P8 Posiedon Harpoon missile

The puzzling absence of UK fixed-wing maritime strike capability

To compound the lack of a modern anti-ship missile for the RN surface fleet, there is also a worrying absence of airborne anti-ship capability both in the RN and the RAF. John Dunbar argues that such an important strategic asset represents good value for money, especially given the heavy investment in aircraft carriers and aircraft capable of delivering a modern generation of missiles.

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RN attack submarines – is there a crisis?

It is very easy to write fiction about submarines but rather more difficult to come by the facts. It is strict MoD policy that “We don’t comment on submarine operations”  and while operational security must obviously be first priority, this information vacuum allows journalists to say whatever they like on the subject with little accountability.

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Steller Systems offers another option for the Type 31 frigate design

Steller Systems, an independent consultancy specialising in naval architecture, has just announced Project Spartan a design proposal to be considered for the Royal Navy’s Type 31 frigate / GPFF project. To date, BAE Systems has submitted 2 outline proposals and BMT Group have submitted their Venator-110. Here we take a brief look at the competing options for the Type 31 design.

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HMS Queen Elizabeth nearing completion in Rosyth

HMS Queen Elizabeth – making good progress

The exact dates of the departure of HMS Queen Elizabeth for sea trials and her subsequent arrival in Portsmouth have been subject of intense media speculation. Briefings last year had given the impression that sea trials would probably be conducted in March 2017, although many journalists overlooked the caveat that timings maybe subject to change. It is now clear that the sea trials date has slipped slightly but disappointment over minor delays must be seen in the context of a very ambitious 8-year building project. There have also been various other rumours about the project circulating, some of which are addressed here.

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Submarine Trident missile launch

Why we should have every confidence in the Trident missile system

On 22nd January the Sunday Times revealed that a routine Trident missile test conducted by HMS Vengeance off the US coast in June 2016 had been a failure. A telemetry problem had caused the unarmed missile to be destroyed in flight. Previous test-firings have been announced to the media but this test had remained secret. Government stands accused of hiding a politically inconvenient fact close to the time when Parliament was due to approve the Trident renewal program.

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HMS Artful roll out

Will 2017 be “the year of the Royal Navy” ?

On New Years Day the Ministry of Defence stated: “2017 is the year of the navy”. The Defence Secretary said, “2017 is the start of a new era of maritime power, projecting Britain’s influence globally and delivering security at home.” There is no doubt that there will be some very significant milestones in the program to deliver new equipment to the RN and there are many reasons to be positive. But this is just one side of the story. While it is very heartening to see new vessels arrive, this must be seen in the context of the size and strength of the fleet as a whole.

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Naval Strike Missile

Failure to replace the Harpoon anti-ship missile would be inexcusable

The Royal Navy’s sole heavyweight anti-ship missile, Harpoon (Block 1C) will reach the end of its life in 2018 and at present there is no plan or funding for a replacement. Recently HMS Duncan, Richmond and Sutherland escorted Russian warships close to the UK. In photos showing these warships at work, the 8 Harpoon missile canisters were plainly visible. Although nearly obsolete, the missiles purpose is clear and their availability reassuring. When the RN is called on to meet Russian vessels in 2018, their hitting power will be nothing but a single 4.5” gun. This state of affairs is unacceptable, dangerous and risks making the navy a laughing-stock.

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National Shipbuilding Strategy

The National Shipbuilding Strategy report – a roadmap for a stronger Royal Navy

On 29th November Sir John Parker’s report to inform the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy (NSS) was published. Commissioned by the Treasury, exasperated with decades of continual delays and cost increases to warship construction, the report is concise and written in clear layman’s language. The 34 recommendations are eminently sensible and the report has generated at least temporarily, a warm and fuzzy feeling of consensus and optimism. Both the Defence Secretary and the First Sea Lord have welcomed the findings. The actual NSS, due to be announced by government in Spring 2017, and its implementation will of course, define whether this has been a worthwhile exercise.

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