Some immediate steps that would support UK plc and restore RN strength

This is a guest post by John Dunbar who argues that Brexit and the end of austerity mark a turning point for the future of the UK, and for the Royal Navy. With some modest additional funding there are several potential ‘easy wins’ for the new government of Theresa May to consider that could strengthen the RN.

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Donald Trump and NATO

What would a Donald Trump presidency mean for UK and European defence?

Donald Trump’s recent ascendency to the position of the Republican Party’s presidential candidate has been controversial to say the least. Throughout his campaign, Trump hasn’t minced his words or left anyone in doubt on a number matters. The issue of American defence spending has not escaped Trump’s attention, specifically his nation’s contributions to NATO.

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RFA Lyme Bay and Mount Bay - Gibraltar

Flat out: The Royal Fleet Auxiliary in 2016

Following on from the 2015 article about the stretched Royal Fleet Auxiliary Service, this is an update on current operations. Like the naval service, manpower shortages, tight budgets and industrial issues, together with ever-increasing demand for its services are creating a perfect storm of pressure on the RFA.

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Sea Ceptor point defence missile

How vulnerable is the Royal Navy’s surface fleet to a new generation of weapons?

In an earlier article we considered how the RN needs more weaponry to sink enemy warships. At the same time, the development of an increasingly dangerous new generation of weapons for use against surface ships is evolving. The RN is currently completing the design of the Type 26 and beginning the design of the Type 31 Frigates. It is vital that these 2 platforms are equipped to successfully resist these new threats. There are six emerging weapon categories that are of particular concern; hypersonic missiles, ballistic missiles, cavitating torpedoes, rail guns, lasers and UAVs. In this article we will focus on the missile threat.

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The warship preservation scene

The state of warship preservation in the UK is a very mixed. Established naval museums are thriving, benefitting from significant investment while more recent attempts to save naval vessels have failed miserably. Preserving our naval heritage is important as a ‘living history’ to remind us of past sacrifice, endeavour and achievements. Many lessons from Britain’s extraordinary naval history remain applicable to the Royal Navy and the exercise of sea power today.

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Return to the Arctic, another task for the threadbare submarine force

Two Royal Navy submarine officers recently participated in the US Navy’s ICEX 2016. Two American attack submarines (SSNs) navigated under the Arctic ice and surfaced where a camp was established on an ice floe. Shortly after the exercise concluded it was announced that an RN Trafalgar class submarine will conduct under-ice operations in the Arctic in the near future. Although a strategically wise decision, this is another pressure on the RN’s stretched SSN fleet which numbers just 7 boats.

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F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter

Have the armchair F-35 critics got it all wrong?

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (Lightning II) programme has been one of the most controversial defence projects of all time. The decision to abandon CATOBAR for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers means their credibility rests largely with the effectiveness of the F-35B Lighting II. Born in the internet age where critics can spread negativity in a few clicks, (guilty your honour) the overwhelming public and media perception of the F-35 is of an expensive disaster. Those who dare to champion the aircraft, or are at least willing to give it a chance are ignored, written off as establishment stooges or seen as part of a sinister conspiracy.

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Is the Royal Navy surface fleet losing the ability to sink other warships?

In the immediate post-Cold War era the focus of naval operations changed from conventional open-ocean warfare towards maritime security, coastal operations and amphibious warfare. The possibility that fleets of warships might again have to slog it out against each other on the high seas seemed increasingly unlikely and even rather old-fashioned. Geopolitical changes manifest in the revival of the Russian Navy and the rapidly growing Chinese military are now driving western navies to seriously re-think their ability to sink warships.

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Aircraft Carriers - HMS Queen elizabeth

SDSR implications for the RN – Aircraft carriers: front & centre of UK defence policy

Although far from perfect, the decisions made in the SDSR appeared to offer something good for all the UK armed forces. At first glance the RAF appearing strongest; retaining its Tranche 1 Typhoons, orders for F-35s and 9 new P-8 Poseidon aircraft.  The Economist breathlessly reported “Spies, special forces and the Royal Air Force are the main winners”. In fact the SDSR was very maritime-centric with the RN the main beneficiary.

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ships company of HMS Somerset, Malta

SDSR implications for the RN – The manpower situation

It is no secret the RN has been struggling with a serious manpower shortage, particularly with technically qualified personnel. The modest increase of 400 people for the RN announced in the SDSR was greeted with disappointment in some quarters and criticism that shiny new kit was being prioritised ahead of the people needed to operate it. Although the RN would undoubtedly benefit from having more people, the true state of its manpower resources is more complex than may appear.

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