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Years of hacking the Navy to death have led to this. Too few ships, too few personnel, lack of funds and certainly not enough manufacturing capacity to build ships like the UK did in WW2. I have to ask but can the UK defend itself from a comparable enemy? Strategic Defence review should be renamed to be truthful: Stupid Defence Reduction

Meirion X

The Uk Government could call up reservists, to temporary increase the crew numbers?


I think it would be realistic to double up on T31 frigate numbers as they have good relatively low tech fit all round. Then speed up and extend the T26’s with an extra 3 or 4 ships. Manning would have to follow suit or be speeded up if recruiting can be managed.

Meirion X

The T31s will be just the job for shallow waters like the Gulf, up arm them.


Type 31 might still be a huge size depending on what one we choose.

Meirion X

The foredeck(bow area) on the Leander is too cramped, it will always be wet. It needs to be lengthened and space out a few metres. Which would allow more Sea Ceptor cells be fitted, or a new replacement for Harpoon.
I am sure BAe can do better!


On the other hand, it may be that Leander is a rational response to an unrealistically low budget.

Rob .N

Yes no sonar – unable to counter mines and midget subs… limited firepower…rather you then me!


Capable of taking UUVs with a thin line towed array and Merlin or Fire Scout to drop Buoys and/or lightweight torpedoes. Plenty of ASW capability in terms of what Iran has whilst we are not in a formally declared state of conflict.

As for limited firepower. MCG, 30mm with Marlet, Phalanx and small scale VLS for Sea Ceptor/Spear3 type missiles are more than enough. Importantly you also have access to Merlin, Wildcat, Fire Scout, UAV, UUVs etc.

More importantly. Instead of 1 asset you could potentially have 3. And that is worth a lot in of itself.

Iqbal Ahmed

It’s simple. We are a middle sized country who lacks ithe resources of the USA in order to militarily project power in multiple or distant parts of the world. None of our European peers can do it either.

However, acting multilaterally with NATO and EU and other allies around the globe, we can enhance our ability to influence on a wider stage eg. persuading the EU countries and especially a reluctant Germany to impose sanctions on Russia.

No amount of wishful discussions about raising GDP spend on the military to 3%, against the backdrop of coming Brexit related economic problems or unrealistic fantasy fleets compositions are helpful. There just isn’t the political will in the country to maintain and use the armed forces in a way some here would like.

This called being realistic and matching resources to outcomes rather than ‘talking the country down’.

Meirion X

The UK economy is way up front of a so called ‘ middle country’, it is a 3 trillion economy!


We could do it not long ago, we had 30 odd escorts not many years Back.


Oh and hundreds upon hundreds of destroyers alone not long before that, we have 6 now!


Yes it’s rather shocking.


Gotta remember that those hundreds of destroyers displaced around 1,800 long tons, while the modern “Destroyers” the RN has displace nearly 9,000 long tonnes, and thus are more decent sized Cruisers by past standards than Destroyers.


Yeah, that’s shows how much weapons we could fit on our new 2000t OPVs then.


True, but what do you trade off for that? Better to keep the OPV’s lightly armed and in low intensity areas and sink the money into GP Frigates IMO. I’d rather have OPV’s armed with 30mm cannon, miniguns and a helicopter and 5 Type 31’s than 3 Type 31’s and a OPV fleet of dubious extra utility with 76 guns and twin 30’s


Not really Cameron, the weapons are only half the story on modern ships, to use the weapons you need sensors and computers. In their turn they need power (generation), cooling, space (for themselves and their spare parts) and operators/maintainers. The latter in turn need amenities in order to retain them, an 1800 tonner gave the crew a hammock each – and hard laying money- this will not cut it with a modern workforce. Not to harp on about a previous thread but the whole point of an OPV is that it IS lightly armed (ie, not a corvette), by lightly arming it you reduce the maintenance burden, keeping the costs down so you can spend the money on fleet units etc etc. There is a strong argument that good OPV design leaves a lot of space and weight reserves (or for but not with depending on your choice of terminology) to be up gunned to a corvette/light frigate in the event of WW3, somewhat like the USCG did with the NSC cutters (the name of which escape me right now sorry), but given the computer power needed for effective modern ASW the days of using corvettes for ASW might be behind us.

TLDR: You really don’t want to be putting too much weaponry on the OPVs.

Keith Sware

you say ‘middle sized country’ cant agree with this emotional sentiment; the UK armed forces have been cut down by political infighting, and lack of financial support. There is money available, here is an example of available money, an extract from NHS Digital, and I should say that my prejudice is concerned with hiring expensive locums instead of paying for full-time staff because it adds billions to the total cost for the country.

NHS digital extract = [[[For consultant doctors the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £62,000 and £400,000 (inclusive). For associate specialists the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £38,000 and £350,000 (inclusive).
For foundation doctor Year 1 and 2 staff the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £20,000 and £46,000 (inclusive). For specialty doctors the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £35,000 and £300,000 (inclusive). For staff grade doctors the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £34,000 and £110,000 (inclusive). For other doctors the annualised full time basic pay figure should be between £20,000 and £400,000 (inclusive).]]]
The NHS represents the 2nd highest cost to the UK.

So there is lots of money out there, and I ask, what happened to the type 31s; if we had started building at the same time that a certain PM was on his podium, then we would have at-least one type 31 in the gulf right now.

One more point to round this off, the UK WAS spending 1Bn pounds in debt interest payments each and every week not that long ago (check ONS for data – currently, the UK debt interest payments have reduced, but they are still very high). There is lots of money available, its a question of whether one chooses to spend it on local tax-paying jobs to build warships (type 46, 26, 31), or uses it to prop up the NHS locums habit and use the debt industry (government bond purchases) to fund the NHS locums.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but we are paying more money in debt interest payments than the defense budget.

short term media thinking Vs. long term economic and defense strategies.

Gavin Gordon

Well, the baseline peacetime level of spend on defence has been around 2.5% for centuries; so there is no excuse for less than that at a time of increased tension.


