UK Navy to reduce to smallest size ever to save carriers

see below : The Royal Navy today with the full list of ships

the Navy is set to be reduced to the smallest size in its history after admirals yesterday offered drastic reductions in the fleet in order to save two new aircraft carriers from defence cuts.
Under the plans, the number of warships would be cut by almost half to just 25, with frigates, destroyers, submarines, minesweepers and all amphibious craft scrapped.
Even if built, the new carriers could sail without any British aircraft to fly from them after admirals “mortgaged everything” to persuade ministers not to abandon the £5.2 billion programme. The ships could also be delayed for years and redesigned to save money, defence sources have disclosed.
In a final appeal to the National Security Council, Navy chiefs yesterday offered to make cuts that would reduce the senior service to its smallest since the time of Henry VIII.
One new aircraft carrier is already under construction, but the fate of the second has emerged as the central issue of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, which is supposed to frame military planning for the next decade.
With less than two weeks until the review is due to report, government spokesmen last night insisted that “no decisions have been taken” on the second carrier.
A meeting of senior Cabinet members yesterday stopped short of a formal decision on the carrier order, although insiders now believe both ships will be built. However, the timetable and the specification for the carriers remain in the balance.
Options still on the table include delaying delivery by several years and redesigning one or both ships to carry cheaper jets or even helicopters. Alternatively, the second carrier could be built but put on “extended readiness”, effectively mothballed as soon as it was completed.
Army commanders and General Sir David Richards, the new Chief of the Defence Staff, have questioned the cost of the carriers and their potential military value.
The Navy has argued that having two carriers is vital if Britain is to retain its place as a top-rank military power. Its case has been bolstered by the procurement contracts for the carriers that commit the Government to place alternative work with the shipyards even if a carrier is abandoned.
It is understood that the Navy has offered to slim down to as few as 12 surface ships, leaving it with six Type 45 destroyers and six Type 23 frigates. In addition, its submarine fleet would reduce to seven Astute hunter-killers plus the four Trident nuclear deterrent boats. With the two carriers, this would reduce the fleet by half from its current total of 42 ships.
“If we want the two carriers it means we have to mortgage everything and by that I mean reducing the fleet by almost a half,” said a senior Navy source.
Navy analysts warned that the cuts would mean Britain reducing its fleet to the size of the Italian navy and almost half the size of the French.
Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, warned in a letter leaked to The Daily Telegraph last week that the Navy could lose its entire amphibious landing capability and be unable to mount even a relatively small-scale operation such as the intervention in Sierra Leone. To prevent that outcome, ministers have discussed reconfiguring the first new carrier as a helicopter platform that would also carry Royal Marine commandos. The carrier would then ultimately replace the existing helicopter ship, HMS Ocean.
Navy sources have said that the reduction would mean Britain would find it “extremely difficult” to protect sea lanes on which 90 per cent of the country’s trade relies.
It would also have to drop either anti-piracy patrols in the Middle East, protecting oil platforms in the Gulf or counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean.
As well as defining strategic needs, ministers are trying to cut the £37 billion annual defence budget as part of the Coalition’s deficit reduction plan. Even though those cuts are likely to be held well below 10 per cent, Dr Fox still has to fund a £38 billion “black hole” in the military order book.
The carriers are currently designed to carry specially built Short Take-Off Vertical Landing Jets, which are significantly more expensive than conventional catapult-launched fighters.
One option discussed at the council was delaying at least one of the new carriers and equipping it with a catapult.
Ministers debated that option to allow “interoperability” with other nations, including France and the US, whose carrier-based jets are catapult-launched.
A row has broken out over the fate of the Harrier and Tornado warplanes. One type of jet is almost certain to be retired early. The RAF, which controls the Tornado fleet, wants the Harriers scrapped. The Navy wants them saved. The row remains unresolved and retiring the Harriers remains a strong possibility.
That could mean carriers enter service even though Britain lacked warplanes to fly from them. To fill the “capability gap”, the UK would have to borrow jets from an ally.
A No 10 spokesman said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Thomas Harding and James Kirkup, Telegraph October 8, 2010

The Royal Navy today (from Wiki UK)


See also: Royal Navy officer rank insignia and Royal Navy ratings rank insignia

The Naval Service comprises both the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. For December 2009, the total trained regular strength of the Naval Service was 34,660, of which 27,710 were Royal Navy and 6940 were Royal Marines.[57] Within this total, 3960 were untrained personnel. The Navy List reports an up to date list of all officers within the Royal Navy. There are 380 Full-time reserve service personnel within these figures. HMS Raleigh at Torpoint, Cornwall is the basic training facility for newly enlisted personnel. Britannia Royal Naval College is the initial officer training establishment for the navy, located at Dartmouth, Devon.

Personnel are divided into a general duties branch, which includes those seamen officers eligible for command, and other branches including the Royal Naval Engineers, medical, and Logistics Officers, the renamed Supply Officer branch. Present day officers and ratings have several different Royal Navy uniforms; some are blue, others are white.

