So how big/capable should the RN be?


War Hero
There have been a lot of threads about downsizing/manpower/mothballing etc. but just what do you think the RN should have in its inventory to be a versatile maritime force in the 21st century? How many carriers, subs, MCMVs etc? Or do you think Cool Britannia should just contribute to a European Federal Navy or be reduced to a coastal protection force?

Here is my outline view:

3 conventional carriers ( = 2 operational simultaneously)

35 DD/FF - one class with interchangeable modular sensor & weapon fits from TLAMS, UAVs down to 20mm eg. flexible in AAW/ASW/ASuW/strike/maritime interdiction roles. In refit/extended maintenance the modules are removed and available for other units. Future weapons/upgrades contractually designed to fit modules IOT extend hull life. Capable of carrying two helos.

2 LPD, 2 LPH together with LST/Ro-Ro as required for a Corps of 10,000RM - two Cdo Groups.

MCMV force designed to keep essential designated UK ports open together with a deployable group for forward basing in support of major fleet units. The former manned by regionally based RNR (including MCM helos if required) the deployable MCM force to be RN manned.

RNR role also to maintain and service ex-RN vessels which are SNLR but less than 25 years old. IE a mothballed fleet.

Submarine force to include SSBN, SSN and SSK to ensure 1 SSBN, 6 SSN and 3 SSK operational at any one time.

Aviation assets to include enough support for Cdo force, enough to provide 50 operational cabs for FF/DDs, and fixed wing for two operational carrier groups.

Sufficient MPAs to provide EEZ protection (yes the RN would own the MPAs).

FPVs etc as required to patrol UK EEZ.

With lean manning, automation, modular systems (including machinery) it should be possible to bring such a force in at a lot less than 40,000 including the RM. Now thats what I call 'Transformation'!

As for senior management - one four star (1SL), one three star (Ops) two stars for each major J/N/ function (max 6)and a one star for each carrier and Cdo group plus two for the DD/FF (max 12). Plus a politically approved number of admirals to Joint/NATO positions.

Medical ranks only for doctors and nurses and coloured stripes between gold braid so we know who we are talking to!

Pie in the sky? Absolutely - but everyone can dream and it could provide a navy Britons could be proud of.
To someone old and stuck in the middle, can you please explain what the stars are?,Admirals, rear, vice or what, why have we gone American?


War Hero
Sorry Hig!
4 = Admiral
3 = vice admiral
2 = Rear admiral
1 = Commodore

A couple of years ago the RN gave up a centuries old tradition where all Captains over 6 years seniority got paid the same as a Brigadier or Air Commodore although they remained Captains RN. Commodore used to be an appointment not a rank in the RN - now it is a rank and thats why some establishments now have commodores when they used to have captains.
F169 said:
Here is my outline view:

3 conventional carriers ( = 2 operational simultaneously)

MCMV force designed to keep essential designated UK ports open together with a deployable group for forward basing in support of major fleet units. The former manned by regionally based RNR (including MCM helos if required) the deployable MCM force to be RN manned.

Submarine force to include SSBN, SSN and SSK to ensure 1 SSBN, 6 SSN and 3 SSK operational at any one time.

Medical ranks only for doctors and nurses and coloured stripes between gold braid so we know who we are talking to!



I have a couple of minor alteration but will go along with your general concept.

MCN Helios fully RNR like US National Airguard

No SSBN's but 6 SSK's

For all Officers of all ranks to wear colour stripe to denote their task in the RN


I know many still want SSBN's so don't bother to have a go about it.
F169, I'd largely support your suggestions; up to a point. I'm not sure we have a need to bring back the, albeit quiet, SSKs. Having 2 LPHs would be nice but needs to be balanced against having 3 large Carriers.

Without wishing to open yet another tedious light v dark blue squabble, I'd leave the Nimrods where they are. They are a very flexible recce/attack asset and aren't simply sub hunters. Secondly, if you can't deploy it afloat there's no value in providing specialist training for it (Herons and Sea Princes were different as they provided intra Service comms and the Jetstreams provided training for the back seaters). Remember, as was put forcibly to me at AIB, aviation is just another Naval specialisation and not a separate force.

Lean manning and automation is indeed a means of getting the best from expensive and very squishy people. Nobody has yet successfully automated damage control and first aid, though.


War Hero
F169 said:
..but just what do you think the RN should have in its inventory to be a versatile maritime force in the 21st century?

Stepping back a little from there I'd go back to what is the Foreign policy aspiration of the state? Base anything around the ability to participate in two concurrent medium scale operations whilst also maintaining standing commitments and a reasonable level of harmony for our personnel. Add to that the national security aspect of what we do, protection of UK ports, fisheries etc. Also the maintenance of a strategic deterrent.

With all that in mind break down into broad areas:

Deterrent force: three or four SSBN with associated force protection capabilities (MCM and ASW assets)

We have six or eight standing tasks for DD/FF and above, they require around 3 hulls each pa to support, including the maintenance cycle.

Two medium scale TGs, profiled to suit the task involves a total of five or six staff capable platforms either carrier, LPD or LPH. Personally I'd go for three carriers and three LPD. You can make up the rest of the TG with available hulls from the standing commitment pool but it probably adds about six hulls to the total requirement. So that gives around 30 DD/FF platforms, I wouldn't go any lower and would prefer to increase that to about 35.

A total of between fifteen and eighteen SSNs to contribute to TGs, BN force protection and the other SSN tasks, allowing a maintenance cycle as well.

I'd disagree that MCMs around home waters should be RNR manned, in part the legislative issues around watchkeepers but also because it needs to be a 24/7 capability and because it allows flexibility around the deployable force.

HM capabilities, probably a little more than we have now. HM platforms can be utilised for a lot more than their specialisation.