Gavin in 1963 the MacMillan government spent 7% on defense with 400,000 service people. During the Thatcher years it was 5%.


This isn’t necessarily true. The UK is much bigger than a middle sized country or economy; but its political masters don’t seem to believe it is capable of it, and have their priorities in much different places than in projecting the power that could be called to bear where it is needed most. If anything, the UK is a sleeping giant that doesn’t really understand why or how it is being attacked. If it does wake up politically though many of these difficulties would subside.


You are missing something. The global financial crash of 2008, when the British public was hood-winked into paying to not only shore up the banks but the investors and traders who got us into the problem in the first place. Instead of raising taxes on individuals and corporations, particularly those directly involved, we chose to go on a huge public finances bonfire and now we are surprised when we can’t control the results? The public did vote for this.
The other interesting thing is look at your tax breakdown, if you do pay tax, you will see by far the majority goes to social security and of that housing benefits is the largest chunk. Instead of building housing that would put money directly into the economy we basically subsidise house price rises that end up in foreign retirement funds or the fuzzy “global economy” in which no nation state can control the extraction of targetted benefits.


We are not middle sized in any meaningful sense – 5th or 6th largest economy in the world, dependent on maritime trade and we should by virtue of geography, be able to economise on ground forces. ‘‘Twas ever thus

We’re still suffering from some very bad decisions made in 2010 which were more driven by the politics of coalition building than real affordability. The 23s have been pushed beyond their limits – 5 in LIFEX one confined to harbour. This doesn’t actually save money long term

We need a drumbeat of T31s starting asap and a matching recruitment and retention program. Forget begging the EU to help us with Germany dependant in Russian has and supplying nuclear tech to Iran

Will O

There’s certainly the political will in the country to raise the defence budget to 3% of GDP, there just hasn’t been the political will from government. In dismantling the capabilities of our forces so excessively, governments over the last 30 or so years have acted contrary to the wishes of the public. There was never any political will, nor ever conceivable would be, for such reckless & irresponsible cuts, particularly not those of SDSR2010. Frankly we’ve been led by clowns, with clown-hood being fairly evenly distributed throughout each political party, for several decades.

Meirion X

HMS Monmouth, is listed as inactive awating LIFEX refit. Bring her back into service wirh reservists! Also why waste money on upgrading a 26 year old GP frigate! Start building new Type 31s to replace the old GP frigates! And increase the build rate for the T26 frigates to 1 new every 18 months?


Agreed Meirion, re-arm. Problem is when this is suggested people start posting, it can’t be done. Expand production capabilities and hire more staff. Defense procurement is good for the economy.


Probably giving them nice new engines ect so we can dam sell them to Brazil or Chile.

Meirion X

HMS Monmouth was only out at sea since end of March, and now layed up again!
It seems the new crew for HMS Lancaster, which is to reactivate next month, has come from Monmouth?

Keith Sware

Building one ship a year would give us a navy of 30 warships if we kept the service life to 30 years.

This would add predictability to operations, planning, maintenance, spares procurement, design planning and industry for local tax-paying shipbuilding.

Putting one new ship in the water every year would also help recruitment.


Not at all practicable.
Reservists? What reservists? They dont have the required skill sets to cover all the jobs onboard. the ones the RN does have already cover jobs on the existing ships or shore jobs to release people to get on ships.
Sure you could recall people who have left the service but then you need to retrain and requalify a bunch of people who are no longer SQEP and to be honest don’t want to be there.
Imagine the scenario.
You are in your nice civvy job earning 3 times what you earned in the RN and going home to your wife/ partner and kids every night. A letter arrives telling you you have been recalled to the mast! So drop everything and return to HMS Raleigh for induction.
Its not going to happen and i doubt very many would actually hope on the train to Guz.
I wouldnt but then again there isnt a train to Guz from where I am. Its easier to bring HMS Montrose to me again as they did earlier this year!

Meirion X

To Gunbuster,
What I meant, was this not the case at the time of two Gulf Wars?
Reservists, those whom had serve in the Armed Forces, but had left within the past 5 years are still put on the reserve list to be call up, particularly personnel with specific skills?
I know it is not satisfactory, but as an emergency war measure, is it not the least bad thing to do?
My apologies to any misunderstandings!


Are you seriously proposing the UK starts a war on it’s own?Had HMS Montrose been a bit nearer, she should have opened fire?I very much doubt that her rules of engagement would have allowed it anyway without a lot of time consuming communication with the UK government. Losing a frigate would be very difficult to respond to and would be a defeat while Iran’s present strategy is merely tying together all the nations with an interest in keeping the straits open.


An attack on one Nato country is an attack on all. If they sank a british Frigate there would be a massive Nato task group on Irans doorstep within a week and sanctions beyond anything they ever dreamt.


The NATO charter says no such thing. There’s not much left to sanction.


Sanctions have actually helped Iran’s indigenous millitary capability, and Iran’s built lots of its own millitary equipment ect since sanctions many years back.

Captain Nemo

Not much left to sanction but lots of stuff to break, an attack on a NATO ally acting within international law would have to be seen by allies in those terms, not in terms of the small print.
Not sure what Iran is trying to achieve with its wacky antics but they’re probably a couple of missteps away from having their military capabilities set back twenty years in the course of a week, not to mention a few items on Israel’s wish list and assorted Republican Guard economic interests.
No boots on the ground but a lot of smoke in the air and Donald gets to show how to do Middle East.


Article 5 of the NATO treaty.


Grubbie is actually right regarding the NATO charter. Article 5 only applies to attacks on or in European or North American soil or waters. A ship attacked in the Gulf won’t automatically trigger article 5 like, for example (the only example actually), the 9/11 bombings.

If our forces are attacked abroad, it’ll come down to how much our allies are actually willing to help. Not that we actually need NATO to respond; the US is clearly itching to pull the trigger, and if Montrose came under attack you can guarantee the Yanks would get strike aircraft in the air to retaliate.


