State of the RN

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by davy_longshanks, Apr 22, 2007.

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  1. Saw this article in The Economist this week and it got me thinking. It seemed a fair assessment of the current situation. The future is gunboat diplomacy (once again). Any thoughts?

    The Senior Service is feeling unloved

    THESE are fretful times for the Royal Navy. With the empire gone and the cold war over, the British sailors who once ruled the waves are struggling to define their role. In Iraq and Afghanistan these days, the army is in the limelight.

    It is not that the navy has nothing to do. A quarter of a century after the Falklands war with Argentina, it keeps a watchful eye on the south Atlantic. It maintains a reassuring presence off west Africa and in the Caribbean (where it helps with hurricane relief and drugs interdiction). The navy patrols the waters around the Middle East seeking terrorists and weapons; its marines have just come back from a tour in Afghanistan; Harrier pilots help support ground forces; and, in Iraqi waters, the navy protects Iraqi oil terminals.

    But it is a strain to do these things. Ships in less crucial arenas are being stripped of personnel, equipment and spares to strengthen vessels in the Persian Gulf. Worse, Iran's almost casual abduction of 15 British naval personnel last month and, after their release, the decision to let some sell their stories have tarnished the reputation of the Senior Service. This at a time when it is struggling to defend its budget before a spending review this summer that will determine its shape from 2008.

    The number of destroyers and frigates, the workhorses of the navy, has declined from 49 during the Falklands war to 25. More reductions loom. The head of the navy, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, gave warning in February that further cuts could reduce the fleet to the status of the “Belgian navyâ€â€”harsh words for the heirs of Horatio Nelson. Sir Jonathon said (then half-denied) he wanted a 30% increase in his operating budget, and assurances that two new aircraft carriers would be built.

    More warning horns were blared this week. Writing in the journal of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a British defence think-tank, Sir Jeremy Blackham, a former deputy chief of the armed forces, and Gwyn Prins, of the London School of Economics, say Britain “risks losing irretrievably the capacity which it has had since before Nelson, but especially from the time of Trafalgar to the present, to be a decisive force across the globeâ€.

    The navy trumpets the construction of a new generation of Type-45 destroyers for air defence and the arrival of new amphibious assault ships. But the RUSI paper claims that the commissioning of new frigates and destroyers is slower than at any time since the 1920s.

    True, the new ships are bigger and more capable than the ones they replace, but the authors argue that quantity has a quality of its own. They want the 17 current frigates (built to hunt submarines) to be replaced eventually with at least 30 multi-role ships. Only this number would give Britain a “global footprint†and preserve the country's capacity to build warships.

    This is wishful thinking, of course. Defence spending is unlikely to get more than a modest increase in the coming budget. There are more pressing demands than the navy's, including support for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and improved pay and conditions for servicemen.

    Yet the navy has urgent work to do. Two inquiries have been ordered into the hostage fiasco in the Persian Gulf. Some weaknesses are already apparent, not least the need for better training and protection for naval boarding parties. The Ministry of Defence said it had taken 22 minutes for the mother ship, HMS Cornwall, to despatch a helicopter after losing contact with its kidnapped personnel. So forget futuristic new frigates for now. What Britain may need most urgently is some small, fast patrol craft—gunboats, in other words.
  2. Ninja_Stoker

    Ninja_Stoker War Hero Moderator

    My take on this is that because of the years of neglect by successive governments & the end of the Cold War, serious consideration aught to be given on the future of the RN in it's current form. We are becoming less capable as a blue-water Navy & truth is we are no longer the world power that the current government seems to think we are. Maybe very fast, very small & heavily armed gunboats are what we actually need for defence. If we want a major offensive capability then we need lots of money- as pointed out by Johnathon Band & aircraft carriers to project power.
  3. I think we are still a world power of significance. Only trouble is, the Government simply won't spend enough on the RN/Armed Forces. We spend c.£170bn on Social Security and welfare each year, compared with £28bn on Defence. Interesting.
  4. DS,

    Agree, We are a world power, but I wouldn't like to be tested against a competent opponent, even Iran. I think we rely on our reputation too much these days.
    Remember Traf200 when the Captain of the French CVN Charles De Gaul was interviewed?
    Went something like 'How does it feel to be taking part in something that celebrates your defeat?
    He Looked over his shoulder at the CdG, one of the worlds most powerful carriers, then turned back to camera and smiled in the way only a Frenchman could.

    Take a walk around a training establishment (no names) and you'll see what a state we're in, it's chaos.
  5. Don't forget that part of that 170bn pays our pensions!!
  6. Gunboats are an interesting prospect. However, as we no longer have bases world-wide, maintaining them on station in our areas of interest is nigh on impossible.
  7. I think there are 2 issues here (at least!)
    1. What do we need NOW to do the jobs asked of us e.g. patrol boats for the Gulf. Surely this could be handled via UOR process.
    2. What do we need for the future. This is where CVF/Type 45s etc come in. This is where we are driven by our defence posture/what the Govt actually want us to achieve. This is what was laid down in the SDR (& revalidated following 9/11) but has never been funded.

    The politicians need to be realistic over what they want the Armed Forces to be able to do and then PROPERLY FUND IT !
  8. CDG looked glorious from a distance, but if he'd have sailed around it with me a couple of days before the review he'd have seen it for the rust bucket it was. Granted, only one side needed to be grey!

  9. One of these Three Royal Navy warships which could have averted the seizure of 15 British sailors by Iran are languishing in a dockyard waiting to be sold or scrapped.

    The mothballed minehunters - used as patrol boats around the coast of Northern Ireland until three years ago - would have been ideal to sail in the shallow waters of the Shatt al-Arab waterway where the 15 were taken hostage.

    But, instead, the three ships - HMS Dulverton, Brecon and Cottesmore, which cost £35million each when they were built in the Eighties - are now likely to be sold to a foreign navy or commercial buyers for as little as £200,000 each.’

    More follows... that could have saved hostages/
  10. Meanwhile, back in the real world.

    This has already been discussed.
  11. It's a pretty fair assessment tbh, when I first read it in the hard copy edition it had already gone from the public side of their website.

    The RUSI analysis is pretty robust, although I'm not convinced by the outcome. Small and fast has it's application, but a larger, more capable all rounder is more extensible. Also getting smaller platforms networked in a meaningful way isn't really practical.
  12. The RN is no longer run for the sake of national security but purely for the wealth of the British arms industry. I for one feel like I work for Agusta Westlands Forward, not the Fleet air arm, but what is that. No synergy no corporate identify no tribal chief since the ending of FONA(C). Who do I work for an IPT, JHC, DARA, IMOS or SKIOS contract, in reality I am sub contractor paid by the Navy sub to a civvy organisation for free.
    I call upon fleet to take back its former RN assets under one command not fragment them under lots of organisations give me an identity and a focus to work for, take back the control from industry and let poor manufactures (like BL/Rover) go to the wall. Crap expensive kit, poorly supported with a lack of corporate RN focus has left me unmotivated and looking forward to civvy street.
  13. Totally agree Stoker. I think the Politicians,media and public need a serious reality check and wake up to the fact that we are no longer a world power and no longer a major maritime power.

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