Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

We as a nation and for that matter the rest of the world should be concerned. When I look at what China is attempting it reminds me of Japan in 1941-42 with its two island chain for defence.
My question is why does a country need a outer defence line? The only reason I can assume is the outer line is so China can do anything they want inside that whilst having a trip wire to alert them to anything that might come their way. That puts Taiwan at risk, the southern islands of Japan and Guam are threatend.
Some might say rubbish but you must remember the concept of ‘face’ Taiwan is a thorn, Japan is an old enemy which China has not forgot and Guam is everything China is not a democratic US island. As for the UK and European countries, China has some old scores to settle.
If I remember correctly China tried to get control of an Island at the mouth of the Celebes Sea through finance, when the Islanders said no to Chinas demands they left the Island high and dry leaving it backrupt. Why would China do this well by controling the SCS and the mouth of the Celebes Sea they control the East West Sea Lanes especially the Mallaca Straits and the Sunda Strait.
When I worked in Russia and the Ukraine I learnt a saying trust is good, control is better. It seems to me that China is trying to implement the saying.


a century or two ago there was an american admiral who argued that america did not have to match england ship for ship just build enough to dominate the caribbean because england was competing with germany and others in the atlantic japan etc in the pacific and could not find time to compete with the US as well. Id say china are in a similar position now and nato india japan & the anglosphere really need to step up to free up & support the US navy and if the indo pacific nations can chip in with say some decent corvettes the more the merrier. But an important consideration is that the south china nations must put in a large number of fighting men as i doubt the public & media in the west would be keen on poss a million casualties


I think the issue for the US is that the more NATO chips in and “takes the pressure off” the Americans the more NATO will be free to do what it wants and not toe the American line.


Correct, the name of the Admiral, but when he argued his reasoning was A.T Mahan, he actually wrote the original plan red called ‘war against Great Britain’ in 1891. Writing a PhD thesis on the impact of this paln at the moment.

I have often argued that the UK along with its European partners need to build there navys to control the Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic and the Med leaving the US to deal with the Pacific.If the US Navy could work with Japan, South Korea, Aus and New Zealand that should be enough to take care of Chinesse expansion ideas.

We as Europe should be able to look after the defence of the North Atlantic upto the North Cape. Between France and the UK we could have three carrier battle groups, 13 SSNs 25+ SSKs etc. Germany, Denmark and Poland could control the Baltic and Southern North Sea, UK Norway the upper North Sea N.Atlantic Gap (Iceland Norway), Canada Iceland Greenland, France and Portugal the Mid Atlantic, and Spain Italy the Med. Turkey and greece I have always classed as unstable partners in NATO.


Very good write up. A couple of things you forgot to mention. Some of those man made islands have been having the occasional problem of erosion. Just dredging up sand & coral & dumping it on a reef or island to make it bigger & higher does not always work too well. There needs to be a fair bit of science behind such projects, which appears to be lacking. ie some of those islands are not as unsinkable as they appear. Another area of discussion worth a mention is that China has been trying to convince Thailand to allow it to build a canal across the peninsula. Financially, it does not seem to make sense (the distance saved is not enough to allow high enough fees), but eliminates the multiple countries that control the current routes. It would also keep any naval usage further away from the ISR assets of Singapore & Australia.

UK also already has troops in Brunei. This means if things go badly wrong in SCS, UK could be dragged into it, like it or not. That inexperience of PLAN officers could easily come into play here, remembering that the Brunei navy does have some teeth, so Brunei could potentially be seen as a military target.


Yes. This is all true. It makes me wonder what all the lefty greenpeacers are when we need them. Cha is an eco disaster area, as well as a humanitarian one.

And it’s spending? Where does it come from?


Since when has the Brunei Navy been considered as having teeth? I may have missed a procurement, but 4 OPVs with Exocet and a 57mm with half a dozen 7.62 armed FACs doesn’t constitute a legitimate threat to China at all.

They did have some BAE OPVs on order but sold them to Indonesia.


Anon – I did say some teeth (really only the Exocet’s). As explained in the article, quite a few of the PLAN officers lack experiance. It does not need to be a threat to China, only a threat to PLAN ships or ship (or perceived treat). These are modern MM40 Block 3 missiles with a range of 180km. These OPV’s carry 4 Exocets each (16 in total). Should serious action break out in SCS, does the PLAN wait & see what Brunei intends to do or take them out in a premtive strike? Now if we were talking about Singapore, most nations would be wary of a premptive strike (or it would be a carefully thought out plan). They would be more likely to try & acertain which way they will jump. Brunei? Do they wait, do they attempt to take them out at sea if they go to sea, or strike the navy base? Or everything that looks military? What if these ships join up with other naval ships such as Singaporean frigates? While the Brunei navy is too small to be a significant threat, 16 up to date Exocet missiles are too much to be totaly ignored. Should the Brunei mainland come under attack, can the UK, with troops on the ground, stay out?

Will O

I don’t think there’d be as much public appetite for the defence of Brunei as there would have been, had they not passed so many oppressive draconian laws themselves, their behaviour has hardly been any better than China’s.


