has been announce to actually enter service. The majority will be post 2020 and a substantial part 2025, and a lot can change between then and now. So what have we got;

The RAF appears to have done quite well and in fact should be celebrating. However it is going to have to come to terms with the fact that it is going to have to base its operational plans around the Typhoon for at least a decade as the number of F-35s planned initially are going to be utilised by the QEs if the increased carrier strike aspiration is to be achieved, Yes the F-35s would be available if truly needed but at most levels of operations against realistic threats the Typhoon will be more than capable, assuming that the investment in its capabilities continues. Of particular interest is whether any modification work will be carried out on the Tranche 1 airframes being used to form the 2 new squadrons or will they be used simply as is? Overhauling and retaining 14 C-130Js is a big plus. This will allow the A400 to be used as trash haulers whist the C-130 are used for more specialised roles for which they are a more mature platform with a know developmental path. Expanding the roles of the C-17 fleet would be a bonus if possible, maybe to give the SF an their support units a more timely and greater reach. The MPA buy is the correct one in my opinion. Concerns regarding in flight refuelling should be easily met as fitting the P-8 with a probe would benefit Boeing in the medium to long term. One area that is of concern is the lack of a development path for the RAF’s E-3D fleet up to its OSD, but then again look at how we kept using the Shackleton and its level of capability!

Going against the grain I have been a fan of the C1/C2/C3 idea since it was first discussed. Yes in an ideal world we would have a multitude of top of the line surface combatants, but the Admiralty’s determination to only have the best has led to the fleet shrinking year on year, aggravated by reductions in manpower. This had become a chicken and egg scenario, less ships therefore less personnel, less personnel therefore less ships. Most NATO navies have a two tier fleet with regards to combat vessels, even the USN with its Perry class FFGs and now the LCS, though their idea of affordable is unique to them. What the MoD must avoid is trying to design the planned “Light Frigate” to be a C1 light, trying to incorporate too many capabilities. The RN will have to accept that this platform will not be a fully fledged fleet escort, though able to operate as part of the CVBG or ARG. Its role will be similar to those in service with the French and Italian navies. So the RN/MoD must get its head around this in order not to repeat the FSC/T-26 mess. If it fails to do so then it is quite a possibility these additional platforms will not materialise and the RN will be down to 14 platforms.

The headline “Strike” Brigades seem to be a result of the fact we have ordered all the lovely new Ajax family of vehicles and are trying to work out what to do with them. As has been talked about often, these lack the strategic mobility of their predecessor platform the CVR(T), but it appear planners at the MoD seem to think anything lighter than a Challenger 2 is readily deployable! These 2 Strike Brigades should be retitles “Striker” Brigades and be based solely on variants of whatever platform is chosen for the MIV. It has been stated that the MIV will become the core of the Army and I agree with that. Unfortunately the Army’s procurement budget has now the ball and chain called Ajax sucking up most of its funding for the next decade and they are buying too many. At most we need sufficient for two Recce/Cavalry Regiments (100-120) and for the integral Recce formations within the Armoured and Armoured Infantry Regiments (50-60). Obviously this would increase unit costs so I would also use the platform to replace the Warrior (240-260) in the IFV role and the FV430 series in place of the Warrior ABSV (100-120). This would require the funding outstanding from the WCIP and ABSV being retasked plus some additional funding but it would recapitalise the Army’s tracked AFV fleet. With the exception of an IFV variant most roles could be filled by variant of the Ajax family already developed. The Challenger LEP needs only be enough to keep it relevant until its OSD and should be a minor expense in the larger scheme of things, so will probably take place under the radar as there would be no major PR gain from publicity.

So I am pleasantly surprised on the whole by the SDSR, though I hope there will be some positive tweaking over coming years.

November 24, 2015 7:31 am

A classic TDism appears:

“Unfortunately the Army’s procurement budget has now the ball and chain called Ajax sucking up most of its funding for the next decade and they are buying too many.”

You have no idea if any of thats true, the second half almost certainly isn’t.

The long term future of Typhoon Tranche 1 was one of the many things left unsaid, it will clearly be around in 2030 but whats its upgrade path? Whats its new OSD?

From Luddite Lodge
From Luddite Lodge
November 24, 2015 7:46 am
Reply to  RoundTower

I was wondering whether they would be looking at more of the OPV as an alternative. All you have to do is re-name them Corvettes and Jo Public will be suitably impressed. Indeed you are making the case for smaller warships for many needs

November 24, 2015 7:55 am

How to congratulate yourself–rename your title from “Commander Land Forces” to “Commander Field Army” knowing your control a darn small army with oh! “Strike Brigades” !!!!

In other new (or so some of your might have guessed)

Military context only. Strategy to come later…

November 24, 2015 8:14 am

we were always going to order just eight T26 in the first go. This is in itself uncontroversial.

while i am extremely aware of T45 problem (12 > 8 > 6), is there any REAL indication that T26 9-12/13 won’t be ordered in a follow-on?

is a light frigate the MHC, is it an amalgam of MHC and the batch3+ Rivers, or is it recognition that T26 9-12/13 will be decisively less capable in their equipment?

November 24, 2015 8:18 am

We don’t know what the light frigate is, the phrase general purpose suggests something like a modernised T23 in concept- but who knows at this stage.

November 24, 2015 8:23 am
Reply to  duker

At the moment the RN operates 3 Merlin Mk2 Squadrons with 30 helicopters and 1 Sea King ASAC7 Squadron. When the Sea Kings go there is every likelihood hat the additional 8 Merlin Mk1s will get upgraded to replace them.

November 24, 2015 8:29 am
Reply to  Hohum


Will tranche 1 Typhoons really be around until 2030 (except in the OCU)?

If we’ve got 2 frontline F-35B Squadrons by 2023 it’s not really fanciful to see another 2 set up by 2026 or so and that would mean he withdrawal of the early Typhoons from frontline service. Anyway that’s an issue for SDSR 2020.

November 24, 2015 8:30 am

What a gloomy bunch :-)

Cheer up atleast we have some new shinny toys and dozens of new online arguments to look forward to. I’m still particularly interested in what capabilities the zephyr style HALE uav is going to have. Can’t be much payload capability for a solar powered aircraft but the ability to sit still 80,000 ft above the ground offers emense potential for ISTAR.

November 24, 2015 8:32 am


I see in the above review you talk about 42 F-35Bs by 2023. Is this based on this article or have you another source?

November 24, 2015 8:35 am
Reply to  Hohum

Just checked back to the detail of the UK RAF Tranche 1 capability.:
Full DASS and missile approach warning, direct voice input, Pirate FLIR/IRST, towed radar decoy, laser warning receiver,
The AAW missile is AIM120-C5
The Air to ground capability is : 2000lb GBU-10, 1000lb GBU-16, 1000lb paveway II and enchanced P2 ( all laser guided bombs). The LDP is Rafael litening III

What they havent got for air to ground ( TR.2 and later) seems to be Paveway IV , EGBU-16 ( PW II, dual capable). Standoff weapons such as Storm Shadow and Taurus. As well the meteor missile(AAW). This was tentative at time this information went to press back in mid 2005 or so.

November 24, 2015 8:43 am


Thats one of the unmentioned in the review. The resuscitation of the 138 number implies that there is at least a tentative desire to pursue the replace of, at least, the Tranche 1 Typhoons sometime after 2025 with F-35s. Which would make sense but it isn’t said.

The 42 number was leaked over the weekend and appeared in several places.

November 24, 2015 8:46 am

An idea of what the Army might do:

2 Armoured Infantry Brigades each made up of 2 Armoured Regiments (including the reserve Wessex Yeomanry), 1 Ajax Cavalry Regiment and 3 Warrior Infantry Battalions

2 Strike Brigades each made up of 1 Ajax Cavalry Regiment, 1 Jackal Cavalry Regiment and 3 MIV Infantry Battalions

This uses the same number of Armoured Regiments (4 including the reserve regiment) and Cavalry Regiments (3 Ajax reaction and 3 Jackal adaptable now 4 Ajax and 2 Jackal) as Army 2020 but with just one extra Ajax Cavalry and one fewer Jackal Cavalry. There would also be 6 Warrior infantry battalions and 6 MIV infantry battalions instead of 6 Warrior, 3 Mastiff and 3 light infantry battalions in the reaction/deployable force.