“the US is clearly itching to pull the trigger, and if Montrose came under attack you can guarantee the Yanks would get strike aircraft in the air to retaliate.”

We asked for backing in dealing with Iran. The UK rebuffed our offers. When we offered to help with escort duties for UK ships, we were rebuffed again. Now the UK has to operate on its own, without US help. The UK had to resort to going to the Europeans for help, the Dutch and French.

Not to mention the recent fallout with the UK ambassador to the US Kim Darroch insulting The President of the United States and American foreign policy. That alone caused great division with the US and the UK.

Relations between both countries has gotten to its lowest its been for decades. It’s going to take a lot to repair them. Your new PM better have a more accommodating government than the last one. The growing and disturbing anti-American sentiment that is gaining momentum in the UK doesn’t help things, not one bit. I try to be diplomatic and see the larger picture of international relations, but I can say that many Americans are growing very frustrated the way the British government and their people have treated The President, our government, and our country.

Desmond Moloney

New prime minister will value defense spending higher…he could hardly value it less than Mrs May. Agreed – speed up the Type 31 program – weaponize them properly, and commit to twelve hulls !


This is a classic case of a creeping commitment; not having been thought-through and therefore subject to problems. We are on the back foot. It was naive to take a chance that there would be no response to the action off Gibraltar. Based on what this article is saying, our response was poorly conceived at best (ref. backloading the wildcats). I just listened to the radio chatter on the bbc website and it is frankly humiliating. Message to world (summed-up well by CNN): Iranians tell UK to change course to stay safe – and we are impotent to stop it. This coming after the capture and parading of the Royal Marines a while back is just unacceptable; we are being made to look stupid and weak – and the worst part is we didn’t even want to be part of it in the first place. Full disclosure: I’m half Iranian, half British – my father having worked there as an Expat before the revolution. I’m therefore generally very saddened that the 2 countries are at loggerheads. This is an issue between the USA and Tehran and IMHO they have both miscalculated to reach this point. What I fail to see is why we should involve ourselves, and having done so – why almost guarantee a humiliation by doing it on a shoe-string? Nobody wins here. For anyone who’s read Sir Henry Leach’s reported words prior to the dispatch of the task force in 1982, I believe his words have some relevance: When asked whether we could send a task force he reportedly said, “Yes we can recover the islands.” He then added “and we must!” Thatcher replied “Why?” Leach exclaimed “Because if we do not, or if we pussyfoot in our actions and do not achieve complete success, in another few months we shall be living in a different country whose word counts for little.”

Arguably, this has already happened in the intervening years but not so much that we can’t turn it around. I say again, I lament this situation – we have been clumsy to get to this point but now that we are here, we can’t afford to show any weakness whatsoever.


Well let’s hope our cyber attack dogs at GCHQ are playing merry hell with any internet connected systems in Iran…

For too long governments have run down our military in the wake of the collapse of Communism and the Warsaw Pact – the so called ‘peace dividend’. But history tells us when one enemy disappears, one or more new ones will arise to take its place. More frigates, more attack subs, are what we need.
And they need to be armed to combat against whatever a surprise attack may throw against them, and those armaments need to be ‘with’ not ‘for’.


I disagree. The royal navy was to blame for the taking of the ship. Poor show Indeed. We knew they were going to try. Why not put 30 royal marines on the tankers between two given points and armed with nlaw, gpmg, gmg. Why was that never an option or did the royal navy simply not think of that.


30 Marines would not be able to hold off an assault by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for long if they were attacking a tanker. This isnt the same as dealing with Somali pirates, this is an organised and well armed opponent. Firefights aboard a ship are even worse than urban combat. Without support 30 marines would end up as prisoners or dead even if they killed a great many enemy combatants.


For one thing, RN should share part of the blame. They should have changed the shadow tactics/shorten the distance from the protected tankers after Iran had tried the first time. They should have known better as a professional navy. The first time is a standard example of testing the opponent’s reaction speed, maneuverability, etc.
On the marine thing, they can stall the seizing until HMS Montrose came to relieve them in the fighting scene! As I understand from the report, the ship was 10 min late. A 30-group marine can well hold off the ground in a 10-minute span.
On another note, this is entirely the MoD/Downing Street making. A war ship like HMS Montrose have missiles to launch the attack from far away, but no, the political masters must have laid the operation instruction to the sailors that maximun restraint is shown at all cost. Spineless traitors, the lot of them at Westminster.


Yep loads of missiles onboard. they could have fired Harpoon, which to be honest and as a former maintainer of the thing, is dumber than a russian troll. You fire it in the congested waters of the Gulf and you have no idea where or who it will hit.
A complete non-starter.


Or as we like to say, Iqbal Ahmed!


I had stated that a few days a go. Having rolling platoons that board the ship through the danger area then get off at the end and transfer to the next ship passing through. Marine snipers would have prevented Iranians from helocasting from that chopper, they should not have altered course.


Has everyone gone mad? When did it become a good idea to put a couple of dozen men on an oil tanker (ie a floating bomb) and suggest they open fire on boats and helicopters which are armed with missiles and machine guns. It would only take one to get through to cause loss of the tanker and all aboard!


We have exactly that on RFA’s and send floating bombs to chase drug traffickers in the Caribbean. We’ve lost the ship anyway. If Iran knows our ships will prevent boarding they will have to open fire, and that escalates to a new level. They are unlikely to want to push to that.
If Montrose was 30 miles away I dont know why the Wildcat wasnt deployed?

Juan mariano f. Barcenas

Uk cannot just put soldiers on board maritime ships without the state of emergency or war. Stopping and seizing for safety a tanker (its not an ordinary tanker as it is a ULCC type though single skin hull) loaded with 2.1 m bbls of crude oil at the straits of gibraltar is a challenging action to iran.

Remember the iran iraq war in the 80s?? It was also caused by that thing oil, at basra, an.oil terminal owned and developed by iraq but being claimed by iran.

