Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and end of the Cold War, the Royal Navy's mission transitioned from an anti-submarine focused force to a wider range of objectives around the world, while experiencing a gradual reduction in the size of its surface and submarine fleets. As a result, the Navy began a series of projects to improve its fleet, with a view to providing enhanced capabilities. This led to the replacement of smaller and more numerous units with fewer, but larger, units. For example the replacement of twelve Type 42 destroyers with six Type 45 destroyers and the replacement of the three 20,000-tonne Invincible-class aircraft carriers with two 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
As of June 2020, the following are under construction or being laid down; the final three of seven Astute-class submarines; the first of four Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, the first two of eight Type 26 frigates; the ninth of nine River-class ocean-going patrol vessels. In addition, early design and preparation work has begun for a fleet of at least five Type 31 frigates.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has described the Ministry of Defence's current equipment plan as "unaffordable". With respect to the 2019 to 2029 period, the NAO has noted that the Royal Navy has allocated no funding to replace certain key capabilities, specifically referencing the Royal Fleet Auxiliary hospital ship RFA Argus and the Royal Navy's mine countermeasures capability as examples. These issues are planned to be addressed in the pending integrated foreign policy, security, defence and international development review which had been anticipated in 2020 but, due to Covid-19, is likely to be deferred for at least a year.
In November 2020, the Prime Minister announced the first outcome of the defence review by pledging increased funding in the range of £16.5 billion over four years to stabilize the defence budget and to provide new funding for space, cyber and research activities. A plan to construct a new class of frigate, the Type-32, was also announced, though further details about this program and about the replacement of other aging naval capabilities would have to await the publication of the full defence review anticipated as likely in early 2021.
Last edited by a moderator: