Sunday, 29 October 2017

HMS Queen Elizabeth sails for part 2 sea trials

Subject to final confirmation* the plan is for HMS Queen Elizabeth to sail from Portsmouth on Monday 30th October shortly after midday.

The weather outlook appears very favourable with very good visibility wind speeds well below the 15-knot safe maximum for entering or leaving the harbour. Portsmouth Harbour channel will be closed to all other shipping for some time and the move will require the assistance of 6 tugs.

Nearly 11 weeks after her first arrival in Portsmouth on 16th August, HMS Queen Elizabeth is ready to begin part 2 sea trials which will mainly focus on mission systems, radars, communications, and electronics. In preparation for full-scale flying trials next year, the ship will also conduct air flow pattern tests, which demonstrate how air across the flight deck will affect aircraft taking off and landing.

Apart from a pair of additional flight deck information displays, there are few external clues to considerable engineering work that has been going on below decks in the last 3 months. Teams of Aircraft Carrier Alliance engineers, some brought in from Rosyth, together with Portsmouth-based staff have been at work fine-tuning the ship’s machinery and completing fitting out tasks. She has not yet been fitted with her Phalanx close-in weapon system or 30mm cannons, which will be added in 2018, along with equipment to support F-35 operations such as the Instrument Carrier Landing System (ICLS).

HMS Queen Elizabeth Hangar

Inside the 4,727 square metre hangar – capable of holding up to 23 F-35B jets.

The Aircraft Carrier Alliance is confident that they are on target for the next major milestone when, in early December the ship will be handed over to the RN and formally commissioned in the presence of HM the Queen. Fixed wing aircraft flying trials will be conducted towards the end of next year and RN should be able to declare Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for Carrier Strike by late 2020.

*Like all naval shipping movements, the decision to sail is always at the discretion of the captain and may be subject to last minute change.



from Save the Royal Navy

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Poppy Pin

Get your naval poppy pin from Forever Jack. Profits go to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. £3.00 + (£1.75 p&p)


from Save the Royal Navy

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Bargain basement Type 31e – the Lidl frigate or an industrial miracle?

The RN published its outline specification for the Type 31e on 7th September this year. The £250 Million-per-ship price cap that has been set for the project is remarkable. If the project can deliver a credible ship at this price it would be something of a miracle and represent the most affordable western frigate design on the international market. The goals of Type 31e can therefore either be seen as ambitious ‘blue sky thinking’ or compromised and unachievable.

The new National Shipbuilding Strategy has adopted most of Sir John Parker’s recommendations. Unsurprisingly his most controversial idea that shipbuilding funds should be ring-fenced to avoid uncertainty and delay was not taken up. The NSS is an otherwise sensible document and appears to offer a pathway to expanding UK warship building and getting back into the export business. Sir John argued that economies of scale would drive down costs. With an initial requirement for just 5 ships for the RN, Type 31e will need to attract plenty of export orders if the unit cost is to be reduced and the overall price is to be so tightly constrained.

Defence analyst Francis Tusa has studied UK shipbuilding patterns since 1945 and argues against the whole industrial ethos of Type 31. He says that shipbuilding is most efficiently done by a single company on one large site. He suggests that because ship construction numbers are relatively low, the benefits of competition are outweighed by no single yard having the skills and economies of scale to drive down costs. BAES would probably agree.

The NSS recommendations about internal governance, management and accountability are particularly welcome. However, in the excitement around the new strategy, there has perhaps been too much focus on exports and the build process an not enough on the product.

“To win increased exports sales, ships must instead be designed with exports in mind from the outset… We have set a maximum £250 million per ship price for the Type 31e, as we judge that the capabilities that the UK requires can be accommodated within this limit and that beyond this price the ships would not be attractive to the sector of the export market we are targeting.” (National Shipbuilding Strategy)

No Western nation has built a credible frigate even close to this price. The modular Danish Iver Huitfeld frigates (built 2008-12) at around £300M are closest, but their hulls were built in cheap East European yards and re-used equipment from old ships. The average cost of light frigates in the 3,500 tonne range built in the last decade is around £350M. Germany’s new Braunschweig class corvettes cost approximately £400m each and are certainly not frigates. The successful French warship exporters DCNS are building 5 FTI frigates for the Marine Nationale which are priced in the region of £580m. The FTI intermediate frigate is far cheaper than a Type 26 but represents a sound mid-range design. DCNS agrees with the MoD’s assessment that there is a global requirement for around 40 medium-light frigates in the long term.

The French Fr├ęgates de taille interm├ędiaire (FTI). Pig ugly and more than double the price of Type 31 but a fully credible ASW platform, built to warship standards.

