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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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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Unmanned Surface Vessel

Unmanned Platforms & the Royal Navy – Part 2 Surface & Underwater Systems

For most navies including the RN, the trend is towards building bigger, more powerful and expensive ‘small combatants’. Unmanned technology offers new possibilities to partially escape this size, cost and complexity spiral. It also can save exposing the crew to danger as well as the cost and size penalty of their accommodation space. 

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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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