This ‘change’ would then leave 19 Infantry Battalions in a smaller adaptable force compared to the 22 in the most recent version of Army 2020.

If I’m right it means that Army 2025 isn’t actually so different from Army 2020 after all!

November 24, 2015 8:58 am
Reply to  The Ginge

can not loose another 56

It’s not just you, it’s all over this and other defence fora, and it’s doing my head in. It’s lose not loose.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 24, 2015 9:08 am

The government was never going to place an order for thirteen Type 26, even if thirteen was their long-term plan; it would be looking too far ahead for something delivered in multiple units over many years.

Whether the Navy gets five light frigates, five GP T26, five OPV, or bugger all after the ASW ships is totally out of the hands of this government. The PM might as well have claimed that there would be a further order for the five GP Type 26 just to avoid giving the SNP something to whinge about – leave some future government to explain the downgrade to corvettte.

UK ship design seems to be a better industry to be in than UK ship building. Why commission bespoke designs and then only build six, eight, five?

If the Navy needs a cheaper frigate after the eight ordered, why can’t they simply leave out a bunch of VLS cells and the ASW suite? Half the T26 seems to be a big empty shed, and even a basic frigate will have a gun, Harpoon (or whatever’s next), and SeaCeptor, plus minor weapons, decoys, and CIWS; so how much money can actually be saved with a new frigate design while still producing a ship that remains a competent frigate? It sounds like expensively and unnecessarily designing out features that can simply be left off further T26 for zero cost, and done at a time when Type 26 production costs will be as low as they are likely to get.

November 24, 2015 9:41 am

@ Brian black

The Danes did a fair bit on a budget.

Going for Diesel engines will save a packet which will make the ship terrible for ASW and probably mean it can’t be part of a carrier strike task force but then that’s what the 8 T26 are for.

November 24, 2015 9:53 am

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that the light general purpose frigate is a fiscal crutch designed to absorb the increased cost of Trident renewal in the late 2020s/early 2030s without having to admit to a cut in escort hull numbers in this parliament.

One wonders if the hope is that Trident renewal gets cheaper (the current policy seems to be to kitchen sink it) and T26 gets cheaper at the end of the run, combined with economic expansion, allowing the light general purpose frigate to just become more Type 26s. But at this point the objective is probably balancing the long-term equipment plan.

John Carter
John Carter
November 24, 2015 10:02 am

People and Estate: I rather fear that the Royal Military School of Music (RMSM) at Kneller Hall in Whitton may become a casualty. It is a Grade 2 listed building with 10 acres of ground in Greater London worth about 10 million? In addition the teaching staff are all MOD civil servants.

Rationalization of Bands: Army Bands no longer seem to make sense to me. Guards bands are fully manned and have a high, and well deserved profile at home and abroad. Others like REME and QUEENS(M) are only about ten musicians strong. Would it not be more efficient for the Corps of Army Music (CAMUS) to adopt the Royal Marines Band Service (RMBS) model and have regional bands all of a high military band standard instead of a pick and mix stack of symphonic wind bands, brass bands, pop groups, marching bands etc? There is also the question of operational role. RMBS are trained combat medics. CAMUS are not although I understand that they have a role in Field Hospitals re CBRN.

As military music is military music why not have a purple HQ for all Service bands rather than have Kneller Hall for CAMUS, Wellington Barracks for Guards Bands, and Portsmouth for the RMBS. Portsmouth also has the Royal Marines School of Music, again staffed by MOD civilian instructors.

November 24, 2015 10:18 am
Reply to  John Carter

Recommendation: I would sell Kneller Hall and merge the Royal Marines School of Music with the RMSM in Portsmouth.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 10:18 am

Surprised at the amount of negativity from some here. Everyone would have taken this last week when all were in fear over what the next round of cuts may bring.
John Carter, agree with Kneller Hall and often wondered how it survives and what it brings to defending this nation or projecting its military capability abroad. Reminds me of the fuss in the mid 90’s over the closure of the School of Music at deal. Who gives a stuff? Unless Kneller has some covert role then close the place.
RAF Woodvale is another that springs to mind, and Henlow and Linton.

November 24, 2015 10:22 am

Brian just posted exactly what I was going to ask re T26 vs light frigate. I know almost nothing about this stuff and have started lurking on a few forums to try and learn. One of the mantras I’ve seen trotted out quite a few times in a few forums when discussing ships is “steel and air is cheap, it’s the systems that are expensive” so like Brian my thoughts were why not use the T26 hull design with a far lower level of systems fit? That would also presumably reduce crewing levels (would it?) which I’m sure is a big factor as well.

Apart from not needing a totally new design and having the production capabilities up and running it could also (I assume) offer the opportunity for upgrades to full T26 spec if changing circumstances required it.

I’d be very interested in knowing why the above is a silly/non-viable approach (if it is).

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 10:26 am

The exceptions to this for me concerning establishments and defence usefulness are the 3 officer training sites BRNC, Cranwell and Sandhurst, and the assorted elements of the Houshold Division and associated barracks with royal functions. To me these are sites of international standing and national importance concerning the heritage of this nation and should be kept.

November 24, 2015 10:54 am

To have 22 Army bands in an 82,000 strong army is a nonsense, for them to have a school on a majorly prime London site is ridiculous. Drastic cuts needed, and if a school is needed then see if any private music colleges fancy a military annexe.

I have a couple of questions on the SDSR
The table has 8 Shadows – Wiki says there are only 6 at the moment….are we getting 2 more (I thought they were on the chopping list once out of Afghanistan??)
Selling off 30% of the built estate?! 30%?? Where is all this unnecessary estate? Is it empty or are they going to be cramming more and more onto super-bases?

November 24, 2015 11:11 am

Reports of increased crews for E-3D and a modernisation programme to start in 2020 as well. The RAF really is the winner here.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 11:12 am
Reply to  ChrisM


5 at present, plus 1 unconverted, with 14 Squadron. Yes hopefully we are! Unless it is a typo.
Seems government has woken up at how important ISTAR is, and now the RAF has a useful suite of ISTAR assets across 6 squadrons we should keep them, not chuck away the built up capability.

As for bases, there are hundreds of MoD sites still. Much has already been sold, so I think there is only so much one can still dispose of. Yes, MoD already announced in 2010 SDSR the army would be concentrated on fewer “Super Barracks” while the RAF has already reduced its number of stations considerably.
Problem with this that needs to be balanced is with the worry now over terror attacks and mentions of deploying the army en masse to respond to multiple terror attacks the military probably needs to keep a wide enough footprint nationwide rather than going to too few sites. Thus there are several army barracks housing but a single Infantry Battalion, such as Chepstow, Chester, Preston, Tern Hill, etc, which could be closed to save money but they represent a useful regional presence.
I am against closing Naval Bases and RAF Stations due to the associated infrastructure like runways, links to GPSS, etc that would cost an absolute fortune to create again if needed in future due to some emerging major threat. So I myself am more in favour of closing barracks rather than these sites. Indeed many RAF airfields have been taken over by the army since Options for Change 1991.

November 24, 2015 11:14 am
Reply to  MSR

hmm worrying point, but why didn’t they simply go whole hog and buy proper corvettes BAE has the design? Camm, Hanger, Helo, gun, I know the RN were a but scared of getting less T26 if they could make do with a light Frigate C3 style, well guess what that is what they are getting! Bit worried T26 will now only be anti sub and no deep strike? Back to T45 for TLAM? like a modern day T21?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 11:20 am
Reply to  Hohum

Agree. Good isn’t it. :-)

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 11:20 am

A modernised T23 is a T26, they are an ASW vessel that is also used for General Purpose roles, with the TAS only fitted to 8 vessels.

The new light frigate to me will be the T26 hull, probably with some revisions based on experience with the vessel, retaining the mission bay and helicopter capabilities, retaining the VLS, main gun and radar. It will lose the TAS and ASW kit, it will also lose the noise reduction requirement, this means the pipe systems can be done far cheaper and also it will mean all the equipment won’t need to be individually mounted for noise which will save a lot and free up space.