The original Type 31 concept of arresting the spiralling cost of warships was fundamentally sound but delivering an effective ship at the target price appears unachievable. £250M will place the Type 31e at the very bottom of the range for frigates and may well attract foreign buyers with less demanding requirements than most NATO navies. The weak pound could also potentially help export orders for ships actually built in the UK, not just licensing the design and technology for construction abroad. Despite this, by pitching itself towards the budget end of the market, the Type 31e may find itself in competition with cheap Asian warship builders who have much lower overheads than UK yards. If the price has been set at £350M per ship it would be closer to the ‘sweet spot’ offering a balance between price and performance.

Further pressure is added to a very challenging project by the requirement that the first ship must be in service in just 5 year’s time, by 2023. A taught schedule is desirable and the RN needs new frigates quickly. Far too many projects have been delayed, while costs spiralled and the specifications changed but a whole new of level of client discipline and competent project management will be required to meet this target. On top of this, the new ships must be constructed by English yards that have limited recent warship construction experience.

Go big or go home

The outline specification reveals that alarming compromises required to keep within the price cap are already recognised. Most seriously the ship will be constructed to “commercial shipbuilding standards by default”, only “enhanced in places where a clear requirement or benefit exists”. Watertight sub-division, blast protection and redundancy are a big part of what defines a warship. Compromise on this can cost lives in action and may allow the ship to be quickly sunk or crippled by even minor damage. The USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald both suffered very serious collisions with merchant ships in 2017. Both ships are still afloat because they built to full warship construction standards. Real warships can survive to fight another day. Many deficiencies in a warship can be remedied by upgrading equipment over its lifetime but if the hull is not initially constructed to high enough standards, it is virtually impossible to address without rebuilding almost from scratch.

A Point defence missiles system such as Sea Ceptor are ‘optional’ for Type 31e with a CIWS (i.e. Phalanx) as the minimum. Without PDMS the Type 31e would have little vale for escorting other vessels. Anti-ship missiles are also optional and there is no requirement to fit sonar at all. Hull mounted and towed array sonar are ‘desirable’ but not part of the minimum spec. If a frigate is incapable of effectively hunting submarines what exactly is it for?

The RN has always said it does not want a two-tier navy but the frigate plan looks likely to provide exactly that. We appear to have abandoned the middle ground with an exquisite high-end Type 26 and budget low-end Type 31e

At the inception of the Type 31 project, the then First Sea Lord Admiral Zambellas was very clear that the ship must be “credible” – capable of escorting the aircraft carrier and operating in a high threat environment. At the start of discussions, the original ballpark budget must have been more generous, but at the time of writing the RN is facing another swathe of cuts so reducing the future frigate budget by about £500 million was probably an attractive saving. Now retired, and speaking recently Zambellas said “I would be very surprised if they are able to create a properly capable platform for 250 million Pounds”

Theoretical routes to success

Either the Type 31e will be a corvette dressed up as a frigate, industry must work a miracle or a cost compromise must be reached. The final design will not be selected for at least a year so meaningful judgement on the precise merits of the ship cannot be made at this point. Maybe the MoD has deliberately started low so as to have more flexibility in negotiations. Perhaps the result will be a £250M hull with the main sensors and weapons funded separately. The intention has always been that export customers could select an equipment fit to suit their requirements and budget.

Perhaps the ‘baseline’ Type 31e will be quickly evolved by retrofitting better weapons and sensors. History shows RN warships constructed ‘fitted for, but not with’ equipment rarely ever received the additional items so this approach could be a trap. This route is also not really consistent with the NSS which recommends the RN should aim to keep ships in service for a much shorter period and then sell them on second hand, to be replaced by new construction. Perhaps some of the weaknesses of the platform can be offset by major investment in off-board autonomous systems that give it reach and power beyond its modest conventional equipment fit.

At this early stage there appear to be deep concerns but we fervently hope this innovative project can succeed, balancing benefits to the UK economy with the urgent needs of the RN fleet.


from Save the Royal Navy

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

British industry manoeuvring on the Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigate programme

In response to the MoD’s invitation, industry across the UK is now working on a variety of proposals to win the Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigate design and build contract. If the project succeeds in its goal of achieving export orders, the winning consortium could see a sustained flow of construction work and competition is intensifying.

Enter “Leander”

On 18th October Cammell Laird shipbuilders announced they had formed a partnership with BAE Systems to bid for the Type 31e contract. CL would assemble the ships at their Birkenhead yard while BAES will provide the technical expertise required for design and systems integration. Focussing firmly on the local and domestic economic benefits, John Syvret, CL Chief Executive said  “We will offer a UK warship design, a UK combat system, a UK build and a supply chain with high UK content, we will be working with BAE Systems and A&P to deliver certainty, speed and agility on this nationally important project.”

