Ex-Royal Navy nuclear submarines await disposal in Rosyth

The painfully slow process of dismantling ex-Royal Navy nuclear submarines

There are currently 20 former Royal Navy nuclear submarines awaiting disposal in Rosyth and Devonport. They do not represent a great hazard but maintaining them safely while they await dismantling is a growing drain on the defence budget. Nuclear submarines are arguably Britain’s most important defence assets but the failure to promptly deal with their legacy has been a national scandal. Although there has been discussion and consultation going back years, only recently has there been action to actually start the disposal process.

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Dreadnought class submarine Faslane

The Dreadnought class submarine in focus

The programme to construct the 4 submarines that will replace the Vanguard class boats, will soon become the largest defence project in the UK. Ballistic missile submarines are some of the most sensitive and closely guarded defence assets and there is understandably limited information about them in the public domain. At this early stage in the construction programme, we look at what is known about the Dreadnought project.

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Devonport Naval Base

Will Devonport naval base survive the next round of cuts to the Royal Navy?

There are strong indications that the RN is going to be forced to axe HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark and cut between 1,000 – 1,500 Royal Marines. There are even suggestions that some of the Type 23 frigates maybe decommissioned early. The loss of these assets, together with the planned disposal of HMS Ocean casts a long shadow over Plymouth and the future of Devonport Naval Base.

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HMS Westminster refit portsmouth

Royal Navy parts cannibalisation – a concern or a crisis?

Taking spare parts and equipment from one Royal Navy vessel for use on another has always been standard practice on a modest scale. The National Audit Office recently published a report showing this ‘cannibalisation’ has increased in the past 5 years by 49%, an unsustainable growth rate that could further threaten the strength of the RN.

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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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Trident Submarine scotland

Why relocating Trident away from Scotland is virtually impossible

On 18th July the House of Commons voted to construct new Successor submarines to replace the current Vanguard boats that carry the UK nuclear deterrent. The arguments in favour of the deterrent are compelling, delivering cross-party support and carrying the vote overwhelmingly. Unsurprisingly the 58 of 59 Scottish MPs voted against and their defeat will be another ‘grievance’ used by nationalists to push for another referendum on independence. Many in Britain seem to think we could simply move the deterrent from its base in Scotland to England. Here we will look at the extensive Scottish infrastructure that supports Trident and the very limited options for moving it south.

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Type 45 Destroyer Gas turbine engine problems

Putting the Type 45 propulsion problems in perspective

Amongst informed defence commentators it has been an open secret for several years, but on 29th January a BBC report finally put the engine problems of the Type 45 destroyers into the public eye. The MoD has consistently played down the seriousness of the issue, that had on occasions resulted in total propulsion and electrical failure, leaving ships dead in the water. Even Parliamentary questions were met with vague assurances that “progress was being made”. The media coverage has since been predictably excessive, giving the unfortunate impression that Type 45s are £1Billion cripples. Although these breakdowns have hampered their operation, all the Type 45s have completed major deployments and HMS Defender is currently on a 9-month Gulf and Indian Ocean deployment.

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