Thursday, 16 December 2010

Royal Navy Cuts Announced

Details of the latest cuts to the Royal Navy were announced today.

The aircraft carrier H.M.S.Illustrious will remain in service only until 2014 when she will be retired,leaving H.M.S.Ocean as the Royal Navy's only "flat top" until the Queen Elizabeth class enters service.

H.M.S.Ark Royal is due to retire this year.

The 4 Type 22 batch 3 frigates Chatham,Campbeltown,Cumberland and Cornwall will be retired.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary dock ship Largs Bay will be withdrawn,just 4 years after entering service.

The replenishment vessel R.F.A. Fort George will retire just 17 years in to her service life.

The large oiler R.F.A. Bay Leaf will retire after 28 years service.

In addition,the assault ship H.M.S.Albion will be held at extended readiness untill 2016 when H.M.S.Bulwark goes in to refit.

We have looked at the implications of the decision to cut the Royal Navy's carrier capability in an earlier post.

The politics behind this decision was covered in this post.

Here we will look further at the question of which particular ships should be cut given the political decisions which have been taken.

Since David Cameron decided to eliminate the United Kingdom's ability to conduct independent warfighting operations,in line with the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy,a reduction in the number of Royal Navy "flat tops" was inevitable.

It is not a simple matter to decide which vessel to cut.

The two Invincible class ships,H.M.S.Ark Royal and H.M.S.Illustrious are true warships,superior to the assault ship H.M.S.Ocean in terms of sensors,command systems,survivability and speed.

However,Ocean has superior amphibious capabilities and is cheaper to operate.

Retaining the two Invincible class ships would ensure that the same capability can be maintained if one ship is unavailable and would simplify support.

However,Ocean is cheaper to run and has better amphibious capabilities but won't always be available.

But with a mixed fleet of Ocean and Illustrious retained there will be capability gaps when one ship is in refit.

This problem may be mitigated to some extent if H.M.S.Ark Royal is held at extended readiness.

Here we see the problem with bespoke to role "flat tops".

This is why future aircraft carriers should be a single class of mutli-role air attack/air assault ships.

Arguably,the Type 22 frigates should have been retired during the last round of defence cuts instead of the 3 newer Type 23s.

This would have eliminated the inefficiencies of a 2 class frigate fleet.

The Type 23s would also have been cheaper to operate than the Type 22s with their larger crews.

However,the Type 22s are larger and more capable ships.

Boxes on their hulls and superstructures are evidence of intelligence gathering equipment which the Type 23s lack.

They also have Goalkeeper Close In Weapon Systems.

Nevertheless,their retirement will save more than retiring Type 23s and allow the navy to have a single class frigate fleet.

If the frigate fleet had to be cut then these were the vessels to cut.

It was inevitable that one of the Bay class dock ships would be retired as a result of the reduction in the amphibious requirement.

There will in future be 3 ships of the Bay class in service.

All of these vessels are almost new,R.F.A.Largs Bay has been in service for exactly 4 years today (17th of December 2010).

It would be sensible for the ship which is most in need of maintenance to be retired.

Largs Bay is the second oldest of the 4 Bay class ships,having entered service after Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay.

However,all options should be considered for using this vessel as a replacement for older vessels such as R.F.A.Argus or Diligence if it can practically and economically be converted for those roles.

If not,Largs Bay should be in demand on the second hand warship market,the Malaysian Navy are currently looking for a replacement for KD Sri Inderapura for example.

Having been in service for just 16 years,R.F.A.Fort George is in the middle of her service life.

She recently went in to refit.

One of the most capable replenishment vessels in service,it is surprising that she was retired instead of the much older R.F.A.Fort Rosalie.

These vessels are from two separate classes despite both being "Fort class" ships.

This decision will force the Royal Fleet Auxiliary to operate 2 single ship classes of replenishment vessel,which is inefficient.

It will also mean that there will be "capability gaps" when either of these ships goes in to refit,unless their retired sister ships are retained at extended readiness.

While this decision is difficult to understand,it may be that Fort Rosalie has some particular capacity which Fort George lacks.

This situation serves to emphasise the importance of the next generation of replenishment vessels being a single class of large,single stop,multi-role replenishment vessels designed for both shuttle and station ship duties.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary oiler Bayleaf has been in service for 28 years and is due to be replaced.

However,she is considerably younger than the 1970s era Rover class oilers and has far greater capacity.

Though Bayleaf does lack helicopter facilities which the Rovers have.

Bayleaf has recently be refitted,as have the small Rover class.

It appears odd that much smaller and older vessels should be retained in preference to a younger Leaf class ship.

Given the reduction in the size of Britain's amphibious forces,placing H.M.S.Albion in extended readiness is a sensible decision.

This will allow one assault ship to be available at all times which is important as this class has capabilities which are found on no other ships in the fleet.