This will also allow all the lessons learned from T26 can be learnt and filtered into the new design.

November 24, 2015 11:28 am


Not really. T26 has the added luxury of the mission bay, Chinook capable helo-pad, 28 CAMM cells and 28 Mk.41 versus 32 CAMM and 8 x Harpoon and considerable space for additional personnel above the usual complement.

Scale back those extras and you could build something smaller- though not necessarily much cheaper.

And if you sacrifice the ASW kit whats the point?

November 24, 2015 11:34 am
Reply to  Hohum

Edit; 48 CAMM cells, 24 Mk.41 in T26

November 24, 2015 11:41 am

France does much of what we want with the La Fayette Class, it is a 3,600 ton vessel full load. Go for CODAD with the new design and drop the idea of keeping up with a task group imho.

November 24, 2015 11:49 am

Personally I think the frigate plan is sound. We haven’t needed our navy for anything challenging in probably 30 years, we don’t even know if the current generation of weapons even work, because they have never been used in anything other than tests. Combine that with there being no serious threats currently on the horizon, that would need us to use our navy and their top end hardware (I don’t see Russia as a serious threat, more an annoyance).

Should we need a task force, we have some of the best destroyers in the world and will have a reasonable number of anti-sub frigates to protect our crown jewels in the carriers and f35s

However the number of low intensity threats have never been higher, with the raise in piracy and people smuggling.

So it makes sense to save money by building cheaper vessels to handle these lower intensive tasks and at the same time retain a core of effective vessels in case we have missed a threat. Ideally ensuring the low intensity vessels are designed to be operated with lower manpower.

November 24, 2015 11:52 am

“we don’t even know if the current generation of weapons even work, because they have never been used in anything other than tests”


November 24, 2015 11:53 am

@ DM – no need to sell Sandhurst, just sell Northolt, it’s probably worth enough to Pay for the successor program. Seriously a country that has refused to spend a few tens of millions for a decent VIP transport aircraft is at the same time prepared to keep a very large chunk of some of the most expensive land in the world to transport VIP’s makes no sense.

The MOD should have to justify every bit of land and building it has inside the M25 and it should have significantly less than it does. I don’t think we can continue to rely on tradition to justify keeping such buildings. If they are protected buildings they will continue to be so even if turned into flats.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 11:54 am
Reply to  AndyC

“At the moment the RN operates 3 Merlin Mk2 Squadrons with 30 helicopters and 1 Sea King ASAC7 Squadron. When the Sea Kings go there is every likelihood hat the additional 8 Merlin Mk1s will get upgraded to replace them.”

No. They. Don’t. Look up 814/820/824 and 829NAS. Do not translate faulty understanding of current force structure, compared with the JF2025 graphic to equal a fantasy about the HM1.

Not that I disagree that more cabs are going to be required to maintain both an ASW and ASaC capability. I suspect that one of the four squadrons is going to have to transition to be the ASaC capability parent sqn. Just can’t translate that into the orphan 8 – particularly as their foldy bits are going on the HC3i cabs. It would be cheaper to buy new frames off the line…

November 24, 2015 12:12 pm

Thanks for info on Shadow. I thought they were quite specific for use in Afghanistan and a bit small for use without local deployment? I understand they are particularly secret but roughly what are they for going forward? Do they deploy to places like Mali and Nigeria? Or are they taking over the Northolt Islanders role and snooping about over the UK for GCHQ?
Re needing regional bases for domestic deployments – isn’t that partly what the Reserve estate is for? That is protected space in towns and cities all over the country.
I agree about getting rid of airfields being short termist, hence I like them being taken over by Army units in a way that keeps the runways either usable or quickly restorable (and presumably helps fast/discrete movement of the troops based there if necessary)
Would be a bit reluctant to get rid of Northolt. I know it is hardly secret, but at least it is MOD owned – keeping a military airfield close to the centre of government seems rather sensible for discrete movements and rapid deployments

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 12:18 pm

Whatever the Light Frigate is, it won’t be a T26 hull. The clue is in the word “light”. T26 is something north of 6500te light, 8000te deep and nudging 9000 at end of life. That is what is scaring people – partly because of the huge number of VSO who “know” how much a ship costs just by looking at the full load displacement and partly because of the way the BAE cost model works.

That means, in order to make it politically (as opposed to technically) “affordable” you have to take weight out. If you take weight out, that hullform will float higher in the water – which given the peculiarities of the hullform will make it significantly less stable through reduced waterplane. Meantime – a lot of the weight removed will have come from both above and below the ships CofG, which will leave it largely where it is, compounding the issue. That means you have to start changing the principal dimensions, which means it’s a new design.

That new design will have to have a number of things to make it acceptable to the RN as a warfighting (as opposed to peacetime patrol) asset (what the Rivers are allegedly for). It will need an MCG (choice Mk45 Mod4 as per T26 or something smaller – likely an OTO 76 with associated ammo / support cost). It will need a self defence capability that has common DLOD with the rest of the fleet (so SeaCeptor then) and it will probably need some sort of SCG (ASCG or CIWS), plus some decoys. It will need a couple of boats, probably a hull mounted sonar and likely an SSGW battery. Plus a range of RN comms. Plus a Merlin-capable deck (25m ) and at least a Wildcat-sized hangar (15m) if its going to deploy as a singleton (not much use if it’s not). Then its going to need accommodation for about 120 bodies to RN standards (DS02-107), long endurance (5000nm plus), COLPRO, RN shock, NATO/RN stability, MARPOL-compliant bunker arrangements, LR NS2 Class notation or similar. After the debacle of the T45, you’re going to want a reliable propulsion system – but if you say CODAD that probably means 4 propulsion diesels and 4 generators, which means more machinery spaces and more length. Want to save that? Then use electrickery – but that adds electric motors – big ones if you want speeds in the mid 20s and beyond. Which you do for fleet work. And I haven’t even mentioned a land attack VLS…..

That is not a Khareef – or anything like it – but is not exactly what you’d call a “gold-plated” ship. When you add all that up it will come to at least 5000te, more when you allow for through-life growth. At which point, you’ll find that a weight-based cost model will start telling people its more than the VSO expectation and the VSO will say that its unaffordable because its bigger than a T23.

This conversation will occur in approximately two years, possibly three.

The Ginge
The Ginge
November 24, 2015 12:22 pm

Again going back to the PM’s words and the document the 5 “Light” frigates are not going to be built on he T26 Hull which as far as I am aware is already comming in at over 8,000 Tonne and north of £750m each. In no shape or form can that be considered a “light” vessel.
We should look at 28 Mk41 Cells (quad pack Camm in to them if you want) which should allow Local Airdefence/the New US ASM in the Mk41 and other missiles , plus a hanger and hello deck for 1. Lynx with dipping sonar, anti sub torpedos fitted as it will be the ships only true anti submarine equipment, empty mission deck under the Helicopter Deck for Ribs or Anti Mine warefare equipment. It should come in at under £350m a piece and be under 4,000t , crew of 100 max, Using Diesel/Electric propolsion, Range 10,000km, speed max 30knots. Ability to be networked to a T26/T45 to allow those ships to use it’s weapons, using their sensors.
But this is the problem. It is again more jam tomorrow approach. Can BAe build something cheap, can the Navy except something that is not as silent as a whisper and can do 35knots, doesn’t have a flight deck that is huge etc etc.
My own view is they can’t get there heads around it. Plus the design cost will be 6 times the build cost knowing BAe, there are plenty of designs out there, buy the rights to one and just knock them out in Scotland.

November 24, 2015 12:25 pm

On the light frigate.

If it were to be armed with 24 CAMS, a 5′ gun (lighter than 4′.5 of T23), Merlin capable flight deck and a Wildcat capable hanger, with a hull-mount sonar, a 20 mm CIWS, 2 triple AS turpedos, 27kt dash speed and 6000 nm range, as well as smart-s 3D rader and ship-torpedo-defence-system, IT IS the RNZN Anzac frigate modernization plan (TeKaha & TeMana). It weights < 4000t FL with still good weight margine to equip several SSMs.

