6 months ago that I wrote a 1st editorial on the future of the royal navy. By the October 19, the British government released its (infamous) 2010 Stategic Defense & Security Review (SDSR). I waited some more weeks (because the bad news arrives continuously) before +/- completing this editorial…
Picture credit: "Save the Royal-Navy.Org", more here
Coastline: 12 429 km (mainland coastline).
Carthography: (the only thing that can not be reduced…)
Carthography: (the only thing that can not be reduced…)
The UK EEZ is the eighth largest in the world, with a grand total (overseas territories included) of 6,805 million sq km (or 2,62 million sq mi)
+/- 39 100 regulars (+ 3600 volunteers; up to 19500 reserve).
Under the current 2010 SDSR, +/- 30 000 as expected by 2015 and ? likely +/- 27 000 by early 2020’s.
Aircraft-Carriers (THE TOMB OF THE ROYAL-NAVY ?)
Sunset of the Invincible class
As long expected, obviously, HMS Invincible, retired by mid-2005, will never sail again (he was progressively cannibalized by 2005/2009 to provide spare-parts for the two others active light carriers, and this despite the official British claims about a effective “extended-readiness”), and will be maybe ? soon scrapped around 2011/2013.
Finally the HMS Ark Royal will be retired immediately by November 2010/april 2011 (instead of 2014) and probably scrapped around 2013/2018.
HMS Illustrious ended definitively their light AIRCRAFTS-carrier career since 2009, but their final fate (in any case, end of hull-life reached by late 2010’s…) remain uncertain, because currently under a final refit at Rosyth shipyard (13 month, 40 £ million, ended by early 2011) to be usable (helico-carrier) until late 2015…but…under the current 2010 SDSR, a choice will be made between HMS Illustrious and the helico-carrier HMS Ocean to see which of the two is the better helicopter platform (only for the next 6/8 years, because in any case, both ships reached the end of their usefull life by 2018…).
But the final choice may be not easy...
If HMS Ocean is 16 years younger than the HMS Illustrious, has a stern vehicles ramp and already has the necessary equipment to carry helicopters, vehicles and troops = currently a far more better helico platform than the Illustrious… Unfortunately, the HMS Illustrious is nearly ended a last (costly) refit. British politicians may be tempted to finally choose the illustrious (story to avoid showing that the 40 £ million put into the Illustrious refit were not “wasted”…), and thus send the HMS Ocean in mothballed status (and likely to be scrapped or sold aboard by 2015/2018).
A “second-hand” sale of HMS Illustrious toward a foreign navy were very unlikely but a “second-hand” sale of HMS Ocean remain possible.
Up to 2 Queen Elizabeth (the white elephants ?)
The problem with these two ships is that their futures will be +/- sealed (in RN service) only in the next 2015/2016 SDSR. But various facts are already certain and various options are possible…
HMS Queen Elizabeth:
As expected since early 2010, the future of the HMS Queen Elizabeth will be finally (partially…) secured. Now “too expensive to cancel”, this ship was currently in advanced building process (blocks buildings, MT-30 turbines being delivered…). Now two majors options are possible…
- HMS Queen Elizabeth to be +/- nearly completed as expected (but without “sky-jump ramp”) as a very large helico carrier (with +/- 12 Merlin, 6 Apache & few others utility helico + troops), commissioned by 2016 (in fact a indirect HMS Ocean replacement…) and FULLY used by the RN (to be retired by 2046+) or ? rapidly mothballed when the HMS Prince of Wales enter service ?
- Or HMS Queen Elizabeth delayed by 2+ years and completed as a CATOBAR carriers with catapults (+ 500/800 £ million) by 2019+ and….used by Royal Navy (to be retired by 2050) or sold aboard ? (France/Brazil/India ?)