The rather crude ‘Avenger’ design that was hastily produced by BAES in 2016 has been dispensed with. The ‘Cutlass’ concept, a stretched version of the Khareef corvettes built for Oman (2009-2013) has been refined and re-named as ‘Leander’ as the basis for the joint bid. So far BAES have declined to make public any details of the concept, other than some simple CGIs (main image above).

The choice of name is a smart move, echoing past British warship design success. 26 Leander class frigates were built for the RN in the 1960s and 70s, they were highly regarded and won considerable export orders. There remains much affection and nostalgia in navy circles for the Leanders (named after characters in Greek mythology).

BAES were initially only semi-interested the Type 31 and even described the project as “a race to the bottom”. They now appear to be taking a potential threat to their warship building monopoly rather more seriously, recently describing it as “an exciting and important programme”. A successful Type 31 bid by Babcock and BMT could open a way for real competition in a sector that BAES have all to themselves. Part of the motivation for the Type 31 was to diversify the RN’s supplier base, making it less reliant on what is perceived as BAES gold-plated offerings and ballooning prices.

There is also a political desire to revive English warship building potential as an insurance policy against Scottish independence. Scottish Nationalists and Unions on the Clyde are highly vocal about how they were “betrayed” by promises of 13 type 26 frigates which have now been reduced to 8. In a narrow sense, they have a point, but workers on the Clyde still have the most secure shipbuilding jobs in the UK and the approximately £6Bn, 20-year, Type 26 project is the richest shipbuilding contract in Europe. It should also be remembered the Portsmouth shipbuilding yard was closed by BAES to consolidate work on the Clyde.


BAE Systems-designed ‘Leander’ concept for the Type 31e

A successful partnership with Cammell Laird would be strategically beneficial to BAES by keeping Babcock out of the project. Type 31 could also offer continuity of work for BAES ship design teams, whose workload will to decline as the Type 26 construction gets into its stride. When HMS Prince of Wales is completed, there will be a large pool of skilled workers who will transfer from Rosyth back to the Clyde. If the Type 26 does not provide enough work for them all, the Type 31 could offer another option.

The Type 31 is likely to offer the winning bidder a much lower profit margin than the lucrative Type 26. In modern warship construction the main expense, and therefore profit, is usually in installation and integration of the electronics weapons and sensor fit. This allows BAES a slice of whatever profit there maybe without the problem of building more ships concurrently with Type 26s that will fully occupy their Clyde yards into the 2030s

Despite the revival of commercial ship construction at Cammell Laird and their experience building the RRS Sir David Attenborough, they do not have sufficient in-house expertise needed to design and build complex warships. Their partnership with BAES gives them access to the most experienced naval architecture talent in the country. CL also plan to partner with A&P (Tyne and Falmouth) who would build some of the blocks which would then be shipped to Birkenhead for assembly.

Other contenders

A request for information (RFI) to support Type 31e market testing was released to industry by the MoD on 11 September, with a deadline of 16th October for responses. The MOD says it is now considering a whopping 20 different proposals to build Type 31e. This level of interest is an encouraging sign that UK industry is very excited by the project and looking at a variety of creative approaches.

Although each company had already developed their own concept, at DSEI in September 2017, Babcock and BMT announced they had formed a strategic partnership to bid for the Type 31e project. The BMT Venator-110 design was widely perceived as the leading candidate but Venator has been dispensed with and BMT are now focusing on developing the Arrowhead concept with Babcock. The new CL/BAES partnership suddenly offers them much more formidable competition. Although Babcock has more recent small warship construction than CL, BAES are a corporate giant with enormous resources and experience in the sector. Despite BAES’ formidable strength, when the MoD chooses a contractor, other contenders may have the advantage over them by simply not being BAES.

Babcock Arrowhead Type 31e

Babcock ‘Arrowhead’ looks likely to be the main competition for Leander

It would be ironic if the Babcock Appledore yard is left out of the Type 31 programme as they are the only UK facility that has won a warship export order in recent times. The 4 OPVs that have been constructed for the Irish Navy are a low profile success story that deserves to be continued. For workers at Appledore in particular, a successful BMT/Babcock bid for the Type 31e is critical as they will need work when the final Irish OPV is completed.

It will also be interesting to see if smaller bidders such as Steller Systems Spartan concept can find a construction partner or gain enough traction to compete with the Babcock and BAES big boys.