Chuck Hill said...

This is both sad and incredibly short sighted.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Chuck Hill,

sad yes,but probably not short sighted.
Recent cuts have a lot to do with the Lisbon Treaty and Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The cornerstone of which is the creation of military interdependence by the elimination of national military independence.
It is no accident that European frigates are suddenly escorting aircraft carriers around the World.

There is a fundamental political problem here related to the refusal to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.


D. E. Reddick said...

I must say, that from this side of the pond - I can only fully agree with Chuck.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello D.E.Reddick,

if you think the purpose of the British armed forces is to fight for British interests then these cuts are short sighted.

However,having read through the Lisbon treaty and Common Foreign and Security Policy and other European documents recently,things became very clear.

The United Kingdom effectively no longer exists as an independent nation.
But nobody bothered to tell it's people about that.

European defence policy is very explicit in it's intent to cut national armed forces,eliminate national military independence and create European military and economic interdependence.

The Europeanists are being very long sighted - throughout their literature you will find references to "gradualism",the process of creating a single European state without anyone noticing.

It has worked,they have done it and nobody noticed.
This whole process raises serious questions about democracy in the United Kingdom.
It also raises questions about the democratic authority of the European Union.


steve said...

The mysterious boxes on the T22's. Um.

Goof these be part of the US system Outboard. This was as much a driver for lengthening B2 & B3 T22s as better seakeeping and bigger hangar.

Though giving what Outboard does/did it is a debatable whether it is grounds to keep the T22s.

And I say that as a T22 fan.

GrandLogistics said...

Hello steve,

they could be.

I have always had mixed feelings about the Type 22s.

The first vessels were said to be less capable towed array ships than older vessels due to noise but performed better than most in the Falklands.

Batch II vessels were better anti-submarine ships but were still not all rounders.

Batch III ships were what the Type 22 should have been in the first place.

Like many other British warships the Type 22 was built too small and too weak.

Like the Type 21s and 42s,Type 22s have been seen with hull reinforcements and the latter batches had to be stretched as with the 42s.

The class was very expensive both to buy and operate and partly as a consequence of their single role design and high costs most of them were retired early providing the taxpayer with a poor return on investment.

Compared to the Type 23s the whole class looks like a poor investment.

The Type 23s were incredibly cheap,excellent anti-submarine ships and good all rounders.

Though their air defence system was very short ranged and their small hull not meant for global cruising.

The 23s have been cheap to buy and operate and have not needed to be stretched or strengthened.

It is hard to see why the Type 22s cost so much more than the Type 23.


steve said...

T22 costs because of the extra bods (Hello to everybody who's lived in the Zoo!)

And because T23 is a CODLAG.

Would you like to speculate why the lifeline stanchions on T22 are all earthed? I am puzzled about this........

Distiller said...

I'm not against it, since it's the only viable option to give weight to ANY kind of European military. The Euro nation states forces just don't cut it any more. The next step has to be to give the (existing!) EU planning staff EUMS an operational mandate, evolve it into a Unified European General Staff, and finally reallocate the national defence resources onto the European level.

Certainly, from a British perspective this raises even more question that from a continental perspective. And I absolutely agree that there should be a referendum. One on the question of the British EU membership. If the result is NO - well, so be it. But if the result is YES - then it means end of national sovereignity, the EUR instead of the GBP, and a Euro Force.

This should be the result of the current crisis. It's really either make or break. And I feel (not hope, since necessity is the driver, not sympathy) that it will be "make".

In any case, the British armed forces should concentrate on what the are really good at, and coordinate with the other Eurolanders to achieve a full spectrum Euro force. The UK's strong points are certainly submarines and ASW, aerial stuff, commando stuff. Not nuclear, since your missiles are U.S. In that context the U.K. should have a *serious* look into using M51 missiles on their follow-on to Vanguard SSBN class.

steve said...

How does the UK reducing its navy give weight to Europe?

And who gives a flying a fig about Greater Germany anyway?

(Nothing personal Distiller.)

Anonymous said...

Well... from across the pond this whole thing appears to be the collective dellusion of the european governments convincing themselves that they can defend themselves, all with out paying for it. Collective European defense will be a myth, or at best, the appearance of self defense. But in reallity there will most likely be even more cuts in the future. Now it's all just quibling about insufficient token armed forces. The United States will be expected to do all the "heavy lifting". And the American taxpayer will have to pay for it.

Chuck Hill said...

nice selection of photos

GrandLogistics said...

Hello Anonymous,

the European defence policy is very explicit about the need for cuts.
The idea seems to be that they cut force size right down so "Europe" can spend more money on the sort of high end kit that the United States has.

The other reason they give is the elimination of European states military independence.

The British Army is going to be very heavily cut in 2015,David Cameron has already said as much.