HMS Prince of Wales:
The HMS Prince of Wales will be finally built (a surprise for me, YES, I ADMIT)….but now with 1+ year of delays and additional cost (+/- 500/800 £ million per ship) to fit 2 catapults as a CATOBAR carrier and likely to carry F-35C or F/A-18 E/F, and sometime few French Rafales (in event of more deeply bilateral cooperation). Currently on very early building process (work starting on 1st engine). To be commissioned by 2020, with a probable +/- 40 years of service expected, to be retired around +/- 2060. In event of a Royal Navy service, it now become clear that this ship will normally operate just 1 squadron of 12 F-35C (she can carry up to 36…) and in any foreseeable future, no more than +/- 18 UK F-35C…
To be honest with you, for me, there's no doubt, the Royal Navy can no longer afford to have 2 large 60 000 tons carriers, each with 1500 sailors and 24/32 F-35C……
For the final destiny of these both ships (fully used by RN or mothballed or sold aboard), wait the next years (2011/2016) and the next “2015/2016” SDSR……amen !
Foreign sales of one or both vessels…a very hard task…
With the growing inability of the Royal Navy to use in the future these two large ships, persistent rumors appear on an opportunity to sell 1 carrier aboard: The only countries capable (FINANCIALLY SPEAKING) to buy one CVF are:
The French Navy wants a second carrier, but the finances/internal policy continuously delayed the project. The final choice on the PA 02 will be made by 2011/2012. If the french cancel construction of PA02 (built in french shipyard), the could be use occasionally a british carriers (few Rafales onboard), or they might be tempted to buy one of the two CVF (but in this case, in compensation, the Royal Navy must imperatively ordered some newer fleet tanker at a french shipyard…)…wait & see…
The Brazilian Navy want to replace their ageing aircraft carrier (1960’s Sao Paulo, Former French Foch) by 1 or 2 newer carriers by 2018/2025. If the British negotiators/politicians manage to convince Brazilians, they could sale one CVF by 2014/2019….wait & see…
The Indian Navy planned to acquire 3 carriers in the next 10 years. If the 44000 tons "Vikramaditya" (former Russian "Gorshkov") will be delivered in 2012, the 40 000 tons "Vikrant " (Indigenously built) will be delivered by 2014. The Indians are planning to receive by 2018/2020 a third but more larger/capable carrier (50000+ tons, catapults). This project may appear a major opportunity for some british to sell one CVF to the Indian Navy…
But this option is not very easy, because the Indians are ALREADY in the process of designing their OWN 50 000 tons carrier, and don’t forget that the cost of the Indian 40 000 tons indigenous Vikrant carrier, currently under construction in southern India, is expected to be a third of the cost of the 65,000 tons HMS Queen Elizabeth, while the future Indian 50/60 000 tons carrier (maybe to be named INS Vishaal ?), will cost less than half of its British equivalent…wait & see…
Russian Navy wants to have 3-6 newer aircraft carriers by 2050. But the state of its shipyards could seriously slow down or stop this (very/too ambitious) project. The sale of a British CVF would be financially feasible but much more complex politically. This deal could be done only if Russia chooses to be radically more closer to NATO policy (a major shift in russia policy during this 21st century)…wait & see…
China continued its OWN studies on aircraft carriers. It seems very doubtful/unlikely that it wants to buy a British carrier.
+/- 1 Helico-Carriers (between short/long term solution…)
1 (0?) Ocean 22 000 tons, 203 meters, hull derived from the Invincible light carrier. Built on civilian standard, commissioned by 1998, with +/- 20 years of service expected, in any case, to be retired by 2018. Very unlikely to be replaced by a newer LHD and maybe, at the best, replaced by the HMS Queen Elizabeth (at a LPH version).
Naval Airwing (you may be ready for the worst)
Now, the handful of last Harrier will be retired by april 2011.
With the astronomical cost of the F-35B (150+ $ million each), the British are now forced to abandon it in favor of a more conventional aircraft. If currently the final choice is not “definitively official”, it appears certain that the F-35C will ultimately chooses. At the best case, we are moving to around +/- 40/50 UK F-35C commissioned by 2020/2023 (to compare with initial +/- 138/150 F-35B commissioned by 2012+…). It is clear that this figure +/- condemns the HMS Queen Elizabeth (24/36 F-35 onboard one CVF) as a PURE aircrafts-carrier….