In that case remove the UK troops. The fact that they are Gurkhas makes it worse on the world stage. If the UK walks out on the Gurkhas (they take serious casualties & UK does nothing), the idea of operating East of Suez is dead.

andy reeves

7talking of the Gurkhas 10000 went for 400 places in the British army.if the option of the navy was raised maybe a good few would be up for the offer. event maybe naming a new ship H.m.s Gurkha would sel the deal

andy reeves

slightly different subject why do the navy continue with the archers? most of the ones second ed to university unit s are used as fanny boats for hooray Henry’s

Bloke back down the pub

It’s my understanding that a shoal, ie rocks/islands that are sometimes covered by the sea, has no national waters tied to it. As specified by UNCLOS, land reclamation efforts to build up the level so that they are permanently above sea level, make no difference, though as stated in the article, China pays little heed to UNCLOS

andy reeves

must remember that policing the Greenland Gap is one of the core requiremts of the u.k NATO commitment

Phillip Johnson

It is unclear what the UK expects to achieve from an occasional presence in the SCS. The problem at the moment is that nations with a coast line facing the SCS are reminded daily of their vulnerabilities by more or less ever present pressure (economic and military) coming from China.
Countering that are periodic visits by Western (and Japanese forces). The US presence is increasing but it is still mainly regular sail through’s, exercises and political pressure.
The question is what will prevail, persistent multi faceted presence or occasional ship visits and political pressure?
The ultimate down side risk is that China offers SCS nations a deal that they can live with and the West (including Japan) find themselves sidelined in the area altogether.
Complicating the issue is the lack of secure western bases in the areas around the SCS. In the North Pacific you have bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam. In the south you really only have Diego Garcia, India (maybe) and bases in Southern Australia (Sydney and Perth).
The only western warship currently home ported in the SCS is a US Littorial Combat Ship based in Singapore. It will be interesting to see how far Singapore is willing to deal itself into a confrontation with China.


Yes fair comment. But there us no reason why France (NATO ally) cannot join or alternate with one of our carriers.

andy reeves

the French navy can’t sustain an ongoing carrier commit ment the Charles de Gaulle is on its knees the French want to retire it an alternative to building a new one and plans t alter the configuration of the mistral’s has been only other alternative to the situation may be to cozy up with the Indians. but indiiaas politics in that part of the world changes with the wind Russia needs India for themilitary market Pakistan has nothing to bring the table so it’ll be down to detach the Persian gulf group to the issue.

Meirion X

I would say, Diego Garcia is Not close to SCS, it is a few K’s of M to the West.


Australia’s Cocus Keeling Islands (bottom left of map) currently have long range MPA aircraft operating from there. I have seen suggestions to upgrade the port for naval use beyond patrol boats & OPV’s (including from the US), although options seem very limited.There is also the PNG naval base on Manus Island (just off the map bottom right), that Austrailia is upgrading to a major joint base along with the US (a deap water port on similar longitude to Guam, just off the PNG north coast). In saying that, there are reasons why Singapore is always the first name that comes to mind.


There is a really low chance of China making an acceptable deal to the SCS nations. Vietnam has had several skirmishes and is actually looking to diversify foreign investment. Their current situation is as acceptable as possible. The Philippines’ current president is as pro-China as can be and he’s still preparing countermeasures for China’s encroachment. Malaysia is torn between sides accepting Chinese investment and those against it. You can see that in the recent election campaigns.

Indonesia is officially a non-claimant, but UNCLOS is actually it’s pet project. It took decades of diplomacy to get UNCLOS as it is ratified by most nations (includes China, but not the US). That alone shows anything short of it wouldn’t really be acceptable in the long term.

Most of these countries are still rather anti colonial, and I think that’s what they see China doing. A form of colonialism.

Singapore will most likely follow ASEAN as it seems to be they one that guaranties stability. But China is using the classic devide et impera strategy on it. They’re also quite open about that by not wanting multilateral agreements and wishing only for bilateral ones. Of course with what happened in Hong Kong, I think the countries will be very weary about such agreements.


Actually, the 9 dash line overlaps part of the Natuna Islands area which are claimed by Indoneasia. China is not claiming the actual Natuna Islands (which are real – not man made islands, witha population around 90,000 people), but part of the EEZ. There have been Chinese fishing fleets along with a Chinese coastguard escort operating just off the islands earlier this year. Indoneasia responded with frigates & F16 fighters. This is the dangerous game China is content to play. Why antagonise a nation of 300 million people that sit across all of the SE Asian chokepoints with what is a tiny claim not disputed by anyone else? This is why you cannot overlay a European viewpoint to China’s actions.


That’s true. Indonesia has actually asked about it and the PRC claims they don’t have a dispute. It was probably one of the reasons they officially renamed the part as the North Natuna Sea. A name already used by the oil and gas industry. When they admit there is a dispute, then there is something to negotiate.

Of course I think the real problem is rule of law. The US never ratified UNCLOS, so everyone knows their position. The PRC has ratified it, but is very ambiguous if they’ll actually adhere to it. Nobody knows their position and speculation is rife.


