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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Frigate design

SDSR implications for the RN – The surface escort conundrum

This is the first in a new series of articles looking in detail at what the recent SDSR announcements may mean for the RN. The navy will get 8 Type 26 frigates and government has affirmed its promise to maintain a surface escort fleet of at least 19 ships. How will this be achieved?

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Why a submarine-based nuclear deterrent is the best choice for the UK

This piece was inspired by a recent click-bait gem that proposes the UK consider joining the US Long-Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) programme with a view to replacing the submarine-launched nuclear deterrent with an air-launched alternative. This kind of proposal rears its ugly head very so often and was even briefly enshrined in UKIP defence policy. Here we will show why submarines are overwhelmingly the best vehicle to carry the UK nuclear deterrent.

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Type 26 Frigate (or Global Combat Ship)

A critical moment for the Type 26 Frigate programme

Speaking at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Exhibition last week, the First Sea Lord Admiral Zambellas said:

“the Type 26 [Frigate] will form the backbone of the Royal Navy, with a design that has the potential to meet the operational needs of a number of major navies around the world.”
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Royal Navy Merlin Helicopter on flight deck of HMS Sutherland

The Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter fleet – bearing a heavy load

Glossy MoD publicity may give the impression the Fleet Air Arm is in rude health with several new types of aircraft coming into service to replace ageing veterans. A new generation of aircraft are indeed being delivered but the actual number of helicopters in RN service will have declined dramatically by 57% (From 194 to 83) in the decade between 2009 and 2019.

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RFA Fort Victoria

Does the state of the RFA threaten the global reach of the RN?

The civilian ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary are a relatively ‘low profile’ part of the surface fleet but they are critical in providing the RN with the ability to stay at sea for extended periods and many other additional capabilities. An examination of the RFA flotilla in 2015 reveals a small and rather threadbare collection of ships. Like the RN it serves, it is doing its best with what it has in anticipation of the arrival of new vessels.

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RFA Argus, Freetown, Sierra Leone

The Royal Navy – prime force for delivery of emergency aid and disaster relief

The size of the Britain’s £11Bn overseas aid budget is becoming increasingly controversial at a time when we are cutting defence spending and trying to reduce national debt. There are good reasons for wealthier nations to help the poorest in the world but whether these hand-outs create lasting peace and prosperity is questionable. There is however, a clear moral imperative when natural disasters occur to assist our fellow man struggling for their very survival. This important and frequently required humanitarian aid mission is often forgotten in political discussions around the size and shape of the navy.

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Putin and submarine

Is Britain prepared for the naval challenges of a new Cold War?

In December 2014 Russia quietly signaled what maybe called the start of Cold War II when it issued a new military doctrine which lists NATO as its “main threat”. President Putin, a former KGB officer is determined to return Russia to the superpower status of the Soviet Union. Communist dogma may have gone but it has been replaced by nationalist expansionism and paranoia used to justify a military renaissance. Western nations are feeling this growing power by increasing numbers of Russian ships, aircraft and submarines to probing defences and even entering territorial waters.

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