For cons, the hope of many RN fan’s for the opportunity to purchase 20/40 additional F-35C after (2018/2030) the actual financial crisis is clearly a dream (with a cost that will continue to grow…inflation, ect ....). In the best case, a small purchase/order ”batch” of 10/15 aircraft by 2025/2030 will be made to compensate F-35C “life-attrition” (aircraft accidents/crash, wear). These F-35C, which came into service by 2020/2023, will have a life of +/- 30 years and will be retired by +/- 2052. …But…
Obiously, this whole affair is linked to the future of the 2 CVF…. But more worrying, some concerns arise about the possibility that in the coming years (2011/2016), the RAF finally impose the F-35A, equivalent to condemn definitively the british naval aviation…WAIT & SEE…
Naval Helicopters (fewer and…fewer…)
Few Sea-King ASaC.7 (AEW) :
Now very ageing helico, to be replaced by 2018. Some rumors emerge about the possibilities to convert 8 (of the 28 expected to be modernized as a HM2 standard) Merlin as a AEW helico...
+/- 28 Future-Lynx (ASW/SAR) :
60 originally planned early 2000's, now 28 expected to be received by 2015/2018, to be retired during 2040’s.
+/- 28 EH-101 :
44 initially commissioned by 1997-2002, now 28 Merlin are scheduled to be updated to HM2 standard (= others used as spare-parts or reserve status ?). (Some rumors that 8 of the 28 HM2’s would be used as AEW helico (Sea-King Asac Mk7’s replacement…). With probable +/- 30 years of service, to be retired around 2027/2032.
Naval Aircrafts (any future, except ? for the UAV…):
The 9 Nimrod-MR4 (+2 test aircrafts) initially expected to be received around 2012/2014 were now finally cancelled. With a fantastic waste of money (3 £ billion), because the 1st aircraft were ready, 3 more were 90% complete !!! and the five others +/- 40% completed...
AAW Destroyers (6)
(Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender, Duncan), 7500 tons, 152 meters, highly effective AAW destroyers (to replace obsolete type 42 AAW destroyers) but suffered from serious delays, cost-overruns, initial troubles (AAW missiles) and severes critics (the famous “fitted for but not fitted with”……). Commissioned by 2010/2013, with probable 30+ years of service, to be retired by 2040/2043. These AAW destroyers will probably receive some “second-hands” CIWS Phalanx withdrawn from the retired Type 42 destroyers, but it becomes increasingly likely that these AAW DDG will never receive Harpoon or Tomahawk missiles…
Toward 0 type 42
(Liverpool, Manchester, York, Gloucester, Edinburgh), now obsolete 4000 tons AAW destroyers, all to be retired by 2013.
ASW Frigates (17 in 2010, 13 by 2012 and +/- 6/10 ? by early 2030…)
From 4 to 0 Type 22
The 4 ageing frigate of "type 22" (Cornwall, Cumberland, Campbelton, Chatham), effective ASW ships thought the 1990’s but now ageing, relatively expensive to operate (250 sailors per ship), will be retired soon by April 2011 !
13 Type 23
(Argyll, Lancaster, Iron Duke, Monmouth, Montrose, Westminster, Northumberland, Richmond, Somerset, Sutherland, Kent, Portland, St Albans). 4800+ tons, 133 meters. Very effective ASW ships but now progressively ageing. All to be retired by 2023-2036 and replaced by fewer Type 26 frigates. But the next 2015/2016 SDSR maybe could threaten some ships…
6 to 10 ? type 26 ?
These new class of 6000 tons frigate were currently under study. But it is already clear that the 13 frigates of the Type 23 will never be replaced at “one for one basis”. At the worst, only 6 type 26 should be built or at the best, 8-10 type 26 built, all by 2022/2036…wait & see…
Mine-Hunters/Patrols Boats (toward a single modular design by 2020’s ?)
+/- 8 Sandown
(Walney, Penzance, Pembroke, Grimsby, Bangor, Ramsey, Blyth, Shoreham). 484 tons, 52 meters, commissioned by 1992/2001, with probable +/- 30 years of service, to be retired around 2022/2030.
+/- 8 Hunt
(Ledbury, Cattistock, Brocklesby, Middleton, Chiddingfold, Atherstone, Hurworth, Quorn). 750 tons, 60 meters, commissioned by 1980/1989, with probable +/- 30 years of service, to be retired around 2010/2019.