The problem is that what China says & what China does, doesn’t always equate. There has been multiple clashes between Chinese fishing boats (some of them are actually 4,000t ships), Chinese Coastguard & Indoneasian patrol assets, notablly since 2016. The CCP have also been internally pushing the idea that the fishing fleet is, if you like, a 3rd tier (militia) fleet. From what I see, the CCP does not have the control it thinks it does accross the 3 different, poorly defined fleet structures. While I am sure the crew of most nations fishing fleets are as patriotic as anyone, few would consider themselves as ‘militia’. Just because China does not admit there is a dispute does not mean that there is not one (or that certain sections don’t see one). There is no internal problems in Tibet or Xinjang either, according to the CCP.

The inexperiance of PLAN officers is nothing compared to the other 2 tiers. If there is no dispute, then why is this still happening? If things go bang in the SCS, I would give it 60% chance it is the Chinese Coastguard rather than the PLAN, as the cause.


Great Article…..the UK is in a rock and a hard place to do anything about it since the Navy (using that term very lightly) is effectively being Run down to a mere handful of ships and now have no anti shipping missiles. Its a defence force in all but name. If a hot war to occur and the RN were on the front lines…we would be out of ships very quickly as no matter how advanced they are, we have no numbers to maintain operations with losses (we managed to absorb Falklands losses of 2 DDGs and 2 FF) and we dont have the capacity like we had in WW2 to speed build ships with many yards. The RN fleet would have to be absorbed (for the duration of the conflict) into the USN…unlike in WW2 where the RN and the USN were both large independent forces that could divide and conquer. This would at least minimise RN losses…think safety in numbers


I’d like to see extra investment to address the capability gaps you rightly mention. But in the current climate more money is unlikely and I therefore wonder if we couldn’t get better value for what we are already spending.

The virtually unarmed T31 is costing £2bn for 5 ships when you include infrastructure costs and equipment being provided. The Type 26 is reported to cost £850m per ship which would be £6.8bn for eight vessels.

That’s £8.8bn in total for 13 vessels.

I’d cancel the T31. I’d return HMS Clyde to Falklands guard duties and assign two Batch 2 Rivers to UK territorial waters to free up warships from baby sitting the Russians when they steam nearbour territorial waters.

I’d spend £750m modifying the other three Rivers adding a 57mm gun, a 3d radar, a hanger for Lynx with a Sea RAM atop it and 2 30mm mounts with LMM attached. That gives you not far short of the same capabilities as the T31 provides.

I’d reduce the T26 order to 4 ships. They would be assigned the ASW protection role for the carrier group. I’d spent £200m on Tomahawk’s to go in their MK 41 VLS to increase the long range strike capabilities of the carrier task force.

£600m would equip each Type 45 with NSM giving them a better general purpose capability.

That leaves enough for 6 other frigates at £600m each. That’s the reported cost of a FREMM so it’s clearly possible to get a highly capable ship for that money. I’d be looking for a ship 1,500 tons or so lighter than a T26 with a 5″gun , 32 Sea Ceptor, 8 NSM, a Merlin and a towed array sonar.

I’m sure my fag packet sums won’t be totally right but they’re not so far off the mark that they don’t show how the same money as we are currently spending could give us the same number of hulls but with enhanced land attack and anti-ship capabilities.

Will O

Well I have to say that’s not terribly convincing. You’ve reduced the number of frigates to 10, made them less capable, scrapped the RN’s most cost effective ship, & thus scuppered the best hope of expanding the number of hulls in future, failed to allow for development costs of T26. As with the ill thought through reductions in T45 numbers in the previous decade, the savings wouldn’t be nearly so great as envisaged as the cost per ship would just balloon without the economies of scale.
Besides, you missed the obvious, why according to your plan, for £600m instead of introducing FREMMs, wouldn’t you just fit the T31s with the ‘5″gun, 32 Sea Ceptor, 8 NSM, a Merlin and a towed array sonar’?

You’d still be sending over spec’ed ships to do things like constabulary duties, & would have reduced the sea worthiness & efficiency of the Rivers, so they’d get less time at sea.

You’ve also left no T26s free to patrol the North, so you’ve given Russian subs a free pass to sail into our waters with impunity – basically leaving our country defenceless.

But that’s just my fag packet analysis, what do I know lol. At least like me, you’re here giving it some thought, with the wish to improve things.

I’m sure you wouldn’t have the concerns you do had the RN been better funded over the years to equip it with the necessary things you described. Excessively kitting out OPVs isn’t what’s needed (for the tasks they do), but properly kitting out the full sized hulls elsewhere is.


Thanks for the reply and the all to rare ability to disagree strongly without personal remarks.

I’d make a couple of points.

I think the T31 is flawed because it’s diesel only propulsion makes it the square root of bugger all use for ASW. Given that lots of potentially unfriendly nations have conventional submarines then that leaves then extremely vulnerable.

Yes there would be 10 frigates plus three sloops if you could call the upgraded Rivers that. However, to me it’s about capabilities.

The plan I advocated would give the RN 10 ships with towed array sonars compared to the current plan for 8. It would give 12 ships with SSM, compared to the current plan for zero. It would give four ships a land attack missile compared to the current plan for zero.