That war caused a lot of trouble in the world economy plummeting oil prices from several dollars to to 25 per bbl. A good number of tankers been sank in the persian gulf and even sailing the oman sea outside the PG area of hostilities.

Oil again, may start a new war in the PG, but this time it is not just UK is involved but the US, EU and other G7 states with a lot of business interest in PG.


“What the Foreign Office seems to have miscalculated was the Iranians would inevitably interpret it as an attack on their economy and retaliate in ways we are ill-prepared for.”

This level of incompetence is something I fail to understand. The Iranians have been repeating, for weeks, that they wished to retaliate by boarding a vessel – they said as much and mentioned that we were unprepared to defend our assets in the Gulf. I went to bed last week wondering if I would wake up to this news. So how did I, a civilian, know this would happen and the Foreign Office did not? How did the Admiralty not take advantage of all assets in the region and offers of US assistance to instigate a convoy system immediately, and to ensure all British flagged vessels were escorted by Montrose? It seems utterly foolish and a complete own goal.

Will O

Ditto. How too did they fail to foresee that the Iranian regime would predictably break it’s word, as it always has, and that the other tanker once released from Gibraltar would just head straight for Syria?


If the Iranian tanker was detained to enforce EU sanctions, then why does the UK find itself alone in dealing with the consequences?


Because the EU are worse than Starfleet for sanctimonious preaching, and so their sanctions only apply to “EU countries”, they wouldn’t want to impose their beliefs on anyone, yada yada yada


There have been claims that an EU embargo on oil supplies to Syria applies only to EU states and not to third countries such as Iran, anyway. The truth is, we’ve been set up by the yanks, who are spoiling for another war.


Look on the “bright” side
Johnson plans a no deal Brexit that will cause a huge recession with a major cut in revenue available
He also plans tax cuts for his rich friends which will cause a further loss in revenue
So where will the funds come from for a massive increase in spending on new warships?
The ideal frigate/destroyer fleet would be at least 90 ships which would take 30 years at 3 per year.
It takes three years to build a modern ship.
This will be over in three months after Trump attacks Iran forcing them to accept protection from Russia in exchange for Russian bases in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.
Why do you think Putin helped Trump win the election? To make the USA great again or to improve Russia’s strategic position by pushing an idiot to incite a problem that gives them direct access to an oceanic warm water port for the first time in Russia’s history not to mention control of Hormuz? Russian warships have already operated from Iranian bases during “port visits”. Expect more and bigger things in the future if this gets out of control. The Iranians probably do not want “protection” from the Bear but when it comes to their security they will accept it.
How does “Vladimir the Great” sound?


The tin-foil hat flat-earthers are present it seems ?‍♂️


Yeah but people like you still believe Americans like the one who said “Mission accomplished” in Iraq in May 2003. Unfortunately Putin is a lot smarter than Mr Ed’s stable mate in Witless House, not to mention “Boress”
It seems there are more “flat earthers” than people may think!

Will O

It was mission accomplished, it’s just a pity that it wasn’t America’s mission that was accomplished. It was actually Iran’s mission that was accomplished, as Iran provided the false intel on WMDs through their double agent.

With their age old nemesis Saddam out of the way, Iran was thus free to expand it’s revolutionary ideals & objectives eastwards & across the M.E.


If Montrose was 30 miles away her Wildcat could have been on the scene in 10 minutes! So what action could they have taken had that happened or more to the point what would they have been allowed to do?


Problem is that unlike the previous attempt that Montrose drove off the Iranians brought a helicopter full of troops this time. If there had just been boats the tanker could have just kept at full speed and the Iranians would have had the hazardous task of trying to scale the sides of the tanker at speed from boats. This time they just had to slide down a rope.
The Wildcat could have threatened to fire on the helicopter, but…
A crashing helicopter would have endangered the tanker. It would almost certainly have resulted in the Iranian Air Force coming after both it and Montrose…


Because warships are heavily restricted on the actions they can take in territorial waters or international straits, and I’m fairly sure launching armed aircraft is one of the things that’s restricted. Given the situation, our best option is to keep on the right side of the law so that we can claim the legal high ground.


More like 15 mins on a very good day if at Alert 5 , most likely 25 mins as they where likely to be at Alert 15
Alert 5, crew sat inside, everything connected and ready to start. The ship a flying stations and on a flying course for a decent SHOL. In The gulf this time of year its 40+ degs and the humidity is 70+ % ( Its worse today …its 0800 here its around 85-90%and I am melting!) So being sat in the cab ready to go is a non-starter. and the SHOL is really tight for launching and recovery.
Alert 15- Connected to ground power, no crew inside , deck crew stood down, engine covers on to protect the aircraft, Takes 15 mins to launch .


This incident has to lead ship owners to question the point of flying the Red duster. You pay more in extra certification, you become a target for antagonistic governments and international terrorists and you receive scant protection from the UK Govt (and arguably being turned into an international political football by them), even being told by HMG not to carry out your trade because they can’t protect you.

So much for Britain being open to business…


On a political level, I understand that people might say that the RN prioritised the carriers over surface combatants, but in reality I think that is unfair and wrong to characterise it as a choice.

The procurement plan was always to replace the Invincibles with the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers, the 12 Type 42s with 12 Type 45s, and the 13 Type 23s and 4 Type 22s with 10 ASW frigates and 8 GP frigates (the C1 and C2 designs of the FSC programme).