Thus, if you omit GT (reduced dash speed to 25kt), introduce automation to reduce crew numbers, omit CIWS, and let the ASW noise as it is, there is a good change to have a <4000t FL GP light frigate.

It will be better to have a Merlin capable hanger, thus the weight will be somewhere around 4000-4200t FL? If you host a Merlin, the frigate will become a limited ASW asset, which will escort the "secondary flottila" such as South Georgia island task group in the Falklands war.

Since the light frigate is there to compensate for T26s cost increase (everything so hi-end), it must be designed to be much cheaper, say, about a half or 2/3 at most ot a T26.

These figures also shows that the RNZN would be a potential customer for 2 (or 3) light frigates, as well as Malaysian navy (Lekiu replacements).

Alternatively, more "cheaper" option will be a modified Khareef class, which is just a patrol frigate and will not be a task group member.

Although a bit fantasy, and I agree it is too early to talk about this (it is way far at late 2020s to start build), this is my "wish list" for the light frigates.

November 24, 2015 12:27 pm

The entire thing screams 5,000 ton ASW/GP frigate in the same mold as Type 23. I fail to see how its going to end up significantly cheaper than a T26 when its going to need many of the same systems.

As I said above, it looks like a fiscal crutch to absorb the Trident renewal cost in the equipment plan without having to cut a frigate.

The Other Chris
November 24, 2015 12:28 pm

Odds that in practice the “Five or more” purchased will just be Type 26’s sans ASW kit?

November 24, 2015 12:31 pm
Reply to  Not a Boffin


To the best of my knowledge 814/820 and 829 NAS are frontline squadrons with 9 Merlin Mk2s in each. 824 NAS is the training unit with 3 Merlin Mk2s and some Mk4s.

Judging by other aircraft and helicopter types the infographic only includes frontline units. So we currently have 3 Squadrons.

849 NAS currently operates 9-10 Sea Kings which are due to retire in 2018. According to the Royal Navy website at that point the Squadron will transition to Merlin Mk2s, see

While there is no guarantee that these Merlin’s aren’t simply being transferred from the three existing frontline Squadrons it is my belief that they’ll be the 8 Mark 1s currently that were in service until a few years ago.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 24, 2015 12:33 pm

Agreed the SDSR is not as bad as feared & has some good in it, but some random thoughts.
The successor SSBN is being put back 5 years. Is that for financial or technical reasons? How do we keep submarine building skills going? Will we need an Astute no 8 to fill the gap?
F-35. I think they only come right with the block 4a software & block 1 engine upgrade. They will not be available until 2019-20. Is it 24 or 42 by 2023 for the UK? Which one is a typo?
For a light frigate, we could look at the Damen OPV 2600, a 103m ship with Sea Axe bow, or the Rolls Royce corvette design for Poland.
T26. I agree with the 8 ASW, but I would also want 6 of the AAW version BAE proposed.
Plus a general rant about the lack of anything on how the UK pays its way in the world. Where is the thought out plan for boosting UK factories, food production & energy security?

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 12:59 pm

On Successor slipping right could this be a consequence of some of the “V” boats now requiring to be refuelled? Having taken the cost to put a new reactor on HMS Vanguard it presumably it means the fleet as a whole will last longer? And sadly I don’t think this gives time for “Astute 8”, simply that they will spend longer of the trials and commissioning of the new SSBN. Some of the cost inflation of Successor is presumably simply inflation from the programme being pushed back. The provision of a large contingency buffer is no bad thing at this stage. Some of that may yet come back to the rest of Defence as the programme matures.

On F35 numbers it’s presumably 42 purchased to generate 24 front line ready and embarked, the balance of 18 being the UK contribution to OEU and OCU.

I would imagine 617 will stand up in 2018 to start training with less mature airframes, and declare some sort of IOC around 2020 in the Fleet Air Defence role. As newer airframes get delivered the original ones will be downgraded to OCU and eventually sent back to the factory for upgrade. Worst case in 2023 is that we have one squadron at FOC and one still at IOC.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 1:17 pm
Reply to  AndyC

Your knowledge is incorrect. None of the Grey Merlin units has nine cabs, nor are there any Mk4s in existence yet. Funnily enough, 824 has seven cabs at the minute, more than any other Grey Merlin unit – all HM2.

I wouldn’t discriminate between operational and training units in the infographic personally – you’ll note there are two Wildcat squadrons – one of which will be 825 and the other (I suspect) the training unit. 847NAS will be under Army/JHC with the other CHF squadrons.

November 24, 2015 1:18 pm
Reply to  Hohum

“The reference points clearly being Russia and assorted militant muslims respectively. ”

Yes, with the current strategy appearing to be arming and training Muslim militants in Syria, while demonising the Russians who are actually fighting them.

November 24, 2015 1:21 pm
Reply to  Observer


As an outsider looking in – why not….why can’t you keep the big expensive stuff in mothballs with maybe a single big expensive type at sea and then rotate crews through the big stuff and the ‘little stuff’ (that is actually at sea all the time).

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 1:22 pm

Andy C

Common sense may indicate that we need more Merlin Mk2, but is there any solid indication (a) that MoD agrees or (b) where MoD might see them come from?

How trivial would it be for AW to knock out half a dozen new ones? Is there a production line open somewhere and are there slots free? Or maybe we can pick up some more from distressed allies? Would Italy be interested in selling some of theirs for book value? I can quite believe NAB that the 8 HM1 have been robbed to hulks and would need a total factory rebuild, which might not be the most cost effective thing given their age and the hours already on their structures. Might it even be politically wise to chuck AW a small order for new HM2 to make up for getting the new/rebuilt Apaches off the American line…

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 1:29 pm
Reply to  Martin


I agree. I don’t want them to sell Sanfhurst!
With the idea of selling off RAF Northolt, over the last several years the MoD’s Project MODEL already “rationalized” the London MoD estate and reduced to 2 core sites – Woolwich and Northolt. Several units, Army, RAF, RN and MoD, moved into Northolt, including new facilities for the DMC ( BFPO ) amongst others, and much of the station was rebuilt.

This spend on the site makes me oppose selling anything but the airfield, which is more used commercially than militarily so cannot see that being turned into flats either.

No idea if there is space at Heathrow for a lodger unit and place 32 Sqn and Northolt Station Flight there. Personally i would keep northolt as is.

November 24, 2015 1:30 pm

@NaB – Many thanks for the great exposition of light frigate/T26 differences. Most illuminating.

A follow-on question if I may. Martin commented further up this thread “The Danes did a fair bit on a budget.“. To a lay person that does look awfully impressive for the “$325 million apiece” price quoted in the article. Are there significant compromises there that aren’t apparent to the lay person? Is the price misleading or plain wrong? If none of the above then how did they get that much capability for that price?

November 24, 2015 1:30 pm

I think if you compare the many ‘3 Wishes’ in another Thread and what came our of SDSR15 then what most wished for has been granted. The foreboding of doom and gloom was not realised and every arm of our Forces has now got more certainty of purpose, therefore the ability to plan how to achieve each given objective and the new equipment and funding to make plans a reality. Arguing over the size of a hangar on 5+ Type 26 Lites is somewhat better than crying over 5 lost orders. More Astutes ordered, carriers going well and aircraft ordered for the FAA, new tankers and stores ships for the RFA and 4 new Trident subs for Barrow to build. Not too many upset Matelots today…..

People who say the P-8s are too little too late and the Nimrod was ‘wonderful’ and should never have been scrapped need to get a grip and understand the MR2s had limited life left after 40 years service, were flying death traps and had limited mission capability. The MRA4 was ultimately cancelled in 2010 simply because it was £789 million over-budget and over nine years late. It started life in 1998 for delivery in 2003 and by 2010 the one airframe flying had so many faults it was refused an air certificate. We should have swallowed our pride, bought second hand A340s (we did steal A340 cockpits after all) and fitted all the clever stuff in a known airframe. But that is 20/20 Hindsight. I am not too impressed with Boeing arguing with its British customer over the amount of ‘British’ content. Just tell Boeing to STFU and fit RR engines.

