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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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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HMS Daring Gulf

The navy replies to avalanche of bad news stories

Beset by several weeks of bad news stories, the First Sea Lord has delivered a message highlighting how the service is currently working hard around the world and fulfilling the tasks the Government has set out for it. There are undoubtedly very serious problems facing the RN right now and in the future which we will continue to highlight and campaign to be addressed. However the RN of today is still in the front rank of navies, its people are getting on with the job and should be commended. The Admiral’s message is reproduced in full below.

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HMS Sultan, Gosport

Making sense of another shore establishment closure

On 7th November the MoD published a full list of sites that will close as part of its Plan for ‘A Better Defence Estate’. The biggest surprise from a naval point of view was the announcement that HMS Sultan in Gosport will close in 2025. Most of Sultan’s functions will be transferred to HMS Collingwood in Fareham. The people of Gosport are not amused but many within the navy seem to take a more pragmatic view. Here we will try to asses if this is unmitigated bad news or if there is a silver lining.

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HMS Duncan shadows Russian warships

The Royal Navy – quietly getting on with the job

In spite of frequent claims that the Royal Navy is “barely able to defend its own waters”, two of its escorts are shadowing the largest group of Russian warships to pass near to the UK since the end of the Cold War. Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov sailed from the Northern Fleet base of Severomorsk on Saturday accompanied by seven other surface ships and probably at least one submarine.

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Royal yacht replacement

A new royal yacht – good idea?

75 Conservative MPs have now signed a letter to the Prime Minster urging that a commission is established to look into building a new Royal Yacht. This is the revival of a proposal originally made by Michael Gove in 2012. No design for such a ship exists as yet, but it is intended as a statement of British confidence in a post-Brexit world and as a platform for diplomacy and trade deals. Here we examine if this is a wise idea.

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Brexit impacts - union flag

Brexit – possible impacts on the Royal Navy

On the 23rd of June 2016 the United Kingdom voted by a narrow margin of 51.9-48.1% to leave the European Union and while much has changed, much remains the same. The day after “Brexit” Britain continues to move 95% of its traded goods by sea and imports 40% of its food from overseas. Offshore wind, tidal and North Sea oil and gas will continue to play a crucial part in powering the lives of millions of Britons. The maritime world remains as vital to national life as ever, as it has through centuries past and will continue to be for centuries to come. While our economic fortunes may wax and wane the UK’s dependence on the sea is eternal and unchanging.

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