In fact, it become clear that the current british mine-countermeasures fleet (+/- 15 units) were far too bigger under the current/futures british needs (likely around +/- 6/8 MCM SPECIALIZED). It is highly probable that some of these currents MCM will be used in future as a patrol boats.
(Mersey, Severn, Tyne), 1600+ tons, 79 meters, commissioned by 2003, with probable 25+ years of service, to be retired around 2028 and likely to be partially replaced by few C3 ships.
1 Improved Rivers
(Clyde), 1800+ tons, 81 meters, commissioned by 2007, with probable 25+ years of service, to be retired by 2032 and likely to be partially replaced by a C3 ship.
Up to x ? C3
All of these Mine-Hunters/Patrol boats were expected to be replaced by a common class of +/- 2000 tons flexible warships (able to be used as a mothers ships, mine-warfare and overseas patrols). This C3 concept, currently under initial study, was derived (and are a “scaled-down” version) from the C1/Type 26 frigate. But it is already clear that the 16 mine-hunters and the 4 patrols boats (20 ships) will never be replaced at “one for one basis”. At the worst, only +/- 10/12 C3 should be built or at the best, +/- 16 C3 built, all by 2022/2033, and very likely half built as a MCM version and the other half as a ocean patrol boat/mothers ships.
Possible designs: BMT Venator or BAE or others ?
+/- 5 Hydrographics Vessels:
28 tons, 15 meters, commissioned by 1983, with probable +/- 30 years service life expected, to be retired by early 2010’s likely without replacement.
13500 tons, 131 meters, commissioned by 1997, with probable 30 years of life, to be retired around 2027
(Echo, Enterprise), 3400+ tons, 90 meters, commissioned by 2003. With probable 25+ years of service life, to be retired around 2030 and maybe indirectly replaced by a C3 corvette.
1 Endurance :
6000+ tons, 91 meters, commissioned by 1991, Probably damaged beyond repair (30/50 £ million of repair cost ?). Maybe ? replaced by a ex Norwegian ice patrol ship leased or other ?
16 Others Smalls:
14 Archer P2000
(Archer, Biter, Smiter, Blazer, Puncher, Charger, Ranger, Trumpeter, Express, Example, Explorer, Exploit, Tracker, Raider). 49 tons, 20+ meters. Commissioned by 1985-1998, with probable +/- 20 years of service expected, to be replaced around 2015/2028, likely by fewer small ships (+/- 12?).
(Scimitar, Sabre), 24 tons, 16 meters. Commissioned by for Gibraltar use.
+/- 7 SSN Submarines (now a real need for 6)
Up to 7 Astute
(Astute, Ambush, Artful, Audacious, Agamemnon, Anson, Ajax), 7800 tons, 97 meters. Commissioned by 2010/2022, with probable 25+ years of service life, to be retired by 2035/2050. Remember that the Royal Navy initially expected (2002) to build 9 Astute (to replace 5 olders Swiftsure SSN and the 4 most ageing Trafalgar SSN: the 3 most younger Trafalgar will be initially expected to be replaced by late 2010’s by the Astute successors), this figure fall to 8 by 2005……Now, 7 Astute’s are expected in fact to replace all remaining ageing british SSN (Swiftsure’s/Trafalgar’s) The 7th Astute were secured, (in reality) not for the Royal Navy, but in fact for the British shipyards/industry. Indeed, with the delays taken for the Vanguards SSBN replacement, the 7th Astute was finally authorized with the main objective to avoid losing strategic skills in submarine construction (construction of the 7th Astute through 2015/2022 ensure the technological/industrial “transition” between the Astute SSN and the future SSBN X).
(Turbulent, Tireless, Torbay, Trenchant, Talent, Triumph). 5200 tons, 85 meters, improved/enlarged from Swiftsure design. Commissioned by 1984/1991, all expected to be progressively retired trough 2011/2022.
(Sceptre), 4400/4900 tons, 83 meters. Last remaining SSN of the Swiftsure class, This last ship will be retired very soon by late 2010 and replaced by the 1st Astute.