Paul T

Just to add my 2p worth on your ideas – 4 x Type 26 £1 billion each -tick,£600 for Type 45 enhancement – tick,where id differ is not upgrade 3 B2 Rivers,£250 million each is too steep,basic price for the T31 originally.So id have £2 billion from cancelled T31,£3.4 billion from 4 cancelled T26 plus £750 million from cancelled River Upgrades which equals £6.15 billion.With this i wouldn’t go FREMM,id go PPA,and for that money id have 12 with some change left over.So with a Fleet of 6 Type 45’s (upgraded) 4 Type 26’s,12 PPA (Full or Full/Light Plus mix) and 5 B2 Rivers,with maybe as you say HMS Clyde kept on for the Falklands and some B1’s for Fisheries Protection i think that puts us in a much better place than where we are at the moment.

Supportive Bloke

I’d agree that China has a larger mass of ships and aircraft.

But I would question the build quality and survivability of them. People I know who have seen them close up are pretty dismissive of the outcome of a modest fire. These are one hit ships.

I’d also say the F35B has more than a modest edge on anything the Chinese will be able to launch from a carrier for a good while. Their engine technology is not so good.

And then you stir in people bring trained by people with no combat experience. I’d be surprised if their damage control was that amazing: and for reasons above they will need it.

You would still have to be a bit deranged to start something with a UK deployment of 2 x 45’s, 2 x 23’s, 1 x QEC, 1 x SSN. The likely loss would be 100+ opposition aircraft.

It is worth reflecting that the RN has essentially been sized to deter and contain the Russian Bear. However, the Bear is no longer the interesting show in town.

I’d also question why we keep talking about diminishing RM wrt Albions/Bays when China is busily creating a mirror image of them. It is one area where China don’t have numerical superiority if you take UK + FR + AUS. And given their investment into that area it is clearly something that is computed in their thinking.

Last edited 3 years ago by Supportive Bloke

Apologies as I’ve only skipped thro the article and replies so far. Personally I think the West and associated allies should prepare for a ‘fight’ with China – although hopefully it will not be hot. As part of that yes the RN should prepare to re-engage in the Far East as part of a broader coalition.

Regarding the SCS tho I have serious doubts as to whether – if things go south as they say – that a direct confrontation there is the best strategy. This is due to the Chinese being able to prepare the ‘battlefield’ in that region as it were and if hostilities were to break out it would likely be China having the initiative.

Better to fence China in an cut off its world trade at various choke points and if necessary damage its friends ( Iran, Pakistan etc). Of course Russia would have a say here. And then there’s cyber to worry about – a Chinese strength ( given their closed society).

As for the RN deployment I much prefer NO carrier or submarines….we are just letting the Chinese get a better look ( electronic/acoustic) at them. Just send a frigate or 2 AND a hydrographic ship to suck up info on the area….that might annoy them more.

Last edited 3 years ago by OldSchool

One of the advantages of punch up in the SCS is there is some possibility of confining it to the SCS. Blocking choke points is relatively easy, but it will also cause problems for others that travel through the same chokepoints. While it adds to the distance, it is possible to route up the Philippines east coast & keep the choke points open. If you close the choke points short of major war, then it will take a major strike to force them open. There is literally millions of civilians in & around these chokepoints. The claims in the SCS are not just China. Every nation surrounding it has overlapping claims, sometimes 3 & 4 countries claim the same area. It is one of the few areas in the world where you could fight a major war between multiple countries while still claiming it was a maritime border dispute. A maritime version of the Falklands if you will.

Supportive Bloke

“ The likely loss would be 100+ opposition aircraft.”

Somehow my phone altered this number in copy/paste typing.

What I was trying to say was that the losses would be unacceptable to a rational person…….


The task force can expect an interesting welcome from the Chinese air force…


Easy picking for the F-35Bs


Australia concerns me the most.

There is more to a navy than hulls in the water. I do wonder about the PLAN from a a personnel perspective.

We just don’t have the mass to play these games now. We could lose the RN in a day in terms of escorts and submarines and we know that HMG would never (can’t) make good on the loses.


I am not sure what I said that deserved the down vote.

Australia should be a concern for all Britons. Or am I wrong?

The Chinese have struggled to establish a Western style corp of non-commissioned officers who act on their own initiative. In damage control scenarios such initiative is key to saving a ship. If the Chinese haven’t got that then it will seriously impact their ability to fight and regenerate. Perhaps some need take a course in Phoenix?

And we don’t have numbers of hulls. Look at the percentage of the fleet went south in 82. We don’t have the budget or ship building capacity to replace the fleet quickly. Or do we?

The down voting here is childish.

Will O

Maybe the down voting was by the Chinese. …or phantom Russians. Never can tell.


No there is a clutch of individuals here who do it because they think this their own playground.


Nah X is just a crying child who can’t bear the fact that people disagree with him. Notice how he never whines when he gets upvotes?


You’re not wrong about Australia being a concern, I imagine some people downvoted the comment because they agree with, but are unhappy about the phrase “we don’t have the mass to play these games now” etc.

But you’ve decided that every downvote is as childish as your reaction to them.



Could you please expand on what concerns you about Australia? Are you worried they may not offer support, state of their military, possability of being invaded or something else? You have lost me with that one liner.


