German type 212 submarine

Should the RN consider buying conventional submarines, even at the expense of frigates?

The 2015 Defence Review promised the UK would build a new ‘cheaper and simpler’ frigate to complement the more expensive Type 26. This Type 31 frigate offers the attractive possibility that the total number of Royal Navy warships could be increased, albeit after 2030. Threats to surface ships continue to proliferate, adding to the challenge of making the Type 31 a credible warship. Meanwhile, the undeniably potent RN submarine fleet is far too small. Here we ask if the RN should prioritise expanding its submarine force with the same enthusiasm it applies to frigates.

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Type 31 frigate Venator 110

Type 31 Frigate – unwanted child of austerity or bright hope for a larger fleet?

It is widely accepted that the current total of 19 surface escorts falls far short of what is needed to meet the UK’s strategic aims. With the Type 26 frigate programme now fixed at 8 ships, the only way surface escort numbers are ever going to be increased is to build more of the cheaper Type 31 frigate (General Purpose Frigate – GPFF). The 2015 SDSR committed government to “at least 19” frigates and destroyers but on 4th November 2016, when talking in the context of frigates, the Defence Secretary said “We will have fleet larger than the fleet at the moment”. This is a positive sign and at least suggests intent in government build more than 5 Type 31 frigates.

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Offshore Patrol vessel Royal Navy

Improving the capability of a future OPV squadron (Part 2)

This is the second of a two-part article by John Dunbar looking at OPV’s in Royal Navy service. Part 1 considered the way they could be deployed, this article focuses on the ship’s specifications and potential capabilities.

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How OPVs could be important to the future of the RN (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part article by John Dunbar who suggests a much greater role could be played by offshore patrol vessels in a future Royal Navy force structure. The role of OPVs in the RN has been a long-standing source of controversy, with many seeing the construction of 5 new OPVs as an unnecessary diversion of money and manpower merely to sustain UK shipbuilding. Concerns also persist about the creation of a two-tier Navy with ‘up-gunned’ OPVs cast in the role of faux frigates lacking genuine fighting capability. This has sometimes precluded full consideration of OPV’s potential.

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Type 26 frigate

Post-SDSR optimism disappearing over the horizon

The November 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review appeared to be a broadly positive result for the RN. Although much of what was promised would not materialise until far into the future, there was an end to the perpetual cycle of cuts and some cautious optimism. 9 months on the feel-good factor is evaporating and there is a rising tide of anger amongst those who understand what is happening to the navy. It is increasingly difficult to have confidence that government promises for the long-term will deliver tangible results when they are failing to deliver in the short-term.

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All six Type 45s in Portsmouth – rare but not an indication of something sinister

National media has reacted to the observation that all six of the RN’s Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth this weekend. Although a rare occurrence, it is not unprecedented. The propulsion issues that have dogged the class have been widely reported in the media and their operations and whereabouts now attract an unusual amount of attention. Apart from HMS Dauntless, in long-term lay up as training ship due to manpower shortages, all the Type 45s are in a normal operating cycle.

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BAE Systems Shipyard, Govan Glasgow

The navy just wants some frigates but can government and industry deliver?

There has been predictable union and Scottish Nationalist fury at the revelation there could be upto 800 job losses at BAE Systems on Clyde. At a time when Scottish unemployment is rising and the SNP are using every opportunity to push for another independence vote, frigate construction becomes ever more politically sensitive. 

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