Typhoon expansion, extension and upgrade is exactly what I wanted and the F35 orders and statement of intent also clears us to keep earning $ Billions from EVERY F35 built. (Has anyone done a P & L on the revenue we get via BAE from building F35s versus the cost of buying 138 aircraft?). Not too many upset Crabs today ……

The Army now have a clear vision of their re-tasking. For all the clever talk by ‘some’ the fact remains we are a small Nation and we do not need a huge Army. We just need a very capable, disciplined and well equipped one. We always had the first two and now we have the third part. They now have to prepare for a faster world. The Iraq and Afghan. days were not what the 21st Century British Army is for and why we struggled more than we needed to. We sent brave lads into Iraq without proper kit. Utterly disgraceful. We then overspent £ Billions panic buying. Well now we have structure and purpose and getting the right kit. Lets hope we never abuse the khakis ever again. I suspect there are a few smiley faces in Aldershot today as well …

November 24, 2015 1:34 pm

7 is almost 8 (be they half-breeds, rather than full-boodied Mk4s… Merlin conversions, that is):

“The upgraded Merlin HC Mk3 first flew on 8 April 2015 and completed flight trials at the end of August. Following formal Release to Service in September the aircraft has now been delivered and will be followed by six further aircraft to provide an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in spring 2016, when the final Sea King HC Mk4 aircraft will be withdrawn from service.”

November 24, 2015 1:34 pm
Reply to  ChrisM


“Drastic cuts needed, and if a school is needed then see if any private music colleges fancy a military annexe.”

Why not attach it to a civilian music school and base it in the North…or if a ‘proper military school of music is required’ base it in the North….. :)

November 24, 2015 1:39 pm
Reply to  Martin


As an outsider looking in, given that all operations in the future are going to be based on ‘Joint Operations’, why not have one establishment for training officers? Why three? Why not get junior officers from all three services working with each other right from the off?

November 24, 2015 1:41 pm
Reply to  ChrisM
Thats a lot of prime land just inside the M25!
My question would be why were only getting twelve billion! ;-)

November 24, 2015 1:41 pm
Reply to  ArmChairCivvy

full thoroughbreds, rather than “full-boodied)
… where does that edit always disappear to?

Comment 82, as this won’t slot straight under it, either

November 24, 2015 1:42 pm
Reply to  ArmChairCivvy

ohh! It did!
– let’s try again (no 2nd level nesting, would be my guess)

No, it did not, in the end. And definitely no nesting of comments, at any level.

November 24, 2015 1:43 pm
Reply to  The Ginge

So Venator 110
Or Khareef stretch?

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 1:47 pm

“To a lay person that does look awfully impressive for the “$325 million apiece” price quoted in the article. Are there significant compromises there that aren’t apparent to the lay person? Is the price misleading or plain wrong? If none of the above then how did they get that much capability for that price?”

There’s a little clue in the fact that the shipyard shut. That’s usually a sign that they’re not making any money – bit of a necessity for a going concern. Other clues are in the various statements about equipment “not yet fitted” and empty cableways.

Don’t get me wrong – they’re good looking and capable ships, but the devil is in the detail of what the costs actually were – as in was $325M really the unit cost? Was there GFE? Who did what (the RDN did a lot of what is usually done by a shipyard), how long did it take and where did the costs fall.

November 24, 2015 1:48 pm
Reply to  Not a Boffin


This may sound dim…..hope you don’t mind me asking but….could the UK not adopt a slightly different approach and make it clear to the world that ‘X’ is the big bag of money on the table…then ask the RN what is their bottom line for that spend (or nothing if they say they only want 15 T-26s or whatever and so the cash used on Health for example) not a penny more and then get the ‘best design’ built in the UK.

I know I’m an outsider looking in, and this may be grossly unfair, but it strikes me that unless it is totally ‘gold plated’ and something the Admirals can show off to the USN…..then the RN aren’t interested.

November 24, 2015 1:50 pm
Reply to  Julian

Well it is a shining example of fitted for not with or a shining example of pulling thru tried and tested weapons, whichever way you want to look at it I suppose.
Good looking floaty though!

November 24, 2015 1:50 pm
Reply to  Hohum


This is a bigger problem than you might think.

In the falklands, the untested anti-air missiles failed and had to be manually overridden resulting in Coventry being sunk, and we are still unsure if the Rapier actually managed to shoot down anything. In Iraq the phalanx on the US ships completely failed and required a royal navy ship to shoot down the missile, the patriot missile batteries had avery marginal success rate.

All these systems worked perfectly in tests and training, but when it came to firing it all went badly wrong. This is the problem with extremely expensive equipment, its too expensive to properly do live fire testing, so most of it is simulations.

November 24, 2015 1:55 pm
Reply to  Steve

Not to mention that most of the torpedo’s fired from HMS Conqueror also failed.

November 24, 2015 1:56 pm

‘ This is the problem with extremely expensive equipment, its too expensive to properly do live fire testing, so most of it is simulations.’

Weapons are live fire tested, you might not seem, them but they are.

November 24, 2015 1:56 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Methinks Ozzy has been eyeing up them pretty La Fayette jobbies?
Navy is only getting a couple of T23 frigates worth of extra bods…
Stretchy Khareef with more automation, when does a Corvette become a Frigate?
Don’t shout too loud at me Hohum! 0;-)

November 24, 2015 1:56 pm

Your comment was and remains a joke.

November 24, 2015 2:03 pm

Pity no one has grasped the nettle and shut down a bunch of undeployable light infantry Bn’s in order to keep the number of deployable brigades up. I suppose such obvious solutions will have to wait for hell freezing over :-(

Those “strike” brigades look suitably useless in that they aren’t heavy enough to take on Russian armoured brigades while too heavy to be rapidly deployable worldwide in the way CVR(T) and BV based force would be.

If we’re going to have a light frigate, lets produce something with the requisite compromises, but good enough for home defence / CASD protection / Caribbean / FI guardship duties . Put in 32 tactical length Mk41. No TLAM/SM3, but enough room for Sea Ceptor / VL-Penguin / VL-ASROC. Plain diesel electric propulsion, 25 kt speed is enough. No need for a towed array sonar, but a Lynx / H60 sized hangar and Merlin sized flight deck is fine, usually filled with UAV’s rather than a helicopter. Something like this would be exportable too :-)

November 24, 2015 2:08 pm
Reply to  Hohum

Thought so!
What we’ll get rarely matches what we want and the Gov wants cheap!

November 24, 2015 2:09 pm

Personally I believe it’s nonsense that the RAF must have an airfield near the seat of government.

Really for what reason? The queen quite happily take’s a train it Balmoral with one body guard and UK ministers tend to fly commercial to places.

We happily had the G8 summit in Scotland with all the world leaders landing at Edinburgh airport.

No need to take up space at Heathrow. If they need access to an airfield in London then use Biggin Hill. Fair enough with keeping the other military aspects of Northolt just sell the airfield.

As the BBC point out there are 57 MOD sites inside the M25.

The fact remains that way too much of our military establishment is tied to the South East for public school boy related reasons.

If we are going to have a 21st century military then lest drop all the 19th Century crap that costs a fortune.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 2:21 pm
Reply to  Jules


There is only so much MOD could sell off within the M25 boundry.

Most MoD office buildings have been shut and functions concentrated in Main Building already.
Old War Office has been sold, not easy considering where abouts it is in the Central London Security Zone and what is underneath it.
Same applies to the Admiralty and the ops functions there, and London District at Horseguards.
Woolwich and Northolt have had assets moved into them from closed sites.
Northwood is obviously a no no.
Wellington barracks is close to government and royal sites, with a big muster area for military or civilian emergency use, and is no doubt involved in security for royalty.
Hyde park barracks will probably be sold, for a massive sum, once they work out where to put HCMR which idealy needs to be close by due to its state functions.
Regents park is a possibility though again there are certain things there that would need new homes first.
I would guess the most expensive site would be the HAC Artillery grounds and associated barracks within the city, though I understand they already tried to sell that off only to discover Mod do not own it!

