Royal Navy – conventional deterrent

February 26, 2019

Faced by a Government with foreign and defence policies that want the RN to be everywhere and doing everything, but will not fund those aspirations, they are spreading the jam very thin.  They have committed to the replacement of the nuclear deterrent at the expense of the conventional deterrent.  We have always been clear that faced with making a choice our priority would be for the surface fleet to be adequately provided with aircraft carriers and commando carriers.  The number of vessels to be determined by the extent of their potential operations, which due to the normal rotation programme would require a minimum of three ships for each role.  The further those ships have to travel and the longer they are away from home port, the more ships are required.  This also assumes that there is an additional requirement for commando landing craft carriers.  When those carriers are required to carry out both functions the requirement must be for a minimum of five strike carrier ships;  and even then there must be additional dock landing ships and helicopter carrying ships.  It is not at all clear how the Government is going to achieve its Global Agenda.

We again turn to the reputable Save the Royal Navy website for enlightenment.

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/defence-secretary-delivers-radical-vision-for-royal-navy-posture-but-raises-more-questions-than-answers/

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/development-of-the-queen-elizabeth-class-aircraft-carrier-a-design-history/

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/hms-queen-elizabeth-the-view-from-the-bridge/

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/hms-queen-elizabeth-built-to-survive/

https://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/hms-prince-of-wales-formally-named-another-step-towards-renewing-aircraft-carrier-capability/

It has taken twenty years to reach the stage we are now at, due to indecisiveness and inability.  The new carriers are central to future RN operations and the rest of submarine and surface fleet must be built around them.  While the ballistic missile boats are an invisible deterrent, a carrier task force is a highly visible deterrent.  They are the capital ships of the RN and as such have been given the names of former battleships and battle cruisers.  The lessons learned from the construction Queen Elizabeth have been applied to the Prince of Wales, resulting in speedier construction.  Ordering another batch of three ships would benefit from efficiencies and reduced cost of construction.  It would be a vital component for a national industrial strategy post Brexit.  None of the main political parties have the will to bring this about.  So, harking back to the 19th Century our aim would be for a modern Naval Defence Act.

Names of past battleships that spring to mind are King George, Queen Mary and Princess Royal.  However, there is a strong public attachment and affection for a long line of previous carriers named Ark Royal.  Choose your pick.

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Elastic Fantastic Royal Navy

January 30, 2019

European Union waters will be severely constrained following Brexit. The vessels of Baltic and Benelux countries will have to transit United Kingdom waters to reach the high seas; or go the long way via the waters of the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland.  In peacetime, and with compliance of the rules of innocent passage, this should not be a problem.  In a war scenario the situation will be very different.  Assuming that NATO is not undermined by the new EU army and defence union, it can be anticipated that the only credible threat to the UK mainland would come from the air-force and navy of the Russian Federation.  Because of treaty obligations the UK would be obliged to respond to aggression anywhere against a NATO partner.  In reality the priority for the UK would be to stop the Russian Navy reaching the high seas of the North Atlantic through the Greenland Iceland United Kingdom (GIUK) gap, and the Russian Airforce coming down the coast of Norway in to the North Sea or via the west coast of Ireland.  The next priority would be to deter or oppose an anticipated invasion by the Russian Army across its land border with Norway by the deployment of airborne and amphibious forces.  Given the current state of the UK armed forces this is a big ask, especially for the Royal Navy that is being stretched like an elastic band and in danger of snapping.

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Royal Navy Review

December 31, 2018

Back in 2007 we focused our defence policy on the RN as the priority for an island Nation that is reliant on sea-borne trade and keeping sea-routes open.  This was not intended to be to the detriment of the RAF or Army and implied that defence spending needed to be increased.  The policy proposed an alternative approach for providing a deterrent to nuclear attack and a reassessment of the submarine service.  The decline of the RN was evident and needed to be reversed; and that decline has continued under all governments.  Our solution was for a naval shipbuilding programme and a positive review of the RN amphibious and aircraft-carrier capability.  Last year it seemed that out foresight had been rewarded with the approval of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.  Unfortunately, the Government did not put its money where its mouth is.