Indonesia and China to their north with them being ‘family’.

Their navy is on a better track than ours not withstanding the submarine program which is a mistake.


X – Thanks for replying. Indoneasia is no military threat to Australia. While they have a large army, they are a country of some 17,000 islands, but not much in the way of a navy or air force. ie they lack the ability to cross the sea-air gap in sufficient numbers to do anything. They could of course flood the north with light infintry via masses of fishing boats, but without supplies or transport, those troops would be lucky to last more than a few weeks.

China has many more ships but suffers from a greater distance to travel. This is the same problem Japan encountered in WW2. Once their navy lost control of the sea, they could not resupply their armies or relocate them. The length of their logistic train was massive. While I could be wrong, IMO, if things move past a naval war, I would suspect a land grab on mainland Asia is more likely (aside from Tiawan), at least at this present time.

Meirion X

The Free World needs to begin the economic fight back as well!
By reviving the Trans Pacific Partnership. A rules based economic block, that includes the USA sticking to the rules as well.
It was a big mistake to scrap it!
And establish a NATO type Org. Of the Pacific.

Last edited 3 years ago by Meirion X

Yeah we try to establish one back in the 50’s & 60’s called SEATO, but it fell apart due to local politics and the Yanks meddling in areas it really shouldn’t been. For example West Papua with JKF and the other thing that’s the Yanks did was undermine SEATO because the likes of the old colonial countries were still heavily involved either with preferential Trade or Defence tries with Forces still in country or still arms etc as the Yanks couldn’t break into.

There is a strong support for the RN & its Commonwealth partners to re-establish a Military presence in Singers, Indian Ocean and the Sth Pacific. With some sort of Trade pact as well as most regional Commonwealth Nations do not trust the Yanks, China or Russia. We are quite forgiving at what the UK did to us in 73, as most of us all knew at the time. That the UK entry into to the EEC/ EU was always going to end for the UK, because the UK & EU are poles apart for what they stand for and believe.

Gavin Gordon

Australia is now the front line ‘western’ power in that area of Asia-Pacific. No wonder she has commenced a nascent military aircraft industry with Loyal Wingman, together with her increasing home produced maritime objectives. I know New Zealand cannot be expected to update its militarization to anywhere near the same extent, but there must be some intensive discussion ongoing concerning a more meaningful forward policy, surely?


Unfortunately the rundown of the NZDF was to due the massive budget s I need the 90’s by Ruth the Bitch from the NZ Tories, just over 25% was wipe from the NZDF budget. Which was the equivalent to their re-equipment/ upgrade equipment budget, which they have never really recovered from since then. Be it the mismanagement and politics under Labour during the NZDF biggest deployment since WW2 and followed the Nz Tories yet again trying to salami slice the defence budget yet which finally blew up in their faces when everyone said it wasn’t going to work unless you cut capability which they didn’t.
The current Labour coalition has done petty well with the current defence minister from NZF, but it’s unlikely Ronnie will get back in the job base on current polling which is a shame considering there is still a lot work to be done and I don’t trust Labour or the NZ Greens.

Yes both Oz & NZ primary industries have adapted will since the UK bugged off to the EEC/ EU, but they have shot them selves on the foot a few times along the way especially NZ and most of that has occurred in the NZ Tories their traditional party they support since Adam was in his birthday suit.
I can’t really speak for the Oz farmers as I haven’t really been involved with but they’ve had their problems since 73.

Gavin Gordon

With separate regard to 1973, I still feel embarrassed by that and commend the innovative ways your farming industry for one cope. Regards


A NATO type Org of the Pacific would be pretty hard to pull off. Who would you have in it? Australia & NZ are already closer than NATO pretends to be. Singapore? Yes, ok. Japan? Obvious choice. S.Korea? Obvious choice. Ummm Japan & S.Korea don’t get on.Tiawan? They can’t even decide to declare themselves a country. Some of the others have massive militaries, but they lack the rest that is required. You have a nation like Australia that has a smaller but more powerful military than its neighbour of 300m people. It’s a non starter (at least in a NATO type framework).


Sorry but I’d rather the US and there agenda were kept well away from TPP. TPP once the US thankfully pulled out morphed into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, without the 22 provisions the US tried to force on the other members.

Geoffrey Hicking

Hopefully Chinese expenditure eventually sinks them as they have to cope with the vast fleet they’ve built just as we stop buying from them.

Our smaller military mass might ironically be part of the equation that defeats China’s power.


It concerns me that we still aren’t prioritising the RN faster and to a much greater extent. However a good first step recently taken was to make all ships extant actually ready for service. This includes repowering the Type 45’s and updating with SLEP the Type 23’s. A step that must be taken is to ensure we have adequate stocks of munitions. Next ships should be ‘Fitted With’. Now is not under any circumstances the time to cut defence but to make a properly measured increase.


The article sets out well the security challenges posed by China. Add in a rising Russia, an aggressive Iran and instability across North Africa and the Middle East and these are the security challenges of the coming decades.

All of these challenges occur thousands of miles from the UK shores so I’d like to see us refocus whatever is left of the defence budget after the latest cuts on force projection.