November 24, 2015 2:39 pm

The comment about having an MOD airfield near the seat of government was less about flying the government around and more to do with most vitally important events happening in London. If they need to fly in lots of people/troops, or fly them out, or need to base a lot of helicopters or some Typhoons near London then it is best to have an airfield that the MOD can act first, without commercial arrangements or force protection complications.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 2:55 pm
Reply to  Martin


Not against that concept of spreading the estate away from the south east but I think you will find many of those 57 sites are local army reserve centres, ccf halls and the like, which I doubt will bring in much revenue.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 24, 2015 3:06 pm


Having spent quite a bit of time in various RN/MoD circles over the years, I can assure you that not once have I ever heard anything along the lines of “we must be able to impress the americans with this” or anything resembling it.

You do hear – “we must be able to communicate / interoperate (share data) / share the same logistics sources wherever possible” – quite often, but that is nothing but common sense and rarely if ever anything remotely connecting to the mythical “gold-plating”.


Clearly you’ve been reading the wrong books………

November 24, 2015 3:10 pm

Chris M

If they need to move large numbers of troops around then I might suggest using Brize Norton. I don’t think the MOD has any contingency planning for for moving large numbers of troops around Birmingham, Manchester or any other British city. I don’t think London being the Capital should afford it any special treatment in this regard.

@ DM – no doubt many of those 57 sites are as you say but we can say for certainty that there are some major sites in London still being kept. The airfield at Northolt being the biggest example and the only justification the MOD can come up with is that it must have an airfield inside the M25. Seems like yet another sacred cow in need of sacrificing and it’s one that could generate a massive amount of money plus help London alleviate its housing shortage.

While we are at it might as well get rid of the place guards and associated sacred cows. Give the job across to veterans of reservists or anyone other than front line forces.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 3:31 pm
Reply to  Martin

Hi again Martin

Can you list some of these sites? I would be interested in seeing what sites you mean.
You also have to factor in the cost of relocating things when closing down sites, vs just keeping them as is. Also some may have Critical National Infrastructure, etc, which cannot be easily moved or yet replicated elsewhere.
Northolt I already touched on way back up thread, especially the non airfield side of the station which has seen much investment previously.
The “sacred cows” comment, and the palace guards, would you disband these units then? Unlike other nations ceremonial units they are also front line Battalions that rotate in and out of ceremonial, public duties and front line roles?

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 24, 2015 3:33 pm

Speculating on the strike brigades, I suggested before the statement that the strike brigades might consist of an armoured battlegroup sized heavy component, and also para, air-assault, and MIV or protected mobility units.

With 16 Air-assault brigade seeming to continue, it’s a reasonable guess that the strike brigades will not contain light infantry units. If more high-readiness light battalions are needed over the Para battalions, then the obvious decision would be to designate a couple of air-assault battalions to sit with 2 & 3 Para in 16AA.

If one of the armoured brigades is disappearing and providing units for the two strike brigades, then I think I’m right about them having an armoured infantry group. Ajax and MIV have alone been mentioned; I’m guessing though that the disappeared armoured brigade will provide the strike brigades each with a Warrior battalion, a cavalry squadron with Ajax, and a Challenger squadron. That could be a reduction (from the 2020 plan) of an Ajax cavalry squadron and perhaps around thirty C2. I think there is a good chance that the strike brigadess do disguise quite a significant further cut to the tank fleet that no one has really noticed yet. Tanks are after all pretty expensive; Challenger needs continuing upgrades; and we have a slight shift of emphasis towards facing unconventional enemies.

At a strength of about 5,000, I assume that along with the armoured infantry, tank and cavalry squadrons, the strike brigades will have probably three other battalions. No lightIinfantry, but perhaps MIV and Foxhound, two units of one and one unit of the other. Integral artillery and other bits and bobs should be about 5,000 bodies.

Some folks have said that Ajax is not suitable for a rapid reaction force, but the force of two strike brigades and one air assault brigade should have a better ratio of lighter and highly mobile units to heavy armoured units than the 2020 Reaction Force as a whole.

I would also guess that the two remaining armoured brigades will lose the planned heavy protected mobility battalion, so consisting only of tank regiment, cavalry regiment, and two armoured infantry battalions.

If the strike brigades get maybe two flashy new MIV battalions each, will there be much/any cash for such vehicles for the stated six infantry brigades? The bulk of the infantry could still be the poor and underfunded mass that the planned Adaptable Force was – seven protected mobility battalions, and the others being light role.

So that’s my wild stab in the dark at the Strike brigades. One Warrior battalion, two MIV, one Foxhound, plus Challenger squadron, Ajax squadron, and mixed-bag RA regiment.

November 24, 2015 3:49 pm


” I am not too impressed with Boeing arguing with its British customer over the amount of ‘British’ content. Just tell Boeing to STFU and fit RR engines.”

I have a sneaking suspicion the disparity on work share figures is purely down to a slight misunderstanding by the government and Boeing. Boeing are saying £3 million per UK supplied airframe whilst the government are saying £1 billion overall.

Well I say overall of what? Remember every P-8 made has UK content, Marshall’s for example have delivered 200 auxiliary fuel tanks for the P8 program. Is it a simple case the government has presented the figure that is based upon all UK content in the P-8 program whilst Boeing released a statement based upon the 9 procured.

The Boeing tweet that was released was during the SDSR speech so not run by UK MOD pr types.

Also what engine? RR don’t make a suitable engine for the 737 and it would be lunacy to spend money qualifying an alternative to satisfy UK workshare desires. There are better ways of doing that IMHO.

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 3:50 pm

BB – fair assumption. Investment in MIV will be limited and be channelled to where it will be most used / visible. Will be interesting to see if all the Bulldogs go or if they still struggle on somewhere in the Orbat.

Now: we know a couple of Light Role batallions are needed in garrison roles; and a couple sent overseas on training and development missions; and I can just about see 10,000 of the UK Garrison as ‘Aid to the civil power’; but that doesn’t seem to add up to six brigades worth. Lots of square bashing and painting the kerbstones white then. And to be honest I don’t see why those batallions have to be brigaded at all: why not put them all under an adminsitrative ‘UK Corps of Infantry’ HQ and save half a dozen Brigadier roles and the associatied overhead?

Oh I see, that would be why…

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 4:00 pm
Reply to  Brian Black


I read your post with interest. Thank you. Am I right in suggesting the Strike Brigades would have a similar CS/CSS set up to the current deployable brigades? That being –
1x RA Regiment. 1 x RE Regiment. 1 or 2 x RLC Regiment. 1 x REME Battalion. 1 x RAMC Regiment.
If so, how does this impact the 3rd RA Regiment of mixed AS90/GMLRS/Exactor, and the 3rd RE Regiment ( Armoured ) of Trojan, Terrier, Titan etc. Would the Strike brigades still use these heavier RE and RA assets or are we looking at the Light Gun being used and thus yet another cut to AS90 numbers?

November 24, 2015 4:01 pm

Didn’t I hear somewhere that the P8 mission kit is largely the same as the MRA4 system Boeing had? Certainly Boeing were BAE’s tactical mission system subcontractor on MRA4, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the development work done on Nimrod was carried over to P8. If so, there is an argument that with this buy the UK is getting the Nimrod MRA4 it paid for in a newer airframe. Shame we have to pay twice for it though.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 4:05 pm

Or, is there a possibility they reduce the ChII contingents from a type 56 Armoured Regiment to something smaller and convert a Light Cavalry regiment into an armoured one, thus spreading the remaining Challengers around.

November 24, 2015 4:28 pm

Daniele: “I think you will find many of those 57 sites are local army reserve centres, ccf halls and the like, which I doubt will bring in much revenue.”

That sounds likely – quick scan of the MOD Army website lists two careers centres and 42 Army Reserve units within London (I’ve tried to avoid double-counting where several units are co-located but may have missed some). And no doubt there’s navy and RAF presence too. Not much to be done there – is there much extra capacity in the TA drill halls? Even if there is, the Reserve’s still supposed to be growing by 50% in the next three years, isn’t it?

November 24, 2015 4:31 pm

“While we are at it might as well get rid of the place guards and associated sacred cows. Give the job across to veterans of reservists or anyone other than front line forces.”