Unfortunately, successive governments decided to:

1) delay the carrier acquisition by 7 years after reaching Main Gate, so the project cost snowballed with increases in raw materials due to China and India’s rapid economic growth, coupled with the devaluation of the pound from the Bank of England’s quantitive easing policies during the financial crisis;

2) not take up any more T45 orders to bring forward the T23 replacement programme;

3) subsequently delay T23 replacement programme as the existing ships were deemed to have more life left in them than the planned 19 years;

4) cut the remaining T22s without replacement, on no military reason, purely due to cost;

5) Change frigate replacement strategy to a single type, the T26;

6) Delay frigate replacement again and build a number of overpriced OPVs instead to maintain industry skills for the day HMG might actually place an order for frigates;

7) Change frigate replacement requirements to two classes, T26 and T31, with both classes featuring such a small number of vessels as to make it nearly impossible to leverage true economies of scale from the separate and unrelated programmes;

8) Delay T26 order, again!!! And then realise we will need to spend more money on extending the lifespan of the T23 past its already extended out of service date;

9) Finally order T26 but at such a sluggish build rate that the ships that costs have increased again;

10) continue navel (!) gazing over the T31 design, no clear idea when a decision is due on which design and shipbuilders will be used to build them, or indeed any real idea how many we want (although after recent events, probably a hell of a lot more than Cameron’s initial 5).

So, if we had held our nerve and stuck to the original plan, by now we would have 2 fleet carriers, 12 best in class T45s, 10 best in class T26s (which is essentially the FSC C1 variant rebadged) and 8 GP frigates to do the day to day stuff either all in service or soon to be in service.

In terms of industrial capacity then, the shipyards would be able to turn their attention to the replacement of Ocean, the FSS ships, the Albion class and once they’re all done, it would be time to start thinking about replacing the T45s.

Now, I know the pessimists would say that this is too much, we can’t afford this, but I would counter that had we stuck to the original plan, we would have got all of the above for less than we have paid and are going to pay for the 2 QE class, 6 T45, 8 T26 and 5-6 T31s that we are now planning to operate.

If the carriers were ordered in 2002, they would have come in on budget, saving around £3bn.

The T45 did overrun, but by the time the 6th boat was built the costs have been brought under control so the price of the unordered follow on hulls would have been known and the overall project cost would have been more acceptable spread over 12 ships as opposed to just 6.

The chopping and changing of the frigate programme is arguably a greater crime, though. With the planned procurement of 8 T26, 5 T31s and the batch 2 River class OPVs, we have effectively followed the build strategy of the FSC programme, except it has taken over 10 years of prevarication and delay, which in turn has pushed prices up. As a result, we have lost hulls once again rather than foot the bill.

People will say defence equipment is too expensive; we can’t afford it, etc. but while all of the above has been taking place, the same successive governments have committed £50bn to building a railway that doesn’t even reach halfway up the country, and we are now told can’t possibly be built for less than £80bn.

We therefore definitely can afford all of this equipment, HMG clearly has access to the money, if not the money itself. We need to stop shaving off capability every time we purchase new equipment for short term budget expediency. The military calculation that called for 12 AAW destroyers did not disappear when the cost of the T45 increased, likewise the need for 18 frigates has also not gone away just because the Treasury wanted to cut the MOD budget.

We need to stop wasting money on not purchasing equipment, the constant delays and perennial “pushing to the right” of all large procurement decisions, in the hope the big questions will just go away. We need to be honest about what challenges we face, and order the right equipment in the numbers necessary and have them come into service in a timely fashion.

We must stop treating procurement projects in isolation, and instead take a holistic approach to procurement so we can take advantage of using similar platforms for different tasks where possible and reap the benefits of economies of scale. Having a coherent procurement strategy benefits industry too, as it gives them the chance to plan ahead, reducing costs further.

In fairness, given the equipment that is on order, about to be ordered or about to come into general service (QE Class, T26, T31, F35, P-8, Astute etc), we probably will get to a stage where we will have more or less the right setup across the Armed Forces (although questions remain regarding armoured forces, Challenger 2, Warrior replacement, the role of Ajax and the Boxer fleet – so pretty much everything with the Army is looking sketchy 🙁 ). However, this will probably not be until at least the mid 2030s, and possibly the 2040s to get to that stage, and this is equipment that was supposed to already be in service with the RAF, the RN and the Army now. This is where poor decision making in government can take decades to undo.


Agreed Sir. Perhaps we should embark upon an emergency building and recruitment programme. Otherwise we may slide into obscurity and never be taken seriously again.


Well said. What has happened to the Governance of this nation? Can we date the period at which this short-sightedness set in?


Let alone the economy was booming in the late 1990s and early 2000. The government could well afford to build more ships. But the bean counters at Treasury are always at it. And when the Gavin Williamson chap came to be the Defence Secretary, finally someone who though might seem lack experience, had the guts to stand against the Treasury’s constant cuts, those lefties at Guardian and Treasury wankers joined forces to run the black compaign against him, painting him as warlock Private Pike.


Yeah agreed this all started in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War, both because of cuts, loss of key skills due to the delay in ordering next generation equipment (eg Astute) and I would say a lack of focus and urgency on what was needed, so a lot of projects became needlessly complicated.
T45 should have prioritised the radar development and taken a conservative approach to propulsion and the missile launch system, for example. Instead they opted to install multiple new and untested systems in a new design, multiplying risk which ultimately contributed to the whole project going over budget, behind schedule, being cut back and entering service without the capability to fire missiles (which some would say is the raison d’etre of a guided “missile” destroyer) and a major flaw with the powerplant that would be lethal in a combat scenario (the good news was, had Daring gone to war in the first years of service, the radar worked really well, so the crew could rest assured that they would definitely see the missile that was going to kill them as they sat dead in the water).

In the 1990s, we initiated programmes to replace Nimrod MRA4, Nimrod R1, the mixed tanker fleet of VC10s and Tristars, and build a new ISTAR platform. All of these aircraft are derived from civil airliners, yet no one thought to select a modern airliner as the base platform for these projects, completely missing the opportunity to save massive amounts of money not only in procurement, but also in parts, maintenance and training for both air crew and ground crew. Instead we got the MRA4 debacle, rusty Rivet Joints, a lucrative PFI contract for Airbus and co, and ominous question marks regarding the Sentinel R1’s future.

The 1990s was also when we wasted a lot of money reinventing the helicopter by licence building Apaches, and on buying Chinooks to sit in a shed for a decade, waiting for someone to fit the right avionics.