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Save the Royal Navy

September 30, 2017

There is nothing wrong with the armed forces that an injection of sustained funding cannot cure.  While some sectors of the public services have been protected over the last seven years – if in monetary terms rather than real terms – the Defence budget has not been deemed important enough to warrant the same treatment.  This is fundamentally unfair because that budget has been the subject of sustained cuts for more than twenty-one years.  Politicians like to term this as the peace dividend.  With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, together with the breakup of the USSR, we were told that ‘peace had broken out’ and the money could be better spent.  Come 2010, and the start of public spending cuts, no account was taken of the previous cuts to the Defence budget.  The Treasury would counter that the MoD capital spending plans were too ambitious and had not been properly costed and budgeted for, resulting in the fabled black-hole that was swallowing taxes intended for the forces basic current spending.  Someday, someone with inside knowledge will write a book revealing the real facts.

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Gibraltar 2

September 27, 2017

Gibraltar’s 50th Anniversary National Day was an outstanding success, with the video message from Prime Minister Theresa May being warmly received.  Viewed objectively it fell well short of what was required.  This was a one and only event, at a crucial time when the future direction of the British Overseas Territory is uncertain.  In the previous post we set out the first five points of action that we asked the PM to initiate.  The two points relating to the Royal Family visiting Gibraltar still need to be demonstrated.  On three of those points she has failed to deliver and so we can judge with some accuracy what the real level of committment there is from the Office of the PM and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  It does not look good.  She failed to attend in person and as far as it is possible to ascertain she has never visited the Rock.  No matter how detailed the briefings she receives, they cannot match seeing at first hand what the problems are and hearing directly from Gibraltarians what their experiences are; be it delays when crossing the border of up to five hours or being harassed by Spanish State vessels when they are fishing in their own British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

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Gibraltar

September 12, 2017

The strategic importance of Gibraltar does not require any explanation.  In July the Ministry of Defence announced it is to spend £2 million upgrading its maritime monitoring facility overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar.  Sitting high above Europa Point the facility keeps an eye on 60,000 ships entering or leaving the Mediterranean or crossing between Africa and Europe.  It plays a crucial role detecting any suspicious activity in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters and logs all unlawful incursions by Spanish state vessels, as well as detecting the shipping of narcotics into Europe and combating the nefarious illegal transport of drugs and tobacco.  Windmill Hill Signal Station, with its panoramic view, keeps an eye on traffic visually, over the radio and electronically.  It feeds information back to the UK and its allies about all these activities and military movements.

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Royal Navy 3

September 10, 2017

The UK Government has finally announced its response to the independent report, prepared by Sir John Parker last year, that outlined proposals for a National Shipbuilding Strategy for the Royal Navy.  They have accepted Sir John’s recommendations for a renaissance in British shipbuilding and the way naval ships are procured by the Ministry of Defence.  The aim is to “make the UK’s maritime industry more competitive, grow the RN fleet by the 2030s, export ships overseas, and boost innovation, skills, jobs and productivity across the UK.”  The Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, declared – “the new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing RN that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world” …… “backed up by a commitment to spend billions on new ships, our plans will help boost jobs, skills, and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK”.  The MoD is committed to new ships through its rising budget and £178 billion equipment plan.  At the core of this proposed renaissance is the plan to build five new light frigates [Type 31e] using a modular system of blocks manufactured at various locations and then assembled centrally at a location still to be decided.  The cost of each ship is capped at £250 million and the design has still to be settled.  This should be news for rejoicing, but there is much to criticise and much for the opposition parties to scrutinize.  They still seem to be asleep, no doubt preoccupied with plotting to derail Brexit.  So here goes, a CDP response.

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