Women began to join the Royal Navy in 1917 with the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), which was disbanded after the end of the First World War in 1919. It was revived in 1939, and the WRNS continued to exist until 1993 when a separate branch for women was inactivated. The only restriction on women currently in the RN is that they may not serve on submarines, in the Mine Clearance Diving trade, or with the Royal Marine Commandos.

Fleet composition

Main article: Future of the Royal Navy

See also: List of active Royal Navy ships

In the 1990s the navy began a series of projects to modernise the fleet and convert it from a North Atlantic-based anti-submarine force to an expeditionary force. This has involved the replacement of much of the Fleet and has seen a number of large procurement projects.[58]

 Large fleet units – amphibious and carriers

Two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers which have been ordered are to be a new generation of aircraft carrier to replace the three Invincible-class aircraft carriers. The two vessels are expected to cost £3.9 billion, will displace 65,000 tons and, although as of 2010[update] somewhat delayed, are planned to enter service from around 2016. The initial decision was that both would operate the STOVL variant of the F-35 Lightning II. Acquisition of the platforms is to be considered within the Strategic Defence and Security Review ordered by the Coalition Government in June 2010. The large investment represented by the carriers may be vulnerable due to the numerous significant demands on the defence budget.[59] A dedicated helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, complements the aircraft carrier force.

The introduction of the four vessels of the Bay class of landing ship dock into the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 2006 and 2007, and the two Albion-class landing platform docks gave the Royal Navy a significantly enhanced amphibious capability. In November 2006 First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathon Band said, “These ships represent a major uplift in the Royal Navy’s war fighting capability.”[60]

Escort units

The escort fleet, in the form of frigates and destroyers, is the traditional workhorse of the Navy,[61] and is also being updated. The 2010 fleet of five Type 42 destroyers are to be replaced with the much larger Type 45 destroyer class.

Six Type 45 destroyers are planned, of which 2 are in service, 1 is waiting to enter service and 3 are under construction as of 2010[update].[62][63] Under the terms of the original contract the Navy was to order twelve vessels,[64] but only the six will be constructed.[65][66] The main role of the Type 45 destroyer is anti-air warfare; in order to fulfil this role, it will be equipped with the Sea Viper (formerly known as PAAMS) integrated anti-aircraft system which will fire Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. The Type 45 will operate the highly sophisticated Sampson radar system that will be fully integrated into the PAAMS system.[65]

The last frigate to enter service was the Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans in 2002. On 21 July 2004, in the Delivering Security in a Changing World review of defence spending, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that three frigates of the fleet of sixteen would be paid off as part of a continuous cost-cutting strategy and were sold to Chile. Several designs have been created for a new generation frigate such as the Future Surface Combatant, but these concepts have not yet obtained Main Gate approval, this design is designated the Type 26 Combat Frigate for service from 2020. The remaining fleet of four batch 3 Type 22 frigates, the Type 23 frigate’s predecessor, are in service to complement the Royal Navy’s fleet of destroyers.


Seven Astute-class submarines are planned, with the first in service, three under construction, the fifth ordered, and the procurement process started for the sixth.[67][68][69] The first, HMS Astute entered service in August 2010.[70] These submarines are much larger than their predecessors, the Trafalgar class and are expected to displace 7,800 tons submerged.[71] Six Trafalgar-class submarines are currently in service, with one Swiftsure-class submarine, the Trafalgar-class’s predecessor, also still in service. In December 2006, plans were unveiled for a new class of four ballistic missile submarines to replace the Vanguard-class submarine, which is due to be replaced by 2024. This new class will mean that the United Kingdom will maintain a nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet and the ability to launch nuclear weapons.[72]

Other vessels

At the beginning of the 1990s the Royal Navy had two classes of Offshore Patrol vessel, the Island class, and the larger Castle class. However, in 1997 a decision was taken to replace them. An order for three much larger offshore patrol vessels, the River class was placed in 2001. Unusually, the three River-class ships are owned by Vosper Thorneycroft, and leased to the Royal Navy until 2013. This relationship is defined by a ground-breaking Contractor Logistic Support contract which contracts the ships’ availability to the RN, including technical and stores support. A modified River-class vessel, HMS Clyde, was commissioned in July 2007 and became the Falkland Islands guardship. The Royal Navy also has the Sandown-class minehunter and the Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessel. The Hunt class of 8 vessels are mine countermeasure vessels that combine the separate role of the traditional minesweeper and that of the active minehunter in one hull. If required, they can take on the role of offshore patrol vessels. The Royal Navy has a mandate to provide support to the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which comes in the form of the dedicated Antarctic Patrol Ship HMS Endurance. The four Hecla-class vessels were replaced by the survey vessel HMS Scott which surveys the deep ocean. The other survey vessels of the Royal Navy are the two multi-role ships of the Echo-class which came into service in 2002 and 2003.

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