I would also say that the A400M was another example of clouded thinking of defence procurement. Now, I’m sure once the teeth troubles are ironed out, it will prove to be a very capable and useful aircraft, but I would argue it was not a necessity, the role it fills could be covered by existing assets, and the prime reason for building it was political – to bring European countries closer together and build EADS up to be a rival of Boeing and Lockheed in the defence industry. It’s a nice to have but it has cost a lot of money when core requirements have been delayed or cut completely.

We need to move away from the incremental cuts to numbers, too. All too often, successive governments come slong and cut numbers but one or two, to save a bit of cash, then the next government comes along, saw what the last govt did and how they got away with it, and then do the same. It goes on for so long that people accept the previous round of numbers as the standard, when that is in fact a shadow of what we should have.

For instance, many accept that 8 ASW frigates is the standard, so as long as 8 T26s are ordered, we should be alright, due to the current force of 8 T23 frigates equipped with the Sonar 2087 towed sonar array, and 5 T23s configured for the general purpose role. Yet all 16 T23s were built with the legacy towed sonar array, the 2031Z, and as late as 2004 Sonar 2087 was expected to be installed on all T23s.

Hopefully going forward we won’t make the same mistakes. The Armed Forces in the Cold War were designed as a cadre on which we could expand if conflict with the Warsaw Pact erupted. Now it seems we are operating a cadre of a cadre, numbers have shrunk so much. And unfortunately, it will take decades to build up forces once again, which will require the commitment of multiple governments who may or may not be of the same party, so some kind of parliamentary consensus is needed to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1950s and 1960s when defence projects were initiated and scrapped with each general election.


Both at fault, RN for getting rid of Sea skua without replacement..almost as bad as considering gapping harpoon replacement. Govt (Cameron and may) for negligence.

David Graham

Richard, Agreed. The present administration are too busy playing games over the UK leaving the EU to pay any attention to any foreign policy or any other strategy for that matter.

Where is HMS Duncan, for example? She was only coming from the Eastern Med. As an example, at 18kts it takes just over 10 days to get to Oman from Gibraltar, right at the western end of the Med. All Cameron was, was a posh PR man with a sense of entitlement, and Mrs May: well a classic example of a dullard with neither vision nor common sense.


I totally agree with the article, we have no use for the carriers and are short of escorts.
However this incident is a really poor example of why. If the RN was double the size we would only have 2 escorts on station ,which have been no guarantee of reacting in time and in any case only a madman would have actually opened fire.


So the best thing to do is withdraw Montrose, the MCMVs and RFAs, stand down Duncan and cancel Kent’s deployment, and save the money? If you’re not prepared to intervene when you can, the only person you’re ultimately kidding is yourself. In the medium and long run, threats only have any effect if there’s substance behind them. Threats will, incrementally, be tested until they hit pushback. And if there isn’t any pushback, they will keep going.

By the way, you don’t agree with the article as it doesn’t say “we have no use for the carriers”. It says the opposite.


So, you would have opened fire?Then what would you do if they shot down your wildcat or sink your frigate?


Assuming verbal warnings had been ignored, I would have wanted to fire warning shots. And if they were ignored and there were no other means of preventing the hi-jacking of the tanker then, yes, I would have opened fire. Assuming they sank the T23, I think it’s fair to say we’d be in a state of war.

That seems like a serious state of affairs, but we are precisely in a serious state of affairs presently. Again, to be clear, the logic of your position is that all British naval and air assets be withdrawn from the region because they serve no real purpose in being there. The Iranians would be able to smell the wiff of hesitation and our absolute aversion to any form of escalation and would act with impunity, boarding British-flagged merchantmen whilst RN warships looked on, pleading with the Iranians to be good fellows and respect international ‘laws’.

In short, Britain would be humiliated, the treaties she enters into voidable without concern and her threats meaningless. The risk of war with Iran is by far the lower price to pay.


Absolutely crazy, how humiliating do you think it’s going to be when you lose the war against Iran?


Less crazy than the situation you propose. And exactly how a war would work out would depend upon how it was waged. We’d likely work to blockade Iran so that no oil departed its shores except over land. Such a strategy would likely be backed by the US. It would result in an initial stalemate, but one where time works in our favour and further degrades Iran’s economy and, longer term, her internal cohesion.

But again, do you think the risk above is less humiliating than one where you proverbially shipwreck the entire world’s perception of Britain as a serious nation that means what it says and is willing to use force to defend her interests?

Indeed, I’m beginning to think that the logical conclusion of your argument is the entire scrapping of the Armed Forces. If you will not use force, when serious diplomacy fails, to protect your national interests, you are a nation living on borrowed time.


Yeah, quite. If the Iranians had done this to a US flagged vessel, it would be war. But the Iranians won’t do it to a US flagged vessel, because it would be war.


See, carrier again.


Brutally simple.Not enough hulls,not enough people.Not enough analysis of what the RN is for,what does the UK want it to do?The Cold War dividend holiday is well and truly over.Seems the ships we do have are too complicated and expensive and dont work properly(Daring class issues).Even the cheapie Type 31s are being delayed,reduced in number and capability.Unsuitable ships will end up being used eg minehunters or RFA fleet (at least they have helo facilities).You need some tough,speedy corvette type ships with helo decks,varied gun armament,simple AA/CWIZ,and RHIB craft for boarding.They would be able to react fast and chase off pirates or hostile rogue government forces and cover the areas with supply ships.Rotating crews would solve some of the human resource gaps.Buying off the shelf would be cheap and give BAE some cause for thought.Are there any analytical admirals and sensible Defence Ministers out there?Probably not! Pray they dont send the carriers!


Don’t blame the Royal Navy, they can only do so much with what they have. Governments have stripped away at the Navy, Army and Air force for years.

Phillip Johnson

9 out of 18 vessels useable says it all. If the RN was a shipping company it would have gone bankrupt already.
A simple decision is required, raise the budget or build simpler ships to maintain usable numbers within the available budget.

