Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Royal Navy That Could Be, The Fantasy Fleet

Much has been made of the demise of the UK since the collapse of the banking sector in 2008. The main argument that has been put forward is that the country can no longer afford to have the military and diplomatic might it has enjoyed in the past. In a world of growing mega powers we can't expect to stay in the top 5 so we should not even try.

Many advocate scaling UK forces back to little more than a Japanese style self defence force with no ability to project power other than a small band of special forces working alongside the USA in a larger coalition.

Getting Facts Right, Where we Really Stand

The United Kingdom only spends 2.2% of its GDP on defence. Even given this we had the worlds second largest defence budget up to 2008 and Even now we have the 3rd largest defence budget. With the likes of Russia in Rapid decline and Brazil and India a long way behind if we can maintain current spending we will maintain this position for quite some time. With a rising population the UK will become the largest economy in Europe by around 2050. In short maintaining the current budget will keep us in the top 5 for the rest of the 21st Century.

The point being is that our perceived decline is none existence. UK defence spending does not take place in a vacuum. Other countries have the exact same problem as we do. When our economy suffers and we cut spending so does every one else. Any decline in the UK military is a result of choice rather than necessity. Compared to the 7% of GDP the 2.2% spent of defence is very small.

If the will existed in the UK to increase our military strength and MOD spending then we could easily afford to cut out a leading position in world affairs and enhance our military and diplomatic standing. The United Kingdoms foreign aid budget is 0.5% of GDP and likley to increase to 0.7% at some point. The only purpose of this budget is to give the UK more influence with developing countries. We send aid money to countries that have space programs such as India we waste millions on dictators and despots all in the name of apparently improving people in the third worlds living standards allowing them to create demand for British goods.

This is nonsense off course. The vast majority of this money does not go to the poor. The apparent allies who we are buying off are flaky at best. As soon as he Chinese come along with a better offer we will likley loose any support we ever had with them. Turning this money over to defence and spending 3% of GDP on the military could massively enhance our standing and win us new allies well at the same time enhancing the defence industry in the UK and creating thousands of new high tech jobs.

Where should the money go?

In my opinion the lions share of this extra money should go to the Royal Navy. Not because we are an island but because the Navy can boost our diplomatic standing more than any other service.

The RAF is the worlds 5th largest air force. Doubling its budget would leave it still as the 5th largest air force in the world. Other than strategic bombers the RAF already has every capability that any other rival in the world has. Simply adding more planes in will give us no additional capability that we don't already have.

The British Army is perhaps the best in the world. However it is small. Its not even in the top 10 in the world. Doubling the armys budget would still not put it in the top 10 in the world. Okay we might be able to deploy a Corps instead of a division on coalition operations but it wood hardly increase our standing in the world.

The Royal Navy is today the worlds second largest in terms of tonnage of the fleet. This position is under threat as both China and India are building allot of new vessels. Doubling the RN's budget would allow it to field a range of capabilities on par with the US Navy. Not in terms of sheer size and numbers but in terms of deployed capability. The very nature of the Royal Navy is one of power projection on a world wide basis. Its the service that can enhance our place in the world in a way that the other two could never do.

What could we get?

The present Royal Navy Budget is £7.5 billion. Shifting the International Aid budget to the Royal Navy Would increase this figure to around £ 15 billion.

How should we spend the money?

The majority of the budget increase should go on power projection capability as well as world wide policing and disaster relief. All these activities enhance our world standing as apposed to EEZ patrol hydro graphic work and Anti Submarine Warfare in the North Atlantic all of which we already do well. With this larger budget I would advocate the following fleet

Aircraft Carriers

3* Queen Elizabeth Class with 36 * F35 C
3* Juan Carlos LHD with Helicopters and 6*F35B

Amphibious Forces

3* Albion Class LPD
6* Bay Class  LSD
6* Point Class RoRo
3* Arsenal Ship (deploying up to 500 cruise missle's)


21* Type 45 destroyers (up gunned with better ASW and larger VLS able to accommodate cruise missile)
10* C2 Medium Vessel Frigate

Minor War Vessels

64 * Venator C3's able to carry out a number of minor war tasks MCM, EEZ patrol

Submarine Force

7* Astute SSN
7* Astute SSGN (fitted with 4 flex tubes for trident or tomahawk)
4 * Vanguard SSBN
4* SSK (ocean going but able to operate in the littorals)


3 * Fast Fleet Tankers
3* Small Fleet Tankers
6* Support Tankers
8* Logistics resupply vessels
1* Aviation Training/Medical Ship
1* Maintenance ship

Royal Marines

The Royal Marines could be expanded to encompass 3 additional battalions allowing a second brigade to be formed. This would see the Marines able to deploy up to a Division from the sea.


The Navy would form around two main task forces

Carrier Strike Group

1* Queen Elizabeth CV
1* Fast Fleet Tanker
1* Logistic Ship
4* Type 45 Destroyers
1* Astute SSGN

Amphibious Ready Group

1* Juan Carlos LHD
1* Arsenal Ship
1* Albion LPD
2* Bay Class LSD
1* Logistics Ship
1* Small fleet Tanker
2* Type 45 Destroyer
2* C3 Minor War Vessel
1* Astute SSGN

Having 3 CSG's and 3 ARG's would allow the Navy to routinely deploy one of each to an Indian Ocean fleet based at Diego Garcia. In addition to this the Indian Ocean Fleet would have 3 SSK's and 18 C3's. The fourth SSK would be back in the UK on deep refit.

The British Indian Ocean Fleet would regularly consist of

1 CV
1 Arsenal Ship
2 LSD's
6 Destroyers
2 SSN's
3 SSK's
20 C3 Minor War Vessels

Able to deploy 42 F35's as well as helicopters, AWACS etc.

Staying at the top table

A fleet like this would make the Royal Navy and by extension the United Kingdom impossible to ignore in world affairs and would guarantee our place in the great powers well into the next centuary.


  1. Woohoo, Arsenal Ships.
    Interesting you puty them with the ARG, never thought of that, but it makes sense

  2. Did not think the CSG needed the extra firepower with 4 destroyers and 36 F35C. Going to do a post on arsenal ships soon.

  3. 4 Aircraft carriers 36 f-35 c +4 modified f35's for EW + 4 AWACS + 6 Helicopters costs £16b
    4 SSBN costs £12b
    5 Amphibious Assault Ship (20,000 tonnes) carriers 800 troops each costs £1.5b
    5 LPD costs £1.5b
    10 Patrol Vessels £500m
    12 Minesweepers £1.2b
    20 SSN- Nuclear Powered Attack Submarines £20b
    20 Frigates £10b- primary role anti ship and submarine hunting and self defence from air attack
    20 Destroyers £15b- primary role would be fleet Air defence, but with TLAM + anti ship and submarine capabilities

    1 Antarctic Patrol Ship
    1 Aviation Training / Casualty Receiving Ship
    1 Forward Repair Ship
    7 Ocean Survey Ship
    10 Replenishment Ships
    6 Fast Tanker Ships
    4 Large Fleet Tankers

    + 5 ro-ro ferriers that can be used at instant notice
    +20 patrol boats

    Total costs £77.7B assuming a 30 year life average,thats means a construction cost of £2.59b per year so even with RFA navy construction would be no more than £4b which is easily affordable. I know some costs are lower e.g destroyers only £750m each compared to type 45 being £1b but with clear set building plans and timetables be alot fewer cost overruns and due to sheer number built would further help reduce individual cost of each ship.