In our next article, we will look in more detail at the price point of the Type 31e and whether it is adequate for the Royal Navy’s requirements.



from Save the Royal Navy

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

In perspective: the loss of HMS Sheffield

35 years on from the sinking of HMS Sheffield by an Exocet missile, the full and un-redacted Board of Inquiry (BOI) findings have been made public. A heavy-handed piece by Ian Cobain in the Guardian heaps blame on the ship’s operations team and implies results of the inquiry was subject to a sinister cover up .

Mr Cobain’s article is reasonably well researched but the bare facts need to be seen in their full context before making accusations. Unless you were aboard HMS Sheffield between 14.00 and 14.04 on 4th May 1982, you can never know precisely what happened or what it felt like to be on the spot. Despite the supposedly reliable evidence of the board of enquiry now available, we should exercise caution when passing quick judgments on the actions of men on the frontline 35 years ago. Theoretically, the statements of fact recorded during the BOI should be accurate, but years later some of its contents are still contested by those who were there. What is certain is that there were failures at many levels that led to the destruction of Sheffield. Who should be blamed and to whether blame should be apportioned at all is a complex matter.

Something wrong with our bloody ships

In 1982 the RN was primarily an anti-submarine navy, much of its institutional focus was on the threat posed by the Soviets and in particular their submarines. The RN did, however, still regularly deploy outside of the NATO areas, HMS Sheffield had just spent 6 months in the Persian Gulf when she was sent to the Falklands. The ASW focus had resulted in a navy that retained a broad spectrum of capability, but the heavy investment in its critical nuclear submarines had contributed to a surface fleet that was inadequately armed and equipped.

The Type 42 destroyer was designed as an air defence ship and built to a tight budget resulting in a slightly compromised platform. The main Sea Dart system was usually very effective against medium and high altitude targets but the fire control radars did not have the ability to successfully track low-level targets. Although the sea-skimming missile threat was well understood and the RN possessed their own ship-launched Exocets, the entire Royal Navy fleet of the time lacked effective Close In Weapons Systems (CIWS). (The only exception were the new Type 22 frigates armed with very effective Sea Wolf). This was a glaring institutional failure that is hard to explain, especially as the Soviets had many potent anti-ship missiles. Space and funding constraints would not allow the fitting of the Sea Wolf missile on the Type 42 and the only back-up weapons were 2 manually-aimed 20mm Oerlikon cannons, dating from WWII. The Sea Dart was not always reliable and it seems extraordinary that a cheap second line of defence consisting of several modern 20 or 30mm cannon mounts had not been fitted. The Sheffield also lacked basic electronic jammers that could confuse missile radars. The best option would have been the Phalanx CIWS that had been in development since 1973 and was proven in service with the US Navy by 1980. Phalanx is entirely automated and would almost certainly have saved the Sheffield. It was hurriedly purchased by the RN and subsequently fitted to many surface ships, it is still in service today.

The only other potential defence against Exocet was the chaff launcher which fired clouds of aluminium strips that create false radar echoes to lure the missile away from the ship. Chaff was successfully and liberally used by the task force later in the war but relied on alert reactions, perfect timing and ship handling to place the ship away from the chaff cloud as it floated downwind.

There also existed many shortcomings in warship design and equipment fit that were quickly exposed by the Exocet strike. The use of formica panels were a hazard that created lethal flying shrapnel shards when subject to blast. Some escape hatches were found to be too small for men dressed in breathing apparatus. The Rover portable fire pumps were unreliable and there was inadequate fire-fighting equipment held onboard most ships. There was insufficient attention to the dangers of smoke in the design of ventilation and provision of fire curtains. Standard issue nylon clothing was found to have melted in contact with fire, severely exacerbating burns. The ship contained PVC cable insulation and foam furnishings that gave off toxic fumes in a fire.

No single individual can be held accountable for these decisions which are typical of a long period in a peacetime mentality where painful lessons learned in past conflicts fade from consciousness and funding pressures result in corners being cut.


The BOI implied that despite the inadequacy of the ship’s equipment, Sheffield could have saved herself by being better prepared. It is clear the operations room was not functioning well when the missile was detected, 30 seconds before impact, but part of this was unfortunate timing.

The Captain was resting in his cabin at the time and “The anti-air warfare officer had left the ship’s operations room and was having a coffee in the wardroom while his assistant had left to visit the heads”. No one can be on duty 24/7 and everyone had to pace themselves and take breaks. Fatigue was a particular problem for commanders in the Falklands who could not fully relax for weeks on end. The timing of these absences was exceptionally unlucky but not an indicator of slackness. When hit, Sheffield was not at actions stations which requires the entire crew to be closed up, but in defence watches where half the crew are on watch while the other half rest.

