The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Umm... hi. I'm not really sure how best to go about this, this being my first post and all...

I'm currently studying at university with the hopes to become an author. (I'm physically incapable of joining the Forces as I have flat feet, rubbish senses, and unreliable and imprecise muscle coordination, much to my annoyance, so I'm stuck settling for second best.) I've nearly finished the manuscript of my first novel, and recently began planning the second in the series.

My main interest is in writing contemporary and realistic military thrillers, and if at all possible to try and get the general public interested in looking out for our armed forces. The first two books of the series focus around the exploits of a small group of former British soldiers working as PSCs, how they've ended up in their careers, that sort of thing, but I'm building up in them to the third.

Book Three, which has the current working title of 'The Lion Awakens', will be much larger in scope, and involves, among other things, the appointment of an effective (and ex-Forces) Minister for Defence, the shakeups that he introduces (including a general expansion in the size of the Armed Forces) and various crises that arise requiring the Forces and HMG to deal with them. It will be set sometime between 2013 and 2015.

I was wondering if anyone could help me with the planning stages of this novel? So far, I'm working on the premise that, with savings in various other areas, the defence budget is expanded to approximately eighty billion pounds per annum, and that the national GDP has risen considerably due to oil having been struck in the Falklands and being drilled for full-scale on West Falkland. The next big question: having got the budget boosted, what should it be spent on?

With regards to the Royal Navy and RFA, I was wondering if the following force structure would be a good one to aim to construct, considering existing designs of equipment and similar factors:

3 x CVF carriers: either STOBAR (to operate a navalised variant of the Typhoon) or CATOBAR configuration (to operate some F-35C JCA)

2 x CVF LPH variants (essentially the current HMS Ocean using the CVF design as its basis instead of the CVS), which I'm guessing would theoretically each be capable of deploying at least one thousand six hundred personnel, with a variety of light vehicles (e.g. Land Rovers), M777 howitzers (the 105mm Light Gun is supposed to have been replaced by the M777 before 2013), equipment, provisions and other bits of kit. Ideally these should be capable of accomodating and BRIEFLY operating the F-35B JCA for in case of emergencies (e.g. if one of our F-35Bs needs to land in a hurry for whatever reason, or if all the CVF STOBAR/CATOBARs are unavailable and we absolutely HAVE to deploy some fixed-wing air assets, or if for some bizarre - and, I admit, rather unlikely - reason we're taking some American/other foreign F-35Bs along with us and there's no room on our CVF STOBAR/CATOBARs for them)

1 x CVF Joint Casualty Treatment Ship variant - something that large should be capable of fitting at least twice as many hospital beds and operating theatres than RFA Argus currently does (probably rather more than that, but I'm erring on the safe side)

4 x LPD - possibly two new Albion-class vessels in addition to the existing ships of the class?

12 x Bay-class Landing Ship Docks (RFA)

18 x Type 45, all fitted with the following: the six ASW torpedo tubes; the ability to operate Merlin and Chinook; the eight Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles; towed sonar/decoy array; Tomahawks and all the other equipment and armaments that provision has been made for in their design but hasn't been fitted due to Mr. Brown at Number Ten...

18 x ASW frigates (including a number of Type 23 and a variant of the Type 45 hull design with a bit less air defence capability but using the same weapons, and with more in the way of ASW weaponry, with all of the additional armaments and equipment fitted as mentioned above.)

10 x Astute SSN (preferably twelve, but given the difficulties involved with nuclear boats, I'm guessing it might be safer and simpler to just have ten)

4 x SSK (possibly the same sort that the Australians are using?) for Special Forces/SF-type units (e.g. the Royal Marines' Brigade Reconnaissance Troop) amphibious insertion, to support the SSNs, and provide a second layer of sub-surface protection to any major task groups

4 x SSBN - self-explanatory

24 x minehunters

Patrol boats and hydrographics survey vessels in appropriate numbers. (Sorry, I'm afraid I don't know enough about how many we've got, how many have been axed, and how many we need.)