SSBN Submarines (or gives the “(very) hotly potatoes” to the next PM…)
(Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant, Vengeance), 15/17 000 tons, 149 meters, commissioned by 1994/2001, with 25 years of life expected, need initially to be replaced by 2021/2026, but…
Now the recent SDSR create some planning changes:
Changes for the Vanguard’s (last longer, with fewer missiles/warheads onboard)
- The 4 Vanguard’s will see their lives extended by +/- 6 years (HMS Vanguard to be now retired by 2028), and this, at a cost of 1,2/1,4 £ billion
- Reduction of the number of operational missiles on each submarine (from 16 to 8 !) and reduce the number of warheads onboard each SSBN from 48 to 40. These changes will start to take effect over the next few years (likely by 2011/2015)
Changes for the British Nuclear arsenal
- Reduction of “operationally available warheads” from 160 (currently) to no more than 120.
- Reduction of overall british nuclear weapon stockpile from 225 (currently) to no more than 180 by mid 2020’s.
Changes for the futures British SSBN (X)
- The next generation of British SSBN will carry only 8 operational missiles tubes.
- The 1st future British SSBN will enter service by 2028 (to be laid down by +/- 2022?).
- Work on detailed design for these future SSBN begin by late 2010.
- A decision on submarine number (3 or 4) would be required around 2016 (= after the next British general elections).
- The missile compartment onboard these future ships will be a common design with the future next US SSBN (X).
Amphibious (toward a reduced fleet)
From 2 to 1 Albion
(Albion, Bulwark), 18/21 000 tons, 176 meters, LPD design. Commissioned by 2003/2004, with probable 25/30+ years of service expected, to be retired around 2028/2034. But now the HMS Albion will be retired soon by 2012 (ie officially in “extended readiness”).
From 4 to 3 Bay
(Largs Bay, Lyme Bay, Mounts Bay, Cardigan Bay), 15000+ tons, 176 meters. Medium LPD design built on civilian standards. Commissioned by 2006/2007, with probable 25+ years of service, to be around 2030, except HMS Largs Bay, to be prematurely withdraw by 2012.
Small Amphibious (small but effective !)
4 Griffon 2000 TDX s.
13 LCU (estimation)
3 Mk-9 (701, 705, 709)
10 Mk-10 (1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1009, 1010).
Maybe some replaced by PASCAT fast landing ships ?....wait & see...
+/- 30 LCVP (estimation)
RHIB & others (81, estimation)
6 Swimmers Delivery Vehicles (estimation)
3 Mk8 Mod-1 SDV 12 (+6?).
RFA Auxiliary’s (a overwhelming concern…)
2 “Wave Knight”
(Wave Knight, Wave Ruker), 31500 tons, 196 meters. Commissioned by 2003, with probable +/- 30 years of service, to be retired around 2030.
(Gold Rover, Black Rover), 7/11000 tons, 140 meters. Commissioned by 1974. Now ageing ship, likely to be retired by early/mid 2010’s.
2 “Fort Rosalie”
(Fort Rosalie, Fort Austin), 18/23000 tons, 185 meters cargo/repairs ships. Commissioned by 1978/1979. Now ageing ships to be retired through the 2010’s.
From 2 to 1 “Fort Victoria”
(Fort Victoria, Fort George), 32000 tons, 203 meters replenishment oiler (originally intended to supply type 23 frigates in North Atlantic ops). Commissioned by 1993/1994, with +/- 30 years of service expected, to be retired by mid 2020’s but, at a very bad news (these ships is relatively +/- young), the HMS Fort George will be prematurely retired soon as possible under the current SDSR budget cut.
From 2 to 1 “ Leaf"
(Bayleaf, 37000 tons, commissioned by 1982 and Orangeleaf, 33000 tons, commissioned by 1984). Now ageing ships, HMS Bayleaf likely to be retired soon as possible under SDSR budget cut and HMS Orangleaf during 2010’s. Very likely these two ships were likely not to be replaced, because their “fuel-only role” (moving of fuel between overseas location) has largely been taken over by civilian contractors.
(Digilence), 11 000 tons, 112 meters very strategic repair-ships, commissioned by 1984, with probable 30+ years service live, to be retired during 2010’s decade. Very likely to be not directly replaced and more likely to be “indirectly” replaced by some repairs-ships capabilities onboard the next generation of British fleet tanker.