The BOI did find that the Principal Warfare Officer did not react as he should have and the AA Officer was absent from the ops room for too long. Sister ship, HMS Glasgow detected the aircraft and Exocets and reacted better. In a further stroke of bad luck, at the exact moment of the attack, Sheffield was making a transmission on her SATCOM which blinded her UAA1, a masthead sensor which could detect electronic emissions from aircraft and missiles, further reducing potential warning time. As the Guardian reported with relish back in 2000, the Entendard aircraft were detected by radar operators on HMS Invincible, a full 19 minutes before the Exocet hit Sheffield. Plagued by a series of false contact reports in the preceding days, the senior officer on Invincible responsible for air defence of the whole task force classified the contact as “spurious” and no warnings were issued. It was not just a few men on Sheffield who were on a steep learning curve in the early part of the war.

The Guardian quotes the BOI as saying some of the crew were “bored and a little frustrated by inactivity”. This has been selectively quoted by the Guardian article – the BOI actually says in the preceding sentence “the atmosphere on board was tense but there was no evidence of complacency.” The easy victory at South Georgia and the simple sinking of the cruiser Belgrano had given rise to a perception back in the UK that the war would be “a walk-over”. This was not that case amongst the task force as is clear from the biography of Admiral Sandy Woodward. Sheffield’s CO, Captain Sam Salt was an experienced officer and a seasoned submariner. He was perhaps more concerned with the submarine threat over the air threat but this is was partly due to faulty intelligence assessments and confusion among some officers about whether the Argentine airforce was capable of air-air refuelling required to get within range. Virtually every personal account of the Falklands war notes the poor quality of intelligence about the Argentine intentions and order of battle that was provided to the task force from London.

The BOI reports that when the incoming missiles came into view, officers on the bridge were “mesmerised” by the sight and failed to broadcast a warning to the ship’s company. This is not consistent with accounts of survivors who say that Sub Lieutenant Clark who was on the bridge, saw the incoming Exocet and shouted “missile attack, hit the deck!” over the main broadcast.

In keeping with history

Conflicts throughout history are littered with examples of mistakes, particularly at the start of hostilities. The loss of HMS Sheffield was a horrible shock to the RN and was news around the world. But lessons were learned and procedures are changed rapidly. The painful experience gained probably saved others, it was no coincidence that later in the conflict HMS Glamorgan survived an Exocet hit. The ship was alert, detected the missile and made a pre-planned turn that prevented the missile from penetrating the hull and main missile magazine.


Admiral John Fieldhouse who commanded the Taskforce from Northwood and later became First Sea Lord, decided not to court-martial officers on Sheffield who were implicated by the board of enquiry. Fieldhouse was noted for his humanity and was one of the most outstanding officers the RN has had since WWII. There are those who would like to portray this as a “cover up” but people who may have made fatal mistakes in combat have to live with the consequences of their actions for the rest of their lives. There are men that are still suffering today from the effects of what they experienced onboard HMS Sheffield and many of the veterans are angry about the release of the BOI and the Guardian article which they call “misrepresentative” and an “insult to the heroes of that day”. The Guardian article also hardly mentions the many outstanding acts of courage by the ship’s company in trying to save their ship after she was hit, some of which are recorded in the BOI report.

Having won the war, it made more sense to focus on how things could be done better in future than hand out punishments for failure. Undoubtedly mistakes and errors made during the conflict were kept in-house. Some of those who suffered loss or injury may want to see specific individuals named and punished but as discussed, it was a collective failure. Airing the dirty washing in public may have achieved little, added to the suffering of the bereaved and detracted from what was an incredible achievement overall. Sister ship HMS Coventry was sunk later in the conflict despite being alert and ready. In every armed conflict mistakes are made, usually, it costs lives but this is the terrible nature of warfare. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but is it not a luxury anyone has in the moment. The RN did conduct extensive analysis what happened and the lessons from the Falklands led to drastic changes to warship design, training and concept of operations. Many of these lessons are still kept alive in the RN today, particularly by the globally-renowned Flag Officer Sea Training organisation.

Responsibility starts at the top

The Falklands War was ultimately a triumph for Mrs Thatcher, standing against tyranny and holding her nerve while others would have given in. However, it could be argued that it was the actions of her government that created the conditions for the war in the first place. John Nott’s 1981 Defence white paper planned to axe South Atlantic Patrol ship HMS Endurance, together with the Navy’s aircraft carriers and amphibious capability and was perceived as a green light by the Argentines. Numerous officers and diplomats had tried to warn the Foreign Office of exactly what could happen if British resolve to defend the Falklands was seen to be waning. The men who died on HMS Sheffield might perhaps still be with us if the Thatcher government had not planned those defence cuts.