Iqbal Ahmed

You could not make this up! Less than 24 hours before the UK’s most Pro-Brexit MP ever is named PM, Trump refuses to come to the UK’s aid in protecting UK ships off Iran. Necessitating Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to beg the European powers we seek to leave, to help out!

We really need to work harder to not get dragged into any more US led adventures. It simply isn’t in our national interest.

David Graham

Not so. The United states offered help which was turned down by the PM “in case it upset the Iranians”. I should imagine the Iranians were pretty upset about the detention of Grace 1, which the PM must have signed off on. Our attitude has pissed off the Pentagon [hardly surprising], and now the Foreign Secretary has made a statement to the Commons suggesting the formation of a cadre of EU escorts. When might this happen? Well, who knows? Meantime, he also advised HMS Duncan will be in the region on Monday. Perhaps the MoD are conserving fuel, because she is certainly taking a long time to get from the Eastern Med to the Gulf of Oman, where she will probably commence her tasking.

Also, we might address what vital tasks HM Ships St Albans, Sutherland and Argyll are conducting in UK waters.


Not at all, your version of events is as ever skewd to fit your sad lack of subject matter knowledge. Europe has a vested interest in free movement of ships through the straits, and have been active in the area on many occasions. But never mind, its russki troll payment time, hurry and grab that bucket of potatoes and your weekly allowance of 2 litres of 2 stroke.


Although I completely agree with the overall direction of this topic being we need more ships in the RN to fulfil our ambitions I really do not understand why we have two thirds of the destroyers and nearly half the frigates unavailable. This looks like very bad planning to me.
Separately, it us clear that high end warships that are designed to take on a sophisticated enemy are increasingly unaffordable at £1bn + for once it looks as if the MOD has made a wise decision in the type 31 which should be more than capable of undertaking many of the RN duties. My only hope is that we can increase the order number if only by say three. I would equip them with sea ceptors that were destined for type 26 and put sea viper on three type 26 to make them a credible escort for QE class. Let’s get on with the type 31 decision please.

Captain Nemo

Rule of Three I think, one going, one coming back and one getting ready; three ships gives you one. Given that we’re probably cut to the point of covering standing commitments, we’re always going to be vulnerable.
Best we could hope for is that we would plan to cover standing commitments and have carriers and escorts existing as a separate entity, that would give us some assets to react with, but I don’t think HMG want to pay for that and would like NATO providing routine escorts to the carriers, which is problematic if you want to put them in harms way.
Probably we would need 12 – 18 T31 and now would be a good time to ask for them, but this crisis will soon be forgotten along with any promises, that’s why I favour a tandem industrial argument for drumbeat production.
Further, I’d suggest maybe resourcing the Royal Marines to make more use of their particular set of skills in future, they could have been pulling CB90’s off of C17’s a week ago.


They never learn. Successive cuts to the defense in the 1930s partly contributed to the rising of Nazi Germany’s aggressiveness, the humiliating defeat of the Singapore Strategy, and ultimately the destroying of the Empire being a serious power/prestige. Then in the 1970s, all these cuts led the Argies think they could pull it off, and they almost did, had it not been the sheer luck and good timing. And now it seems the luck has run dry finally. They cannot spin it. I really hope they take the bitter shame pill they deserve.
In the short/medium term, spendings should be increased and more ships should be built; but the root cause is still out there: the perversenss of the Treasury thinking. Someone should really promote the position of Defence Secretary to be one of the great offices of the state, on par with the Treasury, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs. So that DS has equal footing and clout on saying for defense spending. And more radically, I do think defense spending strategy & budget should be taken out of the government, and fall in the discretion of a new statutory parliamentary all party committee. The government assumes the role of the defense spending implementation/execution, and the defense daily routine work. Only that way, can the grubby little hands of the Treasury be stopped.


I’d rather see more type 26s than Type 31s or some more destroyers – I’m not convinced that IRRG would have boarded the ship by helicopter if it had been within Sam range of a warship. One thing that I don’t understand is why did Montrose not use her wildcat to put marines on the tanker, surely this would have been an effective deterent?


Can’t keep the helicopter on Ready 5 24/7…


It only takes a handful of ASW frigates to box in Iran. What needs to be realised is that pussyfooting around is viewed as weakness. You need to stop looking at this from a European perspective. Either hit hard or go home. 50 years ago UK understood this (then again, 50 years ago, UK wasn’t in the EU).


Sorry, showing my age. Should have said 70 years ago (UK has been going downhill longer than I have).


What the Suez crisis when we were forced to go home?

Meirion X

We got the timing wrong, at the time of Suez. Too close to a US election!
UK should have intervened earlier that summer, or after the US election.


Militarily Suez was a huge success. Just very badly timed – mostly due to the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the hypocrisy of criticising this whilst invading an ex Imperial territory.


I recently read a report, in which the Suez Crisis was maintioned in passing as part of the context in the grand scheme of the defence spending. The root cause is there were not enough soldiers in Egypt at the time. Britain had to despatch a task force to take on Nasser. By the time they arrived, time had allowed forces within/outside of the country to stoke a public and international revolt. Had there been enough soldiers, Nasser’s little people could certainly be dealt with immediately. Or Nasser even dared not to think about it. And wouldn’t let Eisenhower and his little Anglophobe Secretary of State poking noses where they didn’t belong.


Although it looks like we’ve been caught short, again, the flip side is we still have their ship…

I say, let’s agree to release the Grace I, in return for the Stena Impero to be released. An RFA crew sails it out of Gib to rendezvous with some oilers in the Med and we offload the crude (the Grace I is fitted out for transferring oil while underway, who knows why the Iranians would kit their tankers out like that!). So, we give them their ship, they give us our ship, and we keep the oil – will be a nice little dividend for the Chancellor.

Hard luck on the Iranians for stopping a westbound British ship!


A bit too practical. People are getting over excited, it really isn’t that much skin off the UK’s nose and hopefully the Iranians will quickly realise their tactical error.


Not even. The ship doesn’t belong to Iran, only the cargo.