(Argus), 28000 tons, 175 meters. Now nearly ageing, used as hospital ship (initially intended to be able to carry Harrier). Commissioned by 1988 in the “aftermark” of the Falkland experience. Very likely to be not “directly” replaced and partially replaced by some “hospital capabilities” onboard the next generation of british fleet tanker.
6 Point class (cheap, a future secured !)
(Hartland Point, Anvil Point, Hurst Point, Eddystone, Longstone, Beachyhead). 23 000 tons max, 193 meters Ro-Ro ships. Commissioned by 2002+, all are available to the UK at very short notice if required. To be used until late 2020’s.
In fact, looking the current and any foreseeable (£) situation of the Royal Navy, it seems almost certain that +/- 8 now ageing (1970’s/1980’s) large auxiliary’s vessels (Argus, Digilence, the two “Leaf”, the two “Rovers”, the two “Rosalie”) will be replaced by only 4 to 6 newer versatile large Replenishment/Fleet tanker ships.
And perhaps even worse. A desire to standardize (for a single class of future Fleet tanker, as opposed to the 7 types of existing vessels......), the British government might be ? tempted by 2018/2024 to retire prematurely the 2 "wave’s" class fleet tanker and sell them abroad
Up to 6 ? future fleet tanker ?
The possible successors of the stillborn MARS program ?, possible designs:
- British BMT Aegir 18/18R/26 designs ? (17 to 26 000 tons)
- British Roll-Royce NVC 14000/25 000 tons design
- French “Brave” 30 000 tons flexible design (a future French/British collaboration ?)
- Dutch JSS flexible design (a future Dutch/British collaboration ?)
- A civilian built leased (or converted) ships ?
- A newer British design ? (doubfull)
- A Italian (fincantieri) 18000 or 27 000 tons designs (built aboard)
- A South-Korean design (built aboard, to reduce cost ?)
In terms of flexibility (Fleet tanker/Cargos/Repair/Hospital capability), the “Brave” & “JSS” designs are perhaps the best position ...Wait & see…
- +/- 7000 troops.
- 150 BvS-10 Viking Armored vehicles.
- 81mm mortars
- 4 amphibious overcrafts Griffon 24 RRC
- 6 Lynx Mk 7 helicopters
When you see the number of times this special corps was in danger of being incorporated into the British Land Army, it is no longer any doubt that its future (independence) is threatened...
in a desperate attempt to save his two future aircraft carriers, the Royal Navy is currently being sacrificed:
- Likely 1 LPH
- 1 large LPD (officially in “extended readiness”…)
- 1 medium LPD (Largs Bay)
- 4 ageing Frigates (Type 22)
- +/- 2/3 auxiliary/various ships
- serious down size of futures naval airwings/helico + the early retirement of the two remaining Invincible light carriers and the withdrawal of the last Harriers.
But these sacrifices are only the “middle-part” (first major sacrifices initiated by 1998/2005……). In the next major round of cuts (around 2015/2017, in the next SDSR, usually just after the next British general election), the Royal Navy would probably lose again:
- up to 1 CVF ? (sold aboard ?)
- up to 3 or 4 Type 23 frigates.
- up to 6 ageing mine-hunters.
- up to 5+ other auxiliary’s.
And all of these, without direct replacement…
And more worse, the latter SDSR (by +/- mid 2020), could may be ??? seal the fate of the Royal Navy as a REAL large blue water navy. But perhaps even more worrying is the “Image/Reputation” of the royal navy in united kingdom which is the source of all serious concerns (I do not even talk over the stranding of HMS Astute, engine failure of HMS Daring or cyber-attack of the Royal Navy Website…). Because if the politicians (remember that David Cameron does not want the 2 aircraft carriers, their continuations is just the fact that the contract has been hardened by BAE (= too expensive to cancel) and the british people turn away from it (RN) completely, then its future is in jeopardy
Finally, I apologize for the lack/delays of “fleet-review’s” posting, but unfortunately, some serious personals problems (unemployment…) prevent me from writing more seriously (deeper/longer analysis) on this blog. Hoping that 2011 has better….
As usual, It may be that in my opinion, I forgot programs ? (or made few mistakes ?), then said it ! Feel free to comment and give your opinion !
Next Fleet Review: Future of the Mexican Navy