That means cutting the F35 order to 60 aircraft all of which should be the F35B and all of which should be Fleet Air Arm aircraft.

The carrier strike wing would become our go to force for air power projection. The RAF has 140 Typhoons which is more than enough to defend UK airspace against the very limited threats of unescorted long range Russian bombers and provide a squadron for overseas service such as the current Baltic deployment or the air strikes in the middle east.

72 F35’s sat at RAF Marham defending East Anglia would be lovely but it is well down the priority list for equipment for a country whose security challenges are thousands of miles from its shores.

Even if the Treasury captured 75% of the £8bn in savings that cutting the F35 order would provide, then that still leaves £2bn which could address many of the FFBNW gaps across the fleet.


60 is not enough F35B’s for the FAA the order must be at least 90 aircraft.


I’d love to be able to agree with you but we’re never going to have more than one air wing of something <=1 carrier and air wing at sea with current and likely future resources


Correct. The RN will never operate the QE’s as anywhere near the same tempo as the USN does their CVN’s. Heck we are scraping the barrel to deploy escorts at a decent tempo.


Given the way some USN ships are looking I’d say that’s true of the USN’s escort fleet as well though.

Gavin Gordon

Agreed – have a +

Supportive Bloke

There is a treaty commitment to buy 138 F35.

Our Tier1 status rests on that.

Wether it is F35B/A the US have clearly stated they don’t care.

The RAF never really wanted the F35 until they actually got their mits on some that were fully functional and realised they were the real deal.

Then the B->A thing kicked off.

Don’t underestimate how much HMG see the carriers as a policy tool. And how much US & AUS value them – particularly if forward deployed somewhere useful.


Do you really think they’ll be forward deployed though? Personally I think that’s a bit of a pipe dream, and it’ll be Portsmouth for both (how much would we have to invest in infrastrucutre in Singapour alone to base a carrier there?)


Agreed completely. Noise will be made about “demonstrating a global capability (or presence)” but at the end of the day a QE class ship will visit the SCS once every two to three years. No one else is expecting to see one thereabouts any more frequently than that.


Whist it is true that the western nations and particularly the U.K. humiliated China in the past they have been given far too much leeway as part of what seems a universal guilt complex by most western nations. They of course have latterly been used as a supplier of cheap consumer goods and inward investment.
In the meantime, they have stolen trade secrets, bought into many developing nations, crushed any internal decent, ignored patents and international law, expanded and modernised their military whilst bullying many neighbouring nations.
They are a highly advanced, totalitarian dictatorship that is skilled at using the media to push their views, whilst using shadowy intimidating tactics.They have played a patient game but as they see a decline in the US and as ever a weakness in Europe to do anything except talk they are exerting their power and influence ever wider.
The U.K. does have a role to play in defending basic human rights, free trade, FON and some of our most staunch allies are in the region.
I therefore am looking forward to our upcoming security and defence review providing the modest additional resources we require to enable our maritime forces to achieve this. Certainly additional escorts to enable a Frigate to be based in Singapore would be a start and in medium term the provision of an attack submarine would send a real message of resolve to our regional allies.
Unfortunately I foresee cuts in our conventional forces to pay for the new frontier of cyber warfare when of course they are both needed in the 21st century.

Gavin Gordon

See last Saturday’s Mail included a massive headline from John Humphrys over the uselessness of the Carriers. Having spent most of the article stating how great a worldwide threat China is in his usual forthright manner, his shorter ‘editorial analysis’ on these vessels mumbled down to the formulaic ‘future being cyber’ and ‘carriers without aircraft’, interspersed with the odd SPADiss familiar from DC Comics.    
I confess I was surprised that the Admiralty indicated one may be forward based in the Asia-Pacific, having considered the Middle East the more likely option. However, not being privy to the RN’s rationale, I considered it prudent to await further pronouncements. I did make the assumption that the plan was not to anchor the carrier in the middle of the South China Sea with no aircraft, though.  
We are all aware of the evident advance China has in IT, but she in fact occupied the islands with troops, aircraft, missiles and the backup of a fleet that includes increasing number of carriers, rather than a flotilla of laptops; though I acknowledge the latter would have been cheaper – and thus maybe of some appeal to whatever constitutes the Chinese Treasury. 
John is one who evidently bemoans the conceits of entitlement culture. It is a shame that this view apparently does not extend to an author with no military knowledge who nevertheless commands full-page influence in the country’s most widely circulated newspaper.   
 You have to smile. Regards 


Sadly, that is the standard of journalism that is the norm in the 24/7 news circus we now have but why doesn’t the head of the Navy respond.
However, he will need to be careful because whilst we might all sigh about quotes such ‘carriers with no planes’ or ‘drones being able to sink them’. He might need to explain why the AsaC Merlin is so late – oh dear someone left our helicopter out in the rain!, what happens when RFA Fort Victoria is not available or my favourite, how many active escorts and attack submarines will the U.K. have in home waters when the Task Group goes East of Suez in 2021?

Will O

The mind boggles.

Half surprising Geordie Grieg hasn’t yet hired that other intellectual colossus on defence; Simon Jenkins.

They all seem to be of a similar mould don’t they.