Since the Falklands successive governments decimated the armed forces. The navy had 40 frigates and 12 destroyers and 3 22000 ton carriers. Today it’s a third of the size with more trouble spots brewing than ever. We need 10 type 26 and at least 10 type 31e. The RN must be built up as a matter of urgency. This is still woeful but 7 more surface combatants than presently. Also 3 or 4 more attack ssns would be good.90 % of our trade is via the sea and a 50 % increase in the naval budget is a must.


The issue facing the Royal Navy extends beyond the lack of escorts. The RN doesn’t have the correct warships for this type of mission. A Type 23 or Type 45 is an expensive liability in confined waters of the straits, it plays right into the hands of the Iranians with shore based missiles and hundreds of FIAC’s. RN warships need re-arming with Martlet for close range and sea spear for medium/close in engagements. The martlet DS30 mount can be mounted to the Archer class (which also require more powerful engines), River and T31 class to turn all these vessels into potent combatants capable of dealing with such a threat.


I like where you are coming from regarding the roll’s of our naval vessels and whether they are suited to the conflict at hand. I have always believed though and certainly when it comes to destroyers and frigates in this day and age, they must be multirole!! Let’s use the type 45 as an example. The type 45 was supposed to be an air defence destroyer for the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales, however the type 45s were quickly fitted with the Harpoon SSM system otherwise it would have left the 6 destroyers extremely vulnerable!! So in recent months I have followed the Type 31e frigate saga with particular interest, as this was supposed to be a small, affordable, multirole frigate that the navy desperately needs and in my opinion large numbers. I was shocked however, to see the up-to-date images from BAE showing the next phase of the frigate with the Harpoon SSM system removed!! It is suicide, we need multirole ships, regardless of whether they are large or small, that we can send anywhere in the world, at any time, regardless of the cost, to diffuse any situation regardless of whether it is peacefully or forcefully.


Our Royal Navy IS unfortunately to small and depleted to deal with the unprecedented aggression shown by Iran and the….what can only be described as piracy, shown with the recent seizure of vessels sailing under the British flag!! Politicians in this day and age fail to realise that we are an island nation and our navy is our first and main line of defence!! Unfortunately lesser nations that shouldn’t cause us an issue, in this case Iran, are laughing through their teeth at us because they know that we are under equipped to deal with the situation from an equipment (number of ships) point of view but also our politicians have absolutely no backbone to use the navy that we have, that they boast is still one of the most advanced and up to date navies/weapons in the world. It is shocking!! The likes of Nelson, Rodney, Jellicoe, Beatty and Churchill would be spinning in their graves if they could see what the Royal Navy has been reduced to!! To make this Navy a capable force we need: 2 Carriers, 2 Helicopter carriers, 6 enlarged type 45 destroyers, 12 type 26 frigates, 16 type 31e frigates, 18 diesel electric attack subs and a class of 12 corvettes….and if you take into consideration that’s with the decommissioning of the type 23 frigates, in my opinion that’s still the bare minimum of what we need!! Oh and we need them ASAP, not in 10 years time!! That’s another issue that I can’t get my head around! Why is it that we take so long to build warships compared to other nations, especially when the Royal Navy is so desperately in need of them! I mean come on….1 carrier, 1 frigate, 4 OPVs and 3 SSNs in the next 10 years is an absolute disgrace to the fundimentals that this navy is built on!!!!


PM Boris are you reading all this?
The time to act is NOW!


we havent got the guts anymore




Most of the posters on this forum are delusional. The HMS montrose and it’s wildcat companions went up against tiny speed boats and a helicopter and couldn’t do a thing.

The lame excuse that they were too far away was just a fig leaf to cover the shame. They were well within reach.

What really happened was that the Iranian navy strategically and tactically nullified the UK Navy – there was nothing it could have done to respond no matter how many or how powerful it’s individual destroyers were.

Believing that throwing more navy hardware into the gulf of hormuz will make Britannia more effective in it’s imperial agenda is pure stupidity.

The smart thing to do would be for Britain to scuttle it’s navy, give up imperial pretensions, and conduct business fairly with the brown skinned natives of the world without constantly harboring intentions of thieving their resources.

The only reason Britain needs a navy is to support the erectile dysfunction of a dying empire.


Every major nation that has a shoreline has a navy. Uk is an island nation. It needs a navy more than it needs an army.

There are numerous problems with the current situation. One is the interference of poltitions & public servants. Either you have a military situation or you don’t. If the people on the ground (so to speak) are not permitted to act on their own without 15 layers of permission, then any decission eventialy made is garanteed to be two weeks too late. Restricted rules of engagment effects not only your own, but allies as well. As one participent in Afganistan was said to have said to an ally (directly field unit to field unit, not officially), when told that their rules of engagement would not allow them to assist in an active situation, ‘you may as well f*** off then’.

Unfortunately, these people fail to make an apointment & refuse to fill out forms in triplicate. Talking quitely but carry a big stick only works if you are prepared to weild the stick when required. Chamberlain would be right at home right now. The current situation was entirely predictable & was well enuncuated by even 2nd class media well beforehand. The rules of the game changed sometime ago. Either play by the new rules or don’t play.


A number of points:

“Every major nation that has a shoreline has a navy. ” doesn’t seem to be a rational argument for one.
What’s a major nation? If you mean “a neocolonial or colonial one with imperial pretensions”, yes, but that just points to the real purpose for having one … If your emphasis is on protecting the shoreline, then you need a coastguard and a near-shore navy like what Iran has – just what you need to protect your coastline.
If you’re looking to project naval power globally, then you’re playing the Imperial/Colonial game.
There is no *need* for colonialism to guarantee your prosperity as a nation.

I’d say don’t play. The game is rigged in favour of the USA, the UK is merely a vassal and it’s navy will ever after simply be used to serve the geopolitical ambitions of the American empire.

Better not to have one at all.


I could see this sort of incident coming a long time ago

R Johnson

Where were Montrose’s air assets when the MV Stena Impero was highjacked?