Palace guard is a 24/7 commitment and thus not really suitable for reservists. And I am not sure how you save much money by shifting the duty around – you still have to have someone doing it, and they still need paying.

November 24, 2015 4:39 pm

Supplies of cool-aid running low around here.

I’d sure like to see the Admiralty math that says 6 AA destroyers and 8 ASW T26 can protect a carrier battle group plus supporting RFA plus amphibious group. I’m sure assumption #1 is that no ship will be sunk, no ship will go u/s and no ship will be dockside in refit.

And of course, said carrier & amphib group will be carrying thousands of young men & women & dozens of the RAF finest aircraft. Something worthy of protection I would think.

Jeremy M H
November 24, 2015 4:43 pm
Reply to  Fedaykin


Don’t waste your time. Chish is just flat out anti-American on defense issues and his uninformed hissy fit about fitting RR engines is or for the course. No reason to take input from a guy who doesn’t know royals Royce doesn’t compete in that market segment seriously. It is just more uninformed ranting.

November 24, 2015 4:45 pm

I did enjoy the comment that the obsolete Typhoons being resurrected (brought back from the dead) were not at all obsolete, followed by the comment that they could drop & fire every bomb & missile that the UK used to have, but none of the weapons currently in use. I think obsolete” must mean something different here than elsewhere.

No defense for Tornados going out of service way before their replacements are ready. Unless folks think the vintage Typhoons that cant drop Paveway IV or fire Brimstone or Storm Shadow, are an adequate substitute. FJ numbers still dip.

What did George say the other day? The country is going on to a war footing to defeat ISIS. Riiiight.

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 4:50 pm

Ron5 – I tend to agree with others that the “smaller and lighter Frigate” is a figment of uninformed peoples imaginations. Fortunately we have 10 years to figure that out before we have to try and order any. At which point T26 as a known design with a known cost and the production line hot will suddenly look a whole lot more attractive…

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 4:59 pm
Reply to  a

Hello A

It’s supposed to be expanding, I don’t have exact details but from what I read and hear they are struggling. A desperate government PR stunt to try and cover the holes left after SDSR2010.

When the future reservist structure was published there was mention of basing, and that still included the closure of many TA centres, none of which I can name off my head at the moment. Agree if they are genuine about expanding the Army reserve then cutting ARC’s is not a good idea, cuts down on the visibility of the military with the public, which is desirable.

Apart from Kneller Hall, which I agree should be sold for as much as possible, I cannot think of any other major sites within M25 boundry that are “sacred cows” as Martin suggests? Cavalry Barracks Hounslow perhaps?? Not sure there are many left as many have already been sold. The remaining I think have direct security implications, for example with the current terrorist concerns it is highly desirable to have at least a Battalion of troops nearby, and not just for Royal or Public duties as in the units based at Woolwich or Windsor.

November 24, 2015 5:01 pm

Even by the abysmal standards of the TD comments section Ron5 is spectacularly ignorant of reality.

He has obviously missed the entire ongoing Typhoon upgrade and weapons integration programme.

Rocket Banana
November 24, 2015 5:25 pm

Sorry to flick back to the frigates but I support the 8 x ASW notion.

GP T26 was always an expensive concept. What exactly was “GP”? They’d have been better off saying “ASuW” because taking the tail off the “worlds most capable ASW frigate” leaves you with much the same as a T45 without SAMPSON… a chocolate tea cup.

I think there is middle ground where “light frigates” can be optimised for SF support (Wildcat and a couple of RHIBs), peace time counter piracy and wartime ASuW.

SeaRAM style air defence, MFS7000 hull sonar, not quite sure what radar – maybe just a 2D Scanter – plus next gen surface strike missiles… ah, and of course, a dipper for Wildcat :-)

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 5:37 pm

I feel having a single RAF runway within the M25 is pretty sensible, it provides somewhere close by to fly helicopters in and out of London easily, and also provides an emergency runway for evacuating the government if needed, for state visits I believe they use the Royal Terminal at Heathrow. It is also useful as a FOB for aircraft protecting London, and was used in this role during the Olympics. It is also home to the London Air Ambulance, and is an active private airfield as well.

I see no issue with retaining a single airfield, and would rather see other units consolidate onto the airfield and sell off their land, as once the airfield is gone, it cannot be replaced. maybe increasing the civil uses such as basing the police aircraft there could be a way to justify the base better.

November 24, 2015 5:38 pm

RE “GP T26 was always an expensive concept”

Always, in conjunction with “concept”?

Gordon Brown announced the prgrm with a £350m target price for the “de luxe” version, so GP at 80% of that?
– well, that was the concept… and then it became a cruiser

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 5:43 pm

Simon – you may have a point on the branding of the concept.

But for ASuW I would still rather have T26 with its Combat System, Artisan 3d radar, 5″ Gun, Seaceptor in surface to surface mode, 24 full length VLS for NSM or similar, and space for 2 Wildcats with SeaVenom and a scaneagle det. And it can still contribute to the ASW Screen and fire at crossing targets in the air.

Makes your light frigate with a 76mm Oto and a 2d Radar look rather inadequate tbh. And rather better than T45 without Sampson. Good news is we don’t need to worry too much about all that until SDSR25…

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 5:49 pm
Reply to  Engineer Tom

Engineer Tom

Totally agree with you re Northolt. Does the airfield make much revenue for the MoD with private/commercial aircraft landing charges etc?

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 6:08 pm

No idea, I think they are limited to 40 flights a day for noise reasons though, also I have looked and Northwood doesn’t seem to have a helipad, as the UK’s military headquarters that surprised me, so another reason to keep Northolt just down the road.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 6:27 pm
Reply to  Engineer Tom

If that is true, then for sure.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 24, 2015 6:46 pm

P.E. Those six brigades are suggested to include units designated for training/mentoring “upstream engagement” type operations. So one or more of the six may be a HQ and only one or two regular battalions (and perhaps associated reserve units), and may not necessarily be combat ready in any sense.

It will be interesting to see whether the Adaptable Force concept continues. The strike brigades and air assault brigade seem a lot like a “Reaction Force”, and would presumably form the first brigade deployments, which would allow for the Adaptable Force idea to carry on. Or we might see maybe three fully formed infantry brigades (there are three light cavalry regiments, and not really enough supporting units for more than three) and maybe three other brigades for things like training and mentoring.

D.M. I think it’s a bit too difficult to try guessing the make up of artillery and other support regiments for the strike brigades. A step too far to figure out.

As for where the tanks might go if that armoured brigade goes. If my guess at a squadron each for the strike brigades is correct, that is still a margin of about 18 to 30 tanks. I think the best you could hope for those is that they end up in the reserves, keeping a potential full regiment still on the books. Could just be a cut though. And it could even be that Ajax has the biggest gun in the brigade, with no tanks and only machine guns on MIV. I feel it would be likely to have a squadron of tanks though as the armoured brigades are no longer the first responders, having a couple of armoured groups alternating at readiness in the strike brigades seems sensible.

Lose 18 to 30 tanks, because it depends how the new squadron is defined. A squadron could be a dozen tanks in the troops and a couple in the HQ, though they are bigger in the 2020 plan.

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 6:53 pm

Could the ‘spare’ squadron of tanks could resurface in mixed formation recce troops across the 4 Brigades?

I seem to recall the concept of using MBTs in the recce role was tried out in BATUS a while back. A mixed troop of Ajax and Challenger could be quite a potent way of “fighting for information”.

November 24, 2015 6:54 pm

“The aircraft would also be available to the Royal Family.” – Well that’s stag does and hen parties sorted.

As ever the devil will be in the detail. Take the commitment to upgrade Typhoon with Brimstone/Storm Shadow and AESA. Just the tranche 3s perhaps?

As for the light frigates; Fedaykin is right – buy the French ones. Build them under licence rather than reinventing the wheel. The world is awash with light frigate designs. Perhaps with dipping sonar Wildcat. Main gun a bit tricky.