The principal of armed deterrence remains every bit as relevant. Spending on a properly equipped navy now may ultimately save bloodshed and far greater loss in a future conflict. This principle was ultimately proven in the peaceful victory of the Cold War and politicians of today would do well to consider this.



from Save the Royal Navy

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

New Long Read – Anglo Engineering Concepts Vehicle Proposal

A proposal from Anglo Engineering Concepts to meet British Army vehicle capability gaps and drive down support costs by adopting system engineering thinking and a design language that places the designer close to the user. Anglo Engineering Concepts is run by an experienced design engineer that previously worked as one of the three design engineers ...

The post New Long Read – Anglo Engineering Concepts Vehicle Proposal appeared first on Think Defence.

from Think Defence

Saturday, 7 October 2017

What have the Royal Marines ever done for us?

In case anyone in government is unclear about why the Royal Marines are so valuable to the defence of our national interests and are arguably the UK’s best fighting formation, here’s a very brief overview of their actions since WWII.

  • 1948 –3 Commando Brigade RM covers withdrawal of British troops from Palestine. 40 Commando RM last British unit to leave.
  • 1950-1952 – 3 Commando Brigade RM deploys to Malaya for counter terrorist operations. Brigade wins forty awards for gallantry (not including sixty-eight mention in despatches), and suffers thirty-three dead.
  • 1950-52 – 41 (Independent) Commando RM, deploys to Korea, in addition to carrying out twenty-one raids on the coast behind enemy lines, the Commando took part in the 1st Marine Division USMC action at the Chosin and Hagaru including the epic march to the sea. 31 KIA in Korea.
  • 1953-1954 – 3 Commando Brigade deploys to Suez Canal Zone and conducts counter-insurgency operations.
  • 1955 -1959, 40 and 45 Commandos RM, alternate on operations in Cyprus during EOKA campaign. 42 Commando deployed in UK.
  • 1956 – 3 Commando Brigade RM (including 42 Commando) spearhead amphibious assault at Suez, 6 November 1956. 45 Commando carries out the first ever helicopter assault in an amphibious operation in the world.
  • 1960 – 1967 – 45 Commando RM deploys to Aden.
  • 1961 – 42 Commando lands from the LPH Bulwark into Kuwait to forestall Iraqi invasion under President Kasim of Iraq. 45 Commando RM flown to Kuwait by RAF to join 42 Commando.
  • 1962 – 40 and 42 Commandos operations in Brunei, including Limbang operation by L Company 42 Commando.
  • 1963-1966 – 40 and 42 Commandos on anti-terrorist and incursion operations in Borneo and Malaysia.
  • 1964 – Mutiny by army in Tanganyika (present day Tanzania) 41 and 45 Commandos deploy to Tanganyika. 45 Commando by helicopter launched from carrier HMS Centaur (CVA not an LPH so a swift re-roling required by ships company into ad hoc LPH).  Mutiny suppressed.
  • 1964-1967 – 45 Commando deployed on operations in the Radfan, and in Aden city.
  • 1967 – 45 Commando second last British unit to withdraw from Aden and returns UK, covered by 42 Commando who are last out and withdraw in LPH Albion. 40 Commando embarked in LPH Bulwark covers from seaward ready to reinforce.  40 Commando remains offshore as part of task group which includes two CVA ready to go back in and evacuate British civilians.
  • 1965-1975 – RM Officers on loan service with Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces on operations in the Dhofar region of Oman.
  • 1967 – 40 Commando deploys to Hong Kong for Internal Security duties (rioting as part of Mao’s ‘red book’ revolution)
  • 1969 –2004 – In 1969, 42 Commando first RM Commando to deploy to Northern Ireland. Thereafter, for next 35 years RM Commandos take their turns on operations in the Province until 2004.
  • 1974 – Turkish invasion of Cyprus, 40 Commando deployed to protect Greek zone. Subsequently 41 Commando deployed on UN operations.
  • 1982 – 3 Commando Brigade spearheads recapture of the Falkland Islands.
  • 1983 – 40 Commando deploys to Cyprus for UN Tour of duty.
  • 1990-1991 SBS operations in Iraq. 3 Commando Brigade on Operation Haven in Northern Iraq.
  • 2000 – 42 Commando deploys to Sierra Leone. HQ 3 Commando Brigade and 45 Commando to Kosovo.
  • 2002 –. SBS first Allied troops to land in Afghanistan, and seize landing zone for US Special Forces. 45 Commando operations in Afghanistan. 40 Commando deploy to Afghanistan in Special Forces Support role (SSFG). 42  Commando in Northern Ireland.
  • 2003 – Op Telic, invasion of Iraq. 3 Commando Brigade amphibious ops and advance to Basra.
  • 2004 – 40 Commando operational tour in Iraq.
  • 2006 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 5 in Helmand Afghanistan.
  • 2007 – 40 Commando Op HERRICK 7 Afghanistan. RM Armoured Support Group (Vikings) in support of army units in Afganistan.
  • 2008 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 9 Afghanistan.
  • 2010 – 40 Commando Op HERRICK 12 Afghanistan.
  • 2011 – 3 Commando Brigade (less 40 Commando) Op HERRICK 14 Afghanistan.