A brigade, much as we have now. I think the ability to conduct two concurrent medium scale amphibious assaults is probably a bit ambitious.

Technology, I'd agree that modularisation and swingable platforms can be quite a useful way to increase availability, but would caution reliance. Ownership of equipment is a real issue when it gets moved around, maintenance can be allowed to slip

In terms of manpower I think you're being a little narrow in your outlook, the RN doesn't operate in isolation and we have significant commitments to MOD and jointery. I'd go as far as recommending permanent opportunities in a number of RAF and Army units, to the extent of providing squadron strength to some Combat Support or Combat Services units; signals, REME, RLC and Int etc. That probably pushes the manpower requirement to about 45k.

Platform availability on station can be improved by using a fifth watch or gold crew system, but that increases the manpower budget and the transition costs on station. A swings and roundabouts situation. Notwithstanding that we do have a minimal hull requirement to actually have ships in places, rather than too few, barely equipped enough ships in the wrong places.

And as POL points out, the DC/ FF requirement means you have a minimum body requirement on board each platform.


Lantern Swinger
I'd go largely with Karma with the exception that I think that the LPDs should, in fact, be LHD's (think of the USS WASP Class type ships, ie able to carry and project its Commando force using organic assets.

I would also add:

Some SSKs, to the SSNs & BNs, because they can get into shallower water to deploy SF and because we cannot afford the number of N platforms that are probably required. Fit a Stirling engine to them & they would also have some submerged "legs".

In order to keep the budget down, I may agree to replace some of the FF/DDs with ships similar to the old RFA Engadine (2 x properly equipped & armed Merlin or 4 x Super Lynx would provide the sensor and warfare capability). Not ideal but I am trying to be vaguely realistic.

I also think that there is a significant need for a coastal defence force to protect our vital ports & sea approaches, patrol against drug & people smuggling, and protect against a maritime borne terrorist attack. These vessels do not have to be armed to the teeth but a mixture of Oil Rig support type vessels, The RMAS type/ Naval base Tug vessels, converted trawlers, the URNU vessels, MCMVs, and the currently Civilian manned Range Safety and Aircrew Training Vessels and things like this:
would be able to provide a good Coastal Maritime picture (currently not done) and constabulary/ force protection functions in support of home defence, Customs & Excise tasking and foreign deployments in the Gulf, West Indies, Falklands etc. (& before anyone says it, I know that Customs & Excise have their own Cutters, I just think that they should be RN assets).

The SAR assets & the Dept of Ag & Fish aircraft would also come under Coastal Forces Command, with a Coastal Patrol function.

I'd base the Coastal forces, funnily enough, around our coastal ports (probably requiring civilian maintenance support) giving visibility to the RN nationally, helping recruiting and retention. They would be manned largely by regulars under a 5th watch system but would be augmented significantly by the RNR & maybe even the URNU.

Finally, I'd man the RFA completely with RN personeel with the vessels being HMS's. I can hear the outcry now but actually studies show that it may be cheaper to man with the RN than have essentially 2 crews per RFA. Such manning & operation under the White Ensign would also give operational flexibility & the ability for wider use in a C2 or "mother ship" role with the ability to deploy miliatry effects via organic air assets or SF boats etc. Manning RFAs with RN may also increase the quality of Seamanship throughout the fleet!! The MARS programme (if it ever happens) would see RN manned container ships used to support operations in a "Thunder Bird 2" type concept. Think ARAPAHO of the late 70s' early 80s. If a Commando Ops were required your Container ship would be loaded with RM Commando Containers incorporating mess decks, helo support etc; If a hospital ship was needed then the hospital containers would be loaded or if aviation support was required the aviation workshops, hangar, fuel & ammo containers would be loaded.

That's about it, now anyone have the phone number to the Treasury??
Perhaps we ought to adopt the Israli style defence force and just concentrate of defending our own shores better from the increasing terrorist threat. Just a thought.


War Hero
letthecatoutofthebag said:

Before we know what the Defence Policy is we need to know what Foreign Policy is. This is the crux of the matter.

Unfortunately governments change, often with more regularity than in recent years but the times required for force regeneration do not. If anything, with technological advances and reductions in ship building expertise, they are now much longer.

I am not convinced by the argument that Foreign policy should be the driver. There should be a cross-party agreed (pigs night flying by window at this point) minimum force level for an island nation below which the RN doesn't drop. In the quiet years (we did used to have them) training gets a higher priority and in the busy years we can still cope because the equipment and manpower is still in place.


War Hero
I dont know enough about the various SSBN/LPD TLAs so all im gonna say is it needs to be big enough and versatile enough to do the jobs expected of it.

It isnt, probably never will be again - ok it sucks but thats politicians for you...

God im bloody tired but cant get to sleep. Oh well back at work in just over 7 hours


War Hero
F169 is right, mainly because although foreign policy should be the driver, in reality the micro-analysis applied to force levels in the scrutiny and approvals process effectively prevents timely procurement of anything. There's an awful lot to be said for agreeing a core force (set of capabilities if we must) along the lines of the Carrier force, amphibious force and SSN force help up four or five years ago as key components with a minimum number of DD/FF, MCMV, OPV etc to complement these and do the DT missions. Then depending on the foreign policy you add to these as necessary.

I do of course recognise the flaw in this plan, in that the minimum will always be taken as that needed for a given policy, rather than as an absolute lowest number.


Lantern Swinger
I agree with Letthecatoutofthebag and I had based my "wish list" on what I perceive to be necessary to meet current tasking, albeit with an increased recognition that "homeland security" is also necessary. Convincing the General Public that that is what is required when they will want to spend money on schools, hospitals, environmental issues, transport & proping up pension funds is another matter, though.