As for raising money selling off MoD property – how about selling our Cyprus bases to the Russians:

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 6:58 pm

If you buy the French design, you either buy the kit they specify i.e. French kit, or redesign it for British kit. It isn’t just as simple as where the ship is built, it’s what it is built from. The smaller kit is also what sustains the small UK businesses.

Peter Elliott
November 24, 2015 7:07 pm

Just assume for a minute that Steel for Type 26 is cut in 2018. The Naval Design Partnership needs something to do for the next 10 years after that until its time to design an either or both of an Albion or a Type 45 replacement.

Even if our new design of Light Frigate has no fucntional differences from a French Light Frigate of from T26 FFBNW the experience of designing it and getting it into service will still provide a generation of naval architects with skills vital to design the next set of unique ships that we do need.

If we do decide to buy French it needs to be seen for what it is: the end of indiginous complex warship building, following the end of armoured vehicle buidling, preceding the end of Fast Jet building, and leaving the Submarine Enterprise as our only indigenous strategic capability. It might or might not be the right thing to do, but we should consider it with eyes wide open.

November 24, 2015 7:25 pm

@ PE – “If we do decide to buy French it needs to be seen for what it is: the end of indiginous complex warship building,”

This. Would far put a hole beneath the waterline of

November 24, 2015 7:27 pm
Reply to  a

You are kidding right ? The soldiers standing on duty are ‘guarding’ the palace?. Its totally a ceremonial-tourist role.
Its the police job to guard the royal family and secure the palaces. If there is a major incident highly specialized police counter terrorism forces and military special forces would be used. Definitely not a squad of guys in bearskin hats!

November 24, 2015 7:35 pm

22 army bands? Just stick an AC/DC disc on!

– pardon?

Frankly I’m hoping all this talk of light frigates will just go away. Years away from building the last of the 8 ASW Type 26s; hopefully we will just run on; even replace the Type 45s with a newer version of them.

Also I forgot to ask: these 20 “Protectors.” – what exactly are they. TD assumes they’re Reapers – is he right?

November 24, 2015 7:42 pm

Is this light frigate why BMT are continuing with the venator 110 concept. A naval equivalent to reaper not for high end combat but useful for Intel etc with limited offensive capability.

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 7:42 pm

They are armed, and I have seen odd stories about them intervening in security issues at the palace. I also believe, but am unsure, that they have a role in a major incident, also if there was a major incident the time it took to deploy further police and SF would be too long, there are the police inside the palace but if there were terrorists storming the palace the soldiers would definitely assist.

Also they have a ceremonial role etc that is valued for various reasons including because of the financial value to tourism, that would be lost if they weren’t soldiers, reservists may work but you would need thousands to have a rotation that could fit with having a job as well. There may be a claim to reduce the ceremonial role during an enduring operation, but at the moment what would they be doing if they weren’t on ceremonial duties.

November 24, 2015 7:44 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

helicopters dont really ‘age the airframe’ like a fast jet does- all those high g maneuvers !. Its more the components and hydraulics and such that can and are replaced during deep overhaul. The US Army Chinooks have been around for ever.

November 24, 2015 7:47 pm
Reply to  Allan

Naval ships are only at sea a limited time anyway. I dont have exact numbers but could be between 20-35% of the time ?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
November 24, 2015 7:51 pm
Reply to  WiseApe


You joking of course re Cyprus? They are about the most important PJOB’s we have.

November 24, 2015 7:52 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

Beware of Whitehall quoted ‘costs’. For Trident the figure quoted is develop, build and maintain/upgrade of 30 years ( plus the capital cost that gets returned to Treasury)
An example is Typhoon, which the public accounts committee looked into in detail. There was a a quoted total cost over 20 years of around 33 bill pounds, in reality the development cost share was between 6-7 bill, the production costs were 13-14 bill- of course that was originally for around 250 planes , they ended up with around 140.

November 24, 2015 8:00 pm

RE ” plus the capital cost that gets returned to Treasury”

You probably mean the capital charge, not CAPEX which is the upfront capital cost. Not sure, but I thought the former had been done away with?

Even NAO thought it was perverting investment and inventory decisions:
“16 Nov 2011 – HM Treasury has implemented its ‘clear line of sight’ policy, which has removed the cost of capital charge from the approved cost, forecast cost and historic cost variations”

Engineer Tom
November 24, 2015 8:07 pm


Depending on the vessel type they can spend a lot more than 30% of the time at sea. I believe that HMS Clyde manages 300 days a year availability to go to sea, so say it only spends 2/3 available days a year at sea that is well over 50%. For problem vessels yes the 20-35% might be true, also deployment time doesn’t equal days at sea, as there are trials and training etc as well.

The Ginge
The Ginge
November 24, 2015 8:18 pm

Dear Brian
I really can not see how any Challenger can be involved with the Strike Brigades. The speach and document are clear the brigade is to be self deployable. To deploy challenger you need Heavy Equipment Transporters, a huge logistics train including drops vehicle which were supposed to have gone out of service.
The hope is that the Chieftans, As90’s, GMLS etc of the 3rd armoured brigade are a absorbed by the 2 ongoing armoured brigades.
Further surely as you have 6 Warrier equiped battalions at the moment the warrior upgrade must supply enough vehicles for 6 fully warrior equiped battalions.
I can see the Adaptable force loosing all its logistics and artillery to the 2nd strike brigade and to back fill 16AA and 3 Cmd to the levels required.
The interesting point is that those 15 Infantry Battalions leave 19 infantry brigades to do Uk ceremonial, anti terror (training needed, as an example troops at Woolwich very handy for London deployment in a Paris type event) oversea training etc all in land rovers, wmik and coyote all vehicles which it has become clearly evident are not up to deployment in a modern northern european, cold syrian enviroment. Plus soft skinned trucks.
For the strike brigades i would suggest googling the US Stryker brigades and look how intergrated logistics, artilery are and the heavy use of vehicle mounted missiles are for anti tank work, inluding 8×8 mounted 105mm direct fire pieces. Since 3 Cmd, 16 AAB, 2 Striker brigades are all going to need wheeled artillery the old 105mm artillery piece is going to be in high demand. God help us if we have to fight Russia or China with proper artilery, rocket, and tanks.

November 24, 2015 8:26 pm

“Even by the abysmal standards of the TD comments section Ron5 is spectacularly ignorant of reality.

He has obviously missed the entire ongoing Typhoon upgrade and weapons integration programme.”

Ha ha, yes I totally missed the part that contained a plan and committed funds to upgrade the obsolete tranche 1’s. Must have been in the (very) fine print.

November 24, 2015 8:29 pm

I agree in the main, but in this “The hope is that the Chieftans, As90’s, GMLS etc of the 3rd armoured brigade are a absorbed by the 2 ongoing armoured brigades. ” I would hope that GMLRS, with the now available AW warhead, would be made available to these two new brigades. It is (bang for metric ton) the most deployable form of artillery.
… putting some on wheels would not be a bad idea, either

November 24, 2015 8:30 pm

Previous RAF fast jet Squadron trough was six squadrons to rise to seven in the early 2020s. That plan hasn’t really changed except for the addition of the two Typhoon T1 Squadrons making a total of nine, one more than there is now. This is a considerable improvement you are just incapable of grasping that.

November 24, 2015 8:37 pm

Thanks Daniele, Info gratefully recieved!

November 24, 2015 8:40 pm
Reply to  Ron5

Ron5, if you think the bombs qualified for Typhoon Tr.1 “are not used anymore”, you really should let the RAF know this.
Because on their website, they list the ‘current weapons’, which surprise surprise still includes the venerable GPB at 312kg & 505kg. Not such a surprise really as they form the basis of the paveways such as II, III & IV as well as enhanced P II & III ( which just means an extra GPS mod added)
I can see Typhoon Tr.1- some of which are only 8 years old happily seeing out their extended, nay designed life carrying these weapons or indeed their very capable AAW weapons.

November 24, 2015 8:46 pm

Has anyone worked out how many F35Bs the FAA will get, if any?

November 24, 2015 8:50 pm
Reply to  Ron5

DROP 1-4 and CORP funded as part of the tranche 3 purchase is what your looking for Ron. Other options exist to allow further weapons integration if so wanted.