Gavin Gordon

Most would have seen my comment on anchoring the carrier in the SCS for what it’s worth. Seems the Iranian Rev Guard think this is exactly how carriers are deployed, bless them. That’s not going to influence even the Iranian people, its target audience.
Current political shenanigans would have impressed Lewis Carroll. Can’t say we lack entertainment during lockdown; makes up for the theatres.

Brian R Barton

Why isn’t there any media coverage in the UK when this is such a critical issue.We have numerous debates about face masks and PPI but all those will be useless if a war broke out.I think the priorities are wrong.This government should be brought to task about it’s media blackout yo the citizens of this country.Its our country and we have a right to be made aware of worldwide issues.




Kung flu chinese did not dare invade any islands when the AMERICAN BASE WHERE IN THE PHILIPPINES IN THE 80s… as soon as the americans left the Philippines,the kung flu virus started to bully smaller nations..


Just remember trade what would happen if we cut trade like toys clothes by 25% .i think that would get there attention then maybe 50%. Why not it time. Now what if all the free nations did that.then we could start on oil .Wow now we’re thinking. Maybe even suspending them from the u.n. for threats againts follow members very good ideal.its time we start using the rule book of the u.n. period.


Surely the world placing trade embargoes on China would be a first action with this illegal territorial expansion underway. Its not like a ship on ship action between China and a Western ship is going to end at that. Unless a rogue Captain fires, no government is going to shoot at what is effectively “the rest of the world” unless they wish to end all trade with the entire globe. Does China have everything it needs to be self sufficient with no trade to anyone except maybe North Korea?


Never happened before when China took 2 parts of India’s territory in the Himalayas in the early 60s.
Nor for Turkey when they invaded a commonwealth country Cyprus in the 1970s and where they remain to this day.
The UK cant really explain why it joined the US in an invasion of Iraq outside the authorization of the UN
No big country is pure when it comes to doing what they really really want


When it comes to the chinese, we need to remember that the leadership can never appear weak to the domestic audience. Any military challenge will be met with force.
I have often wondered why the western world does not get together in unison and tell the chinese that unless you behave, ie stop the espionage and stealing, stop the bullying, and start abiding by the rules based order, or we will all stop buying from you. It’s the only way to stop them, and if we stop buying from them it gives our own industries a chance to flourish. The world has to act together as one voice and say enough. Hurt them in the wallet and I am sure they would start start playing ball. I cant see a few ships passing through the SCS making them change, and will only play to their narrative that the west is the aggressor.



While I understand your thinking, there are a few problems. China not only makes lots of stuff, they make lots of stuff used to make other stuff. While they have no doubt stolen a lot of designs, a whole lot more has been handed to them on a plate. Do you realise MTU marine deisels, including common naval models are manufactured there for the Chinese market (for civilian use only – yeah right).The biggest problem is China dominates the worlds rare earth market, all of the Chinese companies doing so are state owned (not even protending), so directly controlled by the CCP. China produces 70% of the worlds rare earths. Its perverse that so much of the worlds ‘clean’ energy is dependant on one of the worlds more environmentaly damaging industries.Other producers include USA (who ship the raw materials to China to get processed) & Australia (the company built a processing plant in Malaysia – environmental rules? – to be fair it is said to be an ultra-modern plant).

The other problem is how much has been sold to them.Who now owns that UK manufacturer? The world has been allowing China to buy up just about anything without thinking that the buyers are either CCP owned or under CCP influence (the law in China says so). To take it back during a war is easy. Otherwise, in the Western World, it’s not so easy. You can nationalise a company but you have to have a reason (other than you don’t like the owner). Coming up with a reason to nationalise a company that makes beer bottles will be difficult.


The Chinese 70% share of rare earth resources is a good reason to switch our renewables strategy away from lithium batteries to hydrogen fuel cells, which I think are in any case better able to provide longer ranges and more power for lorries and multiple unit trains.
The vision of walking down streets of Edwardian and Victorian terraces jumping of charging cables or Tesco car parks providing rechargjng points didn’t really work for me; whereas I can see garages replacing petrol and diesel with hydrogen being practical.



Lithium is not a rare earth. Rare earths are not just one element, its 17, all with weird names. They are not actually rare – it’s they are hard to extract & its rare to find them in concentrations to make mining & processing them viable. Things like rare earth magnets are much harder to replace than Lithium batteries. China has also been buying into rare earth mines in other countries.It tends to be the high tech stuff that utilises ‘rare earths’.

I have often wondered why Hydrogen has not been more utilised. They have known how to run an internal combustion engine on Hydrogen for decades. Hydrogen fuel cells seem to have finally got somewhere in recent years.


What rare earth metals do lithium batteries use that hydrogen fuel cells don’t?

Last edited 3 years ago by andy

Good spot. I rather shot from the hip there. Just making the point that fuel cells tend to use non noble metals and that to me at least look more practical for a large scale roll out. Also worth noting what a good idea it is to have a close relationship with the Chilean navy. Chile has the worlds largest reserves of Lithium.

4th watch

Makes Falklands an important piece of real estate.