Possibly the formation of an additional Royal Marine Commando unit. Why? Well, when 3 Commando Brigade last deployed to Helmand Province, only two of the RM Commando units were listed as part of the brigade. With a fourth RM Commando unit and 1 RIFLES training to become an Army Commando battalion, this would ensure that 3 Brigade could deploy with four Commandos in its order of battle, and there'd still be a Commando unit available either to deploy in detachments aboard the fleet, on training exercises, or they could just be sent on leave.

16 x Fleet Replenishment Vessels (mix of tankers and solid cargo vessels - sorry, I'm not too sure about the technical terminology there)

Purchase of suitable numbers of E-2D Hawkeye AEW aircraft.

Purchase of a few V-22s (if the safety issues have been sorted out yet) for use in both a casualty-evacuation role, and a few airframes to operate in an ASW role: my reasoning behind this is that if a large task group is assembled and a considerable sub-surface threat is faced, ASW frigates and their helicopters could receive a Quick Reaction Force in the form of a V-22 ASW variant or two operating from a CVF LPH, as apparently the V-22's a bit quicker than the Merlin or Lynx/Future Lynx. (I wouldn't advocate exclusively using V-22s for ASW work, I'm just suggesting getting, say, six or seven of them to support the helis.)

Purchase of existing F-35B JCA order, in addition to either F-35C CATOBAR aircraft or a Sea Typhoon STOBAR aircraft. (I'd really appreciate opinions on which option might be more practical/better quality.)

Purchase of plenty of helicopters, enough to fully equip every ship listed above and have a reserve force of at least ten percent (in addition to an operational reserve and training airframes).

The purposes of this force would be:

- To be capable of prosecuting a blue water maritime conflict with little or no land-based aerial support against a power that possesses surface, sub-surface (diesel-powered, possibly nuclear-powered) and land-based aircraft. Few, if any, forces from allied nations would be available to provide direct support.

- Undertaking an amphibious landing and deploying 3 Commando Brigade and rapidly following up with the deployment of at least one additional brigade without first needing to hire a cruise liner or two, secure and consolidate a beachhead against low-level resistance and then undertake, support and resupply those land forces whilst they assault prepared enemy positions over the course of up to three months. (Four would be better.) If at all possible, the task group should be capable of deploying at least one battalion or regiment operating Warrior or Challenger 2, and one regiment operating CVR(T) or FRES Group 2 - a Formation Reconnaissance Regiment. If a couple of cruise liners need to be hired to transport a third brigade down to the theatre of operations later on, then fair enough - presumably by then the opposition will have been suitably suppressed in and around the beachhead for the liners to safely deploy the troops aboard them.

- Simultaneously undertaking regular low-level maritime operations (e.g. North Sea security, Falkland Islands security, the Gibraltar Squadron, counter-narcotics operations, that sort of thing) in addition to both of the two previously outlined roles.

- If at all possible, at least fifteen percent of this force structure should be on leave or conducting regular maintenance or training operations whilst all three of the prior roles are fulfilled. (I.e. when in effect a campaign of a similar scale to the Falklands War is being fought in addition to regular operations.)

In addition to these expansions of the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, I'm suggesting an expansion of the Army to at least three ready divisions (three armoured brigades, three mechanised, four infantry/light), preferably four divisions (five armoured brigades, three mechanised, five infantry/light), the creation of a fourth regenerative (TA) division and 16 Air Assault Brigade; and considerable expansion of the RAF with regard to fixed- and rotary-wing transport aircraft (min. 200 x CH-47F, min. 250 x medium support helicopters e.g. Future Lynx, Merlin, UH-60M, and minimum of 60 x C-17 and 25 x C-130J), airliner purchases and an expansion of the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft order to at least thirty airframes.