In the 12 years of the Afghanistan Campaign, the Royal Marines were awarded 206 gallantry and meritorious service awards, 13% of the total, including 25% of the CGC and MC awards. In doing so suffering 61 KIA and 256 seriously wounded. During every tour the Royal Marines have been in the ‘hot spots’, no other regiment has done more in the campaign.


Drawn up by Julian Thompson from information in A Short History of the Royal Marines, published by the Royal Marines Historical Society. (Any errors are the fault of Julian Thompson and not the Royal Marines Historical Society). The latest edition is Fourth Revised Edition 2013, the first edition was printed 2003; an indication of how busy the Corps has been recently.   Issued to all young officers and recruits under training. Copies available from: RM Historical Society, RM Museum, Eastney, Southsea, Hands PO4 9PX,


from Save the Royal Navy

Friday, 6 October 2017

Further cuts to the fleet in “the year of the Royal Navy” ?

Recent headlines about possible further body-blows to the Royal Navy are an indication that the terrible state of Ministry of Defence finances is starting to bite. Here we look at what could be cut, what could be the impact on RN capability and the potential political fall out.

The defence review that is not a defence review

The Cabinet Office led by Mark Sedwill, National Security Adviser, is currently conducting a “Strategic Defence and Security Review Implementation” it is supposed to be looking at how the decisions made in 2015 fit with the current global security environment. In reality, it is an exercise in desperately trying to find ways to reduce a £20 Billion gap between the funding the MoD will receive and the money it is committed to spending over the next 10 years.

The Defence Secretary has demanded each of the three armed services offer up “efficiencies”, ie. capabilities that could be cut in order to make savings. The RN is in a slightly different position to the other two services because the majority of its programmes are large and politically untouchable. Of its three core elements, the Continuous At Sea Deterrent, (CASD), Carrier Enabled Power Projection (CEPP) and Amphibious Capability, the Royal Marines and amphibious ships have always been most vulnerable to the axe. Trident renewal is thankfully non-negotiable and there is too much political, industrial and economic capital tied up in the carrier programme, (including F-35 and the new frigates).

Take your pick from our menu of cuts

To maintain its operations and existing equipment plan, the RN is now short of between £350 – 500 Million a year. It has already agreed on the early retirement of 2 minehunters, HMS Atherstone and Quorn, but there are very few other options available for cutting. There are plenty of rumours and speculation about what may be cut next. Thankfully it has been confirmed that a Daily Mail report HMS Scott was to be axed is false. She does have serious engine problems but there is a plan in place for her to be upgraded and retained. HMS Scott does not just conduct hydrographic surveys, but also generates oceanographic information which is key to the operation of the nuclear deterrent and anti-submarine warfare.

Further cuts of some kind are almost certainly coming, although no definite decisions have been made. A reduction of 200 Royal Marines to release funds for more sailors has already been agreed and Marine training has already been considerably scaled down. The Times reports that 1,000 Royal Marines could go and both LPDs HMS Albion and Bulwark could also be axed, almost removing the RN’s amphibious capability entirely. The RN has already been operating with just a single LPD, one in mothballs or refit while the other is active. HMS Bulwark worked very hard during her last period in service but it now in mothballs, while Albion has just emerged from a two-year £90 million refit. These ships have proved to be very versatile platforms that have conducted all sorts of operations beyond just training for amphibious warfare. It should also be remembered that the loss of HMS Ocean combined with the loss of HMS Albion and Bulwark would call into question the future of Devonport naval base and could create a political storm in Plymouth and the South West.

The exact nature of how we may conduct amphibious warfare in future is open to discussion as many consider assaulting the beach in small boats from an LPD in a vulnerable position, close to shore is now just too dangerous. Some argue we should conduct assault by aircraft alone, preferably expensive V-22 Ospreys flying in fast from the ship well out to sea. Unfortunately, there is still a need to get heavy equipment ashore that cannot go by air. Provision of logistic support for troops by air alone for a sustained period is not realistic. Even the recent relief effort, Operation Ruman in the Caribbean has proved again the need for afloat ship-shore capability. This debate over what is called “assured access” is complex but not an excuse to get rid of HMS Albion and Bulwark. Once a ship is gone it is also very difficult for the RN to argue for a replacement (See also the case for keeping HMS Ocean in reserve).