Actually the Oz company Lynas (which I’m a shareholder) is in the process of bringing it processing plant to Australia due to a number of reasons and one of those reasons is the ongoing security concerns with the SCS. As Taiwan, Sth Korea and Japan are their major customers, because they all got burnt by the Chinese and thence they also stepped in and saved Lynas when the Chinese dumped a shit of cheap rare earth products on the open market in an attempt to corner the market. Lynas is atm in discussions with a JV partner in the US to process rare earths in the USA.

Also Oz also holds a large reserve of Lithium as well.


Thanks for the update re Lynas. I am told that their Malaysian plant is probably the best out there. Are they moving it or building another one?

Australia is the worlds largest Lithium producer, followed by Chile.


I’ll have to dig back though the company’s announcements that they released to the ASX, but my understanding is that they look at completely shutting down its Malaysian processing plant and setting up somewhere in WA. Currently the prefer option is to be close to their mine with Kalgoorlie area being touted atm.

Their processing plant in Malaysia is the best in the world and it’s leaps and bounds ahead of anything the Chinese have got.


Thanks for responding. Kalgoorlie? Its going to be an expensive exercise. Some reaserch suggests Malaysia wants them to move it.

Supportive Bloke


Hydrogen fuel cells are great if you can

a) find green hydrogen – the present industrial process for producing hydrogen is far from green

b) run them without a lithium battery – fuel cells are brilliant at producing stable levels of power but utterly useless at doing anything other than that – think very very slow acceleration

Oh and another thing – the metals that go into fuel cells are a bit pricey too.

I’d love fuel cells to be the answer – they are not – unless better tech emerges.


There’s more platinum in a ICE vehicle’s catalyst than there is in a hydrogen fuel cell. The Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are investing huge amounts of money into hydrogen research, they all want to wean themselves off foreign supplies of oil, hydrogen is about the only way they can do this.


This just puts into perspective how small the royal navys surface fleet is! We need far more frigates and destroyers, but multi purpose destroyers not just anti air destroyers.

Meirion X

The majority of the threats to warships is from the air in the modern age. That is why destoryers have a much more anti-air component then other types of warships. That is not to say there is no other threats from surface or sub-surface, because there is, and destroyers need to be
appropriately armed to respond to the threats they will face.


The Article makes reference to the SOSUS chain, however, I thought technology had overtaken that method, hence, it was left to go into disrepair, anyone?

Secondly, I am bewildered at the claims of the Chinese especially to the spratley Islands unfortunately, we, the Western world have allowed them to get away with too much at the ‘iexpense’ of cheap clothes and other products – we need to establish a value chain.

Thirdly, the UK is in this, in the event of conflict we need credible force, but, we also need credible replacemnt warstocks, at the moment, we have neither.


The opium wars were a clear demonstration of military superiority powered by overwhelming economic superiority. I find it odd it should be described as shameful on a support the RN page. We can only dream of having such influence today. Hong Kong was annexed during the opium wars, I wonder if they would like the British back. This country has disappeared so far up its own backside that it displays a level of introspection that would embarrass a doctor in that particular speciality. In 1980 even with a terrible economy we spent 4% of GDP on defence, now it’s less than 2%, soon to be cut further if rumours are to be believed. It truly is a case of cake or death with the cake all gone and ‘or death’ being the only option.

John Maksym

The reality is that the British people do not place defence as a priority as compared to the victuals of the Nanny State. The defence budget is a mere mouse compared to the education, welfare and NHS budget…and people are actively trying to chop the defence budget even now. It’s crazy and short-sighted. The RN is feeble compared to the Communist Chinese forces they would face in every area but sub surface and there are only a few Astutes… QE is a wonderful carrier class but when you can’t deploy with more than two squadrons of F-35’s it becomes a joke. 19 destroyers and frigates? Really! No wonder the Communist Chinese view the Brits as a paper tiger. A real look at rising to 30 destroyers and frigates and acquiring 85 F-35B’s just for the carriers is a must or things will get very ugly, very quickly.


For that to happen we need a credible agreement on defence that the whole house of Parliament signs off on and then is enshrined in law. Therefore, no single party can mess about with it when they get in power and want to put their stamp on it. Is it ever likely to happen, shamefully no, as the majority of MPs only see as far as the next general election.


Enshrining things in law tends to make them inflexable, which is not a good thing in defence.

Will O

The following article is quite revealing;

So they’re already planning on a successor to the only recently built Type 075 LHD. – One with EMALS, & they’re planning to add Stealth.

The “combat role would focus on the high seas when China is facing territorial challenges from rival claimants in the region”.

Considering China has rival territorial claims against almost all it’s neighbours, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion than China is actively planning for future conflicts in the SCS, & it should be of concern to all.

It looks to have even Russia concerned (China has even been so bold as to voice historical claims to Vladivostok);

One would hope given China’s aggressively ambitious plans for their Navy in the 2030s, (and Russia’s similarly ambitious plans for theirs), that the forthcoming Integrated Review factors that in & makes better provision for the RN to remain globally competitive in the years to come.


Labour is cheap for them as is steel. And they don’t care about stealing industrial intelligence. Build and build and build again. They are in a race now.

andy reeves

mturn archers into missile boats?