On top of THAT, I'm also suggesting the construction of at least six new military hospitals, a fourth major naval base, two additional airbases for the new transport aircraft, and at least one extra barracks, in addition to better pension schemes and a permanent allocation of five billion pounds per annum to accomodation costs. And all of these changes, procurements and the like are to take place over the course of between twelve and fifteen years.

Okay. Now for the big question...

Does this lot sound a) reasonable to depict all of these changes taking place over this timeframe and with this budget within the book and b) have I misidentified any requirements, selected inappropriate equipment, missed any requirements, or otherwise come up with something that just wouldn't work? If so, I'd really appreciate knowing what I've got wrong and how to correct it.

Many, many thanks,



War Hero
Feller. I admire your optimistic thinking here. However you have to splice in a few realisms into the equation:

a. This government (and ones previous to them, back as far as the postwar lot) have had it in their heads that we can move with gay abandon amongst the planet's waterways unmolested and totally unchallenged whilst doing so on less and less. This has been the case even in what people might on here believe was a small purple patch for us under Good Old Maggie, but our minor resurgence was brought about by her being caught with her underwear down by a ragtag bucnh of supposed bandits in some farway South American country no-one gave a **** about. Oh, and the fact that those fine men and women who restored her flagging, flaccid reputation by recaptiring the Falklands helped the Tories into another thirteen unchallenged years of scandal, **** ups, and mismanagement and selling off the nation's assets at a knock down price to organisations who would eventually turn this fine nation into a shady collective of non-delivering service industries and outsourced bullshit.

b. The electorate, pumped fat and hard on really interesting issues like Big Brother, MRSA, the latest MP disgraced for browndicking his secretary, David ******* Beckham, mortgages and other such relatively trivial horseshit that does **** all to secure and vouchsafe their freedoms, does **** all in subsequent election and neither challenges the ruling majority for it's seemingly collaborative corporate fraud and scheming and allows the people we supposedly elect (or fail to de-elect, more correctly) to deprioritise our bulwark asset and even then, whilst whittling it down to a feeble twig, attempts to batter the **** out of a martyring wave of undefeatable effort, hanging on the coat tails of an insane NeoCon cabal the likes of which has one thing only on it's mind that is spelled with the letters h-e-g-e-m-o-n-y. Meanwhile, I'm a Celebrity starts in a few weeks, you empty-headed bunch of non-voting, ambivalent *********. So, what if we get six substandard T45s instead of the 12 we were promisied? What if the replacement carriers are still sat on the drawing board, with as many questions about their design as there are 'where is all this ******* money coming from'?

Your novel sounds good. However, for more realism, keep asking one or two round these parts of ship what they think and where they see it all going. You'll find a few dismaying surprises in amongst their answers.

There is a book you might consider reading, cannot remember the title, about the Oil in the Falklands being successfully drilled, and a war erupting around it, and then the Russian's get involved...

Although it is sad to say, the hull numbers you describe will remain firmly in the fantasy section of the bookshop.


Good post.

I would suggest 1 military hospital would suffice - it needs to be large, and situated close to an airhead for aeromedevac reasons. It would be staffed by tri-service medical and nursing staff, along with medics. There would need to be a small but significant civilian medical and nursing staff to provide continuity when deployments occur. It could generate income by behaving largely like a private hospital, offering services to the local civilian population (elective operations, like hip replacements etc) (remarkably like the good ship HASLAR did!). It would work in partnership with the local NHS hospitals trust, but be sufficiently independent from it. And it would definitely not be in Birmingham...

Just my tuppence worth!
Stumpy: thank you very much for your vote of confidence! *grins* Unfortunately, I'm far too honest to be a politician - the most complex lies I've ever been able to come up with have been related to hiding my parents' birthday/Christmas/Mother's Day/Father's Day/anniversary presents from them.

Levers_Aligned: I know it could never happen under our current crop of political parties... but theoretically all it'd take is one good person in the right place, capable of making the right speeches to raise public interest in the things that really matter, and defence could suddenly become a vote-winning platform - then you might get quite a few politicians taking a serious interest in doing something decent for the Armed Forces (for a change).