Blame it on the carriers – simplistic scapegoating

Many critics try to blame budget problems on the RN leadership for choosing to build aircraft carriers. This is a completely backwards way to view such a cornerstone conventional capability and which was part of a prudent strategy started in 1998 to build a balanced fleet. The cost of the CEPP is considerable but in fact, it is not the biggest item on the MoD books, the Army will have the largest share of the 2016-26 equipment budget. The RN recognises that without carriers it is a second division navy, its ships and those it maybe protecting are inherently vulnerable without organic air cover. As we have discussed frequently, the strike carrier also has vast utility beyond protecting amphibious operations. Cuts to either the carriers or amphibious capability would be strategic nonsense. Carriers are needed to protect and participate in landing operations and we need both as they compliment each other. Will Taylor has written an excellent piece on the utility and value for money that amphibious capability delivers.

Wildcat Helicopter

Axing 28 brand new Wildcat helicopters would be an extraordinary step and a sign of desperation.

The Times also reports that the RN’s Wildcat helicopters are being considered for sale. Such a move would leave the RN’s escorts ships short of a key weapon. The Wildcat carries the new Sea Venom and Martlet missiles, the only anti-ship missile that will be fielded by the RN between 2020-30. The torpedoes dropped by Wildcat may also be the only means to prosecute submarines. The 30 Merlins HM2 helicopters are already grossly over-worked and have too many tasks.

The Trident solution?

We applaud government commitment to maintaining the nuclear deterrent, the cornerstone upon which UK security rests but how it is funded is contentious. In 2010 the chancellor George Osborne managed to move the full cost of Trident into the core MoD budget this was the start of another wave of problems. Although the defence secretary at the time Liam Fox protested, Osborne got his way. At the time this bombshell was almost overlooked by many overshadowed by the carnage of the 2010 SDSR, but as the costs of the Dreadnought submarine programme ramp up in the next decade, this is a big underlying pressure driving cuts. A radical solution would be to return the costs of CASD to Treasury reserve where it used to be. This could be implemented over a period of years so the Treasury could adjust. This would be a fair and sensible solution as Trident is a political and national security overhead that quite reasonably should be treated as being outside the conventional defence budget. Defence campaigners might have more success arguing for this large single and easily-understood measure than uncoordinated one-off campaigns to save specific units, ships or establishments.

Admiral, it’s entirely up to you which of your arms you must to cut off

The devolved budget system has the enormous political advantage that cuts can be portrayed as the choice of the service. This allows the underfunding to downplayed and cuts portrayed and merely the service making sensible choices to “live within its means”. The First Sea Lord is accused by some of “not defending his service”. This is disingenuous as no one wants to cut capability and officers do not have the luxury of publicly criticising Ministers or demanding new money. Instead, he should be commended for trying to maintain morale and momentum while being failed by his political masters.

Fundamentally the problems come down to a lack of money for defence. Although the defence budget is rising by 0.5% above inflation this is not nearly enough to compensate for the long-term underfunding and mistakes of the past or the rising costs of virtually everything. There may have been colossal waste and mistakes in the past but that does not solve the problems of today. The Defence Secretary recently showed a little backbone for the first time and admitted that the target of 2% of GDP on defence may not be enough and “we should do better”. Whether he has the guile or ability to actually obtain more money in a divided cabinet and a weak government remains to be seen. While there is certainly a case for overseas development aid, an obvious solution would be to divert funding from DFID’s generous budget to the MoD, which is often involved with aid operations anyway.

At a time when the world is more dangerous than ever, Trump expects Europe to pay its way and Brexit Britain must look outward, cuts to strength are the opposite of what we should be doing.

Paying the political price

Having nailed his colours to the mast by calling 2017 “the Year of the Royal Navy”, Michale Fallon would be in an awkward position if the year ends with him disposing of high profile ships or a big swathe of naval strength. This is not just a numbers game or pieces on a chess board but the future security of a nation. David Cameron has admitted that one of his biggest regrets from his time as Prime Minister was his decision to cut the aircraft carriers in 2010. Mrs May and Mr Fallon should be mindful that axing the Royal Navy’s amphibious capability could be a mistake of a similar magnitude they could come to sorely regret. If new money is not found for defence quickly, then the 2017 “review” could be seen as undoing the positive aspects of the 2015 SDSR and a failure comparable to the 2010 debacle.


from Save the Royal Navy