Potential_Officer: I know the one you mean - Patrick Robinson's 'Ghost Force'. Let's just say it was highly inaccurate in plenty of places, and wasn't about to let technical accuracy stand in the way of a dramatic story.

NZ_Bootneck: erm... sorry, I'm not up to speed on naval slang. *looks embarrassed* Sorry about that, I'm not sure where to find a translation guide.

angrydoc: thank you very much - that was a most enlightning document. The main reason I suggested having six military hospitals was that at least one, preferably two, would be large and conveniently sited for aeromedevac purposes, with the others available so that less serious cases could then move from the main one or two military hospitals to the others in the event of overspill. Furthermore, in the event of field deployments, the 'overspill' hospitals would be the ones to initially supply personnel. (Sorry, I was trying not to waffle to much in my initial post.) *shrugs* I appreciate that there's probably plenty of flaws there... would one very large military hospital sited for aeromedevac purposes, with a second, smaller hospital for overspill, in addition to the CVF-JCTS be practical at all (admittedly for a given amount of disbelief)?

Sorry, I'm... I'm trying to work out a balance between 'perfect' and 'not completely impossible', as the current state of affairs is quite simply intolerable. (As is the disgustingly apathetic attitude displayed by much of the public.)

Anywayhoo, many thanks to everyone for the feedback so far!
The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Well here's two mad suggestions:

Unfortunately the government hasn't realised this yet.
the_badger said:
The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Well here's two mad suggestions:

Unfortunately the government hasn't realised this yet.
Yep - you could always make it stranger than fiction and add a bit about people joining up.
the_badger said:
The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Well here's two mad suggestions:

Unfortunately the government hasn't realised this yet.
Well, if'n you read through my initial post, you'll see I'm suggesting depicting the addition of both, and am trying to ascertain what changes would be reasonable to depict within the premise of the novel...
Jay_Nine said:
the_badger said:
The Royal Navy: what's needed for the future?

Well here's two mad suggestions:

Unfortunately the government hasn't realised this yet.
Well, if'n you read through my initial post, you'll see I'm suggesting depicting the addition of both, and am trying to ascertain what changes would be reasonable to depict within the premise of the novel...
I think the main changes would be depending on the A/C carriers. If they are built then all other ships mothballed so they had enough crew to man them. If carriers not built, then all ships scrapped as they don't have enough men to crew them either.
Whilst admiring your wish list. I can see no Government of any persuasion in the near future making such an expenditure of capital on defence. However, as this is fiction, go for it - put me down for a copy, Just don't show any politician in a good light - why not have the country taken over by a military junta eager to put the Great back into Britain?


War Hero
Book Reviewer
How are we going to recruit all the extra sailors? We long since had to open the gangway to women so as to make up numbers.


War Hero
Seaweed said:
How are we going to recruit all the extra sailors? We long since had to open the gangway to women so as to make up numbers.
Please refrain from spouting complete and utter narrow minded and behind the times bollox in this forum-any more drivel and I will delete your posts without warning. A lot of the girls I have worked with in the mob have been excellent at their jobs at sea and some of them put the lads to shame without any effort.
The Matelot,
opinions are like assholes - we've all got one: he's just expressing his in an open forum IMHO - I thought this was RR was all about ?
They'll be no extra money for defence let alone the Navy until the appalling under-investment becomes a political issue again for the electorate. At present they want to pay less tax for more, increasingly expensive services. If we want quality we have to be prepared to pay for it: both the hardware but also the people. However the government's position is not helped by their willingness to write a blank cheque offering taxpayers hard earned cash to keep afloat Northern Rock, which is likely to end up lining the pockets of the investors. The sums we are talking about here are quite staggering. The money we have given to shore up this private company whose Directors placed their own greed above the interests of their savers, could literally double our defence budget this year! We are unlikely to see much of this money returned to the Treasury.

For the figures we are discussing here, read the current edition